Follow Me Foodie to Slow Food Calgary’s 12th Annual Feast of Fields!
Celebrating local food at The Rouge Restaurant Garden in Calgary, AB.
It was Follow Me Foodie to Calgary and I wasn’t expecting Feast of Fields Calgary to be part of the itinerary, but I’m glad it was. I have been attending Feast of Fields in Vancouver for the last couple years (see this year’s here), but I’ve never experienced one in another city. I don’t want to compare, but I do want to put it into context, and I must say Calgary really showed up at this event and delivered it justice. The food, chefs and ambiance exceeded expectations and they set a strong example and standard for other cities to follow.
The 12th Annual Feast of Fields was presented by Slow Food Calgary and it was hosted in the garden of one of Calgary’s most celebrated restaurants, Rouge Restaurant & Bistro. I am unfamiliar with the geographical characteristics of Calgary, but if Feast of Fields could not happen on a farm, then this was a great place to have it.
This heritage house was built in 1891 and it’s located in Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood, Inglewood. It is one of the two Canadian restaurants that have ever made San Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants list. In 2010 Rouge was ranked #60 and Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario #77.
If you have one day in Calgary, it is arguably the one fine dining experience to have. In terms of ambiance, it reminded me of the legendary La Belle Auberge in Ladner, BC (now closed). It was owned by one of Vancouver’s culinary godfathers, Chef Bruno Marti.
Speaking of culinary godfathers, here is one of the most well respected ones in Calgary. Chef Paul Rogalski is the culinary director and owner of Rouge Restaurant. His philosophy was always local and sustainable and he works closely with Calgary’s top farmers, suppliers and producers. He is one of the few restaurants to offer an on-site garden which covers 6 city lots. The Rouge menu is dependent but not limited to its harvest.
The classy, mid-afternoon, garden party event emphasizes restaurants and chefs who believe in the local, sustainable and slow food movement. Each restaurant is paired with an Alberta farmer, grower or producer, so their featured dish for the event may or may not be representable of what they do on a regular day.
I can’t form an opinion based on one bite, but that one bite still made an impact and first impressions count. I’m a believer of bringing your best to the table regardless of context and I was generally pleased with the quality offerings. The effort was commendable and restaurants were set up to impress.
Being in Calgary, sourcing “local” can be hard to achieve year round due to climate limitations and extremely cold winters, but most of the honest restaurants do what they can given the challenging circumstances. I wrote an article about the politics of eating local here.
Overall it was a gorgeous day and well organized event featuring food made with well sourced ingredients. Attendees of all ages wined and dined around the featured booths sampling hors d’oeuvres from some of the city’s top restaurants. It was a great opportunity to meet the chefs and socialize with like-minded food enthusiasts and as a tourist, it was a quick introduction to what Calgary had to offer; and with my limited time there it was an ideal situation.
Musical performance by: The Polyjestures
Follow Me Foodie to Feast of Fields 2013!
Muse Restaurant & Louge is one of Calgary’s older award winning fine dining restaurants. The new owners Stephen Deer and Heather Wighton (industry professionals) took over in 2012 and Chef HP Pedhirney executes their regional and seasonal menu. I mentioned Calgary not being enthusiastic on vegetarian, but Chef Pedhirney offers a 5 and 8 course vegetarian tasting menu alongside his regular land and sea tasting menu.
Buffalo Horn Ranch Bison Carpaccio – I didn’t catch the full description of this, but for a lean game meat it was melt in your mouth buttery. It looked like a mound of tartar instead of carpaccio, but I think it was pounded thin, stuffed and then rolled.
The Culinary Campus (Sait Culinary Program)
I visited their new downtown location which features professional and beginner cooking classes. “The Market” is their grab n’ go lunch operation run by their professional chef students and culinary instructors. It features a rotisserie, braise, saute, and boulangerie/patisserie hot stations from 11 am – 1 pm, or ready to go sandwiches and baked goods Monday – Friday from 8 am – 4pm. Breads, pastries and sandwiches are 50% off half an hour before closing since everything is baked fresh daily.
Boxwood is the casual sister restaurant to the upscale River Cafe, another local favourite for special occassions. They are known for their rotisserie meat sandwiches on house made ciabatta and other simple and rustic fare made with local ingredients.
I’ve never been to the store which opened in 1984, but it’s a culinary hub for specialty ingredients, kitchen wares, cookbooks, and gourmet gadgets. It offers hands-on, casual, cooking classes and catering services led be catering chef Mathew Altizer. It sounded similar to Dirty Apron Cooking School meets a bit of Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks in Vancouver, BC.
Lavender Honey Glazed Chicken Wings with Pistachios – I’ve never had chicken and lavender and it carried a sweeter profile. I couldn’t taste the pistachios, but it was something different and the idea has potential.
