2017 Alberta Open Farm Days at Erdmann’s Gardens and Sprout Farms Apple Orchards

Alberta Open Farm Days takes place every August, and is a great opportunity to visit with and learn about some of our food-producing neighbours. However, it is more difficult for those without a vehicle to participate in this annual event. This is where Northlands has played a key role over the past few years by offering one of the best deals of Open Farm Days: $5 organized bus tours of local farms. The morning and afternoon tours depart from their easily accessible Northlands Urban Farm, located just a short walk from Stadium LRT station.

Mack and I had a great time on the tour last year, so made sure to pick up tickets to this year’s iteration as well. We joined the morning tour, which would allow us to visit two farms in Sturgeon County: Erdmann’s Gardens and Greenhouses, and Sprout Farms Apple Orchards.

At Erdmann’s, we were greeted by Wendy Erdmann, matriarch of the farm. She shared that her husband Rony stared the farm in 1983, transitioning the fields from alfalfa to vegetables. They now farm 75 acres in crops and greenhouses, with cabbage, carrots, and potatoes making up their primary crops.

Erdmanns Gardens

Wendy Erdmann of Erdmann’s Gardens

Although they are not organic (Erdmann’s uses fertilizer and pesticides), they only spray when needed, and do employ some natural methods such as using organic sprays for their broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. They use the Redwater River for irrigation.

Erdmanns Gardens

Cucumber field

In the summer, they are busy with direct sales at three Edmonton area farmers’ markets, including the City Market, St. Albert, and Callingwood, but also offer some on-farm sales in July and August. Co-op stores have started recently carrying some of their produce, and Erdmann’s does work with several restaurants in the city as well, such as the Shaw Conference Centre, Zinc, and Tzin.

Erdmanns Gardens

On the tour

It was promising to hear from Wendy that her two sons, Shane and Cody, will be taking over the farm in the near future.

Erdmanns Gardens

Erdmann’s Farm

Before we departed, Wendy provided each attendee with a bag of veggies to take home – it was more than generous, and an appreciated token from the visit.

The group hopped back on the bus for our second stop, Sprout Farms Apple Orchards, located next to Prairie Adventure Gardens. In many ways, Sprout Farms feels like one of the region’s best kept secrets – I was astonished to learn that the orchard grows 150 varieties of apples.

Farmer Amanda Chedzoy explained that they moved to the property in 1980, and the farm began as a tree nursery. In 2000, they transitioned to a u-pick apple farm, planting any extra stock they had on hand. Since then, they’ve decided to move away from the u-pick business because it has been difficult for them to manage, and have adopted a Community Supported Agriculture model this year, in addition to selling pre-picked fruit. Sprout Farms is not certified organic, but they use organic practices, and haven’t sprayed in three years.

Sprout Farms Apple Orchards

Amanda Chedzoy of Sprout Farms

Although they do grow many varieties, they primarily offer 14 types of apples spread over 700 trees. Amanda shared that the fruit was very small this year due to continued drought conditions. Although they had 7 varieties available that day, she encouraged us to return next month, as September is their prime picking period.

Sprout Farms Apple Orchards


Like Erdmann’s, Amanda mentioned that her sons will be taking over the farm in the future – given the prevailing narrative about the lack of interest subsequent generations have in continuing the farm business, it was very encouraging to hear from two families that this is not the case for them.

Sprout Farms Apple Orchards

On the farm with my parents

Before we left Sprout Farms, we had the chance to try some fresh-pressed cider, and buy some of their pre-picked apples from the on-farm store.

Thanks again to Northlands for organizing a great morning of farm tours!

A Summer Tradition: K-Days 2016

K-Days really couldn’t have asked for better weather to kick off the 10 day Edmonton summer mainstay. Mack and I joined the thousands of festival revelers on Saturday for our annual pilgrimage to the midway. Mack had accepted an offer from Northlands to visit the grounds as their guest, which included special passes to the TD South Stage and cash to eat our way through some of the new items. We invited my sister Felicia to join us, at least for the food portion of the afternoon.


