Wings and Wine

Wine pairs with everything. This adage may be disputed by many but if you are not too stuck in your ways and are up for an adventure, there are many  pairing events you can venture out to. Everything from candy and cheese to oysters and curry but the one elusive pairing has been chicken wings…. until now.

Just in time for all of those Super Bowl parties to come this weekend, I attended a wine and wing pairing event held by Just Wine.  Hosted at our local Fergus & Bix Restaurant and Beer Market who, as their name might suggest has a passion for Craft beers. They also however have an amazing menu of hand crafted items and a commitment to providing a quality wine selection making it the perfect location for an Every Day Foodie experience.

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We explored 6 different wines and 3 different wing flavours all the while discussing the do’s, don’ts and best suggestions for pairing everyones favourite game day appetizer with wines to open up your options!

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Here are my results:

  • Korean Bulgogi Wings – paired best with bubbles, the sweet umami in these wings was a table favourite when paired with a slightly sweet Prosecco.
  • Jerk dry rubbed wings – paired amazing with an earthy Pinot Noir.
  • Del Rio BBQ dry rub (think Tex-Mex) – paired great with the California Cabernet Sauvignon blend and also with the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

An event like this is a great chance to chat with a Sommelier in a casual setting and if you ever have the chance to meet our host for the night Certified Sommelier Tracy-Lynne MacLellan, she will wipe away all of your fears of learning from that stuffy wine expert. She is open and welcoming, passionate about wine and food pairings and the least stuffy “wine snob” you will ever meet.

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With great food, wine and conversation here are a few more tips that I picked up that might help you surprise your guests (and yourself) on game day:

  • Remember you are matching your wine to your wing sauce not the chicken.
  • Make sure to try your sauces/seasonings once they have been baked or cooked as the flavour changes drastically.
  • Match your spicy wings with a lighter fresher slightly sweet wine. Try a Riesling for your white drinkers and a Pinot Noir for your red drinkers.
  • Match your mild and sweeter wings with a Sparkling wine or a Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Match up your BBQ wings with a Carmenere or Syrah.
  • If you are looking to keep the heat going, match your spicy wings with a bigger bolder slightly spicy red like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Carmenere.
  • When in doubt, choose Champagne!

Give something new a try next time you are eating or serving wings and don’t forget the few friends that love to sip their wine while partaking in the best game day munchie.

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Remembering that matching wine with wings is the most acceptable way to leave fingerprints on your wine glass. I am Your Every Day Foodie.

 

 

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Dinner Unplugged

We were recently able to snag an exclusive invite to an event in town called the Secret Supper. A mysterious event that I stumbled across on the twitter feed of the inner YYC foodie scene.

If you are a foodie in Calgary you have likely come across the name Forage Foods, a great little space located in Marda Loop that provides locally sourced sustainable take home meals and baked goods with an ever rotating menu.

What you may not know is that Infuse Catering located right next door is also owned by Wade Sirois who has been operating in the catering business for 25 years.

The secret supper is a new event held by Infuse Catering  and the mysterious invite comes by email with several rules but not many details. You must be willing to be adventurous with your pallet, be open to sharing a meal with strangers and the big one is to be phone and internet free for the night. This meal is meant to bring people together and remember what sharing food is really about. Trusting the chef to present you with what they do best (after all this is their passion) and enjoying a meal in the social manner in which it was meant to be.

We were presented with a long table in an intimate setting with candles and great music where we introduced ourselves to other guests and just enjoyed each others company, conversation and then of course the amazing food offerings from the chefs at Infuse. This night reminded us that every dish you are presented with has a great story behind it and that amazing collaboration of flavours we enjoy all come from someones heart and soul especially when made from farm to fork. Every dish we shared tonight was a fantastic journey of flavours and although I really want to keep it a secret the whole point to tonight was sharing so, I highly recommend any event you have that you consider an amazing local business like this.

I won’t share much more as to keep this a truly secret event but I will encourage everyone to find an event like this one. A local company that supports local vendors and encourages us to remember what breaking bread is really about.

