Food Artisans of the Okanagan: Your guide to the best locally crafted fare

Available in Canada and the US, April 5, 2016 (TouchWood Editions)


Entries in Calgary (2)


Maclean's Magazine article: The world's finest avant-garde chefs descend on Alberta and find an underrated food wonderland

When some of the world's best chefs arrived in Alberta for Cook It Raw, the annual atelier of culinary creativity led by Alessandro Porcelli, I went along for the ride.

First there was the gathering of Alberta chefs in Lac La Biche, 2.5 hours northeast of Edmonton. There chefs who only get to interact in quasi-competition-style events and fundraisers got to camp together, fish, cook, and eat for four days without the distractions and obligations of their harried professional lives.

Connie DeSousa (co-chef / co-owner CHARCUT Roast House and Cam Dobranksi, chef, owner Brasserie Kensington, Kensington Wine Bar and Container Bar, with bison legSmoking meat and fish in Lac La Biche at Violet Cardinal's land on the Beaver Lake Cree Nation

In October, the troupe of chefs in Porcelli's orbit arrived to add some Michelin-star sparkle and international attention to the exercise. There was another camping trip, this time up in Kananaskis Country, in a WiFi free backcountry zone. It was like an episode of "So You Want to be a Canadian" (not a real show), with canoeing, fishing, moose- and bear-spotting, foraging, and lots of beers around late-night campfires. They also did some serious work, building up the seven dishes that they would reveal for a big media event on Saturday night in the SAIT professional teaching kitchens, and then again to the public on Sunday afternoon at Rouge Restaurant in Calgary.

Canoeing at Upper Kananaskis Lake, AlbertaTeam Root Vegetable presents their dish-in-progress at Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis, Alberta

Team Red Fife's final dish at the Saturday night presentation at SAIT, Calgary

Honey-cured trout, Team Honey, final dish presenation at SAIT, CalgarySaskatoon dessert in a birch log, Team Saskatoon, SAIT, CalgaryL -> R Alessandro Porcelli, Blair Lebsack (RGE RD restaurant Edmonton) and Cam Dobranski, Jp McMahon, Aniar restaurant Galway, Ireland at SAIT Calgary

Here's the story (online as of October 30, 2015):

Appears in the November 9, 2015 print edition of the magazine.


Urban Public Orchard in Calgary, Alberta, August and again under snow

Beautiful gala apples growing in a community public orchard in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, August 2010.Urban public orchards -- orchards planted and maintained by city governments with fruit harvest available to the surrounding community -- are not uncommon in the UK and Europe. They are often adjacent to, or integrated into community gardens.

When I found out about a pilot project by the City of Calgary for three public orchards, I made a point of going there before frost, which means getting there in before the end of August. (Calgary is located at 51° 2′ 42″ N, 114° 3′ 26″ W; it's close to the Rocky Mountains, and you can get frost pretty much anytime from September on.)

This particular orchard is minutes from the downtown skyscrapers of corporate Calgary. It's at the end of a residential street and it backs onto a steep slope. It's also adjacent to a great community garden site, the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Garden.

A bike path runs along the side of the community garden and orchard through this residential neighbourhood.

The steep slope helps with air movement to keep winter's chill off as well as pests.

Yes, you can grow pears in Canadian cities.Here's the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Garden, Aug, 2010.

High-production in a short growing season. That's the Canadian food-gardening way.

New fruit tree seedlings integrated into a "typical" residential neighbourhood park in Calgary, Alberta.

Last week, I had to make a trip to Calgary, and it occurred to me that it would be interesting to take (and post) photos of this same public orchard in the winter. For people who don't live in the north, these dramatic seasonal swings are mind-boggling, I know. But yes, orchards do tolerate winter, and whatever winterkill that happens will need to be removed in the spring, but here's what the same orchard looks like just four months later. It won't thaw and burst back to life until May.

Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Public Orchard, Dec 2010, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

At least in winter, we can appreciate the bird nests in nearby trees.

Same perspective as a photo I took in Aug.The community garden, at rest. Dec 2010, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Here's a video of this orchard's ground-breaking celebration. Please let me know if you come across any community / public orchards of note. I'm looking for a couple more for my book.