Culinary Highlights: 2020 Edition

While 2020 made things much more challenging (the part of the pandemic that involved working from home with a two year old was less than ideal), for the most part, it has made me more grateful. I’m still gainfully employed, my family is healthy, and Mack and I have been able to spend more time with Emily. It would be nice to know what life on the other side of the horizon will look like, but for the moment, this point in history is a reminder to stay present. I would also be remiss not to thank those in health care and other essential roles doing their best to take care of our community.

Our financial situation this year also made it possible to continue supporting local restaurants as many had to adapt to ever-changing restrictions. For the most part, we were intentional with our dollars and directed them towards establishments we wanted to help see through the pandemic. And because we eschewed third-party delivery apps, it did mean that we primarily patronized businesses within a 15-minute walk radius of our condo.

Here are some of my favourite food-related memories of 2020:

We did have some meals indoors before things shut down, including what we thought was a farewell to Pam and Lyle of Hathaway’s Diner, as pre-pandemic, they had planned to sell the business (they’ve since continued the business by selling take-out).

Hathaway’s Diner

Emily eying up the eggs benedict from Hathaway’s Diner

My go-to spot around my office remained T & D Noodle House. I dined in early in 2020 and then continued as a take-out patron after that. Their noodle soups and vermicelli bowls are fast, consistent, and satisfying.

T and D Noodle House

Bun Bo Hue from T & D Noodle House

The last indoor dining event I participated in was Downtown Dining Week’s launch at the Art Gallery of Alberta in mid-March. A few days later, the lockdown came into effect, and Downtown Dining Week was cancelled. It was memorable because I’m still not sure when we’ll feel comfortable dining indoors again.

Braven

Downtown Dining Week launch

For us, it was undoubtedly the year of the picnic. We haven’t dined indoors as a family since early March, but that didn’t mean we haven’t dined out together. Enjoying take-out on a sunny spot outdoors proved to be the tonic I needed most days.

Picnic with Jack’s Burger Shack

Enjoying Jack’s Burger take-out outdoors in May

One of our favourite picnics took place at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden. Spreading out a blanket next to a stream in the Kurimoto Japanese Garden and tucking into an exquisitely prepared feast was a highlight this summer.

University of Alberta Botanic Garden

Picnic box from the Twilight Picnic Experience

Outdoor dining was a great way to gather safely, and still allowed for small celebrations with loved ones. This included celebrating my sister’s elopement last fall.

Otto

Take-out from Otto

We were fortunate to have some amazing restaurants open up in our ‘hood, yes – even during a pandemic. Rosewood Foods tops that list – we’ve eaten through much of the menu and we adore the food and service. I hope they stick around for years to come.

Rosewood Foods

Patty melt from Rosewood Foods

Also close to home, we were thrilled with the return of a market to 104 Street in the form of Al Fresco. It was wonderful to watch Emily get excited seeing the vendors setting up on the street down below.

Al Fresco on 4th

Emily at Al Fresco

It was the year of the staycation, which meant we didn’t venture outside the province. It’s no secret that the Prairie Creek Inn in Rocky Mountain House is a favourite of ours, and their hospitality was still second to none, even in a pandemic.

Prairie Creek InnBreakfast from Prairie Creek Inn

Here’s to continuing to enjoy the little things in 2021.

Epicureous in Edmonton: 2020 Year In Review

The pandemic wreaked havoc on life as we knew it. As Alberta exceeds 1,000 lives lost to COVID-19 amidst a holiday season under near-lockdown, it feels somewhat trivial to reflect on the food and hospitality scene in Edmonton.

Still, there is no doubt that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on how we dine out in the future, even post-pandemic. For businesses that are able to outlast the successive waves of the disease as we await mass immunization, some of the pivots fulfilled out of desperation may become permanent.

Restaurants such as Corso 32 and Tokiwa Ramen continued to produce meal kits even after indoor dining was permitted again in the summer; these specialty items will appeal to those more comfortable in their homes or as an entertaining fail safe even after the “new normal” returns.

It was no surprise that delivery services took off this year, with many people reducing non-essential trips outside the home. Although Skip the Dishes made concessions late in the year to temporarily decrease their commission fees, the 20-30% cut taken by third-party delivery apps has severely impacted the bottom line of many businesses. As a result, bakeries like Duchess, fast-casual restaurants like Filistix, HanJan, and Meat/The Next Act/Pip, and fine dining establishments like XIX Nineteen, chose to adopt in-house delivery (joining the ranks of pizza joints and Chinese restaurants). It isn’t an easy undertaking, but hopefully it can be more financially sustainable for them in the long run.

