It all began with fireweed pepper jelly. I did not know such a thing existed, but I am very glad I discovered it.
I arrived at Rivendell farms at 6:00 p.m. for the Feast of Farms, the closing event of the Yukon Culinary Festival. As I made my way across the parking lot, I was pleasantly surprised by the set up.A large white tent was erected to cover a spacious area, set up with wooden picnic tables. Each table had a centerpiece of two large glass jars with floating candles, creating a rustic, intimate atmosphere.
I sauntered over to the bar, and opted for a glass of pinot noir. Since it was an evening of many firsts (trying elk, bison, arctic char, plus being at Rivendell), I thought it fitting to try a wine I’d never had. I took a sip, and tasted a palette of blackberry with hints of plum; not bad at all.
Upon returning to my table I observed the chefs scurrying around, ensuring everything was perfect.
While waiting for dinner, I took a few moments to enjoy the lovely sprawling scenery at Rivendell. I particularity enjoyed the tall teepee-like structures that were placed throughout the fields. There was also a life-size chessboard located on the side of the field; it added a nice touch.
With six chefs preparing authentic Yukon fare, it was hard to choose where to start, once the tasting began. I decided to go with the Grateful Spud table, where two chefs were serving authentic poutine. Crispy long golden chips, smothered in gravy, cheese and crushed peppercorns piled onto my plate. I dug in, and it was the best poutine I’ve ever had.
Next, I visited the Aurora Village station, from the Northwest Territories, where chef Pierre LePage informed me that bison tenderloin with berry sauce was being offered.
This was my first time trying bison, and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
At the next table was a chef representing the Starfire Grill from Alaska. Pan seared Alaskan salmon was served, accompanied by a double curry coconut sauce. Wow.
I took a bite, and all I was in flavour country. The curry spices were perfectly balanced and blended beautifully with the salmon.
I then enjoyed a second glass of pinot noir. After all, great food must be accompanied by great wine.
Next stop was to the Air North table. I was served lamb ravioli with morel mushrooms, and a canolli. I asked the chef if this was the same food that’s served on the flights.
He smiled and said, “If you happen to be on the flight to Ottawa, you just might be in luck.”
I just happen to have a flight booked in October; lucky me, indeed.
I moved on to chef Eric Rodgers, who was serving elk sliders and Arctic char. This station was located away from the main area, nestled behind a wooden fence. As I approached it, I saw why. The table revolved around a large fire pit. Leaning against the wall by the pit were long planks of wood with Arctic char fillets nailed to them — quite the creative way to smoke fish.
The flavour if the char was well balanced with the smokiness. My elk slider was served with a whiskey rhubarb sauce. The combination was fantastic.
The last table on the list was presided over by chef Christian Pritchard, serving an assortment of locally grown veggies put together to make a gourmet salad.
I was too full to eat anymore, but my companion for the evening insisted it was the best salad she had ever had; she is usually right.
I had no idea the Yukon has such diverse local food. The chefs definitely went all out, and lived up to the event title; it was indeed a feast.
As for the fireweed pepper jelly, it was being served at the bread table prior to dinner service; a perfect balance of sweet and spicy.
Even though all the other foods were exciting and flavorful, there is just something about that jelly that no other food can compare to.