September 30th, 2015

Recap: 124 Street Red Shoe Crawl

It’s hard to believe Red Shoe Crawls have been taking place in Edmonton for five years now! The brainchild of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northern Alberta, Red Shoe Crawls serve to raise awareness and funds to support a facility that houses families travelling to Edmonton to seek treatment for their sick children. Participating businesses donate their time and samples to contribute towards a fun, pedestrian-oriented afternoon.

Red Shoe Crawl

Red shoes!

It’s been a few years since I’ve attended a 124 Street Red Shoe Crawl, so when offered the chance to attend as a guest on September 13, 2015, Mack and I accepted. We brought along first-time crawlers Thom and Alicia.

Red Shoe Crawl

Thom and Alicia at Cococo

There were 25 stops on the list, which included an eclectic mix of retailers, galleries, cafes and restaurants. Though I understand the reasons behind some independent businesses not becoming involved (Sunday closure, staffing requirements, small spaces), it was disappointing to see that several of the newest additions to the street were not participating – the Red Shoe Crawl is a great way to expose a different crowd to your shop.

Red Shoe Crawl

Ascendant Books, one of the new-to-us discoveries

At any rate, we still had many places to explore, many of them new to us. We also elected to participate in the scavenger hunt, which invited us to post photos of different items found in the stores along the way. Although it was much more time consuming, it added another element to the crawl, and I have to say, we did have fun with it.

Red Shoe Crawl

Mack shows us how he eats his pizza at Boston Pizza

Similar to our previous 124 Street crawl experience, our main criticism was the lack of savoury items along the way. While we were treated to many sweet bites (including a scoop of gelato at Cococo), the savoury samples were few and far between. As a result, it wasn’t a surprise that our favourite stop was at reLISH. They served up a generous portion of made-to-order poutine.

Red Shoe Crawl

Poutine from reLISH

Some businesses also took better advantage of their crawl participation than others, offering discounts or special offers for the day or the week of the event. It definitely added an incentive to shop that day, as Alicia and Thom found out at Bling.

Red Shoe Crawl

Decorator’s paradise at Bling

To traverse the entire route at a leisurely pace actually took us the full four hours. But it was a great way to explore the neighbourhood! Thanks again to the Red Shoe Crawl for a fun afternoon, and to the organizers, volunteers and businesses who made it all happen.

Red Shoe Crawl

We made it!

September 28th, 2015

Food Notes for September 28, 2015

As fall officially kicks in, I’m gearing up for vacation, and will be meeting Mack in London later this week. I’ll be taking a break from the blog while I’m away. But first, here are this week’s food notes:

  • A reminder about the forthcoming Dig In Festival October 1-3, 2015 in St. Albert. The Journal spoke with some of the culinary talent you will meet and learn from at the event.
  • Leanne Brown, author of Good and Cheap, is stopping in Edmonton to talk about her cookbook on October 2, 2015 at the University of Alberta. The event is free to attend, but you must RSVP.
  • Little Brick is hosting a Harvest Dinner on October 3, 2015 and the menu looks delicious. Tickets are $85.
  • The Marc is celebrating their fifth anniversary with a $50 champagne and frites special from October 1-10, 2015.
  • Mark your calendar: this year’s Bacon Day is taking place on November 7, 2015 at Chef Paul Shufelt’s new Workshop Eatery. TIckets are $83.
  • Christmas in November at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge has released their 2015 packages. This year’s showcase feature Food Network Canada Chefs Roger Mooking and Massimo Capra. Mack and I really enjoyed our experience last year, so it’s worth looking into if you’re looking for a getaway close to home.
  • Edmonton’s newest café, The Woodrack Café (7603 109 Street), opened today. Can’t wait to check it out!
  • Amelia shared that the Allegro in Little Italy (10805 95 Street) is now open.
  • Edmonton’s first South St. Burger location is now open at Oxford Park (15134 127 Street).
  • Edmontonians said goodbye to Happy Garden over the weekend.
  • Andrea profiles Good Coffee, an Edmonton-based company striving for direct-trade and reinvesting 25% of profits back into the farming community.
  • There’s a new food-oriented pasta in town: Phil’s Off Menu Podcast debuted this week, featuring a conversation with Corso 32’s Ben Chalmers.
  • Speaking of podcasts, the latest episode of Dirt City Limits focuses on the current Edmonton Journal brunch series by Liane Faulder and Brent Wittmeier. Last week, they reviewed the Sugarbowl, Hathaway’s Diner, Hotel MacDonald and Under the High Wheel.
  • Mack sent me a link to a tongue-in-cheek post previewing the new cocktail bar in town.
  • I’ll be sad to miss the last few outdoor City Markets this season, but I’m looking forward to discovering the markets of London and Paris! The City Market runs two more weekends before moving into City Hall for the winter.

