Christmas in November at Jasper Park Lodge

Christmas is almost here! Honestly, I’m usually pretty grouchy this time of year with all the shopping, crowds and festive chores, but this year has felt very different! Matt and I recently opened up our brand new home to host our second annual Christmas on the Side party (a potluck where we dine exclusively on appies, sides and desserts – the best part of any holiday feast!) and it was so fun to incorporate some of the entertaining tips I learned at the 30th anniversary of Christmas in November at Jasper Park Lodge! It’s a four-day all-inclusive event in the Rockies with buffets, seated dinners, all-you-can-drink wine and cocktails, dazzling celebrity chef sightings and informative workshops on everything Christmas from mixology to wreath decorating. Just picture all the best parts of a luxury cruise with no sunburn and no seasickness!

I went with my friend Michelle as well as her mom, Gloria, and sister, Sarah. It was Sarah’s and my first time, but members of their family have been going to Christmas in November on and off for decades, so the whole ride up was filled with stories and buzz about what we might see this year. After a 7-hour drive up to Jasper on a snowy weekend, we finally arrived at the lodge! It was somewhat jarring to see Christmas decor, hear carols and smell cookies baking as soon as we rolled up on November 8, but the excitement was infectious. Just when I’d been loaded down with a massive bag of swag and thought things couldn’t get any better, we turned around to see an absolutely glorious sight. The CIN information booth was made out of actual gingerbread. People were seriously standing inside of it and providing information to guests. This was a fully confection-based structure. You could even see places where people had broken off candies for a little taste – not that I would ever participate in such mischief, myself!

Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Gingerbread
A gingerbread house for giants!

After we hauled our stuff into our room, I learned that each night we would be graced with a Christmas gift and card from the lodge! I’m talking about fancy gifts, like a bedtime snack of milk and cookies from Duchess Bake Shop, sparkling wine with matching CIN wine glasses and a little set of swag from Le Creuset! In the gift bags we were given at check-in, we received recipe cards, turkey basters, whisks, dish scrubbers, seasoning packets, and beautiful, shiny new copies of Anna Olson’s latest book, Set for the Holidays. In other words, we were spoiled as heck.

Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Pork
Born, raised and roasted in Alberta!

The first night was a silly sweater party (to which we showed up in STYLE I must say) and multi-station buffet that put cruise ships to shame. There was every kind of meat, vegetable cheese, salad, seafood and bite-sized dessert expertly prepared and served by the lodge’s banquet staff. There was a whole roasted pig, crab legs, a full raclette station (omg) and tables covered in full glasses of wine and signature cocktails. Never before have I experienced such bacchanalia.

Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Beef
Holiday Dinner of Porcini-Crusted Beef Tenderloin, Foie Gras Sauce, Vegetables & Pommes Aligot

Michelle and Gloria kept warning Sarah and I to pace ourselves, because this wasn’t even the biggest night of the weekend. They were definitely correct. Between the buffet Thursday, fancy beef tenderloin holiday dinner on the Friday and the full scale gala on the Saturday with an EDM after party, yeah, it was a good weekend to be pacing yourself.

Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Brunch
Daily breakfast feasts!

The meals were incredible in general. We started with a breakfast buffet each day, with lots of beautiful Fairmont items including a few favourites like stuffed french toast, ricotta blueberry pancakes and corned beef hash. The lunches and dinners were plated and each meal was enjoyed with your assigned tablemates (again, so cruise-like!) and we considered ourselves quite fortunate to have some lovely dining companions! There were lots of mother-daughter pairs, tables full of friends that had snowballed over the years, and a surprising (and awesome!) number of couples enjoying the diverse offerings.

Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Stock
Stock shots with Paul Rogalski of Rouge

There definitely was something for everyone with all of the different workshops and classes to attend. Michelle and I sat down months beforehand and registered for all the ones we found most appealing, which included a brilliant session on soups and stocks by Paul Rogalski, co-owner and chef of Rouge in Calgary, a lesson on dips and spreads by chef Blair Lebsack and Caitlin Fulton, co-owners of Edmonton’s Rge Rd (check out my Rge Rd review here!), a fun introduction to Quebec-inspired holiday food by Food Network chefs and proud Montrealers Chuck Hughes and Danny Smiles, a Charton-Hobbs wine tasting featuring an all-Canadian cheese board, a mixology class with flair bartender Micah Dew and a workshop focused on the art of puff pastry by Giselle Courteau and Jacob Pelletier of Duchess Bake Shop.

Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Duchess
St. Honore – Puff pastry topped with a cream puff courtesy of Duchess Bake Shop

The workshops were my favourite part, no question. I learned so many great tips, like how to make pommes aligot (my new favourite food) and that they don’t typically cook with black pepper at Rouge because it doesn’t always work well with wine. We learned that a weed grinder (sorry, electric spice mill) is the perfect tool for pulverizing your dried mushrooms and that when you prepare a batch of cocktails before a party, you should go lighter on the sweet or sour flavouring so you can customize each pour to your guests’ taste.

Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Centrepiece
Gorgeous centrepieces at every meal!

Between classes, we had a soak in the gorgeous outdoor hot tub, picked up stocking stuffers in the gift shop, walked around the grounds and explored the decor cabin decked out to the nines by celebrated designer Cory Christopher. There really is no bad way to experience this event!

Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Tree
At the gala we all had a chance to take photos with Santa in our Christmas party finery!

This awesome food and beverage-based weekend is definitely pricey, but considering it covered high end accommodations, three meals a day, workshops, snacks, beverages, gifts (and did I mention the tables absolutely buckling with wine?) I was very satisfied with the value. It was a once-in-a-while treat for me, for sure, but something I’m looking forward to experiencing again a few years from now when my liver has fully recovered. For me, just having that kind of access to  entertaining tips from some of the top chefs in Canada was well worth the price of admission and I highly recommend you add Christmas in November to your bucket list!

I’ve attached a few extra photos to give you a better idea of what it was all about. Merry Christmas and happy New Year from the Hungry family to you and yours!

Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Puff Pastry
Cheese twists made from Duchess puff pastry!
Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Raclette
Raclette Station on opening night – yes, my eyes were watering the whole time I stood here!
Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Seafood
Piles of seafood, cheese, meat, pate, salad and treats filled the ballroom on our first night there!
Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Dessert
The dessert station was wild on opening night!
Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Persimmon
Persimmon, Mozzarella and Prosciutto Salad to start our first three course lunch
Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Salad
The Santa Baby Iceberg Salad with delicious Pink Peppercorn Ranch Dressing
Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Ginger
My favourite dessert of the weekend – Chocolate Gingerbread Cremeux with Pear Sherbet, Almond Dacquoise and Blood Orange Gelee
Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Micah Dew
Cocktails with Micah Dew – he’s been doing CIN for years and his love for the event shows!
Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Wines
We sampled six wines supplied by Charton-Hobbs, including a lovely port!
Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Bleu Cheese
A fleet of Canadian cheeses!
Hungry in Calgary | Jasper CIN Fondue
Brunch on the last day involved a chocolate fondue buffet so… yeah I’ll be seeing you again soon, JPL!

 

 

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