May 22nd, 2017

Food Notes for May 22, 2017

I hope you made the most of a beautiful long weekend! It definitely feels like summer now. On to this week’s food notes:

  • The first AfroFest takes place June 3-4, 2017 at Churchill Square. Attendees can look forward to food, craft vendors, and entertainment.
  • The annual Lobsterfest, organized by the Edmonton chapter of the Canadian Culinary Federation, is taking place on June 4, 2017. Tickets are $55, which includes a whole lobster, and a buffet of sides.
  • The 4th annual Porkapalooza runs June 10-11, 2017 at Northlands. As always, expect great barbecue, cooking competitions, and lots of entertainment. Entrance to the event is free.
  • If you’re looking for a quick bite Downtown, it’s worth knowing that Kitchen by Brad’s “meatball madness” is back on Fridays between 11:30am-1pm at 10130 105 Street.
  • The Art Gallery of Alberta has introduced All Access Evenings – free admission from 5-8pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. To accompany this, Zinc has developed a special “tasty Tuesdays” menu with items available under $20 (unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to the actual menu).
  • Sorry to hear Duchess Provisions couldn’t keep their expanded store afloat. The last day at the Holland Plaza location was May 20, 2017. While Duchess Atelier will remain open at the site, Provisions will return to their original location next to Duchess Bakeshop in June.
  • Coming soon: Alberta’s first plant-based pizzeria, called Die-Pie, to be found at 11215 Jasper Avenue. Thanks to Cindy for the heads-up!
  • Just in time for patio season, Linda has a great list of dog-friendly patios and markets in Edmonton.
  • Edmonton has its first poke restaurant in Splash Poke, located at 10079 109 Street. It opened on May 16, 2017. Crystal has a preview of what you can expect.
  • The Journal raved about the take-out available at Little Village (14816 Stony Plain Road).
  • Vue Weekly had a mixed experience at relative newcomer Soban Sushi and Roll.
  • Twyla has a new southside favourite for pho in Old Strathcona’s Phoboy.
  • Lillian enjoyed her visit to Juniper Cafe.
  • On the brunch side of things, the Journal learns why the Next Act is such a popular spot.
  • Athena (aka The Salty Almond) has officially signed off on her food blog.
  • A study out of Dalhousie University on the meal habits of Canadians suggests many Canadians are eating lunch at their desks, and are increasingly turning to ready-made or restaurant meals.
  • Since our office relocated to 118 Avenue, I’ve been to Coliseum Steaks and Pizza (8015 118 Avenue) a few times. I’m always surprised at how busy it is, though I probably shouldn’t be given it’s been around for 40 years and counting! The pizza is solid, and service is good – I’m sure I’ll find myself back again.

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Pepperoni and mushroom at Coliseum Steaks and Pizza

  • Also on the pizza front, Mack and I kicked off our long weekend at Love Pizza. I hope they’ll bring back their mac ‘n’ cheeza one day, but until then, the Meatatarian will remain my go-to.

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Date night at Love Pizza

  • We found ourselves by La Boule again on the weekend, and the croissants called to me again.

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Croissant from La Boule

  • I’ve been craving the flavours of Pucker’s banh mi burger for a while, so we finally made them again this weekend. So good.

Banh Mi Burger

Banh mi burger from Pucker

May 15th, 2017

Food Notes for May 15, 2017

The playoffs are so unforgiving – just a few days ago the Oilers were still in it to win it, and now, we’re reminiscing over what could have been. On to next year, or in my case, to the Jays. Here are this week’s food notes:

  • The City Market returns to 104 Street this Saturday, May 19!
  • Be among the first to check out Downtown’s newest addition – Wishbone is offering a sneak peek on May 19 and 20, 2017. 6 courses, with wine pairings, $100.
  • Micro-funding forum Fresh Meaet is back on May 24, 2017. This event will focus on food and urban agriculture initiatives. Admission is $15, with $10 from each ticket going to the winning presenter.
  • Rebecca posed 20 questions to Graziano Catering, who is hosting a pop-up Italian Sunday dinner at Privada on May 28, 2017. Tickets are $50 for the 4-course meal.
  • Want to meet fellow urban farmers and gardeners? Consider attending a mixer on June 1, 2017 at the Edmonton Intercultural Centre.
  • Just a Little Night Market has relocated from Beaver Hills Park to the Aviation Hanger at 11410 Kingsway Avenue. They’ll have two evenings of markets on June 9 and 10, 2017, with $5 admission cost.
  • Chartier, in partnership with Great West Farms, will be hosting long table dinners on June 14 and 15, 2017. Tickets are $150 and include appetizers, a 3-course meal and cocktail pairings.
  • Second Line is hosting a Spring Pig Fling and Backyard Bash on July 5, 2017. Tickets are $65 and include a pig roast and drinks.
  • Great to see more renewal on 118 Avenue – a new pub called Simba’s Den & Bistro is opening up next to The Carrot.
  • A Tutti Frutti is coming soon to Oliver Square.
  • If you needed another excuse to visit Baijiu, they’re offering “baodays” every Tuesday – 2 baos for $7.
  • Packrat Louie is currently under renovations and will be re-opening in June.
  • Oodle Noodle added another location to its roster – they’re now open in Tamarack, 2515 17 Street.
  • Jonny discovered a new Asian dessert and drinks restaurant in the west end called BlackBall, located at 17288 Stony Plain Road.
  • Cindy checked out Tang Bistro, serving up Northern Chinese food.
  • High praise from Michelle – the “best South Indian food in #yeg” at Banjara, located at 3927 106 Street.
  • Andrea has the latest review of Takami Sushi.
  • I love this idea of Urban Pedal Tours: an untraditional pub crawl via a 15-passenger bike, inspired by a similar Seattle-based experience. Tickets are $38, not including drinks.
  • Have you heard of YEG Box? It’s a subscription-based service that hopes to introduce those at home (or abroad) to local makers and producers.
  • Mack and I picked up some take-out from Pind Punjab last week in Mill Woods while house-sitting for my parents. I really enjoyed the mutter paneer in particular.

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Our spread from Pind Punjab

  • I had the privilege of attending a tasting at Cactus Club Cafe last week, featuring some of the new dishes they’ve rolled out onto their menus nationwide. My favourite dish of the night was the modern bowl, a combination of tabbouleh, pineapple salsa, roasted cauliflower and broccoli, rice, and miso carrot ginger sauce. With a range of textures and flavours, it would make a light and flavourful lunch or supper.

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Modern bowl with salmon from Cactus Club

  • We kicked off the weekend at Kazoku Ramen, Mack’s favourite ramen joint in the city.

Kazoku Ramen

Tonkotsu at Kazoku

  • The rain held out at What the Truck?! on Sunday for the first event of the season, held at Northlands. Among the many dishes I had that day included La Mar’s land and sea taco.

La Mar

Land and Sea taco from La Mar

May 11th, 2017

Exploring Our Backyard: Lacombe and Pigeon Lake

I’ve wanted to be more intentional with exploring the areas just outside of Edmonton, so at the end of April, Mack and I planned an overnight excursion just south of our city.

Last year on our way to Calgary, we stopped over in Lacombe. They had a charming Main Street lined with well preserved historic buildings, and we stretched our legs in a few of the small shops after lunch at Cilantro and Chive. We didn’t have time to hit up all of the notable businesses, so we made a note to return.

Sweet Capone’s

Sweet Capone’s has received some press for selling out of their specialty cannolis on a daily basis. A few months ago, they moved into a larger space just a half block down from their original location on Main Street.

Sweet Capone's

Pastry case at Sweet Capone’s

On this trip, we were finally able to give them a try ourselves. The pastry was lightly dusted and perfectly flaky, and we preferred the vanilla to the artificial-tasting lemon cream.

Blindman Brewing

Blindman Brewing has been helping to raise the profile of Lacombe through its craft beer. Located in an industrial area of the town, Blindman offers a lively, comfortable taproom where visitors can sample their various brews.

At least on that day, most of the patrons appeared to be regulars, treating the taproom as a place to meet up with friends for a pint. In addition, Blindman offers on-site sales, so many folks ducked in for growler refills or to pick up a case or two of beer.

Blindman Brewing

Flight of beer at Blindman Brewing

We were both surprised at just how many varieties Blindman produces. On that day they had nearly a dozen varieties, most of which we hadn’t seen before. Of the types we tried that day, Mack’s favourite was the New England Pale Ale, while I preferred the light, inoffensive Saison Lacombe Printemps (I’m not much of a beer drinker most days).

Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery

Next door to Blindman sits Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery. In operation since January, they’ve been overwhelmed with demand.

At present, they offer four varieties of vodka and gin, with their most unique product being the Pickled Pepper Vodka, which was made to be mixed with Clamato for a quick but flavourful Caesar. They hope to add rye and rum to their roster soon, in addition to a gin for "juniper heads". Most of their bottles are being distributed in Lacombe and the surrounding communities, but there are plans for wider distribution – Eau Claire was mentioned as the model small distilleries hope to emulate.

Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery

Varieties at Old Prairie Sentinel

Although Old Prairie Sentinel doesn’t yet have a tasting room (it’s in the works), the few minutes we spent in there with Rob Gugin were enlightening. His passion for spirits is contagious; we’ll definitely be back when the tasting room is in place.

Elizabeth Lake

Before leaving Lacombe, we stopped by Elizabeth Lake just before the rain came.

It’s a small lake adjacent to a university and a residential area, so it’s not really worth seeking out, but I liked seeing the exercise equipment integrated along the natural paths.

Lacombe

Mack humoured me at the sit-up station

They’re apparatuses we’ve seen in Toronto and Ho Chi Minh as well – it would be great if Edmonton would consider them for some of our park spaces, too.

On our way towards Pigeon Lake, our resting place for the evening, we detoured to a couple of farms.

Pik-N-Pak

Pik-N-Pack is made up of three member greenhouses in the Lacombe area that Edmonton farmers’ markets consumers would be very familiar with: Doef’s, S4 Greenhouses, and Gull Valley Greenhouses. They process, package, and market their products under the Pik-N-Pack label for wholesale purposes (you can also find these at Save On Foods, among other grocery stores).

Pik n Pak

Self-serve Pik-N-Pak

However, Pik-N-Pak’s warehouse also operates an honour-based self-serve store, open daylight hours Monday to Saturday. It’s amazing to me that stores like this still exist, but based on a sign posted on the door of the store, it’s likely they’ve experienced some issues with theft.

Pik n Pak

Picking out some goods!

We picked up some tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes for the road home, but they also had cucumbers, eggplant, hot peppers, and carrots on hand.

Brown Eggs and Lamb

Near Pik-N-Pack is the family-run farm Brown Eggs and Lamb. They also have an honour-system store for their eggs.

In addition, the on-farm store has a good selection of meat proteins, dairy products, and value-added products produced in Central Alberta. We bought a jar of Red Deer made Chai Wallahs honey, creamed honey enhanced with a blend of spices so consumers can easily produce a cup of chai at home.

Brown Eggs and Lamb

Brown Eggs and Lamb

Brown Eggs and Lamb is actually hosting a customer appreciation day in July, so if you’re hoping to explore more of the farm (as Sharman did last year), make sure to mark your calendar for a road trip!

Village at Pigeon Lake

I’ve been very fortunate to have been a part of a few off-season work retreats to the Village at Pigeon Lake over the years. It’s only an hour away from the city, but the pace of life seems much more relaxed. Mack and I stayed at the Village Creek Country Inn, a basic but well-kept hotel. I particularly appreciate that the hotel is adjacent to several other amenities in the "village", including restaurants, a grocery store, gift shop, and clothing boutique.

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Happy to be back in the village

Chef N’ Pigeon Lake

We ended up at Chef N’ Pigeon Lake that night, as the more well-known Eco Café was closed for a tasting event. I didn’t mind, as our experience at those work retreats with the catering from Chef N has been very positive. Their "uptown country" menu in the restaurant was more extensive than I expected, ranging from burgers and steaks to chicken and dumplings and steamed mussels.

I ordered the hot turkey, a fun take on turkey dinner: pulled turkey overtop a stuffing waffle, doused with gravy and coleslaw and a side of cranberry sauce. My only complaint was that the coleslaw should have been served on the side, but otherwise, I enjoyed the diner-style comfort food.

Chef N' Pigeon Lake

Hot turkey

Mack went ahead with the 8oz signature farmer burger, with sauteed mushrooms, Sylvan Star gouda, house-made bacon, crispy potato hay and garlic mayo. The patty was impressively juicy and flavourful, and though it was definitely a five-napkin burger, he said it was worth the mess.

Chef N' Pigeon Lake

Signature farmer burger

Daisy McBeans

The only hot breakfast option in the village, we stopped at Daisy McBeans the next day. Their homestyle breakfast menu isn’t extensive, but features all of the classics you would expect.

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French toast and sausage

Portions were large – I barely finished my French toast and sausage, but it is the kind of place you can linger all morning without worry.

Pigeon Lake Provincial Park

We eventually made our way to Pigeon Lake Provincial Park, comprised of day use areas and camp sites.

Pigeon Lake

Pigeon Lake in the spring

The weather was spotty (rain clouds soon rolled in), explaining the likely reason of why the trails were so quiet, but I did appreciate having most of the area to ourselves that day.

