Indulgence ’10 – Edmonton, Alberta

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;

Shaw Conference Centre & Hog Wild Boar:
Hog Wild wild boar tourtiere, confit rhubarb salad, asparagus, sauce Soubise, and wild boar jus.

NAIT School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts & Sunworks Farm:
Sunworks chicken roulade with wild mushrooms, pistachios, and apricots on a fresh corn waffle with cranberry and apple relish.

Blue Chair & Highwood Crossing:
Cranberry basil Highwood Crossing organic oats oatmeal cookie with lime tequila aioli.

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.

Red Ox Inn & Sylvan Star Cheese:
Salad of arugula, roasted beets, shave Sylvan Star Gouda, candied walnuts with pear vinaigrette and Gouda-walnut biscotti.

LUX steakhouse+bar & Irving’s Farm Fresh:
Braised Irving’s Farm Fresh bacon with a confit of Granny Smith apple, peach, and sour cherry bacon jam garnished with taro root frites.

L2 Grill & Carmen Creek Gourmet Bison:
Hickory-smoked Carmen Creek bison strip loin with a chanterelle and beefsteak mushroom ragout, watercress, and potato crème.

Lit Italian Wine Bar & Mo-Na Food Distribution:
Mona Foods wild mushroom stuffed arancini with house-made rustic tomato cream sauce and white truffle oil.

d’Lish urban kitchen & Spring Creek Ranch:
Barbecued Spring Creek Ranch brisket on corn bread.

Leva Cappuccino Bar & Inspired Market Gardens:
Inspired Market Gardens Lavender Gelato.

Skinny Legs and Cowgirls & Lola Canola Honey:
Greens with strawberries, berries, red onion, pumpkin and hemp seeds tossed in Lola Canola honey poppy seed chili vinaigrette.

Cafe de Ville & Belle Valley Farm Alpaca:
Spiced-crust roasted Belle Valley Alpaca with Yorkshire pudding soufflé and Shiraz pan jus.

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.

Newget Kompany:
Assorted newget

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.

Jack’s Grill & Mo Na Food Distribution:
Broth of Mo Na mushrooms with duxelles garlic green crostini.

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.

Tzin Wine and Tapas Ltd. & Irvings Farm Fresh Pork:
Pulled Berkshire pork chili with a blueberry, buttermilk cake and a salt-roasted shallot and smoked cheddar cream.

4th and Vine Wine Bar and Bistro & O Sol’ Meatos:
O Sol’ Meatos air-dried charcuterie and soft sheep’s cheese with house-made walnut pecorino crackers served with cherry tomato/shallot confit.

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

16 thoughts on “Indulgence ’10 – Edmonton, Alberta

  1. First of all, Chris, absolutely GORGEOUS photos. I have to take photography classes – and it is #1 on my list for the fall – as I haven’t a clue how to work my new camera. It is hit and miss. If I am doing a still with my outdoor controlled lighting – I can do it – at a place like Indulgence: no. My photos are embarrassing – but I am still using them. Should be up by tonight.
    Secondly, I love how you lined up the food and then talked about it. An outstanding array of plates. There were 4 more than last year. And you did each incredible justice with your artful skills.
    Third – very interesting for me to hear your comments. Did you do any wine pairing? I did not. Sounds like maybe you didn’t, either, as you didn’t write about any. If I did wine with the food, I’d have never survived – there was so much.
    The mixed feelings you had at the end did surprise me… but, that is what I enjoy about your writing. I am often surprised. I wondered if some of the items I tasted later in the evening didn’t have the same wow factor because I was no longer hungry – I was actually past stuffed and could barely give each a taste. (I think the edible flowers later appeared on the salad by Skinny Legs because Inspired Market Gardens had run out of ice cream and closed their booth, so passed them over.)
    I don’t know some of the people you do – so didn’t know if I saw them… like Linda… would love to meet our local tweeter… and I missed Sarah and Bruce completely. It was wonderful to meet Sarah and hear about your fav’s. It was definitely a marathon… and to me, the best food and wine event in our city. I am glad to have YOUR Photos to refer to in the future.

    • Thanks Valerie. I appreciate the kind words.

      I have so many photo’s from the evening, which is why I wanted to include a slideshow to try and capture as much of the event as possible for those who were unable to make it.

      I did not sample any wine pairings. While I can appreciate a good glass of wine, I’m by no means a connoisseur, and I don’t think I would have survived if I tried to conquer the liquor and the food. I was stuffed to the brim on food alone! Sarah and I saw a few people who looked a little worse for wear 😉

      The mixed feelings stem from a few more things than I first mentioned. These events are great, and I agree that it’s the best food and wine event our wonderful city has to offer, but it makes me wonder how many of these restaurant/supplier partnerships are in place, and whether the meals are truly representative of the dining experience you would get on any given night – if you hang your name on a banner at an event like this, I expect something similar when I walk into your restaurant. I was also wondering, especially with so many cheeses around, why there wasn’t a larger focus on this (remember the goat cheese tart from last year). As well, and maybe it’s a seasonal thing, but what about dishes for the vegetarians – think ratatouille, eggplant parm, etc. Finally, the desserts; the gelato was great, but the cookie was really lacking and made me dream of all the chocolate possibilities. Do you know why Kerstin’s didn’t show up?

