July 2nd, 2015

Recap: What the Truck?! Brunch on the Boulevard

On June 10, 2015, What the Truck?! hosted its first brunch-themed event at Capital Boulevard.

What the Truck?! at Capital Boulevard

Brunch on the Boulevard

Fourteen vendors joined us for Brunch on the Boulevard, serving up inspired items ranging from breakfast pizza to banana bread French toast and Captain Crunch ice cream sandwiches.

What the Truck?! at Capital Boulevard

Canicus Catering’s breakfast pizza

The weather, while mostly cooperative, was overcast and windy at times. As a result, lines were minimal, and attendees enjoyed seamless access to most vendors – there’s definitely an incentive to coming out in spite of less than optimal conditions!

What the Truck?! at Capital Boulevard

Weather wasn’t a deterrent for these folks

It was great to have DJs Thomas Culture and Polyesterday on hand to create an upbeat, sunny atmosphere. They literally had some people dancing in the streets!

What the Truck?! at Capital Boulevard

DJ Thomas Culture

The Downtown Edmonton Community League and GFL also deserve shout-outs, given the sponsorships really helped us make the event a reality.

We had chosen the location primarily because we thought it was worth showcasing. Much has been invested to develop not only Capital Boulevard, but also the new Centennial Plaza and renovated Federal Building. In some ways, we were too ahead of the game – not all of the street’s infrastructure was ready (power, for instance), and the public art on the centre island planters are a year or two out.

What the Truck?! at Capital Boulevard

Capital Boulevard

As for the Plaza itself, the coloured fountains were being repaired, and the Visitor’s Centre was aiming to open in time for Canada Day. And because of antiquated policies relating to the use of the Legislative Grounds, we weren’t permitted to purposely use the Plaza (we couldn’t place seating or porta-potties on the Plaza, for example). Apparently there are folks working to change these rules, but we’ll see how soon the shifts can be made.

What the Truck?! at Capital Boulevard

Incidental use was permitted

It will also be interesting to see how other events end up programming the Boulevard in the future – with at least one parkade with its only entrance and exit fronting the Boulevard, multi-day festivals will have a challenge maintaining access. The centre planters also pose an additional difficulty, further reducing space for fire lanes. These were definitely elements we didn’t consider until trying to program the space ourselves; hopefully the City was aware of the limitations when designing the street.

If you missed the event, not to worry, our next What the Truck?! is just around the corner. We’ve had requests over the years for beer gardens, and while we’re not in a position to make that happen ourselves, we’ve partnered with someone who can.

What: What the Truck?!
Where: Northlands Park (7410 Borden Park Road NW, Edmonton, AB)
When: Friday, July 10, 2015
Time: 5-10pm
RSVP on Facebook!

We’re hosting a What the Truck?! at Northlands, in conjunction with Park After Dark. Ever curious about horse racing? Mack and I went a few years ago, and had a great time. On July 10, you’ll not only be able to catch some live horse racing and enjoy a cool drink on their patio, but you’ll also be able to sample from fifteen different trucks!

Check out the website on Friday for menus. Hope to see you there!

June 30th, 2015

Stories Behind the Chopsticks: Chinatown Food Crawl

I love the idea of food crawls – they’re not only a great way to meet other people, but they spotlight multiple establishments within walking distance of one another, thus promoting the neighborhood on a larger level. In the past, with the seemingly defunct Edmonton branch of Dishcrawl, the focus was on areas that were already mainstream – Downtown, Old Strathcona, 124 Street.  In some ways, the food crawl is a more powerful tool when wielded to expose people to quadrants less ventured. Two years ago, the North Edge Business Revitalization Zone (covering Queen Mary Park and Central McDougall, just north of the Arena District) did this with their Flavour Journey Restaurant Tours. Now, McCauley Revitalization has embraced the food tour with a series called Stories Behind the Chopsticks.

Led by Freya Fu, the tours have been a way for her to connect Edmontonians with an oft-overlooked neighbourhood: Chinatown. Plagued by a reputation of its high concentration of social services and housing, many dismiss Chinatown as unsafe and unwelcoming. Those who do miss out on the gems – food stores like Ying Fat tofu factory and Shan Shan Bakery, happening late night hot pot restaurants like 97 Hot Pot and Urban Shabu, or my personal favourite, pho joints like Pho Tau Bay and King Noodle House.

Freya established connections with several business owners in Chinatown to create four tours in May, each highlighting four restaurants. Two were open to the public, and the $35 tickets sold out in just a few days. I have to say I was initially disappointed that the public tours were held in the afternoon (I think much of the stigma Chinatown has to overcome relates to its evening economy), but I also recognize the need to work with the owners at a time convenient for their regular customer flow.

