Events that give us a sense of community are what I like most about Calgary. Not the fancy restaurants or the rock star chefs (though we seem to have those in spades). People helping people…that’s what it’s all about. I make sure to visit one of the city’s farmer’s markets at least once a week and try to buy local when I can. It’s a tough city to create a successful business niche in and if I (and you) can support local small business instead of corporate giants…everybody wins.
Before attending the Food Lovers Urban Market I had a discussion with my husband. We were both interested as to how successful the event would be and our doubts came mostly from the fact that you can get most of the products at various Farmer’s Markets around the city without having to pay an entrance fee. To be honest, if I hadn’t been invited to the event I would have left it at that. Upon arrival at venue 1008 my views had entirely changed. What I saw was a community of people working together towards a common goal and having fun at the same time. There was a DJ setting the mood with upbeat but not over extended music, some amazing art by local and global artist in residence Allan Dagnall, and some really delicious aromas in the air. I was happy to arrive early and was able to chat one on one with many of the vendors. All of them were excited about the inaugural Food Lovers Urban Market, and all of them were very passionate about their products.
Since I live in the deep south of Calgary, I am very familiar with Gord and his hard working staff at Soffritto, located in Canyon Meadows (and the Calgary Farmer’s Market). I spotted Heather right away and wandered over to chat. In addition to selling the various flavoured and non flavoured olive oils and vinegars, she had fresh pasta and a delicious double smoked bacon Carbonara pasta on offer. I was very happy to hear that the fresh and prepared food offerings at Soffritto are equally as popular as their oils and vinegars. Heather is a superb cook and if you haven’t been over to Soffritto at lunch for their meatball or brisket subs you are definitely missing out!
Heather from Soffritto and the boys from Olsen’s High Country Bison
Next I had a great chat with Lindsay from Big Mountain Coffee Roasters. They are a local company that roasts 100% organic beans from around the world into some very delicious coffee. While I was making the decision on which of the three espresso roasts to buy Lindsay made me an Americano (my first!) and we chatted about her super awesome Captain Kirk tattoo and of course the upcoming Comic and Entertainment Expo. I couldn’t wait to rip into my Espresso π this morning!
As I scanned the venue I found a couple of other familiar faces, Keith and Sammy from Fifth Element Truffles. Keith was busy all night running around and making sure the event went off without a hitch and Sammy did an awesome job of manning the booth all by herself. I had a chance to try their delicious Mushroom and lentil salad with Miner’s lettuce and some shaved Summer Italian truffle on top. I felt like I was back in the forest…
Speaking of back in the forest, I had a really great and interesting chat with Mathieu Paré who runs Wild Chef Culinary Adventures. I’ve always been interested in foraging…but alas grew up a farmer’s daughter so I’ve never been exposed to foraging other than the odd mushroom incident…Anyway, they had some lovely foraged and preserved products from Gourmet Sauvage . I tried their ‘Turducken Rillette’ with pickled spruce tips and elderberry jelly and the lovely little PEI (Malpeque?) oysters with a mignonette of cantaloupe, preserved cattail hearts and milk weed pods. Who knew you could eat a cattail?
Whew! I really got around last night….I had a tasty cheese plate which included a really interesting aged Goat Chevre from Say Cheese Fromagerie (at the Crossroads Market). This is the cheese market I take my father in law to when he is in town…he just can’t help himself and we reap the benefits. The last time we were there we ended up with a wedge of the world’s best cheese, the Lancaster aged loaf from Glengarry Fine Cheese in Ontario.
What goes best with cheese and beer? Maybe olives? I had the chance to speak with Spencer Barber, one of the owners of Nefiss Lezizz a ‘local’ company with a small family olive farm in Turkey. I’m not much of an olive person but I love cooking with olive oil and theirs is one of the best there is. I bought one of their dried apricot packages to bring home and the family pretty much ate the whole thing right away.
With all that food, I’m glad there was plenty of opportunity for refreshment as well. The event had a full bar as well as booths with samples. I didn’t try the wines at 5 vines booth but I did have a sample of IPA from the Tool Shed Brewery booth. It’s great beer and I’m looking forward to finding it at a pub near me.
The Food Lovers Urban Market had something for everyone, including those with a sweet tooth. I was content with my dried apricots but there was also Gelato and sweet treats from the Purple Pastry Chef as well as Sugar Creek Kettle Corn.
Last but not least I visited the Eats of Asia booth for some hand pulled Dan Dan noodles. John Leung (from Masterchef Canada) is currently apprenticing with Jay del Corro (The Aimless Cook) and he’s kept quite busy with the noodle pulling and bao making lately! The pork on the dish was super delicious and had bags of flavour.The Food Lovers Urban Market was a ‘Gold Medal’ event (as tweeted by organizer, Keith Goodale). These types of events don’t organize themselves. Keith, along with Johanna Lane (owner/operator of Calgary Ghost Tours) had the dream and the drive to get it done…and I’m glad they did. With the proceeds from Venue 1008 going entirely to Servants Anonymous, a charity helping women and children, the evening was a win-win. The rise of the Urban Market in Calgary did what it set out to do: Emphasize community spirit and pride as well as highlighting the hard work of small businesses.