SASKA­TOON TASTE OF the TOWN

Elle (Canada) - - Escape - CIARA RICKARD

There’s some­thing about Saska­toon that seems to call its cit­i­zens back home. Take chef Dale MacKay, co-owner of the two hottest restau­rants in town (and win­ner of the first sea­son of Top Chef Canada). He spent years hon­ing his craft in kitchens around the world be­fore he re­turned in 2012 to open Ay­den, which is hugely pop­u­lar (in part for its much-loved sausage plat­ter), and, later, Lit­tle Grouse on the Prairie, which serves hand­made tortellini that ri­vals some I once had in ru­ral Italy that was made by lo­cal grand­mas. MacKay and co-owner and co-chef Nathan Guggen­heimer set the bar high. “We make friends with the farm­ers at the mar­kets,” says Guggen­heimer. “We’ll try some­thing new with, say, ar­ti­chokes, and if it works, we’ll get a whole bunch.” The two restau­rants may be a cou­ple of the brighter stars on the scene, but they’re just part of the stylish—and de­li­cious—evo­lu­tion that’s un­der way in the city. EX­PLORE A proper tour of Saska­toon must in­clude the vi­brant neigh­bour­hood of Rivers­dale. It’s home to many of the city’s “bests”—cof­fee (Col­lec­tive Cof­fee), fresh­pressed juice (Thrive Juice Co.) and a farm­ers’ mar­ket—and it has that aura of cool that of­ten hangs over a newly gen­tri­fied ’hood. “It’s the most cul­tur­ally di­verse neigh­bour­hood in the city,” says Car­rie Cather­ine, a lo­cal singer-song­writer and my tour guide for the morn­ing. Grab a cup of your pre­ferred fuel and stroll by the his­toric Roxy Theatre, check out some lo­cal art­work at AKA Gallery and pick up a printed T-shirt at Hard­pressed. SNACK & SHOP Lit­tle Bird Patîsserie, at the back of house­wares store An­thol­ogy in Rivers­dale, is as de­light­ful as it sounds. The lemon tart is leg­endary, and the kouign amann— lay­ers of crois­sant pas­try baked with but­ter and sugar un­til it caramelizes—is in­sanely good. Be sure to pe­ruse An­thol­ogy’s rus­tic-wood fur­nish­ings, bright cush­ions and clever cu­rios on your way out. WALK For a hit of nature, join the joggers, dog walk­ers and day­dream­ers on the scenic trails along the South Saskatchewan river, which runs through the cen­tre of the city. Then hop on the Prairie Lily, a one-hour river cruise, and en­joy the green­ery of the Mee­wasin Val­ley and views of the cas­tle-like Bess­bor­ough ho­tel and the Re­mai Modern Art Gallery, an im­pres­sive glass be­he­moth set to open in 2017. DINE & DRINK For their restau­rant The Hol­lows, chefs/own­ers Christie Peters and Kyle Michael opted to keep the decor—like the tra­di­tional Chi­nese light shades and the neon “Golden Dragon” sign out­side—from the Chi­nese resto that pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied the space. But they’ve cer­tainly changed the food, with a fo­cus on in­gre­di­ents that they for­age, butcher, brine, cure and smoke them­selves. High­lights of the tasting menu in­clude tem­pura dan­de­lions and beet salad, and their Haskap Gin Fizz cock­tail (haskap is a lo­cal berry) is frothily good. STAY At the edge of down­town, and within walk­ing dis­tance of pretty much ev­ery­thing, the James Ho­tel is all grey plush­ness and luxe com­fort. In fact, the sheets at this bou­tique prop­erty are so soft that, after fre­quent in­quiries from guests, they’re now sold at the front desk. Thank­fully, there is a stun­ning view out over the river too—it will be your first rea­son to get out of bed in the morn­ing. n

From bot­tom: The James Ho­tel; The Hol­lows; An­thol­ogy; Lit­tle Bird Patîsserie; Col­lec­tive Cof­fee

From far left: A bird’seye view of Saska­toon; restau­rants Ay­den and Lit­tle Grouse on the Prairie; owner/chef Dale MacKay

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