Date Night: Mirepoix Trio and the Princess Theatre

Just as food trucks have been a means towards establishing a storefront or brick and mortar restaurant (see: Filistix and Woodwork), I think pop-up restaurants have the same potential. It seems like ages ago now, but before RGE RD moved into their permanent digs, Chef Blair Lebsack hosted pop-up meals in the city and out on the farm (and even now, continues with the latter).

The Mirepoix Trio (made up of Chefs Rylan Krause, Jade Wu and Adam Zarycki) has been organizing special one-off vegan dinners in Edmonton since last summer. The functions not only let them collaborate and cook outside the box, but the meals have also allowed them to build a name for themselves and some money to boot – with the hope of one day establishing their own restaurant.

Mirepoix Trio

The Mirepoix Trio

Based on their Easter weekend suppers, I think the Mirepoix Trio is gaining quite the following in this city. They had generously invited Mack and I to dine as their guests as an engagement present (so sweet). Held at Upper Crust on Good Friday, the five course meal would have only set us back a very reasonable $40.

We started off with some refreshing drinks – a Mirepoix soda (Limoncello, vodka, basil, mint agave and soda) and an Orange Blossom (sugar, orange biters, St. Germain and Prosecco).

Mirepoix Trio


Kudos to the chefs for preceding each course with a personal explanation – it’s always great to see the people behind the food! It was also insightful to hear about their direction for the meal – to make sure each course would flow into the next, each dish would adopt an ingredient from the previous one, ensuring some continuity.

The first course was a straightforward but delicious mushrooms and toast, served with an underlay of fennel pesto. Those two bites packed a punch, and set the tone at the start for a meal all about simple comforts.

Mirepoix Trio

Mushrooms and toast

On that blustery, snowy day, nothing was more welcome than the tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons (the cheese in this instance was Daiya). I could have eaten more than a handful of those crispy croutons, but I did particularly appreciate the brightness that the roasted tomato drizzle lent the dish.

Mirepoix Trio

Tomato soup with grilled cheese

Mack found the palate-cleansing iced tomato granita a little strange, given the extreme temperature shift from the earlier dish, but being a fan of caprese salad, I enjoyed the combination of tomato, basil and creamy cashew cheese.

Mirepoix Trio


We were both looking forward to the potato gnocchi, to be served with a creamy cheese sauce. The gnocchi themselves lived up to expectation, plump, seasoned well and satisfying. However, the accompanying asparagus seemed out of place texturally; the spears didn’t hold up to roasting at all.

Mirepoix Trio


To end the night was Mirepoix’s take on a classic – strawberry shortcake. Here, the addition of basil tied it into the main, but what really made it sing was the sweet dollop of coconut whipped cream. I didn’t miss the dairy at all!

Mirepoix Trio

Strawberry basil shortcake

The meal was a great introduction to what the Mirepoix Trio is trying to do – elevate expectations of vegan cuisine, all within a scope of familiarity for those less accustomed to the possibilities of vegan cooking. It was clear Rylan, Jade and Adam are passionate about what they do – and given the growing niche of vegan establishments in Edmonton, I have no doubt a Mirepoix restaurant would help meet this need. Best of luck to them as they continue to raise their profile with these pop-up dinners! Follow them on Twitter to find out when their next event will be taking place.

After dinner, Mack and I walked over to The Princess Theatre to continue our evening with food on film. I had earmarked The Lunchbox during last year’s Edmonton International Film Festival, but due to time conflicts, I wasn’t able to watch it. Lucky for me, The Princess brought the film back to Edmonton.

It’s been some time since we’ve caught a film at The Princess, but this visit reminded us why we should be back more often – clean, intimate and retro, it was a much different experience than a trip to the typical multiplex. So much so that we indulged in popcorn, something we never do!

The Princess Theatre

Salty snacks

As for The Lunchbox – I highly recommend it, and not just for the food (even though the styling inspired immediate Indian cuisine cravings). My interest in the movie was initially to see the dabbawala food delivery system in action, but it is so much more than that. It’s a lovely story about the connection between two lonely people in bustling Mumbai, subtle and beautifully acted. Though The Lunchbox is no longer playing at The Princess, it’s now moved to Landmark City Centre, so you still have a chance to see it in theatres. Go, now!

