When I first arrived in Red Deer, many people suggested Ellis Bird Farm as a great place to visit. Because I heavily relied on my GPS and since the web site warned that the location in the GPS was wrong, it slipped my mind.
One fine August weekend last year, I finally decided to visit. I had actually driven in that direction before on one of my random exploration drives. I had even stopped in the town of Joffre and admired the amazing city-size industrial plant Nova Chemicals. Speaking of Nova Chemicals, I have heard that family members of employees can attend a tour. Too bad. I would have loved to see how grand and amazing it must be from within.
From Red Deer, the drive to Ellis Bird Farm takes less than half an hour. It is a very nice drive in the summer.
You will find Ellis Bird Farm across the road from Nova Chemicals, just west of the plant. The signage is not obvious so I found it as I passed by. However, traffic is quiet so you can easily swing back.
The parking lot is gravel and a short distance away from the farm. At the front gate, you will be greeted with a series of birdhouses though none appeared to be occupied.
As you walk in, you can see a small barn where farm animals are present.
There are numerous gardens surrounding the area.
There is a beautiful lake that is connected to a nearby river.
A gazebo near the lake gave some shade from the sun and a wooden bridge completed the scene.
Sadly, despite its name, I never saw a bird. I was told by another visitor that in August, they are all gone and the best time to visit is Spring.
After our walk, we decided to have a late lunch at the Ellis Bird Farm Tea House. It is located in the original Ellis family home. A wonderful couple named Blake Anderson and Pavla Hruzkova run the place.
Upon entering, we noticed that stairs to the second floor were chained off and a sign stated that entry was for staff only. Perhaps part of running the business included accommodations.
Pavla herself seated us in what must be the Ellis living room.
She passed out paper menus.
My wife saw Fresh Baked Cookies and wanted to try one. She had State and Main’s Milk and Cookies in mind and was hoping for something similar.
We watched Pavla reach into a glass jar near the kitchen and take out a chocolate chip cookie. We realized that it was not baked to order like at State and Main, but rather baked fresh during the day. As a result, the cookie was not warm and on the drier side. We appreciated the homemade aspect though our minds always go back to the memories of fresh baked cookies coming out of the oven.
We ordered a Chicken Panini to share. Out of the 4 options for sandwiches (Egg Salad, Chicken Panini, Vegetable Panini, and Beef Sandwich), the chicken was most appealing. It was described as a free range chicken thigh topped with spinach, tomato, and smoked gouda cheese served between 2 slices of ciabatta bread and grilled panini-style. A lemon thyme aioli accompanied the sandwich.
The sandwich arrived diagonally cut with beautiful grill marks on the surface. One look and I knew that the bread had plenty of crunch.
Being dark meat, the chicken thigh was flavorful though a little dry. The addition of smoked gouda cheese helped balance the dryness and, of course, dipping the bread in the lemon thyme aioli gave it another dimension of flavor and more help. One thing I did not notice was the smokiness of the gouda. I wouldn’t have guessed it if I did not look at the menu again. Overall, it was a light sandwich which gave my wife room to order more.
My wife wanted to try the Rubarb Pie that was advertised on the blackboard out front.
The menu had stated that the slice of pie was made with local fruits and served with vanilla ice cream. I assume that the ingredients changed with the season and on that day, Rhubarb was the choice.
The Rhubarb pie arrived with a beautiful flaky crust topped with a scoop of ice cream. The Rhubarb had a slight sour tone which helped balance the sweetness of the ice cream. I have to say that the crust was my favorite part as it was crispy and buttery.
My wife also ordered a second dessert as she was curious about the Vanilla Bavarian Cream. It was described as a silky, smooth custard infused with vanilla beans and served with a rhubarb compote.
When the dessert arrived, we were excited with how beautiful it looked. Taste-wise, the silky texture was a pleasure for my tongue. It was not very sweet, but would have been better if a biscuit was served on the side to give a textural contrast.
We look forward to Spring when we can visit again and hopefully see some birds.