The Calgary Farmer's Market is bustling on a Saturday morning and chef Judy Wood of Meez Cuisine and Catering is in her element searching for farm-fresh local products to use in her kitchen.
Insider Secrets Of Top Chefs
She guides us from one local vendor to the next, sampling elk sausage, savoury pot pies and creamy fudge brownies shot with Saskatoon berries and port. We learn about Alberta range-fed beef and cold-pressed canola oil, heirloom potatoes and unusual striped green tomatoes from a nearby organic greenhouse. These are the kind of fresh ingredients you'll find on menus around the city, as Calgary's top chefs focus their collective creativity on featuring more local flavours.
There's nothing like exploring the food scene with a local, and its always fun to join Wood's market tour or take a guided urban food hike through the ethnic neighbourhoods and gourmet grocers. From the best bakeries to French delis, artisan cheese shops and specialty wine stores, we fill our shopping bags with chewy baguettes, foie gras torchon, wild boar paté and award-winning Alberta Gouda along the way.
Beef And Beyond
But they don't call it Cowtown for nothing – Calgary was built on beef – so on a sunny southern Alberta day, a little culinary road trip through cattle country is in order. It's not long before we hit our first market garden, a great spot for picking your own strawberries, currants and Saskatoon berries. In between the picking and sampling, I dream about the muffins and pies I’ll be baking later this week. Then it's off to find a ranch where elk and bison products sit alongside grass-finished beef at the farmer's gate. Sausage, steak, burgers and jerky – the perfect start for a weekend barbeque. Hopefully we’ll find ourselves a little stand selling sweet Taber corn on the way home.
Learn From The Masters
To take the market tour one step further, we'll learn how to use our fresh local treasures in a cooking class. There are private cooking schools, even classes at city grocery stores and wine shops. But my choice is the new downtown culinary campus for SAIT's (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) professional cooking program.
You can choose from a variety of courses including individual themed classes like gluten-free cooking and preparing a turkey dinner, as well as cooking technique classes such as braising or knife skills. It’s the multi-class cooking fundamentals courses that have my attention though. There’s a canning course that would come mighty handy for learning how to preserve my hand-picked harvest.