October 1st, 2017

Recap: Salz Sausage and Beer Pop-up

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

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

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

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

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

Salz Pop-up at District

Pretzel and honey mustard

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

Salz Pop-up at District

Sausage plate

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

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

Salz Pop-up at District

Apple strudel

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

Salz
10556 115 Street

September 27th, 2017

Pan-Canadian Cuisine with a View: The Butternut Tree

Ten years ago, before Mack and I moved downtown, I worked in Grandin in the building now known as The Ledgeview. The quaint and quiet neighbourhood was just far enough from the hustle and bustle of Jasper Avenue and the more commercial aspects of the core that it felt like its own cocoon. That said, the residential component and draw of Ezio Faraone Park always meant feet on the street, and I always felt safe heading home late in the day.

Now, our evening walks from 104 Street often take us through Grandin, on the multi-use trails or down into the valley. But while much has changed in the areas surrounding the neighbourhood, including new residential developments, additional infrastructure, and more retail outlets, Grandin itself has remained relatively untouched. With the exception of The Hendrix (a rental building), the static nature has preserved the tranquil feel of the community. This may be one of the reasons why one of its most pristine restaurant spaces has also been the most difficult to crack.

A decade back, The Copper Pot was a familiar, albeit understated fixture of the dining scene. The expansive windows overlooking the park ensured it had one of the best views a restaurant could offer, but the downside was its somewhat hidden location; it had to be sought out. They seemed to do fine accommodating the government and business lunch crowd, but evenings were tougher. I had my share of meals there, but the view always trumped the food. When they closed in 2012, I was hopeful a new tenant might bridge that gap. Successive tenants Antonio’s and The Phork came and went, and the space sat vacant for several years while the building itself was upgraded. To be successful, it seemed that the newcomer would have to become a destination – walk-up traffic is minimal, and while the actual distance to entertainment in the Ice or Arts Districts is not daunting, it’s just far enough to make the location a challenge.

Over the summer, it was announced that The Butternut Tree was due to open in that space in September. Helmed by Chef Scott Downey, originally from St. Albert but having gained experience in Vancouver, New York, and Denmark, would The Butternut Tree have the right formula to draw a crowd?

Mack and I were fortunate enough to be among those invited for a media preview last week. The interior has been completely overhauled; the room has been opened up, with views of Ezio Faraone Park on one side, and the open kitchen on the other. The muted grey and brown tones ensure the visual focus is external, and on the food at hand. We were seated with a few fellow food bloggers in a windowed private room with clear views of the Legislature.

The Butternut Tree

Interior

The website addresses the origin of the restaurant’s namesake, stemming from Chef Downey’s memory of a butternut tree in his grandmother’s backyard in New Brunswick. The tree symbolizes the variety of Canadian ingredients available, some of which are celebrated in Chef Downey’s pan-Canadian menu.

The Butternut Tree

Chef Scott Downey

For now, The Butternut Tree is only open for dinner, but they are considering brunch and lunch once they’ve firmed up their systems. We were permitted to order an appetizer, entree, and dessert from the regular dinner menu. Given the size of our group, our table ended up trying most of the dishes, resulting in consensus favourites.

Mack’s broccoli appetizer ($16) was easily the most unique dish on the menu. I’m a sucker for charred broccoli, so I immediately knew this was right up my alley, while Mack was tempted by the pork belly. Complemented with a perfectly prepared soft boiled duck egg spectacularly coated in a leek ash, the silky yolk brought everything together.

The Butternut Tree

Broccoli with pork belly, soft boiled duck egg, pickled garlic scapes, cereal grains

I chose the grilled bannock ($14), a vegetarian option featuring disks of flatbread with wild mushrooms, berries, winged kelp, and pumpkin seed. This was a much more shareable two-bite appetizer, with the kitchen showing a deft skill in extracting maximum flavour from the mushrooms.

The Butternut Tree

Grilled bannock with wild mushrooms, berries, winged kelp, pumpkin seed

The Haida Gwaii halibut ($38) was pretty popular around the table. The substantial portion of fish was paired with a squash ragout, parsley onion pesto, braised leek, and lobster mushroom. The halibut was very well prepared, as again were the mushrooms.

