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Chef Corbin Tomaszeski on growing up on a farm, knowing where his food comes from, and inspiring people to cook and eat together

At this year’s Christmas in November at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, celebrity chef Corbin Tomaszeski was all about teaching others to have fun in the kitchen. His culinary sessions included everything from sabering champagne bottles to having his kitchen helpers on stage (like my friend Abe) gobble like a turkey every time he said “turkey” while sharing his recipe for spiced turkey sliders.

Beyond the giggles and entertainment in his Taste Alberta sponsored cooking demos and fireside chats, chef Corbin had a message to share about ingredients, cooking food, and eating a meal. It was a simple concept, and one that Corbin experienced throughout his childhood growing up on a farm in Alberta.

Through his first-ever cookbook – In Good Company: Easy Recipes for Everyday Gatherings – Corbin hopes to inspire others to share homemade food together with friends and family.

I sat down with Corbin during Christmas in November at the Fairmont JPL to learn more about his farming roots and what motivated him to write his first cookbook.

What was your introduction to food growing up on a farm southwest of Edmonton?

While I currently live in Toronto, I am very proud to have grown up on a small mixed beef herd farm in rural Alberta. I learned at a very young age if you didn’t plant it, grow it, harvest it, milk it, or pick the eggs, you didn’t eat.

I knew where my food came from, but I also learned how food brought people together, especially in a farming community. It was indoctrinated into me that when you cook, people show up; cooking brings people together and builds community.

My mom had six kids and two adults to feed and she tells stories now that we used to eat 50 pounds of potatoes a week. It felt like we grew acres of potatoes on the farm; it helped feed us through the winter.

My mother had a beautiful, large garden, and in the fall she always did a lot of canning and preserving. If you could smell the brine when you got off the school bus, you knew she was in stockpile mode.

Living in a city, how do you teach your children about where their food comes from?

Since I am a chef and I grew up on a farm, I want to make sure my children understand where our food comes from. I take them to farms, I introduce them to farmers, and I explain the ingredients in the dishes we eat. I wanted my children to know that ham isn’t just something sliced at the deli in the grocery store – ham comes from a pig.

Why is teaching your children about food so important to you?

For me, food is a reason why we gather. I don’t want the next generation to forget about our farmers, or the art of cooking. And that starts with understanding food, where it comes from, and why we should appreciate it.

I love driving across the prairies and seeing fields of yellow canola. Something that is so iconically Canadian is also a story opener to educate my children. I can explain how they these beautiful fields are harvested for a seed which is used to crush oil, and how that oil was used for the chicken we fried, or as an ingredient in the banana bread we ate last week. It is my job to explain how that bright yellow field becomes a jug of canola oil in the pantry.

What made you finally write your first cookbook?

I felt like it was finally time to share my story.  I also wanted to teach my children; I wanted to share why we need to cook, why we need to gather, and why we should be taking advantage of high-quality, seasonal ingredients from local farmers, producers, and suppliers.

How did you decide which recipes made this book?

I wanted to share where I came from, the people behind where the recipes come from, and give people a book of simple, can-do recipes that creates offerings throughout the year.

This book includes a lot of farmhouse staples featuring a number of ingredients I grew up on like beans, chickpeas, chicken, eggs and milk. Canada, and Alberta especially, has some of the best producers in the world. I don’t want people to lose sight of what is in our own back yard – I wanted to keep the recipes simple with ingredients that are accessible.

Why do you want to inspire people to cook together and eat together?

Growing up on a farm, we had to work hard to make sure we had enough to eat. Today, food has become instant; we can order just about anything to our door. Food is over abundant and we import things that aren’t seasonal. We know there is always more to buy, which has leads to food waste.

I truly believe if we bought less, but but higher quality ingredients and food, we would be happier and healthier. We’ve lost the art of cooking and the value of food. I want to inspire people to understand where their food comes from, to support the incredible farmers and producers across Canada, and reap the benefits of spending time in the kitchen.

Cooking is becoming cool again, and I’m excited to hear that Canadians are reinventing the art of sunday suppers. I want to inspire people of all ages to start cooking together – its a great vehicle to learn about food and where it comes from.

Chef Corbin’s shared a brunch-inspired menu at his Christmas in November culinary sessions, which included this recipe for turkey sliders:

Chef Corbin’s Spiced Turkey Patties with Mango, Cilantro, & Lemon Mayonnaise

When working with ground meat, it’s important to understand that more fat means more flavour. Because turkey is very lean, you need to consider ways of adding fat (like the lemon mayonnaise in this recipe) to brighten up the meal.

Turkey Patties

1 1⁄2 lb raw ground turkey
3 scallions, chopped
3⁄4 cup store bought mango chutney, pureed
3 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
3 Tbsp mint, chopped
1 lemon, zested
2 eggs
1⁄4 cup cornmeal
1⁄2 tsp red pepper flakes
1⁄4 tsp salt, plus extra to taste
1⁄4 tsp pepper, plus extra to taste
1-2 Tbsp canola oil
cilantro to garish

To make the turkey patties, in a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except for the oil and cilantro. Mix well. Evenly divide the mixture into eight. Shape the patties about 3 inches in diameter. Heat a grill pan over medium heat or pre-heat the BBQ to 350F. Lightly oil the grill pan or BBQ grates with oil. Place patties in grill pan or BBQ and cook for 5 minutes. Flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until juices run clear and internal temperature reaches 165F. Transfer patties to a serving platter. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to rest for 4 minutes. Place a small dollop of lemon mayonnaise on each patty. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and serve.

Lemon Mayonnaise

1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp chopped chives
1 tsp chopped dill

To make the lemon mayonnaise, in a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well and set aside.

A weekend in Los Angeles – 10 things to do without a car

When Westjet posted a seat sale a few weeks before The Spaniard’s birthday, I took advantage of a deal I saw on the direct flight from Edmonton and booked us a three-night trip to the city of angels.

I knew I wanted to take him to an NBA game, but after that I wasn’t sure what we would get up to. Everyone I spoke with said we would have to rent a car, but we weren’t excited by the prospect of sitting in traffic, trying to find parking, or paying for parking (especially with the Canadian $ making our American trips more expensive).

