The Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival is an interesting beast. First and foremost, the event is all about the wide world of adult beverages. From award-winning wines to the infamous Crystal Head vodka, this is the right place to come if you are looking for the perfect post work relaxation/special occasion/celebratory drink. With stops in Banff and Calgary, this past weekend saw the RMWFF make its final stop of the year in Edmonton for a two-day wobbly pop extravaganza. Needless to say, I stopped by to check things out.
The Shaw Conference Centre is a great location for this kind of event and while I thought the size might dwarf the quantity of goods, my first look into the hall corrected my misgiving. Wine, spirits and beer were stacked, boxed and displayed in every nook and cranny. This room was like Christmas morning for Eddie Van Halen and David Hasselhoff. Knowing that considerably more qualified people would be sampling their way through the vintage scotch, aged wines, and craft beers, I stuck to the food. After all, if you are going to be standing around for a few hours knocking back stiff ones, a full tummy may just be a requirement.
The number, and quality, of participating restaurants is on the increase every year and this year seemed to be one of the best. From my favourite local pizza joint, Famoso, to the quaint and cozy, Moriarty’s, I had plenty to tempt myself with. Starting in the far corner, I picked up Beef Tenderloin Steak Bites from On The Rocks. The meat itself was rather bland, but thankfully it was cooked perfectly and accompanied by a secret sauce that helped elevate the dish.
Up next was Lobster Bisque from Billingsgate Fish Market. I was hesitant after my recent sample at Zinc, but was almost speechless with this version. Aromatic and chalk full of lobster meat, this dish reconfirmed what I love so much about a good bisque. Sticking with seafood, I stopped by Moriarty’s Bisto & Wine Bar for Hazelnut Crusted Mahi Mahi. The chunk of fish was cooked perfectly, with a center that hinted at the raw natural hue. The chai cream sauce wasn’t exactly light, so I’m glad the fish received just a light coating.
Wandering through the aisles, and looking for something heavier, I stopped by The Copper Pot and noticed a Braised Bison Short Rib. As they poured a bit of jus across the dish, they finished the huge portion of meat with a side of Duck Sausage. Meat on meat. That my friends, is a crime I’m willing to meet head-on any day. The short rib didn’t disappoint as I tackled the soft meat, leaving with me a clean bone. The sausage was moist and flavourful, playing a solid counterpart to its big brother.
As I started to consume more protein than originally planned, I noticed that Sunterra Market was slicing up brisket! The open-faced Brisket Sandwich, included a delicious chili spiced rub that kicked the fatty, luxurious brisket into overdrive. Topped with a jalapeno & mango salsa, the heat built quickly and was only slightly quelled by the fresh slice of French bread.
Thinking it would be a good time for a coffee, I rolled myself over to Café Haven’s booth for a shot of espresso. I’m not sure if the crowd appreciated the quality of black gold that Michael and Julie brought; this is no average festival java. The team had spent more than a day setting up and calibrating machines so that everyone would have a fantastic coffee. I wonder if anyone snagged a few liqueur samples to spike their latte’s. Just saying…
Tracking down Famoso became my next quest, and I handed over two tickets for a Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella Ball. Sitting in a warm tomato base (San Marzano’s anyone?) The gooey cheese and meat was evil. Wait, was that two more tickets I just gave to you. Oh yes. Thank you. Looking down to see my selection of tickets dwindling, I was seduced by the offerings at the Marriott. With most booths offering two or three options, the Edmonton Marriott at River Cree Resort was the only one I saw that structured their food like a three course meal. Grabbing an appetizer and main course, I handed over my tickets and felt awe-struck by the shear weight of my dish. The Braised Beef Shank with Cocoa was almost the size of softball. Delicious, and melt in my mouth tender, I almost forgot about the Millefuille of Salmon & Scallops on Pumpernickel Bread as I drowned myself in beef shank nirvana.
As I walked out of the Shaw and into the setting sun, I found myself pondering a few thoughts about this festival as I wiped the meat sweats from my brow. The food offerings, while not entirely indicative of the restaurants themselves, were delicious and definitely worth the trip. It is great to see the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival taking the culinary portion of their namesake seriously. I just hope that the individuals who seemed entranced by the large amount of alcohol took the time to appreciate the quality of food and coffee made available.