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  • Writer's pictureErin Boukall

Gourmet Getaway Guide: Heritage Ranch's Winter Wonderland

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Heritage Ranch, and their restaurant Westlake Grill offer guests the unique experience of a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride and a multiple course meal. The restaurant features local products on their menu, such as Albertan wagyu. The ranch is located on the outskirts of Red Deer, Alberta and features 217 acres of natural wilderness. The land is owned by the city, so people are free to wander and we even saw some cross-country skiers adventuring through the winter wonderland.

"The whole package accounted for everything; transportation, accommodation, entertainment, and delicious food and drink."

We got to experience Heritage Ranch’s “Overnight Jacuzzi Date Night Package”, part of their varied “Winter Romance” packages. They have a multitude of different options, allowing guests to pick-their-own adventure, as well as several other horse adventures. The accommodation included in our evening was very welcome, as we didn’t have to worry about driving back to Calgary after dinner. They have partnered with a nearby hotel, the Red Deer Resort & Casino (formerly known as The Cambridge Red Deer Hotel) to offer a suite package. We were thrilled to see the gigantic jacuzzi the room came with! Transportation to and from the ranch were included, so guests are able to enjoy the wine included with dinner and already have a safe ride organized.

This evening had two highlights; the horse-drawn sleigh ride and the food. The private ride wound through the forested area. As you gently glide along the trails, you can see thousands of twinkling lights (over 50,000 to be exact) surrounding you. The sleigh was very cozy and you are provided with warm blankets for the journey. And if that wasn’t warm enough, guests are also offered a hot cup of cocoa for the trip too. The ride took approximately 45 minutes and had you arriving back to restaurant just in time for your meal, but don’t forget to say thank you to the horses. Two of their beautiful Belgian Draft horses powered our carriage ride. My only regret is that none of the shy barn cats wanted to accompany us on our journey.

"...we were too tempted by the steak and ended up both ordering it. The steak was cooked medium rare and being a wagyu steak, it was deliciously fatty with an almost bacon-like flavour."

After arriving back at the Westlake Grill for dinner, we were shown to our seats for the evening. The split-level restaurant was dimly lit with large windows offering a view of the dense forest. The upper floor, where the couples were seated, was warmed by a crackling fire. The seating arrangement was strategically laid out so you still felt like you had a private dinner for two. The meal offered 5 gourmet courses; an amuse-bouche, an appetizer of bacon-wrapped scallops, a choice of 3 mains, a palate cleanser, and dessert. Some of the courses (like the appetizer and dessert) were shared. The main course options may change, but this evening they included the choice of lemon-dill sea bass, sour cherry duck breast, or a 10oz wagyu steak. Whenever my partner and I go out for meals, we usually try to each order different things off the menu, so we can try as many different dishes as possible. In this case, we were too tempted by the steak and ended up both ordering it. The steak was cooked medium rare and being a wagyu steak, it was deliciously fatty with an almost bacon-like flavour.

Wagyu beef is an interesting product. Wagyu cattle are a prestigious breed from Japan. You might have heard of the famous Kobe beef, and of the fanciful tales of cows being fed whiskey and treated to massage spa treatments. Kobe is wagyu cattle from the Kobe prefecture (region) of Japan. Just as “champagne” sparkling wine can only be called this if it is from the Champagne region of France. Kobe can only be called Kobe if it is from that precise region of Japan. When I tried the real deal in Japan, I was shocked at the portion for the price (it really is a high-ticket item). It really was delicious though! I would describe the flavor of Kobe to be much closer to bacon than to beef. It is intricately marbled with brilliant white fat and melts in your mouth more like a rendered pork belly slice. And while Alberta cannot authentically claim to produce Kobe, it can most definitely produce wagyu… Brant Lake Wagyu is an iconic Albertan producer heralded for offering locally raised wagyu. They started in 1993 and have grown vastly since. Their high-end wagyu can be found on fine dining menus across the province, as well as the rest of the country. If you are interested in trying to cook some Albertan wagyu for yourself, they have a butcher shop in Calgary. Brant Lake Wagyu is a shining example of the impressive food offerings our province has, particularly when it comes to beef, which is why it is so great to see it featured by local restaurants like the Westlake Grill. The ranch restaurant's regular dinner steak menu also features Alberta's Harmony Beef and bison from Big Bend Ranch. I really appreciate the integration of Albertan ingredients into their chef-inspired menu. In all, our package from Heritage Ranch made for a romantic and special evening for us both. The night also included house-made chocolate truffles and a beautiful long-stemmed rose. After our quaint horse ride and gourmet meal at the Westlake Grill, we headed back to enjoy the jacuzzi suite. The whole package accounted for everything; transportation, accommodation, entertainment, and delicious food and drink. It made for the perfect romantic evening with all the guess-work taken out of it. This article was made possible thanks to Travel Alberta and Heritage Ranch.

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