September 26th, 2016

Food Notes for September 26, 2016

It’s finally time for vacation! Mack and I will be heading to the Okanagan later this week, hoping to put some of Jennifer’s recommendations to good use. A heads up that there won’t be a Food Notes post next week. On to this week’s food notes:

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Would you pay for flavoured water?

  • The City Market only has two more outdoor markets to go! Make sure to take it in before the leaves are all gone.

City Market

City Market

  • Edmonton is getting a second location of South St. Burger in the Brewery District.

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South St. Burger

  • My sister Felicia and I stopped by Noodle Bar by Nomiya in Oliver Square (11238 104 Avenue) for their soft launch on Saturday. We enjoyed the miso and spicy garlic miso ramen that we tried, but the standout was the sticky chicken, made of lightly fried dark meat coated with a subtly sweet sauce and crushed peanuts. It’s great to finally have a ramen bar within walking distance of home – the location opens to the public on September 27.

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Miso ramen from Noodle Bar by Nomiya

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Sticky chicken

  • After dinner, we stopped by Petit Nuit (a smaller version of the art festival Nuit Blanche), where we each picked up a whimsical lantern from the Northern Lights Mini Mart, an installation by Rhonda Trevor and Weppler Mahovsky. I couldn’t resist the KD!

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With our lanterns at Petit Nuit

  • It was a beautiful day on Sunday for the last What the Truck?! of the season. I enjoyed La Mar’s fish tacos among the fall leaves.

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Fish tacos from La Mar

September 25th, 2016

Lazia Rebranded: Riz

While there’s no doubt the rise of Rogers Place has led to a number of new restaurants hoping to capitalize on related foot traffic, Riz Asian Kitchen is the first to rebrand in order to do so.

Lazia has been a Downtown staple for more than a dozen years, but owner Richard Lim thought it was time for a refresh. The website heralds the pedway connections between the Ice District and Edmonton City Centre where Riz is located (though to be honest, the ongoing construction in the mall might be a deterrent to some would-be patrons). Commenting that there was no better time than the present to remind diners of the space, Richard commissioned CK Designs (the same firm behind the Downtown mega bar applications) to redesign the restaurant. Given the tight turnaround time of several days, much of the same structure is intact, but the colour scheme has been muted to a palette of neutrals. In some ways, it’s now less distinctive than its other casual upscale competitors.

Mack and I were invited to enjoy a complimentary meal on September 6 when Riz opened to the public. The meaning behind the new name comes from the French word for "rice", and speaks to the fusion cuisine still present on their menu.

The menu, featuring sweeping Asian-inspired flavours from Korea to Thailand to India, does appeal to broad tastes, and includes some on-trend dishes including their interpretation of ramen. That said, they have some mainstream items on the menu, such as a basic burger and a Philly cheese steak. What does set the menu apart is the price – a majority of mains ring in under $20, making it an economical contender against the competition.

We shared the roti canai (so popular at East they had to migrate the item over to Riz), served with a curry dipping sauce.

RIZ

Roti canai

Mack’s panko-breaded Japanese fish and chips didn’t have a noticeable Asian flair, except for a disjointed slaw comprised of noodles and carrots. He enjoyed it well enough, but thought it could have more readily lived up to the cuisine that inspired it.

RIZ

Japanese fish and chips

I ordered the duck curry ramen. It was a very heavy dish; I would have preferred a slightly thinner broth as I laboured to finish it by the end. The flavours were good – the confit duck was delicious and married with the curry well. The yuzu red peppers were on the tart side, but they were a welcome pop given the richness of the soup.

RIZ

Duck curry ramen

The service that evening was top notch, but given most in the restaurant that day were family, friends and media, it was somewhat expected.

Richard and his team have the experience to help draw in the crowds; only time will tell what will play well with the concert and hockey fans making the trek downtown. I wish Riz the best in the months to come – thanks again for having us!

Riz
10200 102 Ave, A113 (Edmonton City Centre Mall)
(780) 990-0188
Monday-Thursday 11am-11pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-1am, Sunday 11am-11pm

September 22nd, 2016

Weekend Getaway: Exploring Rocky Mountain House

Mack and I are fall vacationers, more than content to make the most of our short but glorious Edmonton summers kicking back and attending local festivals. But this year, I felt the need to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming with a long weekend away at the end of August.

Hoping for a getaway that didn’t involve too much time in a vehicle, I literally googled "Central Alberta bed and breakfasts". This led us to Prairie Creek Inn, located about 15 minutes south of Rocky Mountain House. It’s a part of the province neither of us had visited before, and located just two and a half hours away from Edmonton, it seemed to be a reasonable distance to travel for a rejuvenating weekend.

