Slow Food Edmonton’s Berkshire & Beer

Last Sunday, Mack and I walked over to Yellowhead Brewery to attend Slow Food Edmonton’s Berkshire & Beer event. The evening was touted as a fundraiser for Thousand Gardens in Africa, a Slow Food International project to initiate much-needed gardens in numerous drought and poverty-stricken communities in Africa. As a result, the ticket price was much steeper than previous Wild Boar & Beer events organized by Slow Food, with a focus on education.

Berkshire & Beer

Berkshire & Beer

I struggled a bit with the thread connecting the eight different presentations together. To be sure, they all focused on aspects of food, but the divide between discussions on international projects (Thousand Gardens and Terra Madre) and local projects (Shovel and Fork and Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, among them) was jarring. A reshuffling of the order (perhaps a gradual move from international to local, or the other way around) would have helped, but there still didn’t appear to be an overarching theme. It also felt a bit like the content functioned as an introduction to local food producers and initiatives, in spite of the audience make-up (most seemed quite familiar with the subjects already). I had to wonder if the intended target for the event was actually those newer to the local food scene – if that were the case, the ticket price probably should have been lower.

Berkshire & Beer

Allan Irving from Irvings Farm Fresh (I love that he has a beer in hand!)

Though I understand that the event was a fundraiser, it would have helped if the organizers were up front about what proportion of the ticket price would be donated to charity. Otherwise, I found it difficult to manage my expectations around the food that would be served, especially because beer wasn’t included. It sounds like the chef at Yellowhead had free rein on preparing the nose-to-tail dishes (made from an Irvings Farm Fresh pig), and while we enjoyed the food, it amounted to little more than a series of passed hors d’oeuvres.

Berkshire & Beer

Pork leg confit slider and pork belly on a beet crisp with daikon and carrot slaw

Of the dozen bites we tried, my favourites were the tenderloin schnitzel, topped with sauerkraut, gruyere and garlic aioli, as well as the blood sausage and red wine onion demi glaze crostini.

Berkshire & Beer

Tenderloin schnitzel

Berkshire & Beer

Blood sausage

At the root, this event was fundamentally different than the Beer & Boar events Slow Food Edmonton has offered in the past (including one, full disclosure, that I helped co-organize several years ago). I did appreciate the more formal opportunity for learning, but should Berkshire & Beer return to the calendar next year, I hope some changes are made to make it more engaging, and an even bigger success!

Kudos to Addie and Genevieve and the rest of Slow Food Edmonton’s volunteers for their work, and I look forward to reading about the progress on the garden funded by the dollars raised that night.

6 thoughts on “Slow Food Edmonton’s Berkshire & Beer

  1. Happy to read about your experience. There was no continuity with the past event because there was no one with knowledge of the past event to participate in the planning…which often happens within volunteer organizations… and this wasn’t intended to be similar for that reason… yet, completely understand the expectation that it would be, because the name was so similar.
    We are just plain thrilled to have another event, as this is the first public dinner type event since the Slow Food Gala last May… appreciate the feedback as it is needed, always. Yes, I would have like to have seen the program focus on The Gardens in Africa Project, too… and the food – well, I wasn’t there… but, I do know that Yellowhead promised there would be too much food, so if you didn’t get your fill, that is truly sad and unfortunate. Not having control of the food is always a problem for Slow Food when planning a food event.
    Thanks, Sharon
    Valerie

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  3. Thanks for the lovely and honest write-up, and for mentioning me! Glad you could come down that day and, as always, Mack hit it outta the park with his talk.

  4. I know it isn’t easy to pull off an event like that, so hats off to you and Genevieve. What’s important is that you were able to raise some funds for the garden!

  5. Thanks for the write up Sharon! Yes this was a different event and things for sure will be tweeked for the next one! I would love to see this event grow to be a yearly tradition for Slow Food once again.

  6. Thanks for the comment, Genevieve! Yes, I think it would be great as an annual event also – it would be great to receive updates about how the Thousand Gardens project is going with the dollars raised!

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