I’ve always thought that Gail Hall must be one hell of an energetic lady. Whether she’s up at the crack of dawn to cook for Breakfast Television, leading culinary tours around the world, or sharing her stories on CBC (I miss those segments), she always seems to be cooking something and somewhere. So when she reached out and asked if I would like to take part in one of her Loft Cooking School sessions, I jumped at the chance.
With her loft conveniently located on the north edge of Saturday’s City Market, Gail had everyone meet at the south entrance on Jasper. As we made our way north into the busy hustle and bustle, it was great to see that local foodies Twyla and Karlynn were also participating. The group was rounded out by a collection of friends who were treating themselves to a bit of a retirement gift. A very pleasant class if I say so.
We started with a stop in at Evoolution, where we learned a little more about the company, the oil and the balsamic they sell. We also had a small tasting. As a big fan of The Olive Oil Merchant, I’m excited by the fact that the many locals who do not already order great olive oils now have a destination in town. The oils come from Veronica Foods and if you ever want to open your own version, it seems that they are more than willing to help.
Soon after we were back in the market learning about the local farmers and producers that Gail favours. She would give a bit of background to the group and then turn the reins over to the people behind the stall to add any additional insight. We stopped at the Prairie Mill Bread Co., Riverbend Gardens, Strathcona Country Kitchen, Steve & Dan’s Fresh BC Fruit, and Amberlane Elk. It was great to see the interaction but I can’t help wonder about the other 95% of stalls we don’t visit. I have a feeling a full tour would be a day in itself. Knowing that products may sell out, Gail actually forages for her goods right when the market opens. So in reality, it was less of a shopping trip for our meal (though you could do this) and more of an interactive meet & greet.
Leaving the streets, we headed up to the loft. This breathtaking space is truly something else. It’s warm, welcoming and just the kind of place this condo dwelling man would love to reside in. Gail had all of us sit around her island while she went through the agenda. Simple and straight forward, we would be chatting, eating, chopping, eating, eating, drinking, chatting, cooking, stirring, eating and so on. All the while, Gail would be providing us with tips, tricks and basic cooking knowledge.
Boy did I like this schedule. Starting with an assortment of cheese and crackers, the group was able to get right in and start making our food. There was wine for those who drink, and more cheese for those who were hungry. Our meal for the day was a beautiful and light carrot-ginger soup, before moving to a elk wellington (sides of cheesy cherry tomatoes and farmer mashed potatoes), and finishing with a rustic fruit cobbler.
The meal was delicious, the company was heart warming and the instructions were educational. A seriously fun time and you can’t ask for much more than that. My suggestion would be to take a friend, spouse, brother etc…While it was an awesome experience for me on my own, I can imagine this would be a great way to bond with friends and family alike.