March 13th, 2017

Food Notes for March 13, 2017

I’m heading to Montreal for a conference soon, so a heads up that there will be no Food Notes next week. I’m looking forward to some poutine and smoked meat sandwiches! On to this week’s food notes:

  • A reminder that Seedy Sunday takes place on March 19, 2017, at the Central Lions Seniors Centre. Expect demonstrations, presentations, and garden-related exhibitors.
  • It’s time for another Honest Dumplings pop-up at Prairie Noodle Shop on March 21, 2017! Tickets are $15.
  • The free Second Season Street Party will take over Rice Howard Way on April 1, 2017 with extended patios, wagon rides, and activities for the kids.
  • The next Green Drinks is themed around the topic of farm to fork – tickets are now available to the April 2, 2017 event.
  • Edmonton Economic Development is organizing a Culinary Lab series, where chefs will experiment with food and flavours as they create custom menus for each event. The first takes place at Rostizado on April 9, 2017. Tickets are $100.
  • St. Albert’s Dig In horticultural festival has expanded to include a spring session running April 29-30, 2017. Many of the workshops are free to attend!
  • Acme Meats will be opening up in their new home (alongside a brew pub and a new Transcend Coffee location) the week of March 21, 2017 at 9570 76 Avenue.
  • Liane applauds the creativity inherent in Nineteen’s new brunch menu – it sounds delicious!
  • Linda is the latest to review Takami Sushi.
  • Andrea offers her opinion on Grandin Fish & Chips.
  • Crystal offers some honest feedback about her experience at Doughnut Party.
  • Also from Crystal, she gave south Edmonton’s Wing Chix a try.
  • The Journal paid a visit to local institution Coliseum Steaks & Pizza. The review was a reminder of how vehicular transportation is always considered the “norm”, so it’s up to us to include active forms of transportation in the #yegfood conversation.
  • Vue Weekly reminds us that Savoy is still offering solid South Indian eats.
  • Jonny checked out local favourite Elm Cafe.
  • Speaking of Elm Cafe, Alan Suddaby (Executive Chef of Elm Cafe Catering) offers the Ten Sandwich Commandments.
  • Meal prep business Simply Supper is hoping to raise $25,000 through Alberta Boostr to open a second location in north Edmonton.
  • It’s always interesting to see an outside perspective of Edmonton – in this case, here’s the take on our city from two UK-based travel bloggers.
  • Valerie (aka A Canadian Foodie) is looking for people to cook with!
  • Speaking of Valerie, one of her recipes is in the new cookbook Feast, by Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller, which recently launched at a local bookstore. Learn more about the cross-Canada trip that inspired the collection.
  • Summer seems so far away, but it’s closer than you think – daydream away with tickets to the next RGE RD supper at Nature’s Green Acres on August 19, 2017. Tickets are already half sold.
  • Thanks to the Downtown Business Association and to the Art Gallery of Alberta for hosting the kick-off to Downtown Dining Week on Thursday! I’ve already visited two of the thirty-three participating restaurants this weekend. The event runs until March 19, 2017.

Downtown Dining Week

Delicious bite of steak from Atlas Steak + Fish

March 12th, 2017

Downtown Dining Week 2017: Atlas Steak + Fish and Crash Lobby Bar

Running from March 10-19, 2017 this year, Downtown Dining Week remains the last event offering prix fixe (fixed price) menus in Edmonton. Given the number of restaurants that have opened Downtown over the last few months, it’s a great way to test them out with a lower overhead cost.

I took advantage of the two new additions to the roster – Atlas Steak + Fish (in the Grand Villa Casino) and Crash Lobby Bar (in the renovated Grand Hotel, now known as Crash Hotel). They were both offering deals too good to pass up.

Atlas Steak + Fish

First up, I met up with Linda for lunch on Friday at Atlas. The casino was quiet at noon, but it was obvious the word was out about the Downtown Dining Week specials as the restaurant was half full. Our server was clearly a bit panicked – he was being run off his feet as he shared that they weren’t expecting it to be as busy as it was. I understand that it may be difficult for new Downtown Dining Week participants to predict the potential uptake in business, but given this is likely the introduction for many to the business, I wonder why restaurants would risk leaving a poor first impression.

