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.

Culinary Highlights: 2018 Edition

2018 was defined by Emily, who entered into our lives at the end of January. So when it comes to food, much of this year was spent taking baby steps and learning how to dine out with a little one. In rediscovering local restaurants with a baby-coloured lens, it continues to surprise us when we’ve dined at establishments with high chairs, but no change table.

I’m also proud that I was able to meet my goal of maintaining this blog – albeit with fewer posts – after Emily was born. I really wasn’t sure what my life would look like with a small human to care for, but keeping up with the Edmonton food scene was a welcome exercise to keep my sanity intact!

Here are some of my favourite food-related memories of 2018:

My favourite new restaurant opened towards the end of the year, with an ethos that exemplifies the culinary experience that I now crave most: unfussy and unpretentious. Partake is a lovely spot on 124 Street, with good food and a great vibe.

Partake

Happiest hours at Partake

We also discovered a wonderful new high tea option in the city at The Art of Cake that also happens to be Emily-friendly!

Art of Cake

Treats for days

I definitely had more time for brunches this past year, so it was perfect timing for Calgary-based OEB to roll into town. Eating my way through the breakfast poutine portion of their menu will take me well into 2019.

OEB Breakfast Edmonton

Brunches with Emily

I was still on a sweets hangover from my pregnancy (my strongest craving while carrying Emily was baked goods of all sorts). No dessert was more spectacular – or fun – than the Fruit Loop-dusted confetti cake from Rebel.

Rebel Food and Drink

The sparkler takes the cake

It was great to be a part of a volunteer team who successfully organized the inaugural Chinatown Dining Week in January (if you missed it, the event returns for a second year starting this week)!

Gui Lin

The 2-course meal from Gui Lin

We continued our tradition of visiting farms of producers we frequent. This year it was a tour of Sundog Organic Farm.

Sundog Organic Farm

Strawberry fields forever

I also had the opportunity to see some urban agriculture even closer to home – the rooftop hives are a sight to see at MacEwan University.

MacEwan Urban Beekeeping Tour

Urban bees

Speaking of urban agriculture – Mack and I embraced community gardening this year, and found that our life was better for it.

Alex Decoteau Park Garden
At our plot in Alex Decoteau Park

Mack and I were fortunate to do some travelling this year, with stops in Canmore and Kananaskis, and a short flight to a Vancouver Island getaway in Sooke.

Shirley Delicious

At Shirley Delicious, our favourite breakfast spot just outside of Sooke

It was a year full of change, but without a doubt I’m having the best time of my life. Here’s to 2019!

Culinary Highlights: 2017 Edition

At the very least, compiling a list of some of my favourite food moments over the past year reminds me of how grateful I am to live where we do! It’s also a good opportunity to reflect on our travels, and how fortunate we were to be able to explore a bit more of our country.

Here are some of my favourite food-related memories from 2017:

Our favourite new restaurant was Otto. Mack and I love their approachable menu, simple but well-made food, friendly service, and accessible location (just one bus from work or home).

Otto

I love the Otto dog and fries

Zwick’s Pretzels was another new favourite – there’s nothing better than a fresh, savoury pretzel warm out of the oven.

Zwick's Pretzels

Trio of pretzels

We also had a fabulous meal at the chef’s table at Baijiu with Amanda and Jason in the fall.

Baijiu

Braised pork bao from Baijiu

My office moved to Alberta Avenue in the spring, so it was great timing that Eats on 118 continued this year. I had a blast at each of the food tours, but I had a soft spot for the bowling edition, where I was introduced to the wonderful Plaza Bowl.

Eats on 118

Plaza Bowl

Mack and I had a great time exploring more of our backyard last year as well, with trips to Lake Louise, Lacombe, East of Edmonton, Calgary, and Smoky Lake.

Eagle Creek Farms

Selfie at the Bowden Sun Maze

Continuing with the theme of visiting farms, a highlight was a tour of the Sunworks Farm, one of the producers we purchase from regularly.

Sunworks Farm Tour

Chickens at Sunworks Farm

Similarly, it was an special experience to be able to visit Doef’s Greenhouses as a part of this year’s Grand Taste Tour.

Doef's Greenhouses

Doef’s Greenhouses

Alongside a small team of volunteers, I enjoyed introducing many Edmontonians to Chinatown (and some of its culinary gems) through a series of walking tours. I’m happy this will continue into 2018 with Chinatown Dining Week.

Edmonton Chinatown Tour

Edmonton Chinatown walking tours

We did some travelling as well, with visits to Montreal, Toronto, Seattle, and Vancouver Island.

Schwartz's

Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwich was the best thing we ate in Montreal

Maison Christian Faure

Although I wish I had gone back for a second croissant from Maison Christian Faure

Wild Mountain

We did not expect to find a restaurant like Wild Mountain in Sooke on Vancouver Island

Red Fish, Blue Fish

The tacones at Red Fish, Blue Fish in Victoria lived up to my expectations

There is a lot to look forward to in 2018, so we’ll see what makes the cut next year!

Culinary Highlights: 2016 Edition

I looked back on my year of blogging only to remember how an unexpected project at work derailed the first four months of 2016, severely limiting my free time to write. Although things calmed down in the spring, I’m not sure my work/life balance ever fully recovered.

At any rate – I never managed to put together a 2015 edition of my culinary highlights, so it’s a small victory that I am returning to some old habits.

Here are some of my favourite food-related memories from the past year:

Did someone say pizza? Love Pizza ended up being our go-to downtown addition this year. Great product, and a restaurant we can walk to!

I can’t say no to the Meatatarian

A Streetcar Named Dessert was a unique experience that married Sugared and Spiced cakes with an amazing musician in an unforgettable venue.

How do you choose?

This year’s Grand Taste Tour took us to Tangle Ridge Ranch where we enjoyed one of the best dishes I had all year.

Gnocchi with peas and pecorino

I attended my first Gold Medal Plates in 2016, and appreciated firsthand the skills and talent of all competing chefs. But I would be kidding if I didn’t say that the highlight of the event was a selfie with the gracious Olympic gold medalist Erica Wiebe.

#graniestphotoever

It was also the first year that I attended What the Truck?! as a “layperson”. The festival is a lot of work to produce, so I am grateful to the team for carrying the torch forward!

What the Truck?! at Northlands

A brief stop in Niagara this spring resulted in some wine education for both Mack and myself.

Green Lane Winery

We continued that education in the Okanagan that fall, and at Covert Organics, met a special strawberry patch.

Ain’t nothing like a fresh strawberry

In Chicago, I finally got to taste some of Rick Bayless’s food, and it lived up to my expectations.

Frontera Grill

Smoked pork queso fundido from Frontera Grill

Closer to home, we enjoyed some food with a view in Rocky Mountain House.

Prairie Creek Inn

I also found my new favourite restaurant in Calgary: Ten Foot Henry.

Salt roasted potatoes

In most cases, it’s not what we eat that we remember, but who was around us at the time to make it special. For example, while there were things I would have changed about the Culinaire Treasure Hunt, Mack and I had an absolute blast with our teammates Su and Allison.

Team High Viz!

In that same vein, one of the reasons I’ve grown to love Toronto as much as I have is because of my sister.

Toronto 2016

Cheering on the Raps at Jurassic Park

Thanks for joining me on another year of adventures. Here’s to 2017!