Northlands Food Lab: Lemon Cheese

Northlands’ Food Lab workshops at FarmFair International (an agricultural showcase which runs every November) are one of the best hands-on cooking class deals in Edmonton. They’re free with the price of FarmFair admission, which is just $5! I only signed up for one this year, but one could easily sign up for multiple workshops to stretch their dollar value even more. I participated in one of the first Food Labs organized back in 2015.

Su and I were curious about the idea of “lemon cheese”, so we registered for one of the workshops that took place on a Saturday afternoon. Although the class was full on paper, quite a few participants didn’t show, so each attendee ended up with their own station (and a product portion that was generous enough to feed a family of four).

Lemon Cheese Food Lab

Su at her station

The instructor was one that we were both very familiar with due to our prior involvement with Eat Alberta. Chef Allan Roote from NAIT was one of our faithful cheese instructors for several conferences. However, neither Su or I had experienced his instruction first hand.

Lemon Cheese Food Lab

Chef Roote addresses the group

The lemon cheese recipe we were directed to make was similar to a ricotta; it would serve well as an entertaining staple alongside crackers and crudités. As Su and I were both new to cheesemaking, we were particularly grateful this recipe was ideal for beginners – the instructions and techniques were straightforward and would be easy to replicate at home. Chef Roote was also a great teacher, patiently answering questions and offering guidance to participants as he checked in on each station.

Lemon Cheese Food Lab

Separating the milk and curds

One tip – it was recommended that a metal spoon be used to stir together the milk base; as wooden spoons are porous, any flavours absorbed into the wood would be imparted into the final product. We also sped up the process described below considerably – as the entire workshop was about an hour long, we did not have time to leave the mixture undisturbed for 3-4 hours, or to drain the curd for 12 hours before adding the seasonings. Although I did let the cheese rest overnight in the fridge before sampling it, the final product didn’t seem to be hampered by the shortcuts we took.

Lemon Cheese Food Lab

Draining the curd

The light, spreadable cheese we ended up with kept in the fridge for a week. We enjoyed it with crackers and a sprinkling of fleur de sel, though I also heard it was pretty tasty paired with cinnamon raisin toast, too.

Lemon Cheese

3L 3.25% milk
1L heavy cream
150-400mL lemon juice (freshly squeezed and strained) or 30g citric acid or acid of your choice
zested and finely chopped lemon rind (optional)
sea salt (to taste)

  1. Pour the milk and cream into a stainless steel pot and heat to 100F (no higher).
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir the milk slowly until the milk and cream mixture starts to curdle and separate.
  3. Leave the milk mixture undisturbed at room temperature for 3-4 hours.
  4. Drain the curd into a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Let the curd drain in the cooler for 12 hours.
  5. Put the drained curds into a large stainless steel bowl and add the lemon zest. Season with salt to taste. Be careful not to touch the cheese with your hands as this will speed up the deterioration process of the cheese.
  6. Press the cheese into a mold. Top the cheese with a 2kg weight. Pres the cheese overnight under refrigeration to expel any excess whey.
  7. Unmold the cheese and use within the next 4-5 days.

While I haven’t yet had a chance to replicate lemon cheese again, it is a recipe I can see myself making for company or for gifts. Kudos to Northlands and NAIT for putting together such a great and value-oriented learning opportunity!

Home Cooking Convenience: Chef’s Plate

For many years, consumers who wanted access to “home cooked” dishes but did not have the time to cook helped make meal assembly services like Simply Supper in Edmonton and Dinner Factory in St. Albert a success. But what about those looking to create dishes from scratch in their own kitchens, but without the time or will to grocery shop?

Meal preparation kits have grown in popularity in the States, eventually spreading to Eastern Canada, and in the last year or so, to Western Canada. The kits contain recipes and nearly all of the ingredients needed, pre-portioned, for meals that can typically be prepared in 15-30 minutes. In an age where we are increasingly time deprived and reliant on ordering goods online, grocery delivery with such pre-packaged convenience is a logical progression.

In Edmonton, services available include Chef’s Plate, Hello Fresh and Miss Fresh, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this list expands further this year. Our first meal kit experience was with Chef’s Plate – Mack’s brother Thom and Alicia are big proponents of Chef’s Plate, and gave us a gift certificate for Christmas.