The Butternut Tree

Haida Gwaii halibut with squash ragout, parsley onion pesto, braised leek, lobster mushroom

Mack’s Bentley bison duo ($44) was the most expensive item on the menu, but the kitchen ensured the protein was showcased well. The tenderloin was cooked to medium rare, while the shortrib was fork tender. The accompanying lentil, carrot, and cauliflower were fine, albeit inconspicuous plate mates.

The Butternut Tree

Bentley bison duo with lentil, carrot, cauliflower and Saskatoon berry jus

For dessert, the overwhelming favourite was the plum ($10), served with milk ice cream, honey meringue, and oat crumble. It was full of contrasting textures and comfort, and was light enough to not weigh the diner down.

The Butternut Tree

Plum with milk ice cream, honey meringue, oat crumble

I ordered the ployes cake ($12), made from a buckwheat-based batter served up like a short stack of pancakes. It was topped with maple butter, Alberta Rose, and berries. The cake was very dense, and though I didn’t find it overly sweet, the richness meant a few bites were enough to satisfy me after the preceding dishes. 

The Butternut Tree

Ployes cake with maple butter, Alberta Rose, berries

There is no doubt The Butternut Tree makes a great first impression – the panoramic views will translate well for those celebrating a special occasion, wooing business associates, or having a fine night out. The menu also features enough familiarity to keep a wide swath of diners of happy, but with a few surprises to interest more exploratory eaters. Still, only time will tell if a chef returning to his local roots will make a splash big enough to overcome the inherent challenges of the restaurant’s location.

I wish Chef Downey and his team the best of luck – thanks again to The Butternut Tree and Bonafide Media for organizing a great evening! For alternate perspectives on the evening, read Cindy and Crystal’s recaps.

The Butternut Tree
101, 9707 110 Street (The Ledgeview)
(780) 760-2271
Tuesday – Sunday 5pm-midnight, closed Mondays

September 25th, 2017

Food Notes for September 25, 2017

  • Oktoberfest returns to the Northlands Expo Centre on September 29-30, 2017, with local craft and Bavarian beer on tap.
  • Get ready – the City Market moves indoors to City Hall on October 14, 2017. The first 200 customers through the door that day will receive $5 in market bucks to spend.
  • The Avenue Burger Challenge has continued and is currently accepting votes to determine the final two competitors. Voting for round five closes October 2, 2017.
  • Mayday Dogs has finally confirmed their opening date to be October 4, 2017, just in time for the first regular season Oilers home game.
  • Liane shared that the folks behind North 53 and Baijiu are opening not one, but two bars on 104 Street – one just inside Baijiu and another adjacent to Blue Plate Diner.
  • Town Square Brewing is holding a soft opening phase to collect early feedback – check them out for lunch.
  • It looks like Bean Here, the cafe that replaced Rogue Wave at 10571A 114 Street is now open!
  • Kiwado Japanese Cuisine is now open in the space formerly occupied by Sapporo Sushi at 10923 101 Street.
  • The Nook Cafe will be hosting a grand opening celebration September 28-30, 2017.
  • Earth’s General Store’s downtown location will be open until October 8, 2017.
  • Phil reports that Pitaghetti is no more, and will soon be replaced by another restaurant.
  • CBC, the Journal and Sharon all positively reviewed Old Strathcona’s Avila Arepa last week, but it’s worth noting there is a second lower-profile Venezuelan restaurant in Edmonton on 118 Avenue called El Fogon.
  • Vue Weekly profiles the operators and food at Nonna’s Bistro downtown.
  • The Globe & Mail thought Wishbone could have been better.
  • Jonny checked out Songkran Thai in St. Albert.
  • In anticipation of La Ronde’s 50th birthday this week, Graham sampled their Retro Thursday menu ($66 for three courses).
  • Cindy recapped the recent dumpling pop-up hosted by MasterChef Canada competitors Mai Nguyen and Jordan Levin.
  • CBC had a taste-off of five locally-sourced cinnamon buns, which crowned Hazeldean Bakery’s bun the winner.
  • Seafood lovers rejoice: Effing Seafoods is starting up a Fish Club, offering a monthly subscription to interesting seafood options. Vue Weekly also profiled Effing Seafoods last week.
  • Congratulations to the bloggers, including Linda and Phil, who were recognized under Vue Weekly’s Best of Edmonton 2017 Food Blog category!
  • While I’ve had my share of soy-based meats, this bleeding plant-based burger is definitely imitation taken to a whole different level.
  • Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and Love Pizza is getting into the spirit with a special #lovesgivingza, available from September 22 – October 7, 2017. It’s topped with mashed potato spread, pulled turkey, stuffing, cranberry chutney, gravy, and brie cheese drizzle. The chutney was on the sweeter side for me, but I loved the mashed potato and gravy! And bonus – $1 for each pizza sold goes to the charity Stop Abuse in Families.

