“I didn’t know the Stampede hired vegetarians,” was one comment I received while attending the 2018 Meet in the Middle dinner celebrating Canada’s Agriculture Day, Tuesday, February 13. “Well that’s why they call it The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth!” I replied, “No matter what you’re interested in, there’s something for everyone at the Calgary Stampede.”
The second annual Meet in the Middle Event was held on Tuesday, February 13, in honour of Canada’s Agriculture Day, at Willow Lane Barn (pictured above) near Olds, Alberta. This is an event is organized by ATB and the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance, in conjunction with several commodity and Agricultural industry groups across Alberta, including the Calgary Stampede. Producers, and other involved in Agribusiness, enjoyed the opportunity to network and connect with consumers while enjoying great local dining options. All food served was from Alberta.
Although this seems second-nature to me, being vegetarian in Alberta is often thought of as out of the ordinary, especially when the province is known for its Alberta Beef. But after my incredible, locally-produced dining experience, my thoughts are further solidified that Alberta’s agriculture industry is a fantastic provider of top-quality products.
This is the first sit-down course of the evening. Rainbow carrots, soaked in carrot juice, with almonds and currants in a cardamom dressing – the edible floral additions were a delicious and exciting touch to this course. Prepared by Hotel Arts.
Chefs from nine different establishments across Alberta prepared intricate dishes for the more than 100 guests from a wide variety of backgrounds. While my co-workers and those sitting around me were enjoying delicacies off of the regular menu, I was treated to a special selection of dishes.
Bruschetta-stuffed Portobello mushroom with caramelized brussels sprouts and carrots, with a balsamic glaze – crunchy carrots, crispy brussels sprouts and tender Portobello mushrooms combined for the perfect texture experience. Prepared by Grey Eagle Resort.
Chinook honey butter and lentil brittle, with port-soaked raisins and candied chickpea fudge. This dish was the highlight of the night for me; it was innovative and delicious, and an impressive way to use lentils and chickpeas in a dessert without compromising the sweet, creaminess of typical candy brittle and fudge. Prepared by WinSport.
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Lentils are my personal favourite protein because they can easily be added to any dish – including dessert as I discovered! There are several types of lentils and Alberta produces the top internationally preferred lentil, the Chilean. And Canada is the world’s largest exporter of lentils, with exports widely distributed among 75 countries.
Alberta is Canada’s second largest agricultural producer, using more than one third of all land as farmland, with 15,000 tonnes of vegetables grown each year. The province also has an ideal climate for growing various other high-protein, low-fat meat alternatives such as black, navy, pinto and great northern beans, as well as chickpeas and soybeans.
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And who can forget Alberta’s rolling fields of colourful crops? Alberta wheat production reached 10 million tonnes in 2017, which is 33 per cent of Canada’s total wheat production. These are just a few of the facts I learned at Meet in the Middle, while dining on delicious vegetarian cuisine.
Meet in the Middle was a great opportunity to celebrate Canada’s Agriculture Day and bridge the gap between urban and rural. Out of the more than 100 attendees, some had never stepped foot on a farm before, while others make their entire life’s work on one.
And while there will always be differences of opinion regarding food preferences and choices, one thing will always remain: regardless of what we’re eating, we’re so lucky to be living in a province where fresh, local produce and pulses are just a short truck drive away.
Attending the event with me were Alison Buie, Stampede Government Relations (pictured above on the right), Mackenzie Argent from the Western Events & Agriculture team, Christie Oltmann from the Sponsorship team, and Laura Laing of the Stampede International Agriculture & Agri-Food committee.