So – I took a look at where the LA metro and bus system could take us, and we decided to plan our trip around that. From the airport we took the free shuttle to the LAX metro stop  where we were able to take the metro conveniently for around the same time it would have been for an uber or the FlyBus in high traffic times. Google didn’t give us the option of taking the metro the whole way – but we did it – even beating the times Google gave us for bus options.

Here are 10 things to keep you busy during a weekend in LA – and all without the stress of driving/parking a car:

1. Watch the LA Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Even if you can’t watch a show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, you can take free self-guided tours of this magnificent building designed by architect Frank Gehry and recognized as one of the most acoustically sophisticated concert halls in the world. We walked up before the evening performance and scored last minute tickets to watch choreographer and L.A. Dance Project Artistic Director Benjamin Millepied join conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil  bring Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet to life. The performance was incredible and ended up being one of the best experiences we had all weekend.

2. A historical walking tour with the LA Conservancy

The LA Central Library

A highlight of the trip was a historic walking tour of downtown Los Angeles with the L.A. Conservancy, which was formed in 1978 as part of the effort to prevent demolition of the stunning Los Angeles Central Library. Our 2.5 hour tour included loads of historical information, lobby visits to incredibly preserved buildings (including the Bradbury Building which was a filming location for Blade Runner), and a ride on Angels Flight. Whenever I make it back to LA, I will certainly do one of their other tours.

Angels Flight Railway

The CalEdison building

The Bradbury Building

3. A show at The Comedy Store

Have to thank my friend Marc for the recommendation to catch a show at The Comedy Store (and buying early as shows will sell out). We got tickets to the early show in The Main Room which cost us $20, plus a two-drink minimum. Our show include six comics which included Orny Adams, Kate Quigley, and Bobby Lee – all three had me busting a gut laughing.

4. Watch an NBA game at the Staples Centre

Both the LA Clippers and the LA Lakers were in town for the weekend, so we had our choice of games; however, since it was the Lakers home opener and Lebron’s first regular season game as a Laker, the price for those tickets were crazy. So instead, we watched the Clippers beat the Houston Rockets for a fraction of the price. The Staples Center is an incredible venue – definitely worth checking out a game. (The Staples Center is also home to the LA Kings – who happened to be in town the same weekend as us – but The Spaniard declined my suggestion of a hockey game, and said one event at the Staples Center was enough for one weekend). 

5. Walk, ride, and people watch your way from Santa Monica to Venice Beach

Muscle Beach

The boardwalk from Santa Monica to Venice beach provided hours of entertainment and some serious fun in the sun. We took the metro to Santa Monica, enjoyed brunch, and then wandered the pier, strode past muscle beach, and even jumped in the ocean as we walked past buskers, street performers, roller bladers jamming out to funky tunes at Venice Beach, and kids ripping it up in the skate park. After walking along the Venice Beach canals we grabbed some ice cream and donuts on Abbot Kinney BLVD before heading back to LA.

6. Get cultured at The Broad

After our Saturday walking tour with the LA Conservancy we headed over to The Broad, a contemporary art museum with free admission, where we only had to wait half an hour for admittance. A select number of free tickets can be booked online in advance, but we weren’t that organized, besides,  our short stay in line gave The Spaniard time admiring the $140 million  ‘veil and the vault’ architectural design of the building. The space is stunning and the contents are creative, imaginative and fun.

7. Dine at the Grand Central Market

A downtown landmark since 1917, the Grand Central Market was the perfect place for us to grab a bite of breakfast before our LA Conservancy tour. I opted for gluten-free pupusas and tamales from Sarita’s Pupuseria while The Spaniard declined waiting in line at the uber popular Eggslut, and got french toast and a latte from Valerie Confections Bakery & Cafe. By the time we walked back through the Grand Central Market as part of our LA Conservancy tour the place was packed with people eating, drinking, and living the laid-back LA lifestyle.

Grand Central Market

8. Get your geek on at the Griffith Observatory

Not only can you get views of LA and the Hollywood sign, visitors of the Griffith Observatory can look through telescopes and learn about our solar system for free! During our visit we took in two staff explanations – one of the Tesla coil, and the other on Foucault’s Pendulum. Their website recommended taking public transit (there was a DASH bus stop conveniently located outside the closest metro stop), which made arriving easy, and we walked down through Griffith Park when we were done.

9. Walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Once we were done at the Griffith Observatory we walked to the closest metro and jumped on for a few stops, which took us to Hollywood. We checked out the hand prints and autographs located outside the TCL Chinese Theatre, walked the steps of the Kodak Theatre – checking out the Academy Award best movie of the year winners, and weaved through buskers and hawkers on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was probably our least exciting activity of the weekend (too touristy), but we felt we had to check it out – and the people watching was worth the visit.

10. Ethnic eats in Koreatown

We had decided on an AirBNB in Koreatown because of the proximity to the metro line, and learned after we booked that we were in a culinary hotbed of LA. Prior to our trip we watched Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode on Koreatown; while we didn’t manage to make it to the spots he highlighted (mainly because having Celiac disease limited my options), we did enjoy some tasty bites, including Escala – which serves up Colombian Korean Flavors In The Heart Of LA’s Koreatown. While there Korean options appeared abundant, we also saw Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, and even dumpling options throughout Koreatown.

Lunch at Escala in Koreatown

So, all of these things we did during our three-day weekend in LA were accessible by public transit. We decided to stay in the city, but if we had wanted to get to Disneyland – we would have opted for a shuttle rather than renting a car.

The one exception we had to taking public transit was when my friend Orly, and her husband Jeff, drove us to dinner and then home after checking out a show at the Comedy Store. We had planned on taking an uber that night – but they graciously drove us back to Koreatown. I came to visit Orly 20 years before, spending a week with her in LA after meeting her on a Mexican cruise with our families. After the comedy show, Orly and Jeff introduced us to a tasty sushi restaurant in West Hollywood; I hope that they pack up the kids and come visit us in Edmonton, so I don’t have to wait another 20 years for our next meeting to return the favour for their lovely hospitality.