Reminding you to get out there, be adventurous and remember to savour the moment and not the picture, I am Your Everyday Foodie.

What’s in Your Chocolate?

It’s the season for treats and there’s not anything better than great flavourful and creamy chocolate. There are so many options out there but do you really know what goes into making great quality chocolate? Have you ever wondered is all chocolate made the same? Is coco powder real chocolate? Why does only some chocolate melt in your hand?

We recently had the chance to attend a chocolate making class with one of Calgary’s premier chocolatiers, the one and only Bernard Callebaut. From big business to farmers market booths Bernard has covered them all but the most striking thing about him is his love and passion for what he does.

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Anything you ever wanted to know about chocolate you can learn from this master. He answered all of our questions from the beginning right to the end product.

Did you know that you will not see a forest of coco trees? They are actually most often planted near mature banana trees because they need the shade and not the sun to grow in their early years. The coco bean in its raw state is almost tasteless, and once it is dried, roasted and turned into coco nibs the taste is still almost nothing with a touch of bitterness. Once it’s pressed the nibs become the purest form of chocolate which is still not a flavour that most people would enjoy. This pure form of chocolate is referred to as the chocolate liquor and can be pressed out to separate the coco butter (yep the same thing that is fought over by the beauty companies to put in our creams) and coco powder. The content of coco butter in the finished chocolate is actually what gives it that smooth and melty texture.

Bernard’s enthusiasm is contagious and I could go on and on about everything that we learned but lets get to the tasty stuff. We tasted the chocolate in all of its forms while learning all there is to learn and trying hard not to dip our fingers into the huge vats of melted chocolate nestled on the edges of the surprisingly small but intimate work room.

After our chocolate lesson, it was time to get our hands “dirty”, a delicious creamy chocolaty dirty. Bernard generously filled up large bowls of the melted chocolate of our choice (milk or dark) and took us through the proper process of tempering. Tempering chocolate is not actually the process of melting but the cooling down and aligning of the crystals within the chocolate before you start working with it. This process simply boils  down to patience.

After the long process of tempering it was time to start filling moulds. With the hard work done, this is where the fun really kicked up. We filled moulds for solid chocolate bars then chocolate suckers and shapes from hearts to snowflakes.

Next Bernard demonstrated how to make filled chocolates. With the surprisingly easy three step process we all made amazing trays of Bernard’s famous salted caramel filled chocolates.

At the end of a three and a half hour night we un-moulded all of our chocolate creations and the ever generous and patient Bernard gave us boxes to take home all of our amazing creations. It has been a couple of weeks now and we are still enjoying all of those creations and talking about the amazing experience.

So what makes Bernards chocolates worth the extra cost? He puts love and passion into making and selling his craft chocolates (you will often find him manning the booths at the Calgary Farmers Market or one of the other many craft fairs). Each of his chocolate blends are unique since he blends all of his chocolate by hand using years of family recipes to make each blend special. All of the fillings are made from quality locally sourced ingredients and he uses coco from sustainable fair trade practices. All of that combined with his generosity is enough to make me a customer for life and makes what seems like a little bit more expensive product worth every penny. You can find Bernard’s products at Master Chocolate Bernard and Sons (now five generations) and various farmers and craft markets around Calgary.

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Here are a few tips that we learned if you want to do some chocolate work at home:

  • Start with a high quality chocolate
  • Chop your solid chocolate as small as possible before melting it
  • Melt your chocolate in a double boiler, bring the water to a boil but take it off the heat before you put your chocolate bowl on top to melt
  • Don’t melt all of your solid chocolate, save some for the tempering process
  • Once your chocolate is melted ,check the temperature with a digital thermometer you are aiming to bring it back down to about 32 degrees celsius before you start checking to see if its tempered
  • Keep your melted chocolate over a pot of hot tap water (but not touching the bottom of the bowl) while you are tempering it and add in small amounts of your leftover hard chocolate a little at the time then stir till smooth to help bring the temperature down
  • Keep stirring! Patience and lots of it is the key ingredient now
  • Once you hit the right temperature start checking your chocolate by smearing a little bit on a piece of parchment paper, if it doesn’t harden within a minute or so with a consistent shine its not ready so keep going!
  • A properly tempered chocolate will harden quickly and have a beautiful consistent shine, it will shrink up to 9% when it cools making it easy to get out of the moulds and will have  a crisp snap to it

Happy chocolating!

