Food Notes for November 29, 2021

Restaurant May opens at the Art Gallery of Alberta

May is the newest restaurant to open at the Art Gallery of Alberta, occupying the space that formerly housed Zinc, which closed permanently last fall. May’s soft opening comes about five months after the AGA announced that Prairie Catering would exclusively operate its food service, events, and facility bookings.

The name of the restaurant links back to owner Jimmy Shewchuk’s own family heritage. “Both of my grandparents were farmers in Vegreville,” said Shewchuk. “I remember getting our hands dirty in May, and the name celebrates the start of the work instead of just the harvest.”

That connection to farmers underlies executive chef Doreen Prei’s approach to creating the menu at May. Specifically, she took advantage of the restaurant’s proximity to the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market. “We visited the market every weekend in the process of opening. We wanted to ensure things were available for us but also needed to be flexible with what they have,” said Prei. “Planning a menu around farmers was super fun.”

Among the local producers that make up 80% of the menu, May sources from Ocean Odyssey Inland, Lacombe Fresh, Four Whistle Farm, Reclaim Farm, Mo-Na Food, and Purple Gate Haskap Orchard. Because it is producer-driven, Prei anticipates the menu will change every three months.

Prei has created dishes that have been inspired by her surroundings and her past. For instance, images of snow falling on cows led to her decision to plate braised short rib with kohlrabi foam, a dish she calls “full-on Alberta, with farro and dark green kale.”

Or, the wild mushroom dish recounts her memories of trekking through the woods. “It’s made from a variety of seven wild mushrooms, served with black garlic emulsion, sunchoke chips, and a tiny touch of greens,” said Prei. “I found lots of mushrooms as a child and when you walk through the forest you hear a crunch on the treeline so this is my homage to that.”

Prei has the distinction of not only working at Zinc when it first opened in 2010, but also serving as the executive chef when it closed in 2020. However, Prei has no issues with returning to the Gallery again, as she professes a deep connection to the space. “I was pregnant [while working] in that building, and have always considered it my third child,” said Prei. “May is a totally different restaurant, and people get a different vibe.”

The interior has been updated with natural elements, and features art pieces on loan from the Gallery’s rental program. The restaurant plans to offer lunch beginning some time in the new year, and though brunch is served in conjunction with the Downtown Business Association’s Holiday Light-Up, it won’t be an ongoing occurrence.

After 20 months of not cooking for diners, May feels particularly close to Prei’s heart. “I didn’t cook for people for so long because of the pandemic, so I can’t wait to feed people,” said Prei. “It’s like people are coming to my house. It’s very personal for me.”


Upcoming Events

Local News

  • Some restaurants are facing supply chain delays, including Pho Tau Bay, who was forced to close when they ran out of rice noodles.
  • CoffeePass is back with a winter edition featuring 30 local cafes. This iteration is priced at $39.
  • Sharon sampled a trio of pasta restaurants, including Basil Pasta Bar, Ragazzi, and Dalla.
  • Edify checked out Blue Truck Barbecue and Let’s Grill Sushi.
  • Twyla has suggestions of how to travel through food at several local restaurants, including Dadeo’s, XO Bistro, Narayanni’s, and Three Vikings.
  • Linda is giving away $1,000 worth of gift cards to local restaurants and businesses for those subscribing and commenting on her YouTube channel.
  • Police seized $60,000 of cash and drugs from Day & Night Pizza last week.
  • Safeway is now open in Oliver in the location formerly occupied by Planet Organic (12210 Jasper Avenue).
  • It was great to learn about the partnership between The Organic Box and the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op to launch the Khair for All food box, offering discounted produce targeting families facing food insecurity.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Dustin Bajer has started The Bee Community, a “space that supports small-scale and backyard beekeepers with classes and networking opportunities to manage honeybees using techniques that align with nature.”
  • Yellowhead Tribal College has partnered with AltaGreen to offer a new Vertical Farming Operator Certificate Program.

What I Ate

  • We still haven’t exhausted the restaurant options within walking distance of our home. On the weekend, we ordered take-out from Delux Burger Bar in Ice District. It’s been years since we’ve been to Delux (their tiny shopping carts were whimsical and unique when they first opened), but of what we tried, the mushroom burger was the standout.
  • Deluxe Burger Bar

Our Delux Burger Bar order

One thought on “Food Notes for November 29, 2021

  1. Does anyone know what has happened to Dean’s Peanuts at the farmer’s market? He has the best roasted peanuts but hasn’t been there for several weeks.

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