December 11th, 2017

Food Notes for December 11, 2017

El Fogon

Beef and gouda arepa from El Fogon

  • The weather has been amazing so far this month – who knew it’d be warm enough to still be considered food truck weather! Mack and I happily shared some empanadas from Casa 12 Doce at the Holiday Bazaar this weekend.

Casa 12 Doce

Pork and potato empanadas

  • We don’t make it out to RGE RD as often as we’d like, but every time we do, we have a great experience. This weekend was no different – the food and service was stellar. Of note was the questionable bits we enjoyed: beef tongue pastrami.

RGE RD

Beef tongue pastrami from RGE RD

December 4th, 2017

Food Notes for December 4, 2017

  • Crash Hotel is hosting Beats n Brunch, a hip hop-themed brunch on December 10, 2017. The $20 ticket includes one brunch item and a cocktail.
  • There are lots of festive meal choices available at this time of year, including the Dickens Brunch at the Royal Glenora Club on December 10 & 17, with holiday carolers to help set the mood. The events are open to the public; adult tickets are $39.95.
  • The newest donut-focused bakery Destination Doughnuts is now open at 10548 124 Street.
  • Brown Butter Cafe, located at 1528 91 Street SW, is in its soft opening phase.
  • New Asian Village has added a new restaurant to their roster – Hyderabad Kabab & Biryani House is now open at Mill Woods Town Centre.
  • Dogwood Cafe, Culina’s takeover of the restaurant at the Victoria Golf Course, has returned for the winter. They’re open for supper Wednesdays to Saturdays and for brunch on weekends.
  • Blakbar Tavern, billing itself as “Edmonton’s newest alternative rock resto/bar” is now open at 10762 82 Avenue.
  • I hadn’t heard of Mezos Roastery, a local business specializing in dry roasting nuts and seeds.
  • ‘Tis the season for giveaways, but Linda has some amazing gifts that will span 24 days – check them out!
  • Nook Cafe allows people to pay it forward by buying a button someone in need can cash in for a coffee and a day-old pastry.
  • Ms. Hangry Foodie and YEGCravings both tried the phorrito (a pho burrito) at new Vietnamese restaurant Miss Saigon. It sounds gimmicky to me but there’s something for everyone!
  • Graham enjoyed the breadth of offerings at Holy Roller.
  • Phil reviews a trio of quick-serve pizza joints.
  • Crystal enjoyed the happy hour specials offered at Bar 94.
  • Vue Weekly paid Cafe Linnea a visit.
  • Congratulations to Karen Anderson, one of the authors of the forthcoming book, Food Artisans of Alberta. It’s now available for pre-order, and will be released in May 2018.
  • Eat Alberta announced their conference date for next year – April 29, 2018. Tickets are now available for pre-sale.
  • Global featured Camola Bakery, which features sustainable cricket “flour” in their products
  • If you’re interested in gardening in a vacant city lot, you’re encouraged to attend a workshop on December 6, 2017 to learn more about a pilot next year that will involve 150 empty lots.
  • I really should have made it a point to get to Pho Tau Bay earlier in the cycle of my cold last week – there’s really something about their broth.

Pho Tau Bay

My usual

  • Mack and I made it to Salz on Friday for some comfort food. I really liked my brat in a bun, alongside some cheesy spätzle and caraway slaw.

Salz

Mack with his brat on a plate

  • A shopping excursion on 124 Street wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Zwick’s Pretzels, where we found ourselves on the weekend.