Get Creative at a Cory Christopher Fresh Floral Workshop

For the past few years, Cory Christopher has inspired me into attempting holiday decor designs at home after attending his Do-It-Yourself (DIY) decor sessions at Christmas in November at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Cory, who is like a Christmas elf with a green thumb, manages to whip through about 15 projects in the 75 minute class using an assortment of fresh florals, second-hand books, and home accessories from everywhere from the storage closet to the dollar store and Canadian tire. It is exhausting and inspiring all at the same time.

 

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If you follow Cory’s Instagram account, it is hard not to be inspired by the beautiful floral bouquets, succulent displays, and wedding theme photos he and his team create around the province of Alberta. Thankfully, Cory offers a chance to recreate his bouquets through his hands-on fresh floral workshops at his studio in Edmonton and at his family farm north of St. Albert.

Cory Christopher at Birchwood Meadows

Cory recently invited me to attend a dahlia workshop at his family homestead at Birchwood Meadows in Sturgeon County. My friend Kelley joined me for the class, which included an intro to dahlias with Cory, followed by the opportunity to hand pick an assortment of flowers, herbs, and foliage for our one-of-a-kind bouquet.

Cory explaining the layout of the garden and which flowers we could collect for our bouquets.

Cory showed those of us who were scared to make the first cut how far down to cut the dahlias on the stem.

We were invited to use the sunflowers in our bouquets, but some were too high to reach.

 

Once we returned from the field, we took a seat at a long table in the garden. With a little guidance from Cory on how to size, layer, and build our bouquets – each of us created a unique dahlia display to take home.

Kelley’s bouquet featured white flowers – classic and beautiful just like her.

Kelley and I were both ecstatic to go home with our beautiful bouquets. Cory had invited me to attend so my class was complimentary, but after experiencing his hands on workshop, and the opportunity to pick our own flowers on the farm, I think his course is great value and I look forward to registering with Kelley for another one soon. 

Upcoming workshops include this weekend’s Thanksgiving Floral Centrepiece at Birchwood Meadows and a Terrarium Design Workshop at Burnwood Distillery in Calgary. Stay tuned for upcoming workshops – grab a friend and get creative with Cory Christopher – your table will never look better!

Learn more at www.corychristopher.ca

 

Five Reasons You’ll Want to Devour! The Canadian Rockies

In March, I was invited to attend the inaugural Devour! The Canadian Rockies Food Film Festival at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Even though my weekend was complimentary, I was blown away by the incredible value of a two-night stay at the JPL including most meals, alcohol, and access to all the happenings of the food and film festival.

Now in its 8th year in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Devour! is a food and film experience combining cinematic excellence with extraordinary gastronomic activities. Festival organizers chef Michael Howell and Lia Rinaldo have expanded the maritime event to include satellite Devour festivals around the world – including Alberta’s only event at the JPL.

Devour! The Canadian Rockies Food Film Festival is back at the Fairmont JPL – February 22 – 24, 2019 – $479 per person

After experiencing last year’s event, I’m happy to pay the $479 for a spot at the 2nd annual Devour! The Canadian Rockies Food Film Festival.  In fact, The Spaniard and I are already booked for 2019! Packages for the 2019 edition at the Fairmont JPL have opened up and space is filling up quickly. Here is what is included:

Devour! The Canadian Rockies Package Includes:

 

  • Two nights accommodation
  • Friday Evening Cabin Crawl Reception & Dinner
  • Chili Cook-Off Luncheon
  • Five Course Wine-Paired Cinema Dinner
  • Sunday Farewell Brunch
  • Cooking Demos
  • Gratuities

If you’ve paid for a weekend at JPL before I’m sure you know this package is a great price. Due to the nature of the event activities, capacity for the opportunity to discover a love for food and film (and wine), at the JPL is limited.

HERE ARE FIVE REASONS YOU”LL WANT TO DEVOUR! THE CANADIAN ROCKIES:

1. A Good Old Fashioned Cabin Crawl

The event kicks off with a welcome reception where guests are greeted, handed a glass of bubbly, and split into groups for a three-cabin crawl of some of the signature cabins on the property. Last year we got our groove on at the Carnivore Cabin, where chefs John Jackson and Connie DeSousa of Charcut were literally slicing pig head mortadella into guests mouths to the sounds of Edmonton’s Girls Club DJs.

Next, we found ourselves in the Outlook Cabin (A.K.A. the Queen’s Cabin), where chefs Paul Rogalski of Rouge and Blair Lebsack of RGE RD were hosting an Après Ski party with a never-ending supply of cheese fondue and raclette. I sipped back a sample of Park Distillery vodka, while we were serenaded to a lederhosen clad accordion player (and then I took photos in the room Queen Elizabeth stayed in).

Chef Paul Rogalski and Chef Blair Lebsack are serenaded at the après-ski in the Outlook Cabin

Getting my fondue on with Linda in the Fairmont HPLs Outlook Cabin

 

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Finally, we were off to an East Coast Kitchen party! Chef Howell was joined by the JPL’s chef Christopher Chafe, where a fiddler and a guitarist had the Gardener’s Cabin hopping. There was everything from lobster rolls to seafood chowder, but it was the oyster bar that won my heart, and my belly. Chef Howell kept shucking so I just kept eating. This stop also had glasses of Nova 7, my favourite glass of bubbly made in Canada!

The East Coast Kitchen Party

In case we hadn’t eaten and drank enough over the three hours, there was one more stop. We were led down to the lakefront for a fireside marshmallow roast. There was hot chocolate and creamy liqueurs to keep us warm, and The Spaniard and I got to teach our friends Jose Miguel (also from Spain) and his wife Eugenia (from Argentina), how to make and eat their first ever S’mores.

2. Get up close and personal with the chefs

John Jackson and Connie DeSousa of Charcut

Chef Paul Rogalski of Rouge Restaurant

Saturday lunch involved a chili cookoff, where each of the chefs were vying for our votes for the most innovative and appetizing chili recipe. I was chatting with chef Rogalski, and he mentioned that he remembered talking with everyone he met the night before. With just 125 people in attendance, and events like the cabin crawl and chili cookoff where the chefs serve your food directly, Devour! The Canadian Rockies allows guests to get up close and personal with each of the chefs.

