Edmonton food

Farm to Table: Sunworks Organic Farm

July 25, 2017

I'm a city girl through and through, but my love for gardening and growing my own food has always made me wonder what it would be like to live on a farm. I love learning about where my food comes from so when Sunworks Farm invited me out for a tour of the farm, and dinner featuring their products, I was more than excited for the adventure.

Sunworks' certified organic farm is located about an hour south of Edmonton near Armena. Ron and Sheila Hamilton moved to this current property in 1992 and worked hard to build their dream. They have been raising chickens, turkeys, cows, and pigs organically since starting Sunworks in 1997, and the farm became certified humane in 2005. Isaac, the third partner in Sunworks' operations, became a partner in the last ten years.

Under their current operations the farm raises 130 000 chickens, 3000 turkeys, 150 cows, and a couple hundred pigs year round. It isn't an easy feat, but Sheila, Ron, and Isaac's passion for organic, humane, and sustainable farming tells me that their work is truly a labour of love. Our tour started with a stop at the shelter housing young chicks working hard on growing and gaining their feathers. All chicks come to the farm within hours of hatching, which allows for their first meal to be at Sunworks. This ensures they are fed 100% organically for the duration of their lives.

A quick walk around the corner brought us to the egg grading and washing station. With a capacity for up to 5000 hens, Sunworks Farm produces 300 dozen certified organic eggs per day. Let that number sink in. That means the farm produces 2100 dozen eggs per week, and what's more impressive is that all the eggs are hand picked and hand washed. On most farms eggs are sent elsewhere for inspection, but Sunworks' station is registered, meaning the eggs are inspected and packaged on site in a clean environment under federal regulations.


Heading out to the fields

As the tour continued we found ourselves in the fields where the cows and chickens spend their days. What was most interesting to me is that Sunworks farms by a practice called 'time controlled grazing' using their cows and chickens:

  • Cattle are fenced into a large area of pasture with fresh, tall grass where they graze.
  • Over time the grass becomes shorter as the cows feed, they are then moved into a new area with tall, fresh pasture.
  • The chickens are then moved into this area of shorter grass, which is comfortable for feeding.
Essentially, the method mimics natural grazing patterns but allows the farmer more control over the area the animals graze in and prevent overgrazing.

Across the field were the chicken shelters, and they were unlike any I've seen in the past. The shelters were open and very spacious - in fact, Sunworks must allot a certain square footage per bird in each shelter order to remain certified humane. Although each shelter is home to about 500 chickens, there's no overcrowding and every bird has plenty of space to run around.

The shelters were each fitted with a chain in the front to make it completely mobile. Each day the chain is hooked up to a tractor and the shelter is moved forward onto fresh grass for the chickens to graze. I'm no chicken expert, but if the birds singing and clucking away was any indication, I would say the chickens here are happy and really do live a fabulous life!

Of course, given the weather conditions in Alberta the cows, chickens, and turkeys are moved indoors when the cooler temperatures return. In order to maintain production, the animals are fed alfalfa meal and hay to maintain their organic grass-fed diets.


Happy Hens

One of the newest additions to the Sunworks farm is their on-site processing facility. After a period of time sending their animals to be processed off site, Ron and Sheila felt that in order to treat their animals humanely they needed to do the processing themselves. It's no surprise as Ron and Sheila are both such kind, compassionate individuals, but I think it's pretty amazing that Sunworks is committed to treating the animals so well even at the end of their lives. They make sure every part of the animal is used, including the bones, feathers, and offal. The facility is also incredibly clean - it takes up to 16 hours for a full post-processing clean!

At Sunworks Farm processing is done every Tuesday. Anywhere between 2500-3500 birds are processed and a government-issued inspector is on site ensuring each and every chicken is up to standard before being packaged and sold. Thursdays are saved for sausage production - if you haven't tried a Sunworks chicken sausage, put it on your to-do list! Sunworks' sausages are some of the best I've had - they're juicy, flavourful, and have a fantastic aroma when cooked. It's no surprise, though, as the sausages are 95% chicken and 5% organic spices. No fillers, just great ingredients.

To end our day on the farm we were treated to a delicious five course meal courtesy of Chef Kevin Zellweger of the Quarter Section Food Co. based out of Camrose. Our meal started with a charcuterie board featuring meats and sausages cured by Sunworks and an assortment of cheese from Alberta's own Sylvan Star Cheese.