I will admit that even before we placed an order, I was already biased against services like this – could the end justify the costs? Mack had to remind me that I am far from their target customer because I actually enjoy grocery shopping, prefer shopping local, and prioritize meal planning. Still, the gift certificate was an incentive to try it, so we took the plunge and selected two meals to start with in late January.

The full price of the order (not including $6 delivery fee) was $49.80, meaning each two-person serving rang up at $24.90. I happened upon an offer that reduced the charge by 50%, which made the two meals a much more palatable $24.90. Without the discount, it could escalate your food budget quickly.

Chef's Plate

Chef’s Plate delivery

The order was dispatched from their Vancouver-based centre on a Thursday, and arrived as expected on the following day. We received an insulated box with ice packs (not dissimilar from what we received from SPUD) that would have easily kept the contents cool for hours. Unlike SPUD, however, the boxes and ice packs aren’t re-used – there isn’t currently any mechanism in place for Chef’s Plate to pick up perfectly good packaging. Sure, they encourage recycling of the materials, but that doesn’t discount the energy used to unnecessarily break down and re-make packaging. Thom and Alicia’s boxes have doubled as cat havens, but given many delivery recipients are repeat customers, I hope Chef’s Plate looks into this.

Chef's Plate


The produce and seasonings for each meal were grouped into brown bags, and the proteins were packed separately. Along with the food, we received full-colour recipe cards to accompany each meal. Each recipe contained enough detail so the meal could be replicated apart from Chef’s Plate (e.g., the seasoning packets were broken down into proportions and ingredients). The ingredients themselves were comparable in freshness to those picked up at a supermarket (I found it amusing that they felt the need to label the bag of tomatoes).

Chef's Plate

Ingredients for one 2-person meal

The Moroccan braised tilapia was a straightforward steamed fish meal, served with sweet potatoes, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and pepperoncini peppers. I did appreciate the seasoning; the flavours were something we hadn’t previously combined with fish. It was also my favourite type of dish for a weeknight: the one pot variety that made for an easy clean-up.

Chef's Plate

Moroccan braised tilapia (complete with an Instagrammable backdrop)

On the other hand, the second dish, a chicken with dijon gravy with thyme smashed potatoes and a baby kale salad, required a pot, pan, and a sheet tray. The final product was worth it, but the mess would have been better suited for the weekend.

Chef's Plate

Chicken with dijon gravy

Both dishes included fairly generous portions – one of my concerns had been whether or not we would need to supplement the meal with other ingredients. That said, my usual meal planning builds in our need for lunches, so unless we had ordered the more expensive family plan, Chef’s Plate still required us to rely on our other large-batch meals to generate leftovers.

On the plus side, Chef’s Plate forced us to try new recipes. We had been craving something different, so it was refreshing to have new recipes essentially chosen for us, including everything we needed for those dishes.

That said, convenience does come at a cost, so it’d be hard for us to justify ongoing orders, especially since we prefer to do the bulk of our shopping at farmers’ markets. We’re more likely to be occasional subscribers, when we’re looking for something to change up our routine.

Sourdough 2.0 at the 2016 Edmonton Resilience Festival

The second annual Edmonton Resilience Festival took place on April 30 – May 1, 2016 at the Boyle Street Plaza. The festival continued the themes it began to explore in their first year, encouraging attendees to learn new skills and adopt a "do it yourself" mentality.

Resilience Festival 2016

2016 Edmonton Resilience Festival

Organizers from The Local Good, the volunteer-driven organization behind the festival, seemed satisfied with the attendance this year. The shift in timing of the festival (changed from February to May) did make it easier to program outdoor activities, and did promote more food truck foot traffic. Workshop pricing also changed to much more differentiated ticket prices, ranging from $10-$50.

Resilience Festival 2016

Sourdough Surprise workshop

I decided to sign up for Sourdough Surprise: Naturally Leavened Biscuits, Waffles and Muffins after Su, my sourdough companion from last year, tipped me off. It was led by Owen Petersen of Prairie Mill. I really enjoyed Owen’s Bread Making 101 session at the inaugural festival – he demystified sourdough for me, and made scratch bread seem much less daunting. I’ve made many loaves since then, and (a personal achievement), have managed to keep the starter we were given that day alive for more than a year. In many ways, I went in to this class treating it as "Sourdough 2.0", eager to build on the base of knowledge I had already learned.

