Recap: Slow Food Edmonton’s Hijacked

Slow Food Edmonton seems to be picking up steam, with two of their spring events falling so on trend that people might forget all together that the food they’re consuming is good, clean and fair. The first of those events appealed to me because I was curious to see how they would involve a food truck so early on in the season.

Hijacked, which took place on March 8, 2014, was a collaboration between Slow Food Edmonton, Shovel & Fork, Drift, and Alley Kat Beer. The proceeds from the fundraiser were intended to help support SFE members attend the National Slow Food Conference in Halifax later this year.


Parked at Alley Kat

It was a casual event, the $30 non-member ticket price mainly going towards a glass of beer and food. My sisters and I socialized and perused the auction items, but were eager to chow down.

I have to say, SFE hit the weather jackpot, given the Saturday prior was close to –30. It was a fairly balmy evening, the perfect “winter” conditions for a food truck. Although it took some time for the grub to get going, it was ultimately worth the wait.

Each of us received a box of food fit for two people. Our favourite was the shroom melt, made with local mushrooms and onions and The Cheesiry’s pecorino. The sides – one, a northern bean salad with Doef’s peppers and cucumbers, and two, a Sundog Organics slaw with Shovel & Fork apple cider – were great accompaniments that stood up to the mains. I particularly loved the final touch of microgreens. For dessert, we were given a snail-shaped rice crispy treat – too cute.


Dinner at Hijacked

Our only complaint about the event was the lack of seating, something the organizers were very cognizant of, given one of the auction items was actually table seating for four. More cocktail tables would have made things easier to eat, most notably, the meatball sub. We watched as people spread out on the floor inside, or struggled to keep food off their shirts as they ate standing up. We ended up staying outside to take advantage of one of Drift’s cocktail tables, even as the mercury dropped after dark.


Winter patio!

The event was a success, with both seatings selling out. Their next event, a pizza pop-up at RGE RD, is already at capacity, but with this renewed momentum, I’d stay tuned to Slow Food Edmonton to learn when their next happening is taking place so you’re not disappointed!

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.

For the Love of Food: Eat Alberta 2011

Eat Alberta Logo Last summer, Valerie approached me with the idea of organizing an Alberta-wide food conference. Given the rising interest in buying local and the burgeoning online food community, she thought it was the perfect time to arrange a more formal opportunity for people to connect with one another, and learn more about the bounty we have in Alberta.

For many reasons, the province-wide aspect was dropped in favour of focusing on what we knew – Edmonton and its surrounding areas. We also downsized our original attendee target, realizing that the quality of the conference would be most important, especially because our hope was for this event to continue on an annual basis.

In the fall, we asked several other members of the local food community to join us in this endeavour – Sherene, a food blogger, Allan, a chef and blogger, and Mack, a social media guru. We also realized that the goals of this conference very much aligned with those of Slow Food Edmonton (of which Valerie, Allan, Mack and I belonged to already), and that it made sense for the event to come under their banner of promoting good, clean and fair food.

As a result, with Valerie’s leadership and through our discussions, Eat Alberta was born.

On April 30, 2011, the inaugural Eat Alberta conference will take place in downtown Edmonton. Through a mix of hands-on and demonstration workshops, tasting sessions, and presentations from some of the leaders of our food community – farmers, chefs and local food advocates – we hope that participants will learn how to use and source local food as well as develop nurturing and ongoing relationships with one another and with those that produce our food.

Here are a sampling of the sessions participants can look forward to:

  • Wine pairing workshop with The Tomato’s Mary Bailey
  • Hands-on artisan sausage making with chef Allan Suddaby
  • Goat cheese making demonstration with Holly Gale of Smoky Valley Goat Cheese
  • Honey tasting with Patty Milligan, aka Lola Canola
  • Slow-rise pizza dough lesson with Yvan Chartrand of Tree Stone Bakery
  • Home coffee brewing tips from Josh Hockin of Transcend Coffee
  • Keynote presentations from Jennifer Berkenbosch and James Vriend of Sundog Organics and Kevin Kossowan, who will share learnings from his “From Local Farms” project

Registration for the conference opens March 14, with early bird registration closing on March 31. Conference fees will include a small continental breakfast, lunch, and a glass of wine. Be sure to register early for the best selection of sessions!

I hope to see you there!

Slow Food Edmonton Dairy Farm Field Trip

Some Slow Food Edmonton events are all about eating, like Indulgence and Beer and Boar. Others are more about getting to know fellow members, like the Wood Fired Solstice and the annual potluck at Mary Bailey’s residence. The focus of the Dairy Farm Field Trip at the end of September was learning.

We are very lucky to have someone as enthusiastic as Valerie in the organization – she is so energetic and positive it makes my head spin sometimes. She had the great idea of arranging a group field trip to two of our local dairy farms – Sylvan Star Cheese and Bles-Wold Dairy – and ending the day with a meal at Eco Café. Seats sold out quickly, which, although priced at $75 a ticket, was a fair price given the inclusion of three meals, the tours and transportation to and from the farms.

We were up and at ‘em early – we had to be at Southgate Mall before 8:30 a.m. Thankfully, we live right on the LRT line, which made the trip fast and convenient. Our premature wake up call was made better by the two sweet and savoury scones that greeted us upon arrival, fresh out of the oven from Duchess.

I’m fairly certain it was the butter in the scones that pushed me into nap territory, but when I woke up, we had arrived at our first destination – Sylvan Star Cheese in Red Deer County.