At any rate, Linda and I were excited about the $15 two-course lunch, particularly because it was our first time at the restaurant. Atlas has the gleam of a modern day steakhouse – the leather and wood banquets that you would expect, but reflective ceiling accents and statement light fixtures that you wouldn’t. I also appreciated that there was a generous amount of space between the tables – something that is becoming more rare with most new establishments.

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Atlas Steak + Fish

The bread course we started with was noteworthy – there are few things more comforting than warm bread. Atlas serves their house-made dinner rolls warm in cast iron pans, brushed with blue cheese butter and sprinkled with coarse salt. Thankfully for me (not a blue cheese fan), the flavour wasn’t so pronounced, and I was able to enjoy them.

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House made blue cheese butter buns

Linda selected the salad appetizer – the house salad with mixed greens, daikon, beets, carrots, almonds, goat cheese, and white balsamic dressing. It was certainly an aesthetically pleasing plate, but Linda was hoping for more substantial beet flavour, instead of beet curls as a garnish. I ordered the squash soup with spiced oat crumble and cherry balsamic. The squash had been smoked in their special Josper oven (what they use to prepare all of their steaks), and the smoky flavour was definitely notable. It was a very smooth puree, but I did appreciate the added texture from the crumble.

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Smoked squash soup

For mains, Linda was swayed by the off-menu prime rib special. I found it to be a tad too fatty for my taste, but she didn’t mind it as much. I opted for the spaghetti carbonara with Josper smoked pork belly, garlic, parsley crumbs, grana padano, and poached egg. The egg was perfectly soft poached (and beautiful in presentation), but as I typically prefer my carbonara creamier, I would have chosen a more traditional preparation of coating the pasta with the egg.

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Spaghetti carbonara

Service was spotty; we had to flag down the server on multiple occasions – for a soup spoon, for the bill, to pack up leftovers. Again, I think he did his best in the understaffed circumstances. Based on the food alone, I’d consider returning, but I would hope for better service on future occasions.

Crash Lobby Bar (inside the Crash Hotel)

Downtown’s former Grand Hotel has been undergoing full-scale renovations over the past few years. First came Denizen Hall, which opened in the hotel at the end of 2014, offering relaxed pub fare alongside restored retro arcade games. Then, Crash Hotel, with its initial phase of 25 rooms and refurbished lobby tavern, followed suit two years later. Urban Sparq Hospitality (who also run Knoxville Tavern, The Pint and Beercade) operates both Denizen Hall and the Lobby Bar, but has wisely chosen to distinguish them in feel and food. While Nate Box (of Elm Cafe) had been asked to create the menu at Denizen, Nathin Bye (formerly of Wildflower Grill and Ampersand 27) was brought in for Lobby Bar.

The space of the Lobby Bar (which shares the same entryway as the the hotel front desk) definitely resembles its sister restaurant, with identical wood paneling, leather banquets, and some of the same furniture. However, it is brighter, smaller in size and more open, with a reflective tin ceiling and a focus-pulling bar. And though two screens were tuned to the Oilers broadcast during our visit, the sound was muted in favour of a pop/dance soundtrack.

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Crash Lobby Bar

Mack and I stopped by on Sunday night to take advantage of the $28 three-course offering. Two of the three dishes could be selected from their regular menu, so it was a great way to sample several of their dishes in one shot.

As mentioned, the menu is quite a bit different than the comfort food-oriented fare found at Denizen Hall. The dishes at Crash Lobby Bar are more refined, less likely to require a deep fryer, and follow the trend of small plates meant to be shared. We did so with our four dishes.

The pork n’ beans was not something I would have expected to find here – sweet and sour honey scented shoulder, served alongside a trio of beans and kale. Everything was well prepared, and the pork was nicely flavoured.

Crash Lobby

Pork n’ beans

The meatballs, a mixture of beef and pork, looked promising, were unfortunately on the dry side, even when doused in the tomato sauce bath.

Crash Lobby

Meatballs

My favourite dish of the evening was the Crash take on beef and broccoli, with a 72 hour braised Alberta beef short rib. I loved the subtly sweet glaze, and the meat was perfectly tender and moist. The smoky, crispy house-made hickory sticks sealed the deal for me.

Crash Lobby

Alberta beef short rib

Mack’s favourite was the Crash burger, topped with aged cheddar, braised short rib, and a perfectly cooked sunny side up egg – it may have been messy but it was worth it. He also appreciated the deep fried pickle on the side.

