November 17th, 2014

Food Notes for November 17, 2014

I think Mack and I may have been punished for having such a great time in Jasper over the weekend – we arrived home on Sunday night to find that our fridge had stopped working. Thankfully, it can be repaired, so we’ll be back on track soon to our post-Christmas in November diet. More to come on #JasperCIN in the next few days. On to this week’s food notes:

It Dog

It Dog

Relish Food Fest

Mack checks out a copy of From the Farm at the Relish Film Festival

La Poutine

Dinner of champions

November 13th, 2014

Relish Fest: Food on Film

There’s a new film festival in town, and it’s all about food! Relish Fest, the brainchild of Maria Iacobelli and The Tomato’s Mary Bailey, celebrates food in all its incarnations on the big screen. Running November 13-16, 2014 in a variety of locations in the city, the festival will be highlighting a number of local, national and international films.

Relish Film Fest

Relish Fest organizers Mary Bailey and Maria Iacobelli with To Make a Farm director Steve Suderman

Although its inaugural year features a panel discussion and a Parmigiano & Prosecco party in addition to screenings, the organizers shared that their focus in coming year will be their “dinner and a movie” series, involving a dinner themed around a specific film preceding each screening. It sounds like a great way to spend an evening.

Relish Food Fest

Relishing some wine

On Thursday night, Mack and I were fortunate enough to be guests at the opening reception. The film To Make a Farm, was screened, a beautiful homage to small family farms in Canada. Director Steve Suderman did a wonderful job capturing the difficulties of farm life – the relentless demands, the unpredictability of mother nature, the loneliness – but also the joy and the rewards that can come from working the land and contributing to the community through food. I was particularly moved by a scene where one farmer said a heartfelt goodbye to the pigs she’d reared and loved, just before sending them to slaughter.

After the movie, a moderated discussion featured an all-female panel: Rhonda Zuk-Headon from The Cheesiry, Cathryn Sprague from Reclaim Urban Farm, Jenny Berkenbosch from Sundog Organic Farm and Vicky Horne from Tangle Ridge Ranch. The panelists expressed that they could very much relate to the stories they watched on screen (Jenny called them “kindred spirits”), and in the process of bettering their techniques, have undergone similar learning journeys. When asked a question about future growth, and in particular, “How big is too big?”, the goal for most was sustainability, while always improving operations.

Relish Food Fest

The panelists with Director Suderman

I felt the panel was a bit too rushed, and would have enjoyed more time with the panelists, but I recognize that the organizers were trying to keep things on time and moving along.

Although there was a second film screening to end the evening, we weren’t able to stay. Based on our first impressions, however, I think Relish is off to a great start! Congrats to Maria and Mary on this new addition to the city’s festival scene.

Check out the rest of the film line-up and ticket information here.

November 12th, 2014

To Be Refined: Ampersand 27

Ampersand 27 has only been up and running for two weeks, but you wouldn’t know it. A few friends and I met for dinner there on Saturday night, and the dining room was nearly full. Not a surprise, even with the unannounced soft opening. Since his unexpected departure from the Lazia Group, Chef Nathin Bye (the youngest-ever chef to win the Gold Medal Plates competition in Edmonton) has been working on his next venture, and the community has been anticipating good things. Even the restaurant’s name, which references the now-forgotten 27th letter of the alphabet, conjures up the idea of unfinished business, of an underdog, and as the website states, “& is memorable. It’s an evening so unforgettable, you’ll want to come back again & again & again.”

Ampersand 27

Flora at Ampersand 27

Ampersand 27 replaces the beleaguered Murrieta’s in Old Strathcona, which wasn’t able to recapture the public’s attention even after personnel changes and a menu overhaul. Part of the challenge is the size of the space itself and its awkward division into multiple rooms, especially given the trend towards smaller, more intimate restaurants. But overall, I loved the updates in the main room, which makes better use of the high ceiling. Its new sparkling light fixture, placed above two gorgeous communal wood tables, conjures up images of charming backyard al fresco dinners.

Ampersand 27

Interior

The menu, however, was disappointing. While Chef Bye probably didn’t want to alienate Murrieta’s patronage, accustomed to seafood options and a wide range, without more of a focus, Ampersand 27 risks fading into the background, indistinguishable from upscale casual chains. With four distinct sections – shareables, cheese and charcuterie, large plates and flatbreads, the menu is too broad, and fails to cement an identity. And although I appreciate the restaurant’s push towards sourcing some ingredients from area suppliers, why the extensive seafood selection couldn’t have been pared down to reflect more local options is puzzling.