Blink: Parkade Party Recap

Things really came together for our Blink: Parkade Party in August. For years now, I’ve been eyeing the parkade on 104 Street just south of Jasper Avenue, wondering how we could program the space. Thankfully, Vinci Park 103 was open to our use of the rooftop, and by working with a great team, we were able to make something happen!

The decision to screen the 50s classic Grease helped to establish the carnival theme that pervaded the rest of the event. Fat Franks and Cookie Love were on hand to dole out summer treats, while DJ Thomas Scott helped us set the tone with a spirited soundtrack from the era.

Blink: Parkade Party

DJ Thomas Scott

To continue the party atmosphere, Alex of E-Town Salsa led a zumba session to great success. It was really cool to see the number of people who joined in!


We also worked with Cookie Love to host their inaugural cookie eating contest, featuring a number of Edmonton’s social media superstars. Brittney, Su and Mack were great sports, participating in a public challenge to see how many cookies they could eat in two minutes. Mack was the winner, however lightweight, winning the competition by consuming a total of three cookies.

Competitors in the Cookie Love 1st Anniversary cookie eating contest, from left: Susanne Dennis, Mack Male, and Britney Le Blanc.

Our brave competitors (photo by Alistair Henning)

Before the movie started, and during intermission, the fabulous Sugar Swing Dance Club taught the crowd Grease-inspired dance moves (I will admit now that this was somewhat inspired by a cheesy scene in The Wedding Planner, where the two romantic leads dance during a movie screening in Golden Gate Park). While our dance sequences were a little less spontaneous, they were equally inspirational!

Julie and Ben were fantastic instructors, upbeat and encouraging. Their first set involved pairs of dancers grooving to tunes of the era.

Let’s dance

At intermission, Julie and Ben led “Team Sandy” and “Team Danny” in a fun dance off. Based on the crowd’s cheers, I think it was “Team Danny” that was declared the winner.

Dancing showdown!

The main event was a screening of Grease onto the side of a parkade directly adjacent to the rooftop. With the help of Owen Brierley of Guru Digital Arts College, we were able to secure a projector that worked well in spite of the glaring parkade lights.

Blink: Parkade Party


With the help of Media Architecture Design Edmonton (MADE), we were also able to provide some park-like seating options in the form of grass tiles! They were still a bit damp from the previous night’s rain storm, but brought a pop of unexpected green to the decidedly urban surroundings.

Blink: Parkade Party

Grass tiles

We were happy with the turnout for the movie, realizing that the novelty of the screening location had something to do with it!

A big crowd stayed to watch the movie 'Grease' projected on the side of the building.

Grease is the word (photo by Alistair Henning)

As a result, we’re not certain this event can be replicated as such, but you can be sure we will always be on the lookout for underutilized spaces that have the potential to be so much more!

The event was free of charge to attend, and was only possible because of Edmonton Awesome Foundation’s seed money. The funding provided us with the opportunity to not only focus on putting on a good event open to all, but also retain our commitment to donate part of the proceeds to the Boyle Street Community ServicesDowntown Proud, a program that provides employment opportunities for formerly homeless individuals. With further sponsorship from Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and the Downtown Business Association of Edmonton, we were able to collect donations that would go straight to the cause. All told, with the generous help of those who attended, we raised over $2,100 for Downtown Proud.

We also want to thank the Downtown Edmonton Community League, Oliver Community League and Cask & Barrel for their support of Blink. We also had a number of fabulous volunteers who gave their time to help us out – thank you!

And lastly, having been involved in a variety of events and projects over the past few years, I can honestly say that it was a dream to work with Hannah McDonald and Stephanie Chai. And it wasn’t just the coincidence that our meetings always took place over wine! Thanks to you both for your creativity and endless energy – I hope our collaborative paths cross again in the future!

Blink: Parkade Party

We’re with awesome!

Edmonton Film Society: “Casablanca”

I’ve never watched Casablanca. At least, not in its entirety. While I’ve been able to identify lines like “We’ll always have Paris” and “Here’s looking at you, kid”, it’s one of those classics that I probably should have seen by now.