I had the pleasure of accompanying Freya on her May 30, 2015 tour as a volunteer. There were about two dozen people in the group who gathered at our first stop: Lee House (10704 97 Street). The second location of the southside Korean mainstay, proprietor Mrs. Lee shared that she had started the restaurant twenty-two years ago with her husband. She was clearly very proud of her scratch cooking, and her son shared that she was particularly excited about this branch because of its proximity to the Lucky 97 Supermarket across the street, allowing for easy access to fresh ingredients.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Mrs. Lee and her son, of Lee House

We were treated to a family-style feast, including bulgogi, japchae, chicken balls, and an assortment of pickled accompaniments. The japchae (stir fried sweet potato noodles) is a favourite of mine, and the Lee House version doesn’t disappoint.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Korean-style feast

Zen Sushi (10518 101 Street) was the second stop. I confessed that I had walked past the storefront on 101 Street countless times, but had never peeked inside.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Zen Sushi interior

Henry, the owner, grew up in the neighbourhood, and expressed his commitment to help grow and develop McCauley. He intends at some point in the future to start “Zen After Dark” where their usual all you can eat concept will be set aside in favour of a special ramen menu on Friday and Saturday nights. This would help drive foot traffic in the area and he hopes to make Zen a positive destination.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Making sushi

I’m not a sushi eater, so I didn’t partake in much at this stop. Zen also had some kinks to work out in their ordering system for a group our size, but I’m certain they would have streamlined it by the second crawl.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Travelling on foot

Next, we headed to the adjacent Golden Szechuan (10508 101 Street). Specializing in regional Szechuan cuisine (known for its unrelenting heat), we were served a beautifully plated sampling of dishes: shredded pork with Szechuan sauce, sliced beef tendon in spicy sauce, and my favourite, sliced fish in hot sauce.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Golden Szechuan sampling

It would have been ideal for the owners to provide more of an introduction to the cuisine, as I was certain many would have benefited from learning about what separates Szechuan cooking from other, more familiar, Chinese styles.

Before dessert, we made a quick stop at Ruby’s Bakery (10642 98 Street) to pick up some treats.

Chinatown Food Crawl

How many people can fit inside Ruby’s Bakery?

Offering Hong Kong-style baked goods, including elaborate wedding cakes, it was difficult to ignore the wafting aromas of freshly made sweets. The coconut tarts were such a hit that some tourgoers ended up purchasing more to take home.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Coconut tart and tulip cake

With our to-go boxes in hand, we ambled next door to Tea Bar Café (10640 98 Street), one of several Chinatown establishments serving up bubble tea. An alternative to coffee shops, the blended fruit-based drinks with tapioca pearls proved to be a refreshing way to end our journey. Similar to Golden Szechuan, I would have appreciated some more information from the owner about the history of bubble tea.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Mango bubble tea

Overall, from conversations with participants, most had never been to any of the establishments prior to the tour. Many said they would return on their own, now knowing what to expect. Freya had the ingenious idea to distribute a coupon book offering deals to each of the businesses, which will hopefully further encourage repeat visits.

Thanks again to Freya for the opportunity to join her on the tour! And if you missed it, you’re in luck – due to popular demand, a second tour, featuring different restaurants, is taking place on July 15, 2015 at 6:30pm. The link to the tickets will go live on July 2 at 7am.