Chef Christopher Chafe, Executive Chef at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Chef Howell trying to garner votes in the chili cookoff

3. All the tasty beverages

Last year, alcohol sponsors included Folding Mountain BrewingBrewstersJasper BrewingBanff Ave. Brewing CoPark DistilleryGray Monk Estate WineryRed Rooster WineryWayne Gretzky Estates WineryMonte Creek Ranch WinerySandhill WinesBenjamin BridgeDelegat, and Peller Estates.

A glass of wine, or more, during an afternoon wine tasting with Benjamin Bridge from Nova Scotia.

From the cabin crawl, to the chili cookoff, to the afternoon of wine tasting, to the bubbles brunch, there were endless opportunities to sample and ask questions to each of the owners and reps. There is hardly a chance to get thirsty at Devour! The Canadian Rockies.

4. Get inspired to eat

Devour! challenges people to think differently and create a deeper connection to food through some of the most engaging documentaries, dramas and short films. At the gala dinner on Saturday evening, we listened to each chef talk about the short film they were paired with, and what inspired them to make our next course. The carefully curated selections were inspiring and so passionate I wished there were more.

Chef Howell prepping his pork belly for the Gala Dinner

5. A Weekend at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

The thing I loved most about Devour! The Canadian Rockies Food Film Festival was that it was at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in the Jasper National Park. The schedule gave us the morning off on Saturday, allowing us to take advantage of our surroundings (we went cross-country skiing) and the amenities (the heated pool and the hot tub!).

We had just enough things to keep us busy, but still enough time to relax, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings at the JPL.

 

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On the Sunday morning we had a bubbles brunch which included a wonderful display of food from the culinary team at the Fairmont JPL. Along with one more short film, and the promise the event would be back for a second year, it was the perfect introduction to the food and film festival.

Devour! The Canadian Rockies Food Film Festival is back Feb 22 – 24, 2019 . If you want to cozy up in the Rockies while you celebrate cinema, indulge in exquisite food & wine, and experience all the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge has to offer, book before it sells out.

Just in case I haven’t tempted you, here are some more photos from our weekend at Devour! The Canadian Rockies Food Film Festival.

Fairmont JPL head gardener Marna adds some rustic style to the cabin crawl

A lot to look at during the gala reception in the Jasper Mountain Gallery

Recap: Taste Alberta Prairie on the Plate at the Harvest Room

Chef Mridul Bhatt, the executive chef at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, has lived in Alberta for just over one year, but already has a knowledge and deep appreciation for ingredients grown, raised and produced from across the province.

On Friday night, Chef Mridul and his culinary team presented a six-course menu Prairie on the Plate menu highlighting ingredients from Taste Alberta‘s commodity partners: Alberta Canola ProducersEgg Farmers of AlbertaAlberta MilkAlberta Pulse Growers Commission, and Alberta Pork.

Chef Mridul, Executive Chef, Fairmont Hotel Macdonald

After welcoming us to the Taste Alberta dinner, Chef Mridul shared his passion for using local ingredients and introduced our upcoming dishes. Our first course – ‘Rebel Within’, was a 63 degree Alberta egg, was nestled inside an applewood cheddar & jalapeño muffin and served alongside a chorizo tomato sauce. A quick slice with the knife revealed a perfectly runny egg.

 

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Chef Mridul explained that he was inspired by the strength of the egg, and complimented the Egg Farmers of Alberta for what he feels are the best eggs raised in Canada.

Our second course, the late summer Alberta pork yakatori, was served alongside charred bokchoy. I know, I am always biased towards loving the pork dishes, but this truly was the most incredible piece of pork belly. My friend Michelle, who does not like pork belly because it is often too fatty for her, ate her entire piece.

Chef Mridul explained that his team charred the pork belly with an open flame to help give it a smoky taste to the Asian-inspired flavours. My friend Blake said he could have eaten a pork belly steak sized portion it was so good.

For our third course, Chef Mridul found inspiration from his native India. Known as the largest consumer of pulses, India also imports a large number of pulses – primarily split peas and lentils.

Our vegetarian course was served inside a puffed poori. Chef Mridul accented his heritage lentil and chickpea-red kidney bean salad,  with Fairmont Hotel Macdonald honey tzatziki, cilantro mojo, tamarind molasses and pop of pomegranate seeds. The culinary team also made a savoury donut made from white lentils, which was soaked in a yogurt syrup.

I ate vegetarian when I backpacked through India for 2.5 months over 10 years ago, so Chef Mridul’s dish brought back wonderful memories for me. The texture of the crunchy poori combined with so many layers of flavours hidden within made our third course my favourite dish of the evening – and one that I am sure would have impressed pulse farmers from across the province.

Our fourth dish highlighted the versatility of canola oil. Canola parsley gremolata was served alongside cedar wrapped sea bass and a corn tikki (which google tells me is the Indian equivalent to a hash brown). Another stellar dish – and Chef Mridul shared that he is so happy with the flavour, he will be incorporating the canola parsley gremolata in his next menu.

To help celebrate September as National Chicken Month, Chef Mridul and his team served an innovative dish that make Alberta Chicken the star of our meal.

The kitchen marinated the  chickens several times ( and even coated with butter to help seal in the flavour), before being wrapped in swiss chard, and baked inside a layer of red fife dough. Red fife is a wheat variety that was the baking and milling industries’ standard of wheat in Canada from 1860 to 1900. In recent years, demand for the heritage grain has been increasing locally and across the country.

When I spoke to Chef Mridul about his menu, he told me he wanted to create a story about what Alberta is really proud of. Since moving to Alberta, he has learned that this province is not just beef country – and that Albertans need to celebrate and be proud of other proteins like chickens, which are raised across our province as well.

The Harvest Room chefs brought the red-fife crusted chicken into the dining room to be served table side. Each bundle was carved open to reveal the roasted chicken, which were split in two for a generous half-chicken portion, and served alongside spicy green beans and potatoes. The result was a showstopper in the dining room.

 

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Alberta milk may seem simple, but Chef Mridul and his team presented it as anything but. Cracking into my milk sorbet for desssert revealed an inner layer of honey cognac (again made with the honey from the Fairmont Macdonald’s garden bees), and served with pieces of crunchy honeycombs and caramelized milk.

