I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to the Canadian Culinary Federation conference this year, a week long event full of seminars with esteemed chefs as speakers and receptions featuring some great food. Unfortunately, there were a couple of scheduling conflicts with the Vancouver Canucks playoff run so I couldn’t go to everything but I did get the chance to taste some amazing dishes and meet some interesting people in the industry.
The first thing you see when you get in the door is a massive ice sculpture. There were actually several large ice sculpture but only this one dispensed X-four vodka. No seriously…it was a giant block of ice with a tap in it. Now that’s a pretty extravagant way to keep your drinks frosty.
I started with some of the lighter offerings around the room. Can’t go wrong with freshly shucked raw oysters!
There were two different tables with assortments of cheese.
I only tried the plate from the Youth Team Canada, which is a Qualicum goat’s cheese, braised organic cippolini onions, mulled tomato and micro-greens with a salt and vinegar cracker and emulsified chimichurri. Everything on the plate works well together with sweet, sour, creamy, crunchy, mild, sharp and all kinds of textures…plus it’s a good looking plate as well. It’s paired with a Fraser Valley apple cider Tom Collins, which I thought had a strange gingery taste to it.
From Ontario, this is a pan-fried potato and goat cheese perogy with sauteed shiitake mushrooms, candied double smoked bacon and scallion cream. While I enjoyed the mushrooms, I found the perogy very bland and under seasoned. Unfortunate since I absolutely love cheese and potato perogies.
Another cool idea that fell a little short was this…pulled pork muffin. No, seriously…Alberta’s entry was pulled pork in a pinto cornmeal muffin topped with a maple butter cream frosting and smoked chipotle crackle. Now, I’ve had bacon cheesecake so I’m no stranger to mixing sweet with savory but I was just not impressed here. I didn’t really get the pulled pork part of it (there’s a tiny little chunk in the center) so it was just like a sweet, cornmeal muffin to me. I just didn’t understand what the intention of this dish was, I guess.
I did enjoy the Alberta Amber’s Brewing Company Sap Vampire Maple Lagera Simple, though. I don’t know why they can’t just call it “beer” either.
Saskatchewan came with a mustard cured duck bacon, Lac La Ronge wild rice and barley galette with carmine jewel cherry preserve. The duck was slightly tough but tasted okay. The rice, however, was a little too bland even with the salty duck on top of it.
Representing the Okanagan was a juniper cured venison bresadla with arugula and crispy shallots. I love cured meat and this is a good way to enjoy it but the venison is a tad dry for me. I would’ve preferred more of the cured prosciutto texture.
It’s hard to go wrong with putting anything on your macaroni and cheese, especially something as awesome as lobster. Prince Edward Island prepared a creamy mac and cheese, full of great little crunchy, overbaked pieces of melty cheese and a few chunks of succulent lobster. Not particularly creative but no complaints about the flavor.
Manitoba describes their dish as Manitoban smoked goldeye terrine with beet and goat cheese puree and sauteed pickerel cheeks, micro greens and a flax seed vinaigrette. The pickerel cheek was cooked nicely and seasoned well but the smoked goldeye terrine was tepid and lacked flavor. Absolutely stone cold but maybe it was just mine but I didn’t go back to try again.
I spoke to many people at the event and mostly everyone agreed that the best dish was from Quebec. This is a quail stuffed with fiddleheads, wrapped in boar bacon with celeriac and apple puree. The quail is tender and juicy and I don’t even really know what fiddleheads are but oh man, the stuffing inside the quail is just delicious. Mixed with the creamy puree and this is just a fantastic dish. I had seconds and probably could’ve had room for another if I didn’t try just about everything in the room. I’m sure I missed a couple but it was a busy night and a couple tables shut down before the end of it.
I’m not much a dessert guy but even I had to try the dish from BC, a hazelnut s’more with Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Christie graham crumbs, dark chocolate and marshmallows. Alone it would’ve been a very good dessert already, full of chocolate and hazelnut flavor…rich and velvety but paired with a Canterbury iced hazelnut coffee sealed the deal.
And I’m not even much of a coffee drinker. I’m much more into tea so fortunately for me, there was a big spread of various teas from Silk Road Tea in Victoria. I had an iced tea that I could swear tasted of ginger but didn’t have any in it and an oolong tea that was perfect for winding down after sampling so many different dishes.
Fantastic event put on by the CCFCC and while there were a few dishes that fell flat, there were a few that were flat out amazing. Someone call Quebec and tell them to ship me some more of that quail.