There aren’t a ton of things that would inspire me to travel to Northern Alberta in the dead of January, but I bet you can guess what one of them is. Food of course. When Tourism Jasper asked me to come up and cover their Food-A-Palooza event (a part of the Jasper in January Festival), I certainly couldn’t say no.
I’m so glad I did go too. Because in addition too snow-shoeing, ice cave exploring and dogsledding (more on these in later posts), I had the chance to try some really interesting food and beverages during my long weekend in the Rockies.
What is Food-A-Palooza?
Every year, the Jasper in January festival tries to spice up one of the coldest, darkest months of the year with many fun events and activities. For the past two years, Food-A-Palooza has been a part of this mix: a weekend dedicated to exploring Jasper’s unique food, wine and beer culture. This year the festival took place January 16-February 1st, with Food-A-Palooza happening on the final weekend. You can find out about future dates on the Tourism Jasper website.
The Key Events
Small Plate Tasting Menus
While all of the other events require entry tickets, everyone can participate in this do-it-yourself foodcrawl. All around town participating restaurants offer small plate tastings- a spotlight dish paired with a beer, wine or cocktail. Some examples:
Syrahs of Jasper:
Roasted Cauliflower and Parmesan Spread – Topped with toasted walnuts, olives and marinated tomatoes. Served with warm bread and crudite. Accompanied by Morse Code Chardonnay.
Embers Steakhouse at the Marmot Lodge:
Braised Beef Short Ribs Alberta boneless beef short ribs, braised low and slow in our own house made BBQ sauce, served with fresh cherry tomato salsa. Accompanied by Trapiche Malbec.
The Jasper Brewing Company:
Creme Brule accompanied by a Maple Chocolate Porter.
Put those together and you’ve got a hell of a meal. Each of these costs $15, and there were about 15 participating restaurants.
Mountain Park Lodge’s Chili Cook-Off
I didn’t get the chance to attend this event, but most of the locals I met were very enthusiastic about this chili cook off featuring local businesses.
Hopscotch and Wines
This I did go to, and it was a lot of fun! Although Food-A-Palooza is only in it’s second year, this event has been going on for over a decade. Held by the Sawridge Inn, the massive cocktail party features scotch, wines, beers and other liquors from around North America, with an emphasis on local brews. The food at this event was basic, but I really enjoyed the chance to try so many interesting Canadian microbrews.
It’s so popular that is actually sold out this year, and the Sawridge Hotel was bursting with people of all ages making merry. Admission was $39 for all you can eat and taste, and tickets need to be bought ahead of time. If you’ve got the money, the $69 VIP ticket lets you skip the lines and includes a private tasting room.
Dine Around Jasper
This was my favorite event of the weekend: an exclusive 12 person progressive dinner. The evening spread across three of Jasper’s best restaurants and paired local produce and meat with carefully selected wines. The guests ranged from long-time locals to visiting newlyweds which led to interesting conversation along with the food. Highlights included chicken breast stuffed with free range boar bacon at Evil Dave’s Grill and a delicate and juicy elk striploin at Fiddle River Restaurant. This was the first year they’ve tested the progressive dinner concept and I certainly hope they do it again.
Tips for Food-A-Palooza
- Food-A-Palooza is open to both tourists and locals, so expect a healthy mix of both. This is a great time to interact with the locals, many of whom have very interesting stories about how they ended up in Jasper.
- If you want to attend any of the ticketed events, it’s smart to get your tickets ahead of time as they do sell out!
- Pretty much everything is within walking distance, so don’t feel like you need to shell out on cabs. Of course, Jasper in January is pretty cold so bring a good jacket and snow boots!
- If you’re not able to visit Jasper during Food-A-Palooza weekend, there are still a lot of great restaurants to try out. Some of my favorites were Jasper Brewing Company (amazing beers and good poutine), Fiddle River Restaurant and the restaurant in the Best Western (yes, really, it was good and had great ambience!). The Other Paw Bakery is a great caffeine and baked goods stop.
Disclosure: My trip to Jasper was sponsored by Tourism Jasper. I was also compensated for my coverage. All opinions are my own.