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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Traveling Cowboys: Small Plates and Big Flavour at the Grande Brunch of Uncorked 2018 in Canmore, Alberta

Nine in a Row

For a town of fourteen thousand people, Canmore has so many restaurant choices that even if we eat at a different one every day, for a month, we still won't be able to try them all.

That is why we love our annual appointment with Andrew Nickerson and his team at Canmore's Uncorked Food Festival. The festival makes it easier to discover and enjoy the best Canmore's dining scene offers - restaurants we didn't know existed and dishes we haven't tried before. When we say the best, we don't only mean the food. We also suggest the people committed to promoting this great destination for culinary's sake. We applaud their effort.


It is our third year of involvement in the event. Spring is always a great time in the mountains. The Uncorked food festival seals the deal for a visit and an appointment with this lovely destination.

Canmore Uncorked is a multiple award-winning food festival that returns each May for eleven days of remarkable dining experiences. It is the opportunity for restaurants of the town to showcase what they have to offer and to entice diners to try something new. For patrons, it is a flavour gauntlet that stretches the imagination and the waistlines. It is a must-do!

One way we make the most of the experience is to attend the Grande Brunch. Nine restaurants come together in one location to offer delicious taster morsels. The newly opened Grande Kitchen and Bar hosted the event this year which took place the first Sunday of the festival.

We tried everything, which proved to be an overly ambitious task. The portions were just enough to entice us to do another visit at participating restaurants. Together, it made for an amazingly delicious and very fulfilling meal.


Food festivals are for patrons. Patrons come with friends to celebrate, eat, explore, experience, meet and have fun with plates of food, mugs of beer, and glasses of wine. It is a familiar promotional drawcard used by destinations to entice new customers to visit and discover more about local businesses partaking in the celebrations.

Vendors are given an opportunity to reach new customers, fill their restaurants and move their products. It is a great marketing opportunity - when done right. The organizers of food festivals have the delicate balancing act of assuring there is enough variety, volume and value for attendees to make it worthwhile attending, and for participating businesses and the destination to see a return in the short and longer term.

Here in lies the crux of a successful food festival. Participating businesses and the destination, as a whole, must go all-out or risk being relegated to just another irrelevant mee-too food event of which there are far too many already. Businesses should make the most of the chance and strive to out-do each another. Not just each other in town, but other festivals, elsewhere.

We all know that with the demise of Canmore's destination marketing organization the Canmore Uncorked festival was left on shaky ground. Cudos to Andrew and his team for seeing it through and keeping the festival going. Unfortunately, herein lies the problem. We are of the opinion that Canmore's establishments overall are still not getting that this is their opportunity. It should not be just an event that continues. It should be the pinnacle food event in the Rocky Mountains!

In 2018, a few die-hard businesses and some newcomers remain committed to the festival's success, and they are reaping some of the potential rewards. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Canmore's food scene remains missing in action, and as a result, the town risks losing the opportunity.

It is no longer the "great" festival it once was. A celebration is not, and should not be for immediate profit or gain. If it was, it would be called a market. A longer perspective and commitment should prevail. The festival is there for the purpose of building marketing and promotional momentum for the times of the year when there isn't a festival. Profit follows from this momentum, and the awareness, excitement and the discovery drawcard it lit in customers. Participating businesses should commit their resources to building momentum like they would have done through any other marketing or promotional effort.

Canmore should be lucky to still have Uncorked. We hope to see it grow again to the grand festival it was once before. Andrew has our commitment and our vote to make it work. Now, all we need is for more of Canmore's food establishments to realize that this is their opportunity and get behind it. We are hopeful that it will happen before it is too late.

Hendrik van Wyk
Uncorked Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too. If you want to see us do more of these, then please forward the favour. We will use it for the next episode promoting a local business or event.


Yum, Yum!




Sunday, March 25, 2018

Traveling Cowboys: The Finer Nuances of a Boere Braai with the Two Cowboys in New Zealand

Die Boere Braai

South Africa is a funny place. Literally, if there is any disaster or depression at the Southern point of Africa, then the people of the country find a way to joke about it. One group notably developed comedy as a coping mechanism for their trials and tribulations. They are the Boere. The best place and time for their comedy is when they braai.

Boer is the Dutch and Afrikaans noun for "farmer". In the South African contexts, it also denotes the descendants of the then Dutch-speaking settlers of the eastern Cape frontier in Southern Africa during the 18th and much of the 19th century. A braai is their outside cooking event that brings people together. If you are a Boer, it is a daily sanctimonious ceremony of wisdom and ritual, closely tied to cultural identity.


The Boere of South Africa has a thirty-year head start on being marginalized in the country of their birth. The rest of Europe and the Western world is now slowly realizing the likelihood of it becoming their destiny as well. Today, the last part of the Boere nation's identity is under threat as the South African government moved to disown them from the farmland they've developed through generations, and owned and cultivated for centuries. It follows a decades-long systematic breakdown and distortion of their sovereignty, history, culture and unique language.

