June 19th, 2017

Food Notes for June 19, 2017

I hope you’ve been able to take advantage of the weather (and the long days) as much as possible! On to this week’s food notes:

  • The first Prairie on the Plate Taste Alberta dinner of the year will be hosted at Bundok. Four courses for $60. Reservations are necessary.
  • The Grand Taste Tour is back with two events this summer – July 23 and August 19, 2017, with visits to local farms, breweries, distilleries and epic meals to look forward to. Tickets for the all-inclusive tours are $115.
  • Culinaire Magazine’s 2nd Annual Edmonton Treasure Hunt will take place on September 9, 2017. A pair of tickets cost $65, while individual tickets are on for $45. We participated last year, and hope they make some changes to improve the event.
  • The Shaw Conference Centre is hosting the FEASTival of Fine Chefs on September 20, 2017. Early bird tickets are available for $137 until July 1, 2017.
  • Knifewear is offering a 2-for-1 special on their Cut Like a Chef classes from June to August.
  • K-Days has released their new food menu for this year’s festival (which runs July 21-30, 2017). There’s really nothing too shocking or out of the box – examples include jalapeno lemonade, deep fried chicken feet, and mashed potato fingers.
  • Tickets for Taste of Edmonton (on July 20-29, 2017) are now on sale – $50 for sheets of 40 tickets, a savings of $10 until July 19. Menus are also up for your perusal.
  • Edmonton will soon be getting a location of Regrub, a Calgary-based burger joint, in Old Strathcona (thanks Su for the heads up!).
  • Congratulations to Arno’s French Pastry, one of the vendors at the City Market and Old Strathcona Market, which moved into a brick and mortar space located at 10038 116 Street.
  • Buono Pizza on the west end (8764 149 Street) is now open.
  • Urbano Pizza Co.’s second location at 10326 124 Street is now open.
  • Packrat Louie’s soft opening (following their renovations) took place on June 16, 2017.
  • Smokehouse BBQ is closing their 124 Street location this week, so they’ll be going out in style with a party on June 24, 2017. They hope to be re-open in their new location at 17820 107 Avenue by June 29.
  • Edmonton can add another cafe to its roster – Awake Cafe is open at 11029 9 Avenue.
  • Twyla was very impressed with Ono Poke.
  • Graham thinks Tang Bistro is a great addition to Edmonton’s food scene.
  • Crystal checked out vegan darling KB & Company, as well as Have Mercy.
  • The Journal visited 50s-style Rockin’ Robyn’s Diner.
  • I hadn’t heard of Branches, located in the Greenland Garden Centre, until this post on YEG Date Night.
  • Twyla put together a great round up of some of the bakeries that have opened up in Edmonton over the last six months.
  • It’s great when local businesses partner with one another: Confetti Sweets and Pinocchio Ice Cream teamed up to make cookie dough ice cream (one of my favourite flavours!).
  • Fort Saskatchewan’s Downtown Diner is now offering a special “diner after dark” food and retro cocktails menu from 8:30pm-1:30am.
  • Did you know St. Albert is finalizing its food forest, which will offer free organic food for the community?
  • We won’t know the ultimate results of Amazon’s deal to purchase Whole Foods for some time, but brace yourselves.
  • Mack and I tried Blaze Pizza in the Brewery District for the first time over the weekend. The crust was better than I anticipated (chewy and fairly thin, but able to support the toppings) and the service was good (they automatically offered to remake our pizza when realized it had burnt, and threw in dessert). I’d consider returning again in the future to try out a different pie.

Blaze Pizza

Green stripe from Blaze Pizza

  • We’d be planning our next visit to Cafe Amore for a while – and my usual truffle chicken did not disappoint.

Cafe Amore

Truffle chicken from Cafe Amore

June 12th, 2017

Food Notes for June 12, 2017

We had a great time in Seattle – it is a city with many facets, great food, and lots to do! As always, there’s much to catch up on (though I likely missed some things), so on to this week’s food notes:

  • Knifewear is hosting a customer appreciation party on June 14, 2017, with free beer and hot dogs – just RSVP!
  • The annual Mercer Super Summer Party takes place on June 17, 2017. Festivities kick off at 11am.
  • Prairie Pigeon is popping up at Hive Fit Co (10343 Jasper Avenue) on June 18, 2017 from 9am-12pm.
  • Congratulations to The Next Act who is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year! They’re hosting a customer appreciation party on July 2, 2017, with a throw-back menu (with 1992 pricing) and an anniversary collaboration brew with Alley Kat.
  • RGE Rd released their farm dinner schedule for this summer – act fast if you’re hoping for tickets!
  • Ever wanted to learn how to make your own gin? You can do so under the instruction of Hansen Distillery on July 13, 2017. Tickets are priced at $150.
  • On September 11, 2017, the Shaw Conference Centre is hosting a 5-course meal led by Executive Chef Serge Belair. Tickets are $100, and proceeds will go to the High School Culinary Challenge.
  • Block 1912 is opening up a sister cafe north of the river – look for Monument later this summer on Jasper Ave and 108 Street.
  • Wishbone officially opened on May 31, 2017! Find them at 10542 Jasper Avenue.
  • Nudoru has debuted a new menu, featuring different ramen and burger selections.
  • Both Twyla and the Journal reviewed Vaticano Cucina, the newest Italian restaurant on the south side.
  • Cathy returns to her blog to share her enthusiasm about Crum Coffee Bar, located at 4640 Calgary Trail South.
  • Linda is the latest to review Ono Poke Co.
  • Cindy reviews Splash Poke.
  • Crystal enjoyed her meal at Nuovo Bistro.
  • Graham recaps his recent dining experiences at Alder Room and Little Village.
  • The Cone may still be around in Edmonton, but it won’t be on 99 Street because it’s been sold.
  • Confetti Sweets is closing their Terwillegar location at the end of June, but may be opening a branch in Windermere.
  • Small gelato company Da Vinci can produce up to three-quarters of a tonne of gelato each day.
  • An interesting app called Waitless is coming to Edmonton – it’s designed to help consumers order additional items, or pay their bill without the need of a server. We’ll see how many restaurants sign up.
  • I’m late to the party, but if you’re out and about looking for a patio, the Patio Buzz app can help with that.
  • Great to see lots of Edmonton and area representation on Western Living’s tenth annual Foodies of the Year shortlist: Kevin Cam (North 53/Baijiu), Darren and Sylvia Cheverie (Chartier), Matthew Garrett and Simon Underwood (Moonshine Donuts/Doughnut Party), Kelsey Johnson (Cafe Linnea), Jake Lee (Seoul Fried Chicken).
  • Consider supporting the Youth Restorative Action Project’s CIY: Cook It Yourself program, which teaches youth basic cooking skills.
  • Avoiding gluten for those without celiac disease may put people at risk for other diseases, a message shared at the national conference for the Canadian Celiac Association, held in Edmonton on the weekend.
  • Recent survey results released by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry indicates that Albertans increased their spending on local food by 25% from 2012 to 2016.
  • Just before we left on vacation, I met up with my parents for dinner at Golden Bird. It’s been some time since I’ve been there, but besides featuring a generous sprinkling of cilantro, the pho just wasn’t up to par for me. The meatballs were unfortunately on the sinewy side.

Golden Bird

Pho from Golden Bird

  • Back in town, I returned to Chinatown, but this time to satisfy my craving for King Noodle House’s bun bo Hue.

King Noodle House

Bun bo Hue from King Noodle House

June 2nd, 2017

Introducing: Edmonton Chinatown Walking Tours

Back in 2013 and 2014, I was part of a small team of volunteers who wanted to bring some vibrancy to the streets of Edmonton’s Chinatown. Our solution was to program a night market that involved food, vendors, and a variety of performances to help bring more foot traffic to the area and celebrate some of the distinct cultural aspects that Chinatown has to offer.

97 Street Night Market
2014 Night Market

Both markets were successful, and some who attended appreciated the encouragement that brought them to a neighborhood they did not normally have cause to explore. While we weren’t able to continue the night market, we have been thinking about ways to continue highlighting Chinatown that are more sustainable.

97 Street Night Market
Lion dance at the 2014 Night Market

One of the more popular aspects of the night market we had included in both years were walking tours. Led by volunteer community members with expertise in different areas such as history, public art, and food, the tours provided participants with the opportunity to see Chinatown with a different lens, or gave them a reason to return again on their own.

97 Street Night Market
Tour at the 2013 Night Market

In May, Kathryn Lennon and Claudia Wong-Rusnack organized a Chinatown-themed tour as a part of Jane’s Walk this year. More than thirty people turned up, so the interest in learning more about this area of the city is definitely alive and well.

Edmonton Chinatown Walking Tour

Jane’s Walk tour

In this spirit, we will be offering a series of free Chinatown walking tours this summer, in the hopes of being able to introduce even more people to an area of the city that is sometimes overlooked and underutilized.