City Market

104 Street in all its autumnal glory

  • I had a blast exploring Nuit Blanche with Amanda on Saturday. It was great to see Downtown come alive in a different way. I hope the event returns next year!

Nuit Blanche

Wish Tree in Churchill Square

September 21st, 2015

Food Notes for September 21, 2015

My Fries

My Fries

  • The new Hoang Long Fresh Market is now open at First & Jasper (10065 Jasper Avenue). Lincoln has a closer look at the self-serve set-up inside.

Hoang Long Fresh Market

Hoang Long Fresh Market

  • Signage for the forthcoming Joey’s in the Bell Tower downtown is now up.



  • I love the redesign of the Bles Wold yogurt. It’s something Mack and I buy religiously, so the logo doesn’t really matter to us, but the more modern look might catch the eye of consumers unfamiliar with their product!

Bles Wold

Bles Wold yogurt

  • I had linked to a new restaurant in San Francisco last week that is almost fully-automated. I didn’t know we had a similar system at some McDonald’s locations in Edmonton. At a Sherwood Park branch, we punched in our order and paid using a touch screen and only interacted with someone to be handed our order. Is this the future?


McDonald’s automated system

  • We had our last What the Truck?! team meeting of the season at Cibo Bistro (which has a great nook for groups of up to 8). I had been wanting to return to Cibo for some time. The service was great, and for the most part, I enjoyed the food. The veal agnolotti with summer truffle was well-cooked, but I would have appreciated a touch more sauce.

Cibo Bistro

Veal agnolotti

  • Before Pecha Kucha last week, Annie and I met up for dinner at L’Azia. I was curious about their new menu, which, as promised, featured some Asian/fusion fare. I was happy with the misoyaki butterfish ($27), served atop wild rice. Service could have been better, but it seemed they were unusually busy that night.


Misoyaki butterfish at L’Azia

  • Mack and I managed to satisfy our Bun Bo Hue craving before King Noodle House closed for holidays (and re-opens on September 30, 2015).

King Noodle House

Bun Bo Hue from King Noodle House

  • Yes, it’s fall – a time for squash of all kinds!

Riverbend Gardens

Squash from Riverbend Gardens at the City Market

September 14th, 2015

Food Notes for September 14, 2015

  • The second annual Mid-Autumn Festival celebration at Churchill Square is taking place on September 19, 2015, from 1-10pm. There will be food trucks and of course, moon cakes!
  • The next Alberta Pork Swine & Dine event is brunch at Packrat Louie on September 20, 2015. A three-course meal is just $30.
  • Cook it Raw Alberta is hosting a pop-up dinner at RGE RD on September 21, 2015, featuring Cook it Raw founder Alessandro Porcelli. Tickets are $150 each.
  • The second annual Dig In Festival runs October 1-3, 2015 in St. Albert. Workshops include bacon making, coffee tasting, gardening and foraging. Tickets for select workshops are limited – sign up soon to have your pick!
  • The Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival is scheduled for November 6-7, 2015 at the Shaw Conference Centre, but the early bird discount for tickets ends September 25, 2015.
  • Chefs Daniel Huber (formerly of the Pourhouse Bier Bistro) and Levi Biddlecombe (of Attila the HUNgry) have partnered together for Buddha Boys. They’re looking into opening a new restaurant in Edmonton and bottling their own line of sodas.
  • Hungry for wings? Vue Weekly investigates some of the city’s wing specials for you.
  • The return of the automat: a restaurant in San Francisco is testing customers’ appetites for minimal human interaction with almost fully automated operations.
  • On the way home on Sunday, we stopped by Bru Coffee and Beer House, located in the Pearl (11965 Jasper Avenue). It’s been open for a few weeks, but is gearing up for its grand opening on September 19, 2015, from 2pm-late. Bru serves Transcend, Phil & Sebastian and Bows + Arrows Coffee, and on tap Alley Kat beers. It’ll be great to have another locally-owned coffee shop with hours after 5pm.

