Arts, shopping, nightlife... wait a minute.... THIS IS SASKATOON?
Saskatchewan’s second city makes for a great weekend away
SASKATOON, SASK. — Saskatoon? Believe me, I know what you’re thinking. Saskatoon?
I heard all the jokes when I mentioned I was planning to visit Saskatoon. And when I added that I was seeking an urban adventure, all arts and restaurants and boutiques, no roughing it in the wilds on this trip, the laughter really hit a fever pitch.
That’s right. Saskatoon. You can stop laughing now. For not only did I have an urban adventure, I had an urbane adventure.
A wonderful arts community. A cool downtown. Hot shopping spots. Live and lively venues. A vibrant street scene. Terrific restaurants. There’s more than enough here to keep you busy for a long weekend and more. It all makes for an ideal jaunt from Winnipeg. Who needs Minneapolis when Saskatoon is less than an eight-hour drive away? And you can spend Canadian dollars at par here. (Little Canuck humour.)
Yes, Saskatoon. But this is not your grandfather’s Saskatoon.
Let’s start with eating.
The city is becoming a bit of a mecca for foodies. Perhaps that started when hometown boy Dale Mackay won the first Top Chef Canada in 2011. Mackay had already bopped around the world a bit in the restaurant trade, putting in some time under notorious chef Gordon Ramsay before Mackay won the top Canadian prize. Two years later, he was back in his hometown to open Ayden Kitchen and Bar, http:// www.aydenkitchenandbar.com/, with partners. And what an experience it offers. The restaurant boasts homegrown, globally inspired comfort food paired with handcrafted cocktails and an extensive wine list. But it’s so much more than a meal. Be sure you are seated where you can see into the open kitchen to watch the long line of chefs and sous chefs at work.
We started with two very special cocktails: a Rhubarb Margarita, which is pretty much what you’d expect, and a Corpse Revivor #2, which is nowhere near as frightening as it sounds, particularly if you are a gin drinker. The menu offered a wide variety of interesting dishes — lobster Caesar, ahi tuna with watermelon, hickory smoked duck confit with grapefruit.
We topped our meal off with the perfect dessert: warm citrus madeleines with chocolate dipping sauce.
Also downtown is Truffles Bistro, http://www.trufflesbistro.ca/, a lovely little French restaurant although you might not guess it from the outside. It felt so French once the door closed behind us, there was simply no choice but to start with Champagne cocktails. We had the trout and finished with our first taste of Saskatoon berries with cream. But it was hard to resist the table d’hote menu with its offerings of either three or five courses. Particularly tempting was the starter: hush puppies with red pepper jelly and pimento cheese.
For something lighter, cross over the Broadway Bridge and head to a little shopping area on Broadway Avenue. Calories Bakery and Restaurant ( caloriesrestaurant.ca) was definitely the start of something special when it opened here 30 years ago as a little coffee shop. The neighbourhood had a very different feel then. Calories wasn’t in the midst of the trendy shops and a live venue, a true feeling of community, which is the strip now. But French-born executive chef proprietor Remi Cousyn has put his restaurant, its neighbourhood and its city on the map, with a whole slew of awards for food and service.
We stopped in for cold glasses of Saskatoon berry lemonade and desserts chosen — after much painful indecision — from Calories’ enormous display. The chocolate orange pecan trifle and rhubarb crumble cake won us over in the end.
Now on to shopping.
While you’re on Broadway, take some time to check out the boutiques along this strip. Handmade House ( www.handmadehousesk.com) carries arts and crafts by Saskatchewan artists. We bought tiny carved wood prairie dogs.
For larger wood pieces and other furniture, Modern Country Interiors, ( facebook.com/pages/Modern-Country854?fref=ts) just down the street, carries wooden furniture made in their factory and boasts local artists’ work on the walls.
Tonic ( tonic-life.com) is where you can find unique clothing including some vintage pieces.
Downtown has its share of indie stores, too. Etceteras ( facebook.com/
Cold glasses of Saskatoon berry lemonade with one of Calories Bakery and Restaurant’s trifles hit the spot. Above, chocolates on display at Calories don’t
make it easy to choose a treat.