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Our #lovesgivingza and Meatatarian

  • Since my office moved away from being walking distance to Chinatown, I haven’t had the chance to frequent Pho Tau Bay as often. I finally returned over the weekend, not realizing just how much I missed my regular order.

Untitled

My ritual at Pho Tau Bay

September 21st, 2017

Recap: Urban Pedal Tour in Old Strathcona

Urban Pedal Tours have taken Edmonton by storm. Launched just this May by Matt and Carol Gosse, they’ve nearly been at capacity all summer, offering a unique alternative to the typical pub crawl. Instead of the usual bus or exploration by foot, Urban Pedal Tours moves tour groups through Old Strathcona and Downtown via 15-passenger bikes.

Inspired by a similar tour they enjoyed in Seattle two years ago, Edmonton joins Montreal, Victoria, and Kelowna as communities in Canada that have adopted this interesting mode to see the city. While no liquor laws in the country allow consumption while on the bike, the u-shaped bike definitely promotes more interaction throughout the tour.

On Sunday afternoon, Mack and I were invited by Linda to participate in an Urban Pedal Tour, along with a dozen others. Part of a Travel Alberta-funded excursion, our trek would be filmed for an “Edmonton on wheels” spot to be released next year.

The group met up at the Urban Pedal Tours garage in Old Strathcona, signed waivers, and received an orientation to the bike from Matt. Although the bike holds up to 15 passengers, only 10 are pedaling seats. We rotated positions between stops so everyone had the chance to pedal (something I much preferred!). For the most part, it was an easy cycle, with the bike maxing out at speeds of 8km per hour. It was also a much less intense than the Food Bike Tour Mack and I joined back in August.

Urban Pedal Tours

With our ride

Matt, who was in charge of steering the bike, was very careful about merging us into traffic. Although we were definitely moving much slower than vehicle traffic typically travels down Whyte Avenue, most drivers were surprisingly forgiving about our pace. Combined with the friendly horn and the on-board music system, drivers were more inclined to smile and wave as we passed than honk.

We made three stops that afternoon on the two hour tour. The first was El Cortez for some appetizers and drinks. The $38 per person fee only covers the tour portion; any food or drink is extra (on this tour, the fee was covered by Travel Alberta, but we paid for our own food and drinks). That said, Urban Pedal Tours has arranged some special offers for its patrons – in the case of El Cortez, it was happy hour pricing.

El Cortez

El Cortez

Our table split an order of guacamole and chips (half price), and a few people tried their sangrias (on special every Sunday). Matt was great about ensuring the group knew how much time we had at each stop (approximately 25 minutes), but the limit did result in some people having to down their drinks quickly depending on when it was delivered.

El Cortez

Linda is all smiles!

Our second stop was Malt and Mortar. Several tables had been reserved for the group, with bowls of house-spiced popcorn ready for us to snack on. Sundays at Malt and Mortar mean $10 Caesars, which Mack took advantage of.

Urban Pedal Tours

Mack tried the Smoke Caesar

We spent the most time at the final stop, Situation Brewing. We were all encouraged to grab a pint before a quick tour of the brewery.

Urban Pedal Tours

Thom and Mike enjoy a pint

We learned that their current best sellers are their Page Turner IPA, Uno Mas, and Afternoon Tea Saison, and that they brew approximately 10-15,000l per month.

Situation Brewing

Tour at Situation Brewing

While at Situation, we were eyeing up the other parties around the brew pub who were having lunch. It would mean lengthening the tour, but I would have preferred at least one stop where we could have the opportunity to order a more significant portion of food. We did learn from Matt that next summer, they do intend to add a third bike to their roster, and potentially offer more specialty tours that could be more food-oriented. It will be interesting to see if they do introduce an all-inclusive rate to their offerings; I’d personally prefer to pay for my food and drinks up front, but I can understand the logistical challenges this may cause to their business model.

At any rate, it was great to be able to take part in an Urban Pedal Tour – it was a fun way to spend a fleeting summer afternoon. Thanks again to Linda for the invitation and to Travel Alberta for setting this up!