Crash Lobby

Crash burger

Our third course was the dessert of the day, a cookies and cream cheesecake with a house-made berry compote. It was rich and satisfied our sweet tooth, but in some ways felt like an afterthought when compared with the previous courses.

Crash Lobby

Cheesecake

Service was good – the space was only about half full, but we were well taken care of. I certainly had a better overall experience at Crash Lobby Bar than at Atlas, and wouldn’t hesitate to return again.

Downtown Dining Week runs from March 10 – March 19, 2017 – check out the menus here.

March 10th, 2017

5 Reasons to Visit Lake Louise

After a visit to Jasper early last year, Mack and I were reminded of how invigorating a trip to the mountains can be. It’s an amenity of living in Alberta that we don’t take advantage of often enough, so we vowed to return next year.

In February, we planned a long weekend for a mini-break, but instead of returning to Jasper, we thought we’d tread newer ground to Lake Louise. Though we’d both been to Lake Louise on family vacations as children, it had been years since we ventured past Banff. And it’s probably our aged state, but it’s safe to say we appreciated the surroundings much more as adults.

If you’re thinking of heading down to Lake Louise, here are five reasons why I think you should.

Reason 1: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

When Mack and I got married a few years ago, his coworkers gave us a Fairmont gift card. We had been fortunate enough to stay at the Jasper Park Lodge in the past, so looked into the other two mountainside Fairmont properties we had yet to experience. We ultimately chose the more economical option, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Don’t get me wrong though – "economical" doesn’t mean cheap. I’m certain this was the most either of us have ever spent on a hotel room, but the Fairmont brand, as we have come to know it, is equated with an unparalleled level of service and quality.

Lake Louise

Winter wonderland

We’ve never been to an all-inclusive, but I have been on a cruise ship, and this property reminded me of that. It was billed as a resort, with daily posted activities for the guests of all ages, shops and restaurants all under one roof, and excursions that could be booked for additional cost.

Lake Louise

Picture perfect

On the weekends, the property organizes a free evening campfire, complete with marshmallows for roasting.

Lake Louise

Evening campfire

We also marvelled at the ice sculptures that were created at the Ice Magic Festival that takes place towards the end of January.

Lake Louise

Wooly (snowy) mammoth

With a distance from Edmonton of about 4.5 hours, we had decided to park the car after our arrival and take advantage of all the amenities the Chateau had to offer. This included dining at several of their restaurants. Our favourite was their signature Walliser Stube, named and inspired by cozy haunts in the Swiss Alps. We shared an indulgent cheese fondue with all the fixings, my favourite part of the meal.

Lake Louise

Cheese fondue!

Reason 2: Snow!

We learned on this trip that Lake Louise, on average, receives about 45cm of snow per month between November and March – more than double the amount Jasper typically receives over the same period. This is one of the reasons why it’s such a prime destination for skiers.

Mack and I aren’t skiers, but we were interested in snowshoeing, prompted somewhat by our introduction to snowshoeing in Jasper last year. One of the guided excursions offered by Chateau Lake Louise is a snowshoeing trek into fresh mountainside powder.

We were lucky enough to end up with a private tour, as we were the only two who joined up that afternoon. It had also just snowed the day previous, so all signs pointed to a perfect afternoon. When we showed up though, our guide Mike jokingly referred to our non-water resistant jeans as "death cloth", and had to properly outfit us city folk with snow pants and convince Mack to leave his camera behind.

Snowshoeing at Lake Louise

Outfitted!

I enjoyed snowshoeing up the mountain on a semi-worn path (what Mike referred to as the "trans Canada trail") as we chatted about his experiences living in the area for more than twenty years. I’m not sure I was adequately prepared, however, to snowshoe back down by making our own pathway in waist-deep snow.

Snowshoeing

So much snow!

In some ways, with the incline, it almost felt like skiing. It was also more difficult than I expected, what with fallen branches and timber to watch out for (or, in my case, to get my snowshoes caught under – Mack had to dig me out twice). Mike also taught us some useful techniques on how to flip ourselves over with the help of a walking pole, a skill I never knew I needed until surrounded by three feet of snow on all sides.

Snowshoeing

Surrounded

It was a really memorable experience – one I’d definitely seek out again.

Reason 3: Johnson Canyon

A trail along one side of Lake Louise is maintained for those looking to walk or cross-country ski on the snow-covered lake. The path takes you to a frozen waterfall on the other side, with breathtaking views of intrepid ice climbers attempting to scale the cascades.

