By Kendall Hunter
Having come from Switzerland, we had been in Canada for about 10 months when we landed at the Bobbie Burns lodge for our three night Short Escape. Sensing it must be a place to uncover a European, I sent an email to Jane at the CMH office, asking if there were any Swiss at the lodge. “Unbelievable” she came back to me. Turns out the chef, Robert, at the lodge is from Switzerland!
I was hoping for a taste of our old life. Feeling a bit yanked from roots we’d taken years to plant in Europe, a bit of Swiss-German for my kids, a hint of an accent for me and perhaps a little Swiss Roesti for breakfast, and things just might fall slightly more into balance.
The chef at Bobbie Burns is thirty-eight year old Robert Riedl and he’s from Lugano in the Italian part of Switzerland. Over ten years ago he’d been flipping through the newspaper of the hotel and restaurant union in Switzerland and came across a help wanted add for a chef in Banff. After stints in various restaurants in town and at Sunshine Village Ski Resort, he eventually landed at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures.
“Roberto!” In his thick French Canadian accent JF, one of the guides, brought Roberto to my attention the first morning as we assembled for our hike. As part of the dream job at CMH, employees get to hop on a helicopter once a week to join guests to heli-hike or heli-ski in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. We all wondered what kind of dinner we’d be having if the chef himself was with us for the day on a 7 hour hike. Robert smirked and assured us it was all under control.
My two girls can be picky eaters so I’d anticipated a menu failure at some point. Although I’m not a vegetarian, my kids are. At 12 and 10 my daughters are self-declared veggies and kind of picky ones at that. I’d imagined trapsing over mountain tops, with daughter’s who, having turned their noses up at packed lunches, were whining and complaining of wobbly legs and grumbling tummies. However, I witnessed my kids ascend into mini mountaineers with healthy appetites. Of course, at 2500 metres, my rules kind of soften. Whatever they pulled out of that little food bag was fine with me. Lindt chocolate before lunchtime seemed perfectly acceptable in that champagne air.
Of course, I should have expected that CMH would accommodate any dietary needs. This wasn’t even an issue. Even so, I’d held my breath as we walked into the dining room, for the first time, only to see a gob-smackingly amazing spread awaiting us. I did a rapid reconnaissance of the buffet table to pick out at least one dish my kids would enjoy but there was no need.
“Wow” simultaneous exclamations exuded from my kids before I completed my tour of duty of the soups, breads (best ever anywhere) salads, and pastas stretching out before us. Little hands eagerly grabbed plates and spoons and the loading up began. As my eyes caught sight of the dessert table off to the side, I had to bite my tongue until the kids polished off their plates. OK that part is a lie. Before I’d even loaded up my own plate I was practically hollering about the cakes and mousse that laid in wait. Yes, heli-belly is a very real; paradoxical phenomenon that indeed manages to manifest during this very active outdoor experience.
The second night I was beside myself as my dinner plate was placed before me. The entire room fell away as I honed in on the risotto that lay in front of me. Could it be? Memories flooded back to my days as a ski racer. Fall training in Northern Italy we’d been served a dish extraordinarily like this one. Even after twelve years in Europe I hadn’t come across it again, yet it’s taste had never been forgotten. Lo and behold, here it was.
This isn’t your average risotto although after querying Robert about the recipe, there seemed nothing extraordinary about it. As I anticipated some wonderfully, lyrical Italian name for my long lost dish, he replied. “Oh that’s just something I throw together.” Regardless I replied. “Send me the recipe”. Please and pronto!
During that one particular hike with Robert the girls and I let our love for the Swiss dietary standby of Roesti seep into our conversation. It was an unashamedly not so subtle hint that we were missing this dish that is basically hash browns with a little something extra. The morning we were to leave, there piled to our delight, were plates of warm roesti. Our heli-bellies completely satisfied we bid adieu and ciao to the feast that was our experience at the Bobbie Burns. Oh, and that dinner we were so concerned about while Robert enjoyed a day of hiking. It was salmon and it dazzled.
Robert’s response to my recipe plea:
For Risotto cakes. Throw together your butter, onion, Arborio rice, white wine, chicken or veggie stock, and parmesan cheese to make Risotto. Add breadcrumbs or Panko make into hamburger-size patties and fry them up in a pan.
As mentioned the recipe is nothing revolutionary but the result “magnifico!”
What delectable dish do you crave after a day of mountain adventure? Share your tasty treats in the comments below.
To experience Robert's cooking first-hand, join him next summer at the Bobbie Burns Lodge on a CMH Summer Adventure.