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.