Taste Alberta: Chefs help feed eat-local movement with Taste Alberta Tuesdays.
Tuesdays are going to taste like Alberta in the month of June. Don’t know what Alberta tastes like? Just go to the restaurants featured in Lisa Monforton’s Taste Alberta article above and you will find out what the taste of this place, Alberta, is. This concept is known as terroir and has been used for centuries by wine growers. It’s what allows wine masters to take a sip of wine blindfolded and know exactly what appellation in France or vineyard in Australia the wine came from. A well made wine tastes like the minerals, soil (sometimes a fired meltdown from a volcano), water, air – all the elements – of the place it came from. The idea of terroir is slowly becoming mainstream for food lovers around the world and here in Alberta as well.
Julie Denhammer, a friend of mine in the food imports business, told me of her epiphany moment when she really understood the term. She was working as a casual “picker” in Italy’s San Marzano tomato region where tomatoes grow in volcanic soil. She remembers biting into a tomato that she had just picked, breathing in the air, looking around at the fields and the soil, noticing the bright red vine-ripened fruit against the fragrant green leaves in deep dark soil and then fully tasting all of what she smelled and saw with each bite of the tomato. She was overcome with the thought, this tomato tastes exactly like this place. San Marzano tomatoes were one of the first products she began to import.
I like Monforton’s Taste Alberta piece because while it is great that we can import beautiful foods from around the world, the point of this article is that we don’t always need to. We have food products here that the rest of the world would love to have and all we need to do is connect with our own land and enjoy its tasteful splendour. The example that comes to mind right now is asparagus.
Edgar’s Asparagus is in season right now. Edgar’s Asparagus Festival is this coming weekend, June 1st and 2nd, 2013. Edgar’s asparagus has a unique taste of Alberta. Our nights are colder than other places in the world that grow asparagus. This forces the plants to concentrate sugar in the stocks at night-time instead of continuing to grow. Our asparagus tastes as sweet as fresh baby peas. I don’t think any other asparagus in the world tastes this good. Here’s a few ways I enjoy this glorious taste of Alberta.
I eat it raw as a snack
I make huge batches of soup which I freeze to enjoy year round – Edgar’s sells big bags of “seconds” that I buy to do this – you don’t need perfect looking asparagus to make soup
I make a sesame dressing and serve it over blanched asparagus with mandarin orange slices and red onions
I grill it with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and then finish it with truffle oil and parmesan shavings
I throw it in stirfrys, omelette and wraps
I make “prosciutto Tree Huggers” – paint a strip of prosciutto with grainy mustard, wrap it around spears and broil them – watching constantly until the prosciutto is hugging the asparagus tree
This is just one tiny example of how great Alberta Tastes. That’s enough for now. I’m on my way out the door to give a talk on “Eating Locally”. I’ll be sure to suggest reading Taste Alberta regularly as one way to zoom in on all our province has to offer our palates.
What’s Alberta’s terroir? The taste of this place is wide open skies, black soil, clean air, pristine waters, prairie grasslands waving in the wind and Rocky Mountains towering in taste. Try it, you’ll like it and each time you buy an Alberta food product you’ll be growing our Alberta economy right along with the Alberta food producers who are growing our food. I hope you’ll engage in this wonderful Taste Alberta restaurant month but I hope you’ll engage in tasting Alberta always. You’ll fall in love as I have. I’ve found that when I savour the food of Alberta I always savour my life here.