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Trails at Pigeon Lake

The trails connected us to the yurt options now available at Pigeon Lake, described as "comfort camping" by Alberta Parks (also more commonly known as "glamping" – glamour camping). They do provide convenience – beds, a fridge, and of course, ready-made shelter, but the price per night ranges from $120-165 per night – a little steeper than I would have expected.

Yurt

Yurt

We ended up taking the backroads to Edmonton, which, in addition to encountering less traffic, meant the potential for more photogenic scenes like this one.

Clouds & Hay Bales

Hay bales

While many may overlook Lacombe and Pigeon Lake in favour of the mountains, they’re worth considering for those who are time-conscious, or just looking to further explore their backyard.

May 8th, 2017

Food Notes for May 8, 2017

At least we were 1/2 on Sunday – the Raptors were shut out of their series against the Cavs, ending a disappointing run. Hopefully the Oilers can continue! On to this week’s notes:

  • The Telus World of Science is hosting Suds and Science on May 11, 2017. Local beer makers and distillers will be on hand with samples alongside a series of hands-on experiments to explore your perception of flavour. Tickets are $15.
  • Also on May 11, 2017, the 124 Street Grand Market re-launches at their original location on 124 Street and 108 Avenue. The market runs from 4-8pm every Thursday night until October 5, 2017.
  • What the Truck?! is back on Sunday, May 14, 2017, with # food trucks lined up. To plan – make sure you check out some tips for attendees, and of course, take a look at the menus when they’re posted!
  • Just in time for summer, Little Brick will be hosting backyard barbecues every Thursday evening starting May 25, 2017.
  • The next Swine and Dine will be taking place at Tzin on May 30, 2017. The five-course dinner is on for $55.
  • El Mariachi, a Latin restaurant at 10991 124 Street, hosted their grand opening on May 2, 2017 after finally completing their renovations.
  • Brittney has an Urban Shabu update: the new owners will be shifting to communal hot pots, replacing the individual pots.
  • From Vue Weekly, this year’s Golden Fork Awards are now up.
  • Cindy is hoping Tokiwa Ramen continues to improve as the newest ramen spot in the city.
  • Twyla is the latest to submit a positive review of Takami Sushi.
  • Jonny reviews an easily overlooked restaurant on the southside – Punjab Paratha House.
  • Vue Weekly enjoyed the brunch at The Local Omnivore.
  • Linda recapped her first experience at the Jubilations Dinner Theatre, and is also giving away tickets to a show.
  • Earth’s General Store announced they are closing their Downtown location on October 31, 2017.
  • Sandwich and Sons on 104 Street also announced their closure last month.
  • Valerie’s latest post in her Cooking with You series features Elyse Chatterton’s oven baked chicken.
  • Since my office relocated to 118 Avenue, I’ve been slowly checking out our neighbours. My downfall will probably end up being the Portuguese custard tarts at Handy Bakery, located just a few blocks away.

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Portuguese custard tarts from Handy Bakery

  • I also returned to T & D Noodle House to sample the pho. While almost nothing can live up to Pho Tau Bay (in my opinion), the broth was good. I could have used a bit more meat, less well done, and a sprinkling of cilantro.

T & D Noodle House

Pho from T & D Noodle House

  • Café Linnea launched their dinner menu a few weeks ago, and I finally had the chance to try it last week. We shared a few dishes, but the standout was definitely the beef special – a beautiful braised beef tart topped with roasted bone marrow. Service in the no-tipping establishment was also stellar that night.

Cafe Linnea

Braised beef tart from Café Linnea

  • I met up with May for brunch at Match Eatery in the Grand Villa Casino over the weekend. As far as brunch spots go, the atmosphere is anemic, but with $10 mains as the attraction, they’re definitely just hoping for foot traffic. The frittata with goat cheese was all right, but not worth seeking out.

Match Eatery

Frittata from Match Eatery

  • Good on the boys for stretching out the series to seven games – as a result, there’s still time to indulge in duck dishes before Wednesday. At Cactus Club with friends on Friday, I followed up their classic prawns and ravioli dish and their BBQ duck clubhouse. Let’s go Oilers!