Prairie Creek Inn

Prairie Creek Inn

Prairie Creek Inn offers an environment ideal to quietly reconnect with the outdoors, unplug from the demands of staying connected, and enjoy the company of your fellow travellers. Though most of the other guests were couples as well, there were also a number of young families on the property during our stay.

Prairie Creek Inn

Prairie Creek

Our room was very cozy, and featured a sunny deck with Adirondack chairs from which we could hear the rushing creek. There are also two fire pits for guest use, and ample lawn for outdoor pursuits for humans and dogs alike.

Prairie Creek Inn

I could get used to this

Breakfasts, of course, were included, with a small continental selection of freshly baked muffins and house-made granola and yogurt. One chef’s choice was also offered, and during our stay included a baked omelette one morning and cream cheese-stuffed French toast on another. The restaurant, perched atop a hill, offered great views of the lush property in a dining room lined with windows.

Prairie Creek Inn

View from Heartstone Restaurant

Given the distance from town, we also elected to have suppers at the restaurant as well. The menu isn’t varied enough to enjoy too many consecutive meals, but it was fine for two nights. The salmon, served with lemon dill beurre blanc, was my favourite of the mains we tried.

Prairie Creek Inn

Salmon with lemon dill beurre blanc

During the day, we made it out to the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site. It’s probably something I should have known, having lived in Alberta all of my life, but I didn’t realize that Rocky Mountain House is actually quite distant from the Rocky Mountains. It began as a fur trading post (located on the North Saskatchewan River), and also served as a launching point for explorers such as mapmaker David Thompson.

Rock Mountain House Historic Site

Trails

For just $3.90 per adult, we were granted access to a well-maintained interpretive centre and two hiking trails. One trail featured interpreters at a makeshift Metis camp and blacksmith shop.

Rock Mountain House Historic Site

Blacksmith demonstration

The other involved a riverside hike which was lovely even in the damp conditions. And though I was initially skeptical of the Parks Canada #sharethechair campaign, I’ve been won over since.

Rocky Mountain House Historic Site

Sharing the chairs

Mack was particularly looking forward to the wildlife we might encounter. But the closest we got on that hike (and the rest of the weekend) was some gophers and penned-in bison.

Rock Mountain House Historic Site

“Wild”life

We also visited downtown Rocky Mountain House. Quite the opposite of Lacombe, whose downtown was busy and vibrant, the main streets of Rocky were deserted, littered with empty storefronts.

Rocky Mountain House

Nicely streetscaped, but deserted

On our way back home, we detoured somewhat to visit Crescent Falls. The views from the top of the gorge are pretty spectacular, but trails here make it possible to get even closer to the water’s edge.

Crescent Falls

Nearing Crescent Falls

Crescent Falls

Crescent Falls

Not being the most adventurous spirit, it was a bit of a stretch for me to hike down a cliff that involved the use of ropes, but it was worth it to get out of my comfort zone (and realize the benefit hiking boots would provide).

Crescent Falls

We made it!

We stopped in Nordegg for some provisions before the journey home. With a population of 200, this isn’t a full service town, so we didn’t expect the crowd we encountered at one of its few restaurants. Miner’s Cafe, located in the Nordegg Museum, was packed with regulars and families passing through. Known for its homemade pies (they sold over 1,000 this year), we enjoyed a slice of strawberry rhubarb with a generous scoop of ice cream on the side.  It’s only open during the summer months, and is now closed for the season.

Miner's Cafe

Miner’s Cafe

While we’re happy that we can tick Rocky Mountain House off our list of places visited, there are still more sites in Alberta to explore!

September 19th, 2016

Food Notes for September 19, 2016

And just like that, it’s fall. Make sure you enjoy the golden trees while they’re still around to be admired. On to this week’s food notes:

  • Little Brick is hosting a Fall Festival on September 21, 2016 from 5-9pm. Check out their seasonal menu featuring mulled wine.
  • Lexus South Pointe is hosting a Fall Food Festival on September 22, 2016. Linda previews what you can expect and is also giving out some tickets to the festival.
  • The final What the Truck?! event takes place this Sunday, September 25, 2016 at Churchill Square from 2-7pm. Say goodbye to summer with 25 trucks – plan your visit with these menus.
  • The Edmonton Oktoberfest runs September 30 – October 1, 2016 at Northlands, with beer and food samples.
  • Bar Clementine is now open at 11957 Jasper Avenue.
  • Northern Chicken will be moving into the spot vacated by Relish, at 10704 124 Street. They hope to open in mid-October.
  • The Journal reviewed Cafe Linnea.
  • The Sun and Vue Weekly both enjoyed Have Mercy to varying degrees.
  • Jonny put forth a spate of reviews, for LETS Grill, Karlen Cafe & Smokehouse, Soy & Pepper, Quickly, and Afra BBQ & Grill.
  • S’wich, one of Edmonton’s longer-standing food trucks, has ceased operations. Lex will be moving on to lead the kitchen at Baijiu.
  • The Tomato reports that Chef Nathin Bye has moved on from Ampersand 27.
  • Phil’s latest Community Table Project features Inspiration Gnocchi.
  • Congratulations to Reclaim Urban Farm founders Ryan Mason and Cathryn Sprague on their Alumni Innovation Awards from the University of Alberta. The two met at the university while studying environmental sociology.
  • Though we’re never quite as far along as New York, there is still some truth to Eater’s “What’s Wrong with Restaurants Today”.
  • A toast to Tina Faiz and Leanne Brown, the authors of Edmonton Cooks! I attended a lovely book launch this evening at Duchess Provisions (where we were treated to lovely bites from the book, and generous drinks poured by bartenders from North 53 and Baijiu). The public launch of Edmonton Cooks is taking place at Provisions on September 24 at 1pm.