Though these movies are readily available at video rental stores and at the library, there really is no better place to get acquainted (or reacquainted, as the case may be) with classic films than with the Edmonton Film Society.

Edmonton Film Society

Edmonton Film Society Winter 2011 Series

The Edmonton Film Society is entirely volunteer-run, and its obvious their passion for movies is true. They organize several screening series a year, all centred around themes. The current theme, for example, is “Favourite Movies Forever”, with all titles chosen for their timeless quality. The screenings are dirt cheap, too: just $5 per show, or better yet, $25 for an eight show subscription.

Each show is introduced by a volunteer, a forward that sets the context of the show. It is more often than not studded with fun facts about the people involved with the movie, or the hijinx that happened during the production of the film (Casablanca, for instance, was shot sequentially due to the simple fact that the script wasn’t finished).

But the reason why the shows are worth checking out has to do with the audience. It always feels like a trip back in time – the people just seem to react to film like they did in theatres sixty years ago. Instead of the almost bleak silence, Edmonton Film Society screenings are always punctuated with laughter, gasps, and at the end, a burst of applause (I’ve written about other EFS shows before).

It was no different watching Casablanca, though I must say – the audience seemed noticeably younger than at other screenings I’ve attended. And what can I say about Casablanca that hasn’t been said before? It was filled with more comedic moments than I expected (Sam and Louie in particular), and it was lovely hearing those oft-quoted lines uttered by Bogart (“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” might be my new favourite).

They are screening the Rock Hudson/Doris Day romantic comedy Pillow Talk on Valentine’s Day. But don’t worry, this series isn’t all fluff and banter: The Birds plays on February 28, 2011.

24/One at the Edmonton International Film Festival

At the City Market last weekend, dozens of people gathered around the Edmonton International Film Festival tent, readying themselves for the 24/One Challenge: make a family-friendly short film in just twenty-four hours!

For the chance to win a $500 cash prize, 45 teams of three entered the competition, with 38 managing to hand in their submission by the deadline. In addition to a selecting one of three genres (comedy, film noir or mockumentary), teams had to include a prop in their film (they were given $5 to purchase something from the farmers’ market), and also incorporate the line “They’re reel…and fabulous” into their script. A jury panel then chose the top ten to be screened on the last day of the festival. The winner of the grand prize, however, was to be chosen by the audience.

I was was planning on making it to at least one screening at EIFF, and after the excitement at the market, figured it would be best to satisfy my curiosity and find out how the teams did. Mack had been lucky enough to get free tickets from EIFF this year, so though he couldn’t come with me, I was able to take advantage of a complimentary pass.

Due to a fire alarm and subsequent evacuation, the screening had been pushed back a half hour. It wasn’t a long wait, and besides, it meant the excitement for the filmmakers in the audience (who wouldn’t know if their film made it into the top ten until show time) had even more time to grow.


The line at Empire Theatre

I really didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did. Several of the films were hilariously absurd (including personified vegetables, an alien encounter, and the sport of “freestyle walking”), and I couldn’t help but appreciate the creativity on display. Though some were cleaner than others, in terms of camera work or sound recording, for example, it was amazing to me that all of the films had been written, shot, and edited all in twenty-four hours.

My two favourite films (and the two that I ended up voting for with my audience ballot) were by Team Show & Tell and Team SSC. The former produced Mittens, about a man entranced with a girl who left a mitten behind at his bus stop, to the point of developing stalker tendencies, while the latter, Reunion, prominently featured its prop (a jar of grape jam from Strathcona County Kitchens) in its telling of a band shattered by a member’s “preserve addiction”.


My ballot

Though I didn’t connect with Walk the Line, a mockumentary about the sport of freestyle walking, it was clearly very well done. More than anything, I was actually able to identify the Edmonton locations they used (something I was hoping for more of) – Beaver Hills Park and the Legislature grounds.

Before they announced the winner of the $500 people’s choice prize, host Rick Lee handed out prizes in jury-determined categories. Walk the Line took home a majority of the awards, including best director, editing and cinematography, so it wasn’t a surprise when they were also called up for the people’s choice award.

I was really glad to have caught 24/One fever – it’s something I will definitely look for at next year’s festival!