Lake Louise

Ice climbers

Just outside of Lake Louise, however, there’s an opportunity to get even closer to a similar natural wonder in Johnson Canyon. Located about 30 minutes outside of Lake Louise, it’s a year-round hiking opportunity. In the winter though, ice cleats are strongly recommended – we were very thankful to have brought them with us, especially when we encountered a young woman who had slipped and twisted her ankle halfway down the trail.

Johnston Canyon

Lower Falls

Even with the crowds, it was a lovely hike, with sections of the guardrail built right into the side of the rock face, and a tunnel through the rock that leads to a closer view of the Lower Falls.

Johnson Canyon

Pathway

The hike to the Upper Falls rewarded us with beautiful views of the frozen waterfalls, in addition to seeing the death-defying climbers up close.

Johnston Canyon

Upper Falls

Reason 4: Canmore

This is a bit of a cheat, as Canmore is obviously a town separate from Lake Louise. However, given how tiny the hamlet of Lake Louise is, and how comparatively touristy Banff can be, we really enjoyed the hospitality and retail we discovered in Canmore on the way in and out.

Canmore

Canmore

There was some great shopping to be had: I picked up some great deals at the Canmore location of consignment company Trend Fashions (they also have stores in Edmonton, Calgary, and Chestermere). Canmore is also the home of the Rocky Mountain Soap Company, and they offer tours of their factory on Fridays and Saturdays (something we didn’t get the chance to see).

We had a lovely sit-down lunch at Crazyweed, an upscale casual restaurant with an interesting menu. We enjoyed both our entrees – Icelandic cod fish and chips and a Vietnamese pork ball sandwich (which, incidentally, had flavours reminiscent of Pucker’s banh mi burger). It was a nice place to get our bearings after the long drive in.

Crazyweed

Icelandic cod fish and chips from Crazyweed

On our way out of the Rockies, we stopped for a quick lunch at The Range. I was expecting larger portion sizes (the half sandwich could have easily been served on a kid’s menu), but the quality of the food was apparent. The porchetta was tasty, and the thick, textured mushroom veloute hit the spot for me.

The Range

Porchetta and mushroom veloute from The Range

Beamer’s is also worth checking out. It’s a comfortable coffee shop that seems to have quite the local following. We were impressed with their coffee as well as their selection of beans (always our souvenir of choice).

Beamer's

Coffee from Beamer’s

I wouldn’t hesitate to stay in Canmore in the future – it would give us even more time to explore what they have to offer!

Reason 5: It’s Free!

You’ve probably heard by now that in commemoration of Canada’s 150th birthday, Parks Canada admission is free (by obtaining a Discovery Pass). It’s a really great opportunity (and excuse) to visit some of the green spaces in our own backyard.

And if you’re worried about the spike in traffic from other like-minded Canadians this year, our snowshoe guide reminded us that 95% of visitors are only interested in the "shore and smile" – snapping a photo from the lakeside then moving on. If you go off the beaten path – into the bush, onto the water – you’ll be able to escape the hoards. It was sage advice and will come in handy as we approach the spring and summer months.

Lake Louise

Shoring and smiling

I hope you’ll have the chance to create your own adventure – whether in the Rockies or beyond!

March 7th, 2017

Food Notes for March 6, 2017

Don’t let the cold weather get you down! There are plenty of new restaurants to try, and ever festival city, lots of events to get you out of the house! On to this week’s food notes:

  • The menus from this year’s Downtown Dining Week, which runs March 10 – 19, 2017, are now up, and features prix fixe lunches for $15 and dinner for $28 and $45. I’m looking forward to trying the two newcomers to the list – Atlas Steak + Fish and Crash Lobby Bar.
  • Prairie Pigeon’s next pop-up is at Love Pizza from 11am-2pm. What’s better than pizza and pastries?
  • Fort Edmonton Park is playing host to a Maple Sugar Carnaval on March 11, 2017, from 12-4pm. Admission is just $5 that will allow you the opportunity to purchase maple sugar taffy and a French Canadian meal.
  • The next Comal pop-up event is all about Taco Therapy! It takes place on March 14 and 15, 2017 at Cafe Linnea. Check out the menu here.
  • The Yards Spring Salon on March 23, 2017 is all about urban agriculture: balcony gardening, urban beekeeping, and foraging. Tickets are $10 in advance.
  • Little Brick is turning two – help them celebrate on March 23, 2017 with a 4-course birthday meal inspired by the 1900s. Tickets are $80.
  • Cafe Bicyclette is hosting a Sugar Shack on March 24, 25, 31 and April 1, 7, and 8. Tickets are $75. Call the restaurant for reservations.
  • Save the date: the Edmonton Resilience Festival is scheduled for April 22, 2017.
  • Eat Alberta is back! The next hands-on conference is taking place on April 23, 2017 at NAIT. Tickets go on sale at 10am on March 7, 2017.
  • Board N Brew Cafe brings the trend of board game coffee shops to Downtown – it’s opening on March 15, 2017 at 9929 103 Street.
  • The sister restaurant to Three Boars now has a name! Wishbone (taking over the former Market space at 10542 Jasper Avenue) is set to open this spring.
  • The Art of Cake will be relocating to the Brewery District in March, at 11807C 105 Avenue. The new space will seat up to 35.
  • Cindy spotted a forthcoming restaurant in the Mayfair that will serve Chinese crepes.
  • The Downtown renaissance continues with the opening of Alta, Chef Ben Staley’s new 10328 Jasper Avenue outpost. It’ll be interesting to see how people respond to a small menu with cold and room temperature dishes.
  • Avenue Edmonton’s 2017 Best Restaurants list is a good place to start if you’re looking for new and exciting restaurants. Congratulations in particular to Chartier, who was named the best new restaurant, and RGE RD, who was named best overall.
  • ‘Tis the season for lists, as The Tomato’s fifth annual Top 100 Best Things to Eat or Drink in Edmonton has also been released.
  • Lastly, the national Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants ranking came out last week – RGE Rd, Corso 32, Uccellino, Clementine, Bar Bricco and Rostizado were the local entries.
  • Phil shares what you can expect from Ong in St. Albert (#110, 15 Perron Street), which will offer the Capital Region’s first taste of Hanoi-style fried chicken.
  • Also from Phil – he offers some background for the Brewery District’s Tokiwa Ramen, coming soon to 11978 104 Avenue. It turns out it’s the newest venture from Tatsuo Asai, the man who started Japanese Village and Banzai.
  • Cindy is the first to have a review of Takami Sushi up, a restaurant distinguished by a weekly delivery of fresh seafood from Japan.
  • Cindy also checked out the savoury and sweet pretzels from Zwick’s.
  • Ms. Hangry Foodie satisfies her sweet tooth at Doughnut Party.
  • Twyla raves about her visit to Baijiu.
  • Elm Cafe has a fan in Athena, who appreciated the personal touches, and of course, the sandwiches.
  • Graham revisits some establishments that could have been frozen in time – Billy Budd’s, Flamingo and Saratoga.
  • It looks like Stage 104 is the most recent business to shut down in the same space.
  • Olds hosted a dinner that brought a diverse number of people together at the beautiful Willow Lane Barn – Mack recapped his experience.
  • Fin’s Select Meats & Seafood, which supplies many local restaurants, hosted an event tonight at The Common. They were showcasing some of the new products they now offer, including seafood from Haida Gwaii, wagyu from Brant Lake, and Paradise Valley free range pork. Our favourite bite of the evening was the simmered beef brisket with fermented pineapple served in a potato sope by Chef Edgar Gutierrez of Tres Carnales and Rostizado. Thanks to Fin’s and The Common for having us!

Finn's Seafood Launch

Braised Beef Sope

March 2nd, 2017

Ramen in the Core: Nomiya Noodle Bar

One of the best things about living Downtown is the variety of restaurants within walking distance. While we’re fortunate to have easy access to a range of casual and higher end establishments, I’ve always been particularly pleased about the number of noodle soup joints we can reach on foot.

For instance, as the neighbourhood is adjacent to Chinatown, pho favourites like Tau Bay and King Noodle House are not far. Other nearby restaurants like Wheat Garden and Tao Garden offer specific Chinese varieties of soup, and upstart Xo Bar and Bistro caters to those seeking fusion tastes. What has been lacking in the area, however, is ramen.

That’s one of the reasons why I was excited about Nomiya’s expansion into Oliver Square with Nomiya Noodle Bar last fall. Their third location (joining branches on Calgary Trail and in Ellerslie), serves up some of the same items, but has added new dishes to the mix. Most of their small plates and appetizers are shareable, bringing in a welcome communal element.