Bru Coffee & Beer

Bru Coffee and Beer House

  • We had to make the most of what may be our last blast of summer – first with a visit to the 124 Grand Market on Thursday. The market runs until October 8, 2015.


Buttermilk fried chicken sandwiches and poutine from Drift

  • Saturday was also the perfect patio day, and a few friends and I took advantage of it on the lush Manor Café porch.

Manor Cafe

Mac and cheese with braised beef short rib from Manor Café

September 9th, 2015

Recap: Food Trucks at the St. Albert Grain Elevator Park

Mack and I don’t frequent St. Albert very often, but a food truck event and a housewarming party were good reasons as any!

Given the St. Albert administrators haven’t been that supportive of food trucks so far, unless things change, the appetite for food trucks in the city will only be satisfied at farmers’ markets and special events.  And as we’ve done with What the Truck?!, the Heritage Museum in St. Albert has organized these events as a way of drawing people to visit an area they may not have otherwise chosen to explore.

A small group of us headed to St. Albert Grain Elevator Park on a Friday night in August for supper before a housewarming party. We joined a robust crowd already feasting at the 15 different food trucks gathered.

Food Trucks at St. Albert Grain Elevator Park

St. Albert Grain Elevator Park

It’s been several years since Mack and I have been to the Park (coincidentally, that last occasion was also for a food event), but we both agreed it is a picturesque location, with the stately grain elevators waiting to be captured in every frame.

Food Trucks at St. Albert Grain Elevator Park

The organizers had a great line-up of live music, and had even arranged a small beer garden. Seating was at a premium, but it would have been difficult to add more given the space limitations.

Food Trucks at St. Albert Grain Elevator Park

It was the first time we had come across the 12 Acres food truck. While we were aware of the new restaurant in St. Albert, we had no idea they had purchased and rebranded the former Perogy Princess truck, too. They can be found at special events and at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market.

Food Trucks at St. Albert Grain Elevator Park

12 Acres

The food truck, like the restaurant, focuses on farm-to-table dishes. That day, they were serving up dishes featuring their pasture-raised beef, including burgers and pasta bolognese. We tried their Grain Elevator Burger, with MoNa mushrooms, fried onions and Swiss cheese. We were delighted to see that the patty came out a nice medium rare.

12 Acres

Grain Elevator Burger from 12 Acres

Meat Street Pies had the quickest turnaround time of any of the lines we joined, and everyone in our party loved their pies. Mack had the spicy Jamaican patty, while I enjoyed their tourtiere – the pastry crust was flaky and delicious.

Meat Street Pies

Meat Street Pies FTW!

Our last shared entrée was from S’wich. We ordered a new Chinese barbecue pork sandwich Lex recently added to his menu. It may not replace my favourite rootbeer braised brisket, but it was tasty all the same!

St. Albert Food Truck Event

Mack enjoys his S’wich

The events at the Park have been so successful I’d be surprised if they didn’t continue next year. Check the website for more information.

Of course, if you missed it, but still have a hankering for food trucks, What the Truck?! is hosting our finale at Churchill Square this Friday, September 11 from 4-8pm: 35 food trucks serving up over 125 different items. Whet your appetite here, and hope to see you there!

