After the success of last year’s epicurean adventure (here), I knew that when Slow Food Edmonton’s Indulgence ’10 A Canadian Epic of Food and Wine came around, I’d be ordering my tickets as soon as possible; if for no other reason than this exciting event sells out every year. After all, I’m not going to say every dish was to die for last year, or that the at-times stuffy environment begged me to come back. No, it’s the chance to see what local suppliers and restaurants can do with some free time and an open mind. It is in fact my passion for food that gets me brimming with excitement and not all the stigma that can surround it. “So now America, with an open heart and an empty stomach, I say unto you in the words of my uncle: Allez cuisine!”
With the evening to begin at 7, my stomach was already starting to ache when Sarah and I lined up with the masses just after 6. And speaking of the masses, I couldn’t help over hear a few members of the staff discussing the logistics of this group, and wonder if they could fit everyone in. Seeing as the event is growing each year, I think it may be time to find a new venue if they go bigger again next year. Eventually the doors opened, and the masses descended into the room. With the tables spread throughout the room, and a rush of peckish people stopping at the first collection of tables, Sarah and I made our way to the back corner to start our eating. And eating we did! In order of our journey;
Culina & Full Course Strategies:
Bison brisket slow-cooked in a balsamic barbecue sauce served with biscuits and horseradish-spiced marinated onions.
4044 Restaturant & Waskwei Creek Farms:
Waskwei Creek White Tail Venison smoked with blueberry relish.
Moriarty’s Wine Bar & Greens Eggs and Ham:
Greens Eggs and Ham duck and chorizo flatbread truffle topped with heritage greens pesto, duck egg, chorizo, caramelized onion, smoked gouda quiche with paprika crème fraiche.
Madison’s Grill & Four Whistle Farm:
Four Whistle Farm lamb meatballs and pulled lamb shank with a white balsamic mint glaze, asparagus, and sweet pea couscous.
The Manor Casual Bistro & Natures Green Acres Nouveau Beef:
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.
Creations Dining Room and Lounge & Paddle River Elk:
Paddle River Elk tenderloin wrapped in boar bacon with chocolate jus, chokecherry glaze, and an Alberta rice crisp.
There is so much to say after an evening like this, but I suppose I’ll start by saying this event confirms a few things.
- Peoples taste preferences are all over the board. After discussing the food with close to a dozen attendees, it was clear that certain dishes were viewed quite differently when put side by side with my own thoughts. Basically, what some people thought was stellar, others thought was barely edible, and vice-versa.
- Small plates and the lack of a complete kitchen on site can definitely make each plate different. Which in turn, creates the possibility for two diners to have completely different experiences with the same dish. As an example, even with Sarah and I grabbing plates one after another, it was clear to see distinct differences in the ‘doneness’ of meat, and crispness of ingredients.
With that said, I’m sure you would like to know about the food, which was for the most part fantastic, so I’ll just touch on a few of the big ups and downs.
Hits -the wild board tourtiere from the Shaw Conference Center was warm, spiced just right and accompanied by a heavy, luxurious pastry. Not friendly for your thighs, this dish could have (or maybe should have) stood alone without the additional items. The braised bacon from Lux was rich, fatty and might just be found in a dictionary beside the word succulent. The mixed greens salad offered from Skinny Legs And Cowgirls, was one of the best I’ve had in the some time. The spicy dressing and crunch of hemp seeds was really addictive; although I noticed after wards some dishes were receiving edible flowers, ours did not. The potato crème from L2, was in a word, phenomenal. Finally, a big hit in my books, the braised brisket sandwich from The Manor which had an amazing whole grain mustard-cranberry spread. The spelt bun wasn’t so bad either!
Misses – the lime-tequila aoli that accompanied the oatmeal cookie from Blue Chair was horrendous. Tasting more like a pack of thrills gum than anything else, the half eaten dish was hidden below a napkin faster than brussel sprouts in the hand of child. The cornbread base from D’Lish was very dry, almost sandy, which is a shame because the meat was good. The mushroom ball from Lit, was an oily deep fried bomb; once again a shame because the accompanying tomato sauce was great. The duck quiche from Moriarty’s had a strange base (I wondered if it was plastic at first) and didn’t go over to well; something I heard from more than a few diners. Finally the rice crisp from Creations, which sounded great, but actually ended up being a gummy, chewy disaster. It was so sticky that I found myself trying to detach it from the roof of my mouth with my tongue; very much in the same way you attack a mouthful of peanut butter.
I’m not sure if this will put me in a boat by myself, but I have to say I left the night with mixed feelings. On the amazingly positive side; there was clearly no better place to be eating in Edmonton on Monday night. The creativity and freedom to explore helps to push, inspire, and design a tasty cornucopia of offerings. Something that we are all lucky to have indulged in. Yet, the flip side of this, or at least my food conscious side, tells me that the meals don’t always represent the restaurants. So instead of being able to tell you that each of these restaurants is offering nothing but fantastic meals and will be serving your favourite Indulgence item tomorrow, I’ll let the pictures do the talking and hope that you can put aside a day next June and experience the event for yourself. I know I’ll be back…stretchy pants and all.
* Besides the food, I need to say the night provided a fantastic opportunity to meet new and old time food loving locals. From chefs to bloggers, Indulgence newbies to Indulgence veterans. Memorable shout outs; Valarie, Maria, Bruce, Sarah, Sharon, Mack, May, Linda, Chef Tony Le, Chef Cowan, and Matt. If I’ve missed your name I’m sorry, but know that I was very happy to share a moment with you. Let’s do it again soon!