Food Notes for November 30, 2020

More Restaurants Voluntarily Close Dine-In Services

Last week, the Alberta Government announced their additional measures intended to curb the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases in the province.

Though some had expected a temporary pause on indoor dining, restaurants instead can remain open for dine-in services for households of up to 6 people at a table, or for those who live alone, with up to 2 non-household contacts that are a part of their cohort. These enhanced measures were effective November 27, 2020, and are expected to last until at least December 18, 2020. The previously announced restrictions requiring liquor service to cease at 10pm and restaurants and bars to close at 11pm still stand.

There was confusion early on about the consequences of permitting mixed household cohorts to dine together, but the reality is that the responsibility of enforcing the restrictions has been downloaded to individual businesses and hospitality workers.

In the wake of the escalating active case numbers, a spate of restaurants have chosen to voluntarily close to indoor dining, some in part due to the challenges inherent in implementing the restrictions. Earlier in November, restaurants including Dagu Rice Noodle, Nongbu, Fleisch, Cartago, and Northern Chicken pivoted to take-out and delivery only. This week, they were joined by more than a dozen in the Edmonton area, including Avila Arepa, Butternut Tree, The Cabin (closed temporarily), Cafe Bicyclette (closed temporarily) Canteen, Cerdo, Chartier, Dadeo, Dang Good, Highlands Golf Club, Italian Centre’s cafes, Meat, The Next Act, On The Rocks (closed temporarily), Otto, Pip, Vaticano Cucina, Workshop Eatery, and XIX Nineteen.

Andrew Fung, owner and chef of XIX Nineteen shared:

“I feel very pressured. We (are) already having a tough time asking people (to) put on a mask and now you’re enforcing another rule on top (of that). I just found it very difficult. What we normally do is provide hospitality. We’re not police, we’re not law enforcement.”

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Arcadia Brewing Co. is now open, after their initial opening date was postponed due to a staff testing positive for COVID. They are located in Manchester Square at 12016 107 Avenue.
  • Back in May, Filipino eatery Joanne’s BBQ House opened during the pandemic at 13119 156 Street.
  • Mesob Habesha Fusion is a new restaurant just north of Downtown at 10546 109 Street (formerly occupied by Kallin Restaurant).
  • New-ish Shawarma Shack promises authentic but modern shawarma. Find them at 12432 167 Avenue.
  • Rayyan East African Restaurant is opening in Chinatown in the space formerly occupied by Garden Bakery.
  • Spruce Grove is home to a new brewery called Talking Dog Brewing.

Local News

What I Ate

  • It was a beautiful day to walk over to Chinatown early last week to run some errands. It was also a good excuse to grab some banh mi for lunch from Nhon Hoa.

Nhon Hoa

Combo sub from Nhon Hoa

  • Mack, Emily, and I headed out to Jasper for a short getaway last week. As with our previous staycation earlier in the fall, we brought nearly all of our own food to minimize contact. One of the heat-and-serve meals we tried was the noodle packs from Golomein. Considering the preparation involves microwaving the dish from frozen, the quality of the noodles didn’t seem to be impacted significantly. We also enjoyed the flavours overall, and would be open to trying it again!

Golomein

Golomein

  • It was nice to have a hot breakfast included in our stay at Pyramid Lake Resort. The take-out was super-efficient.

Pyramid Lake Resort

Take-out from The Pines at Pyramid Lake Resort

  • We made one stop in town for some coffee and treats from Bear’s Paw Bakery. It’s hard not to indulge when this is the reaction to having a cookie!

Bear’s Paw Bakery

Emily enjoys a cookie from Bear’s Paw Bakery

Food Notes for November 23, 2020

Specialty Spirit and Mead On Order

The pandemic hasn’t halted the development and production of new alcoholic beverages. Strathcona Spirits, even in the midst of their escalating production of hand sanitizer, found the time to create absinthe.

Distiller Adam Smith learned the craft in Europe two years ago, and worked his way through the process. Smith shared with the Edmonton Journal:

“It takes an immense amount of botanicals. We used European wormwood in the initial maceration (mashing), and then we did a secondary one using different botanicals, including local wormwood and mint. It was a long and very tiring process.”

