We’re lucky to have a spectacularly resilient culinary community keeping us well-fed through this pandemic. While cafe owners and restaurateurs navigate an evolving new-world dining-out experience, our resident bakers, distillers and producers of interesting preserves, cheeses, chocolates, meal kits and even vegan charcuterie continue to create uniquely Alberta products worth seeking out. And in fact, many of them operate inside of restaurants and cafes — further evidence of that resilience and ability to pivot. Here are 25 that may not be on your radar that you should go out and grab immediately if you haven’t already.
For a little plant-on plant-action, The Allium makes vegan tahini ranch, garlicky Caesar and a beet barbecue sauce. All are spectacular for dressing up salads, beans and plant-based burgers. Even carnivores will delight in these flavourful condiments.
Baya Rica Cafe in Bridgeland imports beans from its very own coffee farm in Costa Rica. Having control of the production chain means Baya Rica can focus on sustainability issues like watershed protection and re-establishing wildlife corridors, as well as brewing an outstanding cappuccino.
Made with flour, water, salt, skill and time, the crispy, tapered baguettes at Black Sheep are baked daily. These make the perfect vehicle for The Cookbook Co. Cooks’ whipped feta with roasted tomatoes (which is also on this list). While you’re there, don’t overlook the pastries, either.
There’s something so satisfying about picking up a handmade pie from your neighbourhood corner store. At Bridgeland Market, the pie offerings change on the regular. You may find strawberry rhubarb, peanut butter and banana cream, or even a classic chess pie to pick up and take home.
Charcuterie isn’t only for carnivores anymore. At southern Alberta’s first vegan deli, owners Tania and Kevin Long produce all kinds of plant-based pepperoni, donair “mheat,” salami and other tasty nibbles — enough to fill a charcuterie board or stack a sandwich.
ConMiTaco makes take-home taco kits in small runs. The beef birria is one of the most popular, with 18-hour braised chuck and hand-pressed tortillas made with corn ground fresh each morning. The party packs for larger groups also include fish and al pastor tacos, chips and guacamole, and chilaquiles — all with house-made salsas, of course.
This ridiculously addictive whipped feta with roasted tomatoes is excellent with crackers or a crusty loaf. It comes packaged in wide-mouthed Weck jars, which you can keep or return for a discount on your next batch.
Diamond Bakery Egg Tarts
Diamond Bakery is known for many things — barbecue pork buns, coconut buns, almond cookies — but the creamy, delicate Hong Kong egg tarts are a must try. (Thanks to Carmen Cheng for the tip!)
111 3 Ave. S.E., 403-269-1888
Eau Claire Distillery recently launched its newest premium spirit: Flourish Gin. Inspired by the wildflowers of the Canadian prairies, it has citrus and floral notes, earthiness and a bit of spice.
Gull Valley grows a dozen varieties of vine-ripened tomatoes along with peppers, cukes and chilies, all sustainably and hydroponically, with low environmental impact. The jarred salsa is exceptionally fresh-tasting and delicious. The salsa is made by the folks behind Preserved, which also turns Gull Valley chili peppers into its own candied chilies.
Many Calgarians feel strongly that Jerusalem Shawarma has the best shawarmas and donairs in the city, which has much to do with its house-made garlic sauce. Great news: you can take some of this sauce made from an old family recipe home to your own family and put it on everything.
Kalamata Grocery Barrelled Feta Cheese
Kalamata Grocery has been around since the sixties — and for those in the know, it’s a deeply rooted tradition to seek out feta here. Pulled directly from barrels behind the deli counter and packed into a heavy-duty zip-lock bag with the price written on it in Jiffy marker, and a bit of brine to keep it from drying out — this is not only delicious feta, it’s a life experience.
1421 11 St. S.W., 403-244-0220
Kin + Pod is known for its fantastic, ethically sourced bean-to-bar chocolate, but owner Geordan Spicer recently expanded the offerings to frozen treats on a stick. Made with organic ingredients and, of course, chocolate — paired with espresso, hazelnut, lemon-raspberry and other chocolate-friendly flavours.
Truck-made bottled sodas in flavours like Earl Grey and Chinese five-spice cola are unique sippers on their own, or add a shot of local gin or vodka yourself for an amazing made-right-here cocktail.
The city’s newest craft ice cream company churns out a constantly changing menu of unique flavours — think avocado condensed milk, yogourt soju, White Rabbit (the iconic chewy candy) and ube Oreo. Follow Milk on Instagram to find out which favours are available.
2614 4 St. N.W. (inside of John’s Breakfast & Lunch), @milk.yyc
Mama Min’s kimchee is fresh, funky, spicy and crunchy. It is made with Napa cabbage, radish, apple, green onion and garlic. The beet kimchee has a base of beets and daikon. Min’s makes both fermented varieties using a family recipe.
Food blogger-turned self-proclaimed hummus queen Nada Choufi uses a 100-year-old recipe and warms her chickpeas to make her classic, roasted beet, Sriracha and sweet potato hummus varieties. The beet version is shown here, but they are all worth piling onto pitas.
Calgarians have sought out Noble pies since the company started popping up on weekends at Eighty-Eight Brewing Company in 2018. Try the ‘Roni (with cup and char-style pepperoni) and Sweet Cheesus (with loads of different cheeses and Mike’s Hot Honey) by the slice, or full pie.
Oil Jefe crafts small-batch chili oils using ingredients sourced from B.C. farms and Alberta greenhouses. Although the Jalapeño Cherry Bomb Chili Oil is the mildest, it’s an exceptionally flavourful blend of garlic, shallots and chilis — delicious on eggs, pizza, veggies, and pretty much everything else.
Old West Ranch Buffalo Mozzarella
James Meservy is both rancher and cheesemaker at his family farm in Mountain View, Alberta, where he makes farmstead buffalo mozzarella using milk from his herd of water buffalo. It’s often ordered in the morning and delivered freshly made in the afternoon.
Also known as haskaps, long, dusty-blue honeyberries have the sweet-tart intensity of tiny plums — Preserved founder Vanessa Rundell adds a bit of vanilla to round out her deep indigo jam. It makes the most amazing addition to a good piece of toast.
Ritual makes a rich, buttery brioche dough for its doughnuts and then ferments it for 18 hours to develop an amazing texture and flavour for its doughnuts. They are impressively loaded with colours, textures and flavours that make for a party in a box.
Sweet Relief is known for its cakes (and smaller-than-usual cakelets). But the Nanaimo bar cake is next-level. Imagine an entire layer of Nanaimo bar running through the middle of a moist chocolate layer cake with custard-imbued buttercream … it was difficult to not write this in all caps.
The hype around 100 per cent plant-based V Burger is warranted. It offers vegan shakes, cones, sundaes and ice cream sandwiches, all made with aquafaba (chickpea liquid) and sunflower seed lecithin. V Burger sells it by the pint, too — and it’s brilliant.
Joe and Caroline Mans have been producing wonderful dairy products with their herd in Picture Butte since 2004. Vital Greens products are not homogenized, and are pasteurized at a low temperature. The creamy chocolate milk is a highlight, blended with organic fair-trade cocoa.
Available at a variety of groceries and markets, visit vitalgreen.ca for information