September 7th, 2015

Food Notes for September 7, 2015

Hope you’re gearing up for our final What the Truck?! event of the season! Join us at Churchill Square on September 11, 2015, from 4-8pm and try to eat your way through 35 trucks. On to this week’s food notes:

  • I’m looking forward to attending the Red Shoe Crawl on 124 Street on September 13, 2015 from 1-5pm. Tickets are $45 for adults and $20 for children, with all proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House. Some of the participating vendors include new restaurant reLISH Gourmet Burgers, the always decadent Duchess Bake Shop and the family favourite Carol’s Quality Sweets.
  • Sorrentino’s has kicked off their 21st annual Mushroom Festival, which runs for the month of September. Linda and Cindy share some of the dishes you can expect.
  • Island Café & Bistro opened back in July at 9923 170 Street and serves Malaysian cuisine.
  • The Local Omnivore is the latest food truck business to move into a brick and mortar storefront, with their new sandwich shop expected to open in November at 10933 120 Street.
  • Liane shares that popular west end establishment Bon Ton Bakery has added a new coffee bar to their existing space.
  • Crystal reviewed the often overlooked Café Caribe, located next to Tres Carnales on Rice Howard Way.
  • Graham highly recommends the Peruvian food at Azucar Picante.
  • L’Azia has revamped their menu again just in time for fall, and both Linda and Crystal have already had the chance to try it.
  • Eat Your City visited the revamped Gama Café in Old Strathcona for a taste of Taiwanese desserts and drinks.
  • The Local Good recaps the third SalvagED event at the end of August that repurposed food that would have otherwise been discarded. It was hosted by the Alder Society at Earth’s General Store.
  • Phil offers a list of is five favourite food trucks in Edmonton.
  • Liane tries out the NoWait app at Rostizado, which allows customers to place themselves on an electronic wait list from home.
  • I missed linking to this last week – I’m glad to see that Burrow in the Central LRT station is back to its regular operating hours after sorting out security issues with the City.
  • International chain Oil & Vinegar will be opening up an Edmonton location in Commerce Place some time this month.

Oil & Vinegar

Oil & Vinegar

  • I had lunch at Rostizado for the first time, and learned that they had a daily weekday lunch feature. Even still, I couldn’t pass up a rosti pollo sandwich. Delectable.


Rotisserie chicken sandwich at Rostizado

  • Mack and I met up with Dave and Jenn and headed to St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Parish (9831 75 Street) for its monthly pyrohy supper. $13 for a plate of a dozen homemade perogies, sausage, salad and dessert. They have two other upcoming dates: October 2 and November 6, from 5-7:30pm.

Pyrohy plate at St. Andrew’s

September 6th, 2015

The View from the River: Paddling the North Saskatchewan with Edmonton Canoe

Last year, my coworker’s husband worked for Edmonton Canoe over the summer, and it was from her that I first learned about an all-inclusive way to paddle down the North Saskatchewan from Devon and into the city. Mack and I have wanted to see the city from the river’s perspective for some time, and finally made plans to do so last weekend.

Edmonton Canoe is one of two local companies that provides bus transportation from Edmonton to Devon and at the boat launch, sets you up with a canoe or kayak. For the two of us, we paid $100 total.

We met the staff and the rest of the group we would be departing with at Emily Murphy Park. Full disclosure, we arrived a few minutes late, and thus missed the complete introduction from the staff member. Still, from what we gathered, it was fairly brief; she was pointing out the route on a two-sided map we would be given to guide us on our journey, along with a whistle we were told to use in case of emergency. They estimated the trip would take approximately 7-8 hours.

Before getting on the bus to Devon, we were “checked off” a list (I had pre-paid for the trip by phone), though we found it odd that they didn’t confirm our cell phone number or even note down the number of the canoe we were assigned. When we docked, we weren’t asked for our names; I’m not sure how they would have known who to look for in the event all parties weren’t accounted for by the end of the night. In some ways, this was emblematic of our experience – Edmonton Canoe seemed uninterested in anything beyond the basic provision of transportation and a canoe rental, even though there were many opportunities for them to make service less of an afterthought.

Although a map of our river course was provided to us on the bus, it was clear the document was more than ten years old. It definitely could have been more detailed, as some of the pedestrian bridges we passed under were not noted, and given the bus ride was 30 minutes in duration, there would have been enough time for either a verbal overview or to look over information about the landmarks we could watch for.

Edmonton Canoe

Paddles ready

At the Devon boat launch, we had time to visit restrooms before we were fitted with lifejackets and pushed off in our vessel for the day. There were a few parties ahead of us, and a large group behind us, and though we all likely set off within about 20 minutes of each other, we eventually lost sight of everyone else.