Cactus Club Cafe

BBQ duck clubhouse from Cactus Club Cafe

May 1st, 2017

Food Notes for May 1, 2017

It’s great to finally see the weather perk up for May – make sure you take advantage of it in between all of the playoff action (myself included)! On to this week’s food notes:

Brewster's

Butternut squash ravioli at Brewster’s

April 27th, 2017

Showcasing Alberta Avenue: Eats on 118

It was kismet for the 2017 season of Eats on 118 food tours to start at the end of April. My office just relocated to 118 Avenue this week, so I thought the tour would be a great way to acquaint (or reacquaint) myself with some of the eateries I’ll be frequenting more.

Wild Heart Collective (the same folks behind the 124 Grand Market, among other placemaking events) was brought in by the Alberta Avenue Business Association to run a pilot of food tours in September 2016. The four tours in four weeks were so successful that they decided to continue in 2017. It appears to be a good decision so far; the first tour of the season was so popular Wild Heart had to open up a second seating to accommodate those interested.

Eats on 118

Eats on 118

As with most food tours, the hope for participating restaurants is that patrons will return on their own after the guided introduction. Happily, Business Association Executive Director Joachim Holtz shared that many of the restaurants that participated last fall did notice an uptick in traffic following the tours.

On this tour, the $40 ticket would include tastes at three restaurants that we would reach by foot. As I mentioned in a recent post however, the value for organized tours is not found in the food alone, but in the information or access provided by the guide. In some ways, the buy-in from the Business Association (and the connections they can bring) has resulted in a solid foundation for Eats on 118; all three restaurants were enthusiastic and well prepared for their showcase.

Mack and I joined about two dozen others for the first seating on Wednesday evening. Kirsta Franke was our tour guide.

Eats on 118

A welcome from Kirsta and Joachim

We began at Battista’s Calzones, an Alberta Avenue gem. Battista Vecchio has been in business for six years, and his handmade calzones have been featured on Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here. But you have to visit in person to understand why Battista’s Calzones is worth seeking out. Hot out of the oven, the dough is soft and yielding, encasing savoury combinations ranging from all-beef meatloaf (my favourite) to prosciutto, artichokes and truffle oil (Battista’s favourite).

Eats on 118

Battista’s Calzones

That night, everyone had the chance to sample two calzone flavours. Though I could have easily finished a whole calzone, it was probably wise of the organizers to limit this appetizer to only part of a calzone so we’d be able to pace ourselves for the other establishments.

Our second stop was on the next block at T & D Noodle House. A family-run restaurant open for more than two years, T & D is named after its proprietors Thien and Diep. Their daughter Laura (who also happens to serve on the Business Association Board of Directors) offered us a warm welcome. She served up one of their most popular dishes – chicken, beef, and spring roll combination plate.

Eats on 118

Chicken, beef, and spring roll combination plate at T & D Noodle House

Everything was well-prepared, but I was really hoping for a sample of their pho. One of the things I’m still mourning with our office move is not being within walking distance of Chinatown’s Pho Tau Bay any longer (my go-to for quick lunches), so I’ll be back to T & D to see if they’ll work out as an adequate stand-in.

Our final visit was another neighbourhood favourite – El Rancho. Open for thirteen years, El Rancho has been a part of the Avenue’s revitalization efforts. Last year, restaurant owner Dora Arevalo founded a street festival that celebrated Latin food, dancing and music; expect the event to return again this July.

Although Dora was away in El Salvador last night, her hospitable staff ensured we were well-fed and happy. Each table was provided with a platter of chorizo, beef, and chicken tacos to share. Although we’ve been to El Rancho many times, we typically stick with their pupusas and flautas, so it was great to be reminded of their other menu options. The chicken tacos were by far our favourite.

Eats on 118

Tacos at El Rancho

Mack and I agreed we were served just enough food to be comfortably full – any more and we would have had to bag leftovers!

It sounds like the Business Association recognizes the assets they have in the neighbourhood, and have found a good way to highlight them. I hope these initiatives do encourage ongoing return visits to an area that is often overlooked.

Thanks to Wild Heart and the Alberta Avenue Business Association for organizing a fun evening! If you missed it, there are two additional tours to come on June 28 and August 30, 2017 – tickets are now available, and are likely to sell out fast.