Baijiu

Cognac West cocktail served at tonight’s book launch

September 12th, 2016

Food Notes for September 12, 2016

It’s wonderful to live in a city where your entertainment choices over the weekend are countless; I hope you were able to make the most of the break too! On to this week’s food notes:

  • Tickets for the first Meals on Wheels Beers & Bands fundraiser at Yellowhead Brewery are still available. Chefs from Meals on Wheels will be preparing the food, and brewery tours are on tap. Tickets are $40. As a side note, the organization has served over 1 million meals since 2010.
  • Chinatown will be hosting a Moonlight Carnival on September 16, 2016 from 5-11pm as a part of Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations. If you ever wanted to learn how to make moon cakes (the traditional baked treat enjoyed during this holiday), consider taking a class at Garden Bakery on September 17. Tickets are $18 for adults.
  • The insanely-popular Hip Hop Brunch at The Common will be taking place September 18, 2016, from 11am-3pm. Go early.
  • The next Food 4 Good Collective Kitchen will run on September 23, 2016 from 1-3pm. The cost is $5 for 4 servings of food.
  • Beercade, located at 10544 82 Avenue, boasts 50 beers on tap and 80 vintage pinball machines and arcade games – they’re hosting their grand opening party on September 16-17, 2016. (Thanks to Su for the heads up!)
  • The latest arena-related restaurant announcement is Vivo Ristorante’s expansion into a vacant two-story building at 10505 106 Street.
  • There’s also activity in the former Starbucks storefront in Quest (104 Avenue & 105 Street), with signage advertising Montreal Hot Dogs, a franchise of The Montreal Smoked Meat Original.
  • The Journal has an overview of what will be available at Rogers Place. Although I visited during the open house on Saturday, most of their specialty items weren’t on display. Basic concession items, including hot dogs ($5.25), cheeseburgers ($9) and water ($5) were being sold.
  • Choped Canada winner Chef Shelley Robinson will be heading up the restaurants of the neighbouring Grand Villa Casino.
  • Arena-goers shouldn’t forget about Sofra, or its underground sister restaurant The Cellar, which was just reviewed by the Journal.
  • Jonny stopped by Little Brick to try some of their lunch dishes.
  • Sugared and Spiced just launched their BoostR campaign today, with the hopes of raising $20,000 towards opening a storefront bakery. As I’m typing this, they’ve already raised nearly $15,000 of that goal.
  • Although Eats on 118 is already sold out, hopefully the success means even more events in the future! Vue Weekly highlights this initiative to encourage more foot traffic on Alberta Avenue.
  • Avenue wrote a retrospective on the last ten years of dining in Edmonton, as a part of their decade in print.
  • Congratulations to The Tomato, who just celebrated 20 years in print.
  • Will the Whole Foods in Edmonton ever open? Liane investigated but didn’t find any concrete answers.
  • In related news, Sherwood Park will be getting a Planet Organic store.
  • A belated happy 25 year anniversary to Earth’s General Store!
  • Phil’s newest Community Table Project is Parkallen Kitchen Jacquie’s Grand-Maman’s baked beans.
  • Elyse tried Chefs Plate meal kits, and found it to be a nice break from meal planning.
  • I’m not sure the world really needed Chalet sauce flavoured Lays chips, but to each their own.
  • The Chinese Benevolent Association put on a beautiful Mid-Autumn Festival celebration in Churchill Square on Saturday, which ended with a wish boat launch in the City Hall pool. This year, Mack and I were early enough to purchase boats to make wishes too!

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Mid-Autumn Festival wishing boat launch

  • I neglected to include a photo of the gorgeous Duchess Atelier teaching kitchen last week. It’s separated by a glass wall from Duchess Provisions, so you might be able to spy on some aspiring bakers during your next visit.

