Year Two (of Eat Alberta 2012) found us at NAIT!
Get your coffee cup, put your feet up and prepare to enjoy another “Canadian Foodie Epic”! And there are “pleas” here from me, too. Many.
Why do we do what we do? Just look at the joy on that face! Cheese making was just one of the many hands on classes offered at Eat Alberta this year. Cynthia and fellow participants made mozzarella in a one hour class with Chef Alan Roote from NAIT, and got to take it home! Does it get any better than this? Oh, yes it does! But where does it begin? With our incredible force of volunteers! Last year, our volunteers worked so hard that we thought we would never see them again. Wrong! These are incredible people who believe in what we are doing and are just as motivated to make it happen as the leadership team is. We had many return volunteers this year for which we are so thankful, and new ones, as our event doubled in size. For some insight from a volunteer and her reflection of her day with us, please read Robyn’s post, here. (Not the Robin, below)
Sharon and Mack manned the registration table again this year. Nicole was the volunteer coordinator. Last year, she was a volunteer, then joined the leadership team. How fortunate were we? And look, one of the first participants to arrive: Christine! And, all the way from Calgary. I didn’t even know she had moved, but in her own words, “I wouldn’t miss this for anything!” You can read the recap of her day, here!
After registering, the participants gathered in Ernest’s beautiful dining space for coffee, juices and a lovely light breakfast showcasing the wares of NAIT Culinary students. We were extremely grateful to have this world class site to host this event in.
The staff and students involved in assisting us with this event were exceptional. The space was luxurious and a great time was had connecting and reconnecting. Presenters and participants gathered in Ernest’s for a few moments of nourishment and revitalization before heading to the Fresh Express space for the Key Note Speakers: Danny and Shannon Ruzicka from Nature’s Green Acres Farm.
Shannon and Danny sell their grass fed chicken, beef and pork at the City Market. They spoke of their sustainable farming practices and family life. Their passion and commitment to what they do and how they do it is inspirational. The stories they have to share are many and mesmerizing. (Ask Shannon about her skunk story!) Hearing the story of their choice to farm and farm sustainably was a great eye opener to many. Farmers like Danny and Shannon need our support. How can we support them? Buy their produce.
Shannon, as she so aptly put it, was not “a farm girl”, but she has definitely made farming her life and has the ability to spin her story in such a way that you are on the edge of your seat all the way with her.
It is easy for me to get emotional when thanking our farmers. The sacrifice of a small sustainable artisan farmer is difficult for most urbanites to grasp and seemingly impossible for our politicians. (Good thing I was wearing an apron, looks like my pants need a big hike up!)
What a surprise to have two adorable babies join us this year. Quite logical from any new mommy’s view, yet definitely not possible to allow any babe’s in the NAIT kitchens. We will be sure to note this on our registration next year.
Nicole, our volunteer coordinator, offered to babysit. We won’t be offering this service next year, but these were two adorable little babes!
After refilling coffee cups, participants were off to their first of four sessions during the day.
We offered 7 Tasting sessions, 2 Presentations, 1 Demonstration and 17 Hands On Cooking Classes. Each person could register in four throughout the day.
Hands on Sessions in the NAIT Hokanson Centre Kitchens
One of the basic tenets of Eat Alberta is to provide immediate skills that participants can take home with them and apply the next day in their home kitchens. We recognize that cooking at home is no longer learned in most homes and that it is important to re-establish the opportunity for skill development and education in this area through hands on experiences, tastings, and discussions. When selecting the sessions, we work to provide a variety of experiences that support other tenets of Eat Alberta. We work to preserve our Alberta culinary heritage, including aboriginal food heritage, with a focus on youth and our multicultural make up. We also work to connect our producers to our consumers and provide a network for ongoing collaboration within the food community.
I am Allan’s biggest fan. He is on the Eat Alberta leadership team and taught this same class at Eat Alberta last year to rave reviews. He has taught sausage making classes for me at Taste Tripping as well as other classes and diners with consistent rave reviews. You can read about Deb Krause’s experience with Allan’s Eat Alberta class here. Suffice it to say that Allan demystifies sausage making. If you can make a meatloaf, you can make a sausage. (That is put a little simply, Allan would say, but makes a point.) You need some special equipment, but it is not expensive and so worth it. Using our local artisanal farmer’s pork, fat and herbs is such a pleasure. Knowing what goes into your food is so empowering. After making every sausage, the idea of wasting one is blasphemous!
