Last night, Michelle from Wino in the West and I went to the 2017 Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival at the BMO Centre. It’s such a great event every year. Incredible Calgary vendors and importers get together to bring food, wine and liquor samples into one room, then they donate proceeds to local charities fighting hunger as well as to the culinary arts program at SAIT (or NAIT if you’re at the Edmonton version of this beautiful event). What’s not to love?
The format is simple. You buy a ticket in advance, show up at the door and receive a wine glass for your samples. (You can also be cool like us and buy a lanyard to holster your wine glass around your neck to free up your hands for food!) You buy sample tickets at $0.50 each and turn those tickets over to the vendors for a taste of whatever they’re offering, usually for about 4 tickets each. There are also a lot of premium options for a few extra tickets, so this is a great place to try an ounce of an otherwise inaccessible bottle.
This year a lot of my favourite restaurants (and ones I’ve been dying to try!) were there, so while Michelle was trying to get her hands every bottle of red wine in the room (for blogging purposes, of course – you can check out her full run-down of all those tasty wines by clicking here), I was drooling and checking out our food options. Because you only have four hours to explore the festival and we are easily distracted, we didn’t even make it through the whole room and missed a bunch of amazing vendors, though we did catch a few tasty snacks. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some of our favourites just can’t go without being mentioned.
Springbank Cheese Co. was there! They had some classic favourites behind the counter but I was hoping to try something a little different, so the helpful cheese experts suggested I try the extra-aged gouda. It was really nice, salty and firm. Michelle shared some of her oka with me, which was a nice, creamy interlude between bites of the gouda.
I had to stop by the Samosa Factory to try a trio of mini beef, chicken and veggie samosas. They were quite spicy with flaky, crispy pastry. I’ll definitely be stopping by to pick up a few of those – probably in commercial quantities (yesssss) since they’re primarily a food service supplier.
Buttermilk Fine Waffles was offering samples of three dynamite waffles – classic maple and butter, cinnamon bun or lemon and goat cheese. I went for the lemon and goat cheese and was not disappointed. Sweet, tart and tangy flavours all around! The waffle itself was lightly crispy and so fluffy inside. I think I’ll be stopping in at their restaurant for a visit soon!
Rodney’s Oyster House was serving up freshly shucked oysters and piping hot Cuban chowder. I have to laugh at the fancy food served on paper and styrofoam all night but the contrast seemed sharpest at Rodney’s. I’ve been meaning to get in there for a meal and this delicious chowder has inspired me to make this a priority!
I always love getting a bite at Cactus Club and last night was no different. Their booth was right next to the main entrance and you were immediately hit with the aroma of truffle when you walked past. Their butternut squash ravioli with prawns was served with a generous pour of truffle butter and a crispy sage leaf. Delicious!
As you may recall, I visited Starbelly earlier this year and absolutely loved it – I wrote about it here. When I saw they were serving up beef sliders, I couldn’t resist! The beef was so fresh and tasty and the tomato, sweet pickle and cheese made this a very satisfying bite. I’ll have to get over there on a Monday in the near future for one of their $20 craft beer and burger nights.
One18 Empire has been killing it on the Calgary food scene since they started up in 2016 and I still haven’t been in there! I made a beeline for their booth when I saw it in the corner of my eye and went to town on their beef short rib yorkie.
One18 Empire’s sweet and savoury maple bacon profiterole was irresistible too!
Michelle hasn’t been to Modern Steak, so I dragged her over to their booth where we picked up a beef tartare for a whopping 12 tickets. This was the most expensive food item we tried, but it was so worth it. We split a generous portion of tartare made with dijon, caper, gherkin, egg yolk and truffle oil. Served on some salty rippled chips, this was a major highlight of the evening. The zesty dijon and tart pickles were smoothed out perfectly by the egg and truffle. All worked beautifully with the chilled, tender beef and the crispy, salty chips. I absolutely loved this dish!
Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard Resort was there serving crab cakes garnished with a strawberry of all things! It was a really delicious and refreshing twist and the cake itself was very tasty with a nice, crispy crust.
My favourite stop was at Ollia for a sweet bite to end the night. I’m a big fan of savoury and could have eaten beef short rib and crab cakes all night, but the raspberry mimosa macaron blew me away with raspberry champagne frosting, sweet coulis and a fresh, tart raspberry that tasted like it had been perfectly ripened in a warm sunbeam. As Michelle pointed out, even their napkins are gorgeous!
My hat is off to all of the amazing vendors who came out for the festival this weekend. If you’re going to be in Edmonton and are able to swing tickets, I highly recommend stopping by their fest on November 10 & 11. If not, I’ll catch you at the 2018 Calgary festival next year!