Canoeing down the North Saskatchewan River

On the river

When we started our trip, the weather was more than cooperative. Sunny, clear and without much of a breeze, spending the day floating downstream seemed like it would be a pleasant experience.

Canoeing down the North Saskatchewan River

Our layered valley

I had been most looking forward to getting into Edmonton, in order to observe our bridges from the water, but I actually found the Devon portion most peaceful and relaxing. Mack and I were both amazed at how shallow and clear the river was in places – only a few inches deep – and understood why some have encouraged more Edmontonians to utilize the river as a place to swim. We did observe a few small groups floating on dinghies, but most of the people by the water’s edge were dog owners, along Terwillegar and Laurier Parks.

Canoeing down the North Saskatchewan River

Dogs enjoying the water

The highlight of the canoe trip was when we spotted a family of deer along the shore, just before the Anthony Henday Bridge. We’ve seen roadside wildlife before, but never riverside wildlife!

Canoeing down the North Saskatchewan River


We ended up shoring up there to stop for lunch (which we had brought with us). Although the staff had pointed out a place called Big Island on the map, without any actual signage on the water, it was clear we had overshot it by that point. Mack commented that it would have been nice if some of the Edmonton Canoe staff had been waiting for us at Big Island to flag us down so we could have lunch as a group.

Edmonton Canoe

Mack at our lunch break

Edmonton Canoe

Riverside flowers

In the city, we made some discoveries, including Hawrelak Park/Buena Vista Park Pedestrian Bridge that we didn’t know existed.

Fort Edmonton Footbridge

Fort Edmonton Park Footbridge

We also had a great vantage point of the End of the World attraction in Belgravia. I’m not sure if it is normally that busy on a Saturday afternoon, or if the traffic was related to the recent media attention because of a survey the City is conducting on how to make changes to improve the safety of the site.

The End of the World

The End of the World

That second half of the trip was also memorable for reasons not as positive. By then, the headwinds had picked up, and in three separate instances, were so strong we couldn’t manage paddling against the wind and ended up turned the wrong way. Thankfully Mack has more canoeing experience, but it was a challenge to finish that last leg.

In some ways, the winds were a reason why the nonchalant greeting of the Edmonton Canoe staff we met at Emily Murphy Park was so bewildering. Given it seemed that most folks who would choose a service like this are novices, I figured there would be some concern on their part about our wind-swept journey. But as mentioned before, they didn’t even bother to check us off a list, so it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise.

Edmonton Canoe

We survived!

Canoeheads is the other company offering transportation/rentals, and the trip would be slightly shorter, at Laurier Park. Edmonton Canoe does offer a shorter trip of its own, from Emily Murphy to Capilano Park, which Mack and I will consider on a day with no forecasted wind!

As a whole, while we’re glad we finally experienced the view of our city from the North Saskatchewan, and appreciate the convenience provided by Edmonton Canoe, we felt like it was a bit of a missed opportunity to provide a bit more awareness about our river valley and its history, sights and landmarks.

September 2nd, 2015

Recap: What the Truck?! in the Outfield

Our penultimate What the Truck?! of the season had us storming the outfield for the very first time on August 22, 2015.

What the Truck?! at Telus Field

We’d been considering Telus Field as a possible event location for a few years. It fits in with our desire to highlight underutilized spaces, and is situated in a beautiful part of the city that more people should explore. It’s also centrally located, public transit accessible and (perhaps the primary reason why the feedback was positively off the charts) there is loads of free parking.

What the Truck?! at Telus Field

One of the other reasons we embraced Telus Field was its enclosed nature, perfect for families with small children. It was heartening to see kids let loose on the pristine, manicured grass in and amongst a field dotted with picnic blankets.

What the Truck?! at Telus Field

Some also took advantage of the opportunity to play catch right on the ball diamond. Checking out the perspective from the mound is definitely not something you can do every day!

What the Truck?! at Telus Field

The twelve trucks that joined us that afternoon offered the most diverse line-up of food we’ve had at a single event. Cuisine choices included Filipino, Indian, Jamaican, Mauritian and Mexican food.

