I sat down to dinner with the loveliest group of people tonight. (Yes, lovely. The word is, I think, sadly misconstrued, calling to mind something sweet, politely grandmotherly or maybe floral, reminiscent of Eunice “Lovey” Wentworth Howell, Thurston III’s wife on Gilligan’s Island. As an adjective, lovely is defined as having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye, or of a great moral or spiritual beauty. A good thing to be, no?)
Most were local farmers and their families who have joined forces to create Country Drive 2009 – a partnership of 26 farms and rural businesses who are making it easier to discover attractions, events, history, markets and local cuisine right here in Alberta. They gathered at Edgar Farms today to preview this year’s Country Drive, and after chatting with John, Pim and Mary-Ann, Elna and Doug, Pete and Jan and others we sat down to a local feast: bison smokies, Angus beef burgers, ostrich burgers, Elna’s fantastic asparagus (which had just come from the very ground we were sitting on) with ginger-sesame vinaigrette, real potato salad like I haven’t had in a very, very long time, if ever (and from a place called The Farm with the Good Food – how can you not adore that?), macaroni salad, bean salad, and a bowl of just-plucked spinach leaves, plain, because we are so used to adorning perfectly good food with other things. I popped three leaves in my mouth before I got to the table. For dessert – vanilla ice cream with cherries I could have easily eaten a vat of.
Elna Edgar’s Cold Asparagus with Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette
1 lb. Edgar Farms fresh asparagus
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds*
1 garlic clove – crushed
1 tsp. fresh ginger – grated
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. orange juice
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
¼ tsp. red chili flakes
¼ tsp. sesame oil
*To toast sesame seeds, put them in a small skillet and heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and just golden. Watch carefully.
Bring lightly salted water to boil in a medium skillet, add asparagus and cook for 5 minutes or just until tender-crisp.
Immerse asparagus in ice-water to stop the cooking action. Pat dry and arrange on a platter.
In a blender, combine the dressing ingredients (reserving half of sesame seeds) and blend until thoroughly combined.
Pour dressing evenly over asparagus, sprinkle with reserved sesame seeds and serve. Serves 4.
(As I type this I’m eating my goody bag of plump dried cherries from Prairie Perfect in Innisfail, having selfishly hidden them until M & W were safely asleep.)
If you are planning to do more day trips around home this summer (assuming home is somewhere in Alberta – I know a lot of you are elsewhere), or are looking to get out and enjoy the spring air, sunshine and green, there is no better way, with kids or without, than to hop in the car, grab a coffee and poke around back country roads, stopping at real farms to kick the dirt, inhale, listen to the cows and horses and buy just-laid eggs, handmade pies, jars of put-up spiced apples and pickled beets and asparagus and the freshest produce, in a little open country “store” with no walls and a built-in wooden money box with a jar of change set beside it. Or pick, cut and dig your own. And best of all – go home with dinner and a relationship with the place it came from. No Superstore will ever provide that experience.
The Spring Drive is next weekend – May 30th and 31st – and coincides with Edgar Farms’ Asparagus Festival (asparagus from Edgar Farms, in case you haven’t figured, is only the very best asparagus you will ever eat – and now is the time to get some). Bonus: chefs Scott Pohorelic from River Café and Wade Sirois from Forage Foods and Infuse Catering -two of my very favourite chefs- will be on hand to cook some for you.
And if you miss this one, or even if you don’t, there’s the Summer Drive August 1st & 2nd, Harvest Drive October 10th & 11th, and Christmas Drive December 5th and 6th. So you know what I’ll be up to on those weekends. I need to go get more asparagus relish – yum.
One Year Ago: Pizza with Spinach Meatballs
May 21 2009 09:26 pm | eating out