During the brief, glorious summer season, it is recommended that every lover of local food sign up for an outdoor, farm-to-fork dinner.
This not-to-be-missed Prairie experience generally features a long, communal table set out under a big blue sky in a farmer’s field, and laid with the best of local protein and produce. If you’re lucky, there will be a few cows standing around.
The trend began in Edmonton a few years back, when RGE RD chef Blair Lebsack teamed with farmers Danny and Shannon Ruzicka of Nature’s Green Acres to hold an outdoor meal on the Ruzicka farm, located near Viking, about 120 kilometres east of Edmonton.
Lebsack served vegetables that he had grown himself on the Ruzicka property, and all the meat was also supplied by Nature’s Green Acres and cooked outdoors in a wood-fired oven the team built by hand. There was a long table covered with white linen. Tiny glass jars of wildflowers dotted the table. Remarkably, there were hardly any mosquitoes (though this, admittedly, is rare). The sun was shining, the smell of wood smoke filled the air and the evening remains one of the best food experiences of my life.
Since then, Lebsack has increased the number of farm-to-fork outdoor suppers he does, and a number of other restaurant owners have joined the party. Chef Brad Smoliak of Kitchen by Brad delivers several such suppers at Elk Island Park, and this year, Darren and Sylvia Cheverie of Chartier in Beaumont also joined forces with Great West Farm in Leduc County to host a tribute to good food, good friends and good weather. (Warning: these suppers go on, rain or shine, and sometimes the rain is formidable. Plus, you’ll always need a jacket as the sun goes down.)
This season, RGE RD is also working with Prairie Gardens farm near Bon Accord to prepare three, long-table suppers between July and September. They are $159 each for a five-course meal crafted from food found on the farm. Prairie Gardens is also working with chef Scott Downey of the yet-to-be-opened Edmonton restaurant, The Butternut Tree, to present a long-table supper the July long weekend. Tickets are $125 per person, or $190 a couple.
Smoliak’s Elk Island dinners are $150 per person, and there are five of them in July and August. The food is served family-style and includes craft beer and wine pairings. Smoliak promises bonus visits by gregarious squirrels. And who knows? You just may have a close encounter with a buffalo.
By: Liane Faulder