Sylvan Star Cheese

Sylvan Star Cheese

They were a new vendor at the City Market this year, but I was familiar with their award-winning cheese from Planet Organic, and restaurants such as Madison’s Grill who have featured their product on their menus. Though I enjoy their cheese (particularly the cumin-spiced gouda and the aged cheddar), I know the price is a deterrent for us to use it as an everyday cheese. Still, I was looking forward to see their new home, with expanded cheese making (and aging) facilities.

Sylvan Star Cheese


Jan Schalkwijk was our host for the tour. First, he invited us to help ourselves to samples of their cheese. Mack and I were able to try a few varieties, which was good enough for us (10 in the morning as it was), but I was hoping for a guided tasting from the expert himself – for example, running through flavours and textures to look for.

Sylvan Star Cheese

Tasting Platter

After the snack break, Jan told us how he got into cheesemaking in Alberta – essentially, because he couldn’t find good cheese here after immigrating from Holland, he decided to use the skills he had to make good cheese himself.

Sylvan Star Cheese

Jan introduces his business

Though Jan was fantastic at answering questions, I thought the tour side of things could have been better thought out – we could have started on the factory floor, for example, where the cheese is made, then worked our way to the aging and smoking rooms.

Sylvan Star Cheese

The smoker (Jan uses maple wood)

Regardless, it was a little frustrating not being able to hear our guide. Jan unfortunately does not have a voice that carries, and most often, our large group were in rooms where it was difficult to hear him due to a combination of factors including space constraints and whirring fans. A microphone – or dividing the group – would have helped immensely.

Sylvan Star Cheese

Where the cheese is made

Though I didn’t get as much from the tour as I would have wanted, it really was neat to see the humidity-controlled rooms where the cheese is aged. At the end of each of the shelves was a post-it containing the batch date – for the first sixty days, the wheels are turned once a day to prevent mould, and after that, turned once a week.

Sylvan Star Cheese

With my birthday batch of cheese!

It was also hard not to appreciate their expansive facility. Though there seem to be few employees on his team, they have ensured that they will have ample room to grow. The room below, for example, will be their new cheese aging room – it was absolutely massive, but given their increasing popularity, it’s not surprising.

Sylvan Star Cheese

Coming soon – another cheese aging room

Valerie’s post on this trip is much more detailed, particularly on this aspect of the day. She also has many great photos of the facility!

Sylvan Star Cheese

Mack loves cheese!

Before departing for our next stop, we had a nice soup and sandwich lunch, where we were able to socialize with Sherene and Su.

Sylvan Star Cheese

A tasty minestrone soup – just what I needed that morning

A half hour later, we arrived at Bles-Wold. Unlike Sylvan Star, Bles-Wold yogurt is something that I regularly have on hand – their fruit yogurt is thick, not too sweet, and is definitely more substantial than commercial varieties – and their plain yogurt is my go-to choice for salad dressings and other recipes. When we drove up to the farm, it was reassuring to see that the red barn pictured on their containers actually exists, and happens to be where the yogurt is made!

Bles Wold

Bles-Wold Dairy

This tour experience was much more organized. The group was split into two right off the bat – my group followed Hennie upstairs for an introduction to Bles-Wold.

Hennie Bos described how the company began – after many years of experience running a dairy farm in Holland, he and Tinie moved to Alberta and started a dairy farm in 1994 with 60 Holsteins. In 1996, Tinie started making yogurt, and slowly, business grew – they now have 250 cows. Their products are currently stocked in 120 stores in Alberta, and most recently, two stores in Vancouver began carrying their wares.

Bles Wold

Hennie talks to the group

It was most interesting to hear Hennie explain that yogurt is quota-based system in Alberta, which only produces up to 0.5% of the demand (rights to produce more can be purchased from other farmers). The other part of their business is producing milk, which is sold to Saputo.

We then switched with the other group, and Tinie talked about the yogurt-making process on the lower level of the barn. She said she was first prompted to make yogurt for her daughter, who was diagnosed with diabetes as a teenager, and had to avoid commercially-produced yogurt that contained artificial sweeteners. Using her brother’s recipe, she eventually started making yogurt for family and friends as well, and they suggested that it might be a viable business.

Bles-Wold yogurt was first sold at farmers’ markets, where Tinie appreciated the feedback from customers. She found that Canadians preferred a much thicker yogurt than the Dutch, and liked being able to choose from a variety of flavours.

Bles Wold

Menu (plain is by far the most popular, followed by French vanilla, then blueberry)

She pointed to the machine behind her where the yogurt is made: it all starts with 3.5% butter fat milk. Skim milk powder is added for calcium and milk solids, then the mixture is transferred to the double-walled machine to be pasteurized, then separated.  Cultures (from Denmark) are added, then allowed to grow for fifteen hours. The last step is integrating fruit jelly mixes (containing no artificial sweeteners or stabilizers from a company in Vancouver) to produce flavoured yogurt. The amount of yogurt they produce every week varies somewhat (depending on market need), but that week, they would be making 3000L of yogurt.

Bles Wold

Where the yogurt is made

Tinie said she would be going to Europe in October to learn more about drinkable yogurt, which many of her customers have asked about. She said she had played around with various recipes, but hadn’t yet found one that worked.

Next, we moved on to the barns – one contained the calves (one just a day old!), and another, the 250 Holsteins (and one bull!). Everyone seemed to be just as delighted to see the young cows as we were, and even better, Hennie and Tinie had set out samples of their yogurt on the table for everyone.