Felicia can’t resist soft serve

It was interesting to see a number of local food trucks among the mix of vendors, including Smokehouse BBQ and their sister truck Stuffed Gourmet Sausage, Cuisine on Wheels, and Native Delights. While we have our fill of food truck cuisine elsewhere, it is great to see more Edmonton-based vendors present.

Our food choices were ultimately guided by the new food flyer that can be picked up at information kiosks on site. They list all of the items that are new to the festival. Unlike previous years, no insects were harmed in the making of this list, so the shock value was minimized to items such as rainbow grilled cheese and Oreo fried rice.

Our favourite item that we sampled that day was actually also the winner of the new food award – the meatball sub on a stick. Pizza dough was woven in between three skewered meatballs, then broiled with cheese and seasoned. As midway fare goes, this was actually on the healthy side, given it wasn’t deep fried. The meatballs themselves were quite tasty, balanced out with just the right amount of dough and cheese.


Meatball sub on a stick

The big pickle dog had been voted the runner up of the new food competition. Mack, being a corn dog aficionado, was quite excited to try this, as it was a marriage of two of his favourite things: pickles and corn dogs. Alas, it was just too hard to eat, as the pickle retained too much of its crunch, and the hot dog slid right out from the pickle’s empty core. He doesn’t recommend this one.


Big pickle dog

Continuing the "food on a stick" theme, Felicia tried the chicken waffle on a stick. It looked promising, with a crisp, made to order waffle exterior. But it contained chicken with little flavour, and unnecessary breading since the crunch was lost underneath the waffle batter.


Chicken waffle on a stick

Perhaps our biggest disappointment was the mac ‘n cheese stuffed burger. The concept had much promise, but the execution needed work: the patty itself was overly charred, and the toppings were hastily assembled. We could barely eat the burger and derived no pleasure from doing so.


Mac ‘n cheese stuffed burger

We were pleasantly surprised by the poutine perogies, which substituted deep fried perogies for potatoes. It was a healthy serving meant to be shared, with salty gravy and a generous amount of cheese.


Poutine perogies

Of course, we had to indulge in mini donuts at K-Days as well, as much of a tradition for us as anything else.


Those Little Donuts

The best thing about K-Days is being able to partake in the variety of shows and activities in between food. Our favourite show was Canine Stars, featuring rescue dogs in a high-energy demonstration of agility.


Canine Stars

We also enjoyed the expanded Tech Life exhibit (which, on July 30-31, will host the first ever Canadian Drone Championships). In addition to the retro video game systems they’ve had in years past, they also included an extensive selection of board games. We opted to challenge Giant Jenga.



The main K Days music stage has typically been located right off the midway. But as an example of how the Northlands Vision 2020 could play out, organizers decided to relocate the stage to the infield of the race track. The result is a defined, enclosed area, which promoted an atmosphere more conducive to a proper show. The simple act of departing from the midway signaled the transition to a dedicated concert space. Mack had been given VIP passes for the TD Comfort Zone, which meant we could watch the musical act for the evening from the vantage of an elevated tent.


TD Comfort Zone

The tickets, which would have cost $100 (including gate admission to K-Days), includes access to a spread of appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages. The platform is licensed though, and most patrons took advantage of this. No doubt, the price enables exclusivity, and is a way for Northlands to generate additional revenue from an existing festival component.


Matthew Good

Matthew Good put on a great show, and played right up until the fireworks began. An unintentional benefit of the new stage location is the natural expansion of the fireworks viewing area. The west side of the race track is in close proximity to the launch site, so I’d recommend heading over there for an even better view of the light show.



We finished our night with a bit more Bowler Roller, my amusement addiction. For the record – Sharon: 2, Mack: 0.


Midway magic

Thanks to Northlands for a great evening out to our summer tradition.

Check out Mack’s experience here.

Farmfair, Burgers and My First Canadian Finals Rodeo

I have to admit, the idea of going to the rodeo has never appealed to me, even if I’ve always been curious about the excitement surrounding the Calgary Stampede, and in Edmonton, the Canadian Finals Rodeo. It is something quintessentially "Albertan", but has also seemed inaccessible to me without any personal ties to a tradition that can run generations deep for many in the province. So it took Mack being extended complimentary tickets to this year’s Canadian Finals Rodeo for me to finally learn what all the fuss was about.