Resilience Festival 2016

Owen Petersen

Most in the class were new to the idea of sourdough, so Owen provided an overview about the starter (affectionately named Julie) as well as a basic sourdough bread recipe. Even though it was a review for both Su and I, I appreciated the refresher, as there were some things I had already forgotten. The intimate two hour class also permitted the luxury of time, and we were able to move through each topic at a leisurely pace. Owen is such an enthusiastic teacher that you can’t help but be inspired to pick up his baking mantle.

Resilience Festival 2016

Su and I show off our dough babies

We ended up only making muffins and waffles. The recipes called for starter-based batters, which lent the final products textures slightly different than more traditional flour-only based recipes. The muffins, for instance, had a much tighter crumb and were more dense than I’m used to, but will be worth a try at home.

Resilience Festival 2016

Sourdough muffins

The waffle recipe, however, will go into our immediate rotation. So simple, the resulting waffles had a nice chew and a slight tang. I can envision making batches large enough to freeze and have on hand.

Resilience Festival 2016

Sourdough waffles

My only disappointment was that we didn’t have the chance to make the biscuit recipe as originally advertised. I recognize that festival finances change, so I don’t begrudge the fee increase (from $25 in 2015 to $50 in 2016), but the takeaways this year didn’t seem to have the value that I was looking for – besides sampling some muffins and waffles, we took home the same amount of sourdough as last year.

Resilience Festival 2016

Mixing up bread dough

Overall, I enjoyed the chance to learn more tips and tricks from Owen, and look forward to experimenting further in my own kitchen! Thanks again to Owen for sharing your gift and to the organizers behind the festival for putting on the event.

Recap: Eat Alberta 2015

After four years on the organizing committee of Eat Alberta, Mack and I had decided to let a new group of individuals take the reins. One year later, it meant we could, for the first time, enjoy the day as participants!

Eat Alberta, started in 2011, promotes hands-on learning about how to prepare local food. Held at NAIT, the Eat Alberta model has always involved engaging instructors drawn from our community, initiating connections that can continue past the event itself.

As we knew from our involvement, certain tracks (tickets are sold for pre-set groupings of classes) tend to sell out right away, so we made sure to get a jump on our preferred track right away. We were rewarded with two tickets to the Foothills track. Priced at $150 each (unchanged from 2014), I know some still think tickets are steep. But given individual cooking classes at other venues are upwards of $100-$140, the fee, which covers the cost of four workshops plus two plenary sessions, breakfast, lunch and a wine down, is more than fair.

We started off the day with a keynote from Takota Coen of Grass Roots Family Farm. He spoke about his operation, which not only utilizes a permaculture philosophy for their vegetation crops, but also promotes the practice for their animals (for example, the cohabitation of cows and pigs ensures even the cow manure doesn’t go to waste – the pigs root through for nutrients the cows are unable to digest). To help finance some of their long-term perennials, which they hope will provide food for decades to come, Grass Roots employed an interesting multi-year Community Supported Agriculture model, where investors would reap their share not over one growing season, but over several years. Takota definitely piqued my interest – I’m sure exploring the farm in person would provide even more perspective.

Our first workshop was with Chef Allan Suddaby, who we were fortunate to work alongside with during our years organizing Eat Alberta. Since then, Allan has become the Executive Chef of Elm Café and all of its properties, which include District Coffee Co., Burrow and Little Brick. We’ve always known Allan’s passion for food and knowledge sharing, but we never had the opportunity to experience it firsthand until his egg cookery class.

Eat Alberta 2015

Chef Allan Suddaby

Allan shared tips and tricks on how to properly hard boil, poach and fry an egg – seemingly basic, but essential skills to master. To fry eggs on a less than non-stick pan, try using parchment paper – it’s better than Teflon! And perhaps most revelatory for me – Allan demonstrated how easy it was to make mayonnaise from scratch: whisk an egg yolk with a splash of vinegar, get it started with just a bit of oil, then work in up to a cup of oil. Magic!

Eat Alberta 2015

OMG, Mack poached an egg!