Zwick's Pretzels

A duo of pretzels from Zwick’s

November 27th, 2017

Food Notes for November 27, 2017

It’s less than a month away to Christmas! We’ve put up our external winter lights, but have yet to deck the halls indoors – I’m looking forward to doing so this weekend! On to this week’s food notes:

  • Effing Seafoods is hosting a Movember fundraiser at Northern Chicken on November 29, 2017 from 5-10pm (or until sold out). Menu items include crispy haddock sandwiches and mussels with Mill St. beer broth served alongside fresh baked bread.
  • Why Not Cafe & Bar (the new restaurant from Chef Levi Biddlecombe) will be hosting tasting menus on December 1 and 2, 2017. Tickets for the 6 course menu with custom cocktails are available for $95.
  • Northern Lands is organizing a Prairie Collective Gourmet Holiday Market in partnership with Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm on December 3, 2017. Expect holiday fare, whiskey tastings, and activities for the kids. Family admission is $10.
  • There are a lot of holiday markets to choose from at this time of year – including The Holiday Bazaar, which will be taking place on December 8 and 9, 2017 in the former ReUse Centre space. Organized by the folks behind the 124 Grand Market, expect a beverage garden, local food pop-ups, and vendors.
  • A dozen of Edmonton’s chefs are raising funds for the Bissell Centre on December 10, 2017 in a dinner titled Too Many Cooks. Tickets for the 12-course meal are $200.
  • Ragazzi Bistro in Bonnie Doon is back open today after being closed for renovations.
  • Mercato Foods, a grocery store/deli from the folks behind Edmonton’s popular Italian Bakery, is now open in St. Albert.
  • Calgary-based OEB will open in the Kelly Ramsey Building in Spring 2018 – check out a rendering of what to expect.
  • Mikado is celebrating 45 years of business, offering 20% off food items December 4-7 and 11-14.
  • Linda is the latest to review Avila Arepa in Old Strathcona.
  • Also from Linda, she shares her lunch and brunch experiences at Bundok.
  • Graham was very impressed with the food at The Butternut Tree.
  • Twyla reviewed the set-course meal at Alder Room.
  • Jonny was disappointed with the bistro fare at Juniper Cafe.
  • Lydia at YEGCravings offers a review of takeout from Tang Bistro.
  • Crystal checked out the Brewery District location of Nando’s.
  • I hope Calico Bakery bounces back soon after a fire over the weekend damaged their building.
  • Will Church Street be the home to more frequent farmers’ markets? A pharmacy owner in the area hopes that will be the case.
  • Just in time for the holiday season, the Kitchen Magpie is giving away a “foodie edition” of #YEGBox. Contest closes December 1, 2017.
  • How has the provincial government’s changes to Alberta’s beer laws impacted the local brew scene? Jason Foster shares his take.
  • Also from Jason – more suggested itineraries for brewery road trips, this time off-the-beaten QEII path.
  • A trademark dispute between Calgary food blogger Julie van Rosendaal and Ottawa-based Beaver Tails had a happy ending, resulting in a $3,000 donation to Calgary’s Food Bank.
  • I really should sample more of the menu, but I can’t ever pass up the New York Mama on visits to Battista’s Calzones.

Battista's Calzones

My usual at Battista’s Calzones

  • There’s just something about the poutine at Route 99 that makes it our go-to comfort food.

Route 99

Gluttony at its finest

November 20th, 2017

Food Notes for November 20, 2017

District Cafe & Bakery

Kale and apple salad from District

November 16th, 2017

Exploring our Backyard: Highway 2 Detours

Mack and I usually end up popping down to Calgary at least a few times a year for a mini-break. Back in August, we did so, but made sure to plan some more unique stops on the way down and back up to Edmonton.

Southbound, we visited Eagle Creek Farms in Bowden, which claims only one of two sunflower mazes in all of Canada.

Bowden Sun Maze

Sunflower Maze

Although the maze wasn’t quite at their full height, it was still a sight to see.

Eagle Creek Farms

Sunflower selfie

It resembled more of a sunflower patch with pathways not as defined as the corn mazes we are more used to, but it was definitely eye-catching and visually stunning, especially with the number of bees buzzing in and around the flowers.