I had the chance to visit Nomiya during their soft opening back in September, and had enjoyed the experience. At that time, I remarked on how much I liked the open kitchen and the bright room. Last Friday, Mack and I walked over on a chilly evening to reward ourselves with ramen.

Dotted with a number of parties when we arrived, the restaurant was nearly full by the time we finished our meal. Gauging by the packed parking lot, however, it looked like their neighbour 1st RND was the busier of the two establishments, likely owing to the Oilers game airing that night.

I didn’t get the chance to try the tonkotsu ($13.75, additional $1.50 for an egg) on my last visit, so I was looking forward to it on this occasion. Mack selected the shio ramen ($12.75), and I convinced him that we needed to share the sticky chicken ($10.50), minus the peanuts.

Although the service was warm and welcoming throughout, I had higher expectations for the food. The sticky chicken wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it to be; the batter was well seasoned but the sweet ginger sauce needed to have a thinner consistency to more easily cling to the meat.

Nomiya Noodle Bar

Sticky chicken

The tonkotsu broth was not quite as creamy or as full-bodied as I would have preferred. I did like the meat, tender and not too fatty, but the kitchen could have been more generous as only three paper thin slices were included.

Nomiya Noodle Bar

Tonkotsu

Mack didn’t have any major complaints with his broth, but also wasn’t particularly impressed. He still prefers the ramen at Kazoku.

Nomiya Noodle Bar

Shio

While I’m glad we have expanded our noodle soup roster in the core, I hope Nomiya Noodle Bar was just having an off day.

Nomiya Noodle Bar
11238 104 Avenue
(780) 250-2600
Monday-Thursday 11:30am-2:30pm, 4:30-9:30pm, Friday-Sunday 11:30am-9:30pm

February 27th, 2017

Food Notes for February 27, 2017

February 20th, 2017

Food Notes for February 20, 2017

It sure was nice to have an extra day off from work this weekend – I hope you made the most of it too! On to this week’s food notes:

  • FEAST: Recipes & Stories from a Canadian Road Trip is a new book by Lindsay Anderson and Dana Vanveller that spawned from an epic five month journey across the country. The book features over 100 diverse Canadian recipes. The authors are launching their book at Audrey’s on February 27, 2017 from 6-8pm.
  • Chef Allan Suddaby (who is the Executive Chef of Elm Catering) will be teaching a series of classes at Metro Continuing Education from March to May 2017 on topics ranging from deep-frying without a deep-fryer, Irish food for St. Patrick’s Day, and the perfect burger. He’s a great instructor, so the sessions are worth considering if you’re wanting to learn a new kitchen skill!
  • Chef Travis Petersen (based in Vancouver) is hoping to host a dozen pop-ups across the country. He’ll be making a stop in Edmonton at Northern Chicken on March 8, 2017. Tickets for the local pop-up are $110.
  • Barrel Chicken Co. is hosting a pop-up at Solstice Seasonal Cuisine on March 12, 2017. Tickets are $50 for the 5-course meal.
  • Alta, one half of Chef Ben Staley’s duo of new restaurants (the other half being The Alder Room) will open on February 24, 2017. Alta is located at 10328 Jasper Avenue.
  • A new Thai restaurant, Songkran Thai, is now open in St. Albert at 20 St. Anne Street.
  • Takami Sushi opened recently at 10430 61 Avenue.
  • Amore Pasta, a pasta bar concept launched by the family behind Cafe Amore and Black Pearl, offers the same quality that we have come to expect at Cafe Amore, writes Jonny.
  • Cindy shares her favourite dishes and cocktails off the menu at Baijiu.
  • Twyla enjoyed her dinner of comfort food classics at Dogwood Cafe (located at the Victoria Golf Course).
  • Rebecca paid a visit to the expanded location of Calle Mexico on 107 Avenue.
  • Crystal checked out Old Strathcona’s NongBu.
  • Why have so many bakeries opened in Edmonton recently? Vue Weekly looks into the answer.
  • It’s always great to hear about the successes that may have started off small, such as Alberta-based food companies that have grown in size in our expanding agri-food industry.
  • There seem to be subscription services for all types of food, so I shouldn’t be surprised that a Fudge Club exists with Phil’s Fudge Factory – 3, 6, or 12 month subscriptions are available.
  • I was so sorry to read about the burglary that left Sambol Sri Lankan kitchen in shambles – I hope they’re able to re-open soon.
  • Wildcard applications for the Canadian Food Championships (held in Edmonton this year July 21-23, 2017) are now open.
  • Lillian tried ChocoVine (which blends wine with chocolate) in a recipe for pot de creme. She’s also giving away two bottles to one lucky reader.
  • Planet Organic released an ad today apologizing to their customers and promising to do better. It was probably meant to be amusing, but I just found the tone and production values slightly off.
  • The Winter Shake-Up Fest coincided with one of the warmest weekends this year, but we still enjoyed ourselves. Stilt-walking is harder than it looks, but it was fun to give it a go – thanks to Lincoln for the photo!

