Food Notes for August 2, 2021

Heritage Festival Returns

After being forced to cancel the event in 2020, the Edmonton Heritage Festival returned to Hawrelak Park over the weekend. Introducing timed ticket attendance was one way organizers responded to the pandemic, in addition to eliminating food tickets in favour of direct contactless sales at pavilions. In spite of the changes, the event met its target audience of half a normal year’s turnout.

I was on the grounds on Saturday as a part of the team responsible for judging the food. Alongside head judge Phil Wilson, Councillor Andrew Knack and his wife Jamie, Lorraine Ellis from Partake, and Aditya Raghavan of Fleur Jaune Cheese, we were tasked with eating our way through over thirty pavilions that were offering food this year.

With the delayed green light for this year’s festival, many countries normally represented at the event weren’t present, let alone able to offer food. As such, all of the cultural associations and their volunteers deserve a huge kudos for even getting food on the menu in such trying times.

I was also initially concerned by the concepts of judging and ranking food associated with a specific country or culture. For many of the participating pavilions, the dishes served represent traditions and tastes that are meant to be enjoyed as a window to their world, and not critiqued.

Thankfully, the criteria we were directed to use took into account more than just the food itself, but also the enthusiasm of the volunteers serving the items, the efficiency of the food service, and even signage.

Our process involved the group splitting into two smaller teams, with each assigned to sample fare from half the pavilions. After that, we met up to share our top three pavilions, and headed off separately one last time to try the other team’s short list. The final list came together after discussions in the large group again.

This experience was great for me personally because over the years, it’s been a routine for me to indulge in specific items from the same pavilions – stewed lentils and injera from Eritrea and langos from Hungary, to name a few. But with neither of those countries represented this year, and the wide expanse of pavilions I did have the opportunity to sample, I can safely say I now have several new favourites!

The lokma from Azerbaijan in particular were a lovely surprise, the freshly fried doughnuts were coated in a floral syrup that elevated each bite.

Thanks again to Phil for the invitation to be a part of the judging team, and to all of the staff and volunteers behind the Heritage Festival to bring back the event this year.

Openings

  • There’s a new wine bar in town that’s now open called Darling, “where Natural Wine flows to old school beats”. It’s located at 9621 82 Avenue.
  • Sharon found a new spot specializing in Yunnan rice noodles called Shimiaodao Yunnan Rice Noodle at 8613 109 Street.
  • Fleisch will be expanding into the former Cartago space with The Bar at Fleisch.
  • Downtown Bistro will be opening in the space formerly occupied by the Free Press Bistro (10024 104 Street).
  • Oodle Noodle’s fourteenth location will be opening soon at Kingsway Mall.

Closures

Local News

What I Ate

  • We ended up spending quite a bit of time at Taste of Edmonton this week, one night with tickets purchased ourselves, and another to use up tickets we won through Coast Lunch Box! We had some great eats throughout, including everything from Pikante, the Coast Lunch Box wrap, and gelato from Little Bear.
Taste of Edmonton
A very small part of our Taste of Edmonton spread
  • Over the weekend, we were in the area so it was a good excuse to finally check out Tito’s Patio and the Botanist’s Garden, run by Geoscapes Events at Snow Valley. The reclaimed pallet furniture and planters were a lovely sight, and Emily loved exploring the surrounding green space. The food menu was somewhat confusing to navigate, but it was very value-forward. I enjoyed my pulled pork sandwich, which could have easily fed two people! The Patio and Garden are open Thursday to Sunday from 12-8pm until the end of August.
Tito’s Patio
Pulled pork sandwich and house salad from Tito’s Patio

Recap: MilkCrate’s Feast in the Field

The last food event I attended was in mid-March 2020. COVID-19 seemed ominous, but we knew so little about it at the time. Over the last 16 months, food events have been postponed, outright cancelled, shifted outdoors, or scaled down to accommodate members of a single household only. Since then, I haven’t attended any food events, and also haven’t yet felt comfortable dining indoors at a restaurant. Having embraced the beauty of eating al fresco in that time, I was thus enthralled to accept the invitation to MIlkCrate’s Feast in the Field event that occurred last weekend.

MilkCrate, in partnership with Taste Alberta, organized an outdoor dining event at Allam Farms, located near Fort Saskatchewan. The food highlighted locally-sourced pork, dairy products, pulses, and canola through a comfort-driven menu. We were told the event sold out almost immediately.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Chef Steven Brochu and the sight of a whole pig roasting on a spit – the definite makings of a tasty evening.

Feast in the Field

Chef Steve Brochu and the pig

Tables had been set up on the freshly shorn wheat field, though Allam Farms also grows pulses and hemp, among other crops. The beautiful skies contributed to the stunning backdrop, one that everyone would ultimately take advantage of for (what else?) Instagram-worthy photos.

Feast in the Field

Feast in the field

I’ll also say that because I haven’t dined indoors in a significant period of time, it was particularly wonderful to be able to be within eyesight of the kitchen. We were able to see Chef Brochu and his team assemble everything just yards away.

Feast in the Field

MilkCrate staff at work

The meal began with MilkCrate’s house sourdough, but everyone was holding out for the main event.

Feast in the Field

Sourdough

The platters did not disappoint. Laden with juicy fire-cooked whole hog, smoked lentils and biscuits, lentil cakes, roasted vegetables, and field greens dressed with a smoked Saskatoon berry and canola vinaigrette, there was more than enough food for everyone. MilkCrate’s house sauces were a great accompaniment to the meat and lentil cakes, but I was most impressed with the lentils and biscuits.

Feast in the Field

Family-style platter

For dessert, continuing with the pig and family-style theme, we were provided with ice cream cookie troughs made up of house-made cookies, canola oil cake, and scoops of Yelo’d ice cream. It was the best kind of indulgence.

Feast in the Field

Ice cream cookie troughs

Mack and I were fortunate to dine with a table of familiar food companions – Linda, Sharman, Diane, and Carrie from Taste Alberta. It made the experience of dining out and with folks from outside our bubble a relaxing one.