We headed to Rexall Place on Friday to a nearly packed house, absolutely energized for the events to come. Confronted with such a crowd, it was the first time I realized the scale of the CFR’s economic boost for Edmonton – it was clear most taking in the event were visiting from out of town.

CFR 2015

My cowboy

I was thankful for the two commentators who made sure the audience remained engaged and entertained. They were also very inclusive, taking the time to explain some of the rules and nuances of the sport, much appreciated by a novice like me.

It was easy to see the amount of training each competitor had put in to get to this level, from cattle roping to barrel racing. The bull riding finale unfortunately only saw a handful of riders reach the eight second mark, but no question they all seemed to give it their all. I can also see how the CFR builds in excitement over the course of the week, as the audience familiarizes themselves with the competitors night after night.

CFR 2015

Bareback riding

I’m glad I was able to experience my first rodeo! Thanks to Northlands for the opportunity.

Northlands also enabled us to attend the corresponding Farmfair, held during the CFR at the Expo Centre. An agricultural trade show for farmers, it is an event I have attended in the past. I used to volunteer for adult English as a Second Language classes, and as admission at the time was free, it was a great field trip to help our students learn about one of Alberta’s foundational industries.

Farmfair International

Farmfair 2015

Farmfair has since started charging admission ($5 for adults). Though I’d hope there would still be the chance for adult groups to utilize it as an educational experience, it is a reasonable cost given the breadth of events organized. We wandered through the halls, admiring the livestock and wishing we’d arrived in time to watch the stock dog competition.

Farmfair International

More animals

New to Farmfair this year was the Northlands Food Lab workshops, free with admission. The workshops focused on food skills that could be taught in an hour – cheese making and burger prep. We signed up for the latter, and joined about a dozen other participants on Saturday in the makeshift kitchen in the concourse of the Expo Centre.

Build a Better Burger

Chef Parker

Led by Northlands Sous Chef Chef Parker Regimbald, participants were shown how to make a better burger by grinding our own beef. The ten ounces of inside round we used had been donated by Sysco (of which we were reminded numerous times). While recognizing the need for sponsorship, particularly for a free workshop, it was still disappointing that the chance to highlight a local producer was squandered. Northlands has been highlighting its inroads with supporting local (with its food truck and partnership with Lactuca, among others), so this just seemed like a missed opportunity.

Making a Better Burger

Mack prepares his burger

At any rate, Chef Parker is an excellent instructor, articulate and clearly passionate about food. He offered the following tips:

  • If grinding your own meat, make sure to keep the meat cold before grinding it to decrease bacterial growth;
  • For additional flavour, grind in some pork fat or bacon (Northlands uses their house-made bacon for this purpose);
  • Make sure the patty is at least 1/3 larger than the bun you will use, as the patty will shrink during cooking;
  • Season in layers – toss in some salt and pepper as you’re mixing the meat, but also season both sides of the patty;
  • Grease the patty instead of the grill to ensure it doesn’t stick;
  • The patty is ready to be flipped once when it no longer sticks to the grill;
  • You can tell the second side is done when blood starts to pool on the surface, or alternatively, the feel of the meat is the same firmness as the area just beneath your thumb; and
  • To help the meat retains its juice, set a timer and rest the patty for 3 minutes before digging in!

It was a fairly straightforward lesson, and given the only addition to the beef was salt and pepper, it was a very tasty burger.

Build a Better Burger

Thumbs up!

Chef Parker was very happy with the response to the Food Labs, and is hoping to run more such events, even outside of Farmfair. It was a great add-on to an existing event, so it would be great to see this topic and others offered again in the future.

