Indulge in cultural foods and signature alcoholic drinks

Every January, Deep Freeze Festival exposes people to French-Canadian, Ukrainian, and Indigneous cultures. But the festival isn’t just a time of ice and snow sculptures or family-friendly activities. Organizers are also very deliberate about the choice of food and beverages. From Jan. 11 to 12, festivalgoers can indulge their taste buds. 

Mary Ann Aquino, a red seal chef and the festival’s food director, says, “Food closes the loop of the cultures. People always gather around food. Food is like the cherry on top. It feels like a party.”

James Jarvis is creating the signature drink. It may be something like this bourbon maple hot chocolate. | James Jarvis

On Saturday, Ukrainian culture will be celebrated, and on Sunday, French-Canadian culture will be emphasized. Indigenous culture is highlighted throughout the festival.

Most of the food at the concessions is made in-house by Aquino and her crew of volunteers in the NAIT kitchen. There’s a lot of food to make. “The stuff we can freeze we make the week before,” says Aquino. “Others we make a few days before the festival.”

Aquino’s crew makes the tourtiere, and it’s not just any recipe. Christy Morin, artistic director, says they got the recipe from a woman from Quebec who once worked for them. The recipe was her grandmother’s.

While organizers make most of the food, they try to source the rest from local organizations. For example, Kuya Allan’s roasts the pig, Widynowski’s Sausage House provides the sausage, and Baba’s Own Ukrainian Food makes the perogies. 

If you love maple syrup, the cabane à sucre is back this year. | Epic Photography

As a bonus, concession prices are affordable, with the higher-priced item being a platter for two at 10 tickets ($10). 

There’s also bannock at Pipon Village, cabane à sucre, and stew and a berry crumble at the round dance.

The tourtiere contest on Jan. 12 is a great way to show off those cooking skills. 

“Every year, we ask [people] from all walks of life to send their recipes and make a tourtiere,” says Aquino.

The cabane à sucre is a sweet and cold treat. | Epic Photography

A tourtiere is a French-Canadian meat pie. Says Aquino, “It’s usually made out of beef and pork, thyme, and allspice. It’s a working man’s meal but has a lot of flavour in it. It’s very hearty.”

Morin says Quebec has different styles of tourtiere depending on the region. “Some are made with moose. Different generations have different spins. It’s that passing on of the recipe.”

Contestants needn’t be French-Canadian to participate. “Sometimes, they’re not French-Canadian, but the recipe was passed on to them,” says Aquino.

The submission deadline is Jan. 11, and contestants are limited to one entry each. The recipe and the tourtiere must be submitted. Local and celebrity judges will sample the tourtieres and award first, second, and third place prizes. The prizes are yet to be determined. Visit for more information and contest rules.

Festivalgoers will also have the chance to purchase a signature alcoholic drink. James Jarvis and his partner, Charlie Biddiscombe, will be running the bars at Deep Freeze Festival. 

Roasted chestnuts are another treat not to be missed. | Epic Photography

Jarvis is the drink creator and the festival’s beverage director. “I’m still working on it. There may be more than one.” If there is more than one, there would be a hot drink and a cold drink.

He describes one he recently created: a bourbon maple hot chocolate, topped with baby marshmallows and drizzled with a bourbon chocolate ganache. This may be the chosen drink for Deep Freeze, but nothing is decided yet. 

Although Jarvis has held this position at the festival for two or three years, he says, “I’m certainly not a professional bartender. I appreciate good spirits, good food. I like playing with different ingredients, whether it’s solids or liquids.”

Drinks cost around $8. Some other options include liqueurs to add to hot chocolate, along with cider and mulled wine. The festival’s three bars are located inside the league hall and on festival grounds inside the igloo and at the ice bar.


Jan. 11-12

118 Ave, between 90-95 St

More info:

Free admission, but donations welcome.

Featured Image: Enter the tourtiere contest with your best tourtiere and recipe. | Epic Photography