Sharon & Mack

Night out without Emily!

Given its success, MilkCrate and Taste Alberta are open to replicating the event in the future. I do hope they are able to do so – more people should have the opportunity to enjoy Chef Brochu’s food in such settings, an escape from the city and a reminder of where our food comes from.

Feast in the Field

Team MilkCrate

Thanks again to MilkCrate and Taste Alberta for having us!

Food Notes for July 26, 2021

Intent Coffee Closes Permanently

Back in September, Intent Coffee opened their cafe in Southgate Centre with such promise. Run by Mavi Tolentino and Reika Herradura, both identifying as queer first-generation Philipinx, Intent Coffee had a grand vision: “By hiring, investing, and empowering marginalized people in coffee, we will create a positive social and economic impact to the marginalized communities here in so-called Edmonton and as well as uplift Indigenous coffee producers in the Philippines.”

In preparation for their opening, they were able to successfully crowdfund over $6,000 to cover start-up costs. Their initial staff were made up of six people from the queer and trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities, with the hope of creating a safe space for queer youth and people of colour.

Unfortunately, Intent Coffee announced that their shop closed permanently last week. In a statement posted to Instagram on July 26, 2021, they disclosed the financial duress they had been under and how their inexperience affected the business:

“In early July, we literally had $1,000 in our checking account. We have also made bad financial decisions over the past two weeks out of desperation to keep our doors open and keep our livelihoods…Going into this, we didn’t have any business background and definitely didn’t have any money. Our lack of experience led us to making mistake after mistake.”

Tolentino and Herrandura go on to say they are hopeful their work might spark some change:

“We might have failed in moving towards our vision but we at least failed forward and we certainly did not fail in trying. We hope that we have inspired at least one of you to be the change or create the change you want to see in the world.”

Openings

  • A restaurant called Shoyu Sushi is coming soon to the former Allegro spot downtown, at 10011 109 Street.
  • An outpost of The Canadian Brewhouse is now open at the Edmonton International Airport, next to the Central Security.

Closures

  • La Boule, the popular Old Strathcona bakery, is announcing that they will be closing their doors on August 22, 2021. But we may see the business again at some point: “Our lease has come to an end and so we must say farewell. This is not goodbye forever, just so long for now.”
  • Several restaurants at the Edmonton International Airport closed permanently over the last year, including Wayne Gretzky’s Wine and Whisky, Heineken Lounge, and Brioche Dorée Bakery.

Upcoming Events

  • A reminder that the Heritage Festival returns July 31-August 2, 2021. Free timed-entry passes are required for entry.
  • Ice District’s plaza hosts ICE Jam every Saturday starting at 5pm, with live music and food and beverages for purchase.
  • Concert series Lord of the Wings (which hosts local talent but also offering up a side of wings) continues on August 28 and September 11, 2021 with two dates remaining at ReMax Field. The Journal has a backgrounder on the event.

Local News

  • Edify is looking for the best burger in Edmonton in their Edify Burger Challenge. Submissions will be accepted until July 29, 2021.
  • Opinions on 124’s newest addition, The Lot, which hosts a rotating roster of food trucks, are mixed.
  • According to OpenTable data, Edmonton restaurants have seen an increase in customers in July 2021 when compared with July 2019.
  • The Journal has the backstory on Drizzle Ice Cream.
  • Seven local breweries located on 99 Street want to rebrand the road to be called “Happy Beer Street”.
  • On its first day in operation, the Snickerdoodle booth at Taste of Edmonton was destroyed by a self-contained fire.
  • The next item added to Edify’s Best Things to Eat list is the parmesan soup from Bundok.
  • Sharman was invited to try the Hotel Macdonald’s patio offerings at the Confederate Lounge.
  • Alberta’s craft distilleries continue to grow in numbers, alongside the number of craft breweries.
  • The City is conducting a survey about its pilot program of permitting alcohol consumption at select picnic sites in Edmonton.
  • Chef Scott Johathan Iserhoff of Pei Pei Chei Ow was featured in a Travel Alberta piece on his recommendations for Indigenous food, art, and storytelling in Edmonton.
  • Local restauranteur Morris Klimove, who opened multiple restaurants in Edmonton including Steak Lofts, passed away at the age of 97.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • I’m happy I was able to introduce Rosewood Foods to my two visiting sisters last week – I opted for their bistro chicken salad that day – light but satisfying.
  • Rosewood Foods

Bistro chicken salad from Rosewood Foods

  • Friday was the perfect evening to continue our picnic tradition with Young & Restless Pizza. One pie would have easily fed three adults but we wanted to sample both the pepperoni and meat lovers. The crust was thin and chewy, with a generous amount of toppings. Definitely worth a try, especially if you have the chance to enjoy it outdoors!
  • Young & Restless Pizza

Pepperoni pizza from Young & Restless Pizza

  • We walked over to the Black Owned Market’s one year anniversary event on Saturday and picked up some great finds! This included the chin chin poppers from Travelling Dishes, a Nigerian food service – immensely addictive, we all couldn’t stop eating them.
  • Travelling Dishes

Chin chin poppers from Travelling Dishes

Food Notes for July 18, 2021

Geoscapes Returns to Elevate More Local Chefs

Geoscapes, the brainchild of co-founders Kris Harvey and Trevor Lipton, is returning for a second series of special events. Featuring guest chefs who prepare multi-course menus served up in transparent dining domes, the event runs from July 15-August 28, 2021. This time, they have partnered with Snow Valley who is not only hosting the domes, but also a separate full-service patio and bar.

Back in March, Geoscapes was the latest iteration of domed dining opportunities to appear in Edmonton, similar to the set ups offered at the Courtyard Marriot and Tiramisu Bistro, or during last year’s Dining Under the Stars. Located then at Victoria Golf Course, the domes offered what many guests were looking for at the time – a safe way to dine out indoors. “It was a huge success and was sold out almost every day of the week,” said Harvey. “We created really safe [dining] opportunities, and people said they loved that we brought life to that dark corridor of the river valley.”