Highly addicted to the art of chocolate making using high quality local products, I am Your Everyday Foodie!

Japanese Pub Experience

Here in land locked Alberta most everyones idea of Japanese food consists of Sushi or Edo but if you look around a little and are willing to open yourself up to a new experience you can find an amazing little spot located along the very popular 4th street in Calgary that goes by the name of Shokunin.

Shokunin loosely translated to english means craftsman and here in this well put together but small restaurant you will truly find a craftsman in Chef Darren Maclean. He is bringing together a fabulously unique Japanese pub experience with adventurous, delicious sharing dishes and drinks. Everything in this great space has been well thought out from the modern decor with a hit of Japanese art to the dishes that the chef spent days with a local artisan searching out just the right clays and glazes for. At first glance the menu is a little intimidating using many traditions japanese words and descriptors so we thought that our best chance at checking things out would be to try the Omakase, a 5 course chefs menu ($65) that highlights the best of what they do here.

We picked seats at the “chefs bar” with nothing but a clear piece of glass between us and the authentic japanese grill (where they cook most everything over a Japanese White Oak that the chef brings in directly from japan)

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and where we could watch the chef and his team do their magic.

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Our first course was a beautiful Hamachi nigri with fresh wasabi. The hamachi (the fattiest part of the tuna belly) was thinly sliced and then lightly seared with a torch just to bring out the fat and flavour. I loved seeing the fresh wasabi as I have only seen the processed version and this is the only place in Calgary that you will find the fresh real thing. It is similar looking to a ginger root however it is green and much much harder according to the chef who was wonderful enough to listen to our chatter and answer all of our questions. The wasabi was fresh ground on a wooden board and added to the top of our hamachi. This was a delicious one bite starter. The hamachi melted in my mouth and the fresh wasabi was the perfect amount of freshness and spice combined. It even disappeared before I was able to grab a snap shot of it!

Our next course was a Duck Tataki with foie snow. Thinly sliced cured duck with an amazing vinaigrette. The care of spice and “umami” that is added to the dish had us both wanting to lick the plates at the end.

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Our third course was the special of the day, local asparagus tempura with kimzu (a beautiful egg based sauce that is created similarly to a buerre blanc sauce with egg yolks and japanese vinaigrette instead of butter) and sautéed chantrelle mushrooms. The tempura was light and crisp and I really loved the sharpness that the vinaigrette added to the sauce.

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Now it was time to head on to the Yakatori. Yakatori consists of a variety of skewered items cooked on the grill with different seasonings and sauces. Along with the skewers came a side bowl of rice, a selection of house japanese style pickled accompaniments including carrot and egg plant and a soy egg dip (the egg yolk is added whole to the soy and spices and when you are ready, you mix it together to form a delicious creamy dip for your Yakatori).

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We enjoyed the shiitaki mushroom that had a great savoury and smoky flavour from the grill and spices,

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the chicken hearts (which were very flavourful and much like perfectly cooked beef),

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chicken tail (also known as the popes nose or the chicken butt as I like to call it) they were wonderfully crispy and juicy,

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and the chicken thigh with a teriyaki sauce.

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Our dinner ended with a dessert of miso and yuzu creme brûlée. The addition of the miso to the dessert was excellent, it made the dessert less sweet and added a nice savoury quality to it that both of us really enjoyed. The sugar on top was perfectly browned and crisp and was the perfect way to  end this great dinner adventure.

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With so much more on the menu to discover we couldn’t resist trying several of the craft cocktails including one served in a smoked sphere and several of the sakes that are served at the restaurant (many of which are exclusive to Shokunin). You can even add the Sake pairings to your chefs menu dinner for $40.