June 29th, 2015

Food Notes for June 29, 2015

  • The Green and Gold Garden, which raises funds for charitable projects based in Rwanda, is into its seventh year. Located at the U of A South Campus, it opens to the public on June 30, 2015, and will be open the remainder of the summer on Tuesday evenings and Saturdays.
  • Staff Meal is back! Their first event of the summer is a stand-up 4-course tasting on July 6, 2015 at Get Cooking. Tickets are $60.
  • Did you want to learn more about Ramadan? Al Rashid Mosque is hosting a family-friendly Taste of Ramadan on July 10, 2015, from 6:30-9:30pm at Centennial Plaza. Yes, there will be food!
  • Ikki, Edmonton’s newest izakaya at 11931 Jasper Avenue, opens on July 18, 2015 at 6pm.
  • Need a way to keep cool during this heat wave? One of Edmonton’s newest food trucks is Scoop n Roll, which serves up rolled ice cream (yes, you read that correctly). Check their social media for updates on their location.
  • New restaurant alert – Workshop Eatery, which will feature rooftop beehives, looks like an exciting concept to keep an eye on!
  • Prairie Noodle hosted its final ramen pop-up last week – Diane and Cindy recapped what you missed. But don’t worry – the organizers are working on moving into a permanent storefront on 124 Street.
  • Liane covered the SalvagED pop-up lunch at Earth’s General Store last Friday featuring reclaimed ingredients donated from local farms. Their next pop-up is slated for Friday, July 24.
  • I had to laugh at Liane’s headline for her story that Col. Mustard’s Canteen on 124 Street won’t be returning: Col. Mustard, killed in the kitchen, with a sewer pipe. The owners will be rebuilding on the land, however, and hope to have a restaurant move in.
  • K-Days released their annual list of indulgent food to look forward to. Midway treats will include lobster corndogs, glazed donut grilled cheese (I’d try that, yes), and mini-donut popsicles.
  • Congratulations to Teresa and the rest of her team ahead of the grand opening of their first Italian Centre in Calgary on July 2, 2015. The location features Western Canada’s largest deli, offering over 600 items. It is located at 9919 Fairmount Drive SE.
  • Speaking of neighbours to the south, Gasoline Alley in Red Deer is also home to a branch of Pete’s Drive-in.
  • There’s been a lot of debate about the Canada Food Guide. Two Global reporters followed it for a week and shared the experience and challenges. For something completely different, take a look at Brazil’s “guide”, which is simply a series of ten best practices.
  • Given Edmonton will be home to a Whole Foods soon, buyer beware: investigators have found that Whole Foods stores in New York and California have routinely overcharged customers by mislabeling packages.
  • Mack and I headed to Tzin this week to celebrate my birthday. As always, we were floored by their hospitality, and the food was wonderful. Thanks to Kelsey and Corey for a great night!

Tzin

An off-menu seared tuna – looked and tasted like art

Tzin

Tzin’s bacon – the best two bites in Edmonton

June 27th, 2015

Tailor-Made Pizzas: Urbano Pizza Co.

Although there is no question downtown Edmonton is blessed with its share of top-notch restaurants, there is definitely still room for more independent quick-serve options. That’s one of the reasons why I was happy to hear that Urbano Pizza Co. was moving into the neighbourhood, offering up another fast, casual alternative.

Urbano Pizza Co.

Interior

Urbano completes the trifecta of restaurants built by Christian Mena and Lino Oliviera, rooted into the Boardwalk with their adjacent establishments Sabor Divino and Bodega Tapas and Wine Bar. Urbano was not only inspired by the pizza trend in the U.S., but also a family-driven need to accommodate dietary restrictions. The concept allows for a completely customizable pie, factoring in the needs of celiacs, vegetarians and vegans.

Urbano Pizza Co.

Topping bar

Their investment in TurboChef ovens also help propel another selling feature of Urbano – speed. Freshly-prepared pizzas can be fired in 90-120 seconds, a new record in the city, and one that will not only make them a popular lunch destination but also, when the arena opens next year, a probable pre-game stop for many.

Last Thursday, too lazy to cook, Mack and I visited Urbano for dinner. While the handful of patio seats were taken, there was only one other party inside. I’m sure the word is still travelling about Edmonton’s newest pizzeria.

The former health food store has been transformed into a modern space, with pops of red accenting the mostly neutral colour palate. To emphasize the made-to-order nature of Urbano, the front counter is not unlike that of quick-serve sandwich joints, visually showcasing available ingredients. The ovens are front and centre, and allow customers to actually see the pizza baking in front of their eyes.

Urbano Pizza Co.

TurboChef ovens

That day, surveying our six pre-designed signature options, Mack and I settled on the bacon & eggs ($11.95) and Piri squared ($11.95). Customizable pizzas start at $11.95, and Urbano also serves salad and gelato (something that will be handy if the scorching temperatures continue).

After ordering, we had a seat, and the pizzas were brought to us (we didn’t time it, but it was pretty quick). The crust was very thin and crispy for the most part. The width also lent the pizza an overall quality of lightness, so would be attractive for those seeking a lighter meal.

Urbano Pizza Co.

Crust

Mack was impressed that his pizza actually had poached eggs on top that hadn’t been overcooked. Alongside back bacon, Caciocavallo cheese, and onion jam, Mack always enjoys breakfast-inspired concoctions for dinner, but didn’t find it particularly special.

Urbano Pizza Co.

Bacon & eggs pizza

The Piri squared featured some ingredients I haven’t had before on a pizza – piri-piri chicken, Portuguese chorizo, Limiano cheese, fire roasted red pepper sauce, shoestring potatoes and pickled vegetables. While I wouldn’t say they all complemented one another, it was nice to see a flavour connection to its sister restaurants.

Urbano Pizza Co.

Piri squared pizza

Service was friendly, and as mentioned before, efficient. Only time will tell if Urbano as a concept will take off, but given the near-universal love of pizza, it may one day stand as an example of adaptable fast food that doesn’t compromise quality.

