Meet the Locals Food Festival
Meet the Locals celebrates local food producers and manufacturers, and is deliberately set during a time when some believe local food production stops – the organizers wanted to draw attention to homegrown food that is available seasonally and year round. And as Planet Organic locations in Edmonton stock about three dozen products from area companies, they definitely have a strong base to draw from.
The festival has two components: tasting tables and cooking demonstrations. On that night, six local companies were on hand providing customers with product samples. I had the chance to try some elk from Shooting Star Ranch (so incredibly tender), flatbreads made with wholesome and filling lentil, chickpea and whole wheat flour by Rio Vita, fresh bagels from Henderson Bagels, hummus and spanakopita (still warm) from Supreme Georgio’s Fine Foods, and chocolate from Kerstin’s Chocolates.
Rio Vita Flatbreads
I also had the chance to chat with Emily from Mighty Trio Organics, a company located near Redwater that produces cold-pressed, unrefined hemp, flaxseed and canola oils. I was particularly interested in the canola oil, which is made from GMO-free canola sourced from a farm twenty minutes away from them. Though I have heard the term “cold-pressed” before, I didn’t really know what it meant – Emily explained that when manufacturing the oil, cold-pressed oil is not heated to beyond 40 degrees Celsius, preserving the essential nutrients in the oil. She poured me a bit of oil to sample, and I was blown away by it – orange in colour, more viscous than conventionally-made oil, and possessing a slightly floral aroma, it tasted richer and unlike any canola oil I have tried before. I would imagine that like most high-quality products, I would end up using less of this oil in cooking. They didn’t have the oil in stock that day, but I will be heading back soon to pick up a bottle for myself.
I also stayed on for the first of two cooking demonstrations by Madison’s Grill Executive Chef Blair Lebsack.
Blair’s commitment to supporting local farms was apparent throughout his forty-five minute class, as he talked about personally visiting all of the farms that supply products to Madison’s Grill. On the menu, besides the Sylvan Star Cheese gouda, apple-pear compote and crackers, were a spinach and radish salad with goat yogurt dressing and a bacon cassoulet topped with bison sirloin.
His meal utilized no less than eight local products, including Fairwinds Farm yogurt, Alley Kat Raspberry Mead, black eyed peas from Grainworks, bacon from TK Ranch and bison from Olson’s High Country Buffalo.
The dressing on the spinach salad was superb, and it was just a simple combination of vanilla goat yogurt and sherry vinegar. I also had to commend Blair on his attention to detail – prior to the start of the cooking class, he removed all of the stems from the baby spinach leaves. When an attendee asked why he was doing that, he explained that it made the salad easier to eat, and negated the potential hazard of a diner getting spinach stuck in their teeth. The restaurant would then use the stems for purees to ensure that nothing was wasted.
Spinach and Radish Salad with Goat Yogurt Dressing
He also incorporated what he believed to be under-utilized vegetables into the meal – radishes in the salad and celery root in the cassoulet. I have to say that my favourite part of the cassoulet wasn’t the vegetables or the beans, but the bison striploin that topped it. With a sprinkle of salt to finish, it was a perfect bite of steak.
Cassoulet with Bison Striploin
As Meet the Locals is taking place once a week for three months, you still have a chance to check it out in December and January. And until then, although farmers’ markets are great places to shop and interact directly with food producers every week, it’s hard to beat the convenience of a store like Planet Organic that offers local products seven days a week.
Meet the Locals Food Festival at Planet Organic, 7917-104 Street
Continues December 14-20 and January 11-17
Tasting Tables: Monday-Friday 3-6pm, Saturday 10am-4pm, Sunday 12-4pm
Cooking Demonstrations: December 14 and January 11 at 6:30pm with Julianna Mimande, co-author of We Eat Together; December 17 and January 14 at 6:30pm and 7:30pm with Gail Hall of Seasoned Solutions; January 16 at 6:30pm and 7:30pm with Sebastian Lysz of Relish Culinary Consulting