This past Saturday I had the pleasure of attending Slow Food Edmonton’s Dia del Cordero event. According to one of my co-workers, who is Mexican, “Dia del Cordero” essentially means “day of lamb” which makes sense as this Slow Food event was taking place at the Tangle Ridge Ranch, a lamb ranch in the Pigeon Lake area.
“Slow Food Edmonton is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to supporting and celebrating the food traditions of Edmonton and Northern Alberta.” They are focused on promoting the connection between consumers and local producers of good, clean and fair food.
Slow Food is actually an international movement that was “founded in 1989 to prevent disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.”
If you are even remotely interested in eating local and learning more about the food produced around you, then I highly recommend checking Slow Food out. This event was excellent. It was such a treat to get out to one of the local farms, see what they are all about and then enjoy a spectacularly delicious meal. If you have ever watched Chef Lynn Crawford’s show “Pitchin’ In” on the Food Network and thought “I want to do something like that” then this event is for you. (Although to be truthful, we didn’t do a lot of pitchin’ in!)
I attended the half day session, with my mom and dad, that started at 2:00 pm at the Ranch. Tangle Ridge Ranch is actually just outside of Thorsby and on the highway we take to get out to my parent’s cabin on Pigeon Lake. So, I’ve actually noticed the sheep before, which made it even more fun to finally get to visit the ranch.
We started the day off in the barn talking to Chefs Israel Alvarez, Kathryn Joel, Stephen Baidcoff, Wendy Mah and Eric Hanson of Get Cooking, who were prepping for our 4 course Mexican themed Slow Roast Lamb dinner. The lamb we were going to be enjoying for dinner had actually been butchered that morning by the group who were participating in the full day event. I am sure that would have been a great session, however I like to keep the separation in my head that the cute little lamb I see out in the field and the lamb on my plate are somehow different.
I was told that the lamb was marinated in adobo sauce, smeared with duck fat and then wrapped in banana leaves and put into the “China Box” to slow roast until dinner. At the bottom of the China Box there were hotel pans filled with rice, garbanzo beans, and carrots waiting to capture the delicious lamb drippings. And what on earth is a China Box? Essentially it’s a large above ground roasting box that allows you to slow roast large amounts of meat. (I think we need one of these at the lake!) Israel and Kathryn were good enough to even take the lid off the box to sneak out one of the tin foil pouches of lamb, to show us what was cooking. And that’s no small feat considering how hot and heavy that tray of coals was!
After spending a little bit of time investigating what was cooking in the China Box we made our way out into the field for a pasture tour, led by Vicky Horn, who owns the ranch with her husband Shayne.
They told us all about their ranch; the watering system, the electric fences (don’t touch those), the grasses, the cows, the sheep dogs and, of course, the lambs. The lambs were so adorably cute, but not so much so that it deterred me from eating lamb for dinner later that day. I also couldn’t get over how hilariously loud the sheep were. Apparently they had just moved from one pasture to the next, so the moms and babies were “bahing” to help find one another. After driving past the ranch many times and enjoying some lamb from Tangle Ride, it was so interesting to learn about everything that goes into running the ranch and successfully raising lambs.
After our trip into the pasture, we made our way back into the barn where Chef Israel put on a cooking demonstration while doing some more dinner prep. The first thing he made was ceviche, which is raw seafood cooked with lime juice. This ceviche was made with halibut, scallops, thinly sliced red onion, finely diced red and orange pepper, diced cucumber, cilantro, lime juice, and some super spicy, finely diced habanero pepper. It took about 20 minutes for the ceviche to fully “cook” in the lime juice and then the ceviche was whisked away to be served as our first course for dinner.
The Chefs also demonstrated how to make Corn Flour Tortillas and Mexican Street Corn, both of which were delicious. I’ve never actually had a corn tortilla that I have enjoyed before, but these were great. It was perfectly soft, with a nice, subtle corn flavour and it certainly didn’t hurt that it was served hot, freshly made.