Duchess Provisions

Duchess Atelier

  • Public announcement: Pho Tau Bay reopened from their annual summer vacation after the September long weekend.

Pho Tau Bay

My usual

September 11th, 2016

Maze Runners and Marsh Explorers: Edmonton Corn Maze and Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

It’s been six years since Mack and I last visited the Edmonton Corn Maze located in Spruce Grove. Over the September long weekend, we were looking at some outdoor attractions to explore, and it seemed like a good time as any to return.

Edmonton Corn Maze

The Edmonton Corn Maze

Over the past few years, the Corn Maze has grown to encompass activities outside of the maze itself, and now features a petting zoo, jumping pillows, and spud guns. We encountered more people in these areas than in the maze, so it’s definitely a place where families can spend the better part of a day. Admission has also changed in this time, likely to cover the expanded fun; in 2010, we had a Groupon offer that discounted admission to $8 for two people. In 2016, the cost is $12 per adult.

Edmonton Corn Maze

Petting zoo

A visit to the maze when the stalks are still in their prime makes a huge difference to the overall experience. I’d recommend checking it out in the next few weeks while the corn is still standing tall.

Edmonton Corn Maze

Exploring the maze

As we have in the past, we used one of the question guides to help us navigate through the ten checkpoints in the maze. Mack was annoyed that there were several errors in the Edmonton trivia (including a misspelled “Blanchford” Field and the incorrect fact that West Edmonton Mall is still the largest mall in North America), but it was all in good fun.

Edmonton Corn Maze

Mack in the maze

Never wanting to waste a trip outside of the city, Mack had looked up a nearby park just 10 minutes away from the Corn Maze in Parkland County. The Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary is a 28 acre wetland preserve that is open to the public.

Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

It features a combination of meadows, treed areas and marshes. Because of the marshy terrain, some of the trails are built on elevated boardwalks, making it an ideal place to walk after a rainstorm (as in, most of this summer, it seems).

Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

Elevated boardwalks

We only encountered a handful of people on our way through, and stopped frequently along the way to look for wildlife and listen for birds.

Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

A place to recharge

In many ways, this volunteer-run park is better equipped with benches, garbage cans, and a restroom than many City of Edmonton parks we visit.

Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary

Big sky

The Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary is a gem not to be missed, especially if you’re in the area!

September 9th, 2016

Recap: 2016 Alberta Open Farm Days with Northlands

Last year, Mack and I were invited to enjoy a long table dinner in the evening at Northlands Urban Farm during Alberta Open Farm Days. This year, we decided to spend most of the day with them.

For just $5 per person, Northlands had organized bus tours that would visit Edmonton-area farms. Mack and I signed up for the morning tour, which featured Gold Forest Grains and Horse Hill Berry Farm.

We boarded the coach across the street from Northlands Urban Farm, joining about two dozen other people already on the bus. Quite a few of them had been on the tours led by Northlands the year prior. Although both farms we visited were open to the public that day, it was a much more efficient means of transportation to go with a group – if they decide to organize a third year of tours I can only hope even more people take advantage of this deal.

Gold Forest Grains

Gold Forest Grains

Gold Forest Grains has been a fixture at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market for many years. John Schneider and his family grow heritage and ancient varieties of certified organic grain on 300 acres near Morinville. Unlike other grain farmers, who typically have to farm between 2000-3500 acres, they can make it work on a smaller scale by selling directly to consumers.

Gold Forest Grains

John Schneider

Gold Forest Grains mills their own flour (they had a small hand mill on display, but most is done in large quantities now), but they offer value-added products as well. For many, their introduction to Gold Forest Grains is through their excellent pancake mix or Sturgeon River Cereal. John also mentioned that they continue to experiment with other varieties, including corn he obtained from local farmer Deb Krause that matures on the stalk, which may mean an unprecedented source for non-gmo, local cornmeal in the future.

Gold Forest Grains

Corn

While we didn’t venture too far onto the farm, John toured us around the perimeter of their straw-bale home, featuring a small fruit garden (including heritage apples and haskaps), poultry coop, and a cob oven.

Park wheat is one of the grain varieties they grow, and John shared that he has some gluten intolerant customers that can eat this type of wheat. This is the type of flour used to make the whole wheat crust at Love Pizza. As a treat, he had put together some park wheat-based dough, which he used to fire up some focaccia in the 800 degree cob oven.

Gold Forest Grains

Park wheat focaccia

I would have appreciated it if John had also spoken about some of the other products they grow, including lentils and farro, but I recognize that we didn’t have much time.

Next up, we headed to Horse Hill Berry Farm in northeast Edmonton. Operated by Dave & Jackie Wilson, the 10 acre u-pick farm opened in 2010.