Although the limited run bottles have since sold out, Smith has committed to making more in the future.

High Water Honey & Mead will be the Edmonton area’s first craft meadery when it opens next August. It will be based out of an old firehall in New Sarepta, Leduc County, opened by couple Will and Mika Munsey.

Like Smith at Strathcona Spirits, Munsey required some experimentation to create a consistent product, including adding in locally-sourced herbs and berries to flavour the batches. They also have big plans for the space,

“It won’t only be a meadery. We’d have space for local artisans, music nights, farmer’s markets. There’s a lot of creativity in these parts, and a lot of hard working people. We need to be taking advantage of these aspects, even if it’s a scary time to open a business.”

COVID-19-related News

  • Love Pizza voluntarily closed their St. Albert location after a staff tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Northern Chicken also voluntarily closed due to a positive COVID-19 case on staff. They plan to re-open on November 29, 2020 at the earliest for take-out and delivery.
  • The Dapper Beaver has chosen to remove in-store seating at the shop.
  • Hookah bar Mist has been closed by Alberta Health Services due to protocol violations related to COVID-19 management.

Openings

  • RGE RD’s sister business The Butchery opened last week at 12229 107 Avenue.
  • After the season was cancelled, an Edmonton Football player Diego Viamontes opened a cafe called Ch at 14802 Stony Plain Road in the fall. They serve Brave Fox coffee (roasted in Beaumont) and serve Mexican chocolate.
  • Damso Izakaya is the city’s newest izakaya at 10352 82 Avenue (the space formerly occupied by Hanaichi Express in Old Strathcona).
  • Arcadia Brewing had to postpone their soft launch in Manchester Square this weekend due to a COVID-19 positive case on their staff. When they are ready, find them at 10712 120 Street.

Upcoming Events

  • Biera opened up a pop-up shop in the Bottle Room of Ritchie Market on November 19, 2020 featuring Biera-made products in addition to other locally-sourced gifts.
  • The St. Albert Indoor Christmas Market runs Saturdays from November 21 – December 19, 2020 at The Enjoy Centre. The Green Onion Cake Man is among the vendors.
  • Filistix is hosting their first two installments of Filistix: After Dark on November 27 and 28, 2020, a platform to “try out new recipes, experiment with various flavours and techniques, and encourage us to step out of our comfort zone.” Take-out is available in addition to dining in.
  • Cafe Lavi is hosting an Indonesian food pop-up on December 5, 2020.
  • Ernest’s next Virtual Culinary Series will take place December 10, 2020. Tickets start at $133, and include the option for a cooking kit in place of shopping for your own ingredients.

Reviews

  • Sharon was invited to try a hosted dinner at Del Posto Italian Kitchen.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Global featured local cheesemaker Lakeside Dairy, based in Sturgeon County about 45 kilometers north of Edmonton. It is owned by Jeff Nonay, known in Edmonton for his beef.

What I Ate

  • While it wasn’t an official #AdoptAShop entry, it really had been too long since my last visit to Battista’s Calzone Co. We rectified that Friday with take-out. The shop is open just Friday through Sunday now, and is cash/e-transfer only, but the food quality hasn’t changed. The New York Mama is still my go-to!

Battista’s Calzones

New York Mama from Battista’s Calzone Co.

  • Nothing says the weekend like a box of Rosewood Foods sweet and savoury treats! Their online ordering system also makes pre-ordering for pick-up a breeze.

Rosewood Foods

Treats from Rosewood Foods

Food Notes for November 16, 2020

Restaurants Voluntarily Close Dine-In Services

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in alarming numbers, several Edmonton restaurants have proactively decided to close dine-in services.

Last week, NongBu, Fleish, Cartago and Northern Chicken transitioned to take-out and delivery only. Dagu Rice Noodle had also closed their dining room in late October. On social media, Fleish shared the following statement:

This is not a decision we made lightly, and not one we’re making strictly out of the goodness of our heart. As employers and responsible citizens of our city, we feel it’s important to stand up for our people and what we feel is the right thing to do…But we feel this is larger than us and it’s the responsibility of our officials to listen to the experts on the front lines – physicians, nurses, and healthcare workers who are calling for a strict, short shutdown to sharply reduce our COVID numbers and the current spread.