Bowden Sun Maze

The field was abuzz with activity

Eagle Creek also boasts a few other maze options (including corn, hay bale, and tree mazes), in addition to a small u-pick vegetable and flower selection. We were disappointed the strawberry patch wasn’t quite ready yet, but we did take the opportunity to harvest some zucchini, peas, and chard to take home with us.

Bowden Sun Maze

Ready to harvest!

Afterwards we stopped for lunch nearby at the Starlite Diner Car, which we have blown by on Highway 2 countless times. We’re suckers for retro diners, so the classic interior, with bright red booths and a long counter, was right up our alley.

Starlite Diner Car

We love diners

We didn’t expect the alien-themed menu, but all of the classic dishes you’d expect to find were available to order (their milkshakes were on high demand that afternoon). While the food wasn’t exceptional, our monte cristo and hot turkey sandwiches hit the spot. Service was also better than we anticipated.

Starlite Diner Car

Hot turkey sandwich

What did come as a surprise was the fact that one of the fellow diners at the counter had paid our bill! We’ve never experienced a pay-it-forward situation before, but after this, will have to return the favour ourselves.

Onward to Calgary, we had booked an AirBnB in the East Village neighbourhood, an area that would definitely be on our shortlist if we ever moved south. Mack’s favourite amenity is the Phil & Sebastian’s in the Simmons Building (which we took advantage of the next morning), but being within walking distance of Village Ice Cream isn’t bad, either.

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We are all Villagers

The East Village Junction Pop-up was also taking place just across the street from the condo building. The vacant lot had been populated with a dozen shipping containers transformed into retail outlets (some local, some national chains), but also featured a food truck, seating areas, and a programmed stage.

containR EV Junction

East Village Junction Pop-up

It was a neat way to encourage more foot traffic, and an idea that we’ve heard may eventually make its way to some underserved areas in Edmonton.

East Village Junction Pop-up

Mack was right at home

We hadn’t yet been to Studio Bell, so took advantage of our proximity on this visit. The architecture of the building was a draw for us, and we learned that the landscape of the prairies (including the hoodoos), as well as the curvature of musical instruments, was his inspiration for the designs.

National Music Centre

Performance Hall

Like most modern museums, there were lots of open spaces, lookout points, and areas where natural light could filter in.

National Music Centre

Fun with instruments

The museum offered a good variety of interactive exhibits, and we could see how it would appeal to music explorers of all ages. My favourite exhibit was the theatre organ that was used to create a live soundtrack for silent films screened in the 20s and 30s.

National Music Centre

Kimball Theatre Organ

GlobalFest had been on our list for some time, but the timing had never before lined up. A fireworks competition combined with cultural showcases, aspects of GlobalFest reminded us of a scaled down version of Heritage Days.

Calgary GlobalFest

GlobalFest

Over two dozen countries were represented with food, clothing, or cultural artifacts. In addition, multiple stages dotted the grounds, hosting musical and dance performances throughout the evening. I liked the passport idea that the festival had developed as a means of encouraging attendees to visit as many pavilions as possible (in exchange for the chance to enter to win a prize).

Calgary GlobalFest

One of three stages

In every other festival year, the fireworks each night are themed around a country. This year, in honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial, a region of the country was celebrated instead. That evening, the Prairies were in the spotlight.

The theme wasn’t obvious from the fireworks display, as some of the musical choices were outside of artists born on the Prairies. That said, I could appreciate the selection of certain firework varieties and colours that were paired with particular musical interludes – the shimmering fireworks were a great choice to accompany a Chantal Kreviazuk’s ballad. Overall, GlobalFest was a lovely way to spend a summer evening outdoors.

Calgary GlobalFest

Fireworks display

We couldn’t leave Calgary without a visit to one of our favourite restaurants – Blue Star Diner in Bridgeland has become our go-to brunch favourite.

They’ve made some minor tweaks to my favourite stuffed French toast dish since our last visit, but I’m happy to report it’s still equally delicious, and the white cheese whiz (in place of hollandaise) was addictive.

