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CANMORE UNCORKED 2016 Insider’s Blog: DAY 1

Karen Fennell Posted In: Dining Posted On: April 07, 2016

Is it OK to lick plates in a restaurant?


Prologue:
Before I begin, a couple of introductions…
Firstly, this blog is about the third annual Canmore Uncorked Food & Drink Festival – taking place in Canmore, Alberta April 6th-17th 2016. Last year’s Festival won Event of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Tourism Awards, so this year has a lot to live up to!

Secondly, and in the interests of full disclosure, I am the CEO of Canmore Business & Tourism – the group that has developed and operated the festival from the start. I am NOT however a professional food critic and my opinions are all my own.

And my goal? I am trying to visit every one of the participating businesses over the course of the 12-day festival.

That’s 12 days. 52 businesses. 78 daily specials. 33 signature events Sounds easy enough…

I invite you to join me on my travels!
 


Day 1: Wednesday 6th April
0 venues experienced, 52 to go…

Waking up in the mountains is always special. Waking up in the mountains on the first day of Uncorked is simply brilliant! A buzz in the air, pageantry on the streets, and adrenaline still high from the previous night’s Launch Party (which you can get a taste of here). But now the realization creeps in… I am trying to experience every business! That’s 52 dining experiences over 12 days – and that doesn’t include the many signature events, so even if I get to 4 every day it is still not enough – first world problems, eh?

Canmore’s dining scene is remarkable. For a town of 12,000 to have 85+ food and beverage businesses is incredible, and it is not just the quantity, it’s the quality! The development of Canmore Uncorked is a fun story, but best told elsewhere – if you are interested and have 15 minutes, grab a coffee and you can see the whole history here.

My excitement for the start of the festival was quickly doused by a series of meetings that took the whole morning, so my first chance to start collecting stamps in my passport was the 25 minutes I had lunch – which meant starting in the downtown core.

Bella Crusta Canmore UncorkedBella Crusta is new to the festival, but has been a Canmore staple for many years – a local fave just off Main Street that is known for its sandwiches and pizzas made on house-baked focaccia bread. The $5 lunch special is a chicken salad sandwich on fresh-baked focaccia with a drink – freshly made but ready in just a couple of minutes which was perfect for my tight timeframe.
Frankly it hit the spot perfectly – the bread was fresh and light, the chicken tasty, and it was the perfect size for lunch. And for the price it was exceptional value!

Evoolution Canmore UncorkedHaving been quick about lunch meant I had 10 minutes to go before my next meeting meaning so I had time to grab another stamp. A quick scoot around the corner onto Main Street took me to Evoolution, and oil and vinegar tasting bar that opened last year and was also therefore new to the festival.
The tasting experience here is free, and while the dip they had prepared for Uncorked was delicious, there is no question that the star real experience the oil and vinegar tasting – especially as I had my daughter in tow and she was introduced to the kids special; vinegar flavoured soda stream. Who knew!!! She loved trying different flavours, while I tried to come up with the best oil & vinegar combo.
There are so many to choose from, and no doubt you will find your own favourite, but I strongly encourage you to try an equal part combo of the Blood Orange olive oil and the Ripe Pear white balsamic.
Simply put, I could drink it. Accurately put, I did!

So, meeting time, and if you are clever with your schedule you can sneak in a stamp on the fly – a trick I have learned in the last couple of years. My meeting took place at Communitea Café, another downtown favourite known for great fresh food, relaxed atmosphere, live music, and a huge selection of perfectly prepared teas.
There is no doubt I will be returning for a $12 lunch special later in the festival, so I won’t talk about food now, but prior to starting the meeting I was able to partake of the $5 special which was a tea tasting (white vanilla coconut – wow!) and a bag of your own favourite loose leaf to take away (licorice peppermint being my choice).
Not bad – 25 minutes, 3 stamps…

Back to the office, but past experience has taught me there is always a tasting on the way home, and today it was at An Edible Life.
I have talked in the past about the fascinating story behind this slightly-hidden-but-well-worth-a-visit eatery and its owner Carole (you can read more here).
An Edible Life offers ‘healthy, honest, ready-made meals’ that are genuinely delicious, but this is Canmore Uncorked and that means I was looking to see what delicious sweet treat was on offer – last year’s goji balls were still on my mind!
This year does not disappoint either – the $5 special is a package of raw chocolates that are simply ‘amazing’ (direct quote from my 11-year old, but sentiment shared by myself.

So where for dinner? Again the first world problems of Canmore Uncorked

This year there are 28 restaurants offering evening three-course meals at $20, $30 or $40, and all of them offer exceptional value – there is no question that the pricing is about making friends, not money. My personal example of this is the Market Bistro in Three Sisters – I would likely never have gone there without Uncorked, but after my fabulous experience in 2014 it has become my first-night friends and family destination each year since. Chef Anthony hails from the Bordeaux area, and brings authentic French flair to the Canmore dining scene along with a home-like welcome.
The $20 menu starts with a choice of carrot ginger soup or goat cheese panna cotta, followed by duck confit pizza or Dijon pork pot pie, followed by a Chocolate pot de crème or something else that I can’t really remember because the chocolate was so good. 

Having a number of us there meant we could all try everything, but for me the panna cotta and the pork pie (which is actually a beautifully seasoned pork stew topped with biscuit and bacon) were the winners. And the honey dressing on the panna cotta had me genuinely wondering if it is OK to lick plates in a restaurant. Better to beg forgiveness than as permission, as I always say…

On an aside (with another stamp involved), Anthony and Val also own unWined next door, and there they are offering a $5 tasting of fortified wines paired with their own house-made preserves. Three of us were sampling, there were three pairings, each of us had a strong favourite and each was different. Isn’t food wonderfully subjective?
 

So 1 day gone. 6 experiences tried. And I am ahead of pace! Let’s see how long that lasts…

 


About the Author
Andrew Nickerson
President and Chief Foodie
Canmore Business & Tourism