Urban Pedal Tours

We did it! (photo credit: Linda)

Urban Pedal Tours runs until September 30, 2017, and will return in May 2018.

September 19th, 2017

A Tale of Two Baos: Chef’s Table at Baijiu

Though living on 104 Street gives us easy access to some of the most trendy restaurants in the city, I’d say the closer they are, the less likely we’ve been to them. We’re just not as spontaneous as we used to be, and don’t tend to venture out once we’re in for the night. So in an effort to make it to Baijiu a mere seven months after opening, we made plans to have dinner there in early September.

It was only fitting in some ways that we waited for my sister Amanda and her boyfriend Jason to visit before hitting up Baijiu. We had dined together at Toronto’s Dailo last year, one of Baijiu’s inspirations. We had enjoyed Dailo’s fusion take on Asian dishes, but were keen to see what Chef Alexei Boldireff has done locally.

We reserved the four top chef’s table on a Thursday night. The stools provide a perfect vantage point into the kitchen, with a view of the camaraderie and a perspective of the night’s most popular dishes. Lex and his team were more than happy to chat throughout our meal, which made for an even more engaging experience. Perhaps the only (small) downside was having our back to the stylish bar and the restaurant as a whole as our attention was directed at the kitchen.

Baijiu

Baijiu

It made sense to leave things up to Lex, so we opted for the small plates chef’s choice tasting menu ($25/person, 4 guest minimum). We found this to be of good value, as we were able to share seven different dishes (some of which were off-menu), and still had room for dessert.

To whet our palate, Lex gave us some of their house-made pork jerky to try, something they’re hoping to introduce as a bar snack in the future. While it didn’t quite have the texture of the jerky I’ve had abroad, the  sweet-salty flavour was definitely coming through. This was just their first crack at the recipe, so I’m sure they’ll land it soon enough!

Baijiu

Pork jerky

Our first course, the devilled tea eggs, were also an example of Lex’s interpretation of a traditional dish. To maintain the soft consistency of the white, he opts not to overcook the eggs, then dresses it with crispy shallots, pickled chilies, togarashi, wasabi, scallion, and sesame seeds. The presentation is beautiful, and they made a lovely two-bite starter.

Baijiu

Devilled tea eggs

The green papaya salad was particularly refreshing that day (having reached temperatures of +30), with the mild heat of the dressing complementing the crispness of the shredded vegetables.

Baijiu

Green papaya salad

The kitchen had just received the first corn of the season, so were excited to serve it up with some Fairwinds Farm goat yogurt mixed with charred scallions, mint, fish sauce, chives, and Korean chili. The yogurt was so rich it had a taste reminiscent of parmesan, making even non-dairy fan Jason a convert.

Baijiu

Corn, Baijiu style

The lap cheong fried rice is an Asian staple, and I particularly appreciated the fact that the kitchen makes sure to dry the rice for a few days to produce the optimal consistency.

Baijiu

Lap cheong fried rice

Lex, back when he was slinging sandwiches at his food truck S’wich, was known for his house-made breads. For that reason, we knew that his steamed baos were probably a good bet – and we weren’t disappointed. The braised pork bao were easily my favourite dish, dressed with soy mayo, and pickled and shaved cabbage. Even better, we were reminded that Baijiu offers bao specials every Tuesday – just 2 for $7.

Baijiu

Braised pork bao

The pork and shrimp lion’s head dumplings were Amanda and Jason’s favourite, and were fairly authentic in their flavour and execution, served with a ginger-soy sauce.

Baijiu

Pork and shrimp lion’s head dumplings

The vegetable tempura was a nice plate to share (it was my first time trying a tempura zucchini blossom), but the lightly battered vegetables didn’t elicit the same level of interest as the previous dishes.

Baijiu

Vegetable tempura

We split the fried bao matcha ice cream sandwich; if we weren’t so full, I’m sure all of us would have ordered an individual portion. It’s definitely one of the tastiest desserts I’ve had recently, not overly sweet, and a fun take on a doughnut ice cream sandwich.

Baijiu

Fried bao matcha ice cream sandwich

Though Mack and I were predisposed to rate Baijiu above Dailo, Jason and Amanda both agreed that this meal did reign supreme. It’s really great to see a restaurant of this style and caliber in Edmonton; I look forward to my next (planned) visit!