We chose to share several plates, and did find gems among them. The forest floor flatbread ($15) was outstanding, with a perfectly executed dense, chewy crust, topped with earthy foraged mushrooms and a slightly tangy house-made ricotta.

Ampersand 27

Forest floor flatbread

The Southeast inspired flat iron ($16) was also wonderfully prepared, with maximum flavour coaxed from the meat, served over kimchee fried rice and an assortment of pickled accompaniments.

Ampersand 27

Southeast inspired flat iron

The pig ear pad thai ($16) elicited mixed reviews – I enjoyed the ears, rendered tender and almost indistinguishable from the rice noodles, while Annie would have preferred the distinctive crunch of cartilage. The heat level was also pleasantly punchy, unlike other versions made more palatable for the masses.

Ampersand 27

Pig ear pad thai

The pressured octopus ($14) was forgettable – both of my dinner mates thought the octopus was lost in the heavy-handed tomato sauce, and would have fared better in a lighter dressing.

Ampersand 27

Pressured octopus

The confit parsnips ($11) were surprisingly firm, and I’m convinced roasting the root vegetables would have brought out more flavour. The red pepper jam helped somewhat, but it really shouldn’t have been necessary for sweetness.

Ampersand 27

Confit parsnips

The dessert menu seemed much more post-modern than its savoury predecessor, which, although inspired by international flavours, was fairly straightforward and approachable. We had a hard time discerning what to expect of each of the dessert plates, and needed help from our server to decode the menu. Ultimately we chose rocky road ($9), when we were told there would be six “rocks” to share, easy to divide up between the three of us.

Ampersand 27

Rocky road

To be sure, the dish was unique, comprised of six coated rocks, each containing a different filling. Our favourite was the fruity mango, and we agreed the bed of graham cracker “moss and sand” was necessary for the added texture and dimension.

Service throughout the evening was professional, if not particularly warm. As with most new restaurants though, those finishes will likely take some time to develop.

Given Ampersand 27 is barely two weeks old, it is still too early to judge the restaurant’s longevity based on an initial visit. I just hope in the weeks to come, Chef Bye is able to further refine the menu and shape it into the memorable establishment he hoped to create.

Ampersand 27
10612 82 Avenue
(780) 757-2727
Lunch 11am-4pm & dinner 4pm-11pm daily, brunch 10am-2pm on weekends

November 10th, 2014

Food Notes for November 10, 2014

I’m already looking forward to the weekend, even though it’s only Monday – Mack and I are heading to Christmas in November! I’ll be representing Gastropost, so feel free to follow along on Twitter (#jasperCIN), and on this blog, where I’ll be posting recaps of the sessions I’ve attended. Friday can’t come soon enough! On to this week’s food notes:

  • A reminder about the first annual Relish Film Fest this week, running November 13-16, 2014. I’m looking forward to attending the opening reception on Thursday.
  • Mark your calendar – the next Prairie Noodle Shop pop-up is taking place on November 21. Andrea recaps the last event and provides a sneak peek of what’s to come.
  • After a successful first year, All is Bright on 124 is returning on November 22, 2014. Expect outdoor patios, food trucks and other activities to get you into the holiday season.
  • Join the Edmonton Social Planning Council on November 26, 2014 for a session about the “growth of farmers’ markets in Alberta and how regional clustering is shaping their development and success.”
  • Liane is hosting a Royal Afternoon Tea at Cally’s Tea on December 7, 2014. Tickets are $40, with $10 from each ticket going to a local charity.
  • I was sorry to hear that Creole Envie is up for sale. Chef Danielle Majeau will continue dinner service until the restaurant is sold.
  • Andrea checked out a revamped North 53, since original Chef Ben Staley has since moved on.
  • Vue Weekly reviewed Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant in Little Italy – my office ordered a catered lunch from Abyssinia last week, and we were very impressed.
  • Mack posted about the three new underground coffee shops that opened up last month – exciting times for coffee lovers!
  • Speaking of coffee, the first YEG Coffee Week is set to take place in winter 2015 – to stay in the loop, sign up for this mailing list.
  • Interested in growing the local food scene? Eat Alberta is recruiting!
  • It will be interesting to see how the first soda tax (passed in Berkeley last week) will impact the city’s consumption of sweet drinks.
  • Mack and I were lucky enough to be invited to the opening of Volcano (4226 Gateway Blvd), a Japanese and Vietnamese restaurant from the folks behind Old Strathcona’s Maki Maki. They had a selection of sushi and Vietnamese favourites, served up buffet style for us to try. We’re looking forward to returning for some pho in the future – thanks again for the invitation!

