The ultimate guide to food for Alberta

Travel Alberta

Sep 17, 2018 - 4 minute read

Alberta is a growing foodie destination in the eyes of outsiders, but those who live here have long known how its geography, culture and people have conspired to make irresistible food for generations. Two of those Albertans Karen Anderson and Matilde Sanchez-Turri recently spent months exploring the province and the people who make it delicious. The result is their newly released book Food Artisans of Alberta: Your Trail Guide to the Best of our Locally Crafted Fare. 

We asked Anderson and Sanchez-Turri to share some insight from their research to make your trip to Alberta a little tastier. 

From beans to bread and beef, restaurants like the Deane House dish up Alberta-sourced foods, turning them into beautiful, tasty food you want to eat.

Chris Amat

What are the Top 10 iconic foods of Alberta?

1. Beef: We have as many cattle as people. They thrive on our lush grasslands and our chefs cook it to perfection. 

2. Bison: They’ve been here 120,000 years and have developed with the land, so they are the quintessential taste of this place. 

3. Saskatoon berries: the indigenous people ate Saskatoons fresh, made teas and dried them with bison as their winter food, pemmican. 

4. Canola: These golden fields of flowers yield a heart-healthy oil. We like the cold-pressed organic version. 

5. Honey: We are the fifth largest honey-producing region in the world, with 18-million kilograms (40 million pounds) harvested annually. 

6. Root vegetables: Cold fall nights cause the plant’s sugars to concentrate, so root vegetables taste sweeter here.

7. Red Fife wheat: The first wheat to grow well in Alberta; it sustained our pioneers and we continue to enjoy it in toothsome loaves of sourdough bread.

8. Mustard: Until recently, we shipped these seeds to France to be made into Dijon. Now, Alberta food entrepreneurs are producing jars of this kitchen staple here.

9. Pulses: Peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils do very well in key areas of the province. 

10. Spirits, craft beer, mead and fruit wine: Our micro distilleries, breweries, meaderies and fruit wineries are being recognized across the globe for their excellence.  

Watch how Alberta chefs use Saskatoon berries, one of Alberta's signature foods, in a variety of dishes, both sweet and savoury.

Where are some of the best places for visitors to find these foods?

Edmonton area: Chef Brad Lazarenko of Culina and chef Larry Stewart of Hardware Grill have built their careers on a commitment to using local. In nearby St. Paul, chef Debbie Poulin’s Twisted Fork has a chalkboard listing the food artisans her restaurant supports. SC restaurant at River Cree Resort in Enoch serves chef Shane Chartrand’s contemporary indigenous food. 

Banff area: Deer Lodge and Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Lake Louise and Banff respectively are always top of mind as the owners, Pat and Connie O’Connor, together with executive chef Allistair Barnes, were pioneers in putting bison and elk on Alberta menus. 

Red Deer area: In Lacombe, chef Rieley Kay of Cilantro and Chive is infusing his menu with local. Chef Tim Wood at Eco Cafe in Pigeon Lake is another. If visitors detour off of the Queen Elizabeth II highway at Airdrie, they can eat at Hayloft to experience the local fare of chef Jason Barton-Browne. 

Calgary area: River Cafe and Deane House in Calgary are devoted to their local suppliers. At Rouge Restaurant, chef Paul Rogalski offers guests something from their garden, fresh or preserved, on every plate. 

Lethbridge area: In Lethbridge, Mocha Cabana chefs Angel Harper and Jaclyn Geddes offer a menu that’s fiercely loyal to their suppliers and they also apply this philosophy in supporting local artists and musicians too

Chris Amat

If someone is taking a road trip around Alberta, can you suggest five places for them to gather authentically Albertan provisions to enjoy?

Canmore: Valbella Gourmet Meats. This 40-year-old family owned business offers cheeses, breads, charcuterie and meats cured in the fresh mountain air.

Calgary: The Calgary Farmers’ Market. Open Thursday through Sunday, it has a variety of fresh local produce and meat available.

Edmonton: City Market Downtown or Old Strathcona Market. On Saturdays, these are wonderful places to stock up on tasty provisions. 

Three Hills: Farm Basket. Year-round access to local. 

Lethbridge: Exhibition Park Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from May to October.

Did you know that Alberta produces 60 per cent of Canada's honey? Watch as chefs use the local sweetness in their cooking. 

What food events are must-do experiences for visitors to plan trips around?

The annual Honey Festival in Fahler, Taste of Edmonton at Capital Plaza in Edmonton, Markerville’s annual long table dinner, the Calgary Stampede’s hundreds of free community pancake breakfasts, Canmore Uncorked Food and Drink Festival, Banff’s Cochon555, Medicine Hat’s Sunshine Skillet Festival, Aspen Crossing’s food themed prairie train excursions, Taber Corn Festival, and the Sunset Sake Experience at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge.

Fresh from the greenhouse. Many Alberta chefs like Paul Rogalski of Rouge Restaurant in Calgary grow their own vegetables and herbs which they regularly use on their menus.

Tourism Calgary

If you had to choose one Alberta meal, what would it be?

Anderson: Bison tenderloin with roasted root vegetables and a big slice of sour cherry pie to finish. 

Sanchez-Turri: Pan-fried rainbow trout with Athabasca wild rice pilaf and a Saskatoon berry butter tart.

 Alberta chefs call bison the perfect protein. Learn how they're using this healthy meat into delicious dishes.

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