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Dinner with history part 2

The rest of the dinner proceeded in a lovely, ranching carnivorous fashion.  For my main I opted for the Mackay Place Flatiron Steak with beefy fries, shallot herb butter and artisan salad. It looked like this:


M - steak


And it was slightly inconsistent. The steak was tender and perfectly done, with great beef flavor, but it lacked an ingredient I consider crucial to well prepared meat: salt. There was none, not a hint of salt on the steak, nor in the herb butter. This is so odd, that I’m chalking it up to a mistake on the kitchen’s part, perhaps, rather than a deliberate omission. The potatoes however, were divine. Perfectly roasted, seasoned, creamy on the inside, they were an awesome dish.

My girlfriend ordered the winner of the bunch, the Alberta Bison Meatloaf wrapped in smoked bacon with mashed potatoes and mushroom pan jus. It was an awesome meatloaf, flavorful and moist, with the bacon a perfect foil. The mashed potatoes were about as good as they come, and it was a hearty comforting meal.


M - meatloaf


The restaurant ran out of smoked and barbecue glazed pork ribs with mini mac and cheese and coleslaw, so they subbed bison ribs in the dish, which was a mixed success. The bison ribs were simply too lean, and remained way too chewy despite the long smoking time. The reason pork ribs work so well is due to the high fat content which is slowly cooked out of the meat leaving it moist and succulent. The bison didn’t have that luxury. The flavor was outstanding though, with a decent pink smoke ring and a tasty glaze, and the portion was huge owing to the size of bison ribs. The mac and cheese was also awesome, with the crispy top that to me is the best part. The coleslaw was fresh and quite decent.


M - ribs


For dessert we managed to practice uncommon restraint, and only got one dish to share – the panna cotta. Soft and creamy it was not overly sweet, and the berry sauce added a great fresh touch. The oatmeal cookies were quite dense and crumbly, more like granola cookies, if you like that sort of thing.

M - dessert


The restaurant was slowly wrapping up for the night as we finished our coffees, so grabbing the camera we explored the house while we could.

Of the original structure the living room, kitchen, two bedrooms and a verandah remain, with the other few rooms being added on by subsequent owners. Wandering the house I was struck anew by how much more space we now think we require. Our modern oversized houses could easily fit two smallish ones of a century ago, and yet those small ones housed more people. Everything’s expanded in the process, the bedrooms are larger, the closets huge in comparison with the cupboards of years past, the common rooms the size of modern dens. The only exceptions I typically see are the kitchens, which were often large in comparison, with the amount of effort and materials it took to cook making it a necessity. Which makes sense given that much of the food was grown, produced, canned and saved right at home.

Here’s a photo tour of the house:



The living room

The living room

Wall shelf

Wall shelf


Little table

Little table






The original stove!

The original stove!

Old buffet in the kitchen

Old buffet in the kitchen


Buffet detail

Buffet detail


Scarred but solid door

Scarred but solid door





It was great fun wandering around the house, peeking into old narrow closets, imagining lighting that stove, and it definitely added to a lovely supper. All in all this was an awesome experience –  a bit of local history, mixed with a great drive and great food. This is definitely going on the repeat list.


The MacKay Place Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Dinner with history

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.

 M - property


A wheelbarrow of flowers:

 M - flowers


A rooster in a rim:

 M - rooster


And a cabin, which if I’m not mistaken dates back to the original settler’s time:

M - shack 

M - shack outside

M - shack closeup

M - shack interior


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.

 M - main house

M - verandah2


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.

 M - spinach salad


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.

 M - trout


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.

 M - mushroom soup


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…

The MacKay Place Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Drumroll please!


The longest wait in the world is finally over!


The tomatoes are starting to ripen!!!


At first it was just the cherries:

 Drumroll - cherries 1

Drumroll - cherries 2

Drumroll - cherries 3


And now it’s even the big guns:

 Drumroll - big gun


I don’t think I can convey just how thrilled I am. I am prouder than a mother hen, given how just long this has taken. Seriously, these tomatoes have a world record for a delayed harvest. I started my seedlings on a cold winter day which is indelibly marked in my mind – March 22.  (Next year January?) Then I had to wait and wait and wait and wait, and April, May, June, July AND August rolled by. I was wondering if I got some sort of developmentally challenged tomatoes, and with deep envy I read all the posts of abundant harvests in the blogosphere.


But it looks like a warm September is giving them a bit of a chance, and they are finally, FINALLY almost ready for harvest. I know this season has sucked across the continent, with battles of drought, excess rain, late spring, late blight and clearly late growth, and I’m not getting a bumper crop by any stretch, but the thrill of seeing these babies ripen on the wine makes up for all the worrying and waiting.


Taste tests coming up!