Horse Hill Berry Farm

Horse Hill Berry Farm

They currently offer six different types of raspberries, but have been thinking about adding other fruit. Although they are not certified organic, they do not spray their crops. They will be putting in drip irrigation (the plants require about 1 inch of water a week) and will continue to prune using machinery, though labour-intensive hand pruning is more effective. The ideal air and sunlight penetration Dave described is similar to what grape vines need to thrive.

Horse Hill Berry Farm

Dave demonstrates pruning

It was actually the last day of operations for the farm this year, what they termed the “bonus” week as the growing season typically only lasts five weeks. As their gift to us, we were all given a carton to fill with raspberries.

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My bounty

Until Dave mentioned it, I didn’t realize that they had deliberately planted grass between the rows to make the raspberry patch more patron friendly (so parents and kids alike wouldn’t have to worry about trekking through the dirt or mud). This, combined with their raspberry guide of the types of berries better suited for canning, freezing or wine-making, points to the thoughtful design of many aspects of their farm.

Mack and I also wandered to the look-out on the property (where you can see the North Saskatchewan River), featuring an old family heirloom. The rusted truck is also apparently a haven for snakes, which I found out first hand (it was one small garter snake, but I wasn’t expecting it).

Horse Hill Berry Farm

Family heirloom

The bus ended where we started, and by that time in the afternoon, the Northlands Urban Farm activities were up in full swing.

Northlands’ beekeeper Patty Milligan was leading a honey demonstration, and crafts and a petting zoo provided entertainment for the young ones.

Open Farm Days at Northlands

Family activities

We also swung by the newly-installed chicken coop, where the heritage chicken breeds were happily picking at apples and greens.

Open Farm Days at Northlands

Northlands’ chicken coop

Before we left, we had a bite to eat from the Northlands 1879 food truck, and regretted choosing to share the garlic fries instead of ordering our own.

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Meatball sub and garlic fries

Thanks to Northlands for organizing an economical and seamless way to visit a few of the region’s farms – check out the Alberta Open Farm Days website for more ideas next August on how you can meet some of our rural neighbours.

September 7th, 2016

Let Your Garden Grow: Workshop Eatery

Given it was far from the growing season during our last visit, Mack and I knew we wanted to return some time to see the gardens outside Workshop Eatery in their full splendor. The occasion came up when Mack’s parents were in town in early August, and we were looking for some place special to take them.

Workshop Eatery

Workshop Eatery

We spent some time wandering the raised beds, admiring the variety and abundance. I’m not sure I would have predicted just how much they could grow outside their front door! There are few restaurants in Edmonton that can say they have access to fresh produce within arm’s reach. Make sure to follow along on Instagram if you’re curious as to the day’s garden haul.

Workshop Eatery

Abundant garden

At any rate, the restaurant was nearly full on a Friday night. Even though the patio was beckoning on that warm summer evening, the floor to ceiling windows made the dining room a very pleasant setting. Equally lovely was our personable and polished server – she ensured all of our needs were taken care of in a warm and professional manner.

We started by sharing the daily arancini ($12 for 3), which on that night was made with ham and peas, and served with a fun sriracha and brown sugar sour cream. The arancini were a hit around the table, crispy and well seasoned.

Workshop Eatery

Ham and pea arancini

My miso glazed ling cod ($28) was prepared well, and I loved the textures of the bok choy, carrot ribbons and baby potatoes. The shiitake broth was a nice base, but if intended to be consumed on its own the salt should have been toned down somewhat.

Workshop Eatery

Miso glazed ling cod

Mack’s main combined two of his favourite things: salmon and risotto ($29). He had no complaints, and dispatched the plate in no time at all. On a side note, it’s unusual to see a restaurant offering three fish options on a regular menu (there was also a halibut). But Mack and I both appreciated this – more often than not, we have to fight over who can order the fish.

Workshop Eatery

Pan roasted salmon

Martin and Patti enjoyed their dishes as well – Martin, swayed by the accompanying gnocchi, had chosen the chicken supreme ($28). Patti ordered the potato and goat cheese perogies ($24), topped with roast tomatoes, asparagus, pickled onions and basil creme fraiche.

Workshop Eatery

Chicken supreme

Workshop Eatery

Potato and goat cheese perogies

Dessert couldn’t have been more photogenic – a cream and berry tart ($10), with a loose lemon curd topped with fresh berries and mint.

Workshop Eatery

Summer berries and cream tart

It was great to see Workshop flourishing as well as their garden. They’re already starting to change up their menu for the fall – so make sure you get there soon if you’re hoping for a taste of our dwindling summer!