      I could have probably written about the event for days, especially as I continue to think of little tidbits that jog my memory, but I wanted to get something out for the masses. I look forward to your post, and will throw up a link when you are done.

  2. Bet those stretchy pants are pretty tight after all of the beautiful looking morsels you sampled. Even before reading the critique I could tell that the aioli was a bit of a fail just from the “breaking’ of the emulsion. That being said it must be tricky feeding so many people without the kitchen close by.

  3. I loved the slide show – forgot to mention that – and you are absolutely right. This is what Slow Food is about. Education. Educating our local chefs, students, and restaurants about the importance of buying local – and this enables many to meet their farmer and cook their food – which starts to open some doors.
    Still getting mine together – will be up tonight.

  4. I agree, love the slideshow! By the looks of it, you definitely got $50 and more worth of food and experience from this event. I’m sure people were totally busting at the seams with looks like a 20 course meal!

    • Thanks for stopping by, and yes I did stop by near the end and talked with you about pate’s, rilletes, and so on. I think your product fit quite nicely into the night!

  5. Hi Chris, great shots ! A word on your comments. Indulgence showcases local producers and local restaurants. Yes there is a lot of meat; what does Northern Alberta do best? Protein on the hoof. This event is local and seasonal or at least aspires to that —sometimes not all the participants read the whole memo. Seasonal means if we have a slow spring like this year, we’ll have fewer veg to choose from. Eggplant parm? No parm, no eggplant, doesn’t grow here but i’m sure someone could do something similar using a local cheese and something. We were thrilled to have two of the four Alberta artisan cheese producers. Fairwinds who was in for the past two years chose not to this year, and the new guys at the downtown market think they are too small Our raison d’etre is to introduce chefs to farmers. About half the restos are working with someone they buy from regularly and, for a lot of the new restos, this event and the chef they work with from the organizing committee is their intro to finding local suppliers. Is it perfect? No, we’re talking over 60 local businesses involved in one event –you will get variation. It’s a snapshot. Further to your comment as to do the dishes reflect the restos.In style yes with exactly the recipe maybe not. What you serve 400 people is not what you will plate for one. but over ten years we have seen many dishes end up on menus and more and more suppliers work with more and more local producers. I’d like to think we’ve had a small part in that. It’s a long process informing and educating both the culinary people and the public; what grows here and what will people pay for it; that we do have both a gastronomic heritage and future, and so on.

    thank you for your interest and comments.

    Mary Bailey Indulgence co/chair, Slow Food member.

    • To start I should say congratulations Mary, on what was a fantastic event again this year. Like I mentioned, it was clearly the best place in Edmonton to be eating, and probably the gold standard for a food and wine gala. It’s something I look forward to each year from the moment I finish my food eating tour, and Indulgence ’10 did nothing but strengthen my position. As well, thank you for taking the effort to help organize what must be a massive undertaking, and for stopping by the blog with your comments. It would be great to chat one day!

      With regards to the local producers and what’s available, I see and agree with your point. We do have, and showcase, some fantastic suppliers. My dream for other dishes, especially those that lean toward a more veggie centric base, stem from conversations I had through out the night with non-meat eaters. It was clear that bacon does in fact, not make everything better. I think you picked up what I was trying to say with the eggplant parm, as it was just a dish that popped in my head, and while I realize we don’t have eggplant or parm, I’m sure we could do something that was both veg & dairy based and offered some substantial presence (like the mushroom ball). If not, then it is what it is right. That’s the joy behind these events, because at the very least, you hear feedback! Heck, 2 out of 4 cheese producers is pretty darn good! Once again, it shows the determination and drive to make the event successful.

      It’s good to read the restaurant/supplier numbers, as it was something I’ve been wondering about for some time. It’s fantastic that the restaurants are paired with, and hopefully continue to develop a last relationship as it will benefit everyone, including potential diners.

      Once again. Thank you.

  6. oh one more thing!

    There were five or was it six non-meat offerings: two salads, one savoury oatmeal cookie, showcasing the marvelous Highwood Crossing grains, two wild mushroom dishes, the red fife wheat bread, and two desserts (some said not enough dessert) gelato and newget.
    Kirstin’s didn’t come in this year. We invited them as they made a choc with local flowers last year, but they chose not to. Then again cocoa beans unfortunately don’t grow here nor coffee.

  7. Great write-up, Chris. I agree with you on how people’s reactions to each dish could be so varied. but then again, that’s the beauty of food and choice!

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  9. Thank you so much for the great write up! I was so sad to have missed out this year but at least now I have a better idea of what I was missing! The items from Manor Bistro, Lux Steakhouse & the Shaw sound like they would have been at the top of my list!
    Next year I will be there!

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