Winter Shake-Up Fest

Stilt-walking at the Winter Shake-Up Fest

  • Mack and I also wandered over to Hawrelak Park for the Silver Skate Festival. Rain boots were definitely more appropriate than snow boots, but people were making the most of it!

Silver Skate Festival

Bannock making at the Silver Skate Festival

  • The warm weather means street food may have another prolonged season (as was the case in 2016). It was definitely nice enough for a hot dog from Fat Franks on Saturday in Old Strathcona!

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Fat Franks

  • When Love Pizza announced their next feature would combine two of our favourite things: pizza and mac and cheese, we knew we had to try it. The mac & cheeza, topped with Irvings Farm Fresh bacon, was everything we hoped it would be.

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Mac & cheeza at Love Pizza

February 19th, 2017

Brunch with a View: Dogwood Cafe at Victoria Golf Course

We’ve been fortunate that the weather has been so cooperative that it seemed prudent to take advantage of it this long weekend. I’d been wanting to try Dogwood Cafe at the Victoria Golf Course for some time, so Mack and I headed down the valley on foot this morning to build up our appetite and revel in the current state of Edmonton’s winter.

This is the second year the Culina family of restaurants has operated Dogwood Cafe, serving brunch in the winter months out of the Victoria Golf Course. This year, Culina added a second brunch option at the Riverside Golf Course, in addition to dinner service at the Victoria location. It’s a great way to increase traffic to centrally-located city-owned facilities in the off-season, and because they’re situated adjacent to prime parkland, there’s the hope that diners might take the time to explore their surroundings before or after a meal (we walked over to Hawrelak Park after brunch for the Silver Skate Festival).

By the time we arrived at 12:30pm, most of the peak brunch traffic had dissipated. We were able to snag a window seat in the dining room, lit with abundant natural light. Located on the second floor of the clubhouse, Dogwood Cafe overlooks the snowy fields. The blonde wood furnishings are reminiscent of an outdated cafeteria, but small touches in the room – antique lamps, a rustic cabinet showcasing Jam Lady products – added some understated refinement.

Dogwood Cafe

Mack at Dogwood Cafe

The menu at the Victoria location, offered on weekends between 9am-3pm, is straightforward, with many brunch favourites to be found, including French toast, eggs benny, and a breakfast sandwich (there were a variety of tempting baked goods available as well). I was swayed by the mushroom-cheese omelette ($12), served with rye toast and tomatoes. Mack selected a dish that could have been served at the now-defunct Culina Highlands restaurant – fried eggs with Fuge Fine Meats kielbasa and potato-cheddar perogies ($15). We added a side of potato hash to share ($4).

We ordered at the counter, and waited less than ten minutes for our dishes to be served. My omelette, crowned with a creamy mushroom sauce, was comforting without being heavy. The tomatoes provided a pop of freshness (and colour) to the plate, and the crispy potatoes rounded out my meal nicely.

Dogwood Cafe

Mushroom-cheese omelette and side of potato hash

Mack was initially underwhelmed with the portion size, but commented after that because his dish was fairly rich, it ended up being the right amount of food. He found that the Fuge-made sausage had been cooked to snappy perfection, and really enjoyed the perogies (made at St. Basil’s Church) topped with sour cream and crispy bacon.

Dogwood Cafe

Eggs, kielbasa and perogies

While some tables were in and out of the restaurant, Mack and I chose to linger a little longer over our bottomless coffees. Staff didn’t mind at all; the relaxed atmosphere befit the natural setting just beyond the windows. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend brunch at Dogwood Cafe – the great food and efficient service is a welcome addition to Edmonton’s brunch scene.