The sinfully sweet dessert completed our Taste Alberta meal in The Harvest Room – an innovative dinner that highlighted the incredible ingredients from across the province available.

I left anticipating my next visit to The Harvest Room, and also wondering how on earth I could replicate Chef Mridul’s pulse dish at home. A huge thanks to Chef Mridul and the entire Harvest Room Culinary team and the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald team (especially Antosh – the food and beverage manager at the Fairmont Hotel Mac), for the work they put in to host and deliver a very memorable Taste Alberta menu.

Thursday, Sept 27, 2018, The Harvest Room is hosting a Honey Harvest Dinner featuring the incredible honey collected from their beehives on site. Click here for more information.

 

 

 

 

A Weekend in Montreal – 10 things to keep you busy

Montreal has been on our travel Canada hit list for some time now, so when my friend Adrienne asked if we wanted to join her for the August long weekend, we took her up on the offer of a free bed.

We took a couple extra days off work so we had extra time to eat and have some extra fun in the sun (and humidity). Here are 10 things that will can keep you busy on a summer weekend in Montreal.

1. Watch tennis at the Rogers Cup

Both The Spaniard and Adrienne are tennis fans, so when the initial invite came to come visit – we knew we would be going to the Rogers Cup. This year the women were playing in Montreal, and we got up-close with number of high-ranked players including Johanna Konta, Jelana Ostapenko, Sloan Stevens, and Maria Sharapova.

A storm rolled through, which resulted in a rain delay. Thankfully our seats were covered.

2. A culinary walking tour

Montreal is a food-lovers dream city. We arrived late on Friday afternoon and decided the best way to orient ourselves (it was The Spaniard’s first time in Montreal), was to walk sharing bites in a number of neighbourhoods. We walked through the Jean Talon market where we had a gluten-free crepe at Crêperie du Marché, watched the expert bagel flipping at St-Viateur Bagel,  ice cream at Kem Coba, and finally, we ordered take-away from Schwartz’s Deli (one of Canada’s oldest delis serving up legendary smoked meat sandwiches. There were plenty of available picnic style seats and benches across the street – which was good enough for three of us to down piping hot fries and mounds of Montreal smoked meat.

a gluten-free crepe at Crêperie du Marché made with egg, ham, potatoes, cheese and maple syrup.

3. Get your groove on at Osheaga Music & Art Festival

Once we had our flights booked I checked in with my beautiful friend Mathieu to see if he would be in Montreal for the August long weekend, and he asked if was going to Osheaga. I am so glad he asked the questions, as once we checked out the lineup – we quickly bought tickets for the close out Sunday show. I was blown away how well organized the music festival was. There were so many fun, free activities to keep people entertained between all the stage and the people-watching was absolutely incredible. If you are in town for Osheaga – buy tickets and check it out!

Thankfully there were fountains to keep us cool – the humidity and heat were fierce on the Sunday at Osheaga this year.

Franz Ferdinand bringing the heat at Osheaga 2018

4. A wander through the Jardin Botanique – Montreal’s botanical garden

Easily accessible using our weekend Metro pass, The Spaniard and I saw just a fraction of the botanical garden. We saw a number of creepy-crawly bugs in the Insectarium and then walked through some of the Asian gardens. When we got home we saw photos of some of the exhibits and areas we missed – we only spent a few hours there so next time I would give myself more time to explore.

5. Hit the bakeries – gluten filled and gluten free

I’m not sure how they are doing it, but I found two bakeries within walking distance of our Air BNB that were selling incredible flaky, gluten-free pastries. Boulangerie Le Marquis served up an almond croissant so tasty The Spaniard thought it was better than the gluten-filled one he tried earlier in the day. And L’artisan délices sans gluten et sans lait, which was open both Sundays and Mondays, allowed me to stock up on bagel sandwiches, pizzas and pastries for both Osheaga and the Rogers Cup.

A little bite of cream puff heaven from L’artisan délices sans gluten

I made sure to research some gluten-filled bakeries as well, and The Spaniard indulged at Pâtisserie Rhubarbe,  Arte e Farina (for the pannettone), and Cheskies, described as an understated bakery featuring a variety of Jewish kosher pastries, cakes & other goods.

6. Walk through old Montreal

I’m sure for The Spaniard, Montreal did not feel euro, but all you need is a street made with cobblestones for  many of us Canadians to get a sense of European old-world charm. We were planning on touring the Notre-Dame Basilica, but as we walked up the steps we were told the Basilica was closed for a wedding, and no more tours/tourists were allowed in for the day. We had plans of going back another day but ran out of time. Instead, I would like to share this photo of a cement truck photo-bombing the Notre-Dame Basilica.

Loosely based on the history of Montréal, Cité Mémoire presents a cast of characters offering first-hand accounts of how the city has evolved over the course of history. With a touch of poetry and playfulness, over twenty scenes are brought to life through words, images, and music. You can download the free Montréal en Histoires application to enjoy the sights and sounds.

7. Eat Brunch  – any day of the week!

Montrealers must have a serious love affair with brunch – as the options felt endless, and not just on the weekends. We had four mornings and hit up brunch menus every day, and I had no problem finding gluten-free options. First it was on the covered patio at Bloomfield for french toast and socca, then we sat at the counter watching the kitchen at Maison Publique serve up meaty portions of bacon, blood sausage, and more sausage. For our third brunch we met up with Amelie (a friend of Miguel’s from his year in Sydney, Australia he hadn’t seen in eight years) and her boyfriend at Arts Cafe for duck poutine, and finally, we hit the weekday brunch (where I had the plate of smoked sturgeon salad of chayottes and omelette) at La Petite Addresse.

Brunch at Bloomfield Restaurant

A friendship made in Sydney, Australia – a brunch reunion in Montreal eight years later!

Duck poutine (gluten-free) at Arts Cafe

The weekday brunch at La Petite Addresse

8. Check out the street art

I must give a shout out to my friend Linda who was in Montreal the same weekend we were, and she was tearing up instagram with the number of instagramable walls in Montreal. The city feels like an outdoor art museum – I wanted to take photos of everything and with everything!

9. Save $ by taking the Metro

I was so impressed with the public transit in Montreal. Since we arrived on Friday afternoon, we took advantage of the weekend pass for $13.75, which gave us travel from Friday at 4 p.m. to Monday morning at 5 a.m. (including the airport bus).