Workshop Eatery
2003 91 Street SW
(780) 705-2205
Monday-Wednesday 11am-10pm, Thursday-Friday 11am-11pm, Saturday 10am-3pm and 5-11pm, Sunday 10am-3pm and 5-9pm

September 6th, 2016

Recap: 2016 Grand Taste Tour with Northlands Urban Farm, Brix ‘N Berries, Triple M Dairy and Tangle Ridge Ranch

At the end of July, Mack and I were honoured to be asked to be among the hosts of the third annual Grand Taste Tour. It was the second year of the event where attendees were bussed to the various farm locations, as opposed to a self-guided tour. This allows participants to meet and break bread with other folks interested in learning about local agriculture, all while taking advantage of more efficient group-based transportation.

Linda and Brittney headed up one bus, while Mack and I led another. The first stop was within city limits – a one acre lot cultivated in partnership with Northlands. The farm is a part of the Northlands Urban Farm, intended for educational purposes and to support innovative practices. 600 students from local schools have already toured the farm this year, and 26 children will be selected to take part in their junior beekeeping pilot this fall. Northlands also successfully applied for an urban chicken permit which will allow them to add eight hens to the property.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Northlands Urban Farm

We spent some time with Travis Kennedy of Lactuca, whose crops make up most of the one acre. His enthusiasm and pragmatism make him a wonderful urban agriculture ambassador. While Lactuca began its business in a backyard garden, it now has the chance to produce 200-300 pounds per week at Northlands. New challenges have come with that opportunity in the form of supply exceeding demand, so much of his focus this year has been on developing new markets for their products. Lactuca currently supplies to 15 restaurants in Edmonton and area, including Farrow and Three Boars.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Travis

Salad greens (primarily kale, lettuce and arugula) make up most of the crop. The reason these were chosen relates to their short 7 day production cycle to make the most of Edmonton’s 100 growing days, their lightweight nature (Travis used to transport his crop to farmers’ markets on a bicycle), and that all restaurants have a salad on their menu, increasing his market potential. That said, greens require an incredible amount of water to flourish – on hot days, Lactuca can use up to 7000L of water. Northlands was permitted to run below-ground water lines to help with this.

Although Lactuca does experiment with other crops (corn and French fillet beans, to name a few), they’ve embraced salad greens because they want to stay true to seasonality. They haven’t ruled out hydroponics in the future though, so stay tuned!

Lactuca relies on organic practices, using City of Edmonton compost, and Travis doesn’t mind the holes he finds among the leaves. He believes it speaks to their terroir and lack of pesticide use. That said, he recognizes that what may sell to consumers at a farmers’ market will not pass inspection with restaurants (pointing out the odd dichotomy between the success of “ugly produce” campaigns and the unchanged expectations of diners eating out).

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Demonstrating the drill-powered harvester

I was particularly amazed by the method in which they now harvest their greens. When Travis started, they relied exclusively on hand-harvesting, which is laborious and time consuming. They’ve since moved to using a drill-powered aluminum harvester, which can harvest up to 150 pounds an hour.

The group then listened to Patti Milligan, who is the beekeeper for urban hives at Northlands and the Shaw Conference Centre.

The hives at Northlands are kept primarily for educational purposes. Patti explained that Alberta is the largest honey producer in the country, due to the abundance of sunlight and flowers. In our province, clover, alfalfa and canola dominate, but Patti did mention a movement towards manipulating where bees go through timing of blooms and placement of plants. She said we should watch out for locally-sourced borage, raspberry, fireweed, and dandelion honeys in the near future.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Patti

It’s great to have such a rich resource centrally located in Edmonton, available for children and adults alike to learn about agricultural practices, especially when it is helmed by passionate connectors like Travis and Patti. Northlands is offering free public tours on September 10 – pre-registration is required.

Our second stop took us just outside of city limits to Brix ‘N Berries in Leduc County. Operated by Greg Moline and Laurie Erickson, Brix is primarily a berry u-pick garden, though they also offer limited vegetables as well.

Greg and Laurie do have off-farm income – their main work is in the area of soil amendments, assisting farmers who are looking to transition from using fertilizers to relying on other practices. They highlighted the difference between great soil and poor soil on their own land – a portion of their farm has naturally enriched number one grade soil (where they joked that seeds germinate even before they hit the ground). The Saskatoon bushes here grew without restraint, full and unwieldy. Across the field, bushes planted in the same year in sub-par soil struggled to fruit, branches spotty and inconsistent.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Greg points out the number one grade soil

Brix began with 50 acres of Saskatoons, but soon added strawberries, raspberries, a greenhouse, then a market garden. Greg shared that it has been challenging for operations like theirs to stay in business without an agri-tourism component such as Prairie Gardens. Brix doesn’t charge an overhead for consumers to pick their produce because they just focus on growing food, and perhaps because of that, they can’t keep up with the demand. In the face of several other u-picks that closed this year (Roy’s Raspberries on a permanent basis and Happy Acres for 2016), Brix has had to close from Sundays to Tuesdays this season to allow the fields to regenerate. Even then, that previous Wednesday, they found that 250 people picked the field clean in a day.