Some chefs, including MilkCrate’s Steven Brochu and Shaw Conference Centre’s Serge Belair have staked out a greater online presence in the form of personalized cooking tutorials or demonstration videos. Food Bike Tours rebranded to Chef Table Living, providing home cooks with chef-created recipe kits and instructional videos. This continues the trend (albeit virtually) of what chef table dinners started by further closing the gap between the diner and the chef.

One of the pandemic adaptations that has been most transformative to the consumer experience has been the upgrading of online ordering systems. Sugared and Spiced, Cartago, and Bon Ton Bakery were among those who debuted more seamless ways for customers to pre-order items for pick up, minimizing time spent in line and indoors. The convenience of pre-paying and access to visuals that aid in product selection will likely prove to be an essential and worthwhile investment.

Tokiwa Ramen

Here are a few other items notable to me in 2020:

  • Curiously, the pandemic pivot that didn’t take to a greater extent was outdoor dining spaces and winter patios. Some, such as Little Brick and Rocky Mountain Ice House/Cask and Barrel have invested significantly in their outdoor spaces, but given all the talk in the fall about the need for winter patio extensions it doesn’t look like many have taken the City up on this. It would be interesting to know if this relates more to the City’s aversion to approving requests on certain types of streets.
  • Considering the pandemic, it was another banner year for the expansion of some local businesses: Workshop Eatery grew with two locations of Woodshed Burgers and three branches of The Greenhouse; Culina on the Lake opened in Hawrelak Park; RGE RD added The Butchery; the folks behind The Sugar Bowl opened up Eleanor & Laurent; Love Pizza added outposts in southwest Edmonton and in Spruce Grove; and Calle Mexico and HanJan extended to three locations each.
  • Independent cafes continue to pop up in all corners of the city, and perhaps none too soon, given the rate Starbucks and Second Cup have been closing shops. This year, we welcomed The Dapper Beaver, Amandine Cafe, Krew Cafe, Mood Cafe, Cafe Neo, Intent Coffee, La Bosco, Bistro 99, Belge Cafe, Ch, On the Edge, and additional locations of Square One and Remedy Cafe. Not to mention CoffeePass launched in November, which intends to help promote some of the same independent cafes.
  • Given the hardship the hospitality sector has experienced this year, the number of closures may not seem as high as expected. However, this may change in 2021, depending on the length of lockdown-like measures. Among the businesses we lost in 2020 were Al Centro, Barking Buffalo Cafe, Dauphine, Die Pie, Doan’s, Doppio Zero Pizza, Il Forno, London Local, Prairie Noodle Shop, Royale,  Veggie Garden, Wishbone, and ZINC.
  • Collaborations between local businesses continue, but this year, even more so to help other independents when possible. The #eatloveeatagain initiative in December was one example, while Yelo’d has leveraged their delivery service to help other brands. In a creative twist, MilkCrate and Why Not banded together for a friendly burger competition.
  • In June, Linda Hoang set off a social media firestorm for Yoshii Express, an Old Strathcona eatery that was struggling. The public response to her posts was unprecedented, with line-ups at the restaurant for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, that level of support wasn’t sustained in the months following. This illustrates both the brilliant possibilities of social media but also its fickle, top-of-mind nature.
  • On a related note, advocacy for local restaurants formalized in the Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community, led by Cartago and Fleisch owner Katy Ingraham.
  • The Edmonton food media scene contracted again this year, with Liane Faulder departing the Journal for a second time. Graham Hicks, who wrote a regular food column for the Edmonton Sun, re-retired in June, amidst some controversy when two local food writers re-surfaced troubling previously published reviews.
  • The Province relaxed regulations on low-risk home-prepared foods in June, paving the way for many home-based “pandemic businesses”, such as Kryzy’s Kitchen and Bonne Vie Bakery. Time will tell if they can maintain and grow a foothold in the crowded market.
  • Similar to the appetite for food delivery, grocery delivery services exploded in the last year, with more than a dozen new options available in the Edmonton area. These include independents like Italian Centre Shop, Meuwly’s, Steve & Dan’s, and Effing Seafood, and big players like Sysco and Gordon Food Service offering direct-to-consumer options. Bountiful Farmers’ Market also became the first market to offer delivery.

