Chef Blair Lebsack’s Farm to Table Series
What came first, the chicken or the egg: both came at once thoughtfully plated on this family sharing board for 4 at Nature’s Green Acres Farm last night. Another quintessential Farm to Table Alberta prairie food experience under the deft hand and world class palate of Chef Blair Lebsack from RNG RD: untamed cuisine.
There is an inner awakening with any “first time” experience. The second was a renewal of that new found knowledge coupled with a day communing amongst the wild prairie grasses, facing backward at my youth. Liane Faulder said it was her first authetic Canadian food Experience. Yesterday was the third. Raining all the way out to the farm, it stopped as we turned onto Range Road 135. The clouds parted. The sun shone. I do not tell a lie. Chickens clucked us in.
I was tempted to go egg hunting. but there was a crowd on the porch. Appetizers were served at 3 and it was after 4. We didn’t expect any, yet still wanted to see if there were any crumbs.
Yen had prepared a new appetizer from all of the leftover plates, so we were lucky. That radish left pesto was to-die-for.
Hugs to some familiar faces. I rarely get anywhere these days, so it is heart warming to see the lovely people I know here.
The Scarlet Runner is one of my favourite edible flowers. It doesn’t become a bean, but simply flowers like a bean flower in the brilliant orange, below. It is a crisp crunchy juicy little bite and tastes exactly like a fresh raw green been. Mmmm!
Chefs were gathering these and the white pea flowers; they are also tasty….but, a pea pod will grow from each!
This year, there is a tent. It is cold. I am happy that there is a shelter and that it is not the community hall…
Shannon knew it might rain. Danny’s dad had told her about the farmer’s tried and true weather prediction that 6 months after a hoar frost, within a day or two, there would be rain. Shannon has marked the calendar and was really worried this year, as 6 months ago, there was a glorious bout of hoar frost. And there was rain on this day. Just not during the dinner.
Yup. God and Mother Nature are both fan’s of Chef Blair.
The crew was completely set up and ready for the party.
Menu will appear with each dish, showcased, to follow.
The Cob Oven that Danny, Shannon, Blair and Kevin built was hot and humming.
Caitlin’s touch was apparent, everywhere.
The Scarlet Runner blossoms ready for plating.
And a non-alcoholic beverage for me!
Below is the vegetable antipasto with first pressed canola and onion liquor.
A patron trying to book a table in the restaurant for the evening… sorry, we’re closed, and at the farm.
The tent was set up beautifully and a great alternative to the bitter cold wind that was starting to gust… yet, not the same as eating in the middle of the elements, unbridled.
If you look ever so closely just up over the hill, you will see the farm tour winding its way toward the dinner table.
Danny’s mom bakes the buns for the meal Has for each of these meals. These aren’t just any buns. These are a soft topped, fragrant yeasty roll that is an iconic prairie farmer’s homemade bun. My mom made them. I love them and I have never had them any other place, besides a home on the Alberta prairies. Sadly, there was no butter for the buns. Yes, that is often my favourite part of the meal. Vanja’s too. Homemade butter with homemade buns. Oh, my.
Corey and Katherine were able to come this year! We didn’t get to visit with many of the people we knew. The dinner service was much faster this year, than in the past. Not complaining about that, at all. It is great both ways – but when there isn’t a break between courses, there just isn’t much time for visiting. On the upside, we were home well before dark.
Double Cut Family Style Nouveau Beef Carpaccio with the Vegetable Antipasto and some of the leftover tidbits from the appetizer offerings. What a gorgeous presentation: sharing on long boards.
Serving staff was plentiful this year, as well. The four gorgeous gals below are only half of the serving staff.
Vanja and I sat across from Blair’s mom and dad and enjoyed an evening of lively conversation filled with laughter. Laura and Hugo were to my left (but I am taking the photo) and if you look hard, you will see Brad Smoliak down the table, Tracy Zizek across from him and Lisa Zemeniak beside her. The room was full of old friends, and new ones.
I know I mentioned the buns, but they are worth mentioning again…and I will let the images speak for themselves.
Blair and Caitlin welcomed, explaining the first course and the first wine pairing.
There is something pretty exciting about seeing two big men carry a plated long board of beef on it.
Double Cut Family Style Nouveau Beef Carpaccio with Vegetable Antipasto, Cold Pressed Canola and Onion Liquor
Rhonda’s Pecorino from The Cheesiry was shredded over it all… the beef melted in your mouth and the vegetables were little jewels of flavour and texture. Blair explained his dad won’t eat raw meat, so this was rare instead of the traditional Carpaccio. Love that he honored his father this way. (I think his dad did, too, but probably wouldn’t admit it.)
The portions were so generous and artfully plated. I was spell bound by the aesthetic presented though out this meal, particularly this dish.
The Chicken and its Egg Salad with Fresh Garden Greens, Beans and a Rasperry and Beet Vinaigrette
The chicken was purple from the dressing, succulent and tender like no other. A cold dish is a smart idea, but the Nature’s Green Acres Chicken is so delicious warm. The chilled salad didn’t showcase the succulent chicken flavour that this chicken owns. However, it was tasty. The egg was spectacular. When introducing the dish, Blair said the salad didn’t need any other dressing than the yolk… and he was right. Oh, my: silky golden heaven. And there was salt on every egg. I will admit, I am a bit of a salt fiend. Not too bad, but I was sorely missing the salt on the side during this meal. Blair does season his food beautifully, but I did feel a need for just a wee bit more, and especially with this dish.