What the Truck?! at Telus Field

Although the event wasn’t as busy as we would have hoped, it meant short lines for those who did come out. Mack and I finally managed to try a grilled cheese sandwich from Cheddaheads, who has driven up from Red Deer twice this year for What the Truck?!


We also had a fantastic new DJ join the ranks of our What the Truck?! crew – DJ Elekin kept it light, and by request, even spun “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.

What the Truck?! at Telus Field

Thanks to our in-kind sponsor, the Downtown Edmonton Community League, our fabulous volunteers, and the Telus Field liaison for helping to make the event happen.

Our last event of the season takes place next week, returning to the place where we kicked things off back in May:

What: What the Truck?!
Where: Sir Winston Churchill Square
When: Friday, September 11, 2015
Time: 4-8pm

RSVP on Facebook!

This will be our biggest event by far, with a record 35 trucks joining us that day. We’ll be posting menus to whet your appetite on September 4. Hope to see you there!

August 31st, 2015

Food Notes for August 31, 2015

Although fall isn’t officially ushered in for a few weeks, with the close of August, autumn feels inevitable. Hope you’re making the most of our last long weekend of the summer! On to this week’s food notes:

  • Chef Tony Krause (formerly of The Salt Room, at the now defunct Mother’s Market), is hosting a pop-up dinner at Privada on September 7, 2015. Tickets are $60.
  • The Edmonton and Area Land Trust is hosting a five-course dinner at Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm to be prepared by Chef Blair Lebsack of RGE RD on September 13, 2015. The funds raised go towards securing and stewarding land in the Edmonton region. Tickets are $250 per person (a tax receipt for $120 will be issued).
  • The big news this week is that Tavern 1903 will be empty no more: Chef Spencer Thompson of Toast Fine Catering (based at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market) is taking over the space to open in October under a new name.
  • Ramen lovers, rejoice: Kazoku (16518 100 Avenue) is coming soon.
  • Vue Weekly published a positive review of reLISH Gourmet Burgers, which has joined the growing ranks of 124 Street restaurants.
  • Liv is the latest to visit Rogue Wave Coffee, the newest of Edmonton’s third wave coffee shops.
  • El Cortez celebrated its first birthday, but feels like it is just coming into its own.
  • Where Edmonton has a round-up of 20 local eateries that are over 20 years old. Some surprises for me: Red Ox Inn and Doan’s.
  • While I’m skeptical that Rogers Place will have truly “distinctive tastes of Edmonton” or “local food” with Aramark at the helm, there is some room for optimism. While volume will certainly be a concern, perhaps Rogers can go the route of MacEwan, which has incorporated great establishments like S’wich, Lan’s Asian Grill, Get Cooking and Filistix in and amongst its Aramark-run brands.
  • This really is the year of #yegfood crowdfunding projects. Prairie Noodle Shop joins the list, requesting funding to help them.
  • Fruits of Sherbrooke has their own Kickstarter campaign called Project Fruit Stars. They hope to raise $17,000 to put towards upgrading their operation to produce 50,000 dehydrated apple snacks for the E4C School Nutrition Program this December.
  • Cindy’s feature on farmers’ market vendors continues with a profile on Frosty Fox Ice Cream, who sells at the City Market.
  • How might you feel after waiting on the super-rich at a high-end restaurant, day in and day out? This might capture it.
  • I used to love the novel chip flavours that rotated through every season, but it barely registers with me now. Have you tried the temporary Lays series?
  • Mack and I finally stepped into Sante (10184 104 Street) this week, and found out that they sell Phil & Sebastian beans (dangerous for us). While we haven’t tried any of their food yet, here’s their menu.



  • I made a beeline for Pho Tau Bay on Tuesday, their first day open after their usual summer hiatus. I didn’t realize how much I missed their pho until the steaming bowl of noodles was placed in front of me.

Pho Tau Bay

My usual at Pho Tau Bay

  • I met up with a friend at Dovetail on Thursday night for a light supper before a stroll through the 124 Grand Market. Their corned beef was delicious!


