November 16th, 2017

Exploring our Backyard: Highway 2 Detours

Mack and I usually end up popping down to Calgary at least a few times a year for a mini-break. Back in August, we did so, but made sure to plan some more unique stops on the way down and back up to Edmonton.

Southbound, we visited Eagle Creek Farms in Bowden, which claims only one of two sunflower mazes in all of Canada.

Bowden Sun Maze

Sunflower Maze

Although the maze wasn’t quite at their full height, it was still a sight to see.

Eagle Creek Farms

Sunflower selfie

It resembled more of a sunflower patch with pathways not as defined as the corn mazes we are more used to, but it was definitely eye-catching and visually stunning, especially with the number of bees buzzing in and around the flowers.

Bowden Sun Maze

The field was abuzz with activity

Eagle Creek also boasts a few other maze options (including corn, hay bale, and tree mazes), in addition to a small u-pick vegetable and flower selection. We were disappointed the strawberry patch wasn’t quite ready yet, but we did take the opportunity to harvest some zucchini, peas, and chard to take home with us.

Bowden Sun Maze

Ready to harvest!

Afterwards we stopped for lunch nearby at the Starlite Diner Car, which we have blown by on Highway 2 countless times. We’re suckers for retro diners, so the classic interior, with bright red booths and a long counter, was right up our alley.

Starlite Diner Car

We love diners

We didn’t expect the alien-themed menu, but all of the classic dishes you’d expect to find were available to order (their milkshakes were on high demand that afternoon). While the food wasn’t exceptional, our monte cristo and hot turkey sandwiches hit the spot. Service was also better than we anticipated.

Starlite Diner Car

Hot turkey sandwich

What did come as a surprise was the fact that one of the fellow diners at the counter had paid our bill! We’ve never experienced a pay-it-forward situation before, but after this, will have to return the favour ourselves.

Onward to Calgary, we had booked an AirBnB in the East Village neighbourhood, an area that would definitely be on our shortlist if we ever moved south. Mack’s favourite amenity is the Phil & Sebastian’s in the Simmons Building (which we took advantage of the next morning), but being within walking distance of Village Ice Cream isn’t bad, either.


We are all Villagers

The East Village Junction Pop-up was also taking place just across the street from the condo building. The vacant lot had been populated with a dozen shipping containers transformed into retail outlets (some local, some national chains), but also featured a food truck, seating areas, and a programmed stage.

containR EV Junction

East Village Junction Pop-up

It was a neat way to encourage more foot traffic, and an idea that we’ve heard may eventually make its way to some underserved areas in Edmonton.

East Village Junction Pop-up

Mack was right at home

We hadn’t yet been to Studio Bell, so took advantage of our proximity on this visit. The architecture of the building was a draw for us, and we learned that the landscape of the prairies (including the hoodoos), as well as the curvature of musical instruments, was his inspiration for the designs.

National Music Centre

Performance Hall

Like most modern museums, there were lots of open spaces, lookout points, and areas where natural light could filter in.

National Music Centre

Fun with instruments

The museum offered a good variety of interactive exhibits, and we could see how it would appeal to music explorers of all ages. My favourite exhibit was the theatre organ that was used to create a live soundtrack for silent films screened in the 20s and 30s.

National Music Centre

Kimball Theatre Organ

GlobalFest had been on our list for some time, but the timing had never before lined up. A fireworks competition combined with cultural showcases, aspects of GlobalFest reminded us of a scaled down version of Heritage Days.

Calgary GlobalFest


Over two dozen countries were represented with food, clothing, or cultural artifacts. In addition, multiple stages dotted the grounds, hosting musical and dance performances throughout the evening. I liked the passport idea that the festival had developed as a means of encouraging attendees to visit as many pavilions as possible (in exchange for the chance to enter to win a prize).

Calgary GlobalFest

One of three stages

In every other festival year, the fireworks each night are themed around a country. This year, in honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial, a region of the country was celebrated instead. That evening, the Prairies were in the spotlight.

The theme wasn’t obvious from the fireworks display, as some of the musical choices were outside of artists born on the Prairies. That said, I could appreciate the selection of certain firework varieties and colours that were paired with particular musical interludes – the shimmering fireworks were a great choice to accompany a Chantal Kreviazuk’s ballad. Overall, GlobalFest was a lovely way to spend a summer evening outdoors.

Calgary GlobalFest

Fireworks display

We couldn’t leave Calgary without a visit to one of our favourite restaurants – Blue Star Diner in Bridgeland has become our go-to brunch favourite.

They’ve made some minor tweaks to my favourite stuffed French toast dish since our last visit, but I’m happy to report it’s still equally delicious, and the white cheese whiz (in place of hollandaise) was addictive.