It was also a boon to the hospitality professionals involved at a time when indoor dining was limited. “The chefs and businesses were doing double or triple capacity during that time period [because of Geoscapes],” said Harvey. “Over the six weeks, those businesses made over $150,000.”

In addition, unlike other domes that were imported, Geoscapes customized and manufactured their own structures locally. Harvey shared that the polycarbonate panels can hold 300 pounds of weight and can withstand wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour. In fact, Geoscapes is getting so much interest in the domes themselves from tourism boards and resorts abroad that they may be able to grow this aspect of their business as well.

This summer, Geoscapes will highlight the food from eight chefs. While there are some returning chefs from the previous event, including Shane Chartrand and Lindsay Porter, others are new to Geoscapes. “We really wanted to represent Edmonton as best as possible,” said Harvey. “We made sure we had representation from different communities and backgrounds, including women – we have amazing women chefs in Edmonton.”

Chefs Mai Nguyen of Gourmai Dumplings and Eric Hanson (formerly of Prairie Noodle) are participating in Geoscapes for the first time; neither are currently working at restaurants, and Harvey is excited that guests will be able to enjoy their exclusive menus. Chefs Tony Le and Troy Griffith from Century Hospitality Group are also new additions, and will be bringing their cuisine to the domed environment.

Harvey was also happy to invite Rub’d chef Calvin Tuefeld to the event. “We wanted to create opportunities for young chefs who are doing interesting things,” said Harvey. “This event can also open doors for future generations [of chefs].”

Tickets for the event are $125 for adults, with a minimum of four people per dome. While they did introduce the chance to purchase tickets for children at a discounted rate of $25, Harvey admits that the cost may exclude some diners. For this reason, they worked with Snow Valley to create two more approachable outdoor experiences in Tito’s Patio and Botanist Garden.

Tito’s Patio is led by Chef Kevin Ostapek (formerly of Prairie Noodle and Three Boars), and is promising a slice of Austin, Texas in Edmonton. “It’s truly an accessible option,” said Harvey. “You can get everything from hot dogs and burgers as well as amazing smoked brisket and pulled pork.” Sweet tea and lemonade complete the southern experience.

Botanist Garden, on the other hand, aims to transport guests to a garden party with fresh spritzes and flower-filled planters. Both patios are open for walk-ins only from Thursday to Sunday, 12-8pm.

Given restrictions have been fully lifted as of July 1, and summer weather begets outdoor dining, some might be questioning the need to dine in a closed (albeit air-conditioned) dome. But Harvey insists that the personalized nature of Geoscapes is priceless. “[The domes] give people the opportunity to create their own experience,” said Harvey. “At a restaurant, the table next to you is a factor, or the restaurant’s music selection.” And the reality is, many people aren’t fully ready to dine out in public yet. “Some people don’t want others in their space,” said Harvey.

Harvey is also looking towards the future, as the concept travels well. Their first chef in this series, Edmonton ex-pat and Food Network Canada star chef Roger Mooking, has expressed excitement that Geoscapes might tour the country. “We’ll be looking for partnerships,” said Harvey. “And we want to take our local chefs along, too and show the world how good they are.”

Openings

  • There’s a new soft serve ice cream purveyor in town called Drizzle Ice Cream, located at 10322 81 Avenue.
  • Bodega’s Sherwood Park location, its fifth in the Edmonton area, is opening on July 20, 2021. It is located at 210, 410 Baseline Road.
  • The Italian Centre’s fourth location in the Edmonton area is opening in Sherwood Park on July 21, 2021. Find it at 8005 Emerald Drive.
  • The Alley is opening its third location in Edmonton at 11966 104 Avenue later this month.
  • Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea is now open in West Edmonton Mall, inside T&T.
  • New bagel vendor Beb’s Bagels is selling its product at the 124 Grand Market.

Upcoming Events

  • Eats on 118 tours are back this summer, running July 21, August 4 + 18, and September 1, 2021. Each event will involve stops at 3 restaurants. Tickets are $40, and act fast, because the first event is already sold out.

Local News

What I Ate

    • It’s been great to have both my sisters back in town for the first time in 18 months! We’ve been hitting up certain places they’ve missed, including King Noodle House.

King Noodle House

Take-out from King Noodle House

    • We had a great time returning to the haskap u-pick at Rosy Farms for a second year! We did not expect it to be as windy and chilly as it was (Mack had the foresight to suggest we bring jackets), but the pickings were even better than last year. Emily had a blast and ate her weight in haskaps (we topped up our pail charge to accommodate). We look forward to eating our way through the berries this week. Rosy Farms will be open for their u-pick for just another week, as a hailstorm unfortunately shortened their season this week.

Rosy Farms

Haskap picking at Rosy Farms

Food Notes for July 12, 2021

Taste of Edmonton Returns to Churchill Square

After being forced to cancel the festival in 2020, Taste of Edmonton has not only returned to the summer event calendar, but also to its long-term home at Churchill Square. This year’s iteration runs July 22-August 1, 2021.

In 2018 and 2019, Taste of Edmonton had relocated to Violet King Henry Plaza on the Alberta Legislature grounds, and though some guests and restaurants expressed that they preferred that site, the festival always intended to return to Churchill Square. “[Violet King Henry] Plaza was a temporary home until construction on the Square was finished,” said Leana Santos, Marketing Manager for Events Edmonton, the organization that operates Taste of Edmonton. “The LRT construction will not have any effect on physical distancing at the festival and 2021’s site plan is the largest in the festival’s history to allow for ample physical distancing.”

A number of gates will contain the festival site to manage capacity. However, guests will not have to queue for entrance or restrict their time on the festival grounds, Santos said.