Baijiu
10359 104 Street (Mercer Warehouse)
(780) 421-7060
Tuesday-Thursdays 5pm-midnight, Friday-Saturday 5pm-1am, closed Sundays and Mondays

September 18th, 2017

Food Notes for September 18, 2017

  • Mark your calendar: this year’s Restaurants for Change is taking place on October 18, 2017. Proceeds from the dinner service will go towards community food programs in 19 cities in Canada. RGE RD is the only local participant.
  • Congratulations on Sugared & Spiced on their storefront soft opening this weekend, located at 10334 82 Avenue. They’re closed for the next few days, but follow them on Instagram to see when you can satisfy your sweet tooth!
  • Tiffin Fresh Kitchen, a fast casual restaurant offering Indian cuisine, is now open at 5135 Ellerslie Road SW.
  • It looks like Iconoclast Coffee will be one of the first tenants into the new Mercantile Hub at 102 Avenue and 121 Street.
  • The Tapas Tuesday menu at ZINC is now available on Wednesdays as well – Mack and I checked it out early on in the summer.
  • Toronto-based Sweet Jesus will be opening two locations in Edmonton – at WEM and Southgate – get ready for some epic soft serve! Thanks to Amelia for the heads up.
  • Wild Earth Foods will be closing at the end of September.
  • A new chef has been announced at Wildflower Grill – a SAIT grad J.P. Dublado.
  • Both Phil and Crystal attended the recent Salz pop-up, featuring examples of the sausage and beer that will be served at the restaurant when it opens in late October, located at 10556 115 Street.
  • Cindy recapped Vignettes Does Dining runs by Tzin and Farrow, and has details about another lunch pop-up next week by Honest Dumplings, Revolution Ice Cream, and South Island Pie on September 26-27, 2017.
  • Jonny enjoyed his first experience at Tang Bistro.
  • Valerie continued her sourdough education with Kaelin Whittaker of The Ruby Apron.
  • Always great to see the community get behind food drives – in this case, through a potato harvest at Lady Flower Gardens.
  • I had lunch with Linda last week at El Rancho, and definitely over-ordered when it came to the pupusas.

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I love the pupusas at El Rancho

  • It’s been a while since we’ve had brunch with my family, so it was nice to meet up at Canteen over the weekend when my sister Felicia was visiting.

Canteen

Lemon blueberry pancakes at Canteen

September 14th, 2017

Recap: Eats on 118, International Edition

The third and final Eats on 118 event this year took place in late August. A series of events organized by Wild Heart Collective and the Alberta Avenue Business Association, Eats on 118 helps to showcase the variety of establishments located in an often overlooked neighbourhood. I’ve discovered a few gems from past tours (including Plaza Bowl on the last crawl), and this evening was no different. In particular, it highlighted just how much diversity is present on the Avenue.

The group met up at Paraiso Tropical, a popular Latin food market in the heart of 118. We were welcomed by Jesus Gonzales, who took over the shop from his parents in 2009. Although they boast a wide selection of import products from the Caribbean, South and Central America, they also offer a selection of hot takeout items. The menu varies by day, and could include tacos, empanadas, and taquitos.

Eats on 118

Kicking off Eats on 118

That evening, we each received a street food box with two tacos and a pupusa. Of the trio, the al pastor taco was my favourite, but it was nice to be able to sample a few of their dishes.

Eats on 118

Sampler box from Paraiso Tropical

Our second stop was Mama Asha Cafe, easily missed tucked in next to an auto shop. Like Jesus, Saharla Aden also took over the business from her parents, renaming the restaurant after her grandmother.

Eats on 118

Saharla Aden of Mama Asha Cafe

Saharla and her husband also refreshed the dining room have a more modern, contemporary feel, reopening in May of this year. The menu is unique, offering all-day Somali breakfast and some dishes that are hard to find in Edmonton, such as shakshuuka.

Eats on 118

Savoury plate from Mama Asha

We indulged in a savoury plate featuring beef suqaar strips, rice, a samosa, sabayat (Somali flat bread – my favourite), and bajiya (black eyed pea fritters), but without a doubt, it was dessert that stole the show. The moist coconut cake we were served to end our visit is definitely worth seeking out.

Eats on 118

That coconut cake!

Next, we walked over to Mini Kitchen. While not a retail outlet, the production kitchen on 118 Avenue is used to prepare heat-and-eat Indian and Thai meals sold at eight farmers’ markets in Edmonton, St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan, and Red Deer. Mini Kitchen’s products can also be found at some specialty retail locations.

