Taste Alberta Launch

On December 1, 2010, the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald launched Taste Alberta, a series to be featured in both papers on a weekly basis. Journal staff, local foodies, and area farmers were invited to the Shaw Conference Centre’s beautiful River Valley Room that evening to help celebrate the launch of the series.

Taste Alberta

Taste Alberta

Taste Alberta has been designed to become a central gathering place for those in the province who are interested in local food – reading about the food that is grown and processed in Alberta, where such products are available, and how best to prepare it. The series will run for thirty weeks.

Taste Alberta

Journal Food Editor Kerry Powell welcomes the hungry crowd

Based on their first few articles – featuring turducken, local company Mighty Trio Organics, and Bernard Callebaut’s new company, Papa Chocolat, to list a few – I can see the potential; there are so many stories that need to be told.

But content alone isn’t what sets it apart, nor could it – stories featuring Alberta producers are the core of the weekly Food section regardless. Taste Alberta seeks to be more than that: a go-to online resource that amalgamates everything food. They have links to local food and drink blogs, an event calendar, and a Twitter widget that imports food-related tweets. I know from Mack’s experience developing ShareEdmonton, it will be a challenge for them to collect everything – there is just too much information out there. That said, it’s great that the Journal and the Herald are attempting this Herculean task, and with their reach (and requests for reader submissions), it may be easier to do so.

Kerry acknowledged that they series would not have gone forward without the support from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), as well as Save on Foods. While ALMA makes sense as a sponsor (given the number of livestock producers in this province), I’m still not sure where Save on Foods comes in. Great on them for supporting this initiative, but I hope it means that they are also working on bringing in more locally-sourced product in their stores too.

The night really was a celebration of local food though, with stations around the periphery of the room offering hot and cold dishes prepared using ingredients sourced from area farmers. Several of my food blogging colleagues (Evonne, Karlynn and Chris, among them) did a better job of capturing the food than me, as I didn’t get to all of the stations, but here are a few highlights:

Taste Alberta

The miniature Lola Canola honey crème brulee, with a Berry Ridge Orchard Saskatoon berry compote set the bar pretty high – silky texture with a perfect balance between tart and sweet, it was the best (or worst) way to start off the sampling.

Taste Alberta

Thankfully, the Big Rock braised Sunterra bison short rib could handle the pressure – a knife would have made eating it slightly easier (it wasn’t quite fork tender), but the meat was nicely cooked. And the potatoes underneath? Creamy, garlicky goodness.

Taste Alberta

The mini Ardrossan free-range chicken burgers with roasted garlic mayonnaise weren’t bad either. The patty was moist and flavourful, and really could have been served on its own for that reason.

Taste Alberta

We are rarely without Irvings Farm Fresh pork products in our freezer, so there was no doubt we would enjoy their sausage, served with a barley risotto.

Thanks to the Journal for hosting the launch, and treating us to some great local food! I am looking forward to seeing what else Taste Alberta has in store for us in the coming weeks.

A New Addition to Edmonton’s Culinary Blogosphere

I’ve mentioned on this blog that the last six months have been a bustling one in Edmonton’s online food scene. A number of voices have joined the fray recently, and I do believe the more the merrier – everyone has a unique perspective on food, and there is seemingly an unlimited number of topics to cover, even in a city the size of ours.

A new blog began today, one I had been anticipating for some time. Eat My Words is Liane Faulder’s contribution to the blogosphere, where she will be documenting food highlights that don’t make it into the Journal. Her first two posts include tidbits about a bakery she visited during a recent Mexican vacation, a Dine Alberta dinner, and cupcakes she purchased from Flirt Cupcakes.

When I met Liane for lunch back in November, she indicated that she would be starting a blog in the new year. At that time, she asked me why I avoided posting short entries, as she thought immediacy was one of the handiest features of a blog. While it works best for me to gather the brief tidbits together in my weekly notes posts (giving it more substance, somehow), I expect Liane to share concise thoughts or experiences now and then.

I think the Journal Bistro writer entering the food blogging world in Edmonton is a positive step – I believe it will bring more awareness and readership to the blogs already in existence (Liane has started a blogroll, and also linked to some online resources).