Urbano Pizza Co.
110, 10220 103 Street
(780) 705-1885
Monday-Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm, closed Sundays

June 22nd, 2015

Food Notes for June 22, 2015

June has dwindled so quickly I’m afraid the rest of the summer will go by equally fast. I guess that’s why we should all make the most of it – hope you’re enjoying all Edmonton has to offer! On to this week’s food notes:

  • A unique pop-up, to be sure: SalvagED will combine the talents of Get Cooking Chef Eric Hanson and Mercury Room Chefs to  prepare food using ingredients that would have otherwise been discarded. Check it out at Earth’s General Store downtown on June 26, 2015 from 11am-2pm.
  • Little Italy is hosting a street festival in conjunction with the Women’s World Cup called Kick It Up on June 27, 2015, from 10am-9pm. There will be food, games, and a street dance party!
  • Robert Rogers’ popular river valley medicinal plant walks are taking place in July and August. For $50, learn all of the natural remedies available in our own backyard.
  • 124 Street Grand Market is again partnering with Taste Alberta to produce a series of farm tours that will provide a peek into some of your favourite (or soon-to-be-favourite) local producers. The July 10, 2015 tours will end with a catered lunch prepared by Chef Daniel Costa. Tickets are $90 for adults.
  • New Korean restaurant alert: Daorae (9334 – 34 Avenue).
  • La Mademoiselle Bakery is new to the Oliver neighbourhood, having just opened last week. They took over the space formerly occupied by Fresh Cafe at 10038 116 Street.
  • Cindy paid a visit to Barking Buffalo Café (10842 124 Street), one of Edmonton’s newest cafes, tucked in a space alongside Salgado Fenwick’s latest collections.
  • Liane has more information about the mobile coffee cart, Nomad Espresso, coming to a caffiene-starved place near you.
  • Massimo’s, the restaurant next to the southside Italian Centre, won’t be returning. Instead, the space will be used as a commissary to prepare take-away meals.
  • Can you believe it? Phil’s come to the end of his Pizza Odyssey, concluding with a battle between Rosso and Packrat Louie.
  • Hurrah for Rostizado, the latest local restaurant to be featured on You Gotta Eat Here. Filming will take place in July.
  • I love that Jacek is partnering with other local businesses for their chocolate – with their Credo bar (which in taste reminds me of the Kerstin’s/Transcend Chocophilia), and their beer-infused collection for Father’s Day.
  • Speaking of Alley Kat, congratulations to the homegrown brewery, who just celebrated their twentieth anniversary.
  • Do you think the green onion cake should be considered Edmonton’s official dish? There’s a petition for that.
  • Taste of Edmonton tickets are already on pre-sale – get them for 20% off until July 15, 2015.
  • Who doesn’t love photos of food? Curtis Comeau will be releasing an exhibit called “Off the Menu”, documenting the diversity of Edmonton’s food scene. Check it out at the Shaw Conference Centre from July 15 – August 16, 2015.
  • Feeling stressed? Then reach for fermented or pickled foods – they might make you feel less anxious, according to a recent study.
  • There’s finally something going into the base of the old farmers’ market building on 97 Street.

Cafe Massawa

Massawa Café & Bistro

  • Mack and I took in the China vs. Cameroon game on Saturday. Our late arrival meant we missed the flash downpour, but we also didn’t get to see the lone goal in the game. Still, it was an exciting match to watch alongside fervent fans.

FIFAWWC

Commonwealth Stadium

  • On Sunday afternoon, Mack and I took a leisurely stroll across the river and down through Mill Creek. Along the way, we encountered the “Save the Footbridge” pop-up (why aren’t bridges more often used as musical venues?). We stopped at Wild Earth Bakery, which was a welcome rest stop.

Cloverdale Footbridge

Cloverdale Footbridge

Mill Creek Ravine

Mill Creek Ravine

Wild Earth Bakery

Wild Earth Bakery

  • For Father’s Day, my Dad chose Co Do Hue (12819 140 Avenue), a restaurant that serves up his favourite bun bo Hue in the city. It was a little on the spicy side for me, I have to admit.

Co Do Hue

Bun bo Hue from Co Do Hue

June 21st, 2015

Boston Travels 2015

I’ve been so behind on my travel posts I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll never catch up. But writing about my trip to Boston in April with my sister Amanda is a start for me!

The decision to vacation in Boston was actually one of elimination. Amanda was finishing up her training in Toronto, so we decided to book what would be a short-haul flight for her. We’d both been to New York before, she’d been to Detroit recently, and Chicago was a place Mack forbid me to visit without him. So Boston it was, and with the promise of the Bruins and the Celtics making it to the post-season, we were optimistic that we could include some playoff action during the trip.