Blue Star Diner

Mack’s Bridgeland breakfast bowl from Blue Star Diner

Our the way to Red Deer, we stopped at the infamous Torrington Gopher Museum. It’s been on our bucket list for some time, and we can safely say it’s well worth the half hour detour. Photos really can’t do this bizarre attraction justice.

Torrington Gopher Hole Museum

The hunted or the hunter?

For just $2, visitors can take in the various dioramas that have position stuffed gophers in scenes capturing town life. Most are based around local businesses, but there are a few more politically incorrect ones as well.

Torrington Gopher Hole Museum

Albert GoFur, who made a trip to the Vancouver Olympics

The staff on duty was so obviously proud of the museum, and though she’d likely run through the introduction countless times, was happy to do so with each group entering the facility.

My favourite diorama was Moonlight Romance, featuring a gopher dressed in an adorable poodle skirt (the top visitor’s choice in 2015), while Mack couldn’t resist the church scene with a suspended gopher angel (the top pick in 2014 and 2016).

Torrington Gopher Hole Museum

Gopher wedding

We needed to stretch our legs before dinner, so stopped in Red Deer’s Gaetz Lake Sanctuary first. The 4km trail can be leisurely completed in an hour, even with multiple stops to admire birds on this federally-sanctioned migration route.

Kerry Wood Nature Centre

Gaetz Lake Sanctuary

We were, however, unprepared to witness the tree damage caused by 140km an hour winds earlier in the year. Because of the park’s status as a migration route, staff could only ensure the fallen logs were cleared from the path, but not removed.

Kerry Wood Nature Centre

Tree damage

I can safely say the more time we spend in Red Deer, the more aspects I find to appreciate – it definitely has more to offer than Gasoline Alley would suggest!


Lookout point

I had my eye on Red Boar Smokery for a while, among a cluster of interesting restaurants and shops in downtown Red Deer. It’s also a good sign when their frequent updates on social media relate to selling out of product!

The interior is casual, with communal picnic table seating, and instead of actual plates, they offer strips of butcher paper. We chose the “barnyard special”, which was an ideal way to sample a variety of their meats and sides.

The pulled pork was the standout, with a great smoky flavour, while the pork belly was also notable, as the fat just melted away in our mouths. The accompanying sauces were fun to sample, with the honey mustard in particular winning our vote.


Barnyard Special from Red Boar Smokery

Mack was happy we snagged the last bit of mac and cheese, but the apple slaw was actually the better of the sides; the tartness was needed to cut through the richness of the meat.

All told, we had a great time further exploring some attractions in our own backyard – we’re looking forward to what we will discover next!

November 13th, 2017

Food Notes for November 13, 2017

  • Jacek Chocolate is celebrating the grand re-opening of their Sherwood Park location on November 18, 2017 from 10am-6pm. The renovated space is equipped with a tasting room and a cacao sorting/roasting room.
  • Prairie Noodle Shop is hosting a fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank on November 26, 2017. Tickets for the two-course meal are $20.
  • Lure cookbook author Chef Ned Bell will be preparing a four-course, wine-paired dinner at NAIT on November 18, 2017. Tickets are $120.
  • Meat Street Pies want to help you get into the Christmas spirit with gingerbread house workshops at the City Market! Kits are $25 and are still available for December 2 and 9, 2017.
  • Salz, the latest restaurant from the folks behind Elm Cafe, District Cafe, and Little Brick, is now open at 10556 115 Street.
  • Greek restaurant Cosmos is back on 124 Street, open in the former Smokehouse BBQ space at 10812 124 Street. Cosmos is joined next door by Passport Resto Bar, who will be hosting their grand opening on November 18, 2017.
  • Strathcona Spirits will finally be able to open their doors to the public for tours and sales on November 16, 2017.
  • Whisk Dessert Co. will be opening a location in Kingsway Mall.
  • American vegan cinnamon bun chain Cinnaholic is expanding to Canada, including Edmonton in Spring 2018.
  • Twyla was impressed with the savoury and sweet offerings at Devon’s Frickin’ Delights Donuts.
  • Graham sampled ramen from several restaurants in the city, including Tokiwa, Prairie Noodle, and Nudoru.
  • Just in time for your holiday planning – High Level Diner is again offering frozen tourtiere.
  • Vue Weekly puts together a beer-focused road trip for your consideration – a two and a half hour drive can bring you to eight breweries outside of Edmonton and Calgary, including Alberta’s youngest brewery, Fitzsimmons Brewing in Airdrie.
  • Congratulations to Alan and Nicola Irving of Irvings Farm Fresh on the grand opening of their farm store, taking place November 18, 2017 from 10am-4pm.
  • Our Servings is an app that hopes to crowdfund $10,000 to connect grocery stores and restaurants with excess food to agencies who could use it to feed the hungry.
  • It’s been some time since I’ve had my go-to dish at Blue Plate Diner – the lamb shepherd’s pie with a side of sweet potato fries. Nothing like comfort food to warm up on a cold day!