Next, we moved onto mastering dumplings with Ray Ma of Honest Dumplings. You may be familiar with Honest Dumplings from local farmers’ markets; they specialize in handmade dumplings with creative flavour combinations using local products. Although Mack and I have made our own dumplings before, we’ve never attempted creating the dough from scratch.

Eat Alberta 2015

Ray Ma and Chris Lerohl

Ray was a great teacher, and she made the dough recipe seem very approachable: 1 cup of water + 1 cup of all-purpose flour (instead of water, some vegetable juice can be substituted for colouring, or pliable ingredients, such as chives, to stud the wrappers). After kneading for 7 minutes, the dough will need to be chilled for 30 minutes or overnight. Then, using a pasta roller, working from 0 to 6 settings, the dough is rolled out and cut into rounds to be filled. That morning, we made vegetarian and meat dumplings, but the latter – a quinoa maple pork belly, were definitely our favorite!

Eat Alberta 2015

One semi-decent dumpling fold

After lunch, we headed back into the kitchen for a lesson on the ramen egg and miso broth with Chef Wendy Mah. Wendy is the chef behind the popular pop-up Prairie Noodle Shop (mark your calendars: she announced that the date of their next supper is June 20, to take place at NAIT/Ernest’s).

Eat Alberta 2015

Chef Wendy Mah

No doubt most in the class were familiar with the instant version of ramen, but it would have been ideal if Wendy started the class with more of an overview of ramen (different bases, composition, etc.). When Wendy was providing some of the ingredients for the soup or eggs, I know I didn’t know what wakame was, for instance. She also blew through the proportions for the ramen egg pickling liquid, assuming we would all find our own combination of the soy, Chinkiang vinegar, mirin and water, and was surprised to hear we all followed her recipe (given it was the first time for most, if not all, of us, it shouldn’t have been). That said, I liked that Wendy had an “Asian mirepoix” that served as the base of her vegetable broth – suey choy, Chinese chives and mushrooms.

Eat Alberta 2015

Our ramen eggs and miso soup

Our final session was the perfect cap to the day – a cocktail presentation with Evan Watson of Three Boars. It was only fitting that we started the class by making a drink to sip throughout – an Old Fashioned, made with a dash of spring cherry bitters that Evan had created for us to take home, and Alberta Premium whisky (known for being 100% rye).

Eat Alberta 2015

Mack’s reaction when he learned we’d be making his favourite cocktail

Although the class deviated from its promised focus on how to use local ingredients, it was still a very informative session. Evan is an encyclopedia of cocktail knowledge, and obviously takes his role as an educated bartender very seriously. The session was not only a primer on the history of cocktails, but also on many of the spirits that are mixed into cocktails. If you have a chance to sit at Evan’s bar, make sure you do.

Eat Alberta 2015

Tools of the trade

The afternoon plenary featured Jennifer Cockrall-King and Eva Pang, who started a discussion about the role of food writers in the Edmonton food scene. Mack thought it was a topic that felt out of place within the context of the day, but it did generate some interesting questions from the audience.

We had been looking forward to the wine down, as we knew Allan was still involved in producing the tasting boards. He didn’t disappoint, putting together another varied and beautiful celebration of local bounty.

Eat Alberta 2015

2015 tasting board

Given Mack and I know how the sausages are made, so to speak, we have to commend the organizers for what looked to be a seamless event. Everything was well-organized, and the attendees we spoke to were having a great time. I would say the classes I attended could have been improved with handouts of some sort, containing tips, recipes, or resource lists, as I only walked away with the notes I made on my own (and I know I probably missed some key points). Alternatively, as one presenter said, the content may be shared online at some point.

But overall, we’d have to say bravo! And given the direction Eat Alberta is looking to move in the future, we want to wish the team the best of luck. Thanks to the organizers, volunteers and presenters who made it a great day.

Cooking Indian Street Food with Chef Addie

One of the very thoughtful wedding gifts Mack and I had received was a gift certificate to Get Cooking. Kathryn Joel’s brand new kitchen studio, located at the MacEwan University Residences, had opened around the same time, and we knew at some point we’d want to check out her new digs, which could accommodate even more learners.That said, even when she was teaching from her home kitchen, Kathryn always managed to collaborate with great local talent, bringing in cuisine content experts that could help eager participants navigate through foreign flavours and techniques.