Dogwood Cafe at Victoria Golf Course
12130 River Valley Road
Saturdays and Sundays, 9am-3pm

February 16th, 2017

Home Cooking Convenience: Chef’s Plate

For many years, consumers who wanted access to “home cooked” dishes but did not have the time to cook helped make meal assembly services like Simply Supper in Edmonton and Dinner Factory in St. Albert a success. But what about those looking to create dishes from scratch in their own kitchens, but without the time or will to grocery shop?

Meal preparation kits have grown in popularity in the States, eventually spreading to Eastern Canada, and in the last year or so, to Western Canada. The kits contain recipes and nearly all of the ingredients needed, pre-portioned, for meals that can typically be prepared in 15-30 minutes. In an age where we are increasingly time deprived and reliant on ordering goods online, grocery delivery with such pre-packaged convenience is a logical progression.

In Edmonton, services available include Chef’s Plate, Hello Fresh and Miss Fresh, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this list expands further this year. Our first meal kit experience was with Chef’s Plate – Mack’s brother Thom and Alicia are big proponents of Chef’s Plate, and gave us a gift certificate for Christmas.

I will admit that even before we placed an order, I was already biased against services like this – could the end justify the costs? Mack had to remind me that I am far from their target customer because I actually enjoy grocery shopping, prefer shopping local, and prioritize meal planning. Still, the gift certificate was an incentive to try it, so we took the plunge and selected two meals to start with in late January.

The full price of the order (not including $6 delivery fee) was $49.80, meaning each two-person serving rang up at $24.90. I happened upon an offer that reduced the charge by 50%, which made the two meals a much more palatable $24.90. Without the discount, it could escalate your food budget quickly.

Chef's Plate

Chef’s Plate delivery

The order was dispatched from their Vancouver-based centre on a Thursday, and arrived as expected on the following day. We received an insulated box with ice packs (not dissimilar from what we received from SPUD) that would have easily kept the contents cool for hours. Unlike SPUD, however, the boxes and ice packs aren’t re-used – there isn’t currently any mechanism in place for Chef’s Plate to pick up perfectly good packaging. Sure, they encourage recycling of the materials, but that doesn’t discount the energy used to unnecessarily break down and re-make packaging. Thom and Alicia’s boxes have doubled as cat havens, but given many delivery recipients are repeat customers, I hope Chef’s Plate looks into this.

Chef's Plate

Packaging

The produce and seasonings for each meal were grouped into brown bags, and the proteins were packed separately. Along with the food, we received full-colour recipe cards to accompany each meal. Each recipe contained enough detail so the meal could be replicated apart from Chef’s Plate (e.g., the seasoning packets were broken down into proportions and ingredients). The ingredients themselves were comparable in freshness to those picked up at a supermarket (I found it amusing that they felt the need to label the bag of tomatoes).

Chef's Plate

Ingredients for one 2-person meal

The Moroccan braised tilapia was a straightforward steamed fish meal, served with sweet potatoes, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and pepperoncini peppers. I did appreciate the seasoning; the flavours were something we hadn’t previously combined with fish. It was also my favourite type of dish for a weeknight: the one pot variety that made for an easy clean-up.

Chef's Plate

Moroccan braised tilapia (complete with an Instagrammable backdrop)

On the other hand, the second dish, a chicken with dijon gravy with thyme smashed potatoes and a baby kale salad, required a pot, pan, and a sheet tray. The final product was worth it, but the mess would have been better suited for the weekend.

Chef's Plate

Chicken with dijon gravy

Both dishes included fairly generous portions – one of my concerns had been whether or not we would need to supplement the meal with other ingredients. That said, my usual meal planning builds in our need for lunches, so unless we had ordered the more expensive family plan, Chef’s Plate still required us to rely on our other large-batch meals to generate leftovers.

On the plus side, Chef’s Plate forced us to try new recipes. We had been craving something different, so it was refreshing to have new recipes essentially chosen for us, including everything we needed for those dishes.

That said, convenience does come at a cost, so it’d be hard for us to justify ongoing orders, especially since we prefer to do the bulk of our shopping at farmers’ markets. We’re more likely to be occasional subscribers, when we’re looking for something to change up our routine.

February 13th, 2017

Food Notes for February 13, 2017

Bar Clementine

Bar Clementine