Between the Osheaga festival fashion and the people headed to the Comic Con event that was on the weekend we were there, the people watching on the metro was absolutely amazing!

10. Take in the view of the city from the top of Mont Royal

I had originally thought we would hike up Mont Royal for a view of the city, but the humidity had us moving in slow motion. Instead, we opted to take advantage of our transit pass and take the bus, which conveniently dropped us off within walking distance of the Smith House, which had loads of information to explain why the small mountain at the heart of Montréal occupies such a big place in the city’s history, heritage and identity.

A view of Montreal (including the Olympic Stadium) from Mont Royal

Although we had four nights, our trip barely scratched the surface of places to eat or what to do in Montreal. There are so many of Canada’s top rated restaurants in Montreal, like Toque and Joe Beef, that we didn’t get to try. And it would be great to come back to experience their comedy festivals, a night of jazz, or even a sporting event. Our weekend in Montreal was just a taste – I can’t wait for our next visit!

* Thankfully I won’t have to wait too long for a little bite, since Adrienne is bringing back two cans of maple syrup for me. Thank you buddy for the incredible hospitality.

 

Recap: Get Cooking -Taste Alberta Burger Club

Earlier this month, Get Cooking Edmonton transformed their final Burger Club in their summer pop-up dining series into a Taste Alberta – Prairie on the Plate event.

Chefs Doreen Prei and Kathryn Joel helped celebrate a Prairie on the Plate first by featuring all seven of Taste Alberta’s partners – Alberta Canola ProducersEgg Farmers of AlbertaAlberta MilkAlberta Pulse Growers CommissionAlberta Chicken ProducersAlberta Turkey Producers, and Alberta Pork – on their Burger Club Wednesday menu.

The sun was shining and most of the patrons that night opted for a seat on the Get Cooking patio. To help keep everyone hydrated, butcher (and Get Cooking culinary instructor) Elyse Chatterton was helping out on the bar serving up everything from Alberta brewed Medicine Hat Brewing Company Burnside Blood Orange Ale and Pimm’s cocktails.

The appetizer for the evening was deep-fried chickpeas, which helped recognize the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission, represents 6,000 growers of field pea, dry bean, lentil, chickpea, faba bean and soybean in Alberta.

There were four burgers packed with Taste Alberta ingredients available, each served with side of either kennebec fries (made with love from Alberta canola farmers) and dipping sauces or a grilled Caesar salad. All of the meats were sourced through Real Deal Meats in south Edmonton, and there was an option to add on to each burger with a fried egg or Halloumi cheese.

 

Get Cooking Edmonton – Burger Club Taste Alberta Menu
  1. Alberta chicken & preserved lemon burger with grilled zucchini and a tahini spread.
  2. Vietnamese Alberta pork burger with picked herbs and a cilantro-lime mayo.
  3. Alberta turkey and sage burger complete with cranberry compote.
  4. Alberta beef and blue cheese burger served with red onion.

Vietnamese Alberta pork burger topped with a fried egg and served with picked herbs and a cilantro-lime mayo.

Alberta chicken & preserved lemon burger with grilled zucchini and a tahini spread.

Alberta turkey and sage burger complete with cranberry compote.

The Spaniard was willing to eat his burger on a gluten-free bun (my definition of true love), so that we could share two from the menu. I enjoyed the flavours of the turkey and cranberry burger, but Vietnamese inspired pork burger was my favourite. Thankfully, chef Doreen Prei is eager to share her culinary secrets, and you can try her pork burger recipe at home.

The two dessert options for the evening could not have been made without ingredients from Alberta Milk or the Egg Farmers of Alberta.

lemon crème brûlée

I love, love, love, how chef Doreen Prei makes crème brûlée. I could have easily indulged in another serving of Chef Prei’s lemon crème brûlée, and The Spaniard didn’t leave a crumb behind from his strawberry shortcake. Once again, chefs Doreen and Kathryn shared how delicious Alberta raised, grown, and produced products are – from appetizer to dessert.

strawberry shortcake with whipped cream and edible flowers

While the summer Burger Club Wednesday pop-up series has come to an end, there are still loads of opportunities to Get Cooking with chefs Doreen, Kathryn as well as Elyse. Check out their upcoming cooking class schedule here.

The next Taste Alberta – Prairie on the Plate will be Friday, September 7, 2018 at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. Check out Executive Chef Mridul Bhatt’s Taste Alberta menu and reserve your spot by clicking here.

A Weekend in Porto

Summer has been a whirlwind and it all started when jumped on a plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean so I could meet up with Helen, my lovely friend from London, for a weekend in Porto, Portugal.

I arrived at the airport jet-lagged and so out of it that I left the airport, was standing on the platform for the metro, and realized I had forgotten to pick up my suitcase. Thankfully I still had my boarding pass, as I had to show proof I was on the flight and be checked in with the police before a security staff member could escort me back to my bag.

I had time for a quick nap in our suite at the Magnolia Hostel before Helen arrived. I woke up to a text telling me they couldn’t find our reservation. After a series of messages and finally a call, she figured out she was at the wrong hostel, but just a quick eight minute walk away. (Her error made me feel less silly about my bag blunder – and assured me I was in for a hilarious weekend with Helen).

I think Porto is an absolutely amazing city and perfect for a weekend getaway. If you have any intention of walking around as much as we did my number one piece of advice would be to wear good shoes and stay hydrated. Everywhere you want to go in Porto is up a hill – literally. Want a butt lift? No need to go to the gym – just visit Porto and you’ll work your ass muscles in an instant.

10 things to do in Porto, Portugal

1. Port Tasting

Even if you don’t drink port, as Helen confessed to me, I recommend a port tour during a stay in Porto. While the hard core wine drinkers would likely vote for a day trip to the Douro Valley, those with less time can learn loads and experience a taste of Portugal on a port house tour. We climbed all the way up to visit Taylor’s, which offers an audio tour in several languages (ideal as many of the other port houses require advance bookings at designated times). After learning a ridiculous amount about port, we had a two-port tasting in the garden next to an inquisitive rooster.Taylor's Porto

2. Sunset on the Dom Luís I Bridge 

While Helen wanted to watch the sunset from kayaks, it was a whole lot easier to time our walk across the Dom Luís I Bridge for a beautiful sunset. I walked the double-decker bridge, which links Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia, many times during my stay in Porto – the view and the people-watching was always entertaining.