As soon as the winter schedule was released back in December, Mack and I jumped at the opportunity to learn about Indian street food with Addie Raghavan in March. We knew he’d be just returning from a long sojourn in his native India, where last summer he spent time acquainting himself with cheesemakers pushing the boundaries beyond paneer.

Get Cooking

Addie Raghavan

Over the course of the evening we learned to prepare two snacks, four main courses, and a dessert. Given the focus on inexpensive food available on the street, most of the dishes were ones we had never encountered before.

Get Cooking

A pakora tower (one of the few dishes we were familiar with)

Mack really loved the jhal muri, a vegetarian snack full of varied texture and fresh ingredients, including puffed rice, fried noodles, spicy roasted peas, cilantro and chopped tomatoes. It was quick to pull together, and would feed a nice sized crowd.

Get Cooking

Jhal muri

The misal pao started with a sprout and lentil curry, which Addie made with mung beans soaked in water overnight (starting their sprouting process). It also incorporated dried kokum fruits, a souring agent that reminded us of tamarind. And instead of being served with naan or chapatis that we were more familiar with, because of the Portuguese influence in the Northern Indian region where the dish is found, the curry is traditionally eaten with leavened buns.

Get Cooking


Get Cooking

The beautiful pao (extra buns may have migrated into my purse at night’s end)

Get Cooking’s slogan is “think local, cook global”, so throughout the evening, Kathryn highlighted the suppliers who provided the proteins used that night. The Chettinad fish fry, for instance, made use of Icelandic red fish, sourced fresh from Ocean Odyssey. The recipe itself was fairly straightforward – marinated fish seared in coconut oil (“Solid at Canadian room temperature”, joked Addie). But the revelation involved the garnish of fried curry leaves – I really enjoyed the burst of aromatics they added to the dish.

Get Cooking

Addie fries up some fresh curry leaves

Get Cooking

Chettinad fish fry, served on plates made of dried leaves

Chicken lollipops are the perfect street food in many ways, self-contained and not requiring utensils. They’re apparently so popular in India that at the butcher shop, you can purchase already-lollipopped chicken to prepare at home. Mack loved the chicken, battered in a garlic and chili-infused coating and fried to a crisp.

Get Cooking

Mack loves chicken wings

Addie brought in off-cuts of meat with the bheja fry, featuring lamb brains. Although the recipe could also be made with eggs, given the inexpensive nature of offal, it was definitely a truer representation of an Indian street food dish.

Get Cooking

Lamb brains from Acme Meat Market

The brains were first boiled, then stir-fried with onions, tomatoes and spices. It was my first time sampling brain, which was creamy in a way I did not anticipate. While it wasn’t my favourite of the recipes shared, I’m glad Addie didn’t just play to a mainstream palate.

Get Cooking

Bheja fry

For dessert, Addie made jalebis infused with bourbon. I always find that jalebis are much too sweet for me, although I could appreciate this more “adult” version.

Get Cooking


I think Mack and I were anticipating a more hands-on class as a whole, but participation was limited to some instances where Addie invited learners to help chop or fry. I understand the time constraints (seven dishes in four hours!), but it would have been nice for more deliberate opportunities to get our hands dirty.

It was obvious that Addie knew the content; he was able to answer our curiosities and questions with ease. But in terms of organizing the lesson, I would have preferred some context to precede each dish (and to be fair, it was our fault that we were fifteen minutes late). It is possible that we missed an introduction which would have provided a broad overview to street food. Given we visited several different regions through the food, I would have loved a map representing where each dish originated, and more information about the regional influences, ingredients available, and different cooking methods used.

That said, the evening was all-inclusive – we were stuffed by the end of the night, and had our share of drinks; each course was accompanied with a wine or drink pairing. Kathryn and her staff were more than hospitable, and we felt as welcomed as we would have been in her home.

It was an educational session, and I know moving forward, I will definitely be making the fish fry and misal pao in the near future. Thanks to Addie and Kathryn for a night of learning and good food!

Check out the schedule of upcoming Get Cooking classes here, including North Indian Cuisine on May 10 and Indian Vegetarian on June 14 with Addie!