Welcome to the blogosphere, Liane. I look forward to reading your posts!

Lunch with Liane Faulder

When Liane Faulder contacted me for an interview about my blog, I jumped at the chance to meet her. New to the Journal’s Bistro section as of May (and stepping into the arguably mammoth shoes of her predecessor, Judy Schultz), I have been intrigued by her seemingly haphazard direction and how she felt about the continued presence of Schultz, whose pieces during the summer season on the farmer’s market beat dwarfed any of her own contributions.

We scheduled to meet for lunch at Leva Cappucino Bar (11053 – 86 Avenue) on the weekend, my choice to align with Liane’s expressed geographic preference, and our joint penchant to satisfy  foodie pangs.

It was absolutely hopping in Leva around noon on a gorgeous fall day. Families, couples, and groups of friends packed the place, and the line-up stretched all the way down the counter towards the washrooms. Since I’d been there last, the proprietors had put up an “Eat Local First” sign, and included a list of the area suppliers they tap for ingredients. I think this Keep Edmonton Original and Original Fare campaign is great, as it makes eating local more prominent but not overbearing to the average consumer.

Eat Local signage

When Liane arrived, we scooted in line and chatted while we waited patiently for our chance to order. It turned out Liane hadn’t been to Leva for about four years. As my acquaintance with the charming café has been more recent than that, I couldn’t comment on the changes that she noticed in the décor.

Though the Journal was covering the cost of our lunch, I didn’t feel right going “all out”. I ordered a Mushroom Pizza, while she stuck with a more healthy Spinach Salad with blue cheese and pecans.

Mushroom Pizza (cambozola & porcini cream sauce, mushrooms, potatoes, mozzarella)

Throughout our meeting, I never felt (besides her occasional note taking) that I was being interviewed. It was very much a two-way dialogue, and Liane never hesitated to answer any of my questions (and gave me the freedom to write about what we talked about). She is extremely down-to-earth, humble and frank. I’m not sure what of our conversation  she will translate into the Bistro piece, but I hope it will touch on some of the threads of Edmonton’s social media community that we discussed, particularly because Liane will be starting a blog of her own some time in the new year (the awful Journal website is also supposedly getting an overhaul in the not-to-distant future).

I found out that Liane has written for nearly every section of the Journal, with the exception of Sports. She covered the news beat for a while, wrote film reviews for a time, and most recently, contributed features to Sunday Reader. When she returned from an eight-month internship at Ryerson University in Toronto, she was offered the lead in Bistro because at that point, she had proven that she could “pretty much write anything.”

Her love of food begins with the “democratic” nature of it – meaning that everyone, with some effort and instruction, can learn to make a meal. She juggles about four stories at a time, and is reveling in the intrinsic flexibility of a weekly section, as compared with news reporting.

I asked her about the potential sabotage that she may be facing at the paper, as there are weeks when a story from another Canwest affiliate takes up the space above the fold, or a story from Judy Schultz seems to crowd out her articles. Having been with the paper for seventeen years, she said, she has “no ego left.”

We agreed on the potential minefields in the restaurant review world, and she understood my staunch position of not having my meals paid for by a third party, and not reviewing the food once I have met the chef behind it. Liane told me about a recent excursion to a new restaurant, and how the owner fawned all over her, bringing to her table coupons and extra napkins in an effort to extract a good Journal-backed word from her. She also shared her opinion that one of her fellow colleagues should not have published a review about a restaurant he had a personal connection to.

On the topic of favourites, Liane leans toward restaurants that provide “value for money”. In that vein, the Sugar Bowl is her best bet, though she also enjoys the more pricey fare at Culina Millcreek and Hardware Grill. In her opinion, local restaurants don’t do enough to promote themselves, though she acknowledged how busy most independents are simply cooking good food day in and day out.

I can’t recall what our end note was, but I remember feeling elated – a natural feeling after throwing around ideas on a subject I’m passionate about. It was great to meet another local foodie, and I hope once the article is published, other bloggers come out of the woodwork as well.