Blue Star Diner

Mack’s Bridgeland breakfast bowl from Blue Star Diner

Our the way to Red Deer, we stopped at the infamous Torrington Gopher Museum. It’s been on our bucket list for some time, and we can safely say it’s well worth the half hour detour. Photos really can’t do this bizarre attraction justice.

Torrington Gopher Hole Museum

The hunted or the hunter?

For just $2, visitors can take in the various dioramas that have position stuffed gophers in scenes capturing town life. Most are based around local businesses, but there are a few more politically incorrect ones as well.

Torrington Gopher Hole Museum

Albert GoFur, who made a trip to the Vancouver Olympics

The staff on duty was so obviously proud of the museum, and though she’d likely run through the introduction countless times, was happy to do so with each group entering the facility.

My favourite diorama was Moonlight Romance, featuring a gopher dressed in an adorable poodle skirt (the top visitor’s choice in 2015), while Mack couldn’t resist the church scene with a suspended gopher angel (the top pick in 2014 and 2016).

Torrington Gopher Hole Museum

Gopher wedding

We needed to stretch our legs before dinner, so stopped in Red Deer’s Gaetz Lake Sanctuary first. The 4km trail can be leisurely completed in an hour, even with multiple stops to admire birds on this federally-sanctioned migration route.

Kerry Wood Nature Centre

Gaetz Lake Sanctuary

We were, however, unprepared to witness the tree damage caused by 140km an hour winds earlier in the year. Because of the park’s status as a migration route, staff could only ensure the fallen logs were cleared from the path, but not removed.

Kerry Wood Nature Centre

Tree damage

I can safely say the more time we spend in Red Deer, the more aspects I find to appreciate – it definitely has more to offer than Gasoline Alley would suggest!

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Lookout point

I had my eye on Red Boar Smokery for a while, among a cluster of interesting restaurants and shops in downtown Red Deer. It’s also a good sign when their frequent updates on social media relate to selling out of product!

The interior is casual, with communal picnic table seating, and instead of actual plates, they offer strips of butcher paper. We chose the “barnyard special”, which was an ideal way to sample a variety of their meats and sides.

The pulled pork was the standout, with a great smoky flavour, while the pork belly was also notable, as the fat just melted away in our mouths. The accompanying sauces were fun to sample, with the honey mustard in particular winning our vote.

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Barnyard Special from Red Boar Smokery

Mack was happy we snagged the last bit of mac and cheese, but the apple slaw was actually the better of the sides; the tartness was needed to cut through the richness of the meat.

All told, we had a great time further exploring some attractions in our own backyard – we’re looking forward to what we will discover next!

November 13th, 2017

Food Notes for November 13, 2017

  • Jacek Chocolate is celebrating the grand re-opening of their Sherwood Park location on November 18, 2017 from 10am-6pm. The renovated space is equipped with a tasting room and a cacao sorting/roasting room.
  • Prairie Noodle Shop is hosting a fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank on November 26, 2017. Tickets for the two-course meal are $20.
  • Lure cookbook author Chef Ned Bell will be preparing a four-course, wine-paired dinner at NAIT on November 18, 2017. Tickets are $120.
  • Meat Street Pies want to help you get into the Christmas spirit with gingerbread house workshops at the City Market! Kits are $25 and are still available for December 2 and 9, 2017.
  • Salz, the latest restaurant from the folks behind Elm Cafe, District Cafe, and Little Brick, is now open at 10556 115 Street.
  • Greek restaurant Cosmos is back on 124 Street, open in the former Smokehouse BBQ space at 10812 124 Street. Cosmos is joined next door by Passport Resto Bar, who will be hosting their grand opening on November 18, 2017.
  • Strathcona Spirits will finally be able to open their doors to the public for tours and sales on November 16, 2017.
  • Whisk Dessert Co. will be opening a location in Kingsway Mall.
  • American vegan cinnamon bun chain Cinnaholic is expanding to Canada, including Edmonton in Spring 2018.
  • Twyla was impressed with the savoury and sweet offerings at Devon’s Frickin’ Delights Donuts.
  • Graham sampled ramen from several restaurants in the city, including Tokiwa, Prairie Noodle, and Nudoru.
  • Just in time for your holiday planning – High Level Diner is again offering frozen tourtiere.
  • Vue Weekly puts together a beer-focused road trip for your consideration – a two and a half hour drive can bring you to eight breweries outside of Edmonton and Calgary, including Alberta’s youngest brewery, Fitzsimmons Brewing in Airdrie.
  • Congratulations to Alan and Nicola Irving of Irvings Farm Fresh on the grand opening of their farm store, taking place November 18, 2017 from 10am-4pm.
  • Our Servings is an app that hopes to crowdfund $10,000 to connect grocery stores and restaurants with excess food to agencies who could use it to feed the hungry.
  • It’s been some time since I’ve had my go-to dish at Blue Plate Diner – the lamb shepherd’s pie with a side of sweet potato fries. Nothing like comfort food to warm up on a cold day!