Recap: Dinner at the Northlands Urban Farm for Alberta Open Farm Days

Although most of the events associated with Alberta Open Farm Days last weekend took place outside of Edmonton, there were still several opportunities to engage with agriculture within the city. Cindy recapped her visit to Horse Hill Berry Farm and Reclaim Urban Farm, while Mack and I were fortunate enough to be invited as guests to attend a dinner at the site of the Northlands Urban Farm.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Northlands Urban Farm

Lactuca, a local food producer, began as a backyard project, supplying restaurants and consumers at the 124 Grand Market. In 2014, in partnership with Northlands, Lactuca expanded their operations to a one acre site at 112 Avenue and 79 Street (about a 15 minute walk from the Stadium LRT station). This year, in conjunction with Alberta Open Farm Days, Northlands hosted a series of events to introduce the public to the urban farm, including tours, honey harvest demonstrations and cheese making workshops. The day concluded with the farm-to-table dinner.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Beautiful setting

It was a beautiful evening for an al fresco supper, and thankfully, given the dinner would have us traipsing through the gardens, it had been blessedly dry that weekend. Five food stations had been set up around the perimeter of the farm, and guests were invited to visit each on our own time to sample a total of eight dishes.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

At the farm

Short of a brief welcome and introduction of the chefs involved, nothing more formal took place. I recognize that the staff had just led several farm tours earlier that day, but I assume a majority of those attending the dinner hadn’t been a part of them. Because of this, I thought it was a missed opportunity for Northlands to provide more information about their relationship with Lactuca, Northlands’ philosophy on local food, or, in the context of the meal we were about to enjoy, highlights of the Alberta products they had utilized.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

On-site hives

This last point was particularly glaring when we visited the stations. It became painfully obvious that while some thought had been put into creating the diverse menu, many of the frontline staff serving the food and drink didn’t have the same awareness of the focus on local. They couldn’t answer questions about the products used, and weren’t confident on where they had been sourced. I’m optimistic that because this shift has been fairly recent (for example, the Northlands food truck, 1879, has committed to using 75% local ingredients, just hit the streets in July), staff engagement can only improve from here.

It is difficult to manage food quality in those makeshift outdoor kitchens, so as expected, some dishes were better than others. Our runaway favourite was the seared pickerel, with roasted cauliflower and broccoli, honey glazed carrots, crispy onions, bee pollen and corn shoots. The fish had been perfectly prepared, and the accompanying vegetables minimally cooked to emphasize their fresh quality.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Seared pickerel

Similarly, the DIY salad featured the breadth of our harvest bounty, including, of course, Lactuca’s own greens and vegetables.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

DIY salad platter

The hay-smoked chicken had promise, but was just too salty. The same could be said of the braised bacon, especially when coupled with a gouda crisp.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Hay smoked chicken

The marinated flank steak was more successful, served with salsa verde. But Mack remarked that the corn should have been left alone; its natural sweetness really didn’t need to be masked by mayo.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Braised bacon and marinated flank steak

I did enjoy the duo of desserts. The first was a smoked almond ice cream topped with grilled peaches, lavender and a lemon cake cookie.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Smoked almond ice cream with grilled peaches

The second was a mixed berry tart with maple sauce and Chantilly cream. I could have easily had another; it was summer in two bites.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Mixed berry tart

I can appreciate that this was the first such dinner organized by Northlands, and if they decide to host it again next year, improvements could be made. The increase in urban agriculture projects should be celebrated with events like these so that more Edmontonians can learn about the potential we have to supply food within city limits. Northlands has the unique opportunity to make farm-to-table suppers a more frequent, accessible experience. I look forward to what they may have in store for us next year.

Thanks again to Northlands for inviting us to be a part of their inaugural farm dinner.

Check out Linda’s recap of the evening here.

Food and Fun at K-Days 2014

Mack and I may not be the target demographic for K-Days, but we love it regardless. It’s an annual summer tradition for us – there’s just no other festival in Edmonton that offers the variety of attractions, or a midway of that scale.

K-Days Edmonton 2014


We were fortunate enough to have been asked to eat our way through some of the new food items offered this year. And knowing our consumption capacity, we thought it best to invite Amanda and Felicia with us on Saturday, two people also used to testing their limits.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

Ready to eat!

