Three Airdrie restaurants will make you think differently about food
Airdrie’s restaurants are starting to embrace the farm-to-table movement, and their commitment to locally sourced ingredients have our mouths watering with each bite.
Not only do they have an appreciation for the farmers that provide their ingredients, but they remind us of the importance of the food we put in our bodies, and the impact our choices have on the local economy.
Hayloft, one of Airdrie’s foodie hot spots, is located in a small strip mall nestled between condo complexes in Creekside Village. Its exterior is simple and demure but walk into the restaurant itself, and you’re transported to a rustic farmhouse. Vinyl records line front shelves and an open-concept kitchen gives patrons a great view of the culinary magic.
Hayloft is owned and operated by James Hoan Nguyen and at the helm of the kitchen is Chef Jason Barton-Browne.
On the menu tonight? A grilled beef sirloin served with roasted carrots and mushrooms, sea asparagus, nostrala cheese pomme puree, lovage leaves and a finish of red wine jus.
Most of the ingredients in this dish and on the Hayloft menu are from local farmers, typically from no more than 30 minutes away.
Beef: Wayne and Rhonda Hanson of Your Local Ranch Ltd., Airdrie, AB
Mushrooms: Pennybun’s Mushrooms, Calgary, AB
Sea Asparagus: Season’s Harvest, Okanagan, BC
Nostrala Cheese Pomme Puree: Potatoes, Poplar Bluff Organics, Strathmore, AB; Nostrala cheese, Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co., Kootenay, BC
Lovage Leaves: Heritage Isle Farms, Leduc, AB
“My vision for Hayloft is to provide a gathering space where diners are encouraged to think about what they are eating,” explains Nguyen. “I want to give our guests an opportunity to do more than eat for the sake of eating. I want them to openly question where their meal came from and appreciate the farmer who provided each ingredient.”
Hayloft’s chicken and duck comes from Carstairs, its pork from Irricana, its beef from Airdrie, its garlic from Didsbury and produce like nettles and lovage from Leduc.
“We make a concerted effort to get the majority of our ingredients seasonally and locally,” says Nguyen. “Our suppliers deliver their produce to Hayloft and it typically ends up on the customer’s plate that evening.”
Meanwhile, in downtown Airdrie, Michael Frayne – chef de cuisine at First & Vine – is preparing his heirloom tomato salad with fresh mozzarella.
Tomatoes: Mans Organics in Coaldale, AB
Mozzarella: Levant Mediterranean Foods in Calgary, AB
Canola Oil: Mountainview Farming in Strathmore, AB
“For some folks, a tomato will always just be a tomato,” explains Frayne. “It’s my job as a chef to educate people about how good local food can taste and how local foods can really enhance their eating experience.”
Opened in October 2016 in Airdrie’s oldest remaining house, First & Vine looks to source locally whenever possible.
“By sourcing locally, I’m able to support my community,” says Frayne. “In turn, these individuals may decide to eat at First & Vine. I appreciate the relationship and reciprocity that is created by sourcing foods from producers I know by name.”
Frayne’s pork comes from Bear and the Flower Farm in Irricana, his bison from Glengary Bison in Airdrie, his beef is from Pine Haven Colony in Wetaskiwin and his honey and mead (an alcoholic beverage made of fermented honey) from Fallentimber Meadery in Water Valley.
He also makes a point of visiting the Airdrie Farmers Market on Wednesdays during the summer. There he often buys local produce such as berries from Pearson’s Berry Farm in Bowden and various vegetables from Shirley’s Greenhouse in Didsbury.
Hayloft and First & Vine may be leaders in the farm-to-table movement in Airdrie but Sorso Espresso & Wine Bar may very well have been the first establishment to embrace the movement.
Dmitri Martini opened Sorso, which means ‘sip’ in Italian, in Bayside in 2015.
“I opened Sorso because I felt there were very few options for fresh, wholesome food in Airdrie,” says Martini. “There didn’t seem to be establishments that supported local farmers and brewers.”
Sorso’s coffee and teas come from top Canadian roasters and merchants. The eggs served during breakfast and brunch come from the Tschetter Hutterite Colony in Irricana, AB. All pastries are made in-house with real butter and local organic honey. Kombucha, a fermented tea, also appears on Sorso’s menu. Happy Belly Kombucha, a small Calgary brewery, handcrafts each small batch with organic ingredients.
Over the years, Sorso’s menu has expanded beyond coffee, tea and pastries to include a wide variety of menu options. Martini continues to diligently source the items in each in order to provide his clients with healthy, local and ethically sourced foods.
Thanks to restaurants like Hayloft, First & Vine and Sorso Espresso & Wine Bar, we are reminded to think differently about food, which doesn’t have to come at the expense of taste.
“That vegetable or herb came out of the ground yesterday and it’s on a plate that evening,” explains Frayne. “You just can’t beat that kind of flavour.”