This. Life is all about the crispy bits.
I love going out for breakfast, but we rarely do; Calgary is a city of weekend morning lineups, which when you’re twentysomething are social events in and of themselves, but after 40, standing in line for anything begins to lose its cool. Also: rarely nursing a hangover or having stayed out until 4 am, I’m never hungry enough to warrant an enormous meal of eggs and potatoes and meat – or a short stack of anything – until it’s late enough in the day that everyone has moved on to lunch. As a bonafide grown up (apparently it’s so), I instead like to take it upon myself to pack up the car and drive somewhere with clean sheets, deep tubs, good coffee, no breakfast lineups and the option to go back upstairs and crawl back into bed afterwards.
Having lived in Calgary since the ripe young age of grade two, I spent much of my childhood in the mountains; driving there and back in our orange VW van to camp, or in our navy blue station wagon with faux wood paneling to ski. Jockeying for position in the back seat with my sisters so that I wasn’t stuck on the hump in the middle without a window to gaze out of. Sometimes we’d stay overnight – often at the Banff Springs or Chateau Lake Louise, and occasionally at the Post, which underwent a major makeover when I was a teenager – right around the time Mike and I started dating and I began eschewing family trips to the mountains in favour of hanging out listening to U2 with my drummer boyfriend, who didn’t know how to ski. (Or drive, for that matter.)
After a brief hiatus, I’m back to appreciating the beauty of the mountains – and it’s been on my to-do list to revisit the Post, which has always been my Mom’s favourite place, and she has great taste in everything. It seems to be everyone’s favourite, in fact. Everyone who knows about it.
Some call the Post Hotel Alberta’s best-kept secret. They’re known for their fantastic chef and spectacular dining – the Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List awarded them “Best Food in the Americas”, and the Post is one of only four restaurants in Canada to be recognized by Wine Spectator with the Grand Award – its highest honour – both of which sound like a pretty big deal. Beside the dining room, the wine cellar has an inventory of over 25,500 bottles (and over 2300 selections) – one of the most comprehensive and well known in the country. (Co-owner George Schwarz traveled with his dad on wine buying trips to Châteauneuf-du-Pape as a kid – a love of wine runs in the family.)
Chef Sauter has cooked in kitchens all over the world before landing here – the menu reflects his Swiss heritage, but also incorporates ingredients from every province and territory in Canada. Dinner was roasted caribou striploin from the Northwest Territories, with maple whisky sauce (to be as Canadian as possible), with tiny fingers of schupfnudeln, which were like long, golden gnocchi.
There’s an adorable little side-room called the Stübli – which, not surprisingly, translates to small, cozy room – where they serve traditional Swiss fondues: cheese, bourguignonne, chinoise and chocolate. Post hosts spectacular winemakers’ dinners between February and April, if you can manage to snag a seat. (That’s next on my list, once W is old enough to hang out in the room with his iPad.)
Did I mention the rooms have wood burning stone fireplaces? They do.
There are fireplaces everywhere, in fact – including the library, a cozy spot with board games and sliding ladders to get to the books on the upper shelves. And the latest issue of Saveur! All to myself.
There’s a salt water pool, a gorgeous spa I also aspire to visit one day, and skating in and around the trees ouside the dining room and cozy lobby, where they pour tea in the afternoon, and wheel in a diplay case full of cakes and pies. Pie in the afternoon in the mountains. It’s a thing.
My mom always has a jar or two of Chef Hans’ preserves in her fridge – the plum is my favourite – and it acts as a gauge to show when it’s time to go back. I picked up a few jars from the front desk to bring home, but really craved the rösti I had for breakfast. The potato pancake was crisp on the bottom and soft within, studded with bits of salty ham, topped with melted cheese (raclette?) and a couple fried eggs. And it stayed hot in the skillet until I finished it all. It’s the small things.
Because I don’t like to ask chefs for their recipes – not only because it puts them on the spot, but because food tends to be executed differently in a restaurant kitchen compared to a home one, and so often recipes need to be tweaked accordingly – I didn’t ask for Chef Sauter’s rösti secrets. Instead I went home and played, using his brunch dish as inspiration. (Although admittedly part of the appeal was the skating rink and mountains out the window.)
Potato rösti isn’t difficult to make, but can be easier to pull off with cold boiled potatoes. In Switzerland, you might find rösti made with caraway seed, rosemary, cheese, bacon or other cured meats; I had no ham in the fridge but a few slices of Genoa salami, which I sliced and crisped up a bit in the pan before adding the potatoes to the now salami-infused oil.
You could add bits of chopped green onion to your rösti, or crumbled bacon, or finely chopped rosemary, or whatever you normally like to eat with your potatoes. It could be perfectly plain – just potatoes, oil and salt – and still be delicious, but I can’t imagine ever not covering mine with cheese and a fried egg.
Make sure your pan is smoking hot, and use this as an excuse to buy a cast iron skillet if you don’t already have one. A small one you can take to the table is the most fun. Or pack up your car and let someone else make it for you while you sleep or swim or ski or skate in the Rockies.
Post-inspired Crispy Potato Rösti with Salami, Cheese + Fried Eggs
I kept the measurements loose here, because it’s breakfast, and because each will be dictated based on appetites, pan size, and what you happen to have in your fridge. Hollandaise would be divine drizzled overtop.
2 russet potatoes
canola oil, for cooking
butter, for cooking
1/4-1/2 cup chopped or thinly sliced salami or ham
salt and pepper, to taste
grated aged Gouda, raclette, or other meltable cheese
eggs, for poaching or frying
In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. (Yes, leave them whole.) Cook for 20 minutes, or until just fork-tender; drain and cool under cold running water. Set aside to cool, or refrigerate for up to a couple days.
Set a small, heavy (cast iron is ideal) skillet over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil and if you like, cook the salami or ham for a few minutes, until slightly crisp. Meanwhile, coarsely grate a potato or two using the coarse side of a box grater. Season with salt and pepper right on the cutting board or countertop.
Add the salami and toss to combine them, then put about half the mixture into the hot pan, pressing down to make a cake. Cook for a few minutes, until the bottom is deeply golden. Invert onto a plate, then slide it back into the pan and cook until golden on the other side. (Add extra oil and butter to the pan if you need it.)
Top with cheese and either cover with a lid to help it melt, or run it under the broiler for a minute or two to melt it. Meanwhile, fry or poach a couple of eggs in another skillet – or slide the rösti out onto a plate and cook the eggs in the same pan. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.
Serve the eggs on top of the rösti. Serves 2.
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