You can check out previous year in reviews here.

Food Notes for December 21, 2020

Chinatown Dining Week Returns For a Fourth Year

Now more than ever, without indoor dining as an option, restaurants are struggling. Those located in Chinatown, a neighbourhood often mired in negative perceptions, were experiencing challenges even before the pandemic. Now, the current restrictions have further limited their ability to make ends meet.

Chinatown Dining Week was established to spotlight an area full of culinary gems that are often overlooked, and this year that mission continues (disclaimer: I am one of the founding volunteers of this initiative). The event returns for a fourth year, and runs from January 14-24, 2021:

11 businesses will be participating in the fourth annual Chinatown Dining Week. We’re thrilled to welcome two new partners to our roster: The Nook Cafe and Kim Fat Market. Both businesses have been strong community advocates, and we’re happy to showcase some of their menu items in our upcoming event!

Businesses will be offering special $10 and $18 menus for the duration of the event. Due to current public health guidelines, food will be served take-out only; phone orders are strongly encouraged to minimize wait times. Menus will be posted soon.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Congratulations to Frida Urban Taqueria, who opened their doors to take-out last week. Find them at 12411 Stony Plain Road.
  • One of the vendors at the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market, On The Edge Coffee, has opened up in CO*LAB, at 9641 102A Avenue. They offer convenient pre-order through Ritual as well.

Closures

  • Die Pie announced their closure, with their last day of operations being December 22, 2020: “We have seen a continuing heavy decline in sales the past couple months and increases in expenses and interest rates. We have painfully concluded that we can no longer operate further through this pandemic. We remain optimistic about the future, but we are unsure if or when we will re-open.”
  • Veggie Garden also announced they will be closing December 31, 2020: “Our hope is to one day in the future re-open in a location that is more easily accessible and most of all safer for our family and our customers.”
  • Garneau Pub, home of Combat Juice, is now closed.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

What I Ate

  • Kudos to Filistix who helped us cater a virtual staff lunch last week, delivering meals to the homes of our team members so we could enjoy it together over a video call. It was nice to break bread during these challenging times. I ordered the Tocino Burrito again – so good.

Filistix

Tocino Burrito from Filistix

  • Emily played in the adjacent Beaver Hills House Park while we waited for take-out from Wayback Burgers, the relative newcomer to #yegdt. The cheeeesy burger wasn’t quite as cheesy as promised, but the choice of tots was nice.

Wayback Burgers

Take-out from Wayback Burgers

  • Sunday was a beautiful afternoon for a Remedy Cafe chai and a stroll.

Remedy Cafe

Remedy Cafe chai

This is the last Food Notes for the calendar year – thanks for reading, and I wish you and your families a restful and safe holiday season.

    Food Notes for December 14, 2020

    Latest Restrictions Shutter Indoor Dining

    Effective December 13, 2020, indoor dining was prohibited in all restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes across Alberta at least until January 12, 2021. Businesses will be forced to rely on take-out and delivery for a period that, pre-COVID, would have been their busiest time of the year. Patrick Saurette of The Marc expects to lay off 95% of his staff due to the changes.

    Some, such as Pho Tau Bay, have elected to close operations until they are permitted to offer dine-in services again. Others have pivoted back to offering meal kits, like DOSC and RGE RD.

    The day after the restrictions were released, third-party delivery app Skip the Dishes announced a support package for small operators. This includes a 25% rebate on commission for independent restaurant partners also effective December 13. Some restaurants have been appreciative of this gesture, and given the frequency and volume of orders (Canada’s most prolific Skip customer lives in Alberta, having ordered 962 times so far this year), it will hopefully help hospitality establishments with their bottom line. When choosing to support local businesses, diners should still consider picking up their take-out, which ensures all of the profits go directly to the restaurant.

    COVID-19-related News

    • Effective December 14, 2020, licensed establishments can serve mixed drinks through delivery and take-out, as well as offer virtual tastings. This decision has been lauded by Spirits Canada, a national organization representing the Canadian spirits industry.

    Openings

    • It looks like Seoul Fried Chicken will be opening north of the river, taking over the space vacated by Royale on 104 Street.
    • Black Ship opened last week at 10251 Jasper Avenue (the former Hat space). They’ve since shifted to delivery and take-out only.

