The Art, Cake & Whisky Contest

It took Alberta baker Kamla McGonigal four years to perfect her recipe. The fourth generation Calgary native wanted to use whisky, locally distilled from grain at nearby farms as one of the main ingredients in her delectable cakes. Finally after countless hours over an oven, McGonigal developed one of the best tasting and most unique baked-goods available to those with discerning palates – the Alberta Whisky Cake (AWC).

Which is exactly why we picked her as one of our Artisans of the West (in the food category) in the March issue.

But on June 20, disaster struck Alberta Whisky Cake when High River flooded.

This is a picture Kamla sent me on June 24. The shot is of 3rd Ave. The Cakery Bakery, which had been producing Kamla’s cakes, is located on the far left of the photo – it is completely ruined and will have to be refurbished, replaced with new equipment etc. Most of AWC’s  inventory of packaging/printing/labels were stored at the bakery and also destroyed. In addition, Highwood Distillery, which supplied the all-important whisky ingredient, also incurred flood damage.

At that time, Kamla didn’t know when she would be able to supply AWCs again. She had a few dozen in storage, most of which she later donated to a flood fundraising effort. It seemed Alberta was completely out of stock of the unique Alberta Whisky Cakes.

But Kamla is a passionate soul – and determined to get the cakes back into production.

On July 13th, she posted on Alberta Whisky Cakes Facebook page:

“Good morning. I’m headed to the Millarville Farmers Market for the last time this season, with the last of my inventory (until Cakery Bakery is back up & Highwood Distillers rye whisky available again). The kindest thing I can do right now is get AWC bigger & better than ever before – people REALLY want JOBS, not handouts.” ~ Kam

Her farm, west of High River, has a healthy beautiful crop of canola (an important ingredient in the cake) nearly ready to be harvested, and it turns out the Cakery Bakery was covered by insurance, and a rebuilding is in process. It will take 2 to 3 months, and in the meantime, Kamla is using the time to tweak the current product and invent new versions of it. Look for perhaps a fruitcake version, or even, gluten-free in the future of AWC.

One of the unique aspects of the Alberta Whisky Cake is that each comes with an exclusive AWC Unbridled Spirits certificate. This certificate can be presented directly to a select list of AWC artists to receive $35 off of your purchase price, on an individual piece of art valued at $100 or more. These artists are local people who are involved heavily in the arts, and have not yet become renowned or rewarded for their exceptional dedication to their creative work.

Past recipients have included such artists such as Whitney Wilkie – Whittie Girl Leathers (www.whittiegirlleathers.com)

Or, Jane Romanishko – Jane Romanishko (www.janeromanishko.com)

And Neville Palmer – Reflective Eye Photography (www.reflectiveeye.com)

Now the Whisky Baker and Western Horse Review have knotted their tendrils of love for western art and culture together to come up with the Art, Whisky and Cake Contest.

Kamla needs an emerging western artist to showcase when her new set of post-flood AWC’s begin rolling off the production line in a few months and she’s inviting Screen Doors & Saddles and Western Horse Review readers to put forth nominations of your choice.

In the comment section below simply state your nomination of a Canadian emerging western artist. Include the name and if possible, website url, of the artist and a simple line or two detailing why you’d like to nominate this individual. From all of the nominations, Kamla will make a selection of three finalists. These three finalists will be profiled here on Screen Doors & Saddles and on Western Horse Review Facebook and viewers will have the opportunity to vote and ultimately, choose the next AWC Artist!

In addition, we’ll do a random draw from all of the nominations, and the winner will receive an Alberta Whisky Cake, compliments of Kam. I’m sure it will be one of the first cakes to be pulled from the Cakery Bakery’s ovens once they are up and running again.

It’s possible we might be dubbing the first few as “celebration cakes.” For in a small way, we hope this contest symbolizes the hope we extend toward the people of High River and surrounding areas, many of whom have lost so much and are still struggling, and foster feelings of a brighter future!

As Kamla says, “out of hope comes clarity, energy, focus & optimism!” So, go ahead and nominate your favorite up-and-coming western artist in the comment section below. We’re counting on your support and feedback for this contest.

Recipe of the Week ~ The Ultimate Grilled Steak

Photo by Krista Kay Photography

I'm kicking off our Recipe of the Week series not so much with a recipe, but rather, sharing a few thoughts about grilling a great steak. If you found the May/June issue of Western Horse Review in your mailbox recently, or picked it up at the newsstand or your favorite tack store, then you're already privy to the three steps to a great grilled steak I suggested in our Food of the West feature.

These three simple details – 1) bringing your steaks to room temperature and salting them well, 2) building a two-zone fire on your preferably charcoal barbecue, and 3) letting the meat rest, will bring you a lot closer to a juicy and unforgettable steak.

We chose the beef for our barbecue photo shoot from Bar P Ranch, just outside of Nanton, Alberta. Owners, Rob and Tami Palmer operate their family farm with a sustainable philosophy, and raise beef that is grass-finished and free from hormones or antibiotics. The cattle are never fed grain or animal by-products, and the pastures they graze on are not chemically fertilized or sprayed. In my mind, that’s beyond organic – it’s an absolute clean-beef, with a sustainable footprint. Plus, I like the idea that the cattle running on Bar P Ranch pastures are raised naturally and respectfully, in a stress-free and family-farm environment.

It's become paramount to me to care about where my family's food comes from, and how it is raised. An “organic” label in a large chain grocery store just doesn't tell me enough, particularly as I become increasingly aware that there is such a thing as “industrial organic,” and it’s most likely the beef that is pushed in major grocery store chains. I prefer to know exactly what ranch the beef I purchase is originating from, and how it is fed and raised. And, I don’t mind paying a bit more for that. It's all about supporting our local economy too.

Photo by Krista Kay Photography

I’m intrigued with discovering new riffs to the process of grilling steaks, and perfecting what I've learned thus far. One of the important considerations is the cut of the meat, and I'm still learning about the variances of each cut. My favorites these days seem to be rib-eyes and a well-marinated flank steak. For the purposes of our barbecue photo shoot, we grilled all of the above Bar P steaks with fantastic results, but we saved the tenderloins to pan fry, and that, I'm planning to showcase in a future edition of Food of the West. Stay tuned!

Ham Hock & Lentil Spring Stew