Blue Plate Diner

Lamb shepherd’s pie at Blue Plate Diner

  • I tried the instant noodles with minced pork at Gui Lin Noodle House for the first time over the weekend and really enjoyed it! I usually defer to noodle soups, so this was a delicious change of pace.

Gui Lin Noodle House

Fried instant noodles with minced pork at Gui Lin

  • Mack and I stopped by London Local for their weekly Sunday roast menu. It’s a great deal – 3 courses for just $30. The desserts really stood out for us: a delectable Eton mess, with warm custard and meringue, and a rich sticky toffee pudding that wasn’t too sweet. We’ll be back on a different day to sample their regular menu!

London Local

Eton mess at London Local

London Local

Sticky toffee pudding at London Local

November 6th, 2017

Food Notes for November 6, 2017

Winter’s really digging in it’s heels, isn’t it? I hope you’re staying warm through this first real blast of cold. On to this week’s food notes:

  • Want to learn more about permaculture and perennial growing systems? Join Permies at the Pub on November 16, 2017 at Yellowhead Brewery. Early bird tickets are $10 for non-members.
  • Save the date for Jacek Chocolate Couture’s grand reopening of their Sherwood Park boutique on November 18, 2017.
  • It’ll be interesting to see what other restaurant goes into the Kelly Ramsey building to join Credo and OEB opens.
  • Old Town Pub took over the former Elephant & Castle space (10314 82 Avenue) in Old Strathcona earlier this fall.
  • Graham was optimistic after his first few visits to Revel.
  • The Journal was impressed with the tasting menu offered at the Alder Room.
  • Jonny enjoyed his experience at Bottega 104.
  • Vue Weekly spends more time musing about the art than the food in a review for Pasta Brioni.
  • The Tomato now has a podcast! The latest episode features Doris and Patrick Saurette from The Marc.
  • It’s great to see a local home baker, Terri Thompson, featured on The Great Canadian Baking Show – I hope she gets far!
  • Just in time for your holiday shopping, Knifewear is holding a fall garage sale in-store and online from November 6-12, 2017.
  • There are also two local chocolate advent calendars to choose from this season – pre-orders are now being accepted for calendars from Jacek Chocolate Couture and Violet Chocolate Company.
  • Alberta Flavour spotlights Honest Dumplings as a case study in scaling up a small local food business.
  • Mack and I combined business with pleasure last week, and snuck in a few good meals while in Calgary. The best meal was at Calcutta Cricket Club, a hip spot from the folks behind Native Tongues Taqueria. We sampled a few dishes, the most unique being their kati rolls (paratha wraps).

Calcutta Cricket Club

Paneer and tandoori spiced chicken kati rolls

  • We also enjoyed our visit to Banana Leaf Tropical Cuisine, though to be honest, the laksa was a few notches spicier than I could comfortably handle. The kitchen was extremely generous with the meat portions, too.

Banana Leaf Tropical Cuisine

Curry beef brisket laksa and roti

  • Back home, we hit up Farrow’s second location in Ritchie after running errands nearby. It’s been too long, grick middle.


The grick middle from Farrow

October 30th, 2017

Food Notes for October 30, 2017

In spite of the rain on Vancouver Island, it was nice to be in an area where fall is still very much in full swing. There is a lot to catch up on though – here is a super-sized version of food notes:


Pesto alfredo from Cafe Amore

  • It was also necessary for a trip to Pho Tau Bay – no other pho hits the spot for me.

Pho Tau Bay

Our usuals at Tau Bay

    October 16th, 2017

    Food Notes for October 16, 2017

    Just a heads up that there won’t be a Food Notes post next week; Mack and I are heading to Vancouver Island for a short break! On to this week’s notes:

    • The Edmonton Fall Home Show runs at the Edmonton Expo Centre October 20-22, 2017. Among the attractions is their Cooking Stage, with a number of local chefs who will be presenting, including Bundok’s Ryan Hotchkiss, Mini Kitchen’s Damini Mohen, and Ikki Izakaya’s Ayumi Yuda.
    • Baijiu’s Chef Alexei Boldireff will be collaborating with two visiting chefs, Vancouver’s Chef Dilan Draper (Cafe Ca Va) and Yellowknife’s Chef Robin Wasicuna (Twin Pine Diner), on October 25, 2017 on a 5-course dinner. Tickets are $75.
    • During Farmfair International, which runs November 8-12, 2017, Northlands will be hosting a number of hands-on Food Lab sessions, including how to make fresh mozzarella, and steak cooking tips. Workshops are free with paid admission.
    • Hardware Grill will be hosting a Farm & Guest Dinner in support of the High School Culinary Challenge on November 14, 2017. Tickets are $100.
    • The Holy Roller, sister restaurant to El Cortez and Have Mercy, opens on October 20, 2017. Expect an eclectic menu, “from Detroit-style pizza to pintxos (shareable Basque-inspired snacks) to poke salad bowls to chocolate truffles made from Mexican-sourced cacao.”
    • Calgary’s popular OEB Breakfast is coming to #yeg – in the Kelly-Ramsay block (10040 101A Avenue).
    • If you need your Drift fix in the food truck off-season, you’re in luck – they’ve set up shop in the Shamrock Curling Club!
    • Chili’s announced that 9 restaurants in Alberta (excluding the airport locations) will be closing October 31, 2017.
    • Megan shared an early review of An Chay, a Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant that replaced the short-lived Pitaghetti at 11203 Jasper Avenue.
    • Both Twyla and Vue Weekly had good things to say about vegan pizzeria Die Pie.
    • Graham wrote a rave review about Avila Arepa.
    • Vue Weekly is the latest to review Tang Bistro.
    • Liane tackles the question of what it takes to turn seemingly “cursed” restaurant spaces around.
    • Congratulations to the 2017 Gold Medal Plates winners – Chef Shane Chartrand of Sage took home the gold, while Royal Glenora’s Chef Steve Buzak won silver and Chef Ryan Hotchkiss of Bundok was awarded the bronze.
    • The AgFood Council’s signature event, Foodovation, will take place at NAIT from November 9-10, 2017. They will be highlighting three areas this year: food safety, innovation and production, and scale-up and international markets.
    • The inaugural Festival of Witchcraft and Wizardry was a smashing success this past Friday, even with the chilly temperatures! Mack and I made it down to William McIntyre Park to see some great costumes and lots of enthusiasm for all things Harry Potter. We also tried some delicious butter beer and pumpkin juice crafted by the folks behind Meat Street Pies.


    Pumpkin juice and butterbeer!

    • Afterwards, we headed to Have Mercy to warm up with some Southern comfort food. Great hospitality, fun atmosphere, and a solid menu!


    Mack’s Texas grilled cheese with andouille sausage

    • Over the weekend, we took Grandma Male for her first experience of Thai food at Sawaddee in Sherwood Park. I’d definitely go back for the pad thai!


    Pad thai from Sawaddee

    October 12th, 2017

    Recap: 2017 Grand Taste Tour with Rock Ridge Dairy, Blindman Brewing, Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery, and Doef’s Greenhouses

    Back in August, Mack and I had the privilege of co-hosting another Grand Taste Tour with Linda. Organized by Wild Heart Collective and Taste Alberta, the Grand Taste Tour was in its forth year, again showcasing some of the great local producers we are so fortunate to have in our province (you can read about past tours in 2016 and 2015).

    This year, we would be visiting farms and businesses in and around the Lacombe area. Our first stop was Rock Ridge Dairy, where we were met by second generation farmer Patrick Bos and his wife Cherylynn.

    Rock Ridge Dairy

    Goats at Rock Ridge Dairy

    Patrick’s father started Rock Ridge back in 1998, converting an ostrich farm to house the goats they would go on to raise for milk. The farm now spans 640 acres total.

    Rock Ridge Dairy

    We had fun with the goats

    The goats mostly consume alfalfa and barley grown right on the farm, and, during the milking process, are provided with additional nutrients at the milking station based on its RFID tag. The machines are very efficient, and can milk their herd of 650 goats in about an hour.

    Rock Ridge Dairy

    Patrick shows us the milking machines

    Rock Ridge processes about 45,000L of goat milk per week and is a primary supplier in Western Canada from Vancouver to Winnipeg. When they began, they originally shipped the milk off-site to process, but in the years since, they have acquired and created the equipment needed to not only process milk, but to also make cheese (find it under the Happy Days label). Patrick even had to repurpose a sausage stuffer in order to fill bags of chevre.

    Rock Ridge Dairy

    Cherylynn explains the packaging process

    In 2012, Rock Ridge expanded their farm to be able to process organic cow’s milk as well. They work with local producers and process about 20-25,000L of cow’s milk a week. One of the unique types of milk they offer is from Jersey cows (labelled separately, as only one farm supplies it). The protein in Jersey milk is the same protein found in human milk, and may be easier to digest than milk from Holsteins.

    Rock Ridge Dairy

    Linda loved the goats, too

    Rock Ridge products an be found at Blush Lane and through SPUD and the Organic Box.