Bles Wold

Pet me!

Bles Wold

Mack with a container of Bles Wold yogurt

The large barn that held the adult Holsteins was a sight to see (and smell, I suppose, but by that time, we had acclimatized somewhat). Though the cows typically have access to pasture, because they were expanding the barn this year, the cows had to remain indoors during this process – they will be back outside in the fenced pasture next year.

Bles Wold

I am such a tourist

The notable features of this barn were the mechanized helpers inside – one that swept the hay back towards the cows as they nosed through it – and another behind them that we joked was a Roomba for fecal matter – a motorized circular machine that pushed manure down into the slats below.

Bles Wold

Feed sweeper (we didn’t get a photo of the Roomba, unfortunately!)

Hennie was also very proud to show off the milking machine, where two cows could be automatically milked, a process that usually takes between 5-10 minutes. Here is a link to a video if you’re interested in seeing how it works – a cow steps in, a brush simultaneously cleans the teets and stimulates them, sensors pinpoint the udders, and the machine starts to collect the milk. It really was a sight to see.

Bles Wold

The magical milking machine

Valerie really had timed everything quite well – we never felt rushed at any part during the day. We all had our fill of the milking machine, Holsteins, and of course, yogurt – and got on the bus for the journey to our last destination that day, dinner at Eco Cafe.

Bles Wold

Leaving the barn

I had heard a lot about Eco Cafe, and their pride in sourcing local ingredients (including products from Greens, Eggs and Ham). Valerie had arranged a pre-fixe meal for the group, which was included in the price of the tour.

Located at Pigeon Lake in a small strip mall, Eco Cafe was much smaller than I had anticipated (our group took over the restaurant!). But what it lacked in size it made up for in charm, with lots of natural light, warm paint colours and friendly staff.


Eco Cafe

We started off with a plate of smoked prairie trout, served with cold pressed canola oil Mousseline in a corn and sweet pepper crepe, with greens and candied beets in a yogurt maple dressing. Though the dish was pleasant enough, it wasn’t memorable though I did like the dressing.


Smoked prairie trout with greens and beets

The entree was delicious, however – fall comfort on a plate. The bison short rib ragout was served over goat cheese mashed potatoes with oven roasted root vegetables. Everyone around the table – Valerie, Vanja and Mack – loved this dish. The meat was unbelievably tender, and thankfully for Vanja and I, the goat cheese was subtle.


Bison short rib ragout


Photo op

Valerie had told us that homemade cookies were waiting for us for the trip home, so we opted not to order dessert. Instead, we took the opportunity to stretch our legs before the trip home.


I always make a beeline for gazebos

The promised cookies were indeed worth the wait: the chocolate cherry hazelnut and breakfast cookies were a great way to end the day.


Breakfast cookies

More napping on the bus ride back, and before we knew it, we were in Edmonton again. Thanks again to Valerie (and Vanja) for all of your work in planning the trip!

Slow Food Edmonton’s 5th Annual Wild Boar & Beer BBQ

Last year, my involvement in planning Slow Food Edmonton’s 4th annual Wild Boar & Beer BBQ was nominal – I helped with some of the promotion, such as putting together their first ever Scavenger Hunt, but other than that, I was just happy to be able to attend one of my first events as an official Slow Food member. This year, Maria and I leapt with both feet and decided to plan the event ourselves.

We started back in February, if you can believe it, but were able to secure the date early on with Alley Kat Brewery. In the months that followed, we met with several Slow Food members who had planned past BBQs, and helped us work through other details (thanks again to Vince Roy, Colleen Ingoldsby, Jennifer Cockrall-King and Gail Hall!). We eventually got Leva Cafe and Cafe Haven on board to make the side salads, two restaurants who already source many of their ingredients from local producers, and booked Earl Hagman from Hog Wild Specialties, who would be the man behind the boar. As the event drew nearer, we secured Martin Kerr as the afternoon’s entertainment, applied for the necessary permits, purchased insurance, printed tickets, rounded up door prizes, arranged to borrow tents, organized another scavenger hunt and ordered everything from porta potties to non-alcoholic drinks to dessert to cutlery – it really was an education for me, as it was the first time I had a hand in putting together such a large-scale event where we would be feeding nearly 200 people. It really wouldn’t have come together without Maria though – with my day job, it would have been challenging to make connections during business hours, so Maria took on the brunt of the necessary calls.

We knew the date would be a problem for some – August 8, 2010 fell on this year’s Folk Fest weekend. Many people did express that the date did create a conflict, but in the end, it was as close to a sell out as we could have hoped for. All we had left to do was keep our fingers crossed for good weather.

On Sunday morning, the forecast was looking good. Maria and Jeff had generously taken the 4:30 a.m. shift, having met Earl at the Brewery at dawn to help move the barbeque. They were back at Alley Kat at 9 a.m. to meet up with Mack and I, alongside Neil and a few other brewery staff for set-up.

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

Checking on the boar (all 140lbs of it, and on the ‘cue since 4:45 that morning)

Many hands made light work, and we were finished in no-time. Of course, there were still plenty of things of things to do, and over the next few hours, we made our way through the task list.

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

All ready to go!

Yvan from Tree Stone Bakery had been kind enough to donate all of the bread for the barbeque, including a huge loaf that we nicknamed the “surfboard”, for how large it was.