View from Home

View from the rooftop deck of our AirBnB rental

Although only one of two teams would end up qualifying for the first round, we ended up with plenty to do outside of the city’s athletic achievements.

Boston’s connection to the American Revolution seems to be one of the main tourism draws. We ended up on a Freedom Trail tour led by a costumed interpreter. “Isaiah Thomas” was in his fifth season with the company, and his enthusiasm for history showed.

With Isaiah Thomas

With Isaiah Thomas

The tour was informative and entertaining, with corny jokes woven throughout (Beantown Pub, across from the Old Granary Burial Ground, is the “only place you can have a cold Sam Adams while looking at…a cold Sam Adams”). The Americans on the tour definitely had a better grasp of the characters involved, but it gave us a good foundation to better appreciate the sites.

Old Granary Burial Ground

Old Granary Burial Ground

One of those sites was Boston Common, a green space near the State House that reminded me of The Mall in Central Park. The Common was an area set aside by the Puritans for the shared use of all. The playground was overrun with children that day, and on a less chilly day, I’m sure the adjacent wading pond would be equally full. It was a great centrally-accessible, family-friendly space that we could definitely see more of in Edmonton.

Boston Common

Boston Common

On the other side of Boston Common lay the country’s oldest botanical gardens. We braved the spring chill to take a ride in the pedal-powered swan boats and snapped a picture with the famous Make Way for the Ducklings bronze sculpture.

Swan Boats

Swan boats

Here Come the Ducklings

With the Ducklings!

Faneuil Hall, a legacy building for a wealthy merchant, was a touristy disappointment, though I am glad we sought out the adjacent Haymarket.

Haymarket

Haymarket

Far from a farmers’ market, the vendors hawked discounted produce from wholesalers needing to make room for new shipments. There was also limited seafood to be had.

Haymarket

Seafood options

The low prices were likely the reason the set-up of the merchants was so poor; tent poles restricting right of way, narrow thoroughfares not meant for large crowds.

Haymarket

Haymarket produce

We couldn’t get enough of Boston’s wide sidewalks, blossoming trees and brick and stone buildings.

Beacon Hill

Bricks and blooms

Beacon Hill was Amanda’s favourite neighbourhood, with its quaint streets and boutiques (it was also the home of, in our opinion, the best location of Second Time Around, a well-curated consignment store with multiple branches in the Boston area). I will say Boston’s lack of a grid system of streets was confusing to navigate; our first night was full of wrong turns and frustrations. I will also note that Bostonians, although friendly, were not the best at giving directions – we were sent the wrong way three times.

Beacon Hill

Too quaint Beacon Hill

Outside of Boston, we explored Cambridge for the better part of a day.

Cambridge

Bustling Cambridge Square

Cambridge

Honour system book sales were scattered around the area

The student-led Harvard tour was the highlight, with historic facts of the storied school intertwined with the guide’s personal anecdotes.

Harvard Tour

Our tour guide, Bobby, in the red sweater

Among other things, we learned that The Social Network was, in fact, not filmed on campus (productions have been officially banned since the 1970s), and that most students receive an average of $42,000 in financial aid.

Harvard Tour

Memorial Church

Harvard Tour

With “John Harvard”

The JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Columbia Point was also a destination for us.

JFK Presidential Museum & Library

JFK Presidential Library and Museum

The site itself was worth a visit, with a view of the Boston skyline, and a gorgeous atrium emblematic of hope and optimism.

JFK Presidential Museum & Library

Stunning atrium

But the exhibits were interesting too, outlining Kennedy’s Presidential campaign, his years in office (with a focus on the Cuban Missile Crisis) and Jacqueline Kennedy’s contributions to the preservation of White House history. A particularly intriguing annotated guest list by Ms. Kennedy for a dinner honouring the French Minister of Culture included the scratched out names of Mr. & Mrs. Irving Berlin, for not being “avant-garde enough”.

JFK Presidential Museum & Library

I loved the “If I were 21, I’d vote for Kennedy” pins

As mentioned, sports factored into our itinerary. Game 4 of the Cavaliers vs. the Celtics was the first live NBA playoff game for both Amanda and I, and though neither of us can claim to be big Celtics fans, we relished the opportunity to watch King James in person (his no-look pass in the first quarter was a sight to see). Unfortunately for the home fans, the Celtics were outmatched, and the Cavs completed the sweep.

Cavs vs. Celtics

The view from the nosebleeds

We both looked forward to joining our fellow Canadians at Fenway, to watch the Blue Jays take on the home team.

Fenway Park

At Fenway!