    Our second stop was at the Lacombe Crop Development Centre, which breeds different types of barley and wheat.

    Alberta Open Farm Days

    At the Lacombe Crop Development Centre

    Different stations about honey, pulses, and farming equipment were set up and the group was encouraged to explore and ask questions of the knowledgeable representatives present. Mack and I learned about “winter wheat”, a variety that is planted in the fall. Although it has a lower yield, it is used to help with field rotation.

    Alberta Open Farm Days

    Andrea among the wheat

    Next, we headed to the happy hour stop on the tour. Back in the spring, Mack and I planned a weekend trip out to Lacombe, and checked out Blindman Brewing and Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery then, but were happy for the opportunity to revisit these two vendors.

    At Blindman, we were led on a tour by one of the brewery’s founders, Hans Doef. If his name sounds familiar, that’s because his father owns and operates Doef’s Greenhouses, where he worked for many years (we immediately recognized him from our weekly visits to the Doef’s tent at the City Market).

    Blindman Brewing

    Hans Doef of Blindman Brewing

    Blindman has been on a meteoric rise since it opened in 2015. They had to relocate to their current facility to accommodate more tanks and increase their bottling capacity, as their product is now available in up to 400 locations. Their Blindman River Session Ale and Longshadows India Pale Ale are their most popular brews.

    Blindman Brewing

    Production tanks

    Hans estimated that their beer takes two weeks from grain to glass – Blindman leaves their beer in tanks longer than other breweries because they don’t filter their beer.

    In late 2016, Blindman undertook a crowdfunding campaign to help them purchase two 3,000L foeders from France that once held cognac. Their first brew, a Brett Saison that has aged in the barrels for the last four months, will be released later this year.

    Blindman Brewing


    Next door at Old Prairie Sentinel, we were amazed at the transformation of the space since our last visit. In May, we learned from co-owner Rob Gugin that they had plans to build a tasting room that would allow them to serve samples of their product. The end result is stunning, incorporating wood accents into the high ceiling and a long bar.

    Prairie Sentinel Distillery

    Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery

    In addition to high balls and cocktails made with their vodkas and gins, Old Prairie Sentinel also offers warm spent-grain pretzels to accompany those drinks.

    We picked up a bottle of their Prairie Berry Dry Gin (made with 100% malted barley, as are the rest of their products) to take home.

    Our final stop on the tour was the one I was most looking forward to. We’ve been regular customers of Doef’s Greenhouses for years, but there’s something special about seeing where and how the products we buy every week are grown.

    Eric Doef, a second generation farmer, provided us with an overview of their year-round operations. The greenhouse spans 11 acres where they grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and lettuce hydroponically. They plant one tomato and pepper crop annually, and harvest the products throughout the year, while cucumbers require three crops a year.

    Doef's Greenhouses

    Eric Doef

    Water is the foundation of their crops, which they draw entirely from surface ponds and collected from snow melt and rain water. When their dugouts on their property are full, they have enough water for two years. It’s mind boggling how much water they go through, however – Eric shared that on a hot day, they might use up to 400 million litres of water.

    Doef's Greenhouses

    Peppers as far as the eye can see

    Fertilizer is added directly into the water, while carbon dioxide is brought in through tubes. Computers monitor exactly what nutrients each crop needs, and they can adjust the levels accordingly. Regarding pests, they prefer to be as preventive as possible by ordering the appropriate “beneficials” every week (e.g., wasps to eat white flies). We also saw bees which are used to pollinate the flowers.

    Doef's Greenhouses


    The overhead lights are typically turned on in September, and though they employ LED lights for their lettuce crops, most of their other crops need the heat given off by the HPS lights. Their lamps run for up to 15,000 hours before needing to be replaced.

    Doef's Greenhouses

    Lettuce crops

    It was a fascinating tour that preceded a long table dinner set in one of the greenhouses, one of the most distinctive settings for a meal I’ve experienced.

    Grand Taste Tour 2017

    Greenhouse dinner

    The 7-course family style meal was prepared by Chef Liana Robberecht of WinSport Canada. She prepared a beautiful array of dishes, including a smoked Alberta lentil hummus with fennel crackers that I couldn’t stop eating, and a maple bourbon potato salad that nearly outshone its accompanying proteins.

    Grand Taste Tour 2017

    Roasted Chinook honey carrot tacos with yogurt, bee pollen, and cilantro

    Given the surroundings, a salad comprised of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers sourced from Doef’s, dressed in a sea buckthorn vinaigrette was entirely appropriate, and delicious.

    Grand Taste Tour 2017


    Alberta pulled lamb shank, served in a Sylvan Star gouda parkhouse roll was another favourite around the table.