Cooking Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains Pasta with Chef Lynn Crawford

On March 18, 2015, Chef Lynn Crawford was in Edmonton to officially launch a new line of pasta. Catelli’s Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta has been available since January, but only in Western Canada.

Cooking with Catelli and Chef Lynn Crawford

Cooking with Chef Crawford at Get Cooking

Given the trend towards whole grains, it isn’t surprising Catelli has developed this product to offer consumers another option in the supermarket aisles. Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains is the only 100% whole grain pasta of its kind, incorporating Canadian wheat as well as five ancient grains: quinoa, teff, amaranth, millet and sorghum. The result is a pasta that is higher in fibre and potentially other nutrients (most people are familiar with quinoa, but you may also know of teff, which is what Ethiopian bread injera is made of).

Cooking with Catelli and Chef Lynn Crawford Cooking with Catelli and Chef Lynn Crawford

Teff, millet, sorghum and amaranth

If you opened my cupboards, you’d only find regular pasta. One of the reasons I haven’t switched to any of the whole grain varieties available is due to taste. That evening, we were able to sample the Healthy Harvest pasta in a variety of ways – with marinara sauce and tossed with pesto. In those incarnations, I didn’t mind the subtle nutty flavour of the pasta; it didn’t take away from the accompaniments.

Cooking with Catelli and Chef Lynn Crawford

Chilled noodle salad with ginger wasabi dressing

Chef Crawford, who I had seen at Christmas in November last year, was no doubt chosen to be an ambassador of this product because of her sass and energy – “I’m so over whisks” was one of her quips that night. She routinely pulled folks from the audience up to assist her with the preparation of dishes, including a “Shake it Off” salad dressing preparation.

Cooking with Catelli and Chef Lynn Crawford

Dance off!

Although Chef Crawford was limited by time, I did appreciate some of the tips she was able to impart, one of which had nothing to do with the pasta itself. She spent some time roasting sorghum over a hot pan, which resulted in popped kernels not dissimilar from popcorn. She shared that she used these as a crunchy topping to salads at her restaurant.

Cooking with Catelli and Chef Lynn Crawford

Popped sorghum

The final part of the evening gave us an opportunity to work in small groups to prepare a dish to take home – a chilled noodle salad with ginger wasabi dressing. Chef Crawford wasn’t shy; she was hands on and made sure to assist teams when she could.

Cooking with Catelli and Chef Lynn Crawford

Linda and Phil cook with Chef Crawford

While I won’t be switching to Catelli Healthy Harvest pasta – I’m more interested in consuming quinoa or any of the other grains in their whole form – I recognize that this provides consumers with a way to incorporate some variety in their diet in a convenient way. Thanks to Catelli for the invitation to learn more about a new product!

For recipes using Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta, visit Catelli’s website, and for a $1 off coupon, click here.

“Pucker” Cookbook Launch

If you’ve got someone who loves to cook on your Christmas list, you’re in luck – we’re awash in locally-produced cookbooks this season! The Duchess Cookbook would be perfect for the baker in your family (they’ve already ordered a second printing), while the Alberta Famers’ Market Association’s 20th anniversary cookbook, From the Farm, is filled with locally-sourced inspiration from chefs around the province. Now we have Pucker, from Calgary-based Gwendolyn Richards, a celebration of citrus in all its tangy glory.

Pucker Cookbook Launch


Mack and I first met Gwendolyn a few years ago on a Tourism Calgary showcase, but caught up with her more recently in Jasper at Christmas in November. We knew she would be heading up to Edmonton soon after to launch her new book, and we knew we wanted to be a part of the welcoming committee! The launch was held at the Cory Christopher Christmas Market, a festive space ideal for mingling over drinks and nibbles.

Pucker launch

Mixing up whisky sours for the crowd

Gwendolyn is the food writer for the Calgary Herald, but you may also know her from her blog that chronicles her food exploits, Patent & the Pantry. Pucker is her manifestation of “do what you love”, as the kitchen has always been her refuge (and photography, too – Gwendolyn styled and shot all of the photos herself!).

Pucker Cookbook Launch

With her labour of love

The book is filled with nearly ninety recipes – sweet and savoury – and a sizable section of citrus-infused cocktails (the section Mack is particularly excited about). Although Gwendolyn was hard-pressed to select a favourite recipe, the banh mi burger, a play on the Vietnamese sandwich, has achieved an almost legendary status in her circle of friends.