Mack has fun slicing bread (we included Mighty Trio Organics canola oil for dipping)

Many started arriving even before 1 p.m., but the Alley Kat volunteers were ready to handle the thirsty crowd. Their beer is a fine choice on any day, but even more so on a hot summer afternoon.

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

There was also iced Toddy coffee from Transcend and lemonade from Homestyle Beverages for those not interested in beer

Martin Kerr was tasked with establishing the mood for the event, and I think he did a great job – there’s just something about an acoustic guitar that seemed to fit so well with the casual vibe that afternoon.

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

Martin entertains the crowd

Thea had brought Slow Food swag in case anyone was interested, and was also great in lending us a hand that day when we needed it.

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

The Slow Food table

We could sense the crowd was getting hungry, and planned to start serving food once it looked like most of the seats were filled.

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

The crowd

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

Jeff and Chad are ready to carve

Leva Cafe and Cafe Haven had delivered their salads earlier that afternoon, and they looked great!

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

Cafe Haven’s tri-colour carrot salad, featuring carrots from Riverbend Gardens and Greens, Eggs and Ham, and cilantro from their staff’s veggie patch (the sesame seeds were a nice touch)

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

Leva Cafe’s coleslaw featuring Caraflex cabbage from Riverbend Gardens (it was super-fragrant, from the sesame oil)

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

Leva Cafe’s mixed greens salad with Elderflower dressing featuring mixed heritage greens from Greens, Eggs and Ham, beets from Sundog Organics, and BC Blueberries from Steve and Dan’s (I really loved the blueberries)

Though we had originally planned for the food to be served buffet-style, we made a game-time decision to serve the food ourselves instead. It ended up being a great choice, if not only because it meant we were able to interact with every person who attended the event.

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

On the line

It was great to see some familiar faces – Liane from the Journal (who put together a very nice write-up of the event on her blog), fellow food bloggers Kevin and Lea, Jim and Elaine (who we met last year), and MP Linda Duncan.

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

Even my parents came out, and brought their friend Poh!

The line didn’t seem to diminish – every time we thought we were through, we looked up and saw that more people had joined the line. Really though, I probably just had no idea how many servings made up nearly 200.

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

The line

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

The carvers hard at work

After we were done serving (yes, there were seconds available for most who wanted them), Maria and I doled out the door prizes.

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

Maria announces the winner of a jar of Lola Canola honey

Finally, we were able to relax – for a while anyway. The four of us settled down in the shade with our plates of food.

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

Maria and I

Wild Boar & Beer BBQ 2010

Mack and Jeff

All that was left was takedown – though most of the crowd left just after 4, we had several tables linger until nearly 5. By 6 that night, we were finally done.

At the end of the day, Maria and I were really happy with the event – no one went hungry, and we avoided any major catastrophes! Of course, we both acknowledge that this event would not have happened without our volunteers, including Thea, Chad, Tara, Jeff, and the crew from Alley Kat. We also have to thank many local businesses who helped us out in other ways:

  • Mary Bailey of The Tomato for a full-page ad
  • Bob Robertson for designing the Beer & Boar ad
  • Yvan Chartrand of Tree Stone Bakery for donating bread
  • Riverbend Gardens for donating cabbage
  • Blue Plate Diner for donating potato-based plates
  • Credo Coffee for donating corn-based cups
  • Mary Ellen and Andreas Grueneberg and Patty Milligan for donating door prizes and lending us tents
  • Ed Fong of DeVine’s for donating door prizes
  • Julianna Mimande for donating a copy of We Eat Together
  • Kerstin’s Chocolates for donating a door prize
  • And last but not least – Neil and Lavonne of Alley Kat for hosting us and donating all of the beer.

Thanks to everyone who came out and helped to make the event a success!

You can check out Mack’s photo set here.

Announcing the 2nd Annual Wild Boar and Beer BBQ Scavenger Hunt Winner!

Congratulations to Nicole Nytchay, who earned 211 out of a possible 260 points in Slow Food Edmonton’s second annual Wild Boar and Beer BBQ Scavenger Hunt! Nicole and a guest will be treated to wild boar and a host of other local, seasonal dishes at the Wild Boar and Beer BBQ on August 8 at the Alley Kat Brewery (tickets for the BBQ are still available, and can be purchased at Alley Kat , or online here).

Nicole said she had a lot of fun completing the scavenger hunt, and it shows in her photos! I am amazed she was able to capture 24 out of the 25 items on the list – the only one she missed out on was the iced drinking chocolate at Kerstin’s Chocolates because the shop was closed last week! Here are some of her photos:

We Eat Together

In front of a community garden (Our Urban Eden, at 99 Avenue and Bellamy Road)

With Patty Milligan/aka Lola Canola

With Patty Milligan/aka Lola Canola wearing a beekeeper’s suit (thanks to Patty for bringing it along to the market!)

Community Garden

With a copy of We Eat Together and a dish of leek and potato soup (Nicole snagged the last copy at Earth’s General Store)

Alley Kat Beer

Enjoying Alley Kat’s Charlie Flint Lager at Blue Plate Diner

With Nate at Elm Cafe

With Nate Box at Elm Cafe

Duchess Bake Shop

Enjoying a strawberry macaron from Duchess Bake Shop

Hog Wild Specialties

With smokies from Hog Wild Specialties (available at Buffalo Valley Meats)

Lucky 97

Touching the ball in the lion’s mouth (for good luck) at Lucky 97

Juggling in front of Wild Tangerine

Juggling three tangerines in front of Wild Tangerine (probably my favourite photo!)