Dates: June 11, July 9, August 13, September 10, 2017 (second Sunday of the month)

Time: 10:30am – 12:30pm

Location: meet at Edmonton Tourism, 9990 Jasper Avenue (rain or shine!)

RSVP on Facebook: June 11, July 9, August 13, September 10

If you’ve ever wondered why Edmonton has two Chinatowns, learning more about some of the development pressures faced by the neighbourhood, or have been curious about which businesses you should visit, please consider coming for a tour! We’re open to feedback as well, and will be adding information to the tours as they happen.

Hope to see you there!

June 1st, 2017

Road Trip: Exploring East of Edmonton

A few weeks ago, we picked up the twentieth edition of the Go East of Edmonton guide from one of those free magazine boxes. It was the push we needed to finally explore some of the communities just east of the city, with a visual map that aided us to plan a day trip away.

Fort Saskatchewan

We started our morning at The Downtown Diner. It was our second time, and we were reminded again of their incredible hospitality. The service was warm and consistent – they kept pace with the way in which I drink my morning coffee; not an easy feat.

At this point, I should remark that the Diner is more highly regarded for their lunch and dinner plates, though they do have a few all-day breakfast specials. I always prefer to have eggs for brunch, so chose the basic eggs, meat and toast platter. Everything was fine, but the breakfast plates never pop as much as the other dishes.

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Breakfast platter

Mack’s mac and cheese, for instance, was a rich and creamy delight, topped with a crunchy bread crumb crust. He also appreciated the accompanying garlic toast.

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Mac and cheese

Bruderheim

After brunch, we were off to neighbouring Bruderheim, a small town of 1,300 known for being the site of Canada’s largest recovered meteorite (back in 1960). More recently, they are among a handful of Alberta towns that have instituted a curfew for teenagers.

One of the downsides to exploring small town Alberta on a statutory holiday was most of the family-run businesses we encountered were closed. One of the exceptions in Bruderheim was Theil’s Greenhouses, a small but charming greenhouse with a good selection of flowers, planters, and vegetables.

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Theil’s Greenhouses

I was particularly impressed with their array of tomato varieties (we picked up one of our perennial favourites – sweet baby girl) and a planter for Grandma Male.

Mundare

It’s always been on my bucket list to plan a road trip based around the unusually large monuments all over Alberta. We were able to hit up two on this trip, so it’s a start!

Mundare’s giant sausage ring (commemorating and erected by Stawnichy’s, the well-known Ukrainian meat shop) is set up just beyond the welcome gates on the town’s main street. It was built for photo ops, with a staircase in the centre to ensure tourists can be captured within the ring.

Mundare Sausage

The sausage

Just steps away from the monument is Stawnichy’s itself, one of the only shops on the street open that day. They were still doing brisk sales – their products are available at Mundare Sausage House in Edmonton, but it was nice to get it from the source; we bought some Ukrainian sausage and jerky to take home.

Vegreville

Vegreville was next on our list of towns and massive monuments. The pysanka is one of the most frequently cited large-scale sculptures, and though I had seen it in photos many times, it took visiting it in person to realize it rotates.

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The pysanka!

Although the pysanka isn’t accompanied by a staircase, it’s actually situated in more picturesque surroundings. Nestled in a park, we stretched our legs in the green space that featured a decommissioned caboose, playground, skate park, gazebo, and picnic areas. The playground even featured the exercise equipment that Mack and I so enjoy.

Vegreville Kinsmen Park

Onto the train!

Last year’s Vegreville Country Fair is actually featured on the cover of the Go East of Edmonton Guide – it definitely caught my eye, and is something I hope to get to later this summer (it runs August 10-12, 2017).

Elk Island Park

Last June, we took a turn through Elk Island Park and were besieged by mosquitos, so we thought a visit earlier in the year might result in better conditions. While this was true, I don’t think we anticipated as many people as we encountered. Although there were a steady stream of cars leaving as we drove in, the parking lot was oversubscribed.

It was great to see so many families taking advantage of the gorgeous weather over the long weekend. There were line-ups for boat rentals, blankets pitched every which way, and many groups set up for picnics.

Elk Island National Park

Busy day at the park

We weren’t dressed for an intense hike, so we took some of the more leisurely trails just off Astotin Lake. And though I was an initial sceptic about the Parks Canada #sharethechair campaign, I have to say I’m now a happy convert.

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Sharing the chair, again

Sadly for Mack, we didn’t happen upon any wildlife on our walk that day, but I’m sure we will be back to Elk Island before the summer’s end. They are hosting quite a number of special events over the next few months, including Parks Day on July 15, the annual Bison Festival on August 19, and Dark Sky Preserve Party on September 2-3, 2017.

