I’m pretty sure I’m still full.
I may not need to eat for a while.
Ha – who am I kidding, I could eat!
And eat, I did last Friday night. Wow.
I was honoured to be asked to attend a special Manitoba Canola Grower event at Grey Owl.
What is Grey Owl, you ask? Well – when I received the invitation, I had to research it myself. Turns out, it is one of Manitoba’s best-kept secrets. A once-a-year culinary adventure in Brandon, Manitoba at Assiniboine Community College where students from the Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts (MICA) host a four-week fine dining event. I’m told this event sells out every year (the day it opens for ticket reservations), and I now understand why!
According to the MICA website, “this annual tradition has enthralled the community for years. Culinary Arts students present a stunning fine dining menu to members of the public, while Hotel and Restaurant Management students practice their hospitality skills with tableside service. …Running this student-run event provides a practical component to both programs that is highly beneficial to their training.”
It was seriously a first-rate experience and I love the idea of the hands-on training component as part of their practicum. If you didn’t know they were students, you would think you were at a high-end restaurant. I have nothing but praise for this evening.
I can’t remember when I last enjoyed a meal as elaborate such as this. And for, um, research purposes; I made sure to consider menu items I wouldn’t normally have.
The meal started with an amuse bouche. To tell you the truth, I was sooo hungry (I kept lunch really light in anticipation of this fabulous meal), I kinda ate it before I had a chance to take a photo. Trust me, it looked amazing and delighted the palate (just as an amuse bouche should).
Of course, there was homemade bread to start. Not gluten-free so I couldn’t induge but others around the table assured me it was to-die-for.
For an appetizer I had pan-seared scallops and tiger prawns. These were flambéed table-side and served bathed in a Pernod cream sauce.
I opted for the salad (over soup – see, I showed some restraint). A pomegranate and greens mix, drizzled with a sweet onion and poppy seed vinaigrette.
The main course was OVER. THE. TOP. I mean… look at this photo. New Zealand rack of lamb encrusted in pistachio and honey, and served with a raspberry and port sauce. Mmmmm…
And dessert. Remember – all in the name of research. There was one gluten-free option – a creme brule. But I couldn’t resist the cheesecake (I ate around the crust).
I should have walked back to the hotel after that meal.
As amazing as the food was, another memorable part of the evening was the opportunity to connect with staff at the Manitoba Canola Growers association – Ellen, Jennifer and Leanne are amazing hosts. And it was equality enjoyable to meet local producers. We had wonderful table discussion about their farms, their connection to the Manitoba Canola Growers and the community.
There are also some amazing programs put on by the Manitoba Canola Growers. I mean, let’s face it – I’m a city girl at heart, but I’ve found a love for rural after living a few years outside of the city limits. So I was excited to hear about the Agriculture in the Classroom initiative. Did you know that there’s no formal requirement for agriculture education in the classroom?
I also felt personally connected with the Manitoba Canola Growers’ “Be Well” program. As explained by the program’s website, Be Well means “living a passionate life through healthy living, personal growth and partnership.” The Manitoba Canola Growers articulates this neatly as “Live Well, Eat Well, Be Well!” That’s definitely a program that resonates with me!
There’s so much to share, but I’ll sum it up with a few more photos from the evening:
What a memorable night! I’m already marking the dates for next year’s Grey Owl on my calendar and will be phoning in with the rest of them trying to score my tickets!