The Red Sox are a religion in Boston, and it was amazing to see the surrounding streets of America’s oldest ball park come alive on game day (parking, if you were wondering, runs up to $50). Streetside vendors, program hawkers, and bustling patios created an atmosphere other cities would envy.

Fenway Park

Yawkey Way

The Jays ended up losing that night (6-5 on a 9th inning RBI), and the windchill was fierce, but we had a blast. I couldn’t wait for the eighth inning rendition of “Sweet Caroline”, and I wasn’t disappointed. I loved how the players just went about their business while the crowd was singing along.

What of the food, you ask? Amanda was sidelined with the stomach flu upon arrival to Boston, which somewhat limited our dining choices, at least initially. She was a trooper though, and we still managed to sample a variety of what Boston had to offer.

Food was a gateway into some of Boston’s neighbourhoods. Eater’s recommendation of Taiwan Café provided a reason to visit Chinatown, which, not unlike other Chinatowns in North America, had busy eateries but deserted streets after dark. Taiwan Café was packed mostly with college students, and offered cheap and tasty xiao long bao.

Taiwan Cafe

XLB from Taiwan Cafe

Our student Harvard guide had recommended a few North End establishments for us. Gennaro’s ended up being a let-down, with so-so food and no atmosphere to speak of (it was difficult to have any conversation while being watched by the host next to our table).

Gennaro's

Passable carbonara from Gennaro’s

Café Vittoria, in operation since 1929, was a better recommendation, serving up delicious lattes and gelato in and amongst antique espresso machines and a soundtrack from the 50’s.

Cafe Vittoria

Sustenance at Café Vittoria

Mike’s Pastry was referred to us as a touristy destination worth skipping, but we’re glad we stopped by, even just to soak up the atmosphere of a North End institution.

Mike's Pastry

Mike’s Pastry

Our lone brunch was had in Cambridge at the sister restaurant of a popular music venue. The Sinclair had a great vibe, and my favourite dining room of the trip, with large common tables and an industrial-chic aesthetic. The meat half of my chicken and waffle dish was great, but the waffle tasted a day-old.

The Sinclair

The Sinclair

The Sinclair

Chicken and waffles

For lunch after our Harvard tour, we sought out a tourist favourite, Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, with politically incorrect names for all of their creations (for example, “the MBTA – Mass Broken Transit Authority”, referencing the disastrous February full of delays for beleaguered commuters). It was a place I knew Mack would love, with burgers cooked to preference and a haphazard décor cobbling together years of random additions.

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage

At Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage

It was also a restaurant that had been “grandfathered in” so it was permitted to operate without a customer restroom, something we had never encountered before.

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage

Medium rare(!) burger

Mei Mei, a brick and mortar restaurant borne from a successful food truck, was a bit of a disappointment. Selling its fusion dishes, we found that the Asian influences were just too subtle.

Mei Mei

Pierogi dumplings from Mei Mei

Amanda was strong enough to brave seafood towards the end of our trip, so we visited the local chain Legal Sea Foods in Copley Place. I really enjoyed the New England clam chowder, and their tempura take on fish and chips wasn’t bad either.

Legal Sea Foods

Great clam chowder from Legal Sea Foods

Our favourite meal was easily Sweet Cheeks Q, a barbecue joint opened up by Top Chef alum Tiffany Faison. The interior had the perfect worn-in feel, if staged, and the food spoke for itself. The biscuits, served with a compound butter, were the best thing I ate in Boston.

Sweet Cheeks Q

Still dreaming of these biscuits

The lunch tray, with Heritage pulled pork and mac ‘n’ cheese, was no slouch either. And though the service had been great in Boston as a whole, Sweet Cheeks topped the list with their genuine and attentive staff. I almost wished we had eaten here earlier on in the trip so we could double back.

Sweet Cheeks Q

Pulled pork lunch tray

I’m not sure I will revisit Boston again (Chicago is up next!), but we had a nice time there. Like any large metropolis, there’s something for everyone, though I’d recommend at least taking in a Red Sox game if you’re visiting during the season.