Like last year, the one page map produced by K-Days helped us to locate the new dishes on the midway. However, it wasn’t as intuitive as it could have been, as many of the vendor names didn’t match the signage on the actual booths (Tin Lizzy for instance, home of the porcupine corn dog, was branded “Wiggle Chips” instead). I also had to wonder if the list was comprehensive, as none of the local food trucks participating were included on the listing (even though it was their first time at the fair), and Expo Centre vendors were conspicuously absent.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

Juicy’s Outlaw Burgers (home of the world’s largest commercially available hamburger and hot dog)

We started our indulgence indoors at the Taste of Canada in Hall H. In 2013, we found the dishes inside to be of the best value (not to mention their relative distance from the deep fryer). Unfortunately, things changed, and the average price for a sandwich with a side of chips has risen to $13. Disappointingly, the menu was smaller and less enticing than last year. Given the recent launch of Northlands’ Alberta Flavour initiative, it’s surprising they couldn’t have somehow incorporated more local ingredients in some of the dishes. We did note the cooking stage located in the same area, but without a posted schedule, we didn’t know when the next demo would be conducted.

We ended up with a Montreal-style house smoked meat sandwich ($13.25). The sandwich itself was fine, if unremarkable. The side of kettle chips was the highlight for me, lightly salted and addictive.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

Montreal-style house smoked meat sandwich

Back on the midway, Mack’s annual corn dog was from a maple bacon breakfast corn dog ($7), served with a side of maple syrup for dipping. It was definitely light on the bacon, but Mack enjoyed it all the same.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

Mack’s maple bacon breakfast corn dog

Amanda’s porcupine corn dog ($5) was the better deal, and more unique – a corn dog studded with French fries. She remarked that the fries themselves could have used a bit of seasoning, but other than that, she gave it a thumbs up.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

Amanda and her porcupine corn dog

I was happy to see the return of Rib Fest. The theatricality of the staff is as much of a spectacle as the food itself.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

Rib Fest

That said, I’m not sure why the lines moved so slow this year. It took us more than 30 minutes to reach the front of a modest sized line, even though the transaction time for us between ordering and receiving our food was less than two minutes. The big attraction was Gator BBQ’s pulled pork sundae ($9), a savoury concoction comprised of layers of mashed potato, baked beans and pulled pork.

K-Days Edmonton 2014


The serving size was not for the faint of heart, and from a conception standpoint, I loved the idea of the sundae. Execution-wise, everything from the pulled pork to the potatoes was over salted to the point that we struggled to finish it.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

Pulled pork sundae

My favourite item that night was the Royal Street turkey dinner poutine ($12) from Mardi Gras Grill. It was a creative take on comfort food, topping a bed of fries with cheese curds, gravy, slices of roasted turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. All of the individual elements were well-prepared – the roasted turkey would have been equally delicious on its own – but together, it was a tasty, one box meal.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

Royal Street turkey dinner poutine

On the sweet side, I was most looking forward to the deep fried cookie dough ($7). Three generously battered and fried balls made up the serving, lightly dusted with powdered sugar. And though we all remarked that they were intensely sweet, they delivered – the chewy coating gave way to a soft chocolatey centre. Our only suggestion for improvement was to make them two-bite treats.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

Deep fried cookie dough

Cin City Donuts offered a different take on the fair favourite of mini doughnuts. We tried their s’mores mini donuts ($5), which saw marshmallows, chocolate sauce and graham crackers replace the traditional cinnamon sugar topping.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

S’mores mini donuts

It’s worth noting that when I mentioned that Felicia is allergic to chocolate but still wanted to try it out, they ended up giving us two servings for the same price – one minus the chocolate sauce. Their generosity aside, we had assumed the dish would have been quickly broiled to melt the marshmallows, but no dice. As a result, the donuts themselves were on the dry side. We decided the traditional cinnamon sugar was the way to go.

Interspersed between bites, we took our time to explore the grounds as well.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

One of the mini-parade floats

I had been hoping to catch a glimpse of the futuristic robots in the Techlife exhibit, but they had been packed up for the day. Still, there was lots to see in that pavillion, from the Hacklab where kids of all ages were putting together different models, to the mock stadium view they had set-up for gamers on stage.

K-Days Edmonton 2014


K-Days Edmonton 2014

Gamers on display

Next door in Hall C, we had the chance to indulge in a little gaming ourselves of the retro variety. There was an NES and a Super Nintendo set-up, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and MarioKart on rotation, respectively. I have to admit, I’m a bit out of practice – Amanda schooled me on MarioKart.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

Out of practice

We also took in the Hockey Canada exhibit, and didn’t pass up the chance to have our photo taken in front of a memorable backdrop (we think it’s Eberle’s tying goal in the 2006 World Junior Championships, but we may have heard wrong).