We had the chance to sample a few of the items featured in the book, including some delicious citrus-braised pork shoulder tacos (we may or may not have had seconds).

Pucker Cookbook Launch

Citrus-braised pork shoulder tacos

The lime bars were my favourite dessert, as they packed a citrus punch.

Pucker Cookbook Launch

Lillian and I loved the lime bars

Thanks to Gwendolyn and her team for inviting us to the launch, and congratulations on the book!

You can find Pucker online or in Chapters locations.

Recap: Eat Alberta 2014

On April 26, 2014, Eat Alberta hosted its fourth annual conference at NAIT. It was a day to get your hands dirty, have your palate refreshed, and of course, to learn and be inspired by members of our local food community.

Eat Alberta 2014

Michelle Peters-Jones leads a session on curry with Alberta pulses

Since 2011, Eat Alberta has carved itself a niche in Edmonton, offering a value-driven one day event that brings together some of the most respected and knowledgeable farmers, chefs and food activists in our city. We’ve always been fortunate these folks have been eager to donate their time to share their passion and skills.

Eat Alberta 2014

Elyse Chatterton (rockin’ an unexpected hat) demonstrates nose-to-tail butchery

Like last year, we implemented a track system for tickets, which seemed to work reasonably well. Given the range of sessions offered – from basic biscuits to jowl bacon to composting – there really was something for everyone.

Eat Alberta 2014

Potato tasting with Nigel Webber

MC Jennifer Crosby returned to host Eat Alberta for a second year in a row, and we were grateful for her enthusiasm and deft ability to handle changes to the program we threw at her.

Eat Alberta 2014

MC Jennifer Crosby

To end the day, participants were invited to mix and mingle over a glass of wine and a tasting board. Created by fellow committee member and chef Allan Suddaby, this was his best board yet. More whitefish salad? Yes, please.

Eat Alberta 2014

Beautiful presentation

In many ways, this was a bittersweet event for me because it was my last. Along with several others, I’ve chosen to step down from the Eat Alberta organizing committee so that I can focus on other things. It has been nothing short of a wonderful experience to work with a group of people who also believe in furthering food skills and local food appreciation in the city.

Eat Alberta 2014 

Imitation is the best form of flattery

Eat Alberta 2014

No one said Eat Alberta is always serious

That said, I am confident that the future of Eat Alberta is bright in the capable hands of the committee members carrying on the torch. Best wishes, and I look forward to attending as a participant in 2015!

If you’re interested in learning more about Eat Alberta, sign up for the mailing list here.

Cook Like a Chef: In the Kitchens of Hotel Macdonald

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of being invited to cook inside the prestigious kitchens of the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. It seemed too good to be true – an opportunity not only to peek behind-the-scenes, but also to learn from Executive Chef Serge Jost? But believe me, it was all that and much more.

Hotel Macdonald

Chef Serge Jost

I was among six food enthusiasts chosen to participate. The Mac organized this evening as one way to demystify its identity as an establishment reserved only for grand occasions. Its chefs want to spread the word that the Mac is simply about good hospitality.

Without a doubt, everyone we encountered that evening was gracious and went out of their way to make us feel welcome. This was not more evident than when we were each greeted with a personalized monogrammed chef’s jacket.

Hotel Macdonald

The crew (picture by Hotel MacDonald)

The interactive, hands-on session saw each of us paired off in order to prepare either the appetizer, main, or dessert. I immediately glommed onto Gail Hall, a chef in her own right, and fellow 104 Street resident. We were tasked with the appetizer, a savoury cheese tart, served alongside asparagus, a poached quail egg, and seared foie gras.

Hotel Macdonald

Preparing the tart shells

Executive Sous Chef Jiju Paul guided us through the multitude of steps, and was more than patient with me as I struggled to crack the delicate quail eggs without breaking the yolks. This was also my first time working with foie gras – I knew it tasted good, but the smell of them as they caramelized on the stove? Heavenly.

Hotel Macdonald

Searing the foie gras

Wouldn’t you know – I didn’t end up taking a single snapshot of the final dish. All I have are shots during the plating process.

Hotel Macdonald

What kind of food blogger am I?