    Reviews

    Local News

    • DOSC has introduced a new burger menu under the banner Burger Brawl, introducing a new burger every week to “challenge” the others.
    • Northern Chicken just began offering a new gluten-free fried chicken sandwich, and it already has its fans.
    • Linda has an amazingly comprehensive list of where to order take-home Christmas meals this year.
    • Sonic 102.9 has a gift guide featuring local food and beer options.
    • Silver Skate has put together support local surprise bags featuring products from a variety of local purveyors. Bags start at $25 for delivery or pick-up from December 17-22, 2020.
    • Nai Nai Mie has started a crowdfunding campaign on ATB BoostR, in the hopes of raising $20,000 to scale up their operation.
    • Phil’s latest Best Dishes column features Drift’s mulligatawny soup.
    • The Journal featured the holiday boxes currently offered by EdmontonEats.
    • The current issue of The Yards is their annual Best in the Core issue, and includes categories of best outdoor eats and best business innovators (which feature several local food purveyors).
    • Ever wonder how to put together take-away pho? Linda has created a handy video reference.
    • Longtime green onion cake vendor Hongmei Chen has bid adieu to the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market.
    • Another LoveGood Food Exchange box has been set up, this time in front of the Edmonton Police Service headquarters downtown.

    Beyond Edmonton

    What I Ate

    • As the temperatures dip and the lockdown continues, I imagine the geography of our take-out map may shrink even further to those restaurants about a block or two away. Craving soup, we ordered from Ramen Misoya on Friday, conveniently just a few steps away from our condo.

    Ramen Misoya

    Order from Ramen Misoya

    • We made the best of a quick trip to Highlands on Saturday – curbside gifts from Majesty and Friends, picked out a book at Mandolin with Emily, and grabbed some bagels from June’s Delicatessen. Lots of opportunities to shop small on that block.

    June’s Delicatessen

    Cheese bagel from June’s Delicatessen

    Food Notes for December 7, 2020

    Local Initiatives Boost Awareness of Small Businesses

    Independent businesses need love now more than ever, so it’s great to see two new local initiatives highlight some of the caffeinated and culinary pillars of our community.

    CoffeePass is the brainchild of Edmontonian Eric Remagni, who was inspired to create the program after an eight month international adventure. “I began working on building the program in May of this year, and it has really been spurred forward by the challenges the pandemic has created,” he shared. “Now more than ever, our cafes need the support of coffee lovers to help them make it through the pandemic.”

    The pass, priced at $35 (plus tax and shipping), entitles passholders to 22 coffees, one at each of the 22 cafe partners. Participating businesses include more established cafes Little Brick and Doughnut Party and newer additions to the scene such as The Dapper Beaver and ch. cafeteria.

    “Our goal is to help people discover new cafes, and for the community to continue supporting each cafe by making additional purchases when they visit – whether that’s picking up some locally-roasted coffee beans, dining (or takeout because of Covid), or grabbing some merch,” said Remagni.

    Passes must be redeemed by March 31, 2021. CoffeePass is available online, or in-person through their cafe partners.

    Eat. Love. Eat Again! was put together by 7 establishments that hope to encourage diners to patronize other independent restaurants. In the month of December, dine-in or take-out at one of the participating businesses, keep the receipt, and show it at one of the other businesses for 10% off the bill.

    Participating restaurants include Filistix, Kanto 98 St., Mercer Tavern, Otto, Three Vikings, Toast Culture, and Yelo’d.