Blue Plate Diner

Lamb shepherd’s pie at Blue Plate Diner

  • I tried the instant noodles with minced pork at Gui Lin Noodle House for the first time over the weekend and really enjoyed it! I usually defer to noodle soups, so this was a delicious change of pace.

Gui Lin Noodle House

Fried instant noodles with minced pork at Gui Lin

  • Mack and I stopped by London Local for their weekly Sunday roast menu. It’s a great deal – 3 courses for just $30. The desserts really stood out for us: a delectable Eton mess, with warm custard and meringue, and a rich sticky toffee pudding that wasn’t too sweet. We’ll be back on a different day to sample their regular menu!

London Local

Eton mess at London Local

London Local

Sticky toffee pudding at London Local

November 6th, 2017

Food Notes for November 6, 2017

Winter’s really digging in it’s heels, isn’t it? I hope you’re staying warm through this first real blast of cold. On to this week’s food notes:

  • Want to learn more about permaculture and perennial growing systems? Join Permies at the Pub on November 16, 2017 at Yellowhead Brewery. Early bird tickets are $10 for non-members.
  • Save the date for Jacek Chocolate Couture’s grand reopening of their Sherwood Park boutique on November 18, 2017.
  • It’ll be interesting to see what other restaurant goes into the Kelly Ramsey building to join Credo and OEB opens.
  • Old Town Pub took over the former Elephant & Castle space (10314 82 Avenue) in Old Strathcona earlier this fall.
  • Graham was optimistic after his first few visits to Revel.
  • The Journal was impressed with the tasting menu offered at the Alder Room.
  • Jonny enjoyed his experience at Bottega 104.
  • Vue Weekly spends more time musing about the art than the food in a review for Pasta Brioni.
  • The Tomato now has a podcast! The latest episode features Doris and Patrick Saurette from The Marc.
  • It’s great to see a local home baker, Terri Thompson, featured on The Great Canadian Baking Show – I hope she gets far!
  • Just in time for your holiday shopping, Knifewear is holding a fall garage sale in-store and online from November 6-12, 2017.
  • There are also two local chocolate advent calendars to choose from this season – pre-orders are now being accepted for calendars from Jacek Chocolate Couture and Violet Chocolate Company.
  • Alberta Flavour spotlights Honest Dumplings as a case study in scaling up a small local food business.
  • Mack and I combined business with pleasure last week, and snuck in a few good meals while in Calgary. The best meal was at Calcutta Cricket Club, a hip spot from the folks behind Native Tongues Taqueria. We sampled a few dishes, the most unique being their kati rolls (paratha wraps).

Calcutta Cricket Club

Paneer and tandoori spiced chicken kati rolls

  • We also enjoyed our visit to Banana Leaf Tropical Cuisine, though to be honest, the laksa was a few notches spicier than I could comfortably handle. The kitchen was extremely generous with the meat portions, too.