June 16th, 2015

Food Notes for June 16, 2015

I was a little under the weather yesterday, so couldn’t get to my notes until today. Lots to catch up on:

  • Don’t want to fight the crowds at Porkapalooza this weekend? Solstice is hosting a “backlot bbq” on June 21, 2015 with a pig roast and drinks.
  • Get your computers ready: the Prairie Noodle Shop’s last pop-up is taking place on June 27, 2015 at NAIT. Seats will be released on June 20 at 1pm.
  • I love the idea of the Sunset Soiree on July 5, 2015 – dinner and a movie outside on the beautiful La Cite Francophone grounds. Tickets are $22 for adults, and include a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres.
  • It looks like an izakaya has taken over Jono’s Bar in the Illuminada Building (11931 Jasper Avenue). Looking forward to the opening of Ikki.
  • We could have used a coffee vending cart at our brunch What the Truck?! this weekend, but better late than never – great to see Nomad Espresso is going to make great coffee available in unexpected places. Check them out at the Drawing Room (10253 97 Street) the rest of the week from 8am-4pm.
  • Evonne reviews the newest Thai option in Strathcona County – Sawaddee (664 Wye Road).
  • Stephanie visited Brooklyn Tomato in their new location at 2920 Calgary Trail.
  • The Journal reviewed The Black Pearl, the new seafood restaurant downtown opened by the family behind Café Amore.
  • Cindy’s love of ramen took her to North 53’s recent ramen pop-up.
  • If you didn’t attend Indulgence this year (as I did not), Andrea and Cindy captured what we missed.
  • Great to hear that Battista’s Calzones is the latest local restaurant to be featured on Food Network Canada’s You Gotta Eat Here.
  • Ever consider making your own croissants from scratch? Then Lillian’s croissant bake-off post is a must-read – she and a few friends tested four different recipes, including the one from Duchess.
  • Ramen seems to be increasing in popularity in Edmonton, but I’m not sure we’ll ever have the opportunity to have baths in ramen broth, as they do in Japan.
  • I met up with some friends earlier last week at Gui Lin Noodle House (10626 97 Street). If you love preserved vegetables, this is the place to go – the flavours imbue the broth. We also found the portions to be huge and the service unassuming but friendly.

Gui Lin Noodle House

BBQ pork with vermicelli in soup, Gui Lin style

  • Our large team of staff descended on Padmanadi for lunch on Wednesday, and it always amazes me how well they handle big groups – all orders were correct and the food was fast. Bravo.

Padmanadi

Ginger beef at Padmanadi

  • A cancelled Pecha Kucha meant an excuse to linger at Tres Carnales with Annie on Thursday. It’s been too long since I’ve had their fish tacos.

Tres Carnales

Pescado tacos Tres Carnales

  • Mack bought me an early birthday present in the form of tickets to Ed Sheeran’s concert. He was amazing, only backed up on stage by his loop pedal. Thanks, Mack!

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran at Rexall Place

June 8th, 2015

Food Notes for June 8, 2015

  • Our next What the Truck?! is coming up this Sunday, June 14 at Capital Boulevard (108 Street & 99 Avenue) from 11am-3pm. And it’s brunch themed! Check out the menus tomorrow.
  • The third Edmonton Food Fight that took place tonight may have sold out, but the fourth is free – check out the battle between Chef Andrew Cowan of Packrat Louie and chef Eric Hanson of Get Cooking at Porkapalooza on June 20, 2015.
  • The second annual edition of Baconfest is taking place on June 30, 2015 in the lobby and grounds of the Jubilee Auditorium. Tickets are $55 and include all food and drink samples.
  • Urbano Pizza Co., the third restaurant operated by the proprietors of Sabor Divino and Bodega, opened on Friday. It is located on the Boardwalk at 10220 103 Street.
  • Is pizza the new burger? Buco is the newest in the Sorrentino’s family, with a location in St. Albert opening soon.
  • There’s another Browns Socialhouse in Edmonton already, located at 2, 1010 Webber Green Drive.
  • Sailin’ On is taking over the menu at The Buckingham on Whyte, adding another vegan-friendly bar to the list that starts with Arcadia.
  • In honour of the FIFA World Cup, a few Edmonton restaurants and bars have created themed dishes and drinks to celebrate.
  • Cindy shared her experience sampling the menu at Sofra’s underground Cellar (10345 106 Street).
  • Twyla is the latest to review NongBu.
  • I loved Liane’s article about diners – there’s just something about comfort food! It also reminded me that I should get out to The Downtown Diner before their feature on the Food Network airs.
  • It was so neat to be able to see the Rush take the NLL Championship on Friday. Here’s hoping the team sticks around.

The Rush

The Rush win the Cup!

  • Café Amore has an underrated patio – so much so that for most of our meal last Wednesday night, we were left alone to enjoy it.

Cafe Amore

My favourite truffle chicken pasta

  • Melina and Nathan had a gorgeous dessert bar at their wedding this weekend, furnished by The Art of Cake.