Film: “Presumed Guilty”

Mack and I were invited to attend the second Doc Soup screening that took place at the Citadel’s Zeidler Hall on Thursday night. Global Visions Film Festival helped to bring Doc Soup to Edmonton – a monthly film series that showcases both local and international documentaries.

The night’s film was Presumed Guilty, a documentary exposing the ills of the Mexican justice system through one man’s struggle to prove his innocence. José Antonio Zuñiga was arrested and jailed for a homicide he was never proven to have committed, and as the title of the film alludes, in a system where a conviction matters more than justice, his subsequent retrial was for show only, and did not result in a verdict change. It was a minor miracle that the cameras were allowed to film the retrial however, and I have to say, the “face off” portion of the footage was fascinating. The defendant (behind a set of bars) was able to literally face his accusers – in this case, the witness and the case detectives – and ask them questions face to face.

Antonio appealed the guilty verdict, and was able to secure an eventual acquittal from the appellate judges, but in the process, spent nearly 900 days in jail.

Roberto Hernandez, one of the two people behind the film, actually attended the screening, and conducted a Q & A at the end of the film. He is a lawyer by trade, and continued to reiterate his lack of filmmaking skill and expertise – “I just edited until I cried,” he said.  He was also extremely modest regarding the impact he has made on reforming the Mexican justice system – it turned out his previous documentary The Tunnel, which he screened for the country’s legislators, was a catalyst for a constitutional amendment passed last year which institutes a presumption of innocence.

The next Doc Soup screening is Junior, on February 4. For $10, it’s sure to be a worthwhile evening of food for thought. Thanks again to Ted Kerr for the invitation!

Adam also attended and blogged about the film – check out his thoughts here.

Film: “Julie & Julia”

Whenever someone mentions Julia Child, I feel a bit like Anne Hathaway’s character Andy Sachs early on in The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep, in a deliciously wicked turn as fashion editor Miranda Priestly, undresses Andy’s dismissal of fashion’s influence in one fell swoop, pointing to the runway origins of her cerulean sweater.

While no one has ever publicly demeaned me on the topic of Julia Child before – I feel nonetheless ignorant on the subject. I am not well-versed on Child’s significance, even as I am certain her effects, like the colour of Andy’s sweater, surround me (I did stop to see Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian, but because it was touted as a must-see exhibit more than anything else).

Julia Child’s kitchen at the National Museum of American History

On the flip side, while I won’t pretend to have followed Julie Powell during her year of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I did finish reading her memoir Julie & Julia recently. Her candid prose and sense of humour won me over almost immediately, and though her road to success may seem like a fairy tale to some, the foundation of her fame lay in her unrelenting execution of a novel idea. While I couldn’t relate to everything she went through, some of the internal pressures of being a blogger and the need for support were true for me too.

As a result, it was no surprise to me that on screen, even with Child’s romantic backdrop of an ideal Paris, Powell’s experience resonated with me the most. I do think Julia’s patience and perseverance with the publishing process was a little lost with the format of the back-and-forth-storytelling though, given she toiled nearly ten years over Julie’s one in the kitchen.

Though food plays a major role in the film (I’ve never wanted beef bourguignon so badly in my life), the movie really is about two women finding themselves with the aid of food. And if not equally important, the support they had from their husbands to overcome personal stagnation.

Much of the hype that surrounded the movie had to do with Meryl Streep’s supposed spot-on impersonation of Child, but I am not familiar enough with The French Chef to comment. However, she did a darn good job embodying a trembling exuberance for food, and maintaining a level of energy that seemed infectious to all that surrounded her. Amy Adams as Julie was adorable, and though not as much was expected of her, she emulated Powell’s spunk and escalating confidence.

If anything, the movie has given me a foundation to know more about Julia Child (I am devouring her memoir My Life in France as we speak), a desire to dabble in French cooking, and of course, rejuvinated my commitment to food blogging.

Julie & Julia is in theatres now.

Film: “The Dark Knight”

Mack has been talking about The Dark Knight for months now, so it wasn’t a surprise that he bought ticket to see it at 12:01am on the day of its release. Though I originally balked at the idea of a midnight showing followed by the struggle of getting through an eight-hour work day, I figured the experience of seeing the fanatical moviegoers on top of the movie itself was worth sacrificing one night’s sleep.

