Saturday 29 October 2011

Even the most hands on mum needs a break sometimes. And much as I love my li'l girl, I do need a break after spending practically most days (and some nights) with her. So when I got a chance to head to the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival, wild horses couldn't stop me from making sure I attended.

My date for the evening was the polished and debonair Marlow Moo from Mr Moo's Adventures and his human sidekick. Armed with our super cool plates and our handbooks, we hustled our way into the Shaw Conference Centre where the event was being held. The Rocky Mountain Wine and Food festival is one of the premier food and drink festivals in Canada, and takes place in Banff, Edmonton and Calgary. Showcasing some of the best in food and drink, both local and international, it is truly a feast in every sense of the word.

Of course, a food event is no event if you don't bump into other Edmonton foodies. We waved hello to Marianne from Loosen Your Belt, Rita from Kerstin's Chocolates and Maki from In My Element. Maki has some gorgeous photos of the festival on her site, well worth a drool.

My date for the evening @Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival
Marlow with Sparkling Berry Wine

I kicked off my tasting with a vegetable biriyani and korma from Haweli. I didn't really have a plan for how I was going to work the tasting room (note to self: next time, be more prepared) so I was probably a bit ad hoc in my approach. My first stop was more of a vanity one as I wanted to see how Haweli's korma compared to my own. I think I win this round tastewise, though honesty prompts me to admit that Haweli's biriyani and korma were pretty good too. The korma would have probably benefited a little more from a few raisins and cashews to add a contrasting texture to the dish, but overall this was decent food, and pretty generous in its portions, and I would consider visiting them (even if its only to check out the competetion, hehe)

A very unusual drink then caught my eye. Smoked Salmon Vodka. Marlow was a bit unsure about this drink, but I was being adventurous, so I decided to go for it. I was actually quite intrigued by the taste. For what its worth, it didn't really have a fishy taste, and it had more in common with the smoking spices, than the actual fish itself. It was very like a slightly smoky version of a Caesar, and I quite enjoyed it.

Marlow and I wandered on, and we then came across Dave, who I shall refer to as Whisky Dave :-) And that is because the man knew everything there was to know about whisky. Now I am not a whisky drinker, but I do know a bit about what I am talking about when it comes to this drink, thanks to my dad and my husband. But I was quite impressed with the samples they had out, and Marlow and I both enjoyed the Auchentoshan. I liked the Bowmore Islay as well (I have been well trained, you see) but Marlow found it a bit too strong for his liking.

Dave Gordon, Whisky Connoisseur Extraordinaire Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival
Dave, whisky connoiseur extraordinaire

Our next stop was the Red Piano Bar, and we both sampled the shortrib sliders, which were delicious. They were beautifully meaty and well seasoned and I loved the flavours. They were certainly a success with both of us.

Anything chocolate is always a hit with me. So you can imagine how pleased I was at the array of chocolates and chocolate inspired food and drinks at this festival. I sampled a most delicious chocolate wine from the rather sinister sounding Vampire Wines, and managed to get my chocolate coated mittens on a dark chocolate stout from Chocolate Bunny. I am not usually a stout drinker, and to be honest, I don't think a chocolate stout is going to change my mind. But the festival was all about trying new things and I am pretty glad I tried it. As I always tell my li'l girl, 'you have to try it before you can say anything about it' (PS - I don't quite enjoy it when she parrots that to me though :-))

On the chocolate theme, I also tried out the delicious milk chocolate fondue from the Melting Pot, and I must say, their chocolate brownie was one of the best I've eaten. It was dark, dense and delicious... and was well worth the alliteration there.

Strawberry and Lime Cider @ Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival
Tempt Strawberry Lime Slider

I must admit, sparkling wine makes me, well, sparkle. So I was dizzy with the array of sparkling wines available to sample. But of course, my coupons would go only this far, so I picked and chose a few that I figured were the must try-s.

I started off with a passionfruit sparkler from NVY. It was what they said on the tin. Very fruity, but not cloyingly so, with a tart finish that I quite enjoyed. Marlow was kind enough to let me taste his berry sparkler as well, but I preferred the passionfruit for its more tropical taste and fragrance. I moved on then to an amazing Danish strawberry lime cider by Tempt. Tempt by name, tempting by nature. I consider myself quite the cider connoiseur, and this one totally sold itself to me. It has a intense aroma of strawberries, but the taste was fresh, tangy and with the perfect hint of lime. Definitely well worth buying, even if Kay will mutter a bit about it not being an Okanagan cider.

My next indulgence was a sparkling rosé from the New Zealand based Oyster Bay wines. I would probably have preferred a little more to sample that what we actually got, but it was fine. Sparkly enough to send fizz down my throat, dry enough that it stood out among fruitier rosés. I teamed it with what was my favourite food item of the day, a very tasty seafood slider from the Rockford Grill. I figured it was a perfect way to end a lovely and very yummy evening.

Seafood Slider from Rockford Grill
Seafood Slider from the Rockford Grill

A few things niggled though, and it would be great of the organisers would address those in future.
  • I would have loved to have more food stands, as I felt that the event was a tad wine and alcohol heavy.
  • We definitely need tasting notes for the food exhibitors, as well as for the drinks.
  • It would also be great to have some tasting notes online, as well so people could tailor their visits accordingly, and perhaps an idea of how many coupons per sample.
  • The coupon system, while working fine, does have a few drawbacks. For example, some food exhibitors were charging up to 10 coupons for a food sample, whereas we could get a similar sized sample elsewhere for 4 coupons. Perhaps a standardisation of how many coupons per sample would be an idea to take away.
  • I would have loved to see more local producers along with international exhibitors. At the same time, I was quite pleased to see a very good representation of local wineries and breweries, so I can't complain too much.
  • I thought charging coupons for water was a bit of overkill, as it would have been fairly easy to provide water filters to those who wouldn't want to buy bottled water. I didn't see any drinking water fountains there, though there may well have been some around.
I was wondering at first if my coupons would be sufficient, but at the end of the evening I was very happily stuffed, so they do offer great value. Niggles aside, I had a fantastic evening, and I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to it, and I am already marking my calendar for next year's festival.

Disclosure: I was invited to the industry and trade tasting session hosted by the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival. My entry was complimentary as were the coupons. All the opinions and reviews in this post are my own, and I was not under any obligation to review or write about the event.

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