Sausages are divided amongst participants to take home and share with their families or friends. Now, that is a celebration!
Cheese Making with Chef Alan Roote from NAIT
There was a new fashion statement made with these charming hairnets! Keeping hair out of our food is so basic that it was a non-issue. And, cheese making? This has been on my personal “to-do” list for four or five years now, and I have not accomplished it, yet! But, we did provide the opportunity for others to do so through the collaborative and kind spirit of Alan Roote, NAIT’s artisan cheese specialist. I would love to take his entire class. For now, we were tickled pink with the opportunity for our participants to make mozzarella cheese in one hour. Can you imagine? The enthusiasm in the room was palpable. When asked, there was not one person who said they could not make it again. All left with a generous ball of fresh hand made artisan mozzarella and the confidence and knowledge to continue making it at home! You can read Deb Krause’s post on her experience with Eat Alberta Cheese Making here.
So, who is now going to teach me? That is part of what Eat Alberta is all about,too: sharing your knowledge! Cynthia said she would and so did Deb! I have my rennet and am waiting for that call, not too patiently, either!
Yeast farming is new to me and most definitely holds appeal. That is how Owen thinks. Out of the box. He is an engaging teacher and passionate about bread making. I have taken Bread Making from Richard Bertinet in Bath, UK and at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, yet it was clear to me that I have still so much to learn! I have still not mastered yeast farming. Owen has a name for his starter, and she is apparently quite an old gal: Julie. (I didn’t ask.) But, just the fact that this is his profession and he is not only willing, but passionate about sharing his skills with those interested in learning is key. It is clear that this will not diminish his business. There are far too many people who never will make their own bread. But, for those of us yearning to get back to the roots of our Alberta heritage, bread making is basic. Everyone used to do it and know how to do it. There is truly something ethereal about bread making. Not only is it such a super food when made properly, the process is so sensual. The texture and aroma of the yeasty dough as you work it with your hands is inherently gratifying. Each participant took home a bit of starter and enough dough to bake into a crusty loaf of morning bread the next day. Read Christine’s post about her Bread making success since her Eat Alberta class with Owen. It is very informative and helpful to those that did not take the class, too!
Owen is such a talent and everyone in his class was so appreciative. So, who has a bit of starter to share and to teach me how to grow? I want a “little Julie” in my kitchen, too!
Pasta and Ricotta Gnocchi Making with Kathryn Joel of Get Cooking Edmonton
Kathryn taught pasta making at Eat Alberta last year and there was a pasta making rage that followed after her incredible lessons. Participants drove straight to the Italian Centre to buy pasta machines, and were making and tweeting about pasta for months after! Of course, we had to have her back! She suggested that she would like to do gnocchi last year, and as that is also something I have not yet been able to consistently make myself, I did not forget. The pasta making was received with the same level of enthusiasm that it was last year. Using local flour and eggs to make homemade food for those you love is so gratifying. Moreover, it is much more nutritious and beneficial to the local economy. Kathryn decided to make ricotta gnocchi. There is no place to buy local ricotta in Edmonton. Next year, we hope Chef Roote will teach ricotta making! The collaboration that is the signature of Alberta producers and chefs worked its magic here. Chef Roote made the ricotta for Kathryn’s class to use. Is that not amazing? Not only that, but as she prepared for the class, she tested the ricotta and discovered she needed it a bit more moist, so they worked together to get the consistency she needed for her gnocchi. It doesn’t get any more local than that. I was overwhelmed with appreciation for these two fine chefs to provide such an amazing experience for our participants.
Michelle met Kathryn for the first time as a student in her class last year and wrote about her at home pasta making after that here. Then she went on to work with Kathryn teaching Indian Cuisine with her at her cooking school and now they are business partners! This is one of many magical moments as a result of Eat Alberta. Andrea wrote about her experience with Kathryn last year (and others) here and you can see the rustic tasting boards we used in her post! Another of last year’s participant post including the past class from the Garneau Kitchen and the one she just wrote this year making her own pasta at home! Sadly, for me, no one has posted a gnocchi making follow up, yet! I am eager to learn…
Of course, disappointed that I didn’t get to take the gnocchi class. Again, who volunteers now, to teach me? This is an authentic ask. I would love to learn this skill! First, I want to make my own ricotta. Anyone willing to take that on with me, too?
