It’s that time of the year when the leaves are turning glorious colours and gardens everywhere are being harvested. The farmers can barely get in a few well earned zzzz’s before heading back out the the fields again. Long table harvest dinners are popping up in little towns everywhere, showcasing the fruits of their labours. My very first long table dinner was a few weeks ago when the leaves along main street Stettler were still in their late summer glory and the harvest from local producers was a source of pride on each plate.
Photo: Christine Boake Photography
My table mates and I were treated like royalty; picked up in a limousine and whisked 5 minutes away to the blocked off main street section in front of Brenda’s Cozy Cafe, where all the dishes were being prepared and plated. The long table sat in the middle of main street Stettler, all decked out in prairie finery and several tables skirted the outer edges containing local products which were to be featured during the dinner. I tasted some delicious locally made cream cheese from Mary Ann Stevenson of Applejack Ranch and learned that you can make vegetarian cheese…using an extract made from thistles instead of sheep’s rennet. Then I had an absolutely wonderful cocktail from Hanson Distillery‘s Spiced Peach Moonshine. Owners Kris and Shayna continue the Hansen family tradition of distilling quality products using 100% ingredients sourced from Alberta, except the peaches of course. After sampling the cheese and enjoying a cocktail (or two) I took my place at the long table. Set out before me was the evening’s feast and I was thrilled to see that we would be enjoying beef tenderloin supplied by the folks at Buffalo Hills Natural Beef. To see the pride on their faces was a thrill in itself. It’s not often that producers are able to see their product enjoyed in such a setting.
To begin the dinner, prairie style Caprese Salad was passed around by the volunteer servers. Chef Riley Kay (from Cilantro and Chive) strung the sweet, juicy Kempf’s Greenhouse tomatoes along with Applejack Ranch fresh mozzarella onto wheat stalks and drizzled them with balsamic vinegar.
Late summer flavours danced within the tiny bowl of the Zesty Gazpacho created by Chef Brenda Brinson of Brenda’s Cozy Cafe. This simple chilled soup elevated the finest tomatoes, zucchini, and basil grown at Kempf’s Greenhouse.
Our salad course contained another favourite prairie ingredient in the vinaigrette; Saskatoon Berries. The vinaigrette was also punctuated with a touch of prairie spirit…wine from Fireside Winery & Market Garden. The baby spinach greens, sweet pepper, and cucamelons were grown at Kempf’s Greenhouse while the surprise boar bacon at the bottom was supplied by Canadian Heritage Meats. Everyone likes a little bacon in their salad, right?!
We were kept well watered throughout the dinner, with Lacombe brewed Troubled Monk beers, wine from Fireside Winery & Market Garden, and spirits from Hansen Distillery.
The delight on everyone’s face, but especially on Quinn and Janelle Hayden of Buffalo Hills Natural Beef was evident when Chef Jimin John (Otherside Restaurant, Delburne Bistro) presented the Roasted Herbed Beef Tenderloin. It was perfectly roasted and finished with a Border Cross Whisky Sauce featuring Hansen Distillery’s Border Crossing Rye Spirit. It sat on a bed of creamed spinach (made with Primrose Farm‘s fresh cream) surrounded by seasonal veggies, all from Kempf’s Greenhouse.
In case you’re wondering if that wonderful boar bacon from Canadian Heritage Meats would make an appearance again…I can say that it made another surprise entrance in our dessert. Not only did Chef Lutz Kintzel give us bacon for dessert, but we also had a zucchini brownie and Saskatoon Berry cream filled cream puff. The Saskatoon Berry sauce made with Fireside Winery & Market Garden wine was also a huge hit at our section of the long table. The bacon, chocolate and berries left everyone with a smile on their faces. I was asked to join in the Taste of the Heartland long table dinner as a guest of Destination Stettler. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Stettler, years in fact. Way back when the kids were small we used to stop overnight at a cousin’s house to break up the long trip to Saskatchewan. I can honestly say that I didn’t get a good sense of what Stettler was like as a community back then. As a guest, I struggled to find the right words for what I had experienced during Open Farm Days and the Taste of the Heartland long table dinner until the event MC Shawna Benson spoke these words, “You should go visit them, they’ll treat you like family.” Truer words have never been spoken, I can honestly say that it felt like I was visiting family again.
Chefs Lutz Kintzel, Brenda Brinson, Riley Kay, and Jimin John at the Taste of the Heartland Long Table Dinner