Banana Leaf Tropical Cuisine

Curry beef brisket laksa and roti

  • Back home, we hit up Farrow’s second location in Ritchie after running errands nearby. It’s been too long, grick middle.

Farrow

The grick middle from Farrow

October 30th, 2017

Food Notes for October 30, 2017

In spite of the rain on Vancouver Island, it was nice to be in an area where fall is still very much in full swing. There is a lot to catch up on though – here is a super-sized version of food notes:

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Pesto alfredo from Cafe Amore

  • It was also necessary for a trip to Pho Tau Bay – no other pho hits the spot for me.

Pho Tau Bay

Our usuals at Tau Bay

    October 16th, 2017

    Food Notes for October 16, 2017

    Just a heads up that there won’t be a Food Notes post next week; Mack and I are heading to Vancouver Island for a short break! On to this week’s notes:

    • The Edmonton Fall Home Show runs at the Edmonton Expo Centre October 20-22, 2017. Among the attractions is their Cooking Stage, with a number of local chefs who will be presenting, including Bundok’s Ryan Hotchkiss, Mini Kitchen’s Damini Mohen, and Ikki Izakaya’s Ayumi Yuda.
    • Baijiu’s Chef Alexei Boldireff will be collaborating with two visiting chefs, Vancouver’s Chef Dilan Draper (Cafe Ca Va) and Yellowknife’s Chef Robin Wasicuna (Twin Pine Diner), on October 25, 2017 on a 5-course dinner. Tickets are $75.
    • During Farmfair International, which runs November 8-12, 2017, Northlands will be hosting a number of hands-on Food Lab sessions, including how to make fresh mozzarella, and steak cooking tips. Workshops are free with paid admission.
    • Hardware Grill will be hosting a Farm & Guest Dinner in support of the High School Culinary Challenge on November 14, 2017. Tickets are $100.
    • The Holy Roller, sister restaurant to El Cortez and Have Mercy, opens on October 20, 2017. Expect an eclectic menu, “from Detroit-style pizza to pintxos (shareable Basque-inspired snacks) to poke salad bowls to chocolate truffles made from Mexican-sourced cacao.”
    • Calgary’s popular OEB Breakfast is coming to #yeg – in the Kelly-Ramsay block (10040 101A Avenue).
    • If you need your Drift fix in the food truck off-season, you’re in luck – they’ve set up shop in the Shamrock Curling Club!
    • Chili’s announced that 9 restaurants in Alberta (excluding the airport locations) will be closing October 31, 2017.
    • Megan shared an early review of An Chay, a Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant that replaced the short-lived Pitaghetti at 11203 Jasper Avenue.
    • Both Twyla and Vue Weekly had good things to say about vegan pizzeria Die Pie.
    • Graham wrote a rave review about Avila Arepa.
    • Vue Weekly is the latest to review Tang Bistro.
    • Liane tackles the question of what it takes to turn seemingly “cursed” restaurant spaces around.
    • Congratulations to the 2017 Gold Medal Plates winners – Chef Shane Chartrand of Sage took home the gold, while Royal Glenora’s Chef Steve Buzak won silver and Chef Ryan Hotchkiss of Bundok was awarded the bronze.
    • The AgFood Council’s signature event, Foodovation, will take place at NAIT from November 9-10, 2017. They will be highlighting three areas this year: food safety, innovation and production, and scale-up and international markets.
    • The inaugural Festival of Witchcraft and Wizardry was a smashing success this past Friday, even with the chilly temperatures! Mack and I made it down to William McIntyre Park to see some great costumes and lots of enthusiasm for all things Harry Potter. We also tried some delicious butter beer and pumpkin juice crafted by the folks behind Meat Street Pies.

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    Pumpkin juice and butterbeer!

    • Afterwards, we headed to Have Mercy to warm up with some Southern comfort food. Great hospitality, fun atmosphere, and a solid menu!

