21 Days to go - Murrieta's
AND SO IT begins...
It is three weeks from the start of Canmore Uncorked, and it is time to start trying some of the remarkable dining experiences in store for festival guests! I have started early this year on my annual quest to try everything on offer – those of you who have followed the blog in the past know that trying to squeeze 50 partner visits into 12 days is logistically a little challenging – especially when there are also signature events on many nights of the festival.
My goal this year is to a) finish, and b) finish in enough time to share the experiences on offer before it is too late. First world problems eh…?
Before I start, I will make my usual disclaimer. I am not a chef, nor a food critic, journalist, or professional writer of any description. My ramblings (which can be unapologetically long-winded) are all my own, and are intended to describe the experiences on offer and to share some personal stories from the chefs. I can only hope I do proper service to the wonderful food & beverage businesses that are the soul of Canmore Uncorked.
This is the fourth year of Canmore Uncorked, and as the festival evolves there are new partners, new events, new challenges, and of course lots of fabulous new opportunities to indulge. Uncorked welcomes new businesses or new participants such as Blake, Graze, Yama Ramen Bar, Mineshaft Tavern, Canmore Tea Co., Canmore Brewing Co., Wild Life Distillery, RAW distillery, Mountain Blends Coffee and JACEK Chocolate, and of course welcomes back established favourites.
There will also be a couple of fun new twists – a festival cookbook in which 42 of the businesses have shared recipes for house specialties, and a festival App which provides information, reward points and an opportunity to grade your experience as you go and help choose this year’s chef of the festival. But more on those another day…
SO WHERE TO START?
I decided to start at Murrieta’s Bar and Grill – a long-standing partner of the festival and the hub for many planning meetings for the festival (there is however no truth to the rumour that creativity in Uncorked festival development is directly proportional to the bar's sales of Lagunitas IPA) .
Murrieta’ opened in 2003 and is as downtown as you could possibly be in Canmore – an upstairs restaurant at the corner of Main and 7th featuring vaulted ceilings, majestic wood beams, and an open kitchen. Best of all though are the huge windows affording 180 degrees of stunning mountain scenery – and the fact that when the mountain weather cooperates the windows all fold away to provide an al fresco terrace-style feel.
The $44 three course menu for Uncorked looks very interesting a starting choice of Creamy Gazpacho or a cottage cheese and tomato mousse, followed by a choice of pork tenderloin or pan-seared Alberta trout, and finished with strawberry parfait or apple strudel. Choices choices.
But head chef Marco Herbergs has other ideas for today – and energetically steams over to tell me what I am to try. Chef Marco’s story is similar to many in the valley – born and raised in Germany he fell in love with Canmore while on a 10-month tour of Canada in a camper van. He has been “doing this for 30 years”, and seems to have lost none of the passion that got him started as a chef – and it is this passion that makes him a perfect fit at Murrieta’s. As GM Cody Marks (frequently resplendent in a bow tie, but today in a more traditional straight tie with immaculate Duke of Windsor knot) says, it is the staff that make the experience – a team of well-educated food network junkies who are always looking to learn new tricks. Plus they claim to have the best happy hour in town, but I digress...
Chef wants to show off his course for the Long Table Dinner which takes place on May 4th on the downtown street below – 160 new best friends all dining outside. His dish **SPOILER ALERT** is the cold salad (course #3, I think), and he is serving Goat’s Cheese Lollipops. The presentation is beautiful – three balls of rolled cheese with individual sticks, each served on a bed of greens with a base of strawberry coulis. It is however that lollipops themselves that are the real surprise – the chia seed coating giving the cheese a very satisfying chewy texture, and the addition of fresh strawberries giving them a very fresh flavour.
As Marco explains – the dish is inspired by the season. It is light and fresh, the strawberries add the right amount of sweetness, and the chia seeds give the benefits of a superfood while soaking up 10 times their volume in liquid, perfectly binding the cheese.
Passion for food oozes in every word as Chef Marco talks, and I am sure this will feature just as heavily in the three-course menu!
Murrieta's Bar & Grill
200 - 737 Main Street, Canmore, Alberta 403.609.9500