I first joined Slow Food Edmonton just over a year ago. In that time, I’ve attended Indulgence twice, participated in learning activities, watched a grilled cheese smackdown, put together a scavenger hunt, and am part of the team organizing the upcoming Beer & Boar BBQ. What I’ve found most engaging, however, have been the potluck suppers.
Mary’s annual wrap-up potlucks have been a running Slow Food tradition, and we were able to attend our first last November. I thought it was a great, informal way to get to meet others interested in local food. In January, Valerie kicked off the first in a series of solstice suppers, another excuse to get together and enjoy great eats with Slow Foodies. She generously hosted the party in her home, and at that dinner, it was announced that a second solstice supper would take place at Colleen and Vince’s residence, also home to Sophia, their wood burning oven.
Sophia, their “hot and tempestuous wood-fired oven”, heh
It was to be an intimate affair capped at thirty people, to ensure there would be enough food, as everything would be cooked inside the oven. So instead of a straight potluck with attendees bringing completed dishes, everyone was assigned an ingredient (locally sourced) to be cooked on site. Ingredients ranged from salad greens to potatoes to fowl. Mack and I were one of four groups chosen to bring enough ingredients for three pizzas.
Valerie prepping her pizza ingredients
With Colleen and Vince taking care of the pizza dough (they are exceptional bread makers – I had to restrain myself at the last solstice supper from consuming the crusty bread they had laid out), our job was easy. We picked up some crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spicy capicollo and prosciutto from the Italian Centre for starters, and planned to round out our toppings at the City Market the next day.
Perfectly formed pizza dough
We reached the market later than we had originally planned, however, and our selection was limited. We ended up substituting pea tendrils instead of arugula for fresh greens (from Sundog Organics), fresh oregano instead of basil (also from Sundog Organics), Portobello caps from Mo Na (Michael’s recommendation), tomatoes from Gull Valley, and a container of goat feta from Smoky Valley.
Getting the ingredients ready
Our pizzas were first up, to serve as appetizers for the hungry crowd. So just after our arrival, Mack and I joined Valerie, Wendy and Teresa in the kitchen. Vince showed us how to work the dough – stretching it and ensuring enough flour was between the pizza peel and the pizza to allow for easy transfer into the oven. He also advised us not to heap too many ingredients on top.
The pro at work
The first of our pizzas, with fresh mozzarella, Portobello and capicollo, ready for the oven
The dough was perfectly crispy and chewy, and tasted like no homemade pizza I’d ever had before. The oven, as Vince explained to us, reached temperatures of up to 900 degrees (he had a nifty electronic thermometer to measure its internal temperature).
The first of our pizzas, out of the oven, topped with pea tendrils
Mack and I were clearly the most uncreative when it came to pizza toppings, which became evident when we saw what Valerie brought – pestos, roasted tomatoes and red peppers, duck confit, roasted chicken among them. They were delicious, and undoubtedly gourmet.
One of Valerie’s tasty creations, before baking (Mack’s favourite)
Valerie’s roasted tomato pizza with basil chiffonade
Once our last pizza was served, we were off kitchen duty for the rest of the night. That allowed us ample time to explore Colleen and Vince’s backyard oasis, built for entertaining. Between the large deck (featuring mounted external speakers), a small wooden house (for rainy days) and a lovely garden with lined paths, it was a pretty space to pass the time.
Enjoying the sun
View from the garden
The second half of the meal took several hours to prepare – Vince said it was difficult to control the temperature for such a lengthy period of time – but it allowed us plenty of time to catch up with familiar faces, and get to know some new Slow Food members.
Though it was a shame that Mary Ellen and Andreas (of Greens, Eggs and Ham) weren’t able to make it, their products were well-represented at the dinner and included their salad greens and potatoes, and geese, guinea fowl and Cornish game hen (it turned out Mary Ellen helped coordinate the fowl somewhat, and prevented duplication).
When the fowl were crispy and cooked through, it was time to roast the asparagus and potatoes.
Seasoned and ready to go in the oven!
Crisp tender asparagus
The cold sides were prepped, and the eating began!
Beautiful greens with lilacs sprinkled on top
Roasted vegetable salad (it tasted every bit as good as it looks)
Someone had made a delectable morel cream sauce to pair with the asparagus, but I have to say, the sauce paired well with everything. Mack loved the potatoes – tossed in a bit of duck fat, salt and pepper, the oven crisped them up like a dream. The fowl also did well in the oven, and as expected, the skin was the best part!
There was enough food left over for people to have seconds, but most were saving room for dessert. Roasted rhubarb was spooned over a ginger-spiced panna cotta (made with Bles Wold yogurt). It was the perfect cap on a fantastic meal.
Panna cotta with roasted rhubarb
Thanks again to Colleen and Vince for being such amazing hosts. We were all well taken care of, and though I know dinner took longer to serve than Vince would have liked, we all had such a great time mingling that it didn’t matter. I’m looking forward to the next potluck already.