We also couldn’t resist getting one more of the specialties and ordered the Scallop Isoyaki. A large bay scallop grilled directly in its shell with soy and butter then topped with bonito flakes (dried, cured and paper thin slices of tuna) which is then presented at your table on its own mini grill. This was an amazing treat, sweet and salty with a bit of smoke from the grill. Similar to but so much better than a scallop and bacon dish!

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Overall I would highly recommend that you adventure out of your comfort zone and try everything on the menu here. If you don’t know what the menu means don’t be afraid to ask or be intimidated as Chef Darren has created an environment that is open, inviting and completely unpretentious. Wander in and belly up to the bar  or cozy into a table for an amazing Japanese pub experience!

Enjoying a little corner of Japan in the city, I am Your Everyday Foodie!

 

Sip ‘N Slurp

Oysters…there are a few different thought processes on them, you have tried them and love them, you have tried them and hate them or they are too slimy and scary to try so you have never tried them. I am from thought process number one, I have tried them in many different ways and love them.

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Now that we have tried Oysters in all their glory came the trouble of what do you pair with oysters for drinks. Beer? Cocktails? Wine? With those questions rattling around in our heads we came across the perfect solution, an Oyster and Wine pairings event held by Co-op Wine and Spirits in conjunction with Rodneys Oyster House. Here is what we learned in this glorious evening of sipping and slurping….

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Oysters, oysters, oysters, there are so many varieties and types! Every oyster looks a bit different from the outside and although they look very similar inside each oyster has its own texture and flavour. Tonight we were eating our oysters raw with just a bit of fresh lemon and fresh grated horse radish to pick up the true taste of the oysters. After learning a bit about oysters our first lesson of the night was how to taste the wine with the oyster. First sip the juice known as the “liquor” then take a sip of your wine, from there go ahead and slurp down the oyster and make sure to follow it up with more wine! Something to note is that if you are using sauces for your oysters you should pair your wines to the sauces instead of the oyster.

When having or serving oysters and you are not sure what to have, go with a bubbly. As with most things you can never go wrong opening a bottle of bubbly and tonight we matched beautiful real Champagne with the beautiful small and delicate “Savage Blonde” oyster. We had the Pol Roger Champagne Brut which was just sweet enough to cut through brine of the oyster. This was a pairing I would go back to again and again!

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Next we tried a bit of a bigger meatier oyster. The Duxbury Prime oyster was a little meatier than our first oyster and paired beautifully with the Chateau St. Michelle Reisling.

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Our next oyster was the cadillac of oysters. Considered the steak of oysters the Cotuit oyster really was big and meaty with a bit of a mushroom taste and a much stronger brine taste to it. Wonderfully delicious, it paired excellently with the J. Moreau Et Fils Chablis (a great white wine made with Chardonnay grapes but completely unoaked). The fresh citrus base of this wine was a perfect accompaniment to this meaty beast of an oyster. With this wine pairing we also had the Lameque Verte oyster, still a meaty selection but the brine was much less salty and had a bit of a sweeter end that again matched perfectly with the Chablis.

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Our only Pacific coast oyster of the night was the Fanny Bay oyster. A special treat due to the breeding issues that BC coast oysters are having. This can be a two bite oyster depending on which one you get. Another big meaty oyster but with a sweet taste it was one of the favourites of the night. It paired excellently with the big and bold Jolivet “Attitude” Saviognon Blanc.

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Through the night we also paired a Village Bay oyster with a dry Sherry, the biggest shrimp cocktail I have ever seen with a dry rosè “Fragile” by Orin Swift and finished off the night with a great smoked salmon and cream cheese pancake matched up with a 50th Parallel Pinot Noir.  (Somehow those managed to get eaten before I could snap any pictures!)

The overall learnings for us were that there are more Oyster varieties than you can ever imagine and they cover everything from light and delicate to big and meaty. Fresh grated horse radish is not near as sharp or spicy as its processed counterpart, try is out and you might find that you enjoy the light peppery flavour! When you are pairing a wine to these look to pair acid with acid, pick fresh whites with a citrus base to cut the brine and bring up the sweetness. If you are using sauces, pair to the sauces and if you are using a hot sauce stick to a sweeter wine to cut the heat. Overall this was a great night of fun and education for us and we are looking forward to a lot of shucking in our future!