Shoot Score

Felicia and I weren’t ready for the photo

Hall A hosted the Farm exhibit, and we loved seeing the live animals.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

The three little pigs

K-Days Edmonton 2014

How about these three day old chicks?

We closed out the night with a final walk around the midway and fireworks.

K-Days Edmonton 2014

Ferris wheel

K-Days Edmonton 2014

At Northlands Park

All in all, we had a great day. Thanks again to K-Days for the chance to sample the breadth of this year’s fair food!

K-Days runs July 18-27, 2014.

Capital Ex 2010

There’s something about Capital Ex that keeps me coming back. In spite of its inescapable associations with teenage excess, there I am, every summer, pounding the midway pavement like clockwork.


Round and round

It’s not any one thing – not the food or the exhibits, not the fireworks or the talent shows, and certainly not the rides – but the atmosphere, the energy, the collective joi de vivre that pulses through the fairground. It’s exhilarating being among a crowd that is living in the moment, searching out the next thrill.



We had picked up our gate admission from Ticketmaster in advance (it actually only saves you $2, but between the two of us, that’s enough for mini doughnuts!), bypassed the ticket lines, and headed straight to the grounds.

We had big plans for deep-fried gluttony, but first, we were fortunate enough for a behind-the-scenes detour. A few weeks ago, Mack had been contacted by Sandra Pysklywyc, Public Relations Manager for Northlands, in order to arrange for a tour of the kitchen, as Mack had expressed interest in their promotional Monster Burger.

Sandra introduced us to Arlindo Gomes, Director of Hospitality and Client Services for Northlands, who actually conceived of Sip!, the Food and Wine Experience at Capital Ex. He said that from a merchandising point of view, most liquor trade shows don’t provide the opportunity for consumers to connect with both the sales representative and the product at eye level, and Sip!, with its bar-height counters, does. He also crafted the feel of the event, intimate and sophisticated, using floor lighting, table accents, and art displays to his advantage.



One of my favourite aspects of Sip! has always been their demonstration stage – it was where I first met Sebastian Lysz two years ago at the inaugural Sip (who has since become an up-and-coming figure to watch in Edmonton’s food scene). This year, the rock stars of the schedule included internationally-renowned mixologists Gavin MacMillan and David Jennings.

Bartending demo

Cocktail hour

Arlindo eventually led us into the basement of Northlands, where the kitchen is located. It had been recently renovated and expanded, with Arlindo ensuring that the design would allow for flexibility in equipment set-up as needed. As a result, all of the machines (flattops, grills, ovens) are on wheels, and save the fume hood, can be moved.

Hot kitchen

Hot kitchen

The prize of the kitchen was undoubtedly the combi ovens. The practical ability to cook with both steam and dry heat was demonstrated with some of the food being served at Sip upstairs – beef jerky and a whole roasted pig (which apparently takes only four hours in their oven). Mack and I thought the coolest thing about the oven was the fact that the same cart that holds pans of food can be wheeled out of the oven and directly into the blast chiller, or vice versa.

Blast chillers!

Blast chillers

Arlindo explained that for large-scale functions, this is exactly what happens – food is pre-cooked, plated, loaded up onto a cart (below), then cooled in the blast chiller. Just before the food is served, the entire cart is wheeled directly into the oven to finish cooking. Amazing!

Plate carts

Ready for the next event

Another fairly new feature of the kitchen was their Code Green initiative, seeking to recycle all organic material that comes through the kitchen. The plastic bins were everywhere in the kitchen, filled with everything from coffee grounds to boxes to vegetable peels, to end up in a composting pile. Arlindo said he would have numbers of how much waste has been diverted in November, exactly a year since the program began.

Code Green

In the cold kitchen area, we spotted racks of hibiscus flowers drying atop slices of lemon. Arlindo explained that a few years ago, he had ordered 200 jars of hibiscus flowers, thinking that they would be all the rage (at the time, they were a popular addition to cocktails and other drinks). Unfortunately, the hibiscus flowers didn’t take off as he had planned, and the kitchen is still working its way through his massive order, and remind him every day of his mistake (chefs at Sip were actually using them to make a floral-scented ice cream).