Brix 'N Berries

Linda picks some raspberries

My sisters and I, city children through and through, benefited from the u-picks we visited with our parents growing up. I’m not sure I would have been able to identify field-grown produce as a kid without those experiences, and through the relationship we had with the farmers, learned to appreciate how difficult it was to grow food for the masses. With development pressures and the work involved in maintaining a public farm, I’m sure more of these operations may fall by the wayside, but I really do hope the tide turns – these u-picks are a valuable community asset for the next generation.

Our third stop was Triple M Dairy in Calmar. Genzinus Martins runs the farm along with his sons, comprised of 180 cows. Considered a medium-sized operation, they produce 1.3 million litres of milk per year sold through Alberta Milk.

Mack and I were fortunate to have toured Bles Wold a number of years ago, and had already seen an example of a mechanized milking machine. For many on our bus however, this was their first encounter with a machine that can milk up to 60 cows per hour. The technology also monitors the health of an individual cow through a transponder in their neck, tracking their production over a period of time. Most animals supply 40L of milk per day.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Genzinus explains how the milking machine works

Genzinus was proud of their operation, as they are constantly striving to improve the health of their cows and ensuring the animals continue to produce for 4-5 years. Their cows get a two month break from milking every 12-13 months to wander the fields. He emphasized that Alberta Milk provides incentives for better quality milk, so farmers aren’t just driven by quantity alone.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

What are you looking at?

Our last stop was Tangle Ridge Ranch located in Thorsby. Vicky and Shane Horne are first generation farmers, and when they purchased 60 acres they knew they wanted to have a strong connection with consumers. Although they had experience with cattle farming, they wanted to start out with smaller animals, and thought they could find a niche with grass-fed lamb, a product not widely known in Alberta. 50% of lamb sold in the province is imported, something Vicky and Shane hopes will change in the years to come.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

The best kind of tour!

Vicky and Shane carefully selected the breeds of sheep they would raise. Katahdins and Dorpers are “hair” sheep that naturally lose their coats and thus don’t require regular shearing, with their energy going into meat instead. Without wool, believed to produce lanolin oil, the meat from these sheep breeds are much milder in flavour. Currently, Tangle Ridge raises 70 sheep per season, but want to eventually grow to a flock size of 250. They sell direct to consumers every fall through their website, and are now taking orders for November 2016.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Hair sheep

The foundation of their farm is pasture management, as they believe healthy soil is the key to healthy animals. They seeded their land with a mix of alfalfa and clover, and manage with temporary fences for rotational grazing. A portable water truck follows the flock so the animals always have access to water.

The story of Tangle Ridge Ranch wouldn’t be complete without mentioning their dogs. Virgo, Mojito and Bailey protect the sheep, circling them night and day to deter the coyotes in the area.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

A sheep dog in his element

After the tour, all guests were ushered onto the second floor of the barn on the ranch. It’s been transformed into an event space that’s used for long table dinners and private functions. With the overhead lights and mismatched chairs, it was a rustic setting that befit the closing of the day.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Barn dinner

The food is where the Grand Taste Tour sets itself apart from other farm-related events. Whereas other events focus on either tours or meals alone, Grand Taste successfully marries both for an unmatched value. Last year, they brought in Chef Daniel Costa of Corso 32 fame. This year, not to be outdone, Chef Frank Olson from the Red Ox Inn and Canteen prepared a six course meal utilizing ingredients from producers we had met along the tour. This was also the first year where alcohol was available for purchase at dinner.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Chef Frank Olson and crew cooking up a storm

To start, we sampled three Winding Road cheeses, accompanied by a compote made from Brix ‘N Berries cherries, and Coal Lake Honey. Winding Road is a small cheesiry that began selling its products at the French Quarter Market this year.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Winding Road cheeses

Pork ribs glazed with a Saskatoon berry barbecue sauce with an underlay of kohlrabi were up next, food meant to get your hands dirty.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Pork ribs

Lactuca and Sundog Organic supplied the vegetables in the salad course, made up of radishes, greens, carrots, pumpkin seeds and a green goddess dressing.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Green goddess salad

My favourite dish was the gnocchi, served with basil and tarragon from Reclaim Urban Farm, pecorino from The Cheesiry, and peas from Erdmann’s. Selfishly, I was thankful this had been served family-style, as some of my dinner companions chose not to eat their full share.