Volcano Edmonton

Sushi at Volcano

November 9th, 2014

The Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

It’s finally here! A project nearly a year in the making, Edmonton’s Duchess Bake Shop has launched its first self-titled cookbook. Although it won’t be publically available until Wednesday, November 12, 2014, Mack and I were part of a lucky group invited to the bakery Sunday evening to not only preview the publication, but also to get our hot little hands on it first!

Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

Duchess Cookbook launch crowd

Given how popular Duchess has become in our community, it’s hard to think back to when they opened, in the fall of 2009, with just four staff. In the five years since, Duchess has grown to eighteen staff, churning out sixty-five different products, and astonishing quantities of delicious pastry, including two thousand macarons per day.

Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

Let them eat macarons!

Giselle Courteau, Garner Beggs and Jake Pelletier were all born and raised in Edmonton, and their vocalized desire to “put Edmonton on the map” is one of our city’s great success stories. Borne from hard work and a scratch-made philosophy, Duchess quickly outgrew their original space, and doubled their storefront size two years later. In 2012, Duchess Provisions opened, providing specialty items to help ambitious home bakers. And that same year, the National Post pointed to Duchess as possibly the best patisserie in Canada.

Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

Giselle introduces her book

Late last year, Giselle started writing the cookbook, which steadily became a family affair. All the more astonishing, Giselle managed to complete and self-publish the book while she was pregnant, welcoming her first baby last month!

Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

Giselle and her (other) baby!

The Duchess Bake Shop Cook Book contains nearly ninety recipes, which range from more basic cookies to the complex cakes and pastries the bakery is known for. So far, the book will only available in-store and online at Duchess Provisions (priced at $45), but a national launch is planned for next year.

Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

Lillian and I flip through the cookbook

I picked up a copy for myself, and though I will likely remain at the beginner’s end of the cookbook, the full colour pages are a treat to flip through nonetheless. I’m also hopeful the more studious bakers in my family might want to borrow my copy for a spin (hint, hint).

Congrats to Giselle and the Duchess Bake Shop team for this accomplishment! I’m certain the book will find its way under many a Christmas tree this year.

November 8th, 2014

Great Rotisserie and More: Rostizado

Rostizado, the restaurant from the boys behind Tres Carnales, opened back in August. It’s been a great addition to 104 Street, ensuring Mercer Tavern isn’t alone in anchoring the north end nightlife of the Promenade.

Rostizado

Rostizado

While those that were familiar with its predecessor (RIP Roast) will recognize the layout, Rostizado has enhanced the personality of the space with colourful lounge seating that acts as its de-facto waiting area and a great open kitchen with full view of their massive rotisserie ovens. They’ve also transformed the back room into a glassed-in private space, which I’m certain will see its share of Christmas functions in the coming holiday season.

Rostizado

Open kitchen

Having now been seated in different parts of the room, I’d recommend a table near the back – it’s a challenging space acoustically, and a conversation with my dinner date at the communal table near the entrance was difficult.

While I had the opportunity to check out Rostizado’s sneak peek in August, I’ve been back a few times since then to try even more of the menu. Most items are meant to be shared, which makes Rostizado a destination for those who love to sample multiple plates.

My favourite item at the opening reception was the sopes, a corn flour base topped with everything from their house-roasted chicken to smoked salmon. At present, only the latter has made its way onto the permanent menu, but I am hopeful this may change in the future – the crispy corn crust and flavourful meat was a great combination.

Rostizado

Chicken sopes

At Tres Carnales, an order of guacamole is a must – I’d also easily eat a serving of the freshly-fried tortillas on their own. At Rostizado, those addictive chips are served with their queso fundido ($16), essentially a cheese dip with mushrooms, poblano chile and onions thrown in. I thought more chips could have easily been substituted for the slightly sweet bread – their savoury, crunchy nature better paired with the stringy cheese.

Rostizado

Queso fundido

No question, the rotisserie is the star of Rostizado. The portions are incredibly generous – half orders of either the chicken or pork ($32), proposed to feed two on the menu, in reality would defeat a group of four. Served with their rosti-papas, potatoes that have soaked up all of the drippings, I have to wonder if “meat and potatoes” won’t have a different connotation in the city soon.

Rostizado

Rosti-puerco

The roasted pork is very good, moist and not overly fatty, but the tender chicken ultimately earned my vote – didn’t someone say chicken skin is the new bacon?