While this was happening, millions of Boere had no choice but to leave South Africa for safer shores and more secure future. Today, they are scattered throughout the world with Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada the main enclaves where they've settled. Here, they committed to the futures and successes of their new hosts while building a future for their families. Their children are integrating to become Kiwi's, Aussies and Canucks and their language is heard less and less around the dinner table. However, one part of their culture remains. The continuation of the braai!

The Boere continues to braai and is more than willing to impart the ritual and wisdom to anyone keen on joining in. A few pre-requisites apply. Firstly, something needs to be cooked, preferably meat. Steak and chops are preferred. Beef and Lamb is the staple with Pork and Chicken as the vegetables. It can be done on a gas BBQ, however wood and coals are preferred.

Secondly, there need to be lots of beer. The more adventurous lubricate themselves with a drink commonly referred to as "spook & diesel" (Brandy and Coke). For the uninitiated, you will need training wheels before you dance with this devil. One thing is sure, bring your sense of humour. You will need it.


There are some unwritten and commonly agreed rules when embarking or joining in on a braai with Boere. Our video above shares some of this. For example, whoever has the tongs is in charge of cooking the meat. His reputation is at stake, and he takes the responsibility very seriously. No one else is allowed to touch it. If someone does, they immediately assume all responsibility for the food, which can become overbearing. Everyone else at the braai will instantly become an expert critic observing and commenting on your every move.

Over the next few weeks, we will impart a few more wisdom about the braai culture. We are heading to South Africa after a sixteen-year hiatus to see how it developed and to be schooled in some of the new customs and finer nuances of the braai nation.

Stay tuned for more.

Hendrik van Wyk
Boere Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too. If you want to see us do more of these, then please forward the favour. We will use it for the next episode promoting a local business or event.




On the Road

Carft! Beer 
Hungry Boer

Monday, March 12, 2018

Traveling Cowboys: A Party in a Paddock at the 2018 Wairarapa Harvest Festival in New Zealand


Liz Pollock, the organiser of the annual Wairarapa Harvest Festival, referred to it as the party in a paddock. That was too modest. It was gourmet on the grass!

Sean Toohey of WilliamsWarn arranged with Liz for the last two highly sought-after media passes. The Cowboys were the lucky recipients. Now we could experience what rural New Zealand food festival life’s is all about. We were invited into the inner circle of rustic gastronomy. We thought we'd seen it all after covering countless food events around the globe. What we found was an absolute adventure in gourmet food and wine - in a paddock! It could easily have been a chef-hosted event on Granville Island. The produce, cooking and creativity were that good.


The event took place at the sheltered riverside setting known as “The Cliffs” on the banks of the Ruamahunga River. It is a remote setting, amongst vineyards and under ancient trees. Remote enough for a noisy pino-lubricated hunger party, but also close enough for Wellingtonians to make the trek up the road for a little culture. Masterton and Carterton are both a stone’s throw away.

If you go by the numbers, it is not a massive festival. Around twenty-three eateries and wineries participated in the day-long festivities. They hosted just over two-thousand hungry and thirsty patrons. The tickets are limited we were told, to keep the festival small and personal. Everyone is guaranteed a sampling of what was on offer. There indeed was enough food and wine for everyone. Chairs and tables were in short supply. Locals knew that, so they brought their chairs, blankets and picnic cutlery.

The event sold out within two hours of tickets going on sale. It happened months ago already. The Harvest Festival is not an event you will likely get to, as an outsider occasionally passing through New Zealand. As with many of these top-class occurrences, you have to rely on a local punter or sponsor within a secret food society, to part with a select few highly sought-after tickets for sneaking you into the inner gourmet circle of the best of New Zealand.

When it came to the food, they spared no expense. Only the best made it to the serving table. It offered nothing pretentious and everything hearty. Only the best fresh local ingredients made it into the dishes that included whitebait fritters, lamb pie, salted beef, spicy wedges and Pinot Noir. All were familiar favourites that came with a creative twist as the restaurants battled to outdo each other.


We've said it before. Food festivals must have lots of food. Far too often we’ve seen food festivals turn into taster festivals. At the Wairarapa Harvest Festival, they know how to throw a party with enough food and wine for everyone.

What stood out was the quality and variety of the produce and the lengths the businesses went to serve the perfect dish. Our favourite was the lamb cutlet pies and a little Pinot with the whitebait fritters and the Chardonnay a close second. It was simple and hearty and utterly the best of rural New Zealand.

Thank you for the invite Sean, and Liz. We would love to see you next year again!

Hendrik van Wyk
Food Festival Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too. If you want to see us do more of these, then please forward the favour. We will use it for the next episode promoting a local business or event.


Getting the Wine


More Food!


That Pie!

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