A few months ago, I was asked to be a speaker at a retreat hosted by the Alberta Chapter of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC), an organization made up of tourism industry professionals and journalists. I had met Susan Mate, a member of TMAC who was also on the organizing committee, last year. I had provided some information to her for an article she had written about Alberta’s culinary scene, and because of the group’s interest in food blogging, she asked if I would share my experience at the retreat.
I have done conference presentations for my day job in the past, but never about blogging. Turns out, it’s not difficult to speak about something you’re passionate about!
Speaking at the TMAC retreat
Coincidentally, they also wanted a speaker to address the topic of social media. Someone else on the conference committee had contacted Mack separately, and it was only a few days before the conference that they realized we were partners in crime, heh.
We were fortunate to be invited to join the rest of the activities that evening, arranged by Bin and Amy of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. We started out the night with a light reception at the Hotel MacDonald.
I had no idea the gazebo behind the hotel even existed! Apparently, it is often used for small private parties. When I commented about the number of patrons in the Confederation Lounge, hotel staff made mention of the fact that the Harvest Room had been closed since January due to ice damage, and is not set to reopen until October.
Inside the gazebo
There was a lovely spread of nibbles, but nothing I tried that night was as tasty as the saskatoon berry cocktail. It went down like Kool-Aid, and though one should have been enough, I couldn’t help myself, and had seconds.
Salmon tartare and crab cakes
Next, we were split up into smaller parties for dinner at nearby restaurants, treated by EEDC. The plan was to regroup at the Winspear Centre for an Edmonton Symphony Orchestra concert. Mack and I had been assigned to Moriarty’s, one of EEDC’s partner restaurants.
The small table facilitated conversations nicely, and it was great getting to know the visitors from Calgary. Lucky for us, we even scored an introduction to Jelly Modern Doughnuts, the city’s hottest bakery, fortuitous especially because Mack would be heading down south the next week (hello, doughnuts!).
Everyone seemed to enjoy the selection of cocktails they had ordered, but I was a bit disappointed with the food. I have a soft spot for butternut squash ravioli, so was eager to try Moriarty’s version with maple cream sauce. Given it was a dish under “small plates”, I assumed that for $12 several small ravioli would be served, instead of a single large one. The filling was nice, creamy and light, but the pasta was a touch overcooked. The vanilla tulle was also an odd choice – its sweetness was off-putting.
Butternut squash ravioli
I also ordered a second small plate of meatballs ($8.50). Unlike its predecessor, this dish could easily be shared among diners. Although a puree of beets would have made more cohesive sense, the fried golden beet chips were a guilty, well-seasoned pleasure. The meatballs themselves were okay, but the sweet root beer glaze didn’t work for me, especially alongside the jarringly sour mushrooms.
Mack found similar inconsistencies with his chicken apple gnocchi ($19.50). He enjoyed the gnocchi, but found it much too greasy. He felt chicken breast would have worked better than chicken sausage. It also lacked an elegance expected in the restaurant’s surroundings – it could have been plated in a bowl, with some garnish, instead?
Chicken apple gnocchi
The table was saddened to find out that their premiere chocolate dessert, supplied by Duchess, was no longer available (they also weren’t able to provide us with a reason why). In its place, we ordered the French profiteroles ($10) and saskatoon and rhubarb tart ($11). The latter was the better of the two desserts, fresh and tart. The profiteroles suffered from age – a few commented that the pastry tasted dry and lacked the airiness of a good cream puff.
Saskatoon and rhubarb tart
The service was solid throughout our meal, but based on past experiences, I expected the food to be better. I’d just hope for some more consistency from the kitchen next time.
Thanks again to TMAC for the invitation (and for EEDC for hosting) – I had a great time!
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