Damini Mohan prides herself on preparing healthy and nutritious meals without compromising flavour. With the exception of soy sauce, all ingredients they use are non-gmo, and the produce they source is primarily organic. I enjoyed the taste of butter chicken and naan we were provided, with layers of flavour without an overwhelming heat.

Eats on 118

Butter chicken from Mini Kitchen

Our final destination was Passion de France, a patisserie opened by Montreal ex-pat Mélanie Dovale in 2014. A halal pastry shop, Passion de France fills a niche in Edmonton, but she shared that she likes the community feel of the neighbourhood.

Eats on 118

Pastries on the patio

We were provided with a generous variety of their treats, including a lemon meringue tart, chocolate orange tart, eclair, opera cake, and a macaron. My office is only a few blocks away, so it wasn’t my first brush with Passion de France, nor will it be my last.

Eats on 118

Dessert from Passion de France

Kirsta Franke from Wild Heart indicated that Eats on 118 will be back again for two installments in June of next year. So if you missed out, make sure to check the Alberta Avenue website in the spring! Thanks again to the organizers for putting on another great event.

September 11th, 2017

Food Notes for September 11, 2017

I’m not quite ready to bid adieu to summer, even if the days are getting noticeably shorter already. All we can hope for now is a glorious fall! On to this week’s food notes:

  • The Vignettes Dining Series continues this week until September 24, 2017 with a Farrow pop-up, and dinners by Three Boars, Wishbone, and, Alder Room, and Alta.
  • Do you want to have a say on the national food policy? A community-organized consultation is taking place at the Edmonton Food Bank on September 13,2017 from 6-9pm.
  • Honest Dumplings and Prairie Pigeon are back with a pop-up at Culina Cafe at the Muttart on September 14, 2017. Tickets for the 3-course dinner are $45 per person.
  • Arts on the Avenue’s annual Kaleido Festival is back September 15-17, 2017 with an Iron Heart mystery box cook-off and 10 food trucks serving up eats alongside the arts and cultural performances.
  • The Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts is hosting Route of Our Roots, a Ukrainian food fair, on September 15, 2017 at the Old Timers Cabin. Admission is free, but food tickets are required to taste the samples.
  • Sustainable Food Edmonton will be hosting their first ever Fall Fair on September 16, 2017 in conjunction with Riverdale Community League Day. They’ll be accepting entries for bragging rights for the best pie, jam, pickling, and even the ugliest vegetable grown.
  • Northlands is offering their final free Urban Farm Tour for the season on September 17, 2017. Just make sure you register online!
  • To help celebrate National Chicken Month, consider the next Prairie on the Plate dinner at Northern Chicken on September 26, 2017. The 5-course meal is on for $50.
  • Little Brick is hosting a New England-style crab boil on September 30, 2017. Tickets are $40 each.
  • Viva Italia is hosting a Harvest Market in Giovanni Caboto Park on September 30, from 12-7pm. Expect grape stomping, among other activities.
  • Those who knew Ernesto Rizzi and his Dolce and Banana food truck might be interested in a fundraiser that will help establish a memorial fund in his name. An prime rib dinner and opera/comedic performance from The PreTenors is taking place on October 28, 2017 at Century Casino. Tickets are $55.
  • LitFest has released their line-up, and their Food Matters event returns on October 21, 2017 with Toronto restauranteur Jen Agg, science writer Bob Holmes, chef David Wolfman, and Jennifer Cockrall-King. Tickets are $45.
  • Those who were looking forward to this year’s Diner en Blanc will be disappointed – the new team of organizers have decided to postpone the event until 2018.
  • Liane confirmed the closure of Vivo’s downtown location.
  • Remedy opened its sixth location in Southgate Centre back in August.
  • Town Square Brewing in south Edmonton is very close to opening.
  • It looks like a location of Tsujiri, offering matcha-based desserts and drinks, is opening downtown at 10173 109 Street.
  • If you’ve been waiting to try Alta, now might be the perfect opportunity: they’ve introduced a $30 3-course prix fixe lunch from 11am-2pm.
  • Sharon didn’t enjoy her first experience at newly-opened Ripe Tomato Pizza.
  • Cindy reviews the Taiwanese desserts at ZenQ.
  • Jonny sampled several dishes from Biera and had a positive meal overall.
  • Bundok’s brunch is endorsed by the Edmonton Journal.
  • Crystal is the latest to check out Pho Boy.
  • Graham has a rundown on Edmonton’s newest patisseries.
  • Vue Weekly reminds us that Sunbake Pita is worth a visit.
  • Valerie’s latest Cooking in the Kitchen post is all about making a sourdough starter with instructions from The Ruby Apron’s Kaelin Whittaker.
  • It’s about time the Canadian Food Guide is updated – it’s not ready, but some major changes are coming, including recommendations about decreasing intake of red meat, fatty meats, whole-fat dairy, and processed foods.
  • My sister Amanda was in town last week, so I had to show her some of the good eats she’s been missing. One of the many stops: Zwick’s Pretzels.

