Wednesday, 03 August 2016 13:58

Long Table Dinner will be a feast for the senses

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Cypress Hills Destination Area (CHDA) is an award-winning organization which comes up with new, innovative ways to promote tourism in the areas surrounding the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park and a healthy-sized region surrounding it.
On Aug. 21, they have a new idea that is just delicious.

With only 100 tickets available, the Feast on the Range (Long Table Dinner) will take place at the Historic Reesor Ranch. The Camp Cookhouse Restaurant, the Historic Reesor Ranch and the Cypress Hills Destination Area (CHDA) have partnered up for  a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
Patrons can board the CHDA’s horse-drawn wagons which will transport people for a 10-minute ride across a meadow to the dining site.There people can enjoy wine from Cypress Hills Winery and then a four-course meal created by chefs Becky Ross and Alex Bruveris of Elkwater’s Camp Cookhouse restaurant who will prepare the meal on site, “all served up high atop the Cypress Hills, with stunning views overlooking the Alberta side of the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.” There will also be live music, and cowboy poetry served table-side.
CHDA officials are working with a photographer who will take portraits of the guests with the view in the background.That person will combine it with a wide-viewed photograph provided by a local drone operator from the other side of the cliff of the full table and the 100 people seated at it.
Gail Kesslar, executive director of the Cypress Hills Destination Area, has been one to talk about the fine dining in the Cypress Hills area. To be able to have a special event such as this in a picturesque area which straddles both provinces is even better.
“For the first event, we wanted it to be in a spot that would take people’s breath away,” explains Kesslar. “We had narrowed it down to two spots: Warlodge Coulee within Saskatchewan, located on a private ranch, and the spot at the Reesors. In the end, because the Reesors were accepted as part of Alberta Open Farm Days (due to their location on the border), and the aforementioned Taste of Maple Creek, as well as the opportunity to use their Ranch Hall Grill should the weather turn completely foul, we figured it was our best opportunity. 
“We also wanted a spot that would celebrate the Cypress Hills. Technically, guests will be dining on the Saskatchewan side of the park, but the viewpoint is the Alberta side, which as Canada’s only Interprovincial Park provides a nice synergy.”
Kesslar says one can’t have an event at the Reesor Ranch without tapping into the exceptional talent of Scott Reesor and his ability to weave a tale through his cowboy poetry. To hear it high atop a ridge on the land he speaks of in some of his poems will bring the experience alive. 
“We also have a musician who goes by the tag ‘Wandering Wally’. Amplification is an issue up there as you are miles away from any power source, and we didn’t want to ruin the ambiance by having generators running,” she adds. “So Wandering Wally will be doing just that — strolling up and down the long table, singing and playing the guitar and delighting people with his rich sound. We listened to a number of audition pieces and just thought that Wally will be the one to offer that soothing rich sound we were looking for, for this particular event.”
The idea was bandied about following the VIP dinner at the Musical Ride in Maple Creek last year. Kesslar says everyone enjoyed themselves so much, CHDA knew they wanted to repeat the experience as a way of celebrating the incredible culinary offerings in the area.
“We have Red Seal chefs and bakers, restaurants and chefs that have been featured in shows like Still Standing on CBC, the Prairie Diner, and Top Chef Canada,” notes Kesslar. “Chefs who have been chosen for competitions like the Gold Medal Plates in Regina and the Taste of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, as well as boasting award-winning restaurants who have won both tourism and business awards, and are getting mentioned all over Canada by some of the most reputable bloggers and companies – i.e. The Star Café named as one of the Top 10 Highways Spots in Canada by the Food Network, and the Harvest Eatery’s Harvest Burger named as one of the Top 13 burgers in Canada. You know that you have a definite amount of product that needs to be showcased. It doesn’t hurt that both Alberta and Saskatchewan’s farmers and ranchers are some of the best food producers in the world.”
There had been talk about doing more than one such dinner across the CHDA area, but for this year at least, Kesslar decided against it.
“It was more I wanted to get one done right and go from there. I had thought our VIP dinner at Fort Walsh was our ‘tester’, but it turns out there is a lot more to go into it when you have to find the perfect location, and find the perfect date. We have so much going on here that it’s hard to fit it in. We decided on the August 21 date because it ties in nicely with Alberta Open Farm Days which the Reesors are taking part in that weekend, and with Taste of Maple Creek happening the day before. So those who are real foodies and those who want to be can plan a full weekend of eating incredible food.”
In the end, the Long Table event is about showcasing a lot of businesses, areas and ultimately products from southwestern Saskatchewan. It reinforces how good it is and can be, but it’s also a way of helping people who have been to some of these places before, to look at the area differently.
“Really they can go into our restaurants at any time to experience our chefs and locales, it’s more about wanting to create an exceptional experience that will leave people saying, ‘Wow, that was incredible,’” explains Kesslar. “Our marketing theme this year is ‘Making Memories’ and part of it was we wanted to create memorable opportunities, which is why we’ve also created our Tour Tuesdays that brings people out of Maple Creek and CHIPP SK to visit Eastend and the Fort. It’s just another way to help people experience something that they will remember for years to come.
“(No matter the weather it’s all about) making memories. Now of course, having said that, I sure hope Mother Nature has this out of her system and that we’ll be seeing nothing but blue skies and sunshine for our long table event, but we’ve got tents ready to go if it’s a little icky, and a beautiful indoor space ready to go if it’s really awful, and you take your chances when hosting an outdoor event. As one of our members often quips… ‘It’s all part of the adventure.’”
Long Table Itinerary
• 4 p.m. — Arrive at the Historic Reesor Ranch.
• 4:30 p.m. — Board the wagon trains to the dining site / enjoy a glass of Cypress Hills Winery Wine.
• 5:15 p.m. — Be seated for an incredible long table dining experience with a four-course meal and entertainment.
• 7:30 p.m. — Board the wagon trains for your return journey.
For those interested in enjoying a tour of the Historic Reesor Ranch’s Ranchhouse, which is celebrating it’s centennial this year, arrive early to allow time to tour.
Guests are expected to arrive at the Historic Reesor Ranch on their own. As the road to the Ranch is gravel, those guests requiring transportation are asked to contact Kesslar, executive director of the Cypress Hills Destination Area, at 306-774-6451, or by email at: marketing@
Patrons are also asked to bring hats, sunscreen and a camera.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor

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