Though we missed this year’s Taste of Summer in St. Albert, we trusted from our previous experience with Edmonton’s Countryside’s Country Cuisine that their first ever Tomato Fare event would be just as festive and delicious.
Mack and I met up with May at the Country Road Greenhouses in Strathcona County. Parking attendant volunteers were out in full force, directing traffic to spaces still available – though it seems like a minor detail, given how hodgepodge the cars could have been scattered, it was much appreciated.
For $15 admission, we were given 6 taste tickets right off the bat (additional tickets could be purchased for $1 each), and a welcome bag that included, among other things, an Atco Blue Flame cookbook. A folk singer helped set the tone (Mack observed that all food events of this nature default to folk), and the atmosphere was light and carefree. A few of the food vendors (and lone beer purveyor) were set-up outside along the perimeter of the designated eating area, but the majority of them were inside one of the stifling greenhouses. And though having the option of shelter was good given that clouds threatened rain, the setting definitely wasn’t as glorious at the St. Albert Grain Elevator Park.
Country Road Greenhouses
Pretty zucchini and squash
Tomato Fare is an event similar to Taste of Edmonton, but all of the dishes incorporated fresh, local ingredients. In an effort to decide what to sample, the three of us did a round past the vendors. Unfortunately, everything looked so tempting that the only thing the visual preview determined was that we would all have to top up our ticket wealth. Eventually though, we all bit the bullet and redeemed our tickets (most of the utensils and containers used were biodegradable, but we should have brought our own regardless).
Inside one of the greenhouses
Mack chilling with his beer
An unusual tomato muffin by the Country Road Greenhouse won my first vote, even though it was tiny and garnered the price of 1 ticket. It was slightly sweet, and had a rather mild, but fresh, tomato flavour.
Savoury Mini Tomato Muffin
Barbecued suckling pig from the Pipestone Food Company looked and sounded promising, but never having been the most graceful eater, and combined with the fact that the fatty pork hadn’t been sawed into cubes meant it was one of the messiest dishes I have ever eaten in public. While it was good, I can’t say I enjoyed it.
BBQ Suckling Pig with Bread
Sundried Tomato Basil Sausage Roll
Mack’s favourite dish was the butter chicken from Taste of India.
A refreshing carrot and cilantro salad from Cafe Haven finished off my tickets. I loved the bright orange ribbons specked with bursts of green, dressed with citrus juice and sesame oil.
Carrot & Cilantro Salad
Mack opted to end his sampling with dessert – ice cream with saskatoon berry topping from Shallow Creek Nursuries. The fruit topping was more like a jam, and overwhelmed the ice cream in both consistency and concentration. Still, it was a treat that helped cool us off in the glaring heat.
Ice Cream with Saskatoon Berry Topping
Feeling satisfied, we wandered to the family-friendly games area, with tomato bocce ball and putting green. I tried my hand at the latter – it was harder than it looked!
Trying my best
Before we left, I picked up a container of heirloom chocolate cherry tomatoes – the deep purple, almost brown colour of the tomatoes was too unusual to resist. They tasted slightly sweeter than the usual red cherry tomatoes.
Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes
Given the quality and creativity behind the food, Edmonton Countryside’s tasting events are worth seeking out. Their next big promotional event will be the Fall Country Drive event – check here for dates.
You can see Mack’s full photo set here.