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    Mack’s Texas grilled cheese with andouille sausage

    • Over the weekend, we took Grandma Male for her first experience of Thai food at Sawaddee in Sherwood Park. I’d definitely go back for the pad thai!

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    Pad thai from Sawaddee

    October 12th, 2017

    Recap: 2017 Grand Taste Tour with Rock Ridge Dairy, Blindman Brewing, Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery, and Doef’s Greenhouses

    Back in August, Mack and I had the privilege of co-hosting another Grand Taste Tour with Linda. Organized by Wild Heart Collective and Taste Alberta, the Grand Taste Tour was in its forth year, again showcasing some of the great local producers we are so fortunate to have in our province (you can read about past tours in 2016 and 2015).

    This year, we would be visiting farms and businesses in and around the Lacombe area. Our first stop was Rock Ridge Dairy, where we were met by second generation farmer Patrick Bos and his wife Cherylynn.

    Rock Ridge Dairy

    Goats at Rock Ridge Dairy

    Patrick’s father started Rock Ridge back in 1998, converting an ostrich farm to house the goats they would go on to raise for milk. The farm now spans 640 acres total.

    Rock Ridge Dairy

    We had fun with the goats

    The goats mostly consume alfalfa and barley grown right on the farm, and, during the milking process, are provided with additional nutrients at the milking station based on its RFID tag. The machines are very efficient, and can milk their herd of 650 goats in about an hour.

    Rock Ridge Dairy

    Patrick shows us the milking machines

    Rock Ridge processes about 45,000L of goat milk per week and is a primary supplier in Western Canada from Vancouver to Winnipeg. When they began, they originally shipped the milk off-site to process, but in the years since, they have acquired and created the equipment needed to not only process milk, but to also make cheese (find it under the Happy Days label). Patrick even had to repurpose a sausage stuffer in order to fill bags of chevre.

    Rock Ridge Dairy

    Cherylynn explains the packaging process

    In 2012, Rock Ridge expanded their farm to be able to process organic cow’s milk as well. They work with local producers and process about 20-25,000L of cow’s milk a week. One of the unique types of milk they offer is from Jersey cows (labelled separately, as only one farm supplies it). The protein in Jersey milk is the same protein found in human milk, and may be easier to digest than milk from Holsteins.

    Rock Ridge Dairy

    Linda loved the goats, too

    Rock Ridge products an be found at Blush Lane and through SPUD and the Organic Box.

    Our second stop was at the Lacombe Crop Development Centre, which breeds different types of barley and wheat.

    Alberta Open Farm Days

    At the Lacombe Crop Development Centre

    Different stations about honey, pulses, and farming equipment were set up and the group was encouraged to explore and ask questions of the knowledgeable representatives present. Mack and I learned about “winter wheat”, a variety that is planted in the fall. Although it has a lower yield, it is used to help with field rotation.

    Alberta Open Farm Days

    Andrea among the wheat

    Next, we headed to the happy hour stop on the tour. Back in the spring, Mack and I planned a weekend trip out to Lacombe, and checked out Blindman Brewing and Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery then, but were happy for the opportunity to revisit these two vendors.

    At Blindman, we were led on a tour by one of the brewery’s founders, Hans Doef. If his name sounds familiar, that’s because his father owns and operates Doef’s Greenhouses, where he worked for many years (we immediately recognized him from our weekly visits to the Doef’s tent at the City Market).

    Blindman Brewing

    Hans Doef of Blindman Brewing

    Blindman has been on a meteoric rise since it opened in 2015. They had to relocate to their current facility to accommodate more tanks and increase their bottling capacity, as their product is now available in up to 400 locations. Their Blindman River Session Ale and Longshadows India Pale Ale are their most popular brews.

    Blindman Brewing

    Production tanks

    Hans estimated that their beer takes two weeks from grain to glass – Blindman leaves their beer in tanks longer than other breweries because they don’t filter their beer.