Zwick's Pretzels

Pretzel trifecta from Zwick’s

  • Thanks to the Downtown Edmonton Community League for hosting their annual Corn Fest over the weekend, coinciding with the opening our Downtown’s newest green space, Alex Decouteau Park at 105 Street and 102 Avenue.

Corn Fest

It’s corn season

  • The final What the Truck?! event of the season took place on Saturday. This poutine burger from Northlands’ 1879 was certainly an eye catcher.

1879 Food Truck

Poutine burger with duck fat fries

September 6th, 2017

Spanish Brunch: Bodega Highlands

Sabor Divino and its family of restaurants is a local success story. Sabor is known as one of the top seafood establishments in the city, while Urbano Pizza helped usher in the wave of quick-serve, thin-crust pizza parlours in Edmonton. Bodega, on the other hand, occupies a unique position with its authentic approach to Spanish tapas, allowing diners an accessible way to traverse the globe for Mediterranean flavours. It’s a successful formula that has translated into a need to expand the original location on the Boardwalk downtown, spawned a cozy second location in Highlands, and later this year, will add a third just off 124 Street in the former Dish and the Runaway Spoon space.

That said, each Bodega branch will offer something slightly different; for instance, we were told that the 124 Street location will be open for lunch. The Highlands location on the other hand, serves what they term "Spanish brunch" every Saturday and Sunday from 11am-2pm. The menu carries over some of their tapas-style dishes, but features other, egg-based dishes to tempt the palate of weekend brunch seekers.

The dishes are variations of familiar dishes, but with a Spanish or Portuguese twist – a Spanish potato omelette, baked eggs with chorizo and Serrano ham, and a breakfast sandwich topped with the chef’s special sauce, a unique recipe every Portuguese restaurant has on its roster, or so we were told.

My friend May and I met up at Bodega Highlands for brunch on Saturday. There were only a handful of other tables during our stay, which was a bit surprising given the usual brunch hustle in Edmonton. Our server indicated that it’s typically busier on Sundays, but we also had to wonder whether their brunch program is still relatively under the radar.

Bodega Highlands

Bodega Highlands

I ended up ordering the migas con huevos ($15), sautéed bread crumble and bacon with two fried eggs and beef sausage. May selected the Francesinha ($18), a Portuguese baked sandwich with Edam, sausage, ham, beef tenderloin, chorizo, fried egg, and the aforementioned special sauce – definitely not a dish for the faint of heart. We also decided to share the salt cod fritters ($9) to start.

Given the quiet state of the dining room, we received our dishes relatively quickly. The fritters were nice and light, though probably would have paired better with a glass of wine or beer as opposed to coffee.

Bodega Highlands

Salt cod fritters

Our mains were generous; a side salad wasn’t mentioned on the menu but I appreciated the pop of freshness on the plate. The mixture of toasted bread, bacon, and eggs was satisfying, but it was the well-seasoned beef sausage that was the star of the dish. My only quibble was I had to send my eggs back once to have them cooked to the requested doneness; unfortunately, even after that they were still not right.

Bodega Highlands

Migas con huevos

May really enjoyed her sandwich, a meat eater’s dream. The sauce soaked right through the bread, and provided a nice accompaniment to the different layers of meat.

Bodega Highlands

Francesinha

Service was attentive throughout, and refills of water and tea were plentiful. It may have been different with a busier room, but we were satisfied with the experience overall.

Afterwards, we walked off brunch with a stroll through the neighbourhood – Bodega works well as a starting point to explore Highlands, if you don’t frequent it often (as is the case for me). We checked out the elegant MacGrath Mansion, then popped into some of the shops on 112 Avenue, including Mandolin Books, Majesty and Friends, and Be-a-Bella.