April 24th, 2017

Food Notes for April 24, 2017

  • Vivo’s downtown location is holding a four-course wine dinner with Zenato Winery on May 8, 2017. Tickets are $140.
  • Bloom is launching their new seasonal cookie flavours at a free kick-off party on May 11, 2017.
  • COMAL Taco Therapy has just announced their next dinner, taking place on May 17, 2017. Tickets for the three-course meal are $75.
  • Chef Brad Smoliak is again hosting a long table dinner at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village on May 27, 2017. The $130 ticket will include dinner, cooking demonstrations, and a tour of the Village.
  • Alder Room, the sister restaurant of Chef Ben Staley’s Alta, will open on May 24, 2017. Alder Room will be open from Wednesday – Saturday and offer one dinner seating at 7pm each night. Reservations are now being taken.
  • Urban Diner’s southside location at 8715 109 Street has been replaced by Tang Bistro.
  • Edmonton has its second Blaze Pizza location in the Brewery District – 12010 104 Avenue.
  • Nando’s is also now open in the Brewery District, at 11940 104 Avenue.
  • Indulgence tickets for this year’s event on June 12, 2017 go on sale May 1, 2017. Tickets are $80.
  • Alta had three reviews last week – an unabashed positive experience from Graham, a more subdued summary from Twyla, and a celebration of Alta’s creativity from Liv.
  • Crystal returned to Rocky Mountain Icehouse for the first time after several years to try out a more recent menu.
  • Great to see a feature on what the chef at Youth Empowerment and Support Services has to contend with in order to prepare meals for the youth accessing their services.
  • Ever wondered how you can make green onion cakes in at home? Valerie shows you how, in her latest “Cooking with You” post featuring Ming Franks.
  • Cindy tackles Shanghai 456’s recipe for Shanghainese hot and sour soup from Edmonton Cooks.
  • It’s been some time since I’ve had a vanilla latte from Credo, but it was just as good as I remembered.

Credo

Vanilla latte from Credo

  • Sometimes, Mom’s home cooking is in order. This weekend, she made a beautiful laksa for our family dinner. I’m one lucky gal!

Laksa

Mom’s laksa

April 23rd, 2017

New in Norwood: Otto

Looking for some casual eats on Friday, Mack and I ended up at Otto, located in Norwood, a neighbourhood just north of Little Italy/McCauley. I had been once before with a friend in their first week of opening back in December, but had wanted to return again after they were more established.

Had the temperatures been more co-operative that day, I’m certain the garage doors separating Otto from the sidewalk would have been up and open – with the late evening sun streaming into the dining room, the restaurant definitely had the upbeat atmosphere of a summer weekend kick-off. Otto was full, with patrons ranging from families with young children to groups of friends catching up. Owner Ed Donszelmann (formerly of Culina Mill Creek) said they hadn’t been that busy in some time, but they were doing their best to keep up.

The interior hadn’t changed much since my first visit – a modest sized room with a worn-in feel, Otto is unpretentious and comfortable. They had wanted very much to become the go-to neighbourhood place; anchored by a bar and a large communal table, the restaurant has the infrastructure to do so.

The menu is equally straightforward, and celebrates the timeless pairing of beer and sausages. They have several local beers on tap (Yellowhead, Alley Kat, Lacombe’s Blindman Brewing), as well as an extensive selection of cans and bottles. Mack felt a pint of Alley Kat’s summer incarnate Main Squeeze was in order, while I took the opportunity to sample my first wine in a can. Oregon’s Underwood Wines Pinot Gris was easy to drink, and is definitely something I’d seek out for trips to the lake.

Otto

Drinks at Otto

Edmonton sausage and charcuterie maker Fuge Fine Meats supplies all of Otto’s sausages. That day, the menu contained nine varieties, including lamb merguez, pork chorizo, curried cod, and a vegan smoked apple sage. Served with saukraut and mustard, sausages run between $7-9. However, you can also upsize your order in two ways – sausage on a bun, NYC style, for $10, or currywurst with fries for $13. We went this route, with andouille on a bun, and beef bratwurst for the currywurst treatment.

Otto also offers a handful of sides in addition to fries to round out your meal: potato salad, house salad, beets with goat cheese and horseradish, and mac & cheese. On this occasion, we chose to share the small mac ($6) and a small coleslaw ($4).

As mentioned, the restaurant was slammed that night, so our food was noticeably delayed. Staff did check in to reassure us, but we did end up looking longingly at our table neighbours who ordered after us but finished their meal before our plates even arrived.

The andouille ended up being our favourite dish – snappy with a good portion of fat for a satisfying, flavourful sausage. The currywurst was interesting – a curry powder-laced tomato sauce overtop the bratwurst and fries. While the sauce had a moderate heat level, we both found it a tad too sweet for our liking. The fries themselves were great, however, and on future trips, we agreed that we’d likely just order a side of fries to complement our sausage on a bun.

Otto Edmonton

Currywurst with fries

As for the other sides, I did enjoy the coleslaw, refreshing with a thin dressing and lots of dill. The mac and cheese was creamier on this outing than my previous visit, but just isn’t worth the $6 charge for the small portion.