Elk Island National Park

Sunny skies

It was a fun way to spend a day exploring the communities just outside of Edmonton. I’d recommend the Go East of Edmonton guide if you’re looking to plan your own daytrip!

May 29th, 2017

Food Notes for May 29, 2017

It’s been a crazy month at work, so I’m really looking forward to our Seattle vacation coming up. A heads up that there won’t be a Food Notes post next Monday. On to this week’s food notes:

  • Food4Good is hosting their next fruit and veggie sale on May 30, 2017 at the Glenwood Community League (16430 97 Avenue) from 10am-2pm.
  • The Downtown Edmonton Community League’s annual pancake breakfast is taking place on June 17, 2017. Swing by before your trip down to the City Market.
  • Tickets for the second Eats on 118 this year are now on sale – the June 28, 2017 crawl will visit Lan’s Asian Grill, The Blind Duck, and Plaza Bowl.
  • In conjunction with REDx Talks on July 6, 2017, Chef Shane Chartrand is organizing a meal that will celebrate the heritage and culinary roots of participating chefs.
  • ‘Ono Poke Co. is the second poke restaurant in Edmonton (opening within a few weeks of Splash Poke), with a soft opening scheduled for June 3, 2017 at 10142 104 Street. The Globe & Mail has a preview of what to expect.
  • Su gave me a heads up that there’s another bakery in store for Old Strathcona – Fan Fan Patisserie is coming soon to 10330 80 Avenue.
  • Chachi’s is open in South Edmonton Common.
  • Bundok is now open for brunch on Saturdays starting at 10am.
  • Burrow Cafe in the Central LRT station is temporarily closed while its future is decided.
  • Ms. Hangry Foodie reviews the latest Korean fried chicken joint in Edmonton, Yummy Chicken, at 6111 28 Avenue.
  • Graham gave a positive review to St. Albert’s Privada Wine and Tapas. Last week, I missed linking to related news that Privada’s chef Tony Krause will also lead the new restaurant stepping into the vacant Alberta Hotel space.
  • Linda’s hoping for more dog-friendly patios in Edmonton, and shared how restaurants can apply for the required permit.
  • On the heels of Alder Room’s opening (who sells advanced tickets for their set-course meals), the National Post published a piece on why more restaurants are moving in this direction.
  • Alberta Food Tours is running a contest to showcase the best of Alberta’s food scene with an Instagram contest. 150 prizes will be awarded to photos hashtagged #eatalberta150 on Instagram submitted between May 23 to August 7, 2017.
  • The chef line-up for the 2017 Gold Medal Plates competition is set. The event runs October 12, 2017.
  • Cindy’s latest Edmonton Cooks post is up – she made Sugarbowl’s cinnamon buns.
  • If you’re still looking for fall vacation ideas – consider Liane’s culinary tour to Chicago in October.
  • Bottega, the new restaurant from the family behind Cafe Amore and Black Pearl, is near completion at 10181 104 Street. Though they’re not quite ready to serve yet, they were open on Saturday to take advantage of the City Market foot traffic. They hope to open in June.

Bottega

Bottega

  • Mack and I took Grandma Male for her first ever dim sum experience on the weekend! She particularly enjoyed the spring rolls and shrimp dumplings at Tasty Noodle.

Tasty Noodle

Dim sum!

    May 28th, 2017

    Taste Alberta Visit: Morinville Colony Egg Farm

    When Mack and I started going to the farmers’ market regularly ten years ago, we became particularly conscious about where were sourcing our meat proteins. For us, the relationship we have with the vendors we buy from is as important as the conditions in which the animals are raised; as a result, we’ve even visited some of the farms we purchase from first hand.

    That said, it’s not lost on me that much of the agriculture in this province is based on conventional farming methods. And while we have chosen to invest our food dollars based on what we value, I’m open to learning more about other farming practices. Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a tour of a local conventional egg producer organized by Taste Alberta.

    We started off with breakfast at the Glasshouse Bistro at St. Albert’s Enjoy Centre. It was a bright and sunny day, with the clear enclosure around the restaurant amplifying the beautiful conditions outside. The family-style meal featured eggs with a house-made hollandaise, bacon, sausage, and addictive spiced potatoes.

    Taste Alberta Morinville Colony Tour

    Breakfast at Glasshouse Bistro

    Our group of half a dozen then rode a bus about 30 minutes north west of St. Albert to the Morinville Hutterite Colony. The colony is made up of 120 people and occupies 6,000 acres. They are a mixed farm, with grain, livestock, and dairy rounding out operations.

