LitFest 2012: Roaring Twenties

After returning from a weeklong jaunt to BC late Tuesday night, there were certainly more productive things we could have done on Wednesday, such as grocery shopping. But with the promise of a whisky tasting and burlesque, we threw practicality to the wind and headed to Roast Coffehouse after work yesterday.

LitFest, Canada’s only non-fiction festival, were throwing a Roaring Twenties party to kick off this year’s festival. Mack and I were fortunate to receive guest invitations, and were so glad we were able to make it.

LitFest 2012

Roaring Twenties hosts Jennifer Cockrall-King and Tracy Hyatt in their Twenties finery

Roast accommodated the modest crowd well, its brick and Edison-bulb glow well-suited to the theme of the night. The thoughtful program also encouraged mingling and movement through the space, with well-timed breaks between the readings and performances.

Though the event advertised a number of readings, the evening was so much more than that. Ottawa-based sommelier and independent whisky expert Davin de Kergommeaux kicked things off with an introduction to Canadian whiskies by reading an excerpt from his book, Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert. He noted that we are experiencing a “renaissance for Canadian whiskies”, and encouraged the crowd to partake in one (or several) of the eight whiskies being poured at the event. We also learned that adding ice and even water (gasp!) to whiskies is acceptable, depending on your palate.

LitFest 2012

Mack enjoys his whisky sour

While I have to say I much preferred the whisky sour cocktail poured for us to start, it was interesting to compare and contrast several whiskies in a short period of time. Our favourite turned out to be Gibson’s Finest 100th Grey Cup anniversary edition. Made from their 12 year old whisky, a dash of maple syrup was added for a link to Canadiana. Smooth and subtly sweet, it was the easiest drinking of the whiskies we tried straight up.

LitFest 2012

Gibson’s Finest line-up

Edmonton-based author Curtis Gillespie added his own sense of history with a reading from his current book, Almost There: the Family Vacation, Then and Now. He described it as part-memoir, recounting his own remarkable trips growing up, leading to perhaps the most memorable moment of the night – an anecdote involving a squirmy four year old, a car seat, and a severed finger.

LitFest 2012

Almost There

After each of the brief readings, as LitFest Chair Jennifer Cockrall-King put it, they offered a “sprinkling of sin”. That is, performances from the ladies of Capital City Burlesque.

LitFest 2012

Some of the ladies of Capital City Burlesque

Congratulations to the organizers for a fantastic opening event! But this was just the beginning – there are over 30 different events happening over the next ten days. I know I’m looking forward to Food Matters on October 27, 2012 that will be highlighting examples of local food production. Thanks again to LitFest for the invitation!

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