Cooking with Rabbit and Bison with Chef Blair Lebsack from NAIT
A focus on aboriginal food and cooking is a very important goal of Eat Alberta. It is not an easy one to accomplish. Every presenter at Eat Alberta has either cooked with me, for me, or I have seen them cook and know them personally. It is not easy to cook anything from start to finish in an hour, let alone teach it and have 16 people in your class do this, learn how, and enjoy the process. Then, it has to taste good, and the room needs to be spotless for the teacher following your class in 15 minutes. Lots to think about.
Chef Blair Lebsack can do anything. He is an Alberta Food Hero. This is a chef that hails from the central Alberta area, brought up on a farm near Red Deer, and really walks his talk. Blair used to be the Executive Chef at the Union Bank Inn, then took some time to travel through Europe as a Slow Food Terra Madre delegate and then on his own. Upon returning, he joined the NAIT culinary team and is teaching there as well as working at his independent business Range Road Dinners: Untamed Cuisine (He does not have a website yet). He works to produce farm to table dinners in gardens and farms that are 99% local and not only a beautiful taste experience, but a complete sensory experience coupled with an education simply through the setting of each event.
While we initially had an aboriginal person we were working with to present the rabbit and bison food traditions to our participants, it just did not work out. This will continue to be a goal as having an aboriginal person sharing aboriginal food traditions is such a basic part of Alberta culinary food heritage that simply must be pursued. And it is possible.
Though this class did not end up being a class about aboriginal recipes, it was certainly a class about cooking with two important Alberta and aboriginal meats. The first: The Great Plains Bison, and the second: rabbit. Neither is very common at the Alberta dinner table today, but both are incredible Alberta foods.
Participants left with samples of their meals cooked in each class and absolute confidence that they could work with these meats and make this food again. One of the gals asked me at the end of the day for an extra copy of the rabbit recipe. I will definitely ask each chef for copies of their recipes and see if we can get them posted on the Eat Alberta site. It would be terrible to leave without your notes and recipe!
Read Twyla Campbell’s post about her experience at Eat Alberta here. She includes her time in one of Blair’s classes, as well as others. This post is a brilliant read.
Preserving Fruits and Vegetable with Amy Beaith of OFRE
Another local food hero: Amy Beaith. Though Amy is not a chef, she is passionate about sustainable living and the quintessential community minded mover and shaker. She walks her talk and has worked hard to undertake the initiative of Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) and see it through year after year for the past few years. Without her level of commitment and dedication this amazing contribution to sharing fruit growing and not used within the city would be lost. She has worked tirelessly for hours and hours at coordinating efforts with neighbourhood team captains and people throughout the city who own fruit trees of all kinds that are unable to pick them. If you are interested in volunteering with a team this late summer and fall, definitely contact Amy as there is still far more fruit out their than she has volunteers to pick and use it.
So, who better to ask to teach preserving to our Eat Alberta participants? Amy has been working at preserving the fruit she gathers each fall the past few years a variety of ways: juicing, drying, canning, fermenting. She even had her deep freezer still full of Evan’s cherries from last year’s haul so donated much of the fruit to the class! Though she didn’t have enough time to make the curd she had intended, she demonstrated incredible ability to show our participants what to do in a (pardon the pun) jam. They each ended up with a delectable jar of sauce, instead. And, left knowing that if it cooked longer, it would be a curd. Brilliant. And, puckerlicious!
The recipe she chose was not taken lightly, either. She had all presenters and volunteers do a tasting at the preparatory potluck dinner the Wednesday prior to Eat Alberta and brought the same samples for the participants to try. Tastings of any kind are so much fun and, a good way to educate yourself about your personal palate and preferences.
The vegetable preserving class was just as colourful and every bit as novel. Amy had roasted peppers to prepare for the preservation process she walked her class through. There is nothing better than roasted red peppers in the dead of winter. I could eat them right out of the jar. I do, actually!