Congrats again, Nicole – see you at the BBQ!

Slow Food Edmonton’s 2nd Annual Wild Boar & Beer Scavenger Hunt!

Slow Food Edmonton’s 5th annual Wild Boar and Beer BBQ is a celebration of local food and drink! It is a chance to sample Mayerthorpe’s Hog Wild products, as well as several local and regional side dishes. In addition, there will be beer tastings and tours of Edmonton’s award-winning microbrewery, Alley Kat.

When: Sunday, August 8, 2010 at 1-4pm
Where: Alley Kat Brewery, 9929 60 Avenue
Cost: $40 for Slow Food Edmonton members, $50 for non-members

For your chance to win two tickets, on behalf of Slow Food Edmonton, I’ve put together our 2nd annual scavenger hunt of local producers, restaurants, and independent businesses. Your objective is to collect as many points as possible! From now until July 25, take photos of yourself posing with as many of the items below as you can. Some items on the list will earn you more points than others. Remember to ask permission before taking photos with individuals!

clip_image001Upload your photos to a photo sharing site such as Flickr or Picasa, and send the link to by 11pm on July 24, 2010. In the event of a tie, the name of a winner will be randomly selected. The winner will be announced on July 26, 2010.

Have fun with this – the scavenger hunt is meant to encourage exploration of some of the best Edmonton has to offer. Perhaps you will find a new favourite in the mix!

I would like to acknowledge the Amateur Gourmet, and their Great New York Foodie Scavenger Hunt as the inspiration for this challenge.

Good luck!

Take a picture of yourself…

  1. In the Indian-inspired room at Cafe Haven (5pts.)
  2. Eating gelato at Leva Cafe (5pts.)
  3. With a wild mushroom of your choice from Mo Na (5pts.)
  4. With a copy of We Eat Together (5pts.)
    and a prepared recipe from the book (an extra 15pts.)
  5. With a container of Pinocchio ice cream (5pts.)
  6. With latte art in Transcend (5pts.)
  7. Holding a bottle of Alley Kat beer (5pts.)
    in a restaurant that offers Alley Kat on tap (an extra 10pts.)
    dressed as a cat (an extra 20pts.)
  8. With Nate Box at Elm Cafe (10pts.)
  9. Holding as many different issues of The Tomato/(Edmonton) City Palate as you can (3pts. each, up to a maximum of 30)
    next to Mary Bailey (an extra 10pts.)
    and a copy of The Food Lover’s Trail Guide (either volume 1 or 2; an extra 15pts.)
  10. With Patty Milligan/aka Lola Canola (5pts.)
    wearing a beekeeper’s suit (an extra 20pts.)
  11. With a baguette at Tree Stone Bakery (5pts.)
  12. Enjoying an Eva Sweet waffle (5pts.)
  13. In the Secret Garden at The Dish (5pts.)
  14. Juggling three tangerines in front of Wild Tangerine (10pts.)
  15. Eating a macaron at Duchess Bake Shop (5pts.)
  16. Cooling off with an iced drinking chocolate at Kerstin’s Chocolates (5pts.)
  17. Holding a package of Hog Wild Specialties (15pts.)
  18. Holding a Slow Food membership card (10pts.)
  19. Donating a non-perishable item to the Edmonton Food Bank (5pts.)
  20. With a half-dozen duck eggs from Greens, Eggs and Ham (5pts.)
  21. Holding an Original Fare VIP membership card (10pts.)
  22. Touching the ball in the lion’s mouth (for good luck) at Lucky 97 (5pts.)
  23. Perusing the deli options at Careit (5pts.)
  24. In front of a community garden (5pts.)
  25. Checking out the dessert case at Vi’s for Pies (5pts.)

Slow Food Edmonton’s Wood Fired Solstice Supper

I first joined Slow Food Edmonton just over a year ago. In that time, I’ve attended Indulgence twice, participated in learning activities, watched a grilled cheese smackdown, put together a scavenger hunt, and am part of the team organizing the upcoming Beer & Boar BBQ. What I’ve found most engaging, however, have been the potluck suppers.

Mary’s annual wrap-up potlucks have been a running Slow Food tradition, and we were able to attend our first last November. I thought it was a great, informal way to get to meet others interested in local food. In January, Valerie kicked off the first in a series of solstice suppers, another excuse to get together and enjoy great eats with Slow Foodies. She generously hosted the party in her home, and at that dinner, it was announced that a second solstice supper would take place at Colleen and Vince’s residence, also home to Sophia, their wood burning oven.

Sophia, their “hot and tempestuous wood-fired oven”, heh

It was to be an intimate affair capped at thirty people, to ensure there would be enough food, as everything would be cooked inside the oven. So instead of a straight potluck with attendees bringing completed dishes, everyone was assigned an ingredient (locally sourced) to be cooked on site. Ingredients ranged from salad greens to potatoes to fowl. Mack and I were one of four groups chosen to bring enough ingredients for three pizzas.

Valerie prepping her pizza ingredients

With Colleen and Vince taking care of the pizza dough (they are exceptional bread makers – I had to restrain myself at the last solstice supper from consuming the crusty bread they had laid out), our job was easy. We picked up some crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spicy capicollo and prosciutto from the Italian Centre for starters, and planned to round out our toppings at the City Market the next day.