Otto Edmonton

NYC style with mac and cheese and coleslaw

It’s always great to see new restaurants setting up shop in underrepresented central neighbourhoods. The price point for Otto’s sausages and beers is reasonable, and service as a whole was welcoming. With this straightforward concept, it’s no surprise that Otto is becoming a destination for diners seeking a comfortable gathering place. I hope to return when the weather allows the garage doors to be fully operational!

Otto
11405 95 Street
(780) 477-6244
Monday-Sunday 5-10pm

April 17th, 2017

Food Notes for April 17, 2017

It’s the best time of year – playoff season! It’s even better this year with the Oilers to cheer for, but like many in Canada, I treat the Raptors as my adopted hometown team, too. Go Canada! On to this week’s food notes:

  • Mount Royal’s annual Culinary Cook-off is scheduled for Saturday, April 22, 2017. Tastes are just $2! All donations raised go towards the school’s core programming.
  • It’s your last chance to snag tickets to Eat Alberta, happening at NAIT on April 23, 2017!
  • I love the idea of Bubbles and Bricks, a YEG Date Night event at The Common, which combines a fun evening of Lego building with Prosecco. The next one takes place on April 24, 2017, and costs $90 per couple.
  • Mark your calendar: the first What the Truck?! event of the season will take place on May 14, 2017 from 12-7pm at Northlands.
  • The next Wild Heart Brunch Club is serving up a Mother’s Day High Tea on May 13, 2017. Tickets are $30.
  • ZooFest, a fundraiser for the Valley Zoo and Zebra Child Protection Society, takes place on June 17, 2017. Expect wine and food samples and lots of opportunities to interact with animals! Tickets are $75 for adults and $50 for children.
  • Roots for Trees is looking for volunteers to help with their fourth annual planting to expand the River Valley’s food forest – join them on August 26, 2017.
  • Sorrentino’s is hosting their 26th annual Garlic Festival in the month of April. Graham has a preview of what to expect.
  • Twyla reviews 104 Street’s Bundok.
  • Linda is the latest to visit Grandin Fish ‘N’ Chips.
  • Crystal recaps the first Culinary Lab that took place at Rostizado in early April.
  • New brewery Polar Park has made their first beer available in the spirit of the playoff run, on draught and growler fills.
  • Vue Weekly spotlights how the Alberta Farmers’ Market Association supports local businesses.
  • This New York Times article mentions a couple of local gems – the High Level Diner and Tony’s Pizza Palace.
  • Eater celebrates the art of Lucky Peach and its legacy.
  • Iron Chef (yes, you heard that right), is back on TV – Grub Street recaps the premiere.
  • My office is relocating north next week, so I’m bidding adieu to walking distance Pho Tau Bay lunches. One last bowl before the move!

Pho Tau Bay

I’m going to miss my usual

  • I only seem to end up at 1st RND during the Raptors’ playoff runs, but after their atrocious game one play, I really could only find solace in this burger.

Untitled

Beef dip burger and tater tots

  • The skies finally cleared on Sunday, just in time for a walk down to Riverdale. While we’ve been to Little Brick before, this was our first time for brunch. The dishes were as satisfying as the cozy rooms.

Little Brick

Viegas, with scrambled eggs, crispy corn tortilla, vegetables, cheese and hot sauce

Little Brick

Breakfast sandwich, with smoked ham, fried egg, tomato and aioli

April 15th, 2017

Food by Foot: Edmonton’s Best Brunch with Epicurean Adventure Tours

When travelling, Mack and I try to join at least one walking tour – we’ve found it’s the most enjoyable way for us to explore and learn about new destinations. Of course, when food can be added into the mix, all the better.

For that reason, it’s great to see that Edmonton is finally getting its share of pedestrian-oriented food tours. Last summer, Calgary-based Karen Anderson expanded Calgary Food Tours to include Edmonton and Canmore, under the banner Alberta Food Tours. Local food writer Liane Faulder and chef Cindy Lazarenko lent immediate credibility to this new Edmonton venture. Coincidentally, another upstart company also launched at the same time in the city called Epicurean Adventure Tours (EAT).

EAT is the brainchild of two local foodies, Bryanna Kumpula and Melissa Bourgoin. Inspired by similar tours they’d experienced abroad, Bryanna explained that their original intentions were to showcase Edmonton’s food scene to intrepid tourists. However, they’ve found in the last six months of operations that it’s actually mostly locals that have discovered them through EventBrite. In my mind, it really speaks to the continued growth of our culinary industries on all fronts.