Learning the art of sipping and slurping, I am Your Everyday Foodie.

Cocktails For A Cause

Carnival Cocktails for Cancer is an amazing event that has been put together in memory and honour of Jennifer Gardiner AKA Jen Unplugged. No ordinary woman, according to her friends she was larger than life loving fashion, food, wine, cocktails and friends. In turn this event is no ordinary fundraiser with all funds directed specifically toward clinical trials at the Tom Baker Cancer centre right here in Alberta.

This event is not your everyday food and drink tasting event. Set at the Hotel Arts you can be prepared to have all of your senses amazed as you enter a true old fashioned carnival. Each of the 20+ participating restaurants and bars are assigned a different carnival theme and a base liquor and are then challenged to come up with a one of a kind version of carnival food or carnival cocktail to serve to the crowd goers for the night.

No where else are you going to see a lion pouring and shaking cocktails,

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a card reader that will determine which drink is best for you,

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strong men lifting bar bells while pouring drinks full of rum, cream, cinnamon, egg and milk with a donut hole,

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and a bearded lady to read your fortune among just a few of the delights.

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As we explored this amazing setting with the DJ pumping out great music we came across Deep Fried Smoked Butter with bone marrow and spicy mayo from Proof.

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Also from proof was their drink offering, the Old Flame a great drink with gin, sweet vermouth, citrus, 5 spice and of course fire!

Tamales de Chivo with goat barbacoa and salsa verde and a side of Esquites, a braised corn dish with queso fresco and cilantro from Native Tongues Taqueria.

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Anejo provided one of our favourites of the night with their take on chicken and waffles as Chicken and Churros.

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Black Pig Bistro offered up a BBQ Spiced Chicharron with crunchy slaw and a Graceland Donut with banana chips, bacon and a warm peanut butter filling.

And where else would you be able to try Heritage Angus Tongue Pastrami with an arugula sponge and juniper foam paired up with a Chika-Cherry Cola drink mixed with gin, cola syrup, lime and cherry jam both the inventions of Cannibale.

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Brasserie Kensington offered up a perfect treat of Brasserie Waffles with chocolate covered bacon and vanilla bourbon maple syrup. A whole bin of chocolate covered bacon…..how could you go wrong?

Add of course the Hotel Arts had an amazing showing with a Mole in the Hole interactive drink where you had to “whack a mole” and smash your ancho ice ball to mix it with whisky, 5 spice syrup and chocolate bitters and a combination of Guaca-Mole with a citrus cured albacore guacamole cone and a mole braised chicken leg on a puffed corn chip.

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The food and drink selections went on and on with a new discovery at each turn. The night was amazing with a feeling of excitement and fun. Not only did the night offer amazing food and drinks but table after table of silent auction items and raffle tickets where the lucky winners would take home two tickets for any West Jet destination and over 80 bottles of wine from the wine tower!

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We have all in one way or another been touched by cancer and I can not imagine a better way to honour someones memory and continue raising funds to fight the good fight than a night like tonight. The all inclusive tickets for the night were $150 a ticket which is a small price considering the cause and the amazing event. We are already looking forward to next years event and will be watching for the tickets to go on sale in late fall. I can’t wait to share the news about this wonderful night and encourage more people to come with us next year.

Exploring the carnival and supporting a cause close to all of us, I am Your Everyday Foodie.

Weekend Uncorked

Canmore Uncorked is a week long food and drink event that showcases the best restaurants and drinks that Canmore has to offer and has been voted Canada’s Event of the Year through the Canadian Tourism Awards. The festival includes several signature events such as a long table dinner, bistro tours, progressive dinners, and beer, wine, whisky and spirit festivals. Over the week many of the restaurants offer set price menus for lunches and dinners that range from $12 to $40. At the beginning of the festival or at any time you can pick up a festival passport and collect stamps at each venue you visit. If you are not there to eat there were also several set price experiences where you could try samples of vinegar and oils, chocolate and meats rather than having a full meal.