    Grand Taste Tour 2017

    Pulled lamb shank in Sylvan Star gouda parkhouse rolls

    Chef Robberecht ended the meal as brightly as it began, with her twist on spiced dark chocolate mousse, combined with a roasted sweet pepper curd, and a fabulous carrot cake with whipped Chinook Honey cream cheese.

    Grand Taste Tour 2017


    As I mentioned, it was particularly meaningful for Mack and I to tour the greenhouse because of our weekly purchases at the market. It was also great to see that the family farm will continue with Eric – and perhaps even with a third generation in the years to come!

    Thanks again to Wild Heart Collective for organizing another wonderful Grand Taste Tour!

    October 9th, 2017

    Food Notes for October 9, 2017

    Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you had a restful weekend full of food, friends, and family. On to this week’s food notes:

    • MacEwan is hosting a free lecture titled, “First-Gen Farmers: The Faces of Canada’s Agri-Revolution” on October 10, 2017.
    • The Hotel Macdonald, in partnership with Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm, will be offering a 5-course farm-to-table dinner on October 13, 2017. Tickets are $100.
    • The next installment of Taste Alberta’s Prairie on a Plate is taking place at Canteen on October 25, 2017. Tickets are $55 for the 4-course meal.
    • Revel Bistro & Bar is now open in the former Alberta Hotel Bar + Kitchen space (9802 Jasper Avenue).
    • Foodora and DoorDash join several other food delivery services now available in Edmonton.
    • The city’s first Sugarfina, which wills itself as a “luxury candy boutique” is open at Southgate Centre.
    • XO Bistro is offering a pho challenge – earn yourself a free bowl and a spot on their wall of fame by finishing 4 pounds of ingredients and 2.5L of soup in 45 minutes (otherwise, it is $60).
    • If you’re looking for a brunch alternative, Fort Edmonton Park’s Johnson’s Cafe (located inside Hotel Selkirk) continues to serve Sunday brunch until the end of the year.
    • Jonny was disappointed with his experience at Die Pie.
    • The Journal is the latest to review Loft Thai Eatery.
    • Ben Freeland is one of the first to review new-ish Vietnamese restaurant PhoEver.
    • Crystal found the service lacking at The Stone & Wheel Pizza.
    • Also from Crystal – she visited Chartier during one of their weekly Tuesday burger nights.
    • Jonny checked out The Art of Cake for the first time.
    • Graham lists Edmonton restaurants that have been open for 30+ years, with his opinion on which are still at the top of their game.
    • Great feature on Sugared & Spiced in the Journal over the weekend.
    • Sharman enjoyed one of the last 104 Street Feast Tours run by Edmonton Food Tours before the end of the outdoor market season.
    • Only bars that sell Molson products can openly associate with the Oilers, including mentioning the screening of Oilers games.
    • We bid adieu to the 2017 outdoor City Market season on Saturday, but not before having a taste of Bench Creek Brewing – it’s so great to have sanctioned sampling stations as a part of our farmers’ markets now.

    City Market

    Mack enjoying the Naked Woodman Pale Ale

    • A forgotten lunch last week wasn’t so bad when it meant I had an excuse to indulge in a New York Mama from Battista’s Calzones.

    Battista's Calzones

    New York Mama from Battista’s Calzones

    • We’re trying to soak up as much of those glorious fall rays as possible before they’re gone – this meant a picnic in the park over the weekend with a spread from Little Village.

    Little Village

    Our take out from Little Village

      October 7th, 2017

      2017 Alberta Open Farm Days at Erdmann’s Gardens and Sprout Farms Apple Orchards

      Alberta Open Farm Days takes place every August, and is a great opportunity to visit with and learn about some of our food-producing neighbours. However, it is more difficult for those without a vehicle to participate in this annual event. This is where Northlands has played a key role over the past few years by offering one of the best deals of Open Farm Days: $5 organized bus tours of local farms. The morning and afternoon tours depart from their easily accessible Northlands Urban Farm, located just a short walk from Stadium LRT station.

      Mack and I had a great time on the tour last year, so made sure to pick up tickets to this year’s iteration as well. We joined the morning tour, which would allow us to visit two farms in Sturgeon County: Erdmann’s Gardens and Greenhouses, and Sprout Farms Apple Orchards.

      At Erdmann’s, we were greeted by Wendy Erdmann, matriarch of the farm. She shared that her husband Rony stared the farm in 1983, transitioning the fields from alfalfa to vegetables. They now farm 75 acres in crops and greenhouses, with cabbage, carrots, and potatoes making up their primary crops.

