What’s Fresh, Natural And Delicious From The Farms of Alberta, Canada
While Canadian winters are known to be long and harsh, I was lucky to catch the tail end of summer when I flew into Calgary for what was to be a week-long discovery of Alberta’s agricultural produce, thriving dining scene, and Canadian beef advantage, together with Metro Channel’s Food Prints team and host Sandy Daza.
Alberta happens to be Canada’s sixth largest province with over 660,000 square kilometers of farmland, prairie, forest, mountain, and desert. While the energy sector dominates, Alberta remains an agricultural powerhouse, exporting commodities like wheat, barley, canola, beef. But as we traveled around Calgary and its outskirts, we discovered many more local Albertan ingredients created out of respect for the farmer, the consumers, and the land. Here’s a taste of our most memorable finds:
We savored Canadian beef throughout our week-long stay in Calgary, but probably one of the most surprising and delicious had to be the beef longaniza prepared by the chefs of the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence at an outdoor picnic in North Glenmore Park. The longaniza had that distinct Pinoy flavor, seasoned with cane vinegar and lots of garlic.
Beef longaniza links together with beef burgers made with a blend of beef brisket and chuck for that ideal 20% fat and 80% lean meat ratio
Beef longaniza served on a hotdog bun instead of with rice
At Calgary Farmers’ Market, a large indoor market that plays host to local farmers, vendors, artisan producers, and eateries, we visited Silver Sage Beef, an artisan butcher selling 100% Alberta beef from its very own 15,000-acre family-owned cattle farm. The obvious advantage is that the beef sold is fully traceable from Angus/Gelbvieh cattle raised naturally without hormones, antibiotics, steroids, or animal by-products. The cattle are grass fed, then finished with barley, before being slaughtered and dry aged for around three weeks.
Silver Sage beef products like shortribs, brisket, beef sausages, and even smoked beef bacon
Kent Zentner of Silver Sage Beef
According to VP/General Manager Kent Zentner, “If it comes from the cow, essentially we have it…any cuts, from off cuts to trendy cuts.”
At Sunterra Market, a specialty supermarket chain with branches in Calgary and Edmonton (Alberta’s capital city), you’ll find some of the best pork in the country. Like Silver Sage Beef, Sunterra is all about “farm-to-shelf” as it sells pork products from its very own Sunterra farm which started breeding Berkshire pigs over 40 years ago. Since then, its humanely-raised pork has become so prized that the bulk gets exported to Japan.
Chillers filled with all kinds of pork products, from pork belly and ribs, to bacon and ham
At Sunterra’s airy MARKETbar, we were then treated to a lovely lunch of roasted porchetta and Asian-style pork, laden with local vine tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, Portobello mushrooms, Brussel sprouts, green beans, all picked from the market’s produce section.
Another pork product we sampled were all-natural Siwin sausages served at the aforementioned picnic together with the beef burgers and longaniza.
Smoked sausages made with 100% pure Canadian pork, with no added hormones, artificial flavors, or trans fats
Available in Asian flavors like Thai-style jalapeño cheddar, Singaporean-style bacon and cheddar, and Japanese-style mozzarella
While Alberta is landlocked, the province is blessed with rivers and lakes filled with freshwater fish, and we got to enjoy it in two very different, yet equally delicious, ways.
Grilled Alberta Rainbow Trout with all-local corn purée, potato rösti, and summer squash at Yellow Door Bistro
From Foreign Concept, Vietnamese-inspired Alberta Trout Cha Ca La Vong marinated in turmeric and yogurt, and served with zucchini, scallion rice noodles, and chili shrimp paste
Alberta is “grain central” in Canada growing a significant portion of wheat, barley, and rye. It so happens that barley is crucial to beer making—and Canadians do love their beer. We stopped by Big Rock Brewery, one of Alberta’s biggest craft breweries founded by Ed McNally in 1985. As a barley farmer, Ed wondered why Alberta didn’t make its own beer, since the province already had the necessary ingredients—barley and “hard” water flowing from the Rockies.
Samples of different varieties of malted barley
We toured Big Rock’s impressive facility that produces up to 280,000 cans of lagers, pilsners, ales, plus ciders per day. Proudly Albertan, Big Rock Brewery continues to adhere to craft brewing’s principles of pure, natural beer using primarily local ingredients, and with strong ties to the local art community.
Big Rock’s flagship product, Grasshopper, a Kristallweizen or wheat beer
Two more Big Rock beers— Warthog (English style mild ale) and Wunderbier (Dunkelweizen or dark wheat beer)
While much of the tomatoes in Alberta come from greenhouses, farmers grow many different heirloom varieties during the warmer months. And these summer tomatoes were on the menus of practically every restaurant we visited.
Stalls brimming with ripe tomatoes in all colors and sizes at Calgary Farmers’ Market
Chef Darren MacLean of Shokunin prepared a refreshing Japanese-inflected salad using four types of Alberta tomatoes, both sweet and savory, which he proudly proclaims among the best in the world.
Shokunin’s Heirloom Tomato Salad with microgreens, radish, pickled onions, nori powder, fried garlic, and white miso dressing
Chilled Summer Soup of Heirloom Tomatoes with local goat cheese, tomato granite, and toasted hazelnuts at Yellow Door Bistro
Alberta happens to be the largest honey producer in Canada. At Calgary Farmers’ Market, we were drawn to the Beeland stall where we discovered sweet creamed honey whipped to a buttery texture, perfect to spread on toast and enjoy with cheese.
Tubs of creamed honey at the Beeland counter
Beeland honeys in all hues and flavors—clover blossom, wildflower, blackberry, cinnamon, to name a few
Yes there is such a thing as Alberta cheese! At SAIT Culinary Campus, chef-instructor Michael Dekker used a 24-month Gouda spiced with cumin from Sylvan Star to prepare his Alberta Vegetable Frittata.
All Alberta products from nearby farms—Gouda cheese, eggs, and fresh vegetables
Alberta Vegetable Frittata
Cheeses from all over the world, plus a few Canadian standouts, at Luc’s cheese shop in Calgary Farmers’ Market
Local goat cheese used in Shokunin’s Crispy Eggplant and Goat Cheese Tempura served with pickled eggplant salsa, local honey, and pea leaves
Alberta corn, it so happens, gets a lot of love from the locals, many of whom declare it the best in the world.
Fresh corn on the cob at Calgary Farmers’ Market
At Shokunin, Japanese Corn and Shrimp Fritters drizzled with local honey and matcha salt
Watch Sandy Daza tour Alberta, Canada on FoodPrints Season 6, airing October 29 and November 2 on Metro Channel (Channel 52 on SkyCable and channel 174 on HD). Catch replays throughout the week.
Special thanks to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry at www.agrifoodalberta.ca and Canadian Beef Centre for Excellence at canadabeef.ca