The Banana Cake
July 18, 2017
Ahh, the Banana Cake. The banana cake recipe became not only a favourite baked good at Paradise Valley, but the story of how it came to be has been shared in business meetings, keynote speeches, and advisory sessions over the past 10 years. There are two parts to the story.
Prior to moving to Medicine Hat, our family owned a cabin near Sundre, Alberta. It was an easy 90 minute drive from our home in Calgary, but it was worlds away in terms of stress, responsibilities, and chores. Just a half hour out of the city we could feel ourselves decompress, and briefcases full of laptops and business problems were often forgotten in the back seat for the weekend.
By taking the “scenic route” to Sundre, we drove through a tiny community named Bergen, which aside from ranches and acreages, had as its claim to fame a small general store and gas station. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t even know who owned the store during that period of time, and we never really bought much aside from the beef jerky and banana cake, both of which were made in-house. It never really started out as a mission, as we had no excuse to be hungry just an hour from our house. It started as an occasional treat for my husband and I, but once our kids became old enough to share, it became a “must do” on the drive.
In early 2008 (January 5th to be exact), when we were negotiating the Paradise Valley purchase and selling our cabin, I sent an email to the store and explained our situation. I still have her reply with the recipe attached.
The second part of this story actually began in Maui. We were on the Island back in the late 90’s, and drove the Kahekili Highway around the Northwest point of the island, from Kapalua and Napili, through Honokohau and Waihee. You will notice on the map below, that this is a “do not drive” zone for rental cars. I’m sure we didn’t get that memo! But I do recall rounding the corner on a very narrow road on the edge of a cliff, and coming face to face with a VW Van heading the opposite direction! Luckily we had the inside lane.
So here we are on this back road, and just as the road becomes a bit wider and “slightly” straight, you drive through Old Kahakuloa Village. Bright green signs dot the road telling you that you are soon approaching Julia’s Best Banana Bread on the Planet. ON THE PLANET!!! How could we not stop? Not to mention that by this time my nerves were just a tiny bit frazzled from the drive and it was going to be either Banana Bread or Mai Tai’s! (that is another story altogether).
Now this experience was made special because it was unexpected. We were not told about Julia’s, we had not googled it or done any research – which if you do now, will give you many recommendations, reviews and photos! And while it was delicious and certainly a welcome snack that afternoon, I can’t honestly say that it is the best on the planet – I still love Mom’s recipe myself! But by making the claim that this was the absolute best, it was a non-starter from a pure business marketing sense. Being that we are business leaders at heart, our conversation turned to how even on the back roads of this tropical paradise, identifying your niche and really understanding what you are best at, always leads to success. What one thing do you do better than anyone else??
And how does this all lead to the Banana Cake recipe? Well……………… flip forward to 2008, when we became the proud owners of Paradise Valley Golf Course and what would eventually become the Clubhouse Restaurant. We wanted to have something on the menu that was “the best”. We thought about signature cocktails and sandwiches, we had the Chocolate Bread Pudding, the Paradise Club, and the Creekside Burger. But we wanted something just a little different. Thus the Banana Cake.
To be fair it gradually fell off the regular menu primarily because I always insisted on making it myself, and simply could not always find the time. I have kept the recipe secret all these years, with respect for the Bergen Store owners, but also because I realized that the recipe would not turn out exactly the same each time someone new attempted it – even with amazing chefs in our own kitchen. It’s not difficult, and to be completely honest, we all know it’s really all about the coconut icing. But by keeping it my own, it became a consistent product that was appreciated as being special.
And now, after that long introduction, I share it with you! I hope you enjoy it as much as we have. And I apologize for the long wait!
Bergen / Paradise Valley Banana Cake
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 tsp vinegar + 1 cup milk)
2 cups mashed ripened bananas (approx. 4)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Completely line a 22 x 16” baking sheet (restaurant size) with parchment paper.
- In mixmaster, cream butter and add the next five dry ingredients. Mix well.
- Add milk and mix until all dry ingredients are slightly dampened.
- Add bananas & eggs, mix well.
- Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the centre of the cake.
- Meanwhile, make the icing on the stovetop: melt the butter in a small saucepan, stir in brown sugar and whipping cream to blend, and when thoroughly combined, remove from heat and add coconut.
Cool cake a few minutes before spreading with the icing. Move the rack to second from top and set broiler on high. Broil for about 2 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary to get even coverage. Icing will be bubbly and just golden brown.
The “Coming of Age” of Par-3 Golf
July 10, 2017
There was a time when par-3 golf courses were viewed by some as “not real golf”, and were lumped with mini-golf and pitch ’n putt courses as an activity primarily targeting kids and families. At one time, we at Paradise Valley even tried to de-emphasize the “par-3” stigma to a certain extent, wanting to build a reputation as a great place for golf in general. While the lack of sand traps and the tee-box mats are still give-aways, our focus has always been on a well maintained track that provides “fun, affordable golf for everyone”.