The Mexican Street Corn was amazing. I’ve attempted to make it myself at home before, but Chef Israel’s corn was out of this world. The corn was grilled in its husk for about 20 minutes, then “shucked” and finished on the grill to let the kernels caramelize. Then the corn was smeared with mayo, grated cotija cheese (a Mexican cheese sort of similar to parmesan), chili powder and fresh lime juice. I will definitely be trying to recreate this recipe at home, because this stuff was really, really tasty.
After our snack we made our way up to the barn’s second floor, that had been set up for dinner. It looked gorgeous. Beautiful lights were lining the perimeter and each table was decorated with rustic burlap runners, gorgeous sparkling candles inside of mason jars and some beautiful vases filled with grasses and flowers picked right from the pasture. It was perfect.
First up was a glass of Prosecco and the Ceviche we had watched Chef Israel prepare earlier that afternoon. The ceviche was served atop a crispy tostada and topped with a couple of slices of perfectly ripe avocado. The ceviche was so light and fresh tasting. It’s amazing how the lime juice made the fish taste so bright, not “fishy”. And the habanero gave the ceviche a nice little kick, which I really enjoyed!
Next up was the slow roasted lamb, served in handmade white corn tortillas with our choice of pico de gallo, (spicy) salsa or salsa verde. I topped mine with the pico de gallo and salsa and put some of the salsa verde on the side. Wow, were these tacos ever good! The lamb was so, so tender, flavourful and mild. The diet and variety of lamb greatly affects its flavour and Tangle Ridge’s lambs are much more mild than anything else I have tasted. They don’t have that typical “gamey,” lamb flavour.
Next out was the consommé that was made with the drippings from the slow roasted lamb, garbonzo beans, carrots, rice and a bit of the pulled, slow roasted lamb. The broth had such a wonderful, rich flavour. I found the beans were perhaps a little undercooked, but that’s ok, it just meant I left more room for other food.
And because dinner was served as the courses were ready, the courses were served in a slightly unconventional order. The next course out was salad, which was an assortment of micro greens from Reclaim Urban Farms, which is “multi-locational urban microfarm located near Whyte Avenue in the heart of Edmonton.” The greens were incredibly fresh, mild and dressed with a lovely, light dressing.
Our fourth and last course was dessert. We were served a Sweet Corn Ice Cream with chili caramel sauce, topped with 5 chili, charred corn husk, brown butter solids and apple wood smoked corn kernels. The dessert was perfect. I know sweet corn ice cream might sound weird, and it certainly tasted different, but different in the best possible way. The flavours were all so interesting and they all worked incredibly well together. The plate was perfectly balanced and everyone at my table was practically licking their plates clean. My dad, who is a huge ice cream fan even said that it was some of the best ice cream he has ever had. And if you know my dad, then you know that is some pretty high praise.
I still can’t over what a phenomenal event this was. It was so interesting and educational spending time out on the ranch and the food cooked up by the amazing chefs at Get Cooking was just excellent. I had so much fun meeting all of the other people at the event; everyone was so excited to be there and interested in learning about the ranch and tasting the food. I had a wonderful time at dinner, visiting with my friend Jenn, her fiancée Dan and my parents. And it was such a pleasure to meet Liane! I couldn’t have asked for better company!
I could see perhaps that the $95 price tag could be a deterrent for some, however I think it was worth every penny. It ended up being a full day event, we were at the ranch from 2:00 until about 9:00. And the day was full of interesting information, cooking demonstrations and delicious food and wine. Really, that’s a pretty great value. And then, to top it off, 2/3 of the proceeds from the tickets actually went straight back to the ranch, to help fund their new watering system. That’s pretty awesome! I think for a full day of fun activities and really, really high quality, delicious food, this event was 100% worth it.
I was just blown away by this Slow Food event, I don’t think I can say enough good things about it. I hope they continue to put on more excellent events, such as this one, so that more people can have the same awesome experience I did!
A big thank you again to Chefs Kathryn, Israel, Stephen, Wendy and Eric for the outstanding dinner, Vicky and Shayne for welcoming us onto your ranch, and the awesome people at Slow Food Edmonton for putting on such a wonderful event. It was a treat to be a part of it!