Rostizado
Rosti-pollo

I also loved the salteados verdes (half order $7), a combination of braised kale, garlic, poblano, apple cider vinegar and pumpkin seeds. It balanced out our order of meat well, and the added texture of the seeds made it a stand-out to me.

Rostizado

Salteados verdes

Rostizados boasts the city’s only “dedicated churros fryer”. Even with that kind of introduction, their churros ($8) lived up to expectations, crackly fried dough tossed with cinnamon and sugar served with a side of dulce de leche.

Rostizado

Churros

Like a handful of other local chains (Elm Café et al. comes to mind), Rostizado is also graced with a great team of staff who offer consistently excellent service. The servers were approachable about a menu full of unfamiliar vocabulary, and even on busy nights, we never felt neglected.

It’s great to see that Rostizado is flourishing – it is another option for those seeking great food in a more casual venue that doesn’t stray into pub territory. I’ll be back again, soon.

Rotizado
102, 10359 104 Street (Mercer Warehouse)
(780) 761-0911
Monday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday 11am-11pm, Saturday 5-11pm, closed Sundays & holidays

November 3rd, 2014

Food Notes for November 3, 2014

Mack and I are still working through the portfolio of photographs from our wedding, but here’s a sneak peek from Moments in Digital. Bruce did a great job, capturing our day beautifully. I hope to share a bit more about our wedding soon! On to this week’s food notes:

Burrow Central Station

Burrow

October 27th, 2014

Food Notes for October 27, 2014

I’ve been struggling with my re-entry back to routine, but for good reason. Mack and I had a fabulous wedding, and an even better honeymoon. I’m still gathering my thoughts on both Vietnam and Korea, but I’m hopeful that (this time) I’ll actually share it on the blog! On to this week’s food notes:

  •  Cookie Love announced a forthcoming café location at 10235-101 Street. They are shooting for a December 2014 opening.
  • Get Cooking, Kathryn Joel’s brand new cooking studio at MacEwan University, looks gorgeous!
  • A huge congratulations to RGE RD for making En Route Magazine’s top 10 list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants this year.
  • On the heels of Calgary-based Spice Road Spice Merchant opening their Edmonton location on Whyte, it was announced that the Italian Centre will be expanding into Calgary next year.
  • The Gold Medal Plates took place last week, with Westin Chef Ryan O’Flynn taking the top spot.
  • A belated thank you for anyone who voted for Only Here for the Food (and What the Truck?!) on Vue Weekly’s Best of Edmonton 2014 poll. I’m honoured to have been named the “Best Food Blog” (and for WTT to be named the “Best Pop-Up Event”). As always, I appreciate the support!
  • We missed so many café openings while we were away – congrats to Transcend on their new location in the Mercer Warehouse, to Credo for their second café on 124 Street, and to Burrow (of the Elm Café family) for changing our city’s expectations of underground vendors. And thanks to Omar’s article, we also know that Elm will be expanding into Riverdale with Little Brick.

Transcend Mercer

Transcend @ Mercer Warehouse

September 23rd, 2014

Food Notes for September 23, 2014

This will be my last post for a while – after Mack and I get married this weekend, we’re off to Asia for our honeymoon! We’re looking forward to the down time – it’s been a busy summer! Enjoy the rest of the beautiful fall season in Edmonton. On to this week’s food notes:

  • Alberta Culture Days is again hosting a block party on 104 Street this Friday, September 26, from 5-10pm.
  • Congrats to Kevin Kossowan for his debut film Springhammer, which focuses on the current state of blacksmithing in Japan. The movie will screen on September 28, 2014 at the Edmonton International Film Festival.
  • Linda Hoang is Delux’s celebrity chef in October! Sample her creation for a good cause – $1 from every burger goes to Second Chance Animal Rescue.
  • Sherwood Park is hosting their very own Battle of Strathcona Chefs on October 15, 2014, as a fundraiser for the Strathcona Food Bank and to create post-secondary culinary scholarships for high school students. Tickets are $125.
  • Sad news: Call the Kettle Black’s Riverbend location will be closing.
  • Liane shared that Pampa will be expanding into Calgary, as well as planning another location in south Edmonton.
  • Rostizado received a positive review in the Journal last week.
  • Unfortunately, Rocky Mountain Ice House did not receive such a warm reception from Twyla.
  • Alberta’s becoming a culinary destination – for both foreign and local tourists.
  • Applications are now being accepted for the City of Edmonton’s urban hens pilot project.
  • While at West Edmonton Mall on Saturday, Mack and I finally had the chance to try Wetzel’s Pretzels. They actually lived up to the hype – the original pretzel had great texture.