The Heritage Festival announced this year that they have eliminated paper tickets in favour of direct electronic transactions with pavilions. Taste of Edmonton, however, is moving forward with the use of paper tickets. “In 2019 we had the option to purchase digital tickets [through the Taste of Edmonton mobile app],” said Santos. “However, after receiving feedback from our restaurant partners and attendees, we decided to switch back to hardcopy tickets to increase the speed of sale.”

The 2021 festival will feature 51 restaurants and food trucks. The menu as presented in the guide is akin to the Heritage Festival, with items organized by ethnic cuisine. As this is the first event since the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, I was curious what Events Edmonton might be doing to address systemic inequities in their festival. “Events Edmonton welcomes all cultures at the Taste of Edmonton,” said Santos. “We are celebrating the city’s diverse cultures with over 150 menu items and the menu has everything from Canadian to Jamaican to Indigenous and everything in between.”

Although the website is coy regarding whether live entertainment will take place, Santos confirmed that patrons will be able to expect live entertainment.

Early bird pricing for Taste of Edmonton tickets ends July 21; they can be purchased in-person, online and at special events such as Al Fresco on 4th on July 17.

Openings

  • Roasti Coffee has set up a temporary trailer at Snow Valley for the summer, from Thursdays to Sundays.
  • After closing Mandarin, their successful University-area restaurant, due to the pandemic, Patrick Wong and his wife opened up 888 Dim Sum and Noodle in Devon.

Upcoming Events

  • The dining domes of Geoscapes is returning, but this time at Snow Valley from July 15-August 28, 2021. Chefs involved in this iteration include Eric Hanson (formerly of Prairie Noodle), Lindsay Porter (of The Common), Mai Nguyen (of Gourmai Dumplings), and Toronto-based Roger Mooking. Tickets are $125 per person, with a minimum of 4 persons per dome.
  • The Summer Fun Midway in place of K-Days will be running July 23-August 1, 2021, and will feature rides and fair food.
  • The Black-Owned Market Edmonton is celebrating their first anniversary with an event on July 24, 2021 at Victoria School. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP.
  • Backstairs Burger (still gearing up to open at 5th Street Food Hall), is popping up at the Coals and Cleavers patio on July 24, 2021.
  • 17 Edmonton area restaurants are participating in Alberta on a Plate, a festival that celebrates local producers. Running August 6-15, 2021, the menus for the restaurants will be up on August 1.
  • Packwood Grand returns on August 28, 2021 at the Century Mile Racetrack. It combines horse racing, fashion, and food and drink.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • Our new daily route takes us by Rosewood Foods, so there will be a lot more patty melts in my future. Such a great sandwich.
  • Rosewood Foods

Patty melt from Rosewood Foods

  • We had take-out from Coals and Cleavers on Friday. It’s a hidden gem only in its second week run by the Alberta BBQ Collective. They’re operating a pop-up patio Downtown behind the Freemasons Hall (10318 100 Avenue). I really enjoyed the whole hog pork, and Emily ate up her share of mac and cheese!
  • Coals and Cleavers

Whole hog plate with collard greens and baked beans from Coals and Cleavers

Food Notes for July 5, 2021

Black Box Hospitality Embraces Pandemic-Induced Changes

It’s been over ten years since Nate Box opened the modest but mighty Elm Cafe in Oliver, and it’s safe to say that in that decade, he’s seen it all. Now at the helm of Black Box Hospitality Group, made up of four businesses including restaurants and a liquor store, even that experience couldn’t prepare him for the challenges wrought by a global pandemic. “The hardest part was the initial closures in [March] 2020,” said Box, “We laid off nearly 60 staff members overnight.”

Box’s longevity in the hospitality business is no accident, however. He attributes much of their success in navigating the changing restrictions to his strong team and their ability to continuously adapt. He also shared that some of the changes made in the last year may end up being permanent. At June’s Delicatessen, for instance, they expanded the takeaway menu with more transportable food and added shelves for pantry and home items. “It’s strange [be]cause we’re not sure if the plated-style menus we initially came up with will ever return,” said Box. “This grab-and-go style has been so much more accessible and simple to execute.”

Box shared that Highlands Liquor has, like other liquor stores in the province, been busy. However, to overcome the narrow margins in the business, they have been fortunate to build up a loyal clientele who return for their curated selection and staff knowledge. “It’s been encouraging to see people stocking up…on amazing craft Alberta beers, spirits, and small producer natural wines,” said Box.

District, on the other hand, was hit hardest, as it has been closed for nearly ten months in total since March 2020. Reliant on traffic from workers occupying the surrounding corporate and government towers, Box indicated that District won’t resume even partial operations until after Labour Day. In the meantime, the space has since been transformed to a pizzeria from Wednesdays to Sundays, called Young & Restless. “Pizza just makes sense for the District space and the current dining and takeout trends,” said Box. “Not to mention that that neighbourhood is in a bit of a pizza desert.” Box acknowledges (and supports) the success of other pizza concepts that have developed during the pandemic such as Sepp’s and High Dough, but is aiming to be more affordable and accessible than his counterparts.

While previous menus at District included pizza, the pies served at Young & Restless are quite a bit different. “[That pizza] wasn’t the kind you could box up and takeout,” said Box. “So we went back to the drawing board…Erica [Box, chief baker] spent 6 weeks or so figuring out a dough recipe that would work.” The cauliflower and sage pizza has carried over to the new menu, but other topping combinations, such as a mushroom ricotta and meat lovers, are all different.

Their newest establishment, Fox Burger, required the biggest pivot. Pre-pandemic, they relied (as most other restaurants did) on in-person dining. “We learned and adapted new software, websites, and promotions to change on the fly,” said Box. “And the neighbourhood and city rallied behind us to be their go-to choice for burgers and beers.”