3. Eat a Francesinha

It is easy to work up an appetite walking up and down hills all day. Those eager to fill their bellies, and likely their arteries, with a local treat need look no further than for Portos most famous sandwich – the Francesina. Meaning little Frenchie, one story is that the croque-monsieur was adapted to a Portugese taste. The result is a sandwich stacked high with ham, cured sausage, sausage and a steak, then covered in cheese, topped with a hot thick tomato-beer sauce, and served with a ring of fries. It can also be topped with a fried egg – which is how Helen ordered it at Cafe Santiago, which is argued to be one of the best spots for Francesina in Porto.

In all my years of traveling and eating, I have never seen anything like it (and certainly nothing so gluttonous in Europe). It looked as if someone looked at Canadian poutine and said – we can make this meatier, with more carbs, and an egg. I couldn’t believe that people were ordering individual plates and not sharing. Helen made a good go of it – but the locals put her to shame with their plates licked clean. Perhaps it takes years of training to polish of a Francesina.

4. Take photos of tiles, tiles and more tiles


Porto is packed with beautiful tile work – from mosaics to building exteriors. People rave about the train station, which is beautiful, but it is packed with tourists taking photos (present company included), so I preferred the walls we found while exploring the city.

5. Go on a free walking tour

I love getting an overview of a city with a walking tour. I’ve done a number of Sandeman free walking tours all over Europe, and I always enjoy the mix of history, culture, random stories, and tips the guides of this tip-based tour company have provided. I enjoyed all the Harry Potter references we learned, and after learning about the price and wait in the line ups associated to go into Livraria Lello, I was ok with just admiring from afar.
*I heard that the Sandeman’s port-tasting tour was great value and recommended experience.

6. Watch a football (soccer) match

Although Portugal was out of the World Cup by the time we arrived in Porto, England was still in, and the fans were still flocking to watch the screens in front of City Hall. We took time out of our sightseeing to watch England win (the rowdy  fans celebrated the win by throwing beer into the air and singing). We also caught a game at the Guindalense Football Club – where the alcohol prices were great and the view of the Luíz I bridge was even better.

7. Brunch at Zenith CafeZenith Cafe Porto

Helen got a hot tip from a friend that Zenith Cafe served up brunch all day. (After traumatizing her the day before with a restaurant serving fish outside her comfort zone – I was happy to follow her lead for Sunday brunch). The line moved fairly quickly and provided just enough time to get an eyeful of the dishes on their menu. The place is an instagram food photographer dream – sky-high pancakes with oreo cookies, bright slices of avocados and yolk-porn eggs – the joint had a never-ended array of hipster dishes that had my mouth watering. They also had a variety of gluten-free options – so many that I wish we had more days to come back and try again.

8. Seek out street art

In addition to the traditional tiles that lined the streets, Porto was also packed with endless street art. (A dream for my friend Linda who loves Instagramable walls). Reoccurring images popped up on several street corners and many of the images brought smiles to my face as I explored the city. I couldn’t find a well publicized street art tour like in other European cities but I am sure there will be one soon – the place is haven for creativity in the streets. Until then, check out Time Out’s list of top street art in Porto

9. Indulge in seafood

The face of someone who thought they ordered a fish that had been filleted.

Ok, so I did more indulging than Helen, but I was very excited to eat seafood while in Porto. As a celiac, I had no problem finding gluten-free grilled fish, and the octopus I ordered one afternoon was the biggest tentacle I have ever been served. (The server put down a bowl of rice with chunks of braised octopus first and I thought, ‘well this is a ripoff.’ And the real dish came and even the couple at the next table was in shock).

10. Go Vintage Shopping


Ok, so I technically had one more day in Porto without Helen, and before I flew to France, so I wasn’t just there for a weekend. But if I went back, or if any of my fashion-loving friends were headed there, I would suggest a stop in a few of the vintage stores. At Patch Lifestyle I found an a vintage YSL (made in France) dress for 40 euro! I sadly left a Christian Dior in the change which was too big. I also hit gold at Mon Pere Vintage. I just about cried when the owner told me they were having a 1 Euro sale the next day. When I told her I had a 7 am flight she teased that I should change it. Tempting… but I had a culinary adventure waiting for me in France. And I have a feeling I will be back to Porto – it is definitely a competitor for my favourite city in Europe.

Thank you Helen for coming to meet me in Porto – can’t wait to potter around with you across the pond soon!

Recap: Taste Alberta Brunch at Bodega

Last weekend, chef Lino Oliveira of Sabor and Bodega Tapas and Wine Bar hosted Taste Alberta‘s first ever Prairie on the Plate brunch.

Taste Alberta’s Prairie on the Plate dining series invites chefs to create a unique meal that celebrates ingredients, farmers, and producers from commodity groups that make up Taste Alberta. Chef Lino took on the challenge – and his brunch menu featured ingredients from six of the seven partners including: Alberta Canola ProducersEgg Farmers of AlbertaAlberta MilkAlberta Pulse Growers CommissionAlberta Turkey Producers, and Alberta Pork.

Chef Lino, executive chef of Edmonton’s Sabor and Bodega Tapas and Wine Bars

Both the Bodega Highlands and the new Bodega 124th Street locations offered brunch on both Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm, so chef Lino and his culinary team decided to offer a three-course menu for $25 at both locations throughout the weekend.

To kick things off, diners received a pintxo – a small snack typically eaten in bars in northern Spain. Chef Lino featured Winding Road Artisan Cheese‘s RDB cheese from Smoky Lake, Alberta, paired with quince marmalade on a slice of baguette.

