Alberta’s 7 Signature Foods

Ten Foot Henry
Ten Foot Henry
Food Traveller

Alberta’s 7 Signature Foods

Discover Alberta’s 7 signature foods and where to find them in Calgary restaurants.

We all need to eat. For me and most of my friends, food and eating also play an exciting role in the planning and enjoyment of travel. If that rings a bell with you, you are a food traveller. Food travellers are people that will drive across town or fly around the world to try something new. Some cities have become truly famous destinations for the taste of place they offer. I want to share why I think my hometown of Calgary should be on every food travelers’ bucket list.

Calgary is famous for beef but there’s a lot more on our menus. Our city is emerging on the global table of renowned cuisines for the quality of our produce. We are known as a city for our maverick approach to life with incredible independent and chef-owned restaurants to explore.

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Smoked Bison on Fennel Slaw Toast rom Valbella Gourmet (Photo credit: Karen Anderson).

Smoked Bison on Fennel Slaw Toast rom Valbella Gourmet (Photo credit: Karen Anderson).

Bison

This is Alberta’s indigenous food. A recent New York Times article reported on archeological research from the University of Alberta which dated bison in Alberta for at least 120,000 years. They formed with the land and are a keystone conservation species because they improve the ecology wherever they roam. And, depending on the cut, bison can have half the fat and twice the iron as beef. Talk about a superfood! Look for bison tenderloin, short ribs, and burgers on Alberta menus. See it substituted for beef in classics like a slowly braised French Bourguignon and order that if you do see it on a menu!

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Alberta Beef at Charcut Roast House.

Alberta Beef at Charcut Roast House.

Beef

There are over five million head of cattle in Alberta (half of Canada’s beef supply). Yes, that’s right Alberta has more cattle than people. Originally from Scotland and Europe, these animals arrived in Alberta in the 1870s. They do well on our rich grasslands and whether grass-finished or augmented with Alberta’s famous barley, beef here is renowned for its rich marbled flavour. In our opinion, Calgary is the best place to try fresh beef tartare or carpaccio. And once you’ve satisfied the craving for a juicy, perfectly aged, and grilled steak, know you can also enjoy beef in a myriad of other ways reflecting our city’s cultural mosaic. Local favourites are an Italian Tuscan Bistecca, Korean short ribs, or Ginger Fried Beef, a wildly popular dish that was invented and perfected here and is still served at all the best Chinese restaurants.

 

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Chinook Honey Company (Photo credit: Travel Alberta/Roth & Ramberg).

Chinook Honey Company (Photo credit: Travel Alberta/Roth & Ramberg).

Honey

Alberta is the fifth largest honey producing region in the world. There are 1,400 beekeepers in Alberta, managing over 300,000 colonies. That results in nearly 40 million pounds of honey each year, or half of Canada’s production. Not only does Alberta produce a lot of honey, but we also produce creamy, white, highly sought after nectar of the gods. That’s because honeybees in Alberta have lots of red clover and alfalfa to forage on. Alberta honey makes a great gift to take to family and friends who couldn’t join you on your visit. Look for local brands that clearly say Alberta-made!

 

 

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Salad greens with Alberta Honey and Canola dressing at Rouge (Photo credit: Karen Anderson).

Salad greens with Alberta Honey and Canola dressing at Rouge (Photo credit: Karen Anderson).

Canola

Canola is short for Canadian Oil. Originally called rapeseed, this oil was highly sulfuric tasting. Through natural selection in Alberta, in the 1970s, this mild flavoured heart healthy oil was created. We produce 15 million tonnes annually. Chefs the world over love Alberta Canola Oil, also called the olive oil of the Prairies. Look for the cold-pressed version in salad dressings and to finish dishes like hummus. Many of the best restaurants also use it to produce the crispiest French fries you’ll ever try.

 

 

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Sidewalk Citizen Bakery in Calgary.

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery in Calgary.

Red Fife Wheat

This wheat was the first breed that would grow in Canada, especially in arid Alberta. It’s credited with saving the pioneers from starving and has enjoyed a recent rebirth in popularity thanks to the efforts of Slow Food International. You can find Red Fife wheat on the menu of Alberta’s finest restaurants and bakeries. Look for it in sourdough loaves, baguettes, croissants and more.

 

 

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Saskatoon Berry Squares (Photo credit: Karen Anderson

Saskatoon Berry Squares (Photo credit: Karen Anderson

Saskatoon Berries

These hardy little blue berries are indigenous to Alberta and will grow as far north as the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The Indigenous people of Alberta ate them fresh and dried them to drink in tea. They also combined them with bison meat and fat to make pemmican, an important food source over winters. Today, we gobble them up in jams, jellies, pies, and butter tarts. They’re a perennial prairie fave!

 

 

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Root vegetables at Ten Foot Henry in Calgary

Root vegetables at Ten Foot Henry in Calgary (Photo credit: Travel Alberta/Chris Amat).

Root Vegetables

Carrots, turnips, potatoes, beets, parsnips are sweeter in Alberta. Our cold nights cause photosynthesis to pause and sugars to form in the roots of the plants. Our chefs love to create with them. Look for roasted root vegetable medleys, fresh beet and goat cheese salads, braised rainbows of carrots and potatoes every which way.

 

So, there you have it. Now when you plan your trip to Calgary, you’ll be able to eat like a local. Because you are so signature food savvy, I think you’ll savour your experience here even more. Our city is surrounded by a cornucopia of Alberta produce. The table is set with delectable flavours and everyone is welcome.

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By
Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the President of Alberta Food Tours and co-author of Food Artisans of Alberta: Your Guide to the Best of our Locally-Crafted Fare.