Perfectly formed pizza dough

We reached the market later than we had originally planned, however, and our selection was limited. We ended up substituting pea tendrils instead of arugula for fresh greens (from Sundog Organics), fresh oregano instead of basil (also from Sundog Organics), Portobello caps from Mo Na (Michael’s recommendation), tomatoes from Gull Valley, and a container of goat feta from Smoky Valley.

Getting the ingredients ready

Our pizzas were first up, to serve as appetizers for the hungry crowd. So just after our arrival, Mack and I joined Valerie, Wendy and Teresa in the kitchen. Vince showed us how to work the dough – stretching it and ensuring enough flour was between the pizza peel and the pizza to allow for easy transfer into the oven. He also advised us not to heap too many ingredients on top.

The pro at work

The first of our pizzas, with fresh mozzarella, Portobello and capicollo, ready for the oven

The dough was perfectly crispy and chewy, and tasted like no homemade pizza I’d ever had before. The oven, as Vince explained to us, reached temperatures of up to 900 degrees (he had a nifty electronic thermometer to measure its internal temperature).

 The first of our pizzas, out of the oven, topped with pea tendrils

Mack and I were clearly the most uncreative when it came to pizza toppings, which became evident when we saw what Valerie brought – pestos, roasted tomatoes and red peppers, duck confit, roasted chicken among them. They were delicious, and undoubtedly gourmet.

One of Valerie’s tasty creations, before baking (Mack’s favourite)

Valerie’s roasted tomato pizza with basil chiffonade

Once our last pizza was served, we were off kitchen duty for the rest of the night. That allowed us ample time to explore Colleen and Vince’s backyard oasis, built for entertaining. Between the large deck (featuring mounted external speakers), a small wooden house (for rainy days) and a lovely garden with lined paths, it was a pretty space to pass the time.

Enjoying the sun

View from the garden

The second half of the meal took several hours to prepare – Vince said it was difficult to control the temperature for such a lengthy period of time – but it allowed us plenty of time to catch up with familiar faces, and get to know some new Slow Food members.

Photo op

Though it was a shame that Mary Ellen and Andreas (of Greens, Eggs and Ham) weren’t able to make it, their products were well-represented at the dinner and included their salad greens and potatoes, and geese, guinea fowl and Cornish game hen (it turned out Mary Ellen helped coordinate the fowl somewhat, and prevented duplication).

Almost ready

When the fowl were crispy and cooked through, it was time to roast the asparagus and potatoes.

Seasoned and ready to go in the oven!

Crisp tender asparagus

The cold sides were prepped, and the eating began!

 Beautiful greens with lilacs sprinkled on top

Roasted vegetable salad (it tasted every bit as good as it looks)

Someone had made a delectable morel cream sauce to pair with the asparagus, but I have to say, the sauce paired well with everything. Mack loved the potatoes – tossed in a bit of duck fat, salt and pepper, the oven crisped them up like a dream. The fowl also did well in the oven, and as expected, the skin was the best part!

My plate

There was enough food left over for people to have seconds, but most were saving room for dessert. Roasted rhubarb was spooned over a ginger-spiced panna cotta (made with Bles Wold yogurt).  It was the perfect cap on a fantastic meal.

Panna cotta with roasted rhubarb

Thanks again to Colleen and Vince for being such amazing hosts. We were all well taken care of, and though I know dinner took longer to serve than Vince would have liked, we all had such a great time mingling that it didn’t matter. I’m looking forward to the next potluck already.

You can see our photoset here, and read Valerie’s post about the Solstice Supper here.

Indulgence 2010: Another Epic Evening

It’s hard to believe Indulgence: a Canadian epic of food and wine is celebrating its tenth year. Just thinking about how far the local food movement has come in the last ten years – Indulgence was at the forefront of it all, showcasing great products, local talent, and fabulous wines, with farmers, chefs and wineries all clamouring for one of the coveted spots on the docket.

Of course, besides the food and wine, attendees are supporting several Junior League of Edmonton projects, including programs to teach children healthy eating and lifestyle habits, and the start-up of a community garden. Indulgence, led by Mary Bailey of Slow Food Edmonton, is a great example of a partnership that truly benefits all parties involved.

Last year, my Mom and I arrived about fifteen minutes prior to doors opening, and were confronted with a massive line that snaked around the cramped lobby. So, in an effort to beat the crowd, Mack and I arrived forty-five minutes early, securing a place near the front of the line. My Mom and Dad joined us not long after.

The line grew, though (there was even crowd control!)

Promptly at 7pm, the doors opened. As we rushed into the hall, it felt a bit like Boxing Day – I was amazed as my feet hurriedly carried me to one of the stations near the rear of the room, as if food was going out of style. Mack and I had made it our goal to try every dish, strategically thinking that working our way backwards was the best approach.

Inside the hall

Perhaps it was our initial mindset that soured the beginning of the night. Amidst the upbeat jazz band, people were rushing around us, snapping up plates and draining glasses of wine – it was hard not to get caught up the frenzy. Mack commented that there was a nagging sense of wanting to make it worth our while, but with twenty-four stations to visit in a two hour window, it seemed like an impossible task.

Red Fife wheat display by the Italian Centre

I’m happy to say we eventually let our goal slide – the desire to socialize kicked in, and sampling the food and drink almost became secondary to catching up with familiar faces, and getting to know new ones. The food community may be small in Edmonton, but it can be pretty spread out at times, so I love that events like this bring everyone together under one roof.