Our meal continued with a light salad, confit chicken leg with risotto, and a beautiful gluten-free beef wellington before digging into our triple chocolate mousse cake for dessert. We were certainly well taken care of that evening, just like the animals on the farm.

The trip out to Sunworks Farm was an eye-opening experience. It really put into perspective the different farming methods that exist and how important it is to support the producers that align with your own values. Ron, Sheila, and Isaac truly care about organic and humane farming methods and are able to produce exceptional products without compromising their values. Taking into account the amount of work and passion that goes into raising animals can make supporting local producers that much more meaningful.

Sunworks Organic Farm produces quality product and is a vendor that I am happy to support. If you're interested in trying some of their products, you can find them at:

A big thanks to Sunworks Farm for bringing me out to the farm and sharing their story! It was a lovely day and a great reminder of why it is important to support local! If you're also interested in learning about where your food comes from, check out Alberta Open Farm Days next month!

*Disclosure: I was invited to Sunworks Farm for a tour and dinner in exchange for a blog post. Views expressed in this post are solely mine. This post is 100% my opinion, and as always, my priority is to you, the reader, to present an unbiased, thorough review.

Downtown

Menu Revamp: LUX Steakhouse + Bar 94

July 16, 2017

Downtown Edmonton is full of dining hot spots. These days it feels like there's a new restaurant popping up on every street corner and it's hard to keep up, but it's also equally important to remember to support the established restaurants.

LUX Steakhouse + Bar 94 - 10150 101 Street NW - Edmonton AB

The Century Hospitality Group has always been a prominent player in the Edmonton culinary scene. The group runs multiple restaurants throughout the city (MKT, Delux Burger Bar, etc.), and even has further expansion plans this Fall. There has been a lot of movement in the Century Hospitality Group over the past few years, with chefs moving around and concepts being changed, so I was looking forward to trying out some of the fresh new dishes on the menu at LUX.


Baked sourdough, Truffle butter, Fresh herbs

Chef Tony Le has been with the Century Hospitality Group since 2006 and took on the role as Executive Chef for the group over the last few years. Out of all the restaurants, LUX has always been a staple for people working in the downtown business core. Located within Commerce Place, it's easy to walk to and caters to both the lunch and dinner crowd. The dining room has more of an upscale feel, while the lounge is more relaxed.

Our night started off with a selection of small bites and shareable appetizers, and first to the table was the Kale Salad ($9/$13). Kale tends to be a love it or hate it ingredient, but I found that this salad with honey lemon vinaigrette, shaved Sylvan Star Gouda, ground pancetta, and walnuts to be well balanced, light, and really fresh with the citrus notes.

Pork Belly fans at the table were happy to see the next dish come to the table. The 24 Hour Bacon ($14) features a slab of bacon that is braised for 24 hours before being cut and seared. Each piece was fatty and seared crispy, pairing well with the acidity from the mustard and pesto served on top.

The Lobster Croquettes ($19) were crisp, decadent morsels perfect for sharing between two or three people. With a combination of Atlantic Lobster, mascarpone cheese, and Yukon Gold potatoes, the croquettes were rich but not overly dense. The exterior was fried golden and topped with crisp herbs and truffle aioli, adding an additional dimension of flavour.

Next up came the Spicy PEI Mussels ($17) cooked in a sauce of Sriracha pesto, leeks, white wine, parsley and shallots, and served with a side of grilled bread. The mussels were plump and fresh, and the sauce was seasoned well so as not to overpower the natural flavour of the mussels.

Last but not least was the Bone Marrow Stk Tartare ($17) with it's unique presentation right in the bone itself. Unfortunately, unconventional presentation made the tartare difficult to mix as the bone below didn't have the marrow roasted out of it. Using AAA Alberta beef, dijon mustard, capers, herbs, roasted garlic, and crispy shallots, the tartare was fragrant but could have used a bit more salt for seasoning.

Main courses served family style is new to LUX, but Chef Tony wanted to incorporate some dishes that encouraged sharing amongst the table. One of the boards is a classic Surf + Turf ($115) featuring a 24oz lollipop ribeye topped with sautéed langoustine, a generous side of lobster mac & cheese, grilled rapini, roasted fingerling potatoes, and classic bernaise sauce. The ribeye was cooked to a perfect medium rare and the mac & cheese was rich and creamy, as expected. The potatoes may look like a filler, but well seasoned fingerlings are a great accompaniment to any steak, if you ask me. Based solely on the price point you may be looking for more food, but don't be fooled as this surf + turf can easily fill 2-3 bellies.

You could hear everyone's amazement when the Crispy Corn Meal Snapper ($69) made it to the table. I never expected to see a whole deep fried fish staring at me outside of a Chinese restaurant, so I was excited for this one! This whole Pacific Snapper was served on a bed of crispy chickpeas and cabbage and accompanied by a board of iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced radishes, grilled avocado, cilantro, and salsa verde. The hands-on eating was fun and interactive as we worked on building our own crispy 'fish tacos'. Now if you're not a fan of looking your food in the eye, the kitchen is happy to serve the snapper with the head off.

It's been a few years since my last visit to LUX and I was pleasantly surprised by our meal that evening. While LUX is branded as a steakhouse I like that there are modern twists and unexpected surprises on the menu. There are some premium prices that would prevent it from being your go-to restaurant, but it's a great spot downtown for your next special occasion or celebratory meal.

*Disclosure: I was invited to a menu launch for LUX Steakhouse. Views expressed in this post are solely mine. This post is 100% my opinion, and as always, my priority is to you, the reader, to present an unbiased, thorough review.

LUX Steakhouse and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Edmonton food

An #Unforgettabowl Party with Edo Japan [Recap & Giveaway]

June 19, 2017

If you've followed my blog for long enough you'll know that there is one type of food I love more than anything else. Morning, night, and any time in between I'm always on board to enjoy a bowl of noodles.

Meals in a bowl are picking up in popularity - they're quick to prepare, delicious, and usually nutritionally complete. Last month, Edo Japan rolled out some new bowl-centric menu items as their interpretation of the trend and they asked if I would be willing to host a party to learn about and taste some of the new items. One of the items was a noodle bowl, so of course I couldn't say no.


Shrimp Tempura Chop Chop Bowl

I gathered a bunch of friends together for a fun evening at Edo Japan's Windermere location. We've all had Edo Japan at some point or another (hello post-secondary years!), so we were all curious to see what the bowls would be like. Edo's two new items include the Noodlefull Bowl and Chop Chop Bowl. The Noodlefull bowls feature a bed of thin ramen-style noodles topped with a stir fry of fresh snow peas, broccoli, carrots, and red peppers. Each bowl is made to order with Edo's signature Teriyaki sauce and served with your choice of grilled chicken, beef, shrimp, or additional vegetables for a vegetarian option. The bowls were generously portioned, and the chewy egg noodles were a nice change from the usual yakisoba noodles Edo Japan is known for.


Beef Chop Chop Bowl

The Chop Chop Bowls on the other hand offer a choice of beef, chicken, or tempura shrimp layered on top white or brown rice and fresh raw vegetables. Each bowl is finished with their new savoury bulgogi sauce and garnished with green onions and sesame seeds. We all agreed that the name was a bit misleading as we all imagined seeing raw scallops in a rice bowl, but the Chop Chop Bowl was a great fresh option with the raw cucumber, carrots, and red peppers. The Chop Chop bowl is only around for a limited time, but I would actually love if it became a permanent menu item - it's healthy and the raw vegetables make the bowl feel light and fresh.


Beef Noodlefull Bowl

Of the two bowls we tried there was no real consensus of whether we enjoyed one bowl more than the other, but I personally feel that the Chop Chop bowl is a fresh, tasty option for when you don't feel like eating anything heavy on hot summer days. This is probably the only time I'll prefer rice over noodles, so you'll want to try the Chop Chop Bowl while it's still around! A big thank you to Edo Japan for helping me host an #Unforgettabowl party!

But of course I didn't forget about my readers - Edo Japan has kindly offered a $40 gift card to one of my readers to have an #unforgettabowl meal of their own with a friend (or two!). Head on over to my Instagram for all the giveaway details. Good luck!

*Disclosure: I was asked to host a social media party in conjunction with Edo Japan's new menu items. Views expressed in this post are solely mine. This post is 100% my opinion, and as always, my priority is to you, the reader, to present an unbiased, thorough review.

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