Fortunately for me, these are skills I am well versed in, and so no “pleas” here. Though, I learn from Amy all of the time. Read Amy’s post about her experience with us on this day here.
Wrap and Roll with Elaine Wilson of Allium Foodworks
Elaine is a firecracker. You cannot catch her in a resting position. The preparation she undertook for her classes must have taken her a couple of days. Though Elaine is not Asian, she was a great choice to teach us all a little about Asian cuisine as she has lived in Thailand and traveled there extensively. She speaks Thai fluently and will be taking culinary tours there in the December. She taught one class of Spring Rolls and one of Salad Rolls: not your mother’s rolls, however! Elaine is another out of the out of the box thinkers and had everyone pumped with her suggestion of mashed potato and gravy spring rolls. I am not sure what each person ended up putting into their rolls, but I did see the choices of flavours and colours she had for them to choose from. I confess that I tasted the chicken and it was outrageously delicious! Miss Elaine can sure cook! Here are some photos of the ingredients she used. Please also take a look at Sharon’s post on Eat Alberta. Just seeing the photo of Mack in his hairnet learning how to “wrap and roll” with Elaine is worth the peek! (Well, I have included that photo, below, too – but Sharon has many I do not.)
Elaine also has her own spice and herb blends! This has been an idea brewing the past three of more years and this is the year she made it happen. Just yesterday she was at City Market downtown strutting her stuff with not only her top level hand made artisan herbs and spice mixes, but with soup stocks and a variety of other take home edibles. I went, I saw, I bought; and I will again!
Like Kathryn Joel, Elaine offers cooking classes. She is also a personal chef should you be looking for those services. Both gals have their own very different niche market and how lucky were we to offer such expertise to our participants? Each went home with rolls made in class to share with friends and family members.
Again, no “pleas” from me this time. My daughter, Lauren, has lived in Thailand and taught me how to make spring rolls and I learned to do salad rolls on my own. Loved them. Had to make them. Just figured it out. But, I will say, that anytime I get time with Elaine, I consider myself lucky as I learn so much every time!
French Macaron Making with Connie Nelson of Mirabelle Macarons
Connie Nelson is the best teacher of making the French Macaron that anyone will ever learn from. I have taken French Macaron making classes from several sources, including a class at LeNÃ´tre in Paris and Connie’s scientific analysis of the process coupled with her common sense approach to teaching the technique is second to none. You will learn from Connie. She holds nothing back. All secrets and tips are shared, again demonstrating the signature collaboration and support of all within our local food community in Edmonton. Connie has taught several French Macaron making classes for me at Taste Tripping, each one sold out far in advance. When I discovered her twitter account, I e-mailed her and asked her if she would teach for me. I had been working at getting French Macaron classes going in Edmonton for over two years. She came over, we talked. She tested my ovens and I was a fan. Her class surpassed my expectations and I had complete faith in her ability to perform the magic of walking our participants through a hands on Macaron shell making class in one hour. As Connie says, “The Diva cookies is unpredictable. ” But, she does understand the reason for almost any problem that rears its head, and has a solution to almost any problem that arises. In preparation for her classes here, Connie spent time at NAIT testing the ovens in the International Kitchen. The Chef in the International Kitchen was completely open to accommodating this need on our behalf. Working with the NAIT team was simply, and not so simply, phenomenal in such a number of ways. Connie finished the shells by filling them with her famous buttercream filling and sent her participants home with their treasures.
Deb Krause has a phenomenal post about her experience with Connie’s session at Eat Alberta, too!
Knife Skills with Kevin Kent aka Knifenerd of Knifeware in Calgary
Kevin Kent. Yes, he could be a brother or cousin of Clark. He certainly has super powers. This is one charming fellow with enough energy, enthusiasm and passion for an army. And expertize? Who knew there was so much to know about a knife…or knives? And, there is definitely so much to know. I had heard so much about Kevin from so many in Edmonton that I was a fan before I had met him. Having Kevin accept our invitation to travel up to Edmonton from Calgary this year was an Eat Alberta coup. Another of our goals is to include more areas, and eventually address all areas, of our province. Having the famous Knife Nerd present a class on knife skills and a demonstration on knife sharpening was a celebrated fait accompli by our leadership team!
