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Canmore Uncorked Long Table Dinner

By Olivia Grecu

Back by popular demand! After a breakout first year at the Canmore Uncorked food and drink festival in 2014, 130 lucky diners snagged tickets to this year’s coveted Long Table Dinner, which took place April 17.

As I arrived at the venue, a (you guessed it) long table set up under a tent on 7th Avenue, a small crowd had gathered. I could hear event-goers and passersby marveling at how beautiful the dinner tent looked against the mountain backdrop.

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A buzz of excitement was tangible: many people had arrived at the recommended 6 pm to enjoy their welcome beverages and appetizers, and to claim their seats at the table on a first-come-first-serve basis. Unfortunately, things were running a little behind and the longer the crowd waited, the more the anticipation grew.

Who could blame us for being excited? We were about to enjoy a feast served by nine of Canmore’s finest restaurants, not to mention enjoy refreshments provided by Vintage Trade, Crush & Cork, The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, Sake Gami, Beamer’s Coffee Bar and Mountain Mercato.

As the gates to enter the event space opened and people checked in one by one, guests were greeted with a welcome beverage of Prosecco. The fun, bubbly drink set the tone for a very enjoyable evening.

The table was beautifully decorated and set. Everyone commented on the charming centerpieces, dishes and tablecloth.

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As everyone settled in, we realized we would be treated to music with dinner: Hugh Dunbar charmed us with acoustic renditions of old favourites and contemporary classics. Many guests seemed to particularly enjoy his interpretation of a famous song, “Highway to Hell.”

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Before the first course, our hosts for the evening introduced themselves: Olympic silver medalist cross-country skier Sara Renner and her husband Thomas Grandi, an Olympic alpine skier. Throughout dinner they kept spirits light with jokes and banter, and introduced each of the chefs who had prepared a course.

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Our first course, a Seven Mushroom Soup from Georgetown Inn, was thick and creamy. It featured large pieces of mushroom (including portobello, button, crimini, porcini and more!) and tasty, salty croutons. It was a mushroom lovers’ dream.

Next came the Pork Rillettes Ravioli from newly revamped Table Food and Drink, featuring ravioli from Canmore Pasta. I thought this was a standout dish, and many of my fellow diners seemed to agree. I don’t like to use the word “unbelievable” too liberally, but it’s the first word that came to mind.

The ravioli was perfectly cooked and stuffed with Table’s pork rillettes, all topped off with pancetta and a lemon cream. The pasta was placed on top of a crunchy crostini, which added just the right amount of different textures.

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The Braised Pork Belly from Thai It Up followed. Chef Kevin Bellis served this dish at last year’s Long Table Dinner, and was asked to serve it again because it had been such a hit. He added a twist by serving each portion with a mini spring roll.

This was my first time trying the Braised Pork Belly, which I had heard so much about. It was beautifully presented: wrapped in a banana leaf along with sticky coconut jasmine rice and pineapple chutney.

The pork was so tender you could cut it with a fork, as many people did. It literally melted in your mouth. The sticky rice was not overly sweet, but the pineapple chutney added the right amount of sweetness to balance out the savoury dish.

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After that, I started to get incredibly full. But each time something new was served, which happened perhaps a little too quickly, all it took was one glance at the presentation and one whiff of the appetizing aromas to know each course was impossible to miss!

We were served a palate cleanser from Figaro’s Gelato, a lemon sorbet. Perhaps Miss Manners would indicate that while dining, one is only supposed to have a few small nibbles of the palate cleanser. However, I know I was not alone in enjoying this sorbet to the last bite. It was good enough for dessert, but tart and refreshing enough to clear our taste buds for what lay ahead.

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We then enjoyed a Saffron and Scallop Chowder from The Iron Goat Pub & Grill. I’m not a huge chowder person, but have to admit this soup was hearty and tasty. It featured large pieces of vegetables, potatoes and scallops, and was topped with a light, flaky piece of golden brown puff pastry, which was very good dipped in the chowder like a cracker.

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At this point, it was around 8:30 pm and the weather had cooled down, despite it being a beautiful sunny afternoon when we started dining. Event staff accommodated chilly guests by closing the tent tarps to reduce the breeze, and by setting a blanket at each seat for people to wrap themselves up in.

Next came Crazyweed’s course of Oven Roasted Miso Crusted Sable Fish. It was served with organic spinach and shitake mushrooms, and topped with a tamari sesame broth and shredded daikon pickle. The miso honey glaze on the soft, flaky fish was wonderful, and the slightly Asian inspired tamari broth and daikon pickle were perfect complements.

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After another palate cleanser, the final entrée of the evening came from Gaucho Brazilian BBQ. Throughout the evening, Gaucho chefs could be observed just outside the tent, cooking their AAA Angus Top Sirloin Beef on spits on a BBQ.

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The final cut of meat was served Gaucho-style, directly at the table with each diner taking as much or as little as they pleased. Some cuts were visibly more cooked or rare than one another. I would have liked to get a rarer piece, but each spit went to a different section of the table. We were also served a piece of Provoloncini Cheese to accompany our meat.

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Just when we started to think we couldn’t possibly stuff ourselves with any more culinary delights (the woman beside me actually got up and went for a quick walk to offset some of the indulgence), we were treated to glasses of sweet, strong Plum Saki from Sake Gami.

This sake is imported directly from Japan, and it was a delicious digestif following such a feast. Some of my neighbours had finished theirs before you could even say “cheers!” Luckily, that was when servers came around with a second round.

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Finally came the course many of us had been waiting for, dessert. Chef Anthony Rabot of The Market Bistro at Three Sisters was serving his famous lemon pie, the very same that CBC food critic John Gilchrest called the best lemon pie he had tasted.

I can see why this lemon pie has become famous. It is unlike any lemon dessert I had ever tasted before, and I’m sure few people would be able to compare it to anything else. Served with a light, sweet crème fraiche, the base of the pie was a beautiful golden pastry that was delicious in and of itself, yet didn’t overpower or take away from the filling of the pie.

The filling was the real star of the show. Creamy, sweet and very lemony but not too tart, this filling featured bits and pieces of real lemon, which I had never seen in a lemon dessert. I can only compare it to orange juice: when the flavour and amount of pulp is just right, you can just tell that it’s freshly squeezed. This was like freshly squeezed lemon pie filling, totally authentic.

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After the pie, our evening began to wind down. Our hosts thanked us again for attending, and thanked all the participating chefs and vendors for such a delicious and wonderful evening.

Our parting gift was a box of Figaro’s Honey Nougat, which is available at stores around Canmore. In the spirit of indulgence in line with the evening, mine didn’t make it to the car for the drive home, though I’m sure many people with more restraint will enjoy theirs in the coming weeks and think of their fond memories at the 2015 Long Table Dinner.

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