The food truck was a fortuitous addition, when an ad for a fair priced, well-equipped truck came up. “Through the pandemic our limitation has been location and size of the kitchen,” said Box. “We didn’t and don’t need a big ass dining room to do what we were doing, we needed a bigger kitchen.” The Fox Burger truck has been in operation since May, with Wednesdays earmarked for service in different areas across the city. “It’s been great fun and also such an amazing way to test and engage with other neighbourhoods,” said Box. “We’ve had block-long line ups and even served 200+ burgers one evening in the pouring rain.” Box sees the truck as an additional revenue stream that will help Black Box recover in the long run.

While he stresses that Black Box has been doing okay, Box isn’t certain of the future, even with the removal of all restrictions as of July 1. “To be frank, I think that small businesses, especially those like ours in hospitality, are unaware of our vulnerability right now,” said Box. “Summer’s here, people are excited about going out, it’s bustling and it feels normal, but we’re forgetting that most businesses have been able to rely on government subsidies that will dry up soon, and that debts will be called, and that the cold slow months are four months away.”

COVID-19-related News

  • Since mandatory mask requirements were lifted on July 1, some businesses have continued to require that patrons don a face covering. These include Fleisch and Sugared and Spiced.
  • Depending on the community and the approach, restaurants across Alberta, including Campio Brewing and Fleisch, are grappling with the challenges that come with the removal of restrictions.
  • Some patrons rang in the occasion of lifted restrictions at BRBN St at West Edmonton Mall at midnight on July 1.

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • Another Sari Sari Market, highlighting Fillipino businesses, will be held on July 24, 2021 at 9912 72 Avenue. Sosyal Scoops and Filistix will be among the vendors.
  • Linda is hosting two cooking classes on July 27 and 28, 2021 with Pei Pei Chei Ow as a part of her month-long birthday celebrations. This comes as a part of her personal reconciliation efforts: “One of those acts includes pledging to spend money intentionally supporting local Indigenous businesses, such as artists and restaurants.” Tickets are $40, and 100% of the ticket fee will go to Pei Pei Chei Ow.

Local News

  • On July 1, some businesses including Biera, Kind Ice Cream, Rosewood Foods, and Roasti Coffee chose to donate profits to organizations supporting Indigenous survivors or anti-racism groups.
  • The Thursday 124 Street Market has been forced by the City of Edmonton and 124 Street Business Association to reduce their footprint to pre-COVID guidelines. This will mean vendors will not be able to physically distance booths. They are asking patrons to fill out a survey in July and sign a petition to support an expanded footprint. However, organizers are threatening to potentially move the market if a resolution cannot be found: “In the event that the market cannot secure additional space to support 60+ vendors and is found to not be able to operate safely and effectively for customers, we will be forced to move the popular, flagship 124 Grand Market location that has been operating harmoniously in the 124 Street neighborhood the last decade.”
  • EDify’s Best Things to Eat series continues with Partake’s beef tartare and the bronzed ribeye from Rigoletto’s.
  • Meuwly’s Artisan Food Market just celebrated their third birthday.
  • Heat wave or no heat wave, it sounds like the Calle Mexico patio is becoming a popular spot for Edmontonians.
  • The Transit Hotel restaurant owner is frustrated with the challenges he’s faced with the City’s permitting process, which has delayed their opening.
  • There are consequences to being the last to adopt new service methods: the Edmonton Downtown Famers’ Market is closing their curbside pick-up option after six months in operation (Old Strathcona and Bountiful are continuing their programs).

Beyond Edmonton

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Ceres Solutions is an Olds-based company taking spent grain from the brewing process then reusing it to grow mushrooms, then as protein-enhanced livestock feed.

What I Ate

    • I hit up the Campio Brewing Market that takes place every other week to pick up cinnamon buns from Typ Top Bakery. I have a soft spot for them and with the business also being a social enterprise, it’s a win-win.

Typ Top Bakery

Typ Top cinnamon buns

T&D Noodle House

Grilled chicken and spring roll vermicelli bowl from T & D

    • Mack and I had a breakfast date at OEB last week. We’re still not comfortable dining indoors, so we’re grateful for the restaurants who have preserved their patios even as they’ve more fully opened up their dining rooms.

OEB

Breakfast plates from OEB

Food Notes for June 28, 2021

Some Food-based Businesses Will Continue to Require Masking After July 1

With the Province’s Stage 3 set to launch on Canada Day, Edmonton City Council voted to deactivate the mask bylaw to align with that date. As a result, face coverings will no longer be required indoors (there are some exceptions with public transit, vehicle-for-hire, and long-term care facilities). The Old Strathcona Business Association had sent a letter on behalf of its 500 businesses to urge Council to extend the bylaw, but to no avail.

In response, a couple of food-based businesses will continue to require patrons mask up, even after July 1, 2021. Kind Ice Cream will require masks until at least mid-July in order to protect their staff:

“While we’re eager to see the eventual return to normal, we plan on taking extra precautions while we see how things evolve following reopening and in order to give our team a bit of extra time to get their second doses…Our staff feeling safe at work is our biggest priority as we roll into these next several weeks.”

Earth’s General Store will also be asking customers to continue masking, regardless of vaccination status:

“This means that acceptable well-fitting cloth masks are required by everyone entering the store. There is NO exception for people older than 5 years of age. This extra period of time will allow all of our staff to be fully vaccinated AND the full two-week period after vaccination is observed…If you are fully vaccinated – good for you, and thank you – but you will still need to wear a mask while being in the store and practice social distancing.”

Earlier this month, Fleisch tied its indoor dining opening to the date at which their staff have acquired full immunity.

COVID-19-related News

  • The owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alberta, which earlier this year defied public health orders by keeping his restaurant open to in-person dining, was found guilty of contempt.

Openings

  • Awn Kitchen is now open at 104, 5124 122 Street.
  • Namaste India has added a third location to their roster, having opened in Old Strathcona at 10354 82 Avenue.
  • Browns Crafthouse’s first Edmonton location is now open at 10141 124 Street.

