When travelling, Mack and I try to join at least one walking tour – we’ve found it’s the most enjoyable way for us to explore and learn about new destinations. Of course, when food can be added into the mix, all the better.
For that reason, it’s great to see that Edmonton is finally getting its share of pedestrian-oriented food tours. Last summer, Calgary-based Karen Anderson expanded Calgary Food Tours to include Edmonton and Canmore, under the banner Alberta Food Tours. Local food writer Liane Faulder and chef Cindy Lazarenko lent immediate credibility to this new Edmonton venture. Coincidentally, another upstart company also launched at the same time in the city called Epicurean Adventure Tours (EAT).
EAT is the brainchild of two local foodies, Bryanna Kumpula and Melissa Bourgoin. Inspired by similar tours they’d experienced abroad, Bryanna explained that their original intentions were to showcase Edmonton’s food scene to intrepid tourists. However, they’ve found in the last six months of operations that it’s actually mostly locals that have discovered them through EventBrite. In my mind, it really speaks to the continued growth of our culinary industries on all fronts.
I met up with Su for EAT’s Edmonton’s Best Brunch tour on a Sunday in March. Tickets were priced at $60, and covered our tastes at five locations. We were joined by two other pairs; EAT groups range in size from 4 to 12.
Our day started at Blue Plate Diner, one of Downtown’s most popular brunch haunts (they also offer breakfast on weekday mornings). Here, we were treated to a half order of their eggs beneduckt, made with duck confit – it had a nice balance of textures, enhanced with a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce.
Eggs beneduckt from Blue Plate Diner
One of my chief complaints about the tour as a whole was the lack of backstory – whether that be history, context, or points of interest. One of the reasons I choose to participate in paid group tours is for the value add of information or access. And when the tours centre around small businesses in particular (when there are fewer degrees of separation between the customer and the owner), the connection to the story behind the business is important because it can help encourage repeat visits.
I acknowledge that for this particular tour, I was biased because I happen to live on the same street as many of the establishments we visited. Still, in the case of Blue Plate Diner, I was expecting some introduction to co-owners John Williams or Rima DeVitt, or in lieu of that (as not all owners or managers can be available at all times), for our guide to fill in the blanks. Blue Plate would have been a great place to talk about the evolution of 104 Street from its warehouse roots to the modern day condos, outdoor City Market, and Ice District proximity.
Our second stop was down the street to KB & Company. I was most looking forward to this visit, as I’m a little embarrassed to say I hadn’t made it down to this eatery yet. I was curious about what led owner Kristina Botelho to pilot a vegan menu in an area that hasn’t embraced similar ventures (see Earth’s General Store). Alas, the tour didn’t include that tidbit, or anything about KB & Company beyond its menu.
The half order of oat & hempseed waffles, with bananas, macaroon granola, almond-coconut whipped cream, and maple syrup, was very good. Served warm, it tasted every bit as indulgent as waffles with powdered sugar and dairy-based whipped cream, but not as sweet.
Oat & hempseed waffles from KB & Company
We detoured next to Craft on Rice Howard Way. The brunch crowd here was quiet, but it was still pretty early for a Sunday. We were seated at one of the tables at the front where the Great One had autographed (lacquered over, of course).
Craft was prepared for our arrival – a manager took us to their keg room, where they had 30 Alberta beers on tap, including Red Deer’s Troubled Monk, one of their newer additions. We learned that they do source from some local producers, including Morinville Greenhouses and Popular Bakery. We also trekked up to the mezzanine level where we could watch some of the cooks prep Craft’s Meals that Mend contribution to the Ronald McDonald House that evening. Craft sealed the deal with a 2 for 1 coupon for a future brunch meal.
Rotating keg room at Craft
We tried one of their breakfast tacos, with scrambled egg, beer can chicken, guacamole, feta, and pica de gallo in a flour tortilla. It was accompanied by their signature hot sauce, though most of us thought it could have rated higher on the heat meter. But overall, it was something I’d consider ordering for myself.
Breakfast tacos from Craft
We returned to 104 Street for our final two businesses. Evoolution was our penultimate stop. If you’ve been to any of their locations before you know that customers are encouraged to sample the different olive oils and balsamic vinegars, ranging from single origin and flavoured oils to vinegars of varying types and flavours. Our group was not treated any differently as we browsed the different products available on the shelves. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Evoolution (which has since expanded to six locations in Edmonton, St. Albert, Canmore, Banff, and Calgary), and it was great to see the number of made-for-Evoolution products they’ve expanded to include, such as olive leaf tea and Wild Prairie soap and Violet Chocolate Company bars made with Evoolution olive oils.
Our last visit was to Credo, the always bustling neighbourhood coffee shop. Our group managed to snag a couple of tables, and enjoyed a cup of coffee or tea. Owner Geoff Linden came to say hi before we left, but again, I was left wanting a bit more from our EAT guide – she could have talked about the Intelligensia coffee they use, the third wave coffee scene in Edmonton, or even how they anchor the so-called "Coffee District".
EAT currently offers two other walking tours in addition to Downtown brunch – a desserts tour and a bacon and brews tour. Bryanna says she hopes to add Old Strathcona and Ellwood Drive tours to the roster in the future.
While I enjoyed spending the morning with Su and other food-loving Edmontonians, I was hoping the tour would offer more information along with the food. I hope EAT considers integrating more of these stories into future tours.