Wetzel's Pretzels

Wetzel’s Pretzels

  • Mack and I were flattered to be asked to judge Greenfield Community League’s first annual pie bake-off on Saturday, as a part of their community league day celebrations. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it! Given it was a blind tasting, we didn’t know that the pie we ultimately picked was actually baked by our friend Yi-Li. Congrats!

Greenfield Pie Bake-off

With Councillor Walters at judges table

Greenfield Pie Bake-off

With the winner of the golden pie plate!

  • My coworkers took me out for lunch today to commemorate my last day at work before the wedding. Where else would we go but Pho Tau Bay?

Pho Tau Bay

My last Edmonton-made pho for a while!

  • I almost forgot to mention a special tasting Mack and I were invited to earlier this month. Chef Tony Le, who has taken over at Hundred, has revamped the menu for fall. He asked us to try some of the dishes to be featured on the new menu, inspired by some of the modern pub food he’s enjoyed from around the world. We (along with Felicia and Jeff) were happy to oblige. Thanks for having us, Tony!

New Dishes at Hundred

The spicy tuna crudo received rave reviews around the table

New Dishes at Hundred

The very shareable cauliflower was served with an addictive sriracha honey

New Dishes at Hundred

If you’re hungry – make sure to order the 12oz pork chop, served with sriacha-fried brussels sprouts

New Dishes at Hundred

Fun plating for the cracker jack brownie served with salted caramel gelato

New Dishes at Hundred

Our favourite dish of the night – blueberry pie with key lime ice cream

September 21st, 2014

2014 What the Truck?! Wrap Up

Before autumn rolls in, I wanted to take a look back at our last two What the Truck?! events of the season.

What the Truck?! @ Borden Park

One of the things we’re most proud of about What the Truck?! is our commitment to mobility, and the fact that the festival has convened at at least one new location every year.

This year, that location was Borden Park, a green space that the City has spent a pretty penny revitalizing. The new walkways, benches, playground, washroom facilities and public art are definitely worth exploring, and we hoped our event would help draw out more Edmontonians who haven’t yet discovered this revamped gem.

What the Truck?! at Borden Park

In the shadow of Northlands Park

Though it was more stressful than we would have liked (involving the blatant overlooking of no parking signs), the event saw friends and young families gather to enjoy an outdoor picnic and take advantage of the park’s amenities.

What the Truck?! at Borden Park

Short lines

DJs – Thomas Culture, Chesterfield and Polyesterday played a danceable soundtrack, which more than one young attendee enjoyed.

What the Truck?! at Borden Park

Dancing!

As always, it was great to have a mix of veteran and new trucks, which on this occasion included Canicus Catering, Dolce & Banana and One Cool Cookie. Ice cream sandwiches were definitely on the menu for most on that warm day!

What the Truck?! at Borden Park

Chocolate chip and salted caramel sandwich from One Cool Cookie

Thanks to everyone who came out!

What the Truck?! at Borden Park

You can’t miss us in our t-shirts

What the Truck?! @ Churchill Square

Our season finale at Churchill Square also happened to be our biggest event ever, featuring a gathering of 24 trucks. To accommodate this, we closed off an adjacent street, occupying roughly the same footprint as the Taste of Edmonton.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Churchill Square

It really was unfortunate the weather didn’t cooperate – overcast and drizzling for most of the afternoon, the grey skies intimidated many from taking in the last event of the year.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Under the trees

That said, those that did attend were able to take in a dizzying variety of food, short lines, and ample space to mingle.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

99 Street

It was also the first event where we offered a printable, PDF version of the menu. We were happy to see many used this feature, which we will definitely be implementing again in the future.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Menus in hand!

Thanks to our sponsors the Downtown Edmonton Community League and the Old Strathcona Business Association, and of course, a big thank you to our team of DJs – Thomas Culture, Chesterfield and The Hugonaut. And a HUGE (belated) thank you to our fabulous clean-up volunteers – the Square has never looked so good. We couldn’t have done it without you!

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Dinner crowd

The organizing team will be taking a break over the winter months, but details about another season of What the Truck?! will be released in the spring. In the meantime, if you did attend any of our events this past year, please consider filling out our survey – we’d love to hear your feedback as we look towards 2015.

Until then – the trucks will be out for another few weeks before the frost rolls in – make sure to get your fix before then. See you next year!