    COVID-19-related News

    • A server at Crown & Anchor Pub & Grill in north Edmonton needed 14 stitches on her face after an altercation with a patron related to asking the person to don a mask.
    • After temporary closures, Baijiu has re-opened, as has Love Pizza’s St. Albert location and Bagel Bar. Bodega’s St. Albert and Highlands locations will be open for take-out only as of December 8, 2020.
    • Other restaurants have decided to voluntarily transition to take-out/pick-up only, including Ramen Misoya, Three Vikings, Vi’s for Pies, and Red Star (who even created a playlist to listen to while enjoying dinner).
    • More restaurants are pivoting back to make-at-home meals, as took place earlier in the spring. This includes Bottega 104 with pasta, pizza, and cocktail kits, Woodshed Burger patties, frozen dinners from Filistix, and heat-and-eat options from Shojo Izakaya.
    • Katy Ingraham, owner of Cartago and Fleisch, continues her advocacy against indoor dining: “…no one should be sitting inside a restaurant with their mask off right now. Do not dine in. Not even if you’re following the rules. Not even if you don’t feel sick. Not with your household. Not with anyone….”
    • Entrepreneurs representing over three dozen hospitality businesses as a part of the Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community signed an open letter to City Council and other levels of government to plea for the need for more restrictions and immediate financial relief.
    • Lobby group Restaurants Canada will be calling for a national working group at a virtual press conference on December 8, 2020, which will include representation from Patrick Saurette of The Marc.
    • The pandemic and the poor economic conditions continue to impact businesses in Chinatown.
    • Bountiful Market has seen their foot traffic reduced by half due to the pandemic.
    • Cafe Bicyclette had made the decision to close for the remainder of the year – and in the process, donated their excess food to those in need.
    • A recent New York Times survey of 700 epidemiologists found that the most risky activity, in their opinion, is eating indoors at a restaurant.

    Openings

    Closures

    • The Downtown location of Yoshi Sushi in the Matrix Hotel is permanently closed.

    Upcoming Events

    • Taste Alberta is hosting a virtual Holiday Kitchen Party on December 9, 2020 featuring cooking demonstrations from a couple local chefs, including Steve Brochu of Milk Crate and Doreen Prei. The $15 registration fee will be donated to Edmonton and Calgary food banks.

    Local News

    • 2020 just keeps on dishing out the punches – this week, it was a fire that decimated Why Not. Co-owner Levi Biddlecombe vowed they will be back, “We’ll be up to something. People still need to eat … now we’re just trying to rebuild. The name has been built, it’s not just the physical space. We’ve built a brand in the community.”
    • Particularly because of the pivots the hospitality sector has been forced to make, those seeking to give local food gifts have never had more choices to consider. These include Fife N Dekel’s pie subscription and cookie mixes from Confetti Sweets.
      • It’s always great to see local businesses collaborating with one another – the latest example is this Mulled Cider Sorbet from Kind Ice Cream and Broken Spoke Cider.
      • Those looking for ready made turkey dinners for the holidays have many options, including A Cappella, Ernest’s, Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, and Sorrentino’s.
      • Food Bike Tours have rebranded to Chef Table Living, which encompasses their online cooking and mixology classes (supplemented with chef kits for easy preparation). They are also debuting their series of guided and self-guided Food Walk Tours on January 22, 2020 in Downtown and Old Strathcona.
      • Twyla Campbell shared information about alternative grocery providers to consider. On that note, Uproot Food Collective, which she mentions, is now shipping shelf-stable products across Alberta!
      • Sepp’s Pizza is celebrating their first birthday.
      • The latest issue of EDify offers an Indian take on Christmas dinner, recommendations for Thai food, and a profile of Lindsay Jang, a Sherwood Park expat with successful hospitality enterprises in Hong Kong, including branded sake called Sunday’s Spirits now available in Alberta.
      • Lincoln Ho’s YEGventures is collecting votes for his Best of Edmonton 2020 list. Voting ends December 20, 2020. Thanks to whoever nominated this blog – it’s an honour to be included along some other great local blogs!
      • 11 year-old Edmonton boy Dongdao Xiao’s recipe for “pandemic chicken” was selected to be included in the Kid Food Nation cookbook.
      • Edmontonians Allison Harrison and Nathan Beck have started a recipe blog called Cheap & Chunky.
      • Boyle Street Community Services has launched a holiday meal sponsorship program that will enable them to provide warm meals to clients.

      What I Ate

      • I had forgotten to post about the delightful outdoor ordering window at Overflow in Old Strathcona. Post-pandemic, I hope these stay!

      Overflow Cafe

      Mack waits for his drink order at Overflow

      • Desk lunches are made infinitely better when they’re made up of a comforting bowl of soup, such as the bun bo Hue from T and D Noodle House (they also closed to dine-in services earlier in the fall).

      T and D Noodle House

      Bun bo Hue from T and D Noodle House

      • It’s been too long since our last La Mision burrito (served at Tres Carnales now) so on Friday we made sure to upsize and include chips and guacamole with our order, too!

      La Mision

      Chicken burritos from Tres Carnales

      • We couldn’t pass up poutine in a cup at this year’s Zoominescence, and it was much better than we expected!

      Valley Zoo

      #poutineinacup from 40 Acres at the Valley Zoo

      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