Hibiscus flowers

Of course, I had to take the opportunity to ask Arlindo what Northlands was doing to source products from local businesses and producers. On the subject of coffee (and buying from local roasters), he explained it was an economical decision – Starbucks provided and maintains all of their brewing equipment at no charge, and is able to service the machines quickly and efficiently.


Coffee equipment

On the subject of local producers, Northlands did just recently start using beef from Spring Creek Ranch. Arlindo said that the 20-30% mark-up on the premium beef does make it difficult for them to use it on a large scale (although they do utilize Alberta beef in all of their facilities), but they have been able to experiment with it upstairs in their Monster Burger outlet. Though the 1kg burger is a promotion specifically for Capital Ex, the outlet will be in operation during all conferences and events, and features not only a 7 oz. Spring Creek Ranch beef burger (priced at just $9.75, with fries), but the first premium Spring Creek Ranch hot dog (with no preservatives, hormone and antibiotic-free, in a natural casing). It was fortuitous that Bern Kotelko of Spring Creek Ranch was having a meal there during our tour.

Monster Burger

Monster Burger


Bern and Arlindo

Next to Monster Burger is maspasta (“mas” means “more” in Latin). Another one of Arlindo’s initiatives, the pasta outlet is a fast but tasty option for conference and event attendees.



Once the tour was over, we headed back into the hall to use our Sip! tickets (Sandra was generous enough to give us 50 tickets to use at our own pace). We were happy to see local breweries Alley Kat and Yellowhead present, but Mack ended up trying beer from Yukon Brewing Company for the first time (he gave the Yukon Gold a thumbs up). I steered clear of familiar wine brands and found Warrego Wines out of Australia. Their Half-Way Wine lived up to its promise of being semi-sweet.

Yukon Brewing Company

Yukon Brewing Company

In terms of food, the selection this year of savoury dishes seemed better than in past years, and to add to things, Northlands even prepared recipe cards for patrons to take home if they wanted to recreate the dishes at home.

Recipe Cards

Recipe cards for pulled pork panini

The Alberta barley paella was a great way to start off, textured and satisfying, but my favourite was the Cuban-inspired pulled pork panini.

Barley paella

Huge paella pan

After seeing his (or her?) poor cousin in the combi oven downstairs, we also had to give the roasted pork a try. I have to say it was difficult to eat without a knife (I try to keep the savage table manners to a public minimum), but the meat was moist, albeit on the fatty side.

Some pig

Some pig

Though I can see why beef jerky was on the menu (no need to keep it hot or cold, and keeps well to boot), it was a bit out of place in the elegant setting. That said, out of the three flavours, Mack liked the sweet and sour best.

Beef jerky @ Sip

Beef jerky

We ended our experience with a treat from the fun ice cream bar that not only featured fresh ice cream, but also a variety of candy toppings.

Ice cream bar @ Sip

We all scream for ice cream

By the time we were ready to hit the midway, the heat of the evening sun had dissipated. In the dwindling light, we soaked up the fair.

Mack's annual corn dog

Mack’s Capital Ex tradition

Hamster ride

I could have watched the poor souls forever, but we were unfortunately positioned in the splash zone

On our walk through, we passed by the outdoor Monster Burger kiosk. For those who didn’t hear about it, it was a 1kg Spring Creek Ranch beef burger topped with 1/2 lb of bacon, onions, lettuce, cheese and tomatoes, and would cost $39.50…unless the person could finish it in one hour.  I have to say I love that they took and posted photos of every person who successfully completed the challenge.

Monstr Burger Challenge

Monster Burger challenge

I really do hope it is something they continue in future years – I think it helps expose Spring Creek Ranch to a wider audience, and also benefits the Edmonton Food Bank (1kg of beef was donated to the Food Bank for every Monster Burger purchased).

We were really hoping for fireworks that night, but the skies threatened to open up, so we hustled to our other Capital Ex tradition – a bag of Those Little Doughnuts.

Threatening sky

Looks like a vortex is about to open up, doesn’t it?

Mini Doughnuts!

All I need are doughnuts

Thanks again to Sandra and Arlindo for their hospitality. We had a great time, and are looking forward to next year already!