Most summers, we’re out in Tofino when the Calgary Folk Music Festival takes over Prince’s Island in the heart of Calgary. The festival is legendary, drawing musicians from around the world and inspiring Calgarians to stick around and plan their holidays around FolkFest weekend.
From the time it first showed up on my radar, I knew it for the food – the curries and Joy’s ginger beer, in the early years. This year is the 36th annual, and they’ve outdone themselves – besides the 76 bands from 16 countries on 8 stages playing concerts and holding workshops and collaborative sessions, there are some seriously fantastic local eats. (And drinks, of course – you’ll find Big Rock in the ultra-popular beer garden.)
People know it for the running of the tarps – I go for the eating of the food. I work up an appetite walking or biking down, and then navigate the food lineups. If you go early, they’re not bad – but even once they start snaking down the path, they move quickly – and it’s such a great atmosphere down there, that even standing in line is a good time. (And hey, there’s live music everywhere.)
This year – their 36th – the food offerings are better than ever; in addition to a dozen or so food trucks lining a stretch from the main entrance to the main stage – including Cheezy Biz, Yummy Yogis and Avatara (the crispy pizzas I saw walking by all night) – Naaco launched their first east Indian pop-up, Ishk, next door to their truck. Also: Popsicles from Top Pop! Churros and Chai!
Of course Slow Food Calgary always has a presence there – and like the CFMF food scene itself, each year it gets better. They’re in a tent you can’t miss as soon as you come in the main gates, by the bike park – a great team of local chefs, producers and volunteers working to bring the best Calgary has to offer.
Last night dinner was courtesy of Sidewalk Citizen – big plates of shaved greens with local roasted duck, tart plums, sprouted lentils, ricotta cheese, pickled shallot and grainy mustard vinaigrette served with a slice of Aviv’s sourdough.
The menu is different every day this weekend, and the lineup includes jerk roasted chicken carnitas with green bean summer slaw, smoked chickpeas and green crema from River Cafe, Market’s honey tomato glazed braised lamb ribs with potato salad, wine braised beef brisket on sundried tomato pasta salad from Soffritto, the Coup’s skewered and grilled cherry tomatoes, peppers, radish and smoked tofu wrapped in whole wheat pita with Greek salad and herb tzatziki, Cornerstone Music Cafe’s pork chorizo sausage on wild rice, lentil and kale salad with peaches, almonds, and Brassica mustard vinaigrette, and from Slow Food Calgary, whole wheat pitas with turkey confit, roast veggies and tossed green salad with saskatoon berry vinaigrette and the Slow Food Best Breakfast – buttermilk biscuits with pork sausage, eggs, 1608 cheese and tomato jam. Seriously.
And snacks! There’s a freezer stocked with Made by Marcus ice cream bars – W chose chocolate almond over birthday cake – and there are bags of Poppycock from Double Elle Bakery and scones, brownies, cookies and granola bars from the Slow Food kitchen. You can even pick up paper bags of fresh fruit – BC peaches on Thursday night – from Sunnyside Market.
(Slowfood Calgary is also working with Sunnyside Market, Amaranth Whole Foods Market, Community Natural Foods, SPUD, Lambtastic, Highwood Crossing, Spragg Pork, Blue Mountain Bio-Dynamic Farm, Greens Eggs and Ham, Winter’s Turkey, County Thyme Farm, Saskatoon Farm, Chinook Honey, Grainworks, Seeds to Greens, Mans Organics, Mans Eggs, Heritage Harvest, Poplar Bluff, Bowden Farms, Broxburn, Vital Greens, Gull Valley, Trails End Beef, Top Grass Beef, Layalta Gardens, Leaf & Lyre, Cucumber Man, Sudo Farms, Seasons Harvest, Basil Ranch, Fairwinds Farm, Edgar Farms, Schipper Farms, Peasant Cheese, Blush Lane, Naked Leaf, Eight Ounce, Webber Mountainside Farms, Galimax Trading, Brassica Mustard, Sprouting Roots, and SAIT Hospitality – a great lineup of local food representing our culinary scene.)
Tucked in between the trucks, Empanada Queen is onsite serving up their amazing hand-made empanadas. (Offsite, they’re in a teeny strip mall on Manilla Road, just off Blackfoot Trail and 42nd Ave SE, where their empanadas are made to order – they also make chorillana, freshly cut fries topped with a sautéed mix of egg, onions, beef and chorizo, like Chilean poutine.)
Phil & Sebastian have two tents, for all your caffeine needs – the location by the main stage is even serving up affogatos – a scoop of vanilla Fiasco gelato, topped with a shot of espresso. (W opted for a blue raspberry sno-cone.) Is there a better way to have your coffee in late July?
I also love the cold brew stubbies – in coolers, on ice.
Kids under 12 are free at Folkfest – W came along, and chose a ham and cheese crepe, folded into quarters so that it could be eaten out of hand. I have to remember this one – we make crepes in the mornings all the time out in Tofino, and this particular combination has great beach potential.
Also worth noting: CFMF’s green efforts. I love their plate policy – pay a $2 deposit when you get a dish that’s served on a (heavy plastic) plate, and when you’re done, return it to any plate tent to get your $2 back. Garbage bins are sealed and visitors are directed to compost and recycling bins in an attempt to make it a zero waste event, and there’s no bottled water being sold on the island – bring your own water bottle and there are portable water stations around the park to fill them from. (Which have built-in water fountains, too.) The CFMF recycles materials from cardboard to organics, provides tree seedlings to participants to offset carbon emissions, uses compostable cutlery and dishware. Their waste diversion rate has increased by over 45% since 2008, when the festival began measuring its total waste production – increasing steadily to 80% in 2014.
I love showing off the place I live – thanks to Travel Alberta – for helping me do it! As always, words and opinions are my own.