Linda and Rebecca were responsible for the main, a complicated duck stuffed chicken cooked sous vide. It was wonderfully cooked, tender and moist.

Hotel Macdonald

Linda and Rebecca hard at work

Hotel Macdonald

Duck stuffed chicken with green bean mousse, mushroom foam and hazelnut lemon gremolata

Dessert was the purview of Karlynn and Phil, a strawberry gelee with rhubarb compote, sherbet and decorative strawberry tuilles. It was a beautiful plate, and a tart but refreshing way to end the meal.

Hotel Macdonald

Phil and Karlynn are serious about dessert

Hotel Macdonald

Strawberry gelee with rhubarb compote

Perhaps most generous of all – Chef Jost sat and ate with us, sharing his perspectives about the Hotel and his plans to make the restaurants at the Mac more approachable. For instance, the chefs are all on Twitter, sharing photos of menu planning, plating and interacting with patrons.

Regarding the Mac’s restaurants, particularly of note are the tapas at the Confederation Lounge, best enjoyed in the summer alongside the smashing view on the patio. To help promote this, the Lounge is offering 2-for-1 appetizers in the month of May, as well as drink specials.

I definitely think that’s a start, as perceived prices are definitely something the Mac needs to overcome. As I mentioned in my post last summer after a visit to the patio, another is the menu itself; a trendier, more inventive menu could potentially pique the interest of different diners. To do this without alienating their regular clientele would require a fine balance between the new and the established. I do agree with Chef Jost – the Hotel Macdonald is a living landmark that should be traversed much more by Edmontonians – but how can they do this without what could be seen as devaluing the Fairmont brand? It will be interesting to see what else the Mac develops in the months to come.

Thank you to Chef Jost, Chef Paul and the rest of the staff at the Hotel Macdonald for a memorable evening.

Check out Rebecca and Linda’s posts about the evening as well.

Join us at Eat Alberta 2014: April 26, 2014

It’s hard to believe Eat Alberta is four years old! I still remember our first event, held in the basement of Enterprise Square downtown. Though it was a less than ideal facility for a hands-on cooking conference, all of our presenters rocked it out, and those who attended found it to be a really worthwhile day of learning, connecting, and of course, eating! Fast forward to 2014, and I’m happy to say we’re still going strong!

Eat Alberta 2011

Pasta making at Eat Alberta 2011

For those of you who aren’t aware, Eat Alberta is a one-day, workshop-style conference that teaches participants how to use and source local food. We’ve since relocated our event to NAIT, with kitchens and classrooms designed for sessions ranging from bacon making to beer tasting. This year, Eat Alberta is scheduled to take place on April 26, 2014.

Eat Alberta 2012

Bread making at Eat Alberta 2012

It’s been wonderful to work with local chefs, farmers and food advocates who are keen to share their passion with others. I’m continually amazed that we continue to expand our Eat Alberta family, though in a community as knowledge rich as ours, this really shouldn’t be a surprise.

Eat Alberta

Sausage making at Eat Alberta 2013

This year, among others, we’re happy to welcome Erica Vliegenthart, the head baker at District Coffee Co., who will be teaching a session on basic biscuits, and Shovel & Fork’s Elyse Chatterton leading hands-on workshops on how to break down a side of pork. I’m also excited about Michelle Peters-Jones’ class on making curry with Alberta pulses – vegetarian cuisine sometimes gets the short end of the stick in this province, so I’m excited to see the flavours she will bring to the table! Check out the rest of the session descriptions here.

Eat Alberta

Bacon making at Eat Alberta 2013

Besides the four workshops, participants can also expect two plenary sessions, including a thought-provoking panel we’ve dubbed “Seedy Business”, which will present varying viewpoints on several controversial food issues: urban beekeeping, backyard chickens and raw milk.

Like last year, attendees will select from one of ten tracks. Although we know most people would prefer to choose their own itinerary, we’ve found this method allows for a more equitable distribution of hands-on classes, and potentially exposes participants to topics they may not have sought out initially.

Eat Alberta

Perogy making at Eat Alberta 2013

Tickets to Eat Alberta 2014 are $150, and include a light breakfast, lunch and a wine down. Tickets go on sale on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 10 a.m.

Hope to see you there!