We decided to spend the weekend and enjoy several of the festival offerings. On our way from Calgary our first stop was Mad Dog Cafe at Dead Mans Flats. Their Canmore Uncorked offering was their signature spicy candied bacon cinnamon roll with a coffee for $5. This was an amazing way to start our day and after taking a look around they also have an amazing offering of meals that includes a huge array of curries. This will definitely be a regular stop for us any time we are heading into the mountains.

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Back on the highway our next stop was at Valbella Gourmet Foods. Just off highway 1A in Canmore this little meat shop offers not only a vast array of fresh and cured meats but also has a little deli and offers freshly baked breads and buns. Their Canmore Uncorked offering was a charcuterie salami and a package of Bundnerfleisch (a cured thinly sliced cured beef) for $10. Although we did find it hard to leave without purchasing a few extra treats including house made bacon onion jam and a huge bag of beef jerky.

We then headed towards main street Canmore. With plenty of free parking and lots of shops and restaurants to explore it makes for a great day in the sunshine wandering from shop to shop in a beautiful environment. Here we tasted vinegars and oils at Evooloution, explored many shops and eventually stopped for lunch at The Wood Restaurant. The $12 sandwich of the day was amazing, a Montreal smoked meat wrap with fresh vegetables and sweet potato fries. Another stamp added to our passport we headed to the Coast Hotel to participate in the Wine Festival.

The wine festival at Canmore Uncorked was sponsored by Culinaire magazine and had a  $45 per ticket price that included all of your wine tastings from an option of over 90 wines. Food was also available at an additional cost of $5 per plate. For three hours we tasted our way through wine after wine and were lucky enough to find several wines that we hadn’t tried before and then found several that we decided to purchase. Luckily they had an on site store where you could purchase your wines at a discount of 15% from the retail price.

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With our purchases stored away in our hotel room we had some time to enjoy before our 8:00 dinner reservation so we headed out to the patio at Table Food and Drink which is the restaurant attached to the Coast Hotel. Here we enjoyed basking in the sun taking in the beauty of our surroundings and enjoyed another glass of wine and a delicious charcuterie board.

From the Coast hotel it was just a short walk through Canmore to main street where we had decided on the $40 fixe price menu at Murrieta’s Bar and Grill. The dinner had several choices including a choice of appetizer, several main dishes and a choice of desserts. We started our dinner with the cherry coke cocktail and enjoyed a perfectly seasoned and cooked dinner that included crab cakes with a smoky spicy sauce, Brome Lake Duck breast with pomegranate gastrique, braised lamb shank with red wine and cherry jus and for dessert Callebaut chocolate mousse and banana crepes with salted caramel sauce. Overall the dinner was amazing and we would recommend visiting there if you are in the area.

To finish off our Canmore Uncorked weekend we attended the Big Brunch event sponsored by Avenue Magazine. Tickets were $35 each and the event was billed as allowing you to try brunch dishes made by several of Canmore’s favourite brunch spots. Each person was given 8 tickets that would allow you to try at least one sample from each of the 8 stations. We tasted ribs from Iron Goat Pub and Grill, french toast with orange and candied pecans from the Georgetown Pub, chorizo hash in potato skins with fresh salsa and guacamole from Habitat, scrambled eggs with bacon from Table Food and Drink and an amazing breakfast samosa with sweet chutney and curried chicken skewers from Mad Dog Cafe.  And of course for dessert we had amazing cupcakes from Kake Canmore.

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With our bellies full we turned in our stamped passports with hopes of winning the grand prize of 15 gift cards to various restaurants in Canmore and reluctantly headed home. Canmore has an amazing and diverse food scene that I would encourage everyone to explore in the beauty of the rocky mountains. We are looking forward to heading back soon and are thankful to Canmore Uncorked for the chance to see just what Canmore has to offer. Keep your eyes out for next years festival and make the time to head west and participate in this amazing event.