He has not responded to my “will you come back next year” questions, but we sure hope he does. The buzz around town after his time here was strong and there is more than a little interest in this highly entertaining and extremely informed niche specialty knife marketer. Please read Mr. Moo’s adventures with the Knife Nerd and his other Eat Alberta classes. Also, read Shari’s comments about her experience with Kevin from her small kitchen in Grand Prairie! Sarah’s accounting of her Eat Alberta day also includes time with Kevin and is a must read, too!
Kevin opened a new store in Kelowna the first of May and has future plans to open one in Edmonton. Yes, please!
Presentations and Demonstrations
Kevin Kent of Knifeware demonstrated Knife Sharpening, but we haven’t any photos of this. He uses rocks and has an incredible knife sharpening business in Calgary inside of his shop. This is definitely a demonstration I wanted to attend as I really know nothing about the proper way of sharpening my knives. I will probably cart them all down to Calgary, a few at a time, and have him do them for me. I have heard that it is impossible to enter his store and leave without a new knife. I am not worried about that, either. Actually, eager!
Last year we had Robert Rogers provide information on the ten most edible wild plants within the Edmonton City limits. People were spellbound. He wasn’t available this year. Hopefully, we can sign him on again next year!
Martin Orsis of the Alberta Mycological Society presented a session on foraging for edible mushrooms in Edmonton and area
Martin is so passionate about foraging for mushrooms that almost everyone who attended either of his sessions was talking about it. I heard more animated conversations about mushrooms and urban foraging than I had in a long while. He is another compelling presenter. Clearly, Martin captured the hearts and heads of all within his reach. There is so much to learn and not just mushrooms, but urban foraging is a huge interest of mine. The edible food growing within our city limits in the parks and woodland areas is astounding. To be able to spend an early spring or summer morning walking amid the natural beauties within our urban park systems and tote home a basket of nutritious, delicious, local and very fresh food is the ultimate gratification for any local foodie. What a wonderful family outing. Think of the education, the interaction with nature and the family, and then the follow up cooking and tasting experiences.
Ignorance is no longer an excuse. As a child, we were all foragers without even thinking of it. Come spring, everyone was out gathering wild strawberries. Wild Saskatoon picking was a family affair, picnics and all. Child labour a given and a necessity. And not for just one day: for the entire time they were available. Urbanization has destroyed so many of these wild picking spots. It has been years since I have heard of a spot. We had our area as a child and knew just where to go. There was enough for everyone in the area. There was a code amongst foragers, even then. Especially then. Harvest carefully from the tree so that you can return the following year. Leave a wide birth between yourself and any others in the same area. Completely clean the fruit from the branches. Do not leave any to waste. And share. Anyone not able to get out always got a pie, or a bucket or more.
I love foraging for high bush cranberries. This is new to me. We did not do this when I was a child and there are bushed around the city that I can find. This is so gratifying. I must learn more about local mushroom foraging as the activity and the eating experience are both so filled with pleasure and promise. We certainly hope to have Martin with us again next year!
LUNCH by NAIT CULINARY STUDENTS
Ernest’s Restaurant at NAIT is the place to be on a Friday lunch during the school year. If you haven’t been yet, book your spot. You will not be able to just walk in. The food at the restaurant is always prepared by the culinary students. Allan Suddaby from our leadership team met with the Ernest’s team and determined the lunch menu with the focus being local ingredients and a showcasing of the NAIT charcuterie and cheese making programs. Did they every outdo themselves. The idea was a “make your own sandwich” and soup buffet. The sandwich fixin’s were each scrumptious and some so novel! There was a variety of house made bread choices, the student made in house famous pulled pork, various other meats, the artisanal NAIT made cheeses, creative sauces and mayos as well as a beautiful bowl of grilled vegetables. And more! The flavour combinations were vibrant and varied. The soup was definitely homey and then the local cheese tray! NAIT went to such an effort to acquire cheeses from our local Northern Alberta producers: Smoky Valley and the Cheesiry to accompany their house made pepperoni.
But, the talk of the day (doesn’t it always seem to be the dessert?) was the chocolate mousse stout cake. I confess. I had two pieces. This was such a celebration of the work that this world class culinary facility is doing with their students. We had to have them come out for a bow. I am still clapping!