Who can prepare a pork loin like this? Blair Lebsack and his team, that’s who! I don’t even eat meat, and this pork was like candy.
This plate was very reminiscent of the dishes prepared for year one: simple food from a conscientious farmer that present a spectacular taste and flavour sensation upon due to the quality of the ingredients.
Cob Oven Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Baby Potatoes, Beets and Onions
Nothing more need be said. Each person ate in wonder and in silence as the mighty heritage Tamworth Pork was celebrated at the hand of Chef Lebsack.
Well, something more can be said, actually. Shannon and Danny were out at 2:30 in the morning digging potatoes for this course with headlamps in the dark. “Red and white potatoes, please”, were the orders from the Chef. They returned laden with potatoes, but could not tell what colour in the dark… and hoped there wasn’t too many rocks in the mix! Everything we ate was harvested less than 24 hours prior.
The communal table is truly communal at these meals. Everyone comes together over the food. Life slows down. There is time to enjoy and savour every minute and every morsel.
A happy photo of two proud parents.
Ah, my friend is still here…
And the final savoury course: Pork Bellllllliiieeeee….!!!!
Braised Nouveau Beef with Tamworth Pork Belly with Buttermilk Spaetzle and Fresh Garden Peas
I prefer my spaetzle fried with onions in butter after it is cooked. Who wouldn’t? That was until I tasted the most heavenly beef broth that this spaetzle was cooked in. That broth is to all beef broths as veal jus is to gravy. Unforgettable. Simply unforgettable. Oh. The pork belly was scrumptious, too. Yes, it was! Crisp, fatty unctuous ecstasy. What a way to end the savoury courses. Just a bite. That is all she wrote and that is all that was needed.
Oh. Blair’s dad’s eyeballs were rolling back in his head when he tasted a bite of the beef in the mix.
Blair is the Wayne Gretzky of our local cheffing community. He never takes the credit. It is all team work. And I like that. He surrounds himself with an amazing group of chefs and trusts each to do what the assignment is. No one let him down. What a feast! Shame on me for not getting all of the names of everyone that contributed to the meal and that was a part of this unstoppable team.
What do we have here?
I must admit, last year I was disappointed when he served the same dessert as the year before. But, that was until I tasted the rhubarb ice-cream on top of the Saskatoon Berry Galette: unforgettable. Here it is, one year later, and I remember the sweet and sour, puckery perfect concoction like it was yesterday. I want that recipe. Corey made it. Will he share? Hmmm… and this year, there is a Raspberry Curd Tart with Wild Mint Ice Cream. Blair’s mom has already prepared me. “Save room! I would happily sacrifice this entire meal for three of the desserts!” This was the most grand finalé I have had for any meal that I can recall for years. It is hard to believe, but it is true.
Mint and raspberries. What is the big deal? Of course they will taste great together. The Saskatoon Galette had a raspberry crumble on top of it, and this dessert is a raspberry curd with a Saskatoon berry compote on top of it. First, the curd was smooth with a clarity of flavour that sung “Raspberry” in high C soprano. The wild mint held its own and carried the raspberry to a whole other sphere. Completely unexpected. Completely novel. I have never experienced a flavour combination that transformed into a new flavour experience. That is what happened when eating this tart. It was addictive. Not to ignore the buttery cookie crust brushed with white chocolate or the staccato of Saskatoon berries doused with Maple Syrup perched on top.
I will ask Blair for the recipe for this, then make it, as I did the Saskatoon Berry Galette from the first Farm to Table Dinner. That time, I only had to ask him how he made the topping. This time, I may need to ask him for more… he is pretty convinced that the wild mint was what elevated this dish. I am not so sure. Certainly, it helped. I want to give it a go, anyway. Meanwhile, please join me in a moment of silence as we share the next few moments of this dessert, together.
Raspberry Curd and Maple Saskatoon Berries with Wild Mint Ice Cream
No amount of praise would get me a second dessert. Honestly, I could barely finish the first, but I did!
Pam enjoying a moment undisturbed, almost. Kevin and Chad peering into the oven admiring the mud formation of the inside of the dome. I promise you, that is what they were doing.
Thank you so very much for your loving and most sincere hospitality, Shannon and Danny.
Coats gathered, hugs had, good-byes and thank yous… and we head back down the path toward the car.
“Oh, there’s the Starvation Berry!” ? “Yes, Shannon told us that these flowers turn into edible berries that are nutritious but taste terrible, and that the indigenous people ate them only when they were starving.
“Oh! And here is the Buffalo Bean!” The Buffalo Bean? “Yes! Shannon told us that when they flower, the aboriginal people know that the buffalo will soon be coming to the area because the bison love to eat the beans, so they could then prepare for their hunt.”
I missed the tour. Glad Vanja went on it… and was scrounging for wild mint all the way to the car. Anyone know where I can get some?
Bye-bye chickens. Your eggs were scrumptious. Thank you Chef Blair, Caitlin and team. We drove home listening to Leonard Cohen. Enjoying the scenery and silently incubating the memory, tastes, flavours and textures of yet another enchanted evening.