2016 Grand Taste Tour

Gnocchi

Many had been awaiting the main course – Tangle Ridge lamb was served two ways: cumin-scented meatballs, and slow roasted for 8 hours with horseradish and nettle. Perhaps it was the knowledge from the tour, but the meat was noticeably mild in flavour, outside of the spices imparted by the kitchen.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Lamb served two ways

As if we weren’t full enough, the dessert course was too good to pass up, a glorious canola oil cake dolloped with whipped cream and Brix ‘N Berries raspberries.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Canola oil cake

Thanks again to Kirsta, Amy and the rest of the Grand Taste Tour organizers for a fantastic day full of learning and great food. I’m looking forward to next year already.

September 5th, 2016

Food Notes for September 5, 2016

The weather held out for most of the long weekend – I hoped you managed to make the most if it, too! On to this week’s food notes:

  • Sorrentino’s is hosting their annual Mushroom Harvest in the month of September, which features special dishes on their menus, mushroom cooking classes, a mushroom walk, and wine dinner.
  • The annual Kaleido Festival takes place on Alberta Avenue from September 9-11, 2016. In addition to 17 venues hosting a variety of artists, dancers and musicians, they’ll also have a full line-up of food vendors!
  • The Italian Centre is celebrating ten years of their southside Edmonton location on September 10, 2016 from 11am-3pm. They’ll have food samples and demonstrations and activities for the kids.
  • A reminder that the Red Shoe Crawl is taking place on 124 Street on September 10, 2016 from 1-5pm. Adult tickets are $35 and all proceeds go towards the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northern Alberta.
  • The 7th annual Bacon Day fundraiser, headed by Chef Paul Shufelt, is taking place on September 10, 2016. Tickets are $90 and include food and some drinks. 100% of the ticket price will go to Youth Empowerment and Support Services.
  • Nomiya is taking their downtown noodle bar for a spin on September 23 and 24, 2016. Tickets for their soft launch are $20.
  • Vignettes Does Dining is a collaboration between restaurants on 104 Street and local designers. They’re creating 4 pop-up restaurants on September 24, 2016. Tickets for the dining experience are $200 each.
  • Thanks to Stephanie for the heads up about a new Japanese restaurant in the south side – Me 2 Japanese Sizzling Restaurant at 9314 34 Avenue.
  • Little Brick is experimenting with evening hours – check them out on September 21 from 5-9pm for a taste of their fall plates and mulled wine.
  • Hundred Bar and Kitchen is currently under renovations and will be rebranded as McLeod’s Tavern.
  • The Mongolie Grill at 10104 109 Street has now closed.
  • The Journal had a great time at Have Mercy.
  • Phil’s latest Community Table Project is a recipe for vegetarian Greek perogies.
  • The “ugly food” movement is finally hitting Alberta on a larger scale, with Medicine Hat-based RedHat Cooperative’s The Misfits being introduced into 35 Save-On Foods stores on September 24.
  • Mack and I finally had the chance to visit the new location of Duchess Provisions. It’s a beautiful store, as you would expect, and with the increased square footage, they’re able to carry even more products.

Duchess Provisions

Duchess Provisions

  • I’m excited Pho Tau Bay is back from vacation tomorrow! A few coworkers and I headed to Pho Hoan Pasteur last week, which is our go-to when Tau Bay is closed.

Pho Hoan Pasteur

Pho from Pho Hoan Pasteur

  • I met up with a few friends at Rostizado, sharing a platter for two. It meant we had more than enough room to spring for the churros.

Rostizado

Chicken and pork platter for two from Rostizado

  • Over the weekend, Mack, Grandma Male and I had lunch at Chutney’s Indian Grill, a new quick serve Indian restaurant at 4316 17 Street. They’re similar to Mucho Burrito or Chipotle that you can build a bowl or burrito, except the flavours and ingredients are Indian-inspired. Which meant our burroti had a base of rice and chutneys, to which you add proteins and sauces. We liked it well enough, and service was stellar – you can sample the sauces and chutneys before deciding. It’s healthier than other nearby fast food options, so it’s worth considering if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Chutney's Indian Grill

Chutney’s Indian Grill

  • Next Saturday, September 10 will be a loaded day on the Edmonton calendar, with a ton of activities to choose from. One of them is the fifth annual Strathearn Art Walk, a community league-run event that will feature more than 120 artists, entertainment, and of course, food. Volunteers help develop and prep the menu which features their signature pulled pork sandwich, vegetarian curry, and local beer. Mack and I were invited to taste some of the food options last week – you won’t be disappointed; a lot of love has gone into the food. The Strathearn Art Walk takes place on September 10 from 12-7pm on Strathearn Drive from 89 to 91 Street. Thanks again to Linda for the invitation – you can see her own preview of the Art Walk here.

Strathearn Art Walk Food Preview

The signature Strathearn pulled pork sandwich