If you’re looking for something different to change up your weekend brunch routine, I’d suggest giving Bodega Highlands a try.

Bodega Highlands
6509 112 Avenue
(780) 757-0137
Monday-Thursday 4:30-10pm, Friday-Saturday 4:30-11pm, Sunday 4:30-9pm; brunch Saturdays and Sundays 11am-2pm

September 4th, 2017

Food Notes for September 4, 2017

I hope the beautiful weather continues, but if not, at least we had the long weekend to drink in a last blast of summer. Hope you made the most of it, too! On to this week’s food notes:

  • Sorrentino’s annual Mushroom Harvest takes place the entire month of September, with feature menus, wine dinners, and special cooking classes.
  • The Faculty of Agricultural, Life, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Alberta is hosting a free public screening of Food Evolution on September 12, 2017. It is a film about the status of food and the use of GMOs in food production.
  • In the Spirit of Festival Place combines a fundraiser with a spirit tasting on September 14, 2017. The $65 tickets include tastes of single malts, ports and madeiras, entertainment and light appetizers.
  • Tickets for Vignettes Does Dining’s dinner from the folks behind El Cortez, Have Mercy, and the forthcoming Holy Roller are now available for $90 each. The event takes place September 15, 2017.
  • Last year’s Mooncake Masterclass (organized in conjunction with the Chinatown Business Improvement Area’s Moonlight Carnival) was cancelled, so it’s great to see that they’re giving it another shot. It takes place on September 16, 2017 from 1-5pm – learn how to make mooncakes in time for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Tickets are $18.
  • Dig In, St. Albert’s horticulinary festival, runs September 19-23, 2017. The festival includes hands-on workshops and culinary walking and bike tours.
  • Early bird tickets for the 20th edition of the Rocky Mountain Food & Wine Festival, taking place November 10-11, 2017 at the Shaw Conference Centre, are now available. The discounted admission is available until September 27.
  • Coming soon: a Laotian restaurant called Khao + Naam.
  • The new restaurant in the Alberta Hotel has a name: Revel Bistro & Bar. It looks like they’re targeting a September opening.
  • Bingsu (Korean shared ice) has come to Edmonton in full force – Snowy Village is now open downtown at 11020 Jasper Avenue, to be followed by Snow Bear on September 9, 2017 just down the block at 10051 109 Street.
  • Villa Bistro (which has since replaced Free Press Bistro at 10014 104 Street) is now open.
  • Urbano Pizza has closed their Boardwalk location downtown, but on the plus side, Bodega will be expanding.
  • Rogue Wave Coffee has closed its location in Queen Mary Park, but has hopes to open up in a larger space in the near future.
  • Happy to hear Jacek is expanding their Sherwood Park location in time for the holiday season! Expect the new Experience Boutique to be open in November.
  • Cafe Linnea is now offering prix fixe Tuesdays, 3-course meals (plus an amuse bouche) for just $30.
  • Liane has a few more details about Farrow’s Ritchie location, namely, that they’re able to offer even more pastries.
  • A second cat cafe will open in Edmonton this fall called Paws the Cat Cafe, just north of Downtown on 109 Street.
  • Vue Weekly has an early review of Cargato in Forest Heights.
  • Twyla didn’t find much to be inspired about at Bottega 104, while Cindy is still hoping for more.
  • Jonny paid ACE Coffee Roasters a visit.
  • Graham wasn’t impressed with the service at Situation Brewing.
  • Cindy recapped the Taste Alberta International Street Food event that took place at Dogwood Cafe a few weeks ago.
  • Perhaps bathrooms shouldn’t have a place in these notes, but in case you’re hoping to support our local entry, Dorinku is up for the title of Canada’s Best Restroom. You can vote for them until September 8, 2017.
  • You may have heard of produced-based Community Supported Agriculture, but did you know it is possible to buy into a fruit-based one in Edmonton as well? Sprout Farms (an apple orchard) began a fruit share program this summer.
  • We had a lovely family dinner at Uccellino last week. Although we enjoyed all of the dishes, the panelle di ceci (fried chickpea polenta fritters) were the surprising favourite, light and airy, and had a texture reminiscent of tofu.

Uccellino

Panelle di ceci

  • When I get a hankering for frozen yogurt, I often forget about the Pinkberry tucked away in Rogers Place. Mack and I stopped in one night last week.

Pinkberry

Frozen yogurt on steroids