Peter Shokeir | [email protected]
Local eating establishments will be participating in the fifth annual Alberta on the Plate dine-around festival on Aug. 11-20.
Participating restaurants will offer fixed-price menus highlighting local producers, growers, distillers and brewers.
“Alberta on the Plate is all about celebrating our local farms, producers, processors and our restaurants,” said Rheannon Green, director of finer details with Food Tourism Strategies.
“So really, it’s about creating a more sustainable local food economy. If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that food supply can be very delicate.”
The festival began pre-pandemic in 2019 in order to help address a gap of understanding from consumers as to where food comes from.
While Alberta Open Farm Days addresses the producer side of the equation, Alberta on the Plate is meant to focus on restaurants, which Green noted are some of the biggest proponents of local food and drink offerings.
“The idea is that people go out to the restaurants just like they would normally go out dining, but then they’re interacting. They’re learning from the restaurants about local producers in their area, about what they feature, who they work with, why it’s important to those establishments.”
Participating establishments must be in Alberta, be in good standing with Alberta Health Services, offer at least one festival menu option during the festival and either be currently utilizing local ingredients on their menu year-round or be willing to start doing so.
Steph Kalamoutsos and Darryl Huculak, owners of the Olive Bistro and Lounge, have taken part in the festival since its inception.
Their festival menu for this year is still in development but is expected to feature bison osso buco, an Italian-style, slow-cooked shank.
Huculak said the festival was a good way to highlight the local producers that they work with, such as Stonepost and Backwoods Buffalo, and that it had always been his intention to utilize locally sourced food.
“Kind of since we started, that’s kind of been my goal, and it’s just something I believe in,” he said.
“It’s kind of what inspired me to be in the kitchen too. A couple of chefs I’ve worked with before, they were very strong in the local food movement, so I just was inspired by them and [it] just keeps me going.”
Huculak added how he gets good feedback from his customers about this practice.
“I think a lot of people are very drawn towards that as they see locally sourced food,” he said.
“I mean, it works really nice with the Europeans and all the foreigners too, because everyone wants to come. They want to try food from Alberta, so it works good that way.”
Pursuit’s two newest Jasper restaurants – Aalto and Terra – will also be offering up unique menus created by Aalto chef Shane Rutledge and Terra chef Willy Wilson.
“We’re building a program that's more focused on utilizing farm to table and local,” said Jamie Hussey, director of Food and Beverage for Jasper and Maligne Valley for Pursuit Collection.
“As you know, working in a national park locality is somewhat challenging for us, so with these new restaurants, it’s given us time to develop some relationships with the Robson farms, the little studio microgreens and some smaller purveyors in the area that we can set up some distribution support for them and get them into our restaurant.”
“So, we really want to start showcasing that program as it grows and it develops with the other projects that we take on.”
For the festival, Aalto will tentatively be serving up Alberta game terrine, Alberta bison petite tender and semlor buns.
Terra’s menu, meanwhile, is expected to include a sharing experience of sourdough bread, seasonal corn ribs, farmers cheese and picked herbs, as well as a glazed lamb sirloin roast with summer salad and minted new potatoes.
Hussey added how sourcing from local producers lowers their carbon footprint by cutting on travel time, supports smaller microeconomies in the area and provides a higher level of quality.
“We see it as a triple win. We see it as a win-win-win from a sustainability standpoint, a business and community standpoint and a guest-facing standpoint because of what we’re trying.”
This year’s festival highlights over 100 restaurants in 27 communities throughout Alberta featuring over 200 farms and producers.
It takes place in conjunction with Alberta Local Food Week and Alberta Open Farm Days.
Rocky Mountain’s contingent includes:
- Banff - Brazen, La Terrazza
- Canmore - Stirling Lounge at The Malcolm Hotel, Sauvage
- Cochrane - Aama Nepalese Cuisine, Fence and Post
- Dead Man’s Flats - One98eight Restaurant
- Jasper - Aalto, Olive Bistro and Lounge, Terra
- Jasper East - Stone Peak Restaurant at Overlander Mountain Lodge
A full list of participating restaurants can be found at www.albertaontheplate.com.