In recent years, as larger courses struggle with declining memberships and tough economic times, we are encouraged to hear that par-3 golf is finally being seen throughout the industry as a great complement to the more traditional courses. Professionals around the world are joining us in embracing the shorter format course as acceptable if not encouraged.
Scanning the internet, there are hundreds of articles claiming that “from coast to coast and for golfers rich and poor, par-3 courses are short on yardage but long on value. Whether it’s the attention of the par-3 contest at Augusta National during the Masters Tournament or special events at a local unsung course, par-3 courses are a valuable part of the industry. They help introduce the game to children, allow avid golfers to practice their short game or squeeze in a few holes, and raise money for environmental causes.”
One such article, by Alan Walker, PGA Master Professional and Council Member of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, encourages traditional golf course owners to add a par-3 track to their property as an added service and revenue generator. Following are a few of his key points – which of course we at Paradise Valley (staff and customers alike) have known for years now:
The Benefits of a Par-3 Golf Course:
- A much less daunting proposition – we all know that golf is a difficult game to master and is a fairly long process from taking up the game to attaining reasonable proficiency. For raw beginners, the first hurdle is to actually make contact with the ball; and the second is taking their ball-hitting skills onto the golf course and attempting to actually play golf – a daunting proposition for many. A Par 3 golf course offers a much lower level of intensity and is therefore a ‘stepping stone’ towards a full-length course. The facts are that new golfers feel more ‘comfortable’ on a par 3 course.
- Less time to play – ‘golf takes too long to play’ has been the message from golfers and non-golfers at all levels for a few years. The 9-hole Par 3 course addresses that issue head-on. A Par 3 course can be played, in most cases, in less than an hour so it is not time consuming at all and can be played before or after work, at the weekend or holiday time as it does not take a large chunk of time out of the day. Clubs with Par 3 courses are able to promote this opportunity and attract an audience who may well use the other facilities on offer at your club before or after they play.
- Attracts juniors, ladies, seniors, families and friends – Par 3 courses can be enjoyed by many individual groups of golfers – juniors play with their parents or grandparents, a husband with wife and/or children, seniors who just want a ‘few holes’, groups of friends for some fun, and so on. For many, playing golf is a social occasion offering some mild exercise as well – a Par 3 golf course is perfect for those who are not necessarily looking for competitive play or club membership.
- A great ‘stepping stone’ for new golfers – the game needs new players as participation levels are still on the decline. Par 3 courses are a great first step for those new to golf and are a part of the progression from golf tuition as a beginner, to practicing in-between sessions, and then trying out your game on a Par 3 course. A similar concept to the shallow-end of a swimming pool when you have just learned to swim, the Par 3 course eases a player into the main course
- They are great fun and break down the ‘golf is an exclusive game’ attitude – Par 3 courses offer the opportunity to tap into more markets than just those people wanting membership and are already experienced golfers. For many, Par 3 golf is their first introduction to the sport, and if you provide them with a positive experience, the long-term benefits for golf clubs are numerous.
Blogging in Paradise
March 11, 2017
Over the past few years I have been spending more time with paper and pen, or computer and keyboard as the case may be, writing newsletters, posts for my foodie websites, and miscellaneous notes for some future purpose yet to be determined. And still, writing a blog for Paradise Valley never really made the list. Which baffles me now, as it seems it would have been a logical first step.
I have worked in and around the online world for more than 30 years, with an IT background that began before IT was an acronym and long before there was an “offline” that you could turn on! I have worked with clients to develop websites and manage eCommerce businesses. I have designed and maintained websites & electronic newsletters for my own business. I even held the title of “webmaster” for a short period of time (don’t ask).
But Blogging??? That is a whole new world.
First off, why would I want to sit and share my thoughts or ideas with anyone aside from close friends and family? I am generally a private person (note that I said “private” not “quiet”), and aside from my journal, my husband, and a few close friends, what I write is my own.
More importantly, why would anyone else want to sit and read this stuff? Assuming that I can find time to write a few paragraphs each week or two, who out there is not leading a busy life of their own? What type of person is going to take time out of their hectic schedules to see what is on my mind? And even for those of you who are sitting with your smart phones while waiting at the doctors office right now, there are so many other great things to read! Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, newspapers, online magazines, and books just as a start! Why would anyone want to read a blog? Especially one of mine??!
Paradise Valley is a community, a village all its own within the city limits, where our staff are also our customers, our customers in turn are our friends, and all are loyal to the Valley, almost to a fault. This is not your typical golf course – and we are proud of that! The Clubhouse is much like the kitchen of a home. It is the heart of the valley, where family and friends meet to share meals, laughter, wine, music, and conversation. Each person who comes through the door shares a bit of themselves in doing so. And with all that to work with, writing becomes easy. It’s really like writing about one’s children.
So please connect with me. Let me know what you would like to hear about and what you would like to see more of on the site. And I in return will do my best to write regularly and try to keep things interesting and fresh.