This post got so unwieldy that I’m splitting it into 2 parts, so bear with me.
Ever since I heard of The Mackay Place I wanted to go there. I was sold on the entire idea of a renovated farm house re-purposed as a restaurant, plus the house ketchup and steak they served at the Millarville Market were absolutely delicious. All summer long I drove around with their brochure in the car, and when a girlfriend suggested a Saturday night supper I and another friend jumped at the chance.
The farm house was built by a Scottish homesteader J.A. Turner 123 years ago, which for this neck of the woods is a very long time ago indeed. He raised a family and imported Clydesdale horses from Scotland, got a valley named after him, and shortly after oil was found on the land, he sold the property. In 1916 the Mackay family bought the homestead and held it until 1988. Since then the property has underwent a couple of incarnations, becoming a tea house, a pub, a bed and breakfast, and most recently a restaurant, dubbed simply The Mackay Place.
Old buildings and places have a certain fascination for me that is at times hard to explain. There is a palpable mystery to inhabiting the same space as the people that came before us. Perhaps it is because so much of history is lost to us, the people that built those things and walked those same floors are unknowable in a way that their modern descendants will never be. Our lives are documented with tapes, movies, books and blogs in unprecedented ways. We record too much and those before us not nearly enough. So we imagine what life must have been like back then, how it would feel to actually use those museum-looking pieces of furniture, wear different clothing, feel a different rhythm to life. Or perhaps we react to the energy of the place, getting shivers in an abandoned asylum or dungeon, and walking straighter in a cathedral or theater. Suffice it to say, that visiting a restored homestead was incredibly appealing to me.
The property is nestled behind tall trees just off highway 549, and contains the main house, a small cabin and some neat decorative touches with a country motif.
A wheelbarrow of flowers:
A rooster in a rim:
And a cabin, which if I’m not mistaken dates back to the original settler’s time:
The restaurant itself is a well maintained farmhouse, where it looks like as little as possible was done, which kept many details alive. The original layout of the rooms was preserved, with the original kitchen, living room, master bedroom, and what was apparently Jenny’s bedroom – one of the four Mackay children’s room, where we dined.
The menu is very much in keeping with the ranching theme befitting the area, ranging from a lamb burger to bison meatloaf, with a couple of choices of fish, wild salmon and halibut. All the meats are local and the farm or place of origin is specified, which is great since very few restaurants in the Calgary area make the effort. We each ordered an appetizer and an entrée so we got to sample a decent selection of the menu.
I started with a loaded spinach salad that’s served with house smoked pork-belly bacon, herbed goat’s cheese, marinated portabella’s and crunchy fried onions, which is the only way to eat spinach in my opinion. It was fabulous. The bacon was absolutely outstanding, with a depth of flavor that store bacon will never have, golden crunchy, savory onions and (travesty) almost too much goat cheese. But it was a salty flavorful work of art and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
My friend ordered the house-smoked steelhead trout antipasto with pickled asparagus and caper aioli, which for some reason I only got a crappy picture of, likely because I was drooling over my salad… It was an absolutely generous portion of tender trout, tangy greens and a dollop of sour cream.
My other friend got the soup of the day, which happened to be a mushroom soup. It was a lovely creamy soup, although not the best version I’ve had. The mushroom flavor was mild, and the mushrooms themselves were pureed a bit too fine for me, I personally prefer a more assertive soup with some mushroom bits. This was pureed more than Campbells, which should tell you something about its texture.
With our appetizers we had a very decent Caesar and house wine, but since I know nothing about wine, all I can tell you is that it was a bit thin bodied but with a fine flavor. I know, I suck.
Stay tuned for entrees and a tour of the house tomorrow…