Dessert Bar

Fabulous dessert bar

June 1st, 2015

Food Notes for June 1, 2015

  • The Edmonton Craft Beer Festival runs this weekend, June 5-6, 2015.
  • Latitude 53’s patio series kicks off next week on June 11, 2015.
  • The Mac is already looking forward to their Canada Day celebrations, inviting revelers to enjoy their fabulous patio on July 1, 2015.
  • Mark your calendar – the annual Savour Strathcona County event will be taking place on July 5, 2015. It’ll be an opportunity to sample from 17 different restaurants and food trucks.
  • Everything’s coming up St. Albert, it seems – Liane shared the big news that Nineteen will have a second location in the former Hole’s Greenhouse.
  • Tracy shared that Urbano Pizza (10220 103 Street), operated by the folks behind neighbouring Sabour Divino and Bodega, should be open in mid-June.
  • More sandwiches, anyone? Calgary’s Chiachi’s Sandwiches is opening up in West Edmonton Mall this summer. They’re aiming to be ready mid-August.
  • Some may be familiar with South Street Burger from their Cross Iron Mills location in Southern Alberta, but it’ll be closer to home when a branch opens up at 127 Avenue and 153 Street.
  • Summerside residents can look forward to Cured Wine Bar (2307 Ellwood Drive), shooting for a summer opening as well. Cindy’s on top of all of the new places to look for!
  • Phil’s latest Pizza Odyssey is a triple-header, featuring Capital Pizza, Chicago Deep Dish and Versatos.
  • Vue has a great profile on Upson’s Cordials, a locally-made beverage option perfect for summer cocktails.
  • Sayonara, Urban Spoon – Zomato has taken over the brand it purchased, changing the review system, among other things.
  • It looks like the Chinatown location of Wong Jung Gak has closed (10023 107 Avenue). In its place, It’ All (which must be related to It’ Dog somehow) is poised to open as a “well being Korean buffet and Japanese all you can eat”. I have to say I’ve never seen gluttony associated with health, but hey, why not?

It' All

It’ All

  • It was an honour to be recognized as a “True Friend of McCauley” on Saturday, alongside Maria and Roxanne, my Chinatown Night Market co-organizers. It was humbling to be included on a list with some of Edmonton’s prominent social justice advocates and long-time community volunteers. Thanks again to Jane for the acknowledgement.

True Friends of McCauley

A True Friend of McCauley!

  • Because of the damage done by last year’s hail storms and this year’s dry spring, Edgar Farms has decided to stop picking their early. So there are only two more weeks to enjoy their amazing asparagus – make sure to get to Strathcona or the City Market soon!

Edgar Farms

Asparagus will make it into many of our meals this week…

  • To mark the end of a long day, Mack and I headed over to Parlour on Thursday for an old favourite pizza (the Gamberi) and tried a new favourite (the Sonny Boy, with soppressata and mushrooms).

Parlour

Double header at The Parlour

  • On Sunday, Mack and I helped Gramdma Male celebrate her birthday with brunch at Canteen. It was the best dish I’ve had at Canteen – milk-braised turkey, egg, crispy onions and gravy over thick-cut toast. Delicious.

Canteen

Milk-braised turkey, egg, crispy onions and gravy over thick-cut toast at Canteen

May 30th, 2015

Recap: What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

We were overwhelmed with the turnout at our first What the Truck?! of the season, which took place at Churchill Square last Saturday.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Although we knew we’d have record crowds given our Facebook event had swelled to over 12,000 RSVPs in the weeks leading up to May 23, 2015, the perfect weather conditions put us over the edge.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

It was obvious we attracted many first-time What the Truck?! attendees that day, some shocked at the frenzy surrounding food trucks. But for the most part, we saw Edmontonians celebrating the chance to be outdoors, enjoying some of the city’s best mobile food purveyors.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Given the circumstances, I was so proud of the trucks for serving a crowd we estimated to be 8,000 strong. It was a great team effort between veteran trucks like Bully (who, for the first time ever, sold out of food) and those new to What the Truck?!.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

This may have been the tipping point for food trucks in Edmonton, and to help manage future turnouts, our volunteer committee will be doing our best to promote positive experiences at our events. For instance, we’ve started to bandy about the idea of a multi-day opening for next year, given our spring gathering has consistently been the busiest day in our festival calendar.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

In our fifth year, it’s already become difficult to find suitable and accessible spaces that can accommodate us. One of our guiding principles has been to highlight the roaming nature of food trucks by shifting through different areas in the city, and consequently, hopefully encouraging exploration of adjacent businesses, parks or neighbourhood features. This will become more and more challenging with the festival’s success, but I’m optimistic that we can find a way to stay true to our roots.

Thanks to those who came out to our first event – you’ve showed us that the love of food trucks is alive and well in Edmonton! If you haven’t already, mark your calendars for our next event – Brunch on the Boulevard – taking place on Sunday, June 14, from 11am-3pm at 108 Street and 99 Avenue. Hope to see you there!