We started with Manor Casual Bistro’s cranberry and honey mustard-rubbed braised Nature’s Green Acres nouveau beef brisket topped with Gouda, garnished with sauerkraut and caramelized onions on an organic spelt sourdough slider. It was unfortunately cold (probably having sat out waiting for the door to open), but the brisket was still moist and tender.

Manor’s brisket on a bun

After spotting Alan of Irvings Farm Fresh at the station over, we had to visit him next. We weren’t disappointed with the pulled Berkshire pork chili, served with a blueberry buttermilk cake, salt-roasted shallot and smoked cheddar cream from Tzin. The pork just melted in my mouth, with the blueberry cake acting as a sweet counterpoint to the savoury tomato and bean sauce. It was one of the highlights of the evening.

Tzin’s Berkshire pork chili

4th and Vine was offering three bites of O Sol’ Meatos air-dried charcuterie, topped with soft sheep’s cheese and cherry tomato and shallot confit. We were wondering about their lack of serving tongs though, as it was awkward trying to lift the delicate samples off of the tray. The charcuterie was quite nice actually, but for me, was overwhelmed by the tasty walnut pecorino crackers underneath – I’d be interested to try the charcuterie products on their own.

4th and Vine’s charcuterie bites

Next, we dove into our only dessert that night – a cranberry basil oatmeal cookie, made with Highwood Crossing organic oats, served with a lime tequila aioli. Count on the Blue Chair to come up with the most creative use of liquor that night – as an adult dipping sauce for a comforting cookie. The aioli was nicely balanced, not overwhelming as I expected it to be, and paired with a refreshing beer from Alley Kat, was probably a course we should have saved as a palette cleanser mid-evening.

Blue Chair’s cranberry basil oatmeal cookie with lime tequila aioli and Aprikat

The NAIT School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts featured a clever, upscale play on the southern chicken and waffle favourite. Instead of the typical fried version, a chicken roulade with wild mushrooms, pistachios and apricots was presented atop a corn waffle with cranberry and apple relish. The Sunworks Farm chicken was fork tender, and thankfully moist, but I still appreciated the sweet burst of the accompanying fruit.

NAIT’s chicken roulade atop a corn waffle

The Hog Wild wild boar tourtiere, served with confit rhubarb salad, asparagus, sauce Soubise and wild boar jus was a favourite of my Mom. It was also easily one of the most beautifully plated dishes of the night, with a sprig of fresh greens placed just so. The boar was so flavourful, encased in buttery pastry, the richness cut by the soft, tangy rhubarb. The Shaw Conference Centre dish was a winner in my books too.

Shaw Conference Centre’s wild boar tourtiere

Culina had friendly staff placed in front of the table to hand out dishes, which was amazingly efficient. Their bison brisket (from Full Course Strategies) had been slow-cooked in a balsamic barbecue sauce, served in a biscuit with horseradish-spiced marinated onions. The best thing about this dish? The onions – sublime. In place of the raw zing was a perfectly spicy marriage between the onions and the horseradish. Bravo.

Culina’s bison brisket on a biscuit

Belle Valley Alpaca once again made an appearance at Indulgence, this time showcased by Cafe de Ville crusted with spices and served in a Yorkshire pudding soufflé and Shiraz pan jus. Our samples were devoid of jus, which would have helped the Yorkshire pudding regain some of its deflated glory, but I have to say, I was again taken aback by alpaca, which was well-prepared and enjoyable.

Cafe de Ville’s spice-crusted alpaca with Yorkshire pudding soufflé

Neither Mack nor I were fans of Moriarty’s Greens, Eggs and Ham duck and chorizo flatbread. With the smoked gouda quiche on top, the dish seemed to have an identity crisis, and couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. The crispy sausage piece was lovely, but other than that, we thought it was a textural failure.

Moriarty’s duck and chorizo flatbread

The meat-heavy menu continued with L2 Grill’s hickory-smoked Carmen Creek bison strip loin with a chanterelle and beefsteak mushroom ragout served on top watercress and potato crème. While the watercress and potato combination was great (it’s the second time I’ve had this pleasing side), the bison itself wasn’t memorable. I don’t envy the chefs at Indulgence; needing to create a dish that stands out among two dozen cannot be easy.

L2 Grill’s bison strip loin with watercress and potato crème

Having been blown away by the cooking at Madison’s Grill, you can say we were probably predisposed to have a positive opinion about their Four Whistle Farms lamb meatballs and pulled lamb shank with a wild balsamic mint glaze, asparagus and sweet pea couscous, but objectively, it was a fantastic dish. The shank was lovingly tender, and the couscous made a great bed underneath, soaking up every last drop of jus.

Madison’s Grill’s lamb meatballs and pulled lamb shank

Mack reluctantly ate his first of two salads that night. Red Ox Inn had prepared a salad of arugula, roasted beets, shaved Sylvan Star Gouda, candied walnuts, tossed with a pear vinaigrette. I loved it. They were generous with the cheese, and the candied walnuts and sweet vinaigrette were genius – the sweet accents made eating the greens a joy.

Red Ox Inn’s arugula salad with beets, gouda and candied walnuts

Creations offered up Paddle River Elk tenderloin wrapped in boar bacon with chocolate jus and chokecherry glaze atop an Alberta wild rice crisp. It was quite the mouthful, but as May commented, we appreciated the subtlety of the chocolate jus.