It is an award winning local favourite which opened in 1999. It has mixed reviews and I had the opportunity to try it on a dine around, but I only sampled their salad. It is a causal, yet nice restaurant featuring locally inspired Mediterranean cuisine.
Smoked Pembina Pork loin, Chinook Honey BBQ Sauce, and Sylvan Star Gouda on a Poplar Bluff Potato Biscuit. Served with Poplar Bluff & Local Crab, Apple Potato Salad with Wild Boar Bacon. It was almost a mini meal and they put effort into it.
Market was the first restaurant in Calgary to feature an in house home garden. They grow 16 different varieties of heriloom year roung bake their own breads, make their own cheese, cure their own meats and do their own butchering. It’s a seasonal menu created by chef Dave Bohati.
It was on my dining literary and I ran out of time, but I went inside and I loved the ambiance. It’s polished, clean, fresh and a bit feminine, and I’d definitely make an effort to visit next time.
It’s an interactive culinary centre which started in 2010. The business started off by offering all-inclusive luxury culinary tours to southwestern France, and a year later they expanded their services. They now offer group or private cooking classes for entertainment, catering services, and educational tastings and events.
The sweet execution for the Fairwinds Farm goat cheese was goat milk ricotta cheesecake with lemon and tarragon. Home run. Another excellent savoury cheesecake in Calgary (and Vancouver) is The Stilton Cheesecake at NOtaBLE.
It’s is a music studio with an intimate coffee house featuring baked goods, specialty drinks, and local and Indian inspired cuisine. They have many gluten-free options and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner with all items under $10.
Lentil Kabobs – Wilms Seeds lentils, curry spices, cilantro, Leffers chioggo beets, jalapenos, Sudo Farms white onion & Highwood Crossing gluten free flour. Garnished with Cital Greens plain yogurt and red peppers.
It is located in Smuggler’s Inn which originally started in 1967 and they celebrated 40 years this year. The Inn has four restaurants and Tango Bistro is their latest addition. They offer small plates or soups and sandwiches in a casual setting.
The Cheesiry Pecorino & Housemade Bacon Marmalade. I’ve tried a few “bacon jams” and this one was quite good and well balanced and dynamic. It was made from locally raised Spragg Farm pork, onion, sundried tomato, coffee, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, sambal, brown sugar, garlic, spices and a bit of pectin.
Noble Farms Duck, Pistachio & Cherry Terrine with Pickled Red Onion & Brassica Rocky Mustard on a Crostini. It was an excellent terrine and probably easily overlooked. Cheese and crackers and charcuterie tend to have a hard time standing out at events like these, but I enjoyed the terrine and they didn’t hold back on the pistachios.
It was once a pirate radio station run by musicians and it is now a local bistro serving lunches while streaming two online radio stations. “The Café is run by the Valleau family where Mom does the baking, Dad does deliveries, Sheldon creates the food, Karina handles the healthy, and Jason jests.” – Jason Valleau
They served a selection of pestos and sausages: chorizo, bratwurst, and Italian, made from Blue Mountain Farms organic meat. The baguettes are from Sidewalk Citizen Organic Baguettes which is a local favourite. Toppings included beets, dragon carrot and honey sauce.
It’s a neighnourhood pub, but that doesn’t do it justice. I haven’t been, but it’s a popular and current spot and they apprantly put effort into their food, beer and spirits. Craft beer is a big part of the business, and what they served seemed refined for the look of their menu, but it was a good beet soup and they emphasized the beer in it.
Chef and Owner Darrne MacLean created this fusion bistro based on seasonal ingredients and he’s truly passionate about sustainability. He started UrbanAgProject (horrible spelling for google search) which is Calgary’s fist rooftop ecosystem complete with beehives, 40 types of herbs, vegetables, fruits and solar powered drip irrigation location on the rooftop. This is another place I’d definitely chef out next time and he has impressive credentials.
It is attached to the Hyatt Hotel, but it is not the hotel restaurant. It was once an iconic kitchen in Calgary and a lot of great chefs started here. Chef Michael Noble of NOtaBLE, the other culinary godfather in Calgary, was the first Executive Chef at the restaurant. Originally from Vancouver he moved to Calgary to launch Catch and in 2003 it was named Best New Canadian Restaurant by EnRoute Magazine.
The chef is now Kyle Groves who earned the restaurant Best Overall Restaurant of the Year and Best Seafood Restaurant in March 2011 by Avenue Magazine. He is a genuine and humble chef, which can be a rare breed… kidding, sort of.
The restaurant is not the “hot spot” for young people, but it is where business accounts prefer to host. The upstairs is fine dining without the white tablecloths, and the downstairs is casual with an oyster bar featuring West and East coast oysters.