I met up with Su for EAT’s Edmonton’s Best Brunch tour on a Sunday in March. Tickets were priced at $60, and covered our tastes at five locations. We were joined by two other pairs; EAT groups range in size from 4 to 12.

Our day started at Blue Plate Diner, one of Downtown’s most popular brunch haunts (they also offer breakfast on weekday mornings). Here, we were treated to a half order of their eggs beneduckt, made with duck confit – it had a nice balance of textures, enhanced with a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs beneduckt from Blue Plate Diner

One of my chief complaints about the tour as a whole was the lack of backstory – whether that be history, context, or points of interest. One of the reasons I choose to participate in paid group tours is for the value add of information or access. And when the tours centre around small businesses in particular (when there are fewer degrees of separation between the customer and the owner), the connection to the story behind the business is important because it can help encourage repeat visits.

I acknowledge that for this particular tour, I was biased because I happen to live on the same street as many of the establishments we visited. Still, in the case of Blue Plate Diner, I was expecting some introduction to co-owners John Williams or Rima DeVitt, or in lieu of that (as not all owners or managers can be available at all times), for our guide to fill in the blanks. Blue Plate would have been a great place to talk about the evolution of 104 Street from its warehouse roots to the modern day condos, outdoor City Market, and Ice District proximity.

Our second stop was down the street to KB & Company. I was most looking forward to this visit, as I’m a little embarrassed to say I hadn’t made it down to this eatery yet. I was curious about what led owner Kristina Botelho to pilot a vegan menu in an area that hasn’t embraced similar ventures (see Earth’s General Store). Alas, the tour didn’t include that tidbit, or anything about KB & Company beyond its menu.

The half order of oat & hempseed waffles, with bananas, macaroon granola, almond-coconut whipped cream, and maple syrup, was very good. Served warm, it tasted every bit as indulgent as waffles with powdered sugar and dairy-based whipped cream, but not as sweet.

EAT tour

Oat & hempseed waffles from KB & Company

We detoured next to Craft on Rice Howard Way. The brunch crowd here was quiet, but it was still pretty early for a Sunday. We were seated at one of the tables at the front where the Great One had autographed (lacquered over, of course).

Craft was prepared for our arrival – a manager took us to their keg room, where they had 30 Alberta beers on tap, including Red Deer’s Troubled Monk, one of their newer additions. We learned that they do source from some local producers, including Morinville Greenhouses and Popular Bakery. We also trekked up to the mezzanine level where we could watch some of the cooks prep Craft’s Meals that Mend contribution to the Ronald McDonald House that evening. Craft sealed the deal with a 2 for 1 coupon for a future brunch meal.

EAT tours

Rotating keg room at Craft

We tried one of their breakfast tacos, with scrambled egg, beer can chicken, guacamole, feta, and pica de gallo in a flour tortilla. It was accompanied by their signature hot sauce, though most of us thought it could have rated higher on the heat meter. But overall, it was something I’d consider ordering for myself.

EAT tours

Breakfast tacos from Craft

We returned to 104 Street for our final two businesses. Evoolution was our penultimate stop. If you’ve been to any of their locations before you know that customers are encouraged to sample the different olive oils and balsamic vinegars, ranging from single origin and flavoured oils to vinegars of varying types and flavours. Our group was not treated any differently as we browsed the different products available on the shelves. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Evoolution (which has since expanded to six locations in Edmonton, St. Albert, Canmore, Banff, and Calgary), and it was great to see the number of made-for-Evoolution products they’ve expanded to include, such as olive leaf tea and Wild Prairie soap and Violet Chocolate Company bars made with Evoolution olive oils.

Our last visit was to Credo, the always bustling neighbourhood coffee shop. Our group managed to snag a couple of tables, and enjoyed a cup of coffee or tea. Owner Geoff Linden came to say hi before we left, but again, I was left wanting a bit more from our EAT guide – she could have talked about the Intelligensia coffee they use, the third wave coffee scene in Edmonton, or even how they anchor the so-called "Coffee District".

EAT currently offers two other walking tours in addition to Downtown brunch – a desserts tour and a bacon and brews tour. Bryanna says she hopes to add Old Strathcona and Ellwood Drive tours to the roster in the future.

While I enjoyed spending the morning with Su and other food-loving Edmontonians, I was hoping the tour would offer more information along with the food. I hope EAT considers integrating more of these stories into future tours.