It comes in domes. It comes in waves. It can sink in and linger, oppressive, relentless, unforgiving. We’re talking about heat, and not just any kind: real Alberta summer heat. And when it’s that hot, the last thing anyone wants to do is turn on a stove or stand over a grill. Give us something cold, refreshing, and delicious, please!
Central Alberta chefs heard our cries and saved us from sweating over supper with dishes that are cool, refreshing, and most importantly, delicious! Move over chilled beer and wine, and make room for these cool eats!
Lacombe’s Milly Oak Café and Catering is what one would expect from a restaurant in central Alberta: drool-worthy comfort food served with a hearty side of small-town warmth you don’t find in the big cities.
The business itself takes its name from owner Derek Layden’s grandmother (Mildred) and his high school culinary instructor, Mr. Oak. “I created Milly Oak in honour of these inspirational people who helped shape the chef I am today.”
There’s plenty to choose from on the menus, but Derek has no problem narrowing it down to the favourites: “Our classic breakfasts and salads showcase comfy, hearty, beautiful food by using local ingredients from local farmers.”
“There is no better flavour than when a tomato is picked right off the vine,” Layden continues. And those local tomatoes are the star of the show in Milly Oak’s recipe for Sun-dried Pasta Salad. Keep it simple, says Layden, and always try to find local produce.
But it takes a special ingredient to make this dish really shine: “Cooking together as a family, as a couple for date night, or with a friend or loved one makes memories that will leave a lasting impression for you and for them.”
Darryl Bernsten, Executive Chef at Cochrane’s Rocky View Brewing, says that staying up to date with what’s in style on the food and beverage scene sets the pace for what’s coming out of the kitchen. “I try to watch trends and predict what’s new and exciting. Right now, I try to adapt everything to a gluten free/celiac style.”
Fish tacos are Chef Darryl’s go-to these days: “I just feel it says summertime with a plate of fish tacos.”
Salads also say summer, like Chef’s Maple Tahini Power Bowl. Cold, crisp, and tossed with a flavourful dressing, “it works for almost anything you have in the fridge.”
“This recipe is my go-to at home with my wife and daughters. After a surprise birthday trip to the mountains for my wife, we stopped in Canmore and they had a bowl with tahini dressing. I said to my wife, ‘This is good, but I think I could make it even better.’”
“Don’t worry about making it perfect,” says Chef Darryl. “Plate it how you want: deconstruct it or mix everything together in a bowl and serve it that way.”
As part of Red Deer’s Heritage Ranch, The West Lake Grill takes local fare like lamb, beef, bison, and an abundance of produce, and creates classic dishes with contemporary twists, resulting in dishes to suit anyone’s palate or diet. For Executive Chef Chelsea Morey, it’s all about food as a communal experience.
“My fascination with how food brings people together inspires me,” she explains, “and the joy it brings is my inspiration.”
And while rich, decadent items like the Ranch Approved Beef Ribeye and the Drunk Mussels are some of Chef Chelsea’s favourites, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple, especially when it’s hot outside.
A bowl of chilled Radish Dip served with fresh veggies does the trick. “It’s light, refreshing, and easy to prepare,” she adds. “Use only the freshest ingredients, and evenly chop the radish to keep the flavours consistent.
Inspiration flows from several different springs for Chris Hartman, chef and owner of Cochrane’s Fence & Post. “My cooking is influenced by my training in classic French cuisine, my curiosity for new flavours and ingredients, the beauty of nature, and the creativity of other chefs.”
Not one to be fenced in by one or two favourite dishes, Chef Chris’ preferences all depend on his mood. It could be the Eggplant, Wedge Salad, or Elk: “All hold a special place in my culinary affections, each for their unique attributes and overall enjoyment they bring.”
Pavlova is another dish that is close to Chef Chris’ heart. “It holds sentimental value for me because it transports me back to the time I spent in Australia and New Zealand.” By sharing it with you, he hopes to continue the legacy of the dish. “It is a dessert that never fails to impress guests and loved ones, making it an excellent choice for special occasions or simply as a treat to brighten up any day.
“Prioritize taste, freshness, and creativity,” he advises. “It’s very easy to switch it up by using different ingredients depending on the season.”