Dig In Horticulinary Festival
Sept. 19 to 23
Various locations in St. Albert
Ticket: Food tours $60, Workshops $85. Visit diginstalbert.ca
Gone are the days when the only things served at outdoor festivals were semi-burnt hotdogs and hamburgers to support music, monster truck rallies or whatever the event happened to be.
In fact today, yummy edibles have become the centrepiece at many festivals where food and drink are high on the list. That’s where St. Albert’s Dig In Horticulinary Festival comes in offering a strong choice of fun, savoury cuisine as well as workshops on food cultivation and chef’s tips and tricks.
Since St. Albert sits right on the border of Sturgeon County, this is an excellent occasion to enjoy fresh, locally sourced cuisine.
Dig In’s autumn edition runs Tuesday, Sept. 19 to Saturday, Sept. 23 packed with three diverse restaurant tours and ends with a full day of workshops.
“In the spring our focus was on growing food. In the fall our focus is more hands-on with interactive elements. In the spring our workshops were demonstration workshops. In the fall our workshops are participatory,” said Dawn Fedorovich, Economic Development officer.
Fedorovich has lined up three restaurant food tours running consecutively from Tuesday to Thursday. Two are walking tours and the third is a bike tour. And on the workshop front, the festival is filled with four all-day packages held Saturday at St. Albert Catholic High School.
Organizers are capping tours and workshops at 20 people to keep the atmosphere warm and intimate.
The festival launches Tuesday with the Shops At Boudreau Walking Tour. One of St. Albert’s newest and trendiest shopping destinations, it was once the site of the Hole’s family farm and greenhouses. Today it offers several dining options.
Careit Urban Deli partners with Hicks Fine Wines to feature an appetizer paired with complementary wines. Two main dishes will be served at Deluxe Burger and XIX Nineteen Restaurant before finishing the evening with dessert at Good Earth Cafe. The total walk is a mere 270 metres.
Hosting the event chock-full of exciting culinary experiences is Dawn Vande Vyvere, a veteran Dig-In volunteer.
“Dawn is fun and high-spirited. It will have a quicker pace because the restaurants are so close to each other, but it will still be very relaxed,” noted Fedorovich.
The Downtown Walking Tour on Wednesday is an easy stroll through the Perron District. Fedorovich hosts this event with foodies meeting at St. Albert Place.
“On this tour, the focus will be on the city’s history along with a mix of food.”
Foodies chow down on an appetizer at DJ’s Lounge and Cafe, followed by two main courses at Cajun House and Critical Mass Brewing. A Boutique Gallery Bar by Gracie Jane wraps up the evening plying guests with dessert and drinks.
Organizers estimate the distance walked will be slightly longer than the previous tour coming in at 410 metres.
Lastly, community volunteer Gail Motuzas guides the St. Albert Culinary Bike Tour. Participants meet at the botanic park for an appetizer from Junto’s Bistro.
“They’re (Junto’s) located in Campbell Park but they’re coming to the park and setting up a tent.”
The adventurous cyclists will sample an appetizer before riding their wheels along the scenic Sturgeon River for a leisurely bike ride to Saviour’s Bistro and Cafe, an Ethiopian-Eritrean restaurant, for the first main course.
The third stop for a second main course is the Beer Factory, where their claim to fame is using beer in all food recipes, said Fedorovich. The six-kilometre bike tour concludes at Nichol’s Cafe for freshly baked pastry.
“Nichol opened up this year. She does a lot of baking in-house and specializes in gluten-free products,” Fedorovich said. “The bike tour is going to be more of an adventure. It’s for someone who wants to try something new. It’s definitely for the more adventurous.”
This year’s Saturday workshops are a choice of four different itineraries where participants spend a day developing their gardening and culinary skills. In addition they are treated to a barbecue lunch hosted by the Beer Factory and offered a craft beer sample.
“We thought the four streams would provide simplicity and balance. You get to spend a whole day and learn four new skills in one location at St. Albert Catholic High School. With everybody around all day, we’re hoping to create more of a festival vibe.”
The four itineraries are named after St. Albert’s oldest communities and each workshop is approximately 75 minutes in length. For instance the Braeside Track offers workshops on brewing non-alcoholic cider, creating self-sustaining raised garden beds, chicken butchery and caring for plants over winter.
The Grandin Track looks at growing garlic, cultivating microgreens and sprouts in winter, distilling gin and making home-made pasta.
The Mission Track takes up raised bed gardening, alcoholic apple cider, baking sourdough bread and using natural foods as medicinal treatments.
In the Perron Track, Atco Blue Flame Kitchen holds two sessions teaching participants to can and preserve. The focus is tomatoes and everyone will chop veggies and cook sauces and salsas to take home.
Heirloom gardening and seed saving as well as planting fall bulbs are also on this track’s agenda.
“There will be a maximum of 20 people in each class. We want small class sizes so they can interact with the presenter.”
Each itinerary for four workshops is priced at $85.
“That includes the lunch with the craft beer sample. It also includes supplies, ingredients, recipes, food you make, and plants.”
Instead the food tours are $60 each, but do not include gratuities. For more information on tours and workshops or to book an event visit diginstalbert.ca.