      Erdmanns Gardens

      Wendy Erdmann of Erdmann’s Gardens

      Although they are not organic (Erdmann’s uses fertilizer and pesticides), they only spray when needed, and do employ some natural methods such as using organic sprays for their broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. They use the Redwater River for irrigation.

      Erdmanns Gardens

      Cucumber field

      In the summer, they are busy with direct sales at three Edmonton area farmers’ markets, including the City Market, St. Albert, and Callingwood, but also offer some on-farm sales in July and August. Co-op stores have started recently carrying some of their produce, and Erdmann’s does work with several restaurants in the city as well, such as the Shaw Conference Centre, Zinc, and Tzin.

      Erdmanns Gardens

      On the tour

      It was promising to hear from Wendy that her two sons, Shane and Cody, will be taking over the farm in the near future.

      Erdmanns Gardens

      Erdmann’s Farm

      Before we departed, Wendy provided each attendee with a bag of veggies to take home – it was more than generous, and an appreciated token from the visit.

      The group hopped back on the bus for our second stop, Sprout Farms Apple Orchards, located next to Prairie Adventure Gardens. In many ways, Sprout Farms feels like one of the region’s best kept secrets – I was astonished to learn that the orchard grows 150 varieties of apples.

      Farmer Amanda Chedzoy explained that they moved to the property in 1980, and the farm began as a tree nursery. In 2000, they transitioned to a u-pick apple farm, planting any extra stock they had on hand. Since then, they’ve decided to move away from the u-pick business because it has been difficult for them to manage, and have adopted a Community Supported Agriculture model this year, in addition to selling pre-picked fruit. Sprout Farms is not certified organic, but they use organic practices, and haven’t sprayed in three years.

      Sprout Farms Apple Orchards

      Amanda Chedzoy of Sprout Farms

      Although they do grow many varieties, they primarily offer 14 types of apples spread over 700 trees. Amanda shared that the fruit was very small this year due to continued drought conditions. Although they had 7 varieties available that day, she encouraged us to return next month, as September is their prime picking period.

      Sprout Farms Apple Orchards


      Like Erdmann’s, Amanda mentioned that her sons will be taking over the farm in the future – given the prevailing narrative about the lack of interest subsequent generations have in continuing the farm business, it was very encouraging to hear from two families that this is not the case for them.

      Sprout Farms Apple Orchards

      On the farm with my parents

      Before we left Sprout Farms, we had the chance to try some fresh-pressed cider, and buy some of their pre-picked apples from the on-farm store.

      Thanks again to Northlands for organizing a great morning of farm tours!

      October 2nd, 2017

      Food Notes for October 2, 2017

      • This is the last call for outdoor farmers’ markets: I’m partial to the 124 Grand Market and the City Market, but head to your favourite this week before they wrap up for the year!
      • It’s always great to see local chefs collaborating with one another! The latest: XIX Nineteen’s Chef Andrew Fung will be in the kitchen at Baijiu on October 3, 2017 for their Tuesday Bao Night.
      • There’s still time to source out your Thanksgiving supper – Sorrentino’s turkey-to-go starts at $195 without sides (order by October 3, 2017), while the Shaw Conference Centre is offering a turkey feast for 10-12 for $225 (order by October 6, 2017).
      • Transcend is hosting this year’s Canadian National Barista Championship on October 14-15, 2017, and they’re looking for judges and volunteers.
      • Sazon (from the folks behind Comal Taco Therapy Nights) is offering Nixtamal Taco kits to take home. Reserve your kit for 2 ($40) or 4 ($80) in advance for pick up on October 17, 2017.
      • Leftovers YEG is hosting an event to help bring awareness to food waste. They’re partnering with Ernest’s at NAIT on October 21, 2017 to showcase a meal made entirely from excess food. Tickets are $40 and include a tour of the kitchens.
      • It was announced this week that Chef Ben Staley’s Alta has closed.
      • Unfortunately, Mayday Dogs will not be open this Wednesday, October 4, 2017 due to electrical issues.
      • Cafe Vancia is now open on the main floor of the Ledgeview at 9707 110 Street.
      • Pizza lovers take note: Royal Pizza is opening up a location in the Hys Centre at 11010 101 Street.
      • PhoEver Noodles & Grill opened in Griesbach back in the spring at #102, 9934 137 Avenue.
      • Phil has more details about what you can expect from Chef Lindsay Porter’s new restaurant, London Local, opening later this month.
      • Also from Phil, a round-up of some of his best kept “foodie secrets”.
      • Vue Weekly had an overall great meal at Loft Thai Eatery.
      • Cindy recommends the Spanish brunch offered at Bodega Highlands.
      • Graham asks “where’s the soul?” of Bottega 104.
      • Lydia at YEG Cravings reviewed Miga, one of the several Korean restaurants on 34th Avenue.
      • Jonny is the latest to visit Nara Chicken & Tonkatsu.
      • Sharman recapped the latest Taste Alberta Prairie on a Plate dinner that took place last week at Northern Chicken.
      • Congratulations to Sweet Lollapalooza and The Violet Chocolate Company for their medals gained at the International Chocolate Awards.
      • The moral of the CBC Marketplace story exposing some duplicitous vendors at Toronto-area farmers’ markets is to make sure you get to know the vendors, or at least ask some questions.
      • It was neat to see photos of a farmers’ market taking place on the Legislature grounds last week, but unfortunate it was only a one-time pop-up.
      • I didn’t know pea milk was a thing – it apparently has more calcium than cow’s milk.
      • Mack and I finally made it out to Sugared & Spiced’s storefront location at 10334 82 Avenue. It’s a beautiful space, tucked in an alley within view of the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market. We picked up some treats to accompany dinner, but certainly plan to visit again when we’re in the neighbourhood!