    In late 2016, Blindman undertook a crowdfunding campaign to help them purchase two 3,000L foeders from France that once held cognac. Their first brew, a Brett Saison that has aged in the barrels for the last four months, will be released later this year.

    Blindman Brewing

    Foeders

    Next door at Old Prairie Sentinel, we were amazed at the transformation of the space since our last visit. In May, we learned from co-owner Rob Gugin that they had plans to build a tasting room that would allow them to serve samples of their product. The end result is stunning, incorporating wood accents into the high ceiling and a long bar.

    Prairie Sentinel Distillery

    Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery

    In addition to high balls and cocktails made with their vodkas and gins, Old Prairie Sentinel also offers warm spent-grain pretzels to accompany those drinks.

    We picked up a bottle of their Prairie Berry Dry Gin (made with 100% malted barley, as are the rest of their products) to take home.

    Our final stop on the tour was the one I was most looking forward to. We’ve been regular customers of Doef’s Greenhouses for years, but there’s something special about seeing where and how the products we buy every week are grown.

    Eric Doef, a second generation farmer, provided us with an overview of their year-round operations. The greenhouse spans 11 acres where they grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and lettuce hydroponically. They plant one tomato and pepper crop annually, and harvest the products throughout the year, while cucumbers require three crops a year.

    Doef's Greenhouses

    Eric Doef

    Water is the foundation of their crops, which they draw entirely from surface ponds and collected from snow melt and rain water. When their dugouts on their property are full, they have enough water for two years. It’s mind boggling how much water they go through, however – Eric shared that on a hot day, they might use up to 400 million litres of water.

    Doef's Greenhouses

    Peppers as far as the eye can see

    Fertilizer is added directly into the water, while carbon dioxide is brought in through tubes. Computers monitor exactly what nutrients each crop needs, and they can adjust the levels accordingly. Regarding pests, they prefer to be as preventive as possible by ordering the appropriate “beneficials” every week (e.g., wasps to eat white flies). We also saw bees which are used to pollinate the flowers.

    Doef's Greenhouses

    Tomatoes

    The overhead lights are typically turned on in September, and though they employ LED lights for their lettuce crops, most of their other crops need the heat given off by the HPS lights. Their lamps run for up to 15,000 hours before needing to be replaced.

    Doef's Greenhouses

    Lettuce crops

    It was a fascinating tour that preceded a long table dinner set in one of the greenhouses, one of the most distinctive settings for a meal I’ve experienced.

    Grand Taste Tour 2017

    Greenhouse dinner

    The 7-course family style meal was prepared by Chef Liana Robberecht of WinSport Canada. She prepared a beautiful array of dishes, including a smoked Alberta lentil hummus with fennel crackers that I couldn’t stop eating, and a maple bourbon potato salad that nearly outshone its accompanying proteins.

    Grand Taste Tour 2017

    Roasted Chinook honey carrot tacos with yogurt, bee pollen, and cilantro

    Given the surroundings, a salad comprised of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers sourced from Doef’s, dressed in a sea buckthorn vinaigrette was entirely appropriate, and delicious.

    Grand Taste Tour 2017

    Salad

    Alberta pulled lamb shank, served in a Sylvan Star gouda parkhouse roll was another favourite around the table.

    Grand Taste Tour 2017

    Pulled lamb shank in Sylvan Star gouda parkhouse rolls

    Chef Robberecht ended the meal as brightly as it began, with her twist on spiced dark chocolate mousse, combined with a roasted sweet pepper curd, and a fabulous carrot cake with whipped Chinook Honey cream cheese.

    Grand Taste Tour 2017

    Dessert

    As I mentioned, it was particularly meaningful for Mack and I to tour the greenhouse because of our weekly purchases at the market. It was also great to see that the family farm will continue with Eric – and perhaps even with a third generation in the years to come!

    Thanks again to Wild Heart Collective for organizing another wonderful Grand Taste Tour!