Categories: Entertainment

Get ready to dig in St. Albert

A team of chefs band together to prepare the 2014 Dig-In Horticulinary gala dinner held at the Enjoy Centre's Moonflower Room.

Food festivals are the current rage. Not only are the festivals popular, but they can also overhaul the local economy.

The second annual Dig In Horticulinary Festival back-ends the region’s calendar of chock-a-block food fests. It runs Oct. 1 to 3 at the Enjoy Centre.

This three-day festival, organized by St. Albert’s Economic Development, successfully pulls together the area’s thriving farm and horticulture sector with celebrated chefs and food champions.

Saturday is packed with hands-on workshops promoting everything from scratch baking, foraging for wild foods and seed saving to learning the art of making cider, cooking steaks and wine tasting.

Two new family friendly workshops are added to this year’s full day schedule – building fairy gardens and gifts from the kitchen, an ATCO Blue Flame presentation for children six to 11 years.

Last year’s culinary walking tour was an instant hit and this year’s Thursday night opening event is already sold out noted Dawn Fedorovich, economic development officer.

The Friday night Alberta Chef Collaborative Gala Dinner, the festival’s signature event, was sold out last year. With seats more than half taken for this year’s long-table dinner, organizers are predicting another sellout.

The six-course dinner twinned with wine and beer will be prepared by eight of Alberta’s top rated chefs. They include three St. Albert stars – Julia Kundera of Glasshouse Bistro, Cory Radowski from 12 Acres Restaurant and Rino Lam who will be head chef at XIX Nineteen St. Albert opening in November.

Chefs Andrew Cowan of Packrat Louie, Danielle Job from Holt’s CafĂ©, Antony Krause at The Salt Room, Brad Lazarenko, owner of Culina Family Restaurants and executive chef J.W. Foster from the Fairmont Banff Springs fill the remaining niches.

Two long tables each seating 100 diners will be stretched across the length of the Enjoy Centre’s Moonflower Room. Chefs will plate the dinner at one end and huge video screens will be mounted to capture their work.

“It’s part of the experience. Bridget Ryan, who will be our host, will interview the chefs and will also bring attention to local producers and highlight the meal,” Fedorovich said.

Although this year’s menu is not yet finalized, chefs are organizing a feast with canapĂ©s, a salad, soup, vegetarian dish and possibly a fish dish. The main entrĂ©e is pork followed by dessert.

“The ambiance last year was relaxed and it was fun. I sat back and watched people laughing with friends. Hosting a long-table dinner inside may look fancier, but it was very relaxed. It didn’t feel formal or stuffy at all,” said Fedorovich.

Organizers are encouraging chefs to incorporate interactive elements into the banquet to spur the casual vibe.

“Last year we had to make our own vinegar. And a whole rainbow trout was presented on a platter and we had to cut it up. It was surprisingly good – so tasty. It was one of our favourite dishes.”

To induce greater interaction with food, the previous year’s dessert was a slice of pumpkin pie served with jar of liquid whipping cream. A label on the jar suggested diners shake it for three minutes to solidify it.

“Our table took eight minutes – no more like 11. It was really a fun night.”

Tickets for the long-table dinner are $125 per plate and workshops are $25 per person. They are available online at diginstalbert.ca.

In addition, organizers are planning a People’s Choice Salsa Making Contest and a No-Hands Pie Eating Contest. Details will be posted on the website soon. For more information email info@dininstalbert.ca.

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.