Saskatoon – a Friendly City for All Seasons. It seems almost impossible, how time flies, but it was a year ago that I visited the Prairie city of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan. And what I discovered when I was there, was a youthful vibrancy and new-found pride amongst all of the businesses, restaurants and small entrepreneurial start-ups, which only added to the enjoyment as I travelled around the city and the city limits.
My Thoughts One Year On
I know it’s an overused term, but time really does fly and it seems almost impossible that just one year ago I was getting ready to travel to the Prairie city of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan. I was part of a group of bloggers and travel writers that were in Canada as part of Canada’s big 150 anniversary celebrations. I have travelled all over Canada, although there are many places I’ve not yet been too, and they are on my list for the future. And, as regular readers will know, I have a soft spot for the Prairies. I find them fascinating snapshots into Pioneering Canada as well as being the hub of a new and more youthful Canada. It is true to say that the Prairies didn’t used to be where the youth of Canada wanted to be, and just like small town UK or any other small town areas in Australasia, Western Europe and North America, it was usual for the young people in these small communities to leave for the bright lights of larger cities.
But, not any more. One of the things I noticed the most when I was in Saskatoon last year was just how many young people had RETURNED back to their home province and city. There was a real vibrancy in the city, and an energy that was palpable in all of the districts I visited. And never more so than in Broadway and Riversdale, where I had the opportunity to enjoy several meals in newly opened restaurants, bars and eateries that were owned and operated by returning Saskatooners. (or Saskatchewanites as in they come from the province of Saskatchewan) As these young entrepreneurs return, they bring with them big ideas, new ideas and the desire to invest in their home city. Former model Chefs Christie Peters and her husband Kyle Michael are a good example. These two young chefs are dedicated to serving contemporary food focused on natural and seasonal products in their two restaurants, The Hollows and Primal. Christie left the Prairies to go and live in Vancouver, but she’s back now and is investing in this youthful movement that I discovered in the city, providing jobs whilst trying to source local produce and offering fabulous and innovative food.
Top Chef Canada Winner Dale MacKay has also returned to Saskatoon and created his Grassroots Restaurant Group. He now has three restaurants in the City: Sticks and Stones, which offers predominately Korean and Japanese cuisine, and is situated in the heart of downtown, and where I had the most amazing Kimchi Fried Rice and Korean Fried Chicken when I was there>
Little Grouse on the Prairie, which offers mainly authentic Italian food based on prairie ingredients in relaxed surroundings. Their All Famiglia sharing menu is a great way to taste all that’s on offer in the restaurant, and seasonally, with specially selected sharing plates from their current menu, and you can add wine pairings too, which I did when I was there.
And then his third restaurant, Ayden Kitchen & Bar. Here Dale MacKay works alongside Co-Chef & Butcher Nathan Guggenheimer, GM & Mixologist Christopher Cho and the Head Chef Benet Hunt, to create homegrown and globally inspired comfort food, paired with beautifully hand-crafted cocktails, and wines, in a relaxed and inviting setting that evokes rich dark woods and antique curiosities. It’s here that I thoroughly enjoyed a sharing Charcuterie Board with Pickles and a perfectly cooked Grilled Rib Eye Steak.
And it’s not just about food, there are numerous new micro-breweries starting up, all run by young people, such as 9 Mile Legacy. Their very pleasant taproom is a place where you can have a glass of beer or a taster flight and fill up your growler. NB: 9 Mile Legacy Brewing is a story of collaboration, growth and good neighbours. It is about celebrating good times together and weathering hard times together. It is a story often told in places like Saskatchewan.
The Night Oven and The Local Kitchen are two more examples of young people setting up in Saskatoon, investing their time and money, as well as bringing on apprentices in their businesses, so the cycle continues. The Night Oven is a local bakery that has a simple approach. They start with organic and seasonal ingredients from local producers, then craft all their breads and pastries by hand. Bryn Rawlyk built the huge mill himself, as well as the brick oven used to bake their products. And, The Local Kitchen is a large, collaborative kitchen. Designed specifically to bring participants together to cook, create, and collaborate. It was created as a sort of clubhouse for people who love food. A place to be creative and try new things.
You can read all about these places in more depth and detail here: Savour a City Break in Saskatoon, Canada, which was a full review I wrote about the places I visited and enjoyed meals in when I was there last year. A year down the line, what I’d like to highlight here is just how modern and welcoming Saskatoon is; wherever I went in the city (and province) I was met with genuine friendliness and interest as why I was visiting the city, and what my thoughts were. Although I visited in June, I know that there are activities, festivals and events that run all the way through the year. Prairie people embrace all seasons, as I found out when I was in Winnipeg last year, and I know that Saskatoon offers concerts, food festivals, real ale days, long table lunches and all sorts of other activities throughout the seasons to visit and enjoy. Why not plan a visit, I know you won’t be disappointed, especially if you love good food and art, as Saskatoon also boasts a very eclectic and fascinating art scene too. Karen
So how did I get to Saskatoon? I had a stress-free and very comfortable flight from London Gatwick to Toronto with Air Transat, where I had a short wait before catching a domestic internal flight to Saskatoon. Not only that, but I took advantage of Air Transat’s Option Plus service, which is only an extra £52 each way from London to Toronto; the Option Plus service allows you to choose your seat at time of booking, enjoy priority check in at a dedicated counter, as well as using the Priority queue at security checkpoints in Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver – you also have priority boarding, priority baggage handling & checked baggage is also included. A handy “comfort kit” is offered to you, which comprises blanket, inflatable neck pillow, sleep mask and headphones as well as an alcoholic beverage from the bar, and a choice of snack from the Bistro Menu. For an extra £15, you can take advantage of a gourmet meal from the Chef’s Menu by Daniel Vézina. In addition to a main dish created by the chef himself, the Chef’s Menu by Daniel Vézina offers you bread with butter, a cheese plate with crackers, a glass of wine and dessert. Flights start at £345.55 return from London Gatwick to Toronto in October 2017, and you can chat to Canadian Affair to tailor-make your Saskatoon holiday, by visiting their site here: Arrange my Saskatoon Holiday.
Disclaimer: This was a sponsored collaborative press trip with Destination Canada.