Understanding one’s palate and the pleasurable taste of real food is essential to the motivation of change. My favourite food, without question, is the tomato. When I was a child, the only vegetables available during the winter months were frozen peas, corn and fresh carrots and other root vegetables. Most not available through mainstream sources. We did have hot house tomatoes. One kind: 4 red in a cellophane lidded box. Onions, potatoes, cabbage and iceburg lettuce was also consistently available. You can then understand why almost everyone had a garden. Come spring, there was a celebration of young lettuce and the awakening of one’s taste buds. There was an inherent appreciation and understanding for our farmers and where our food comes from. Without growing our own, or knowing someone who did, we had to depend upon the supermarkets to “bring in” what they could from their suppliers. That always took longer than any of us could wait for in those days!
Now, I am not 60. Not so old. Not ancient. And in my own life time, this fast food nation has evolved. The nation where a tomato no longer tastes like a tomato. And, how would you know if you have never tasted a “real” tomato. Now that is the new Shakespearean question! And this is one of the basic tenets of Eat Alberta: to educate the palate. To provide participants with the opportunity to taste a “real tomato” metaphorically. To understand the wonder of flavour and the complexity and magnitude of nature’s simplest and purest creations. Without genetic engineering. Without chemical preservations. Without transfats and science induced nutritive values. Real food. And, in keeping with our place, real Alberta food.
Because hands on learning is such fun and an inherent desire within the human condition, our hands on classes got booked first. Next year, we will ensure that everyone has at least one tasting class. For a couple of reasons. To spread the hands on classes around, but also to ensure that those who have not experienced a formal tasting do so. Shari, from Grand Prairie booked very late and enthusiastically took four tasting classes. I firmly believed that it was possible to have an incredible day doing this, though the Eat Alberta registration waned when tastings were the only sessions left. Read about her experience here and while you do this, take a look at the detailed notes in her tasting charts. Tastings are as essential to learning about food as cooking and will profoundly affect your preconceived notions about the food you eat.
Cheese Tasting with Chef Nigel Weber from NAIT
Alberta has many successful and massive dairy farms, but only a few artisanal dairy farms. That is a whole other novel. Therefore, we are also in the infancy phase of atisanal cheese production in our province. However, the few producers we do have are world class. The only way they will thrive is for us to purchase their cheeses. Smokey Valley Goat Cheese can be found at City Center Market every Saturday. The Cheesiry cheese can be found there, and at Everything Cheese and Paddy’s Cheese as well as Planet Organic in Edmonton. Sylvan Star Cheese can be found at the Old Strathcona Market every Saturday (certainly, the best prices are at the market) and at Planet Organic and various other such grocers in the city.
It just so happens that Chef Nigel Weber is an avid at home cheese maker and lover of cheeses. We were so fortunate to have him agree to provide a cheese tasting experience for our participants that not only introduced them to the art of tasting, but the complexity and beautify of the flavours within an artisan cheese coupled with comparisons of their industrial counterparts. These kinds of tastings are usually shocking. I have done many with my students when I taught foods. Their homemade apple pie versus the one their mom’s buy for company on special occasions. The direct, side-by-side taste comparison is shocking. If you didn’t know what chemical preservation tasted like, or what wax and fillers felt like, do a side-by side tasting with an artisanal product and its industrial counterpart. My students were so animated and primal in response: “YUCK! BLAH! I cannot believe that the pie I have always loved tastes that bad!” There is no more compelling way to motivate change in behaviour and purchasing than through tastings.
Honey Tasting by Patty Milligan of Lola Canola Honey
Patti Milligan is another Local Edmonton Food Hero in my books. She is definitely the Queen of the Bees in Edmonton and the hours of volunteer service and education she has provided to our community are truly too numerous to count. People see honey tasting on the schedule, and pass it by. No one is ever interested in honey tasting. Forty percent of Canadian honey comes from Northern Alberta. We produce a more flavourful kind of honey due to the lack of moisture in it as a result of our desert like climate. Honey is definitely an important Alberta food product and once anyone sits through a class with Patty Milligan, they are a fan. Not only of Patty, but of honey. She is a gifted and knowledgeable presenter that lights a passion for honey within each participant by sharing her sparkle.