Creations’ elk tenderloin wrapped in boar bacon

We were feeling the burn by this time. Had we been smart, we would have made a beeline for Leva’s lavender gelato (which we ended up missing out on entirely), but the broth of Mo Na mushrooms, made by Jack’s Grill, was not a bad substitute to calm our bursting bellies. Served in a tea cup, we originally thought they were serving coffee (hallelujah!), but the savoury broth was so much better. I could have done without the duxelles and garlic crostini though – I really thought the bread should have been toasted to avoid the awkward gnawing consequence of chewy dough.

Jack’s Grill’s broth of Mo Na mushrooms with duxelles and garlic crostini

While we finished up the broth, Chefs Tony Le and Jeff Cowan of Lux surprised us with tableside service, bringing us all a round of a dish we had been hearing about for weeks. Whenever we stopped by the Irvings booth at the City Market, Alan would tell us we were in for a treat – the dish was one of the best he’d ever had. The braised bacon, with a confit of apple, peach and sour cherry, was one of our favourites, and was my Dad’s pick of the night. Sure it was fatty, but luxuriously so, with the taro root frites providing a crunchy contrast to the velvety pork. Delish.

Lux’s braised bacon with confit of apple, peach and sour cherry

The second salad that evening was presented by Skinny Legs & Cowgirls, and featured one of our favourite producers – Lola Canola. Their greens, tossed in a honey poppy seed chili vinaigrette, were served with red onion and barley from the Yellowhead Brewery toasted with honey. May really liked this dish, and I loved the crunchy barley – I had never thought to prepare it in this way, and use it as a garnish.

Skinny Legs & Cowgirls’ greens with red onion and barley

At this point, many of the stations were either out of food, or nearly wrapping up for the night. We made one final round to see what we missed (and what was still available), and came across Lit Italian Wine Bar’s Mo Na wild mushroom-stuffed arancini with tomato cream sauce and white truffle oil. It was so salty it was inedible, and we left it uneaten. I hope their entire batch wasn’t ruined by over seasoning.

Lit’s wild mushroom-stuffed arancini

The final dish we tried was from d’lish – a barbecued Spring Creek Ranch brisket on corn bread. Eaten warm, it probably would have been very good, but cold, the meat was unpleasantly stiff and the cornbread hard.

d’lish’s barbecued brisket on corn bread

You may notice I glazed over the fact that a winery was prominently featured alongside every dish. Truth be told, I probably made it through about ten samples before I called it quits. The only wine that stood out for me as a particular favourite was a Joie – but then again, I have a soft spot for Rieslings. I really was all about the food at Indulgence.

Though the evening started off at a frantic speed, we eventually slowed ourselves down and were able to take it all in at a more relaxed pace. I do think Indulgence should be extended an hour – just to give those who would like to enjoy every station more time to do so, and also, to give everyone more space to socialize. Mack suggested that a larger venue be sourced as well, with more tables and chairs available.

With ten years under its belt, I’d guess that Indulgence has shifted and grown over time. I hope the next ten years sees further improvements, but experiences the same success. Thanks to everyone who had a hand in the event – it was epic indeed!

Read more about Indulgence at Eating is the Hard Part, A Canadian Foodie, Eat My Words and Foodie Pics.

Wild Fungi 101: Learning All About Edible Mushrooms with the Alberta Mycological Society

Three weeks ago, Slow Food Edmonton members and their guests packed Culina Highlands one evening, all eager to learn more about mushrooms.

No, not those kind of mushrooms – but the edible, wild varieties that are treasured by chefs and foodies alike. In fact, it is estimated that twelve to twenty-five thousand different fungi grow in Alberta, with new species found and recorded every year. That was only one of the many, many things we learned that night from Martin Osis, amateur mycologist and President of the Alberta Mycological Society (AMS). His passion for mushrooms was evident, and though we probably reached our personal mushroom knowledge threshold by the end of the two hour lecture, it was a pleasant ride because of his enthusiasm for fungi.

Prior to the session, my orientation to wild mushrooms was one of extreme caution – growing up, who didn’t have a parent who instilled an acute fear of deadly fairy rings? Unfortunately, after the session, I feel much the same. Though Martin showed us photos of a vast array of edible mushrooms – from the beautiful comb tooth to the western giant puffball (it apparently tastes like tofu) – fungi appear to be like the English language: ripe with exceptions to the rule! It seemed every generality Martin provided (such as, all Portobello mushrooms are edible…), he later countered with an exception (…except those with a yellow stalk and a bad smell).

Still, there is hope for fungi neophytes like myself! Martin recommends going with an experienced picker (the AMS organizes forays, for example) and enrolling in a mushroom course (offered locally by the Devonian Garden). Of course, joining the Mycological Society would be a great start as well, in order to connect with other interested individuals.

Martin and Thea pose with dried morels

What fascinated me the most was how a mushroom foray seemed comparable to a treasure hunt. Martin listed several visual markers that signal the beginning of morel season (which was right around the time of the lecture, actually) – blue violets start to bloom, dandelions appear, fiddleheads multiply – and I could see how exciting and caught up one could get looking for the clues. In June, oyster and red tops (soon to be Alberta’s provincial mushroom) can be found.

As Thea noted at the end of the evening, Slow Food and the Mycological Society share similar values and goals, and of course, a love of learning more about what we eat, which makes such partnered events such a natural fit. Thanks to Darren for putting the session together, and to Culina for hosting!