The Spanish inspired pintxo of bread, cheese and quince was a winning combination for The Spaniard

For the main course, diners had a choice of three dishes:

1.  Potato-wrapped braised pork cheeks served with lentils, bacon, kale migas, and two poached eggs. 
Taste Alberta PartnersEgg Farmers of Alberta, Alberta Pulse Growers Commission, Alberta Pork

2. A cornflake-and-chickpea-breaded turkey filet, served with baby potatoes, a red and yellow peppers hash, and a mustard-honey aioli.
Taste Alberta PartnersAlberta Canola ProducersEgg Farmers of AlbertaAlberta Turkey Producers, Alberta Pulse Growers Commission

3. Coca Verduras – a Spanish flatbread served with Winding Road’s fromage blanc and grated Joseph cheese, pisto manchego vegetables, and three poached eggs.
Taste Alberta Partners: Alberta MilkEgg Farmers of Alberta

For dessert, chef Lino served Pastel de Nata. The warm custard tart is a classic Portuguese dessert, one that I am told by my dining companions was the perfect last bite to our Taste Alberta brunch.

To accommodate my gluten-free diet, chef Lino plated me the most delightful slice of pudim caseiro. He told me the Portugese baked caramel custard recipe is his mother’s – one that I look forward to coming back to experience again. I’m sure the Egg Farmers of Alberta and Alberta Milk would love to get their hands on that family recipe.

While Sunday may be a more popular day to brunch, I was happy to make a reservation for the Bodega Taste Alberta brunch on Saturday. Clearly, I am not the only one who likes to brunch on Saturdays as there were loads of familiar social media faces that also took in the brunch at the 124th street Bodega location.


Patios are luxury in Edmonton and Bodega has one at each of their locations. The 124th street Bodega Jardin is a lovely space – and a great spot to enjoy brunch, lunch, or a late night glass of sangria alongside some tapas.

As mentioned before, Bodega serves brunch both Saturday and Sunday at both their Highlands and 124th Street locations from 11 am – 2 pm. While the Taste Alberta Prairie on the Plate brunch was a one-time event, their regular menu is packed with options and dessert is always on the menu! A huge thanks to Christian and chef Lino for agreeing to host a Taste Alberta Prairie on the Plate brunch. Be sure to check Bodega out:

Bodega Highlands
6509 112 Ave.
780-757-0137

Bodega 124 Street
12417 Stony Plain Rd.
780.250.6066

Weekend in Seattle

We recently took advantage of the direct flights from Edmonton to Seattle for the long weekend in May. As per usual, we used public transit (the light rail transit and buses were very convenient) and booking on Air BnB to save some coin while traveling on the American dollar (which always leads to more colourful encounters with locals).

While we have shied from uber touristy activities on our most recent city-break trips to the United States (San Antonio, Portland, and New York City), we decided to go full on tourist with the Seattle City Pass. I knew The Spaniard, a civil engineer, would want to take a ride up the Space Needle, and our friends Marc & Jaddah had suggested the locks harbour cruise tour.

With two of those activities (the locks tour was a small upgrade), we decided it would be worth the $89 (American) pass for five of Seattle’s top (insert most touristy) attractions.

For our first toursity activity we joined the mob of families taking in the Seattle Aquarium.

We had some time before our boat tour so we walked up to the Seattle Public Library, which is definitely worth a visit. In 2007, the building was voted #108 on the American Institute of Architects.

Taking a ride up the series of escalators in the Seattle Public Library

 

The sun came out as were lining up to board our harbour cruise. We booked the upgrade ($15 extra) for the locks Argosy Cruises tour and it was worth the price. On the 2.5 hour trip we got a history lesson on the waterfront, we rose 22 feet in the Ballard locks, we sailed passed boats seen on the Greatest Catch, and even saw the houseboat that Tom Hanks’ character in Sleepless in Seattle lived in.

Ballard Locks

Even though the Space Needle was partially under construction, the view from the top was still impressive. While most people zoomed past the info boards on the way to the elevator, we took the time to read about the building process. Built for the 1962 World Fair, I was amazed to learn that it took less than a year to build and there were no casualties during the construction.

View from the Seattle Space Needle

A surprise highlight for me was the Chihuly Garden and Glass. The blown-glass exhibit was awe-inspiring. The photos I took do not do it justice – I loved learning about this artist and experiencing the installations throughout the exhibit.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Our final piece to the Seattle City Pass was to visit the Museum of Pop Culture. There were some very cool things in the museum and I really enjoyed the Nirvana exhibit, but the place is massive and we did not give ourselves enough time to check out the MoPOP before heading for our flight home.

Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)

I convinced The Spaniard that we should attend a Seattle Mariners game while we were in town. The stadium is impressive and convenient to get to on public transit. Unfortunately the visiting Detroit Tigers pitcher was on his way to getting a no-hitter (exciting if you are a baseball fan, but not so much if you are from Spain, new to watching baseball, and want to see some action).

Near the end of the game the home team finally got a hit. They spent the whole game down 2-0, and in the bottom of the 9th the Mariners tied it up and sent it to extra innings. The hometown team went ahead in the bottom of the 11th and resulted in a very exciting finish to the game.

We also had a chance to catch up with Miguel’s friend Kareem. His wife and I got to know each other while the duo, who studied together in Spain and Denmark, reminisced on the time spent working on their masters. The evening involved some hip and tasty spots in Ballard including The Walrus and the Carpenter, Pie Bar, D’Ambrosia Gelato and King’s Hardware.

During our trip I also enjoyed our meal at Capitol Cider. which has an extensive cider drink menu, and entirely gluten free menu.

Gluten free fish & chips, seafood chowder, and calamari at Capitol Cider

But my favourite bites of the weekend were at Sunday brunch in Ballard at Porkchop & Co. Although he really wanted the french toast, The Spaniard graciously ordered gluten-free with me so we could share two dishes.

Brunch at Porkchop & Co in Ballard

We did the obligatory Pike Place Market visit, but we ripped through it quite quickly. A few too many tourists and the gluten free cinnamon bun I specifically went there for was nothing to write home about.  Although, it was entertaining watching people pose in the disgusting gum wall alley while The Spaniard sipped a latte.

Totally grossed out by the gum wall in Seattle

The weekend was over before we knew it. We definitely need to make it back to Seattle to spend time in Capitol Hill, walk some more neighbourhoods, take in some live music, and check out more of the food scene. Seattle – we will be back!

Photo fail next to Catalan artist Jaume Plensa’s Echo in Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum