This past Friday I had the honour of being invited to join 23 other people for a wonderful evening at the Grey Owl restaurant. The Grey Owl is only open for 4 weeks, Monday through Friday, and ALL seats for this amazing dining experience are booked within 3 hours of being offered. So, to say that it is a sought after experience is an understatement. The Grey Owl is actually run by the Assiniboine Community College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality students. These first and second year students will move on to be some of the top chefs in the province and country. And I have to say, by the food that was served to us, they are well on their way!
My invitation came to me via the Manitoba Canola Growers. They sponsor the learning kitchen at the school, and are given a mere 24 tickets to this coveted experience. The 24 tickets are given to board members, both past and present, a few Canola Growers employees, producers, and a handful of bloggers. I was fortunate enough to be one of those bloggers. I was extremely nervous going into this, since I had never met one person that was going to be there, and I knew a number of them had met at previous functions in the past. But, once the evening got started, it became a great, intimate evening of visiting, stories, and laughing. New friends were made throughout the night, including Jen and Ellen from Canola Growers, who I will be flying out to Toronto with in April when I attend the Food Bloggers of Canada Conference.
To give you an idea of how our evening went, I have some pictures to share. I won’t be able to share with you all that I want, because I’m sure you’d be tired of reading it by then. But, it was a great evening, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing it with you.
This is the Assiniboine Community College Culinary Arts Institute building. Absolutely gorgeous, both inside and out.
The sign greeting us to their classroom.
The kitchen/classroom that Manitoba Canola Growers sponsors. It is also used for shooting some videos used on the “Be Well” website (like THIS one).
Ellen of Manitoba Canola Growers is welcoming us to the evening. Following this we all introduced ourselves, and spoke of what our passions were. Great to be in a room where food and family were included in nearly everyone’s passion.
We also heard more about Wendell Estate Honey, who was just featured on Dragon’s Den (and walked away with a very *sweet* deal), and how all the producers work together, and how their product varies from other honey available in the stores.
We also heard from Getty Stewart, who authored the “Prairie Fruit Cookbook”. She also started a very neat program called “Fruit Share“, where fruit that would have otherwise been unpicked, gets picked and processed by volunteers. This program has saved 20,000 pounds of fruit from going to the landfill in the past few years. A really great concept!
Johanne LOVES agriculture. I mean, she really, really LOVES agriculture! She works with Agriculture in the Classroom, which helps to educate kids about producers, and how important agriculture is to all of us. Many kids have no idea where their food comes from, they think it just comes from the grocery store. Joanne is on a mission to teach them otherwise, with great breakfast programs, field trips, and classroom learning activities.
After that was all said & done, it was time to move into our private dining room. We all have place cards, and I’m thankful for that, because otherwise, I have no idea who I would have sat with. Now, I had no choice, but still ended up sitting at a table with a great bunch of people (one being the current President of the Manitoba Canola Growers Board of Directors, no biggie). 😉
To start with – the Grey Owl Restaurant had a GREAT gluten-free menu. Seriously, when I eat out, I usually don’t have a problem, since there are so few selections. I actually had to make choices here!
This was the appetizer, Brome Lake Duck: Seared Brome Lake duck breast with a crabapple rhubarb compote, nestled in a potato nest.
There were a lot of dishes were the students would come out and flambé a portion of the dish. You could tell they really enjoyed it, and we all enjoyed watching it as well.
I had the “Horticulture’s Blend” salad, which is described in their menu as follows:
“(Designed and grown by our own Horticultural Production program)
Tender butter lettuce, arugula, sliced poached Bartlett pears and sunflower shoots
drizzled with port and seasoned with hazelnut emulsion.”
It was delicious!
I had a hard time choosing which main to order, but decided to go with the Maple Cedar Plank Salmon. I was not disappointed! (check out the precision cutting on those little potatoes! Crazy!)
Menu description: Fresh Atlantic salmon gently grilled and smoked on a BC forest cedar plank
Time for dessert! That calls for more Flambé! This is actually the fruit that went on top of my Crème Brûlée!
There was only the one option for a gluten-free dessert, but I was not disappointed at all. This Crème Brûlée was AMAZING!! So good! The perfect way to end the evening!
Menu description: (Our signature dessert)
Rich custard infused with vanilla bean, singed with crusted caramelized sugar presented tableside with flambéed berries
Once dinner was done, we got a tour of the kitchen, as the students were busy cleaning & counting, preparing the next week. By that time, I must have been pretty tired already, because I only got one picture of their amazing learning kitchen. It was really great to walk through a kitchen like this. Maybe one day I will be the 50+ year old that takes on this 2 year Culinary Arts program. 😉
At the end of the evening we were also given a swag bag that included;
- information & a toque from Agriculture in the Classroom
- A Manitoba Canola Growers magazine
- An oil bottle
- and a water bottle
- a jar of Wendell Estates Honey (YUM!)
- Getty Stewart’s book, “Prairie Fruit Cookbook”
- reusable bag & luggage tag