Corned beef sandwich and samosas from Dovetail

  • After a day of canoeing down the North Saskatchewan, Mack and I were in no shape to cook on Saturday. Thankfully, Blue Plate Diner is stumbling distance away from our condo, and their shephard’s pie more than hit the spot.

Blue Plate Diner

Shephard’s pie and sweet potato fries from Blue Plate Diner

August 30th, 2015

Recap: Dinner at the Northlands Urban Farm for Alberta Open Farm Days

Although most of the events associated with Alberta Open Farm Days last weekend took place outside of Edmonton, there were still several opportunities to engage with agriculture within the city. Cindy recapped her visit to Horse Hill Berry Farm and Reclaim Urban Farm, while Mack and I were fortunate enough to be invited as guests to attend a dinner at the site of the Northlands Urban Farm.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Northlands Urban Farm

Lactuca, a local food producer, began as a backyard project, supplying restaurants and consumers at the 124 Grand Market. In 2014, in partnership with Northlands, Lactuca expanded their operations to a one acre site at 112 Avenue and 79 Street (about a 15 minute walk from the Stadium LRT station). This year, in conjunction with Alberta Open Farm Days, Northlands hosted a series of events to introduce the public to the urban farm, including tours, honey harvest demonstrations and cheese making workshops. The day concluded with the farm-to-table dinner.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Beautiful setting

It was a beautiful evening for an al fresco supper, and thankfully, given the dinner would have us traipsing through the gardens, it had been blessedly dry that weekend. Five food stations had been set up around the perimeter of the farm, and guests were invited to visit each on our own time to sample a total of eight dishes.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

At the farm

Short of a brief welcome and introduction of the chefs involved, nothing more formal took place. I recognize that the staff had just led several farm tours earlier that day, but I assume a majority of those attending the dinner hadn’t been a part of them. Because of this, I thought it was a missed opportunity for Northlands to provide more information about their relationship with Lactuca, Northlands’ philosophy on local food, or, in the context of the meal we were about to enjoy, highlights of the Alberta products they had utilized.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

On-site hives

This last point was particularly glaring when we visited the stations. It became painfully obvious that while some thought had been put into creating the diverse menu, many of the frontline staff serving the food and drink didn’t have the same awareness of the focus on local. They couldn’t answer questions about the products used, and weren’t confident on where they had been sourced. I’m optimistic that because this shift has been fairly recent (for example, the Northlands food truck, 1879, has committed to using 75% local ingredients, just hit the streets in July), staff engagement can only improve from here.

It is difficult to manage food quality in those makeshift outdoor kitchens, so as expected, some dishes were better than others. Our runaway favourite was the seared pickerel, with roasted cauliflower and broccoli, honey glazed carrots, crispy onions, bee pollen and corn shoots. The fish had been perfectly prepared, and the accompanying vegetables minimally cooked to emphasize their fresh quality.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Seared pickerel

Similarly, the DIY salad featured the breadth of our harvest bounty, including, of course, Lactuca’s own greens and vegetables.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

DIY salad platter

The hay-smoked chicken had promise, but was just too salty. The same could be said of the braised bacon, especially when coupled with a gouda crisp.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Hay smoked chicken

The marinated flank steak was more successful, served with salsa verde. But Mack remarked that the corn should have been left alone; its natural sweetness really didn’t need to be masked by mayo.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Braised bacon and marinated flank steak

I did enjoy the duo of desserts. The first was a smoked almond ice cream topped with grilled peaches, lavender and a lemon cake cookie.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Smoked almond ice cream with grilled peaches

The second was a mixed berry tart with maple sauce and Chantilly cream. I could have easily had another; it was summer in two bites.

Northlands Urban Farm Dinner

Mixed berry tart

I can appreciate that this was the first such dinner organized by Northlands, and if they decide to host it again next year, improvements could be made. The increase in urban agriculture projects should be celebrated with events like these so that more Edmontonians can learn about the potential we have to supply food within city limits. Northlands has the unique opportunity to make farm-to-table suppers a more frequent, accessible experience. I look forward to what they may have in store for us next year.

Thanks again to Northlands for inviting us to be a part of their inaugural farm dinner.

Check out Linda’s recap of the evening here.