Where I used to use sugar, I find myself using honey. Working toward eating locally daily is not easy within this convenience food world. But, so worth it! The naturally flavoured honeys like dandelion honey and thistle honey are tastes of home. The back alley of my childhood. I made an incredible cocktail with very tart purÃ©ed highbush cranberries sweetened with dandelion honey and soda for sparkle. Add vodka for trouble. I found it so empowering to make something so delicious from foraged and local foods. Well, I am not into distilling, yet.
Michelle’s post last year about her experience in Patty’s class is well worth the read! Kelley’s post from last year also includes a recap.
Our local artisanal honey producers do need your support. You will find them at all farmer’s markets. You will not find them at your grocery stores. (Don’t buy your honey there.)
Beer Tasting by Jason Foster aka The Beer Guy
Jason Foster may be one of Edmonton’s best kept secrets. Certainly, some have had the pleasure of his shared knowledge, but the feedback we got from the participants at each of his sessions was that this was one of the best tasting experiences they had every had. His morning class had 9 participants. The afternoon one was overflowing. Next year, and we really hope Jason will accept our invitation for next year, if you are a beer drinker, this would be a must take class. Edmonton has four local breweries. We are definitely a beer town. And what I keep repeating, the signature of Edmonton is the collaboration amongst our producers. These breweries work together to support one another’s business. Each is quite different from the other. If you are not a local beer drinker, why not? Our local beers reflect the flavours of our region and identify the characteristics of Alberta flavours in our beer. Unless you try the beers with a side-by-side tasting, you will not know what you really do prefer. Nor will you understand the tastes of prairie beer.
Both Twyla and Shari extol the virtues of Jason’s tasting in their posts. Never miss an opportunity where you find him doing a presentation!
Barr Estate Fruit Wine Tasting with Rick Barr
One thing we are not, in Alberta, is wine country. However, we are prolific fruit growers. That is odd, as most do not think of Alberta as fruit growing territory, yet the abundance of fruit grown in the city alone is more than OFRE can handle at this point. A great amount goes to waste. We are definitely an apple city. There are so many varieties of apples grown in this city and in our province that it is astounding. And berries? An abundance. So, there is no surprise then, that we do have some fruit wineries throughout the province. Rick Barr, from Barr Estate Winery told his story and offered a tasting of their two very popular wines: The Barb and The Other Red. Rhubarb and raspberry are certainly flavours we have all grown up with. These wines are a prime example of the beautiful flavours one can develop through a little ingenuity and using the abundance of the region.
Fruit wines are definitely different that grape wines and the tastings are as compelling.
I also find the stories of each of these producers to be such an integral part of the product and to have the opportunity to hear the story of where your food comes from, to know the producer of your food and to know how to source it is another basic tenet of Eat Alberta.
Closing Panel Discussion: How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse
Gathering at the end of the day to put closure on the array of experiences each has delved into is not an easy task. Keeping focused on “now that we know all of this, what do we do with it?” the panel, led by Allan Suddaby, took us through a roller coaster ride of hilarity. Weaving in the zombie inevitability at just the right interval, Jeff, Kevin, Amy and Shannon had the crowd laughing and reflecting at the same time… how prepared am I to feed myself and my family wholesome, healthy local food? What kind of network have I developed to accommodate our needs?
Discussions were carried into Ernest’s where we gathered at the end to celebrate the offerings and learnings of the day at the wine down.
Eat Alberta Tastes (Tasting Boards) and Wine Down sponsored by Gold Forest Grains and Mighty Trio Organics We were so fortunate to have two incredible sponsors for this part of our event this year. Both were showcased boldly in our tastings last year, and to have them come on board as sponsors for the tastings this year was a moment of joy for the leadership team as this is such an expensive event to host. Keeping costs low is very important to us to enable as wide a range of participants as economically possible. This year we were a good 10 dollars over our target event cost of 125 dollars for the day. That was unfortunate, but we did receive grant money, and even with that, each person was subsidized 50 dollars. So, to have this sponsorship was very important to us! Last year we offered 12 “Tastes of Alberta” as part of the lunch offering that were such fun to think about and to prepare. We had to have them on rustic boards, so we went to home depot and had them cut boards into squares which he sanded and oiled. Very rustic, indeed… and after the beet juice soaked into so many, not reusable, either! Tastes were prefaced with: Simple tastes prepared for you to experience classic combinations from some regional producers to reawaken your local palate and spark your imagination. This is our Alberta.