Upcoming Events

  • The Backyard’s opening night is taking place on July 2, 2021. They’ll have food trucks on hand, live painting and performances. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12.
  • MilkCrate is hosting Feast in the Field on July 24, 2021. Expect a family-style meal featuring a whole hog and ice cream cookie troughs for dessert. Tickets are $85 per person.

Local News

  • Chef Table Living’s Food Bike Tours are back every weekend from July 3-September 5. 2021. Tickets (excluding bike rental) start at $129 per person, and include 3 stops over the course of 3.5 hours. They’re also continuing to offer Chef Kits in partnership with local chefs, and Linda is offering a discount code for those interested.
  • Alternate Route Coffee opened its roastery and distribution centre at the Edmonton International Airport’s Sustainability Campus.
  • Northern Chicken has set up a water station available to anyone to access during this heat wave.
  • EDify’s latest Best Things to Eat highlights the vermicelli special bowl from An Chay and the cookies and sour cream ice cream from Kind Ice Cream.
  • Also from EDify is a profile of Au Chocolat, a Morinville-based business that features bars and bonbons made from cacao sourced from ten different regions.
  • Twyla Campbell’s latest series with Edmonton AM will focus on different seasonal ingredient sourced from farmers’ markets. Her most recent story focused on asparagus, coinciding with the last week Edgar Farms’ spears were available at local markets.
  • Perhaps during this heat wave, what can get us through are thoughts of Christmas – Duchess is soliciting votes on what they should tackle for their annual gingerbread project this holiday season. The choices are Whoville from The Grinch, Arendelle Castle from Frozen, or the Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto.
  • The Real Success podcast for entrepreneurs featured an interview with Colleen Heidecker of Colleen’s Chocolates.
  • Expect some changes to Taste of Edmonton and the Heritage Festival this summer.
  • Jennifer Cockrall is hosting a 5-week food writing lab from July 20-August 18, 2021 through Pandemic University. Registration is $339.
  • Since the start of the City of Edmonton’s pilot project for alcohol consumption at certain park sites, over 30 tickets have been issued at parks where alcohol consumption is not permitted.

Beyond Edmonton

  • Based on a new report looking at Canadian perceptions of tipping, even with the ups and downs of the pandemic, it looks like the practice of tipping isn’t going anywhere.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • It’s been some time since we indulged in Bagel Bar, so we picked up an order of bagels and bialys last weekend. It was as good as I remembered; the texture of the bagels is something worth seeking out if you haven’t tried it already!
  • Bagel Bar

Bagels and bialys from Bagel Bar

  • For my birthday last week, Mack picked up the pasta trio from Cafe Amore, and it was enough food for a couple of days! I’m looking forward to getting onto their patio when we feel more comfortable, but in the meantime, we enjoyed the meal on our balcony!
  • Cafe Amore

Pasta trio from Cafe Amore

  • We had an impromptu picnic with Fat Franks take-out after running some errands over the weekend. It certainly feels more like summer weather-wise, but the grilled dogs help, too!
  • Fat Franks

Fat Franks picnic

  • We were doing our best to keep cool on Saturday; it was handy to have soft serve from Coffee Bureau in the #yegdt ‘hood to turn to!
  • Coffee Burrau

Mack and Emily with their soft serve from Coffee Bureau

Food Notes for June 21, 2021

Restaurants and Events Prepare for Stage 3

Premier Jason Kenney announced that Alberta would be moving forward with Stage 3 of its Open for Summer Plan on July 1, 2021. Stage 3 will see all restrictions lifted, including the general indoor provincial mask mandate. Edmonton City Council will be voting on potentially repealing its temporary mandatory face coverings bylaw on June 22.

In preparation for this phase, some restaurants are scrambling to staff their establishments in order to meet the anticipated demand. Many business owners are finding that candidates are hard to come by, with many choosing to leave the service industry altogether.

Fleisch co-owner Katy Ingraham, and spokesperson for the Canadian Restaurant Workers Coalition, isn’t surprised that some restaurants are struggling to fill positions due to low wages and the potential for unsafe working conditions.

“Restaurant work is work that needs to be valued and respected with a living wage…Frankly, many of them are leaving the industry because they don’t see that change happening fast enough, or at all,” said Ingraham.

Meanwhile, some Edmonton summer festivals are preparing to move ahead with their large scale outdoor events. Pre-sale tickets for the Taste of Edmonton are available until the event begins. Running July 22-August 1, 2021 at Churchill Square, the event will feature 33 restaurants and 12 food trucks.

The Heritage Festival also confirmed it will be taking place in Hawrelak Park from July 31-August 2, 2021. Free timed-entry passes are now available to be booked, and this year, no food tickets will be sold. Instead, food and goods can only be purchased directly from pavilions by credit or debit.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Phoenix Diner is now open in the former Doppio Zero space, at 10803 Jasper Avenue.
  • There is now another ramen option in town called Ramen House, located at 10430 61 Avenue.

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Kingsway Mall is hosting another Food Truck Fest on June 25, 2021 from 3-8pm.
  • MLA Rakhi Pancholi is hosting a virtual Taste of Edmonton-Whitemud on June 27, 2021. Those who purchase tickets will receive a delivery of a sampling from area restaurants for the event. Tickets are $75.
  • Awn Kitchen is organizing farm tours on July 17 to Rosy Farms and on July 24 to Lazuli and Grey Arrow Farms. Tickets range from $55-75.
  • The Edmonton Craft Beer Festival has been rescheduled again to October 22-23, 2021.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Taproot Edmonton published a story about those in Edmonton spurned on by the pandemic to grow more of their own food.

What I Ate

  • Summer just isn’t the same without mini donuts! We returned to #Root107 on Friday to kick off the weekend with Jackie O’s Street Treats.
  • Jackie O’s

Cinnamon sugar mini donuts from Jackie O’s

  • It’s been dangerous to have pho at my fingertips with Tau Bay now available via delivery. #patiopho is something I can get used to.
  • Pho Tau Bay

Steak and brisket pho from Pho Tau Bay

  • With my parents now fully vaccinated, Mack and I were able to get away for a brunch date at Chartier over the weekend! It was a beautiful day to enjoy a patio, and though we will continue to support restaurants primarily via take-out, it sure was nice to enjoy a fully-serviced meal with real dinnerware and cutlery.
  • Chartier

Breakfast poutine from Chartier

Food Notes for June 14, 2021

Edmonton Riverfront Patio Is Now Licensed

River Valley Adventure Co. has been operating for nearly a decade in Louise McKinney Park, offering Segway tours and equipment rentals year-round. This year, their patio is now licensed, and can now offer Edmontonians another place to enjoy alcoholic beverages.

Chad Murphy, a Hospitality Consultant working with River Valley Adventure Co., is hopeful that more people will take advantage of what he calls, “the only riverfront patio in Edmonton offering craft Alberta beer, wine and seltzers.” He is particularly proud of their choice to source drinks locally. “[You] will see a rotation in our craft beer, but it will always be Alberta produced craft brews only,” said Murphy. At present, their current offerings include cans from Medicine Hat Brewing Co., Bent Stick Brewing Co., Last Best Brewing & Distilling, Blindman Brewing, and Sea Change Brewing Co.

In addition to alcoholic drinks, River Valley Adventure Co. also brews Sherwood Park-based Roasti Coffee.

Food-wise, they have partnered with The Greenhouse to serve their prepared meat and vegetarian sandwiches. The Greenhouse, led by owner Paul Shufelt, operates restaurants at three city-owned golf courses.

Currently, the patio seats 16, but when restrictions are lifted, they will be able to accommodate up to 28 people. Their hours are also limited at the moment, as they are open 10am-4pm on Monday and Thursday, and from 10am-6pm on the weekends. Murphy indicated that they hope to extend their hours as conditions allow. City-run restrooms are open and available in the adjacent building.

While Segway Tours continue to be their most popularly booked activity, River Valley Adventure Co. has also expanded their rental options to include 5-person inflatable rafts, e-bikes, and side-by-side Surrey Bikes. “We feel that with the introduction of our liquor license and enhanced offerings, that we will open ourselves up to a wider customer base,” said Murphy.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Wilfred’s will be re-opening this summer with a refreshed menu with a Southern twist. They will also be partnering with Made By Marcus for a dual concept storefront.
  • Evario Kitchen + Bar is now open at 950 Parsons Road SW.
  • Another location of Joey’s Fish Shack is opening on June 17, 2021 at 2571 17 Street.

Closures

  • Food business Nai Nai Mie has decided to close down the business by June 30, 2021. Orders will be accepted until then or when they sell out.

Upcoming Events

  • Another Ritchie Food Court is taking place on June 19, 2021 from 11am-3pm at Ritchie Hall (7727 98 Street). Drift, Calle Mexico, Sosyal Scoops, Fox Burger and Go Nuts 4 Donuts.
  • Campio Brewing is once again hosting their Campio Summer Markets, every other Saturday until September. The next market runs June 26, 2021 from 11am-4pm.

Local News

What I Ate

  • We had a great virtual lunch gathering this week with the Taproot Edmonton team. We enjoyed food from Tiffin Fresh Kitchen, perhaps the most efficient fast casual player in #yegdt.
  • Tiffin Fresh

Tiffin take-out

  • We satisfied an Ono Poke craving for our Friday night picnic.
  • Ono Poke

Ono Poke picnic

  • Emily has had prior exposure to bubble tea, but a venture over the weekend to CoCo may have sealed the deal – she couldn’t get enough of the tapioca pearls!
  • CoCo Fresh Tea and Juice

Drinks from CoCo

  • After rescheduling several times, we finally made it to the University of Alberta Botanic Garden to enjoy their Brunch Box offerings alongside my parents. The Freson Bros. mushroom and asiago quiche was tasty, and would have definitely been even better warm, but our favourite was the Chocorrant gruyere and ham croissant. We finished our morning off with a stroll through the gardens. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday!
  • University of Alberta Botanic Garden

Brunch Box at the Botanic Garden

Food Notes for June 7, 2021

Stump Kitchen’s Alexis Hillyard featured by Google

This week, local YouTube star Alexis Hillyard was featured by Google in a new YouTube video:

“Alexis, an LGBTQ+ and disabled chef, uses YouTube and Google Meet to help pursue her passion for vegan cooking. At the same time, she creates a safe space to celebrate the unique ways we move through the world. http://goo.gle/3fOYOxt

Hillyard, known for her popular Stump Kitchen series, has been producing videos on her YouTube channel for five years. Her videos highlight vegan and gluten-free recipes, often assembled using her stump as a kitchen tool. She uses her platform to celebrate limb differences, and more recently, after having a baby, focus on parenting with one hand.

The video came together quickly over the last few months. “Google googled me and said they were looking for creators to feature and they were looking for disabled or queer creators that were having a good impact,” said Hillyard. “They found my page and loved it and knew they wanted to feature me right away.”

Filming occurred over two days in April with strict COVID-19 protocols in place with Google staff in town from Toronto and Vancouver. Hillyard had a strong say in what content was filmed, including scenes with her partner and child. “I was called a creative consultant on the ground because I got to shape what they caught on camera,” said Hillyard. “It was not artificial.”

Stump Kitchen started as a side project but has morphed into a nearly full-time job for Hillyard, who, as a trained teacher, still teaches one half day a week at a junior high school. The rest of her time is spent hosting classes and workshops, conducting speaking invitations and social media gigs, and being a Canadian ambassador for the Lucky Fin Project. She also relies on her Patreon page for support.

The channel has grown its audience over the years, and while she has a significant fan base in the Prairie provinces, her reach is international including the US, South America, and Australia. “[My audience] ranges from people who are amputees themselves, to families who have members with limb differences, and random people who like cooking shows or have found a different way in – I burp and swear and don’t wear a bra,” laughs Hillyard. When restrictions lift, she hopes to resume travelling to continue to meet and highlight others with limb differences.

While Hillyard isn’t the planning type – she much prefers the joy of living in the moment – she does have one dream that she would love to fulfill one day. “I could open a small café or restaurant called ‘Stump Kitchen’ made up of staff with limb differences and we would sit on tree stumps,” said Hillyard. “It would be great to have a space to celebrate my local community.”

Hillyard credits a lot of her success to the city she is proud to call home. “The community here is so vibrant,” said Hillyard. “It’s so small but it’s so big; we have incredible local businesses and creators that I can learn from, and it’s the kind of city where you can have an impact and be known and not get lost in the rumble of a big city.”

COVID-19-related News

  • Stage 2 of Alberta’s Open for Summer Plan is expected to start on June 10, 2021, and will increase outdoor dining to tables of 6, and will re-introduce indoor dining for the first time since April 9.
  • After a lengthy hiatus, Bundok will be re-opening on June 10, 2021.
  • Red Star’s patio is now open.

Openings

  • Black Box Hospitality has launched a new concept called Young & Restless Pizza, operating out of District Wednesday to Sunday. They have first come, first served picnic tables available. It’ll be great to see District bustling again after it’s been closed since January.
  • Italia Mia (operating out of the former Il Forno space at 14981 Stony Plain Road) is now open.
  • Cafe La Reine will be opening later in June at 8927D 82 Avenue, in the space formerly occupied by Amandine Cafe.
  • Downtown is getting another southern BBQ restaurant called Coals and Cleavers, set to open June 26, 2021 at 10318 100 Avenue. The restaurant is from the folks at the Alberta BBQ Collective and the team behind Pitt County BBQ.

Upcoming Events

  • The Al Fresco #on4th market with extended patios kicks off on June 12 and runs every Saturday from 10am-3pm until September 18, 2021. The closure of the street will also extend into Sundays to accommodate the extended patios throughout the weekend.
  • The Black Owned Market YEG is hosting a Dance and Coffee Cultural Experience on June 19, 2021. Tickets for the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, to be held at the Habesha African Market, are pay-what-you-can.
  • Noodle company Nai Nai Mie is hosting its first pop-up with Chef Doreen Prei on June 30, 2021. Guests will be treated to a 2-course dinner and the event promises to be ”hot, saucy and more than a little noodly. Maybe even a little naughty.” Tickets are $35 with location TBD.

Local News

  • The Journal has more details behind Calle Mexico’s taco carts and their connection to the godfather of Edmonton’s food carts – Fat Franks. The carts may debut on city streets as soon as this week.
  • CRAFT Beer Market will be debuting their new rooftop patio on Rice Howard Way on June 21, 2021.
  • Kitchen by Brad is open for “Meatball Madness” this summer, offering take-out on Fridays over lunch through their take-out window.
  • The Butchery made the Canada’s 100 Best list of  “things to savour right now” across Canada. It’s also worth noting that Chef Shane Chartrand also made the list, but in a composite item that included several Indigenous chefs that the list creators didn’t feel warranted their own individual features.
  • EDify released their 2021 patio guide. The Downtown Business Association (DBA) created a Google map of patios in the neighbourhood.
  • Also from EDify – they will be sharing Best Things To Eat as chosen by prominent Edmontonians throughout the summer. First up – the DBA’s Puneeta McBryan highlights the chocolate olive oil cake from Rosewood Foods, and Oilers play-by-play announcer Jack Michaels selected the chorizo tacos from La Patrona.
  • Uproot Food Collective will be the first long-term tenant of the new Ag-celerator at the Edmonton International Airport, a new federally-certified food production and contract packing facility. Also from Uproot, they now offer frozen bulgogi from Edmonton favourite NongBu.
  • The accommodation and food services sector continues to be the hardest hit in Alberta with a loss of 57,000 jobs from February 2020 to May 2021, based on analysis of Statistics Canada data.
  • Home-based bakery Söta Saker YEG that started early this year has continued to gain patronage.
  • Malaysian-style jerky business Dai-Lou has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $35,000 to help launch a food truck and increase stockists in Edmonton.
  • Luxe picnic experiences continue to crop up; the latest from YEG Picnic and YEG Scoot combines a boho picnic experience with scooter transportation, and costs $130 for two.
  • That’s Food, a food-focused podcast from CJSR, returned in May with new episodes. Their latest this week features a blind taste test of $5, $12, and homemade cake, and an interview with The Art of Cake’s Gloria Bednarz.
  • Congratulations to Tamara Vineberg, the chair of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization bagels fundraiser, who helped to raise over $14,000 this year with the sale of 17,280 bagels.
  • Some people are hopeful that the bigger bees that have been spotted around the city might mean a more healthy population this year.

What I Ate

    • I finally felt ready to sit on a patio for the first time this year – mostly because we were the only ones on it! Mack and I had a quick breakfast date at DOSC as we had been meaning to try their combo deal for some time: a bacon, egg, and cheese cruffle sandwich + a coffee for $8. I liked the sweet and savoury flavours of the sandwich, and it was a nice way to start the day.

DOSC

Cruffle date at DOSC

    • Our day trip out to Wabuman Lake required some sustenance from Farrow – namely, some sweet treats and sandwiches!

Farrow

Treats from Farrow

    • Our summer of picnics continued after we picked up some pastries from Shan Shan Bakery in Chinatown after some other errands in the area. We enjoyed them in Little Italy – there were no excuses not to eat outside this weekend!

Shan Shan Bakery

Shan Shan pastries in the park

    • Though Popeyes has been in Edmonton for some time, we’d only had take-out once before. Now that it’s in #yegdt, it seemed like a good excuse as any to try it again for a picnic! The food held up pretty well on our walk over to the Leg Grounds, and I ended up enjoying the chicken sandwich more than I expected. While it won’t be a regular stop for us, I’m sure it will be a popular spot in the ‘hood.

Popeyes

Popeyes picnic