I don’t think I’ve ever been more filled with pride about our local food scene than on this night. I just returned from the 8th annual Indulgence 2009 at the Delta Edmonton South, an event organized by Slow Food Edmonton to benefit the Junior League of Edmonton.
Billed as “a Canadian epic of food and wine”, I thought the phrase was a bit ambitious, but I really shouldn’t have underestimated the local food community, who banded together for the most amazing tasting event I’ve ever had the privilege to attend. Working closely with a local producer, seventeen restaurants created menus utilizing the best ingredients Alberta had to offer. Each dish was then paired with a VQA wine. And though tickets were on the pricey end of things – $60 each – we recouped more than our share in the experience.
We arrived just before the 7 o’clock start time, and were forced to head to the roof of the parkade for empty spaces. That should have alerted us to expect the enormous crowd to expect that we found lined up in the lobby, a crowd that snaked through and around the entire first floor. Though my Mum and I wished for more systematic line control, as the hallway was narrow to begin with, I don’t know what they could have done anyway.
Thankfully, most of the initial chaos dissipated as soon as the doors opened, and once our ticket stubs had been collected, we were given an Indulgence booklet (which would supply our “eat passes” for the night), a wine glass and reusable bamboo fork. These last two items were a nice environmentally-friendly nod – something I hope other tasting events take note of.
Food and wine pairing stations were set up throughout the Grand Ballroom, with round cocktail stands placed at random intervals in between and along the periphery of the room. These tables were our saving graces – even though a wine glass and plate attachment were provided to us, there was no way we could have juggled eating and drinking without half of the menu ending up on our wardrobe.
Grand Ballroom (about half empty)
The atmosphere was jovial and light, and with jazz floating through the air, the only difficulty was deciding which dish to tackle first. Now in its eighth instalment, the organizers have the format down to a science – for each pairing, we were to simply rip the numbered corner associated with that station from our books, preventing overeager patrons from seconds.
There were definitely a few stand outs for my Mum and I – the Carmen Creek bison slider with red onion confit and gorgonzola cheese was on the top of our list (prepared by Botanica), while my Mum also adored the Irving Farms Berkshire pork belly with truffled apple salad (prepared by the Bothy Wine and Whiskey Bar).
Carmen Creek Bison Slider with Red Onion Confit and Gorgonzola Cheese
Irving Farm Berkshire Pork Belly with Truffled Apple Salad (one of the few non-micro green vegetables served)
We also raved about some of the sides that came along with a main player – the polenta served with the Waskwei Venison Cassoulet (prepared by the Red Ox Inn – I will have dreams about the creamy polenta, perfectly seared on the outside), and the bed of beluga lentils underneath lamb and butternut squash (prepared by Characters).
Waskwei Venison Cassoulet
Lamb Skewer with Beluga Lentils and Butternut Squash
A few unique dishes also satisfied our palate. The braised alpaca with Chimichurri (prepared by Suede Lounge) surprised me with its tenderness and strong flavour. The fresh petal sorbet, made by Leva Cafe using flowers from Inspired Market Gardens, was a welcome palate cleanser, particularly because of the meat-centric dishes at the event. As a result, d’Lish’s Mo Na wild mushroom shot also supplied needed variety.
Braised Alpaca with Chimichurri
Fresh Petal Sorbet with Black Pansy Syrup
Mo Na Wild Mushroom Soup Shot
We did enjoy several of the other meat dishes, though I can say if they they would probably make a stronger impression if presented on their own. These included Mexico Lindo’s Chicken Pibil, Spring Creek Ranch natural beef flank steak (prepared by Madison’s Grill) and Amberlane Farm Elk Tartines (prepared by Flavours Modern Bistro).
Spring Creek Ranch Natural Beef Flank Steak with a Blistered Gull Valley Tomato and Olive Relish, Heritage Greens in a Fairwinds Farm Goat Cheese Vinaigrette on a Corn Tuile
Amberlane Farm Elk Tartines
There were a few dishes that I was expecting more from, though for reasons not relating at all to quality. The chocolate base in the mousse tart from Kerstin’s Chocolates was divine, but the jam contained within was too sweet for me. The Harvest Room-prepared Greens Eggs and Ham duck confit served with almond waffle potatoes was delicious (the crispiness of both the duck and the crisps was lovely), but we wished for a larger serving size. The shepherd’s pie from Lux, made with Latago Cattle Company Wagyu Beef, had great imagination, incorporating edamame beans and onion crisps, but the texture didn’t hold well for a mass event like this one. Lastly, neither of us being a fan of goat cheese, I think it would have been virtually impossible for us to enjoy the Fairwinds Farm goat cheese tart prepared by Cafe de Ville.
Kerstin’s Chocolates Mousse Tart
Greens Eggs and Ham Duck Leg Confit served with Baby White Almond Waffle Potatoes on Micro Sprouts in a Basil Aioli
Shepherd’s Pie made with Braised Latago Cattle Company Wagyu Beef, Edamame Beans, Celeriac Puree, Saffron Onion Crisps
Fairwinds Farm Goat Cheese, Lobster Mushroom and Leek Tart with a Riesling Reduction
Though the above may seem to be an exhaustive list of dishes, we actually failed to sample two courses, as they had run out by the time we had made our rounds.
You may have noticed by now that I haven’t really made mention of the wine. To be honest, though my Mum and I indulged in some of the wine (and one beer) pairings, we were so overwhelmed with the food choices that we were hard pressed to get through even one pour. The one wine I sampled that I would like to return to was the 2008 Gewurtraminer by the Cedar Creek Estate Winery – the wine was as clear as water, with a clean, crisp flavour.
It was great to see many familiar faces again – both in the crowd and behind the stations. A special mention goes out to Chris from Eating is the Hart Part, Marianne and Zed from Loosen Your Belt and Eat Around Edmonton, and Jon, who ensured I was on top of this year’s Indulgence details.
Thanks to Slow Food Edmonton for organizing such a memorable event that showcases and truly celebrates what we have to offer in Alberta. I am looking forward to Indulgence 2010 already.
You can see my photo set here.