COCHRANE - Dragon carrots, blue potatoes and red cloud beets – it’s time for foodies to load up their plates with some Alberta produce they may not have heard of before.
Two well-known Cochrane eateries will be offering up special dishes in conjunction with the fifth annual Alberta on the Plate dine-around festival from Aug. 11 to 20.
The Fence & Post and Aama Nepalese Cuisine will welcome customers in to experience their Alberta-inspired menus.
Restaurants in Cochrane, Dead Man’s Flats, Canmore, Banff, and Jasper are participating along with over 100 establishments in 27 communities throughout Alberta. Over 200 farms and producers are highlighted in this year’s event.
“Fence and Post is one of our original restaurants that joined right from the get-go – they’re fantastic, they’ve been great supporters,” stated Rheannon Green, Director of Finer Details with Food Tourism Strategies.
Green, the founder of the event, said one of the key criteria to take part in Alberta on the Plate is the restaurant has to either be using Alberta ingredients year-round, or be interested in starting to do so.
Alberta on the Plate is a province-wide dine-around where participating establishments offer fixed-price menus highlighting local producers, growers, distillers, and brewers. There is a wide variety of experiences to enjoy throughout the 10-day festival, from quick service/casual dining to fine dining to brews and snacks.
It takes place in conjunction with Alberta Local Food Week and Alberta Open Farm Days later in the month.
“It’s really about being inclusive and finding different ways for our establishments to celebrate local food,” Green said.
Those criteria generally exclude chain restaurants, as they can’t really control where their ingredients come from, she explained. Instead, the program is all about fostering relationships between food service operators and local farms and producers to create a more sustainable local food economy.
“It also connects our consumers with the incredible bounty of products being grown, raised, and processed in Alberta, while supporting the local food and drink establishments that put Alberta on the plate and in the glass,” she said.
One of the overarching ideas is also to encourage participating restaurants to tell stories about how important local produce is to them.
Fence and Post opened in 2016 and has become a culinary mainstay in Cochrane since then.
Executive chef Bryn King waxed gastronomic as he described his Alberta-based creations to The Eagle last week.
“They were my inspiration. I love a perogie as much as the next person,” he said at the main street restaurant last week.
The Fence and Post Alberta menu will start with an appetizer of Red Fife perogies with Columba potatoes and cheese, topped with house-cured pastrami, brown butter sour cream, and crunchy chilli oil.
The main course is a juniper, rosemary, and red wine-marinated bison ribeye with roasted garlic and thyme fondant potatoes, blueberry and gin compound butter, fresh fennel, and cherry tomato salad.
As if that’s not enough, King says to save room for dessert: a Chèvre cheesecake cloud with haskap sorbet, haskap compote, and graham tuile.
“It’s extremely light, extremely fluffy, so it melts in your mouth, and it almost looks like a cloud,” he said.
King said Red Fife wheat is what’s known as a heritage grain, which forms the basis of the dough used in the perogies. It’s sourced from a farm near Lethbridge.
The chef said Fence and Post has long been a supporter of many kinds of Alberta produce, but saves his strongest enthusiasm for one particular item: the fennel from Poplar Bluff Organics near Strathmore, purveyors of a wide variety of speciality items.
It’s not just any fennel.
“Right now, fennel’s just coming into season, and it’s amazing,” he gushes, as only a career chef could about a vegetable.
“Organic, pesticide free, probably the nicest product you’ll ever see – you can’t find that at the grocery store.”
Their bison ribeye comes from just outside Edmonton, where the animals are raised free of antibiotics and hormones.
At Aama Nepalese Cuisine, one of the popular items regularly on the menu is Yak Momos.
For the Alberta on the Plate promotion, Aama is doing a two-course menu, featuring Alberta-sourced yak meat.
They will also be offering potatoes, tomatoes, and some salads from local farmers and other produce from around Alberta.
Green said people looking to sample some yak can’t assume it’s coming from places like Nepal.
“There are a few yak farms in Alberta,” she confirmed. “There are more and more cow companies that are starting to integrate yak into their operations.”
In Aama’s case, the supplier is West Gimlet Farm, in Rimbey, Alberta.
Outside Cochrane, the western part of the province is represented by: Banff - Brazen, La Terrazza; Canmore - Stirling Lounge at The Malcolm Hotel; Dead Man’s Flats - One98eight Restaurant; Jasper - Aalto, Olive Bistro & Lounge, Terra; Jasper East - Stone Peak Restaurant at Overlander Mountain Lodge.
The slate of participating establishments showcases the local flavours that influence each region of the province. For a full list of Alberta on the Plate participating establishments and their special Alberta-based menu items, visit albertaontheplate.com.