Some of the above restaurants made the decisions to close dine-in services even before the Alberta Government announced targeted public health measures on November 12, effective from November 13-27, 2020. Restaurants and pubs will be required to stop liquor sales by 10pm and close by 11pm. This falls short of the drastic “circuit-breaker” lockdown recommended by more than 400 Alberta physicians that would include a temporary ban on indoor dining, among other things.

Although Premier Kenney continues to deny the connection between COVID-19 transmission and indoor dining, recent American studies would say otherwise. In September, a U.S. Centres for Disease Control study suggested those who tested positive for COVID-19 were twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant than those who tested negative. And last week, a study published in Nature indicated that restaurants were four times riskier for COVID-19 transmission than gyms and coffee shops.

Given the significant proportion of cases that cannot be traced to origin, Premier Kenney’s delay of imposing stricter measures is baffling. It also allows the myth of safe indoor dining to continue to be propagated, as was the case today. In an interview with the Edmonton Journal, Steven Sachse, the general manager of MKT said:

“The overall feeling kind of in the restaurant industry is that we’re just such an easy target, when the data does not show that restaurants are the cause of these outbreaks.”

Restaurants are doing their best under incredibly challenging circumstances, and operating and abiding by current public health guidelines. But what if the guidelines are failing to protect the public?

COVID-19-related News

  • Staff at Meat and Pip have tested positive for COVID-19, so they have chosen to voluntarily close. In addition, as a precautionary measure, sister business The Next Act has also temporarily closed.
  • I was a guest on last week’s episode of Speaking Municipally, where I referenced some of the COVID-19 infection studies mentioned above.

Openings

Closures

  • Curry Vibes at 10827 Jasper Avenue is making way for a Queen Donair.

Upcoming Events

Local News

  • Linda’s second iteration of #AdoptAShopYEG runs November 13-22, 2020, and locals have already claimed all 200 sign-up spots, committing to collectively spend $12,000 at 64 small businesses across the city!
  • Social enterprise Edmonton Eats has launched Holiday Cultural Boxes that feature family recipes from cultural hosts.
  • Kari Skelton has a list of the best winter patios in Edmonton.
  • Chef Jan Trittenbach (formerly of Lyon and Solstice) has landed at Boxer.
  • Phil Wilson began a new column on Radio Active today that focuses on the best dishes in Edmonton. First up: Thai cuisine at Siam Thai Kitchen (15883 116 Avenue).
  • Colleen’s Chocolates has started an ATB BoostR campaign in the hopes of crowdfunding $15,000 towards business expansion.
  • Alberta Food Tours has launched an Alberta Cares Package containing curated Alberta-made products. A portion of each $79 will also go towards programs that support vulnerable youth.
  • To celebrate his tenth birthday, a young hockey fan was hoping to have pizzas donated in his name to Boyle Street Community Services. He’s already exceeded his goal of 100 pizzas!
  • AGLC is again recognizing bars that “take your fun and safety seriously”, and are currently accepting votes for the People’s Choice Category in Edmonton.

What I Ate

  • We enjoyed one last Downtown Dining Week meal on Friday, this time from Dagu Rice Noodle. As mentioned above, they’ve been closed to dine-in services since late October. Their containers seemed tailor-made for their noodle soups, and the salted crispy chicken was tasty (Emily was a fan!).

Dagu Rice Noodle

Take-out from Dagu Rice Noodle

  • We made the best decision this weekend to order some treats from Sugared and Spiced (their online system makes things a cinch!). Their brownies are so good.

Sugared and Spiced

Brownie from Sugared and Spiced

  • Bistro 99 is a great addition to #yegdt, especially when it’s a stone’s throw from the playground at Dick Mather Park. We also enjoyed their sweet liege waffles, dipped in chocolate.