      Sugared & Spiced

      Sugared & Spiced

      • We were in the area, so stopped by Kiwado last week for a late lunch. We didn’t realize the restaurant closes between lunch and dinner service, but were grateful they stayed open for us! We enjoyed our usual options (tonkatsu for me, shoyu for Mack), and particularly appreciated that they offer half orders of chicken karaage on their menu!

      Kiwado Ramen

      Tonkotsu ramen from Kiwado

      • We also celebrated our anniversary over the weekend at Bundok. We had a lovely meal, but the kohlrabi salad and gnocchi were our favourite dishes of the night.


      Bundok’s gnocchi

      • Some of our errands took us to Ritchie on Sunday, so it was a great opportunity to finally explore the Ritchie Market, which we had yet to visit. We sampled some of the bar snacks on offer at Biera, along with a flight of Blind Enthusiasm’s beer. We loved the lofty ceilings and windowed room; we’ll be back some time for diner.


      Mack with his flight of beer at Biera

      October 1st, 2017

      Recap: Salz Sausage and Beer Pop-up

      A few years ago, Mack and I were walking home from the Queen Mary Park neighbourhood and stumbled upon what looked like Elm Café’s commissary kitchen. We happened to see Executive Chef Allan Suddaby in the window, and he waved us in for a quick tour. Besides a more expansive kitchen to meet their catering and prep needs for their family of properties, the space also included a small front room that could be set up as a cozy restaurant. Allan mentioned that might be in the cards one day – it seems that finally, that day has come.

      Salz has been announced as the forthcoming restaurant to join the ever-growing family of Elm Café properties, which also includes District Café and Little Brick (Burrow still remains temporarily shuttered). Intended to be a Bavarian sausage and beer hall, the menu will be simple, favouring brats and sides, and in some ways, won’t be too dissimilar from the formula embraced by Otto. However, because the space can only accommodate 8 seats, owner Nate Box said Salz will be a more modest establishment, open for lunch and some evenings to align with Oilers game nights at Rogers Place.

      In anticipation of the opening in October, District Cafe hosted a Salz pop-up dinner in mid-September. The $15 tickets were very reasonably priced, and included a shared starter, an entree-sized plate, and dessert (drinks were extra). Tickets for the pop-up sold out within days of being released, speaking to both the value and interest in the new concept.

      The menu that evening was comparable to an Austrian pop-up dinner Allan hosted several years back (he spent some time cooking in Austria). It’s fair to say that Allan is passionate about sausages; he’s led numerous sausage making classes at Eat Alberta and Metro Continuing Education, and without a doubt, his sausage enthusiasm is infectious.

      That evening, we started our meal with a soft pretzel served with honey mustard. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by the oven-warmed pretzels at Zwick’s, but our only quibble was that it would have been improved had it been served warm.

      Salz Pop-up at District

      Pretzel and honey mustard

      For the entree, we were to select from three sausage options, which would be complemented by house pickles and German salads. Mack added another sausage to his order so between the two of us, we could try all three: a classic bratwurst, Kasekrainer (with Sylvan Star gouda), and spicy Hungarian.

      Salz Pop-up at District

      Sausage plate

      It was nice to be able to sample the trio, but the classic bratwurst, full of punchy garlic and black pepper, won out. We also appreciated the variety of accompanying sides, including a dill-forward potato salad, and for Mack, the creamy spaetzle and cheese.

      Dessert was a tasty apple strudel with a dollop of whipped cream – straightforward but satisfying.

      Salz Pop-up at District

      Apple strudel

      It’ll be great to have an establishment serving up quality sausages and beer within walking distance of the core! We’re looking forward to checking out Salz when it opens later this month.

      10556 115 Street