Last Monday, thanks to Food Bloggers of Canada, I found out about Eat Alberta, a food conference that was being held on April 14th. After convincing Jeff that it would be fun, we decided we would go. Deep down, I wasn’t sure if Jeff would enjoy it but I knew I would.
Because of our rather late ticket purchase, we weren’t able to take part in any of the hands-on sessions but we managed to get into some nice tasting sessions, including beer, fruit wine and honey. We also signed up for a mushroom foraging session.
Our day began with Lola Canola, sampling honey from all over Canada. Given Jeff’s aversion to all things buzzy, I was surprised to see him actually looking at pictures and generally enjoying himself (hard not to, when the honey is so tasty!).
Some of my favourites were dandelion, buckwheat and thistle honey…
After the honey tasting, we moved on to fruit wine. This session was presented by Rick from Barr Estate Winery, located near Sherwood Park, Alberta.Barr Estate currently makes two wines, The Other Red (a raspberry wine) and The Barb (a rhubarb wine). Both are tasty and would be awesome on a patio in the summer. We managed to find a bottle of The Barb to bring back to Grande Prairie with us – yay!After the two morning sessions, it was lunch time! The Nait culinary students outdid themselves, if I may say so myself! Doesn’t it look fanstastic? There were slow roasted meats, homemade bread, roasted veggies, homemade mozzarella, soup. We didn’t think it could get any better but then…
…we found out about the chocolate stout caked, topped with mousse! Jeff practically ran to the dessert table. Honestly, he was done eating by the time I got back to the table.
We were lucky enough to eat lunch with Martin Osis, who was presenting the mushroom foraging session we were attending after lunch, and Kevin Kent, who was presenting a knife sharpening session. Not only did we get extra insight into mushrooms (and Kevin’s love of rodents!) but we also laughed through the entire meal.
The mushroom foraging session ended up being my favourite session of the day (Jeff’s, as well). Martin was engaging and entertaining. He jammed a lot of information into 1 hour and I left with three pages of notes.
Jeff has arranged our first foraging trip for May or June (depending on when the morels are ready) and we’re going to get a field guide as soon as we track down the one Martin suggested. Martin even told us that there’s a good chance the fairy rings in the backyard are edible!Our last session of the day was beer tasting with Jason Foster. This was the session Jeff was most looking forward to and I was pleased when I realized that all three beers we sampled were new to Jeff.Our day ended with these fantastic tasting boards and wine samples. It was a great way to end the day, visiting with new friends and sampling some fantastic food & wine.
I should also mention that the whole day began with a great continental breakfast and a keynote given by Danny & Shannon from Nature’s Green Acres farm and ended with a panel of organizers and presenters speaking about various ways to provide enough food for yourself locally (by gardening, preserving, bartering with other producers, etc).
One of the best messages from the entire session came towards the end when one of the ladies said that we should get back to living the way people did a couple of generations ago, for example, my grandparents. I know I don’t live my entire life in that way but I do try to as much as I can. Hence the ridiculous amount of pickles & jams in cold storage, the local meat in our freezer and the summer trips to the berry farm. I’ve only started doing these things since moving to Grande Prairie but can’t imagine not having these things in my life again.
All in all, it was a fantastic day. Jeff told me he’d come back with me next year, which means a lot because I thought I was dragging him along to something I would like but he would probably hate! I was also pleased when I spoke to one of the organizers, Valerie. She mentioned that next year, they are organizing it in such a way that each participant will get to take part in hands-on and tasting sessions. It will be nice for everyone to have a chance to take part in both types of sessions although I have no regrets for making the trip for tasting sessions only.
Thanks to all of the organizers, presenters & volunteers at Eat Alberta – what a fantastic event!Sidenote: We were also lucky enough to meet up with our dear friend Whitney (and Chris) after the conference. Poor Whitney didn’t realize that, if she ordered a pint, the glass of Hoegaarden would be larger than her head. Good times…