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Canmore Uncorked Long Table Dinner Raises the Bar

April 8, 2016
By: Afton Aikens
Photography: Afton Aikens

Combine seven courses from some of Canmore’s best culinary talent, two top level emcees with amazing backstories, live acoustic tunes and 150 guests at a very long table outdoors with mountain views…and you have the Canmore Uncorked 2016 Long Table Dinner!

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The sunny, warm evening started outside the dining tent in downtown Canmore with an appetizer hour. Where the Buffalo Roam Saloon and The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company were serving drinks; these are two of my favourite places for an adult beverage, so I quickly snagged a cocktail from the former.

Made with spirits and bitters from Eau Claire Distillery and infused with basil and fennel, the Misty Mountain Hop was refreshing and a bit fruity, but not overly sweet or strong. Perfection wouldn’t be an exaggeration. The Grizzly Paw’s Beavertail Raspberry Ale—my go-to beer in town—was similarly excellent. Both of these drinks are on the restaurants’ regular menus.

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Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue was serving rosemary pork loin and slow-cooked rib bites. My friend Karen and I didn’t want to get too full before dinner, but these were basically irresistible—tender, flavourful and complemented by a hot sauce for dipping. We ended up eating more than I’d like to admit.

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We chatted with Banff locals Carole Beaton and Andrew Oosting who were attending this event, now in its third year, for the first time. “It always sounded like loads of fun,” Beaton said. “We love that it’s in the spring, and this is the best weather yet.”

Jerrold Lumba and Judy Chou made the four-hour drive south from Edmonton specifically for the Long Table Dinner. They’d eaten at a few of Canmore’s restaurants before and decided they couldn’t miss out on the food—or the scenery. We had great views of Ha Ling Peak, Rundle and Mount Lady Macdonald.

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Our emcees, speakers/climbers Warren Macdonald and Margot Talbot, got the evening started. This year’s sold out table was the longest yet—last year saw 130 guests. Local Hugh Dunbar entertained us with classic and country rock throughout the night.

I dug into Bella Crusta’s focaccia bread paired with Evoolution’s Tuscan herb olive oil and 18-year-old dark balsamic vinegar. I can undoubtedly say this was the best bread/oil and vinegar combo I’ve ever tasted. The dip had a deliciously unique sweetness and freshness. I had three pieces of the bread—you get the idea.

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Our first course, a hot and sour tom yum gai (chicken) soup from Thai It Up smelled amazing and transported me to Thailand before the bowl even landed in front of me. It was spicy, but not too spicy and beautifully presented. Chef Kevin Bellis greeted the crowd (this was standard practice throughout the night; each chef spoke about their dish after we’d tried it) and affirmed that this was “one hell of a dinner party.”

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We sipped our pinot gris from Fielding Estate Winery, then before too long began the next course, a Scotch egg wrapped in local Valbella sausage from the Georgetown Pub. The sausage added a savoury flavour to the dish, which was garnished with an edible purple orchid. There’s a first for everything; I tried it and noted it didn’t have much taste, but it went down easily and was a great idea.

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Next up was an innovative salad from Crazyweed with sweet potato, cured orange, cashews, greens and goat feta. I loved the flavour of the maple lime dressing. I’d never had sweet potato or cashews in a salad but will definitely add them to my homemade ones now. I’m not a salad fanatic, but I really liked this.

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The salad was followed by a brown butter seared scallop and poached prawn with fennel risotto from Murrieta’s Bar & Grill. I love seafood and this was no exception. The creamy risotto paired perfectly with the seafood, and broccolini on the side was a nice addition.

Seafood Duo by Murrieta's

Meat dishes arrived next; first came slow braised beef short ribs on barley pilaf from the Iron Goat Pub & Grill, one of my go-to restaurants in town. The ribs were the melt-in-your-mouth kind. This dish paired especially well with the ones before and after.

Braised Beef Short Ribs by The Iron Goat

Table Food + Drink served a smoked maple cheddar-and-fig-stuffed saddle of rabbit with a wild mushroom cream sauce. I’d never eaten rabbit before but liked it. By this time I was pretty full, although the portions throughout the night weren’t too big, which was good since we still had dessert coming.

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Dessert was a combo of Figaro’s honey stracciatella gelato, and black pepper pavlova topped with rhubarb curd and compote from French restaurant The Market Bistro at Three Sisters. I especially liked the latter, a delicious meringue dessert with a crisp crust and soft inside.

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Canmore Uncorked continues to April 17 with special set-price menus, exciting culinary events, progressive dinners, cooking classes and more! Full schedule online.

>> For more Canadian Rockies restaurants, activities, shops and entertainment, read our digital magazine.

>> Connect with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram at whererockies and tag your Canadian Rockies posts and photos with #whererockies

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