What a fantastic event Ayden Kitchen and Bar put on in Saskatoon this summer! Prairie Feast is the brainchild of Chef Dale MacKay, and the second annual event was truly a feast of the senses and the taste buds.
For its second year, a group of chefs from across the country came to Saskatoon to share their considerable talents and take on street food, all in support of the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre. Set up on the street right out in front of Ayden in downtown Saskatoon, there was a circus vibe complete with a juggler on stilts and clowns roaming around (one even stole my phone and took a pic with Chef Dale MacKay himself). So much fun!!
For the cost of a $200 ticket, it was basically all you could manage to eat and drink for the night (a great deal, for a great cause). The bartenders were hopping all night long mixing creative drinks. My favourite was Islands (a rum and citrus drink) and Dave enjoyed the County Tea and the Ginger Gimlet.
We made our way around the sampling tents, starting with the side that turned out to be the more “fine dining” experience. The first four dishes of the night turned out to be our favourites – and it felt like each tasting was better than the next – a delicious start!
It all began with chicken and cabbage dumplings from Justin Leboe of Model Milk and Pigeonhole in Calgary. It was a truly moist and perfectly cooked bite of flavourful chicken wrapped in cabbage – with a taste like an upscale sour cream and onion chips.
The next dish really knocked our socks off! We completely loved the tacos de guisado from Derek Damman of Maison Publique in Montreal. Outstanding taco with just the right spice and heat kick.
David and I have been wanting to go to Little Grouse on the Prairie (Ayden’s sister restaurant), and after the tuna and lentil cassoulet from Chef Jesse Zuber, we really really want to get there soon! The tuna was perfectly seared with delicious baby beluga lentils and a hint of fresh citrus.
One of the best bites of the night was definitely from Chef Trevor Bird of Fable in Vancouver. The duck pancakes with kimchi were the perfect tasting size and put together with great care. I don’t normally love kimchi or duck, but the balance of sweet pancake and vinegar in the kimchi was absolute perfection.
Not surprisingly, we were starting to feel satisfied and bordering on full. So, when we saw the huge portion (basically half a small sub) of Mortadella Sub from Chefs Connie Desousa and John Jackson of Charcut and Charbar in Calgary – it was a bit daunting. But what an incredible sub! It looked like they made the mortadella, and it was a fantastic blend with pickled vegetables, provolone and peppers.
We had another large portion at the next stop of BBQ pork and beans with pickled cabbage. It was a spicy and flavourful dish from Chef Todd Perrin from St. John’s Mallard Cottage.
We noticed servers walking around the street with plates of steamed pork buns from Ayden – what a wonderful dish from Chef Dale MacKay! The mayo and peanut sauce really stood out with the pork, fried onion, cilantro and beet juice. We really loved this (so much that we went back for seconds at my insistence)!
At this point, we needed to take a breather! With just two dishes left to sample, we also had to power through. Happily, the next dish was light and delicate and showed some great finesse. It was fun watching Chef Jason Bangerter of Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario take such care with cured albacore tuna, tomato water and summer fruits. It was delightful.
The last dish was our least favourite of the night. The funnel cake with pork cheeks, chanterelles and hazelnut dressing from Matthew Stowe of Cactus Club in Vancouver smelled amazing (like the fair). But, we think that perhaps some of the elements were missing by the time that we tasted this at the end of the night, it just didn’t work for us.
Overall, what an outstanding night for foodies! We absolutely loved Prairie Feast and had a spectacular time! Thanks to all the chefs for coming to Saskatoon and sharing their talents, and to Chef Dale MacKay for making it all happen. He’s a great ambassador for our province.