Bistro 99

Coffee from Bistro 99

    Food Notes for November 9, 2020

    Premier Kenney Downplays Restaurant Transmissions

    On Friday, Premier Jason Kenney urged that Albertans display “responsible freedom” in the face of mounting COVID-19 positive case numbers, and refused to commit to any mandatory restrictions.

    When asked about the potential of closing restaurants, he stated,

    "Our data indicates that 0.7 per cent of identifiable transmission has occurred in restaurants and similar businesses. So what we’re doing today is we’re focusing on an area of much more significant transmission and a much less-structured environment, which is at-home social gatherings and social gatherings more generally.”

    By comparison, in Ontario since August 1, restaurants and bars have accounted for two per cent of outbreaks in Ottawa and fourteen percent in Toronto.

    While no Edmonton hospitality businesses are currently on the list of outbreaks in Alberta, two Calgary restaurants are listed.

    In her remarks on November 9, 2020, Dr. Deena Hinshaw did share her concerns about the increasing growth rate and the rate of hospitalizations:

    “We are assessing measures closely. If needed, we do not need to wait 14 days before recommending additional measures.”

    COVID-19-related News

    • DOSC has chosen to voluntarily close due to a staff member testing positive for COVID-19. Back in June, DOSC had implemented a “self-imposed” closure to dine-in services during a period when several hospitality businesses were experiencing outbreaks.
    • Credo’s 104 Street location re-opened last week after staff received negative test results.
    • Bodega’s Downtown location has closed their “COVID-pivot” Bodega Pantry, in favour of re-extending Bodega seating.
    • Strathcona Spirits, who began making hand sanitizer early on in the pandemic, is still going strong.

    Openings

    • Flava Cafe is now open at 8307 118 Avenue. They serve authentic Jamaican Jerk food.
    • The Hat at 10251 Jasper Avenue will become Black Ship Restro & Pub.
    • Bonne Vie, made up of a father and son team, now has their microbakery up and running! They had supplied sourdough for Glass Monkey over the summer.

    Closures

    • Al Centro, opened in January 2019 by the folks behind Da Capo, has closed.
    • Frickin Delights, a hidden gem offering fresh doughnuts in Devon, has announced they will be “closed for the foreseeable future” and “taking some time to decide how we will be moving forward with our business.”

    Upcoming Events

    Reviews

    Local News

    • Several restaurants have opened winter patios, including firepits at The Greenhouse at Victoria Golf Course and The Next Act, and winter tents at Boxer.
    • Bar Bricco may re-open in December after months spent repairing water damage.
    • Fried chicken enthusiasts likely already know about Ralph’s Handi Mart in Strathearn and Sunshine Food Store in Londonderry – the proprietors are brothers and both prepare fried chicken based on a secret family recipe.
    • Credo’s 124 Street location just launched a new hot breakfast menu.
    • EDify featured businesses Benny’s Bread and Butter, Irie Foods, and Shack à Patate.
    • Congratulations to Northern Chicken who celebrated their fourth birthday last week.
    • Linda is organizing a second #AdoptAShopYEG from November 13-22, 2020. This time, businesses will be grouped into one of 8 neighbourhoods, with the hopes people will collectively spend $12,000 at selected small businesses. ATB is also sponsoring the event, and will award 15 participants with $100 Visa gift cards. Business nominations are currently open until November 12, 2020.
    • The Grocery Run, a program run by the Multicultural Health Brokers that supports families experiencing chronic poverty, is hoping to crowdfund $5,000.

    Beyond Edmonton

    Urban Agriculture and Farming

    What I Ate

    • I treated myself to one of my favourite pastries in the city last week: the kouign amann from Lock Stock.

    Lock Stock

    Kouign amann from Lock Stock

    • Mack and I had lunch from Craft Beer Market last week. We ordered take-out from the Downtown Dining Week menu, as it was an opportunity for us to taste the Impossible plant-based burger. The plant-based patty replacements are always impressive with their ability to so closely simulate meat.

    Craft

    Impossible Burger from Craft Beer Market

    • On Sunday, I checked out the first Winter Market held at Campio Brewing, primarily because I was looking forward to snagging some of TYP TOP Bakery’s amazing cinnamon buns. They’ll be back at the next market on November 22, 2020.

    TYP TOP Bakery

    Cinnamon buns from TYP TOP Bakery

    Food Notes for November 2, 2020

    Hospitality Sector Well Represented on Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2020

    EDify (formerly Avenue Edmonton) released this year’s Top 40 Under 40 list, and it includes several members of the Edmonton food community.

    Braede Harris, co-founder and co-owner of LOVEPIZZA, is being recognized for their charitable initiatives:

    “We want to be a business that sets an example of what having a business in Edmonton can look like. We’re proud of the city we live and operate in and giving back to our city has always been a priority.”

    Caitlin Fulton, co-owner and Director of Operations at RGE RD, shares the joy of community they have built through the restaurant:

    “When I think about the connections I have had with people over the years, that is when I think that our restaurant is really making a difference. I never take for granted that we are part of the milestones in people’s lives.”

    Felix Irnich, founder and COO of DaVinci Gelato & T-Rex Distillery, has managed to grow his business even in the pandemic:

    “When you pour your heart and soul into something and get such a positive response, it’s an indescribable feeling,”

    Joti Dhanju, owner/operator of Tiffin – India’s Fresh Kitchen, aspires to revolutionize the Indian food industry with an eye on sustainability:

    “I am lucky to be able to reintroduce Indian food to the masses in a creative way. Tiffin might not look like a family business in a couple years, but I always want it to feel that way.”

    COVID-19-related News

    Openings

    Upcoming Events

    • This year’s Taste of Home Gala is taking place virtually on November 19, 2020, to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities. Adult tickets are $100 and include a choice of a meal to enjoy from one of the participating restaurants, plus a $50 tax receipt. Restaurants include Sabor, Sawmill, Rebel, Workshop Eatery, and Share Restaurant at the Westin.
    • Chef Steve Buzak of the Royal Glenora Club is hosting a pad Thai virtual cooking class on behalf of the Rotary Club of YEG Passport on November 21, 2020. The event raises funds for a cataract surgery project in Ecuador. Tickets are $25.
    • Campio Brewing Co. is hosting Winter Markets on Sundays from November 8 – December 20, 2020. Vendors will be announced on social media, but will include TYP TOP Bakery on November 8.

    Local News

    • Wild Heart Collective has announced the location of their forthcoming Christmas Market, taking place November 27 – December 20, 2020. They’ll be setting up in the Army & Navy Building in Old Strathcona.
    • Chef Addie Raghavan is making cheese out of the kitchen at Meuwly’s under the name Fleur Jaune Cheese.
    • Fleisch has a new retail market stocked with “food, cocktails, curated bottles, gifts, and more.”
    • Edmonton Eats is launching a Holiday Cultural Box Event on November 16, 2020. This will include recipe kits from Libyan, Bangladeshi, and Syrian cultural hosts, plus cookies baked by first year NAIT Baking and Pastry Arts students.
    • Arno’s French Pastry has earned the “Best of France” label. It “promises to recognize and empower the food establishments offering original French recipes using fresh and local ingredients” in Canada, with half of their menu representing authentic French recipes.
    • Daily Hive rounds up the best comfort food in Edmonton.
    • Edmontonian Amanda Lemay plans to travel around Canada, and eventually the US, to learn from the best bakers in North America.

    Beyond Edmonton

    • Food Day Canada founder Anita Stewart passed away on October 29, 2020. Although she was based in Ontario, her influence was national. Tributes have poured in, including from Chef Blair Lebsack of RGE RD.

    What I Ate

    • Though we’re still not comfortable dining in, Downtown Dining Week makes it easy to still enjoy quality meals from the comfort of your home. Many of the 40+ participating restaurants are offering take-out, and at least one is doing delivery! Mack and I made a date night out of it – I ordered from the Confederation Lounge at Hotel Macdonald. I loved the forest mushroom bisque and braised Alberta beer short rib (and had to save dessert for another day as there was too much food). Check out $20 brunch/lunch and $35/$50 dinner menus, on until November 8, 2020. Thanks to the Downtown Business Association for gifting us the meals!

    Confederation Lounge

    3-course take-out meal from Confederation Lounge