Food Day Canada in Saskatoon

15 Aug

On Food Day Canada, food blogger and photographer Jean-Francois Frenette got in a plane, for the first time in his life, and flew to Saskatoon from his home town, Quebec City, to discover some amazing Prairies food and drink. He’s our guest blogger today. Over to J-F!

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Hi! I had a blast in Saskatoon with Food Day Canada founder Anita Stewart and a small group of journalists; people were so welcoming to us. The farmers’ market was one of my favourite spots…

and I loved all of Saskatoon’s independent coffee shops, like Collective Coffee, Museo and The Underground Cafe

I learned a whole lot about lentils on my trip–not many of my friends at home eat pulses, so I think I’m going to go back to Quebec City and preach about how delicious and healthy they are!

We had our first all-local meal at Calories, made by chef Remi Cousyn, who went off-menu to celebrate Food Day Canada, serving us potatoes with chanterelle mushrooms, eggs and a bacon-lentil puree in a bread cup. I also had dessert for breakfast, for the first time in my life: Shmoo torte with shmoo sauce. It was a really moist white cake with caramel sauce. 
Amazing!

I was really impressed later in the morning at University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre to see all these different types of grains and pulses. Several people are working here year-round to develop new crops. I saw around ten different kinds of lentils, in a variety of colours–different ones for each market.

This researcher referred to the plants she was growing as her babies. It’s surprising to see the crop centre fields just ten minute from downtown Saskatoon.

We toured the orchards with Bob Bors, head of Fruit Program at USask. Here, Anita Stewart is in the haskap section. Haskaps are bigger than blueberries, and to me, tastier. They’re quite sweet and offer many health benefits, because they’re high in antioxidants.

We hand-picked sour cherries too (see above). They’re a very photogenic fruit! It was really cool to taste all these different kinds of cherries, because they’re not anything like one another from tree to tree. The first time I put a sour cherry in my mouth, I was thinking ‘oh my God, what is this?!”

At lunchtime, we sat by the big windows at Riverside Country Club, for a beautiful view over the golf course.

Chef Darren Craddock and his team served up maple-candied pacific spring salmon belly; scallops and salmon caviar; then beef tenderloin–all great Canadian ingredients.

Next we visited the Lucky Bastard Distillery, so-called because one of the co-owners, Michael Goldney, won the lottery several years ago, and gained a new nickname as well as the funds to create his own distillery. LB Distillery makes whisky, vodka, gin and eau-de-vie–we tried 12 different shooters. I thought everything was great, except when bacon was involved… like in the vodka. I loved the tropical-tasting sea buckthorn liquor.

At Boffin’s Club, on the university campus, we had a special dinner in honour of Al Slinkard, hosted by Saskatchewan Pulse Board. Slinkard developed several types of crops and made Canada a world leader in the lentil industry. We sat down to a tasting menu with pulses in every dish–in the picture is cherry honey-braised pork belly 
with tomato garlic confit, cheese crostini and Calico baked beans.

The next morning, I got a sneak peek at Season 1 Top Chef Canada winner Dale Mackay’s new restaurant, Ayden–named after his son. He was making a special dish with an Asian twist for Reader’s Digest. (The recipe will be on the Open Kitchen blog in late September, to coincide with a Le Creuset giveaway contest.) Dale’s dish was really neat–it combined roasted root vegetables with fresh kale. We did the shoot at 8 in the morning, and I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so I appreciated it all the more.

I loved Saskatoon and made so many new great foodie discoveries there. What are your favourite dishes and dining destinations in the city?

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To see more of Jean-Francois Frenette’s photography, follow him on Instagram or Twitter or visit his website, dezjeff.com. Thanks for the guest post, J-F!

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