“The more I eat, the more I get full”

Beignet and Tourtiere

Review by Catherine Paet-Pondanera
photos by Julie Chea

My glasses fogged up immediately upon entering the Edmonton Convention Centre. The snow had been piling up since early morning that Saturday. Yet, it couldn’t stop me from heading to the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival, held on November 8 and 9.

I released a shuddering breath, as I peeled off the thick, black coat covering my body. After my vision returned, I spotted my friend, Julie, waving me over. We drooled over the menu. Luckily Julie, the culinary expert and chef extraordinaire, was with me to explain all those fancy names. The clock couldn’t move fast enough. When noon struck, down we went to explore all that the festival had to offer.

We presented our tickets to the lady barricading the doors, and exchanged them for a stamp, a contest form, and a wine glass. My stomach tried to pull me into the direction of the food, but I told it to settle down because we needed to buy some sampling coupons first.

I watched in amazement at the lady fanning herself with the 200 tickets she just bought. She isn’t holding back. I decided $20 for 40 tickets sounded like a good starter. Unfortunately, they didn’t have printout maps, like last year, so we had to look up the places we wanted to try on our phones or on the posters plastered around the room.

Both Julie and I don’t eat breakfast, so we headed over to the first place that caught our eye: the Sunterra Market. This booth really knew how to entertain their guests. We placed an order of spaghetti (8 tickets), and a flatbread sandwich (7 tickets). As we waited for our dishes, a chef asked the crowd, “Are you ready”? He smirked and waved a bottle and his pan of pasta in the air. Julie and I glanced at each other before frantically grabbing our phones. The pan was engulfed in flames and the crowd gasped at the light show.

Chefs at Sunterra Market flambe pasta

It was over just as quickly as it had started, but the dish wasn’t done yet. He poured the pasta into a hollowed out parmesan wheel, and another chef took over from there, stirring the warm spaghetti into the sides of the wheel to incorporate the cheese. The act ended with the plating of the dish. The sandwich did not have a flamboyant act, but it was made fresh to order.

The spaghetti was mixed with some prosciutto and spices. It was creamy and full of flavour. I could eat a full plate of that dish. The sandwich looked like a soft taco, but was filled with prosciutto, arugula, and fior di latte, a type of cheese. I think this was even better than the pasta. The cheese was stringy and a bit salted, but went well with the crisp arugula and soft prosciutto. It was so good that Julie went back for seconds near the end of our trip.

Pasta and Sandwich

Alcohol was the primary reason why we were here. We took a stroll around and found ourselves in front of a place called Vodka Mudshakes. We tried the vanilla flavour, and the chocolate flavour (3 tickets each). The drinks looked a bit like chocolate milk, mixed with some vodka. I was surprised with how soft and smooth the mudshake was. It was creamy, but I could definitely taste the alcohol. Neither flavour overpowered. Both flavours were delicious.

Vodka Mudshake

Our next stop took us in the direction of desserts. But it wasn’t just any dessert. Happy Hour served alcoholic gelato. Now gelato had always been one of my favourite treats. But gelato and alcohol? We couldn’t order fast enough. They had four flavours: Peach Chardonnay, Red Wine, Chocolate Orange Brandy, and Apple Pie Moonshine (4 tickets each).  The two most popular flavours were the Peach and the Apple, so we wanted to know if they lived up to their hype.

By this point, guests were filling up the space, so it was getting difficult to find tables to eat at. We watched someone slowly pack up their empty plates, and quickly claimed their table after they left. The Peach Chardonnay was sour. If I didn’t know any better, I wouldn’t believe there was alcohol inside. The Apple Pie Moonshine was a different story. The moonshine, coupled with the strong taste of cinnamon, was overpowering. Julie joked that “we’re going to get drunk on gelato”.

Gelato Ice Cream: Peach Chardonnay shown in front, Apple Pie Moonshine shown in back

The Edmonton Convention Centre also had a booth, and, according to Julie, was known for serving the best food of the festival. After taking a bite of their roast beef sliders (8 tickets) and lobster poutine (10 tickets), I had to agree.

Julie described the prime rib as being “aged well,” whatever that means. It was soft and full of flavour. This was Julie’s favourite dish. The lobster poutine had tater tots instead of fries and that made the most difference for me. The cheese was more of a creamy sauce, and tasted great with the crunchy outside of the tater tots. The lobster was mixed in with the sauce, but I didn’t really notice it. This dish was one of my favourites.

Burger and Poutine

More food in the stomach meant it was time for more drinks. This time we headed over to Lamarca to try out their Apple Cider Prosecco. Julie described it as “tart and juicy,” and while I agree with the tartness, I didn’t quite understand how a drink could be juicy. But Julie’s the culinary expert, so she must be on to something. I just love proseccos, so it was definitely a worthwhile stop.

Maybe it was the alcohol, but the room was getting pretty warm. Our legs were killing us, so we had to rest for a while. Our stomachs were bulging. Our mouths, however, were still searching for more to devour. We hadn’t even been to a quarter of the booths in the festival.

Having exhausted the initial 40 tickets early on, we purchased another 40. Julie might have been getting a little tipsy because she had declared, in matter of fact tone, “the more I eat, the more I get full”. Astute observation Julie! I think the alcohol was getting to her.

We got stopped by Ono Poke Co, who asked, “do you want to get laid?” Before we could run away, they draped the both of us in a flowery plastic lei. We took a bite of their Uncle Thom’s dish (6 tickets) in appreciation, and headed over to a booth that served a variety of different alcoholic beverages.

The two that stood out were the Duchesse de Bourgogne and the Fruli Strawberry Beer, both hailing from Canada. The Duchesse was a red ale style beer, which I usually don’t go out of my way to drink. But today was a day for trying out new things. I was expecting a more bitter flavour. To my delight, it had a more sour or tarty taste. The strawberry beer tasted fruitier than wheat, and was one of Julie’s favourite drinks.

Strawberry beer shown in front, Duchesse beer shown in back

We sauntered on over to Chocorrant Patisserie and Café for our last stop of the day. We decided to try the Earl Grey Cheese Cake (4 tickets), and the Strawberry Croissant (3 tickets). The cheesecake was soft and moist, not overly sweet, and a bit nutty. It was topped with whipped cream and a slice of white chocolate. The croissant had a slight crunch, but softened in your mouth. Despite how good both plates were, I was struggling to finish them. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that last Black Bean and Cheese Arepa from Avila Arepa (6 tickets).

Croissant and Cheese cake

Four hours was not enough time to digest everything the festival had in store. There were so many other dishes and drinks we wanted to try, but our stomachs and legs were already crying for us to stop.

I may have seen at least one guy a bit past his limit, but most guests were walking fine. I’d like to think I have a pretty high tolerance. They were selling the drinks in full bottles just outside the halls, and if I had some extra cash, I would have purchased a bottle of the Vodka Milkshake or the Lamarca Apple Cider Prosecco. I’ll definitely be on the look out for them.

By the time I got home, I crashed onto my bed, stuck in a food coma, dreaming of next year’s festival.