    The Colony’s egg farming division is extensive, holding a hen quota of 20,160. In 2013, they were named the Alberta Egg Producer of the Year by the Egg Farmers of Alberta (who represent more than 160 registered egg farmers in the province). On average, the colony produces 1400 dozen eggs per day, and sells them to eighty restaurants in the area including the Hotel Macdonald and Cora’s, and commercially in Edmonton at the Italian Centre and through Four Whistle Farms. I was surprised to learn that Hutterites produce between 80-85% of all eggs in Alberta.

    Taste Alberta Morinville Colony Tour

    At the Morinville Colony

    Paul Wurz, Morinville Colony’s Egg Manager, led the tour of the barn and the sorting facility. Though I have visited many farms in the past (albeit small operations by comparison), it was the first time I’ve been required to suit up for biosecurity reasons. With 10,000 hens housed in the single barn though, it’s easy to understand how an errant virus could quickly contaminate the entire flock, which would result in serious financial consequences for the farm.

    Taste Alberta Morinville Colony Tour

    With Sharman in our suits

    While we weren’t permitted to take photos inside the barn (we were told an accidental flash might disturb the hens), the following photo from the Egg Farmers of Alberta captures a conventional hen house, and is very similar to what we encountered that day.

    As mentioned, the barn we toured housed 10,000 hens. The cages were stacked three high, with seven hens in each cage. Each hen is provided with 72 square inches of space. We were told that this type of hen housing is being phased out in favour of furnished or enriched housing, which features more space, nesting boxes, perches, scratch pads and dust baths. The Egg Farmers of Alberta states that by 2020, 32% of hen housing in the province will be furnished or free-run/free range.

    One of the advantages to this system is undoubtedly the built-in automation. The hens are allocated feed (105g per bird, per day, a mix of grain and soy for protein), and eggs laid roll down onto a belt that cycles them into the sorting facility next door. Manure is collected on a different belt underneath the metal grate of the cages, and carried outside for composting every four days. This was one of the factors Paul was most proud of – his eggs never touch manure; “In my books, the healthiest eggs are from barns like this,” he said.

    Eggs cycled from the barn

    In this barn, all of the birds were 24 weeks old. The colony raises all its own pullets (chicks), and they are placed in the barn at 19 weeks when they start to lay eggs (90% lay an egg a day). They lay for one year, after which they are butchered, then replaced by a new flock.

    Before I set foot in the barn, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard stories of cramped living quarters, dirty conditions, and mottled birds, so what I saw was better than what I had anticipated. The birds were full-feathered, and apart from their obvious curiosity related to the visitors, they were relatively calm and quiet. In my opinion, the cages may be defined as humane, but it was hard to see so many birds in what appeared to be such a small space. In some ways, it was best summed up by a label that can be found at Save-On Foods, where they classify the different types of eggs available: “behaviours restricted”.

    In the facility next door, the eggs travel on a conveyor belt to be cleaned, inspected, then sorted. The eggs are rinsed, removing any bacteria that may have been on the shell, as well as the protective barrier provided by the hen, necessitating their immediate refrigeration.

    Taste Alberta Morinville Colony Tour

    Rinsing the eggs

    Next, the eggs are inspected for any blood spots, unusually large air pockets, or cracks using a light placed underneath the conveyor belt, one of the jobs still done by a person. Only 1% of eggs don’t pass this inspection for sale.

    Taste Alberta Morinville Colony Tour

    Inspecting the eggs

    Lastly, the eggs are automatically sorted by weight from small through to jumbo sizes. The eggs are packed and boxed by another person. All told, the facility can be run by just three people due to the automation involved.

    Sorting the eggs

    Paul provided us each with a carton of eggs to take home, and was obviously proud of their quality. Among the feedback he receives from the restaurants he supplies – “My eggs don’t run – you don’t have to chase them,” he says, referring to the firmness of the egg white. Interestingly, he ensures the feed mixture doesn’t colour the yolks beyond pale yellow (the inclusion of alfalfa or corn can darken the colour), even though many consumers now consider darker yolks to have more nutrients. Paul shared that when the yolks have been darker in colour, he has received complaints from some of his customers.

    Taste Alberta Morinville Colony Tour

    Paul Wurz

    I appreciated how open Paul was to having visitors at the Colony. His transparency and willingness to answer our questions was a welcome change from what I thought we might encounter. Thanks to the Morinville Colony and Egg Farmers of Alberta for hosting us that morning, and to Taste Alberta for organizing a very informative tour.

    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