- Duck Confit with Evans Cherry: A leaf of arugula topped with duck confit drizzled with Evans cherry syrup, both made by Valerie Lugonja (Adjust the sweet and sour with honey or lemon) The duck is a hybrid from Greens Eggs & Ham.
- Bison with Saskatoon Berry Compote: Fire roasted inside round bison from First Nature Farms and fire roasted by Kevin Kossowan with Saskatoon Berry Jam made by Valerie Lugonja
- Mashed Green Eggs & Ham Potatoes with Leeks and Smoky Valley Chevre seasoned well with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper made by Allan Suddaby.
- Honey and Chevre: Smokey Valley Chevre drizzled with Lola Canola Dandelion honey or Summer honey (In France a classic pairing may be Chevre with Lavender honey)
- Pecorino with Dried Apples or Honey: Cheesiry aged Pecorino with Steve and Dan’sdried apple or a drizzle of Lola Canola’s Summer Honey
- Fresh Mushrooms with St. Maure: Smell the fresh mushroom from No-ma Foods, then the Smokey Valley St. Maure: what did you note? Now, taste the St. Maure. Aroma combinations affect flavour.
- Raw Beet with Feta and Mint or with Horseradish: Julienned raw beets from Riverbend Gardens tossed with Sylvan Star feta and Morinville Greenhouse mint and a squeeze of lemon OR
- Julienned raw beets tossed with Greens Eggs & Ham horseradish and Vital Greens cream
- Roasted Beet with Chevre: Riverbend Gardens Roasted beets with Smoky Valley chevre drizzled with Mighty Trio hemp oil
- Red Fife Wheat Bread made by Valerie Lugonja and Lola Canola Honey or Mightly Trio Hemp Oil
- Whole Wheat Bread: Gold Forest grains whole wheat bread with a vairety of the Jame Lady’s jams
- Goat Brie with Hot Pepper Jelly: A slice of Smoky Valley goat brie drizzled with the Jam Lady’s hot pepper jelly
Caveat: Tastes were limited by time, availability and money. As our event grows, so will our ability to showcase the tastes of our local terrior. There is so much more to experience within Our Alberta! This year, as NAIT was providing us such a stellar lunch, we decided to do the tastes at the end of the day with the wine. And, instead of me making most of them, Allan Suddaby prepared them in the Nomad Catering professional kitchen. Again, just one bite of each taste per person with the idea being that each flavour combination would clearly represent a Taste of Alberta.
Rona sponsored 200 tasting boards for the Slow Food National Conference in Edmonton that I just happened to be chairing, so we broke them in with our Eat Alberta Tastes! Brilliant idea of Ming’s and hard work of Su’s to wrap each in parchment to ensure reuse this time!
- Jerry Kitt’s First Nature Farm’s Great Plains Bison topped with homemade Saskatoon Jam
- Elk with high bush cranberry jelly
- Columbia Seed Company’s beans (from Vauxhall can be found at Planet Organic) with Sylvan Star feta, Gull Valley Tomatoes, Mighty Trio Organics Hemp Oil and Morinville Greenhouses mint
- Kevin Kossowan’s beets pickled by Allan Suddaby with Morinville Greenhouse’s fresh dill and freshly grated horseradish
- Cheesiry aged Pecorino with Lola Canola’s Dandelion honey
- Gold Forest Grains 100% whole wheat bread (made by Valerie Lugonja) with Mighty Trio Organics Canola Oil
Look who was working and who was snacking! Every one of these tastes were such a representation of our culinary culture. I was so proud of this simple offering. Thank you, Allan!
We were clearly all too busy relaxing at this point, to take any photos of the wine down happening. I will add that both Barr Estate wines were offered for sampling as were Bird’s and Bee’s fruit wines, Ex-Nihilo’s pinot gris and pino noir (as this company is owned by an Edmonton family) and Steve and Dan’s non-alcoholic fruit juices. We ate, drank and were merry until I made everyone go home!
Thank you to our wonderful participants for your support, and once again, to Maki, for her generous photographic contribution to harvesting the memories of this day.