We joined the line outside of the second floor IMAX theatre at West Edmonton Mall at around 9:30pm. We had checked in on the line at 8pm, and though there were already twenty people outside the theatre, we opted for a mall stroll before commencing a lengthy stationary period. Looking around us, I wish we had been as prepared as our lineup counterparts – not with camping chairs as much as portable game systems, packs of cards, books, or magazines. Still, without entertainment, the time passed by fairly quickly, with the flaming dragon going off every twenty minutes, and my anticipation of costumed patrons. The final count at the end of the evening? Two Jokers, and an honourable mention for the guy downstairs who brought an inflatable Batman with him.

A motley crew

The dragon!

We were allowed into the theatre an hour before showtime, where the excitement continued to build. By the time the laser demonstration started, I was more than ready to see The Dark Knight.

Two and a half hours later, I felt like my nerves were shot and worn through. Between Heath Ledger’s terrifying portrayal of The Joker, Harvey Dent’s tragic disintegration into the villain Two Face, Christopher Nolan’s apparent need to fill a gunfight quota, and quick cuts resulting in brilliant-but-breathless moments of suspense, even a good night’s sleep wouldn’t have released the movie’s haunting grasp of my dreams.

As always, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine elevated scenes with their presence alone, while Maggie Gyllenhaal provided a seamless transition for a character that could have been played by any competent actress. Aaron Eckhart was perfectly cast as Dent, who was believably upstanding, and really, his chin and jaw should also be lauded simply for the number of times they have been mentioned in other reviews. Heath Ledger will undoubtedly build a cult following for his performance – like Viggo Mortensen, who I’ve read lives and breathes his character roles, Ledger nailed the eerily melodic voice, oddball gait, and facial ticks (his continuous tongue-flicking was genius) of this Joker.

Dually exhausting and exhilarating, I highly recommend The Dark Knight, a film with a rare payoff that actually matched its hype. Watch for Mack‘s review, where he will compare screenings of the film in IMAX and on the regular screen.

Edmonton: Free to Discover

I have the privilege of compiling a monthly calendar of events for my clients at work, in the hopes of encouraging them to explore and enjoy what the city has to offer. Since undertaking this initiative over a year ago, I must admit to the secondary benefit of becoming quite well-informed about economical and unique happenings in Edmonton. Thus, I am now quite dismayed when I encounter anyone who claims that “There is nothing to do in Edmonton.” At least, nothing related to either West Edmonton Mall or Whyte Avenue nightlife.

September, besides being the time of year that induces groans of children and teens everywhere, will also see the occurrence of four distinct, growing festivals:

  • Only in its second year, and taking place about a month before the better known Lit Fest, the Edmonton Poetry Festival is offering a plethora of events, many free, from readings, to poetry slams to a hip-hop night.
  • Edmonton Fashion Week runs from September 24-28, this year moving its runway shows from the south side Planet Ze Design to the unbridled space of Churchill Square. Besides being great for the current movement towards the publicity and revitalization of the downtown core, it also allows the festival itself increased exposure to new crowds. While the runway shows are not free, the opening night gala, featuring displays and a preview showcase, is open at no cost to the public (though attendees are encouraged to bring a non-perishable donation to the food bank).
  • The revamped Edmonton International Film Festival starts on September 28. Although it’s a shame the filmed-in-Alberta Assassination of Jesse James isn’t being screened, the matinee documentary series can be seen for $5 a pop.
  • Revitalization of a different sort is being celebrated in the form of the second annual Arts on the Ave Kaleido Festival. Nurturing the artistic in the ill-famed Alberta Avenue district, the festival is hosting a number of free performances and street entertainment (and for those who missed the five-star Fringe favorites Water and Homeless, you’ll get the chance to see them on stage for a bargain $5 a ticket).

I always wonder what it would have been like to grow with the Fringe, now just having finished its twenty-sixth consecutive run. With these four festivals still in their relative stages of infancy, perhaps one day you can look back and know that you were there for the beginning.

Other notable free activities during the month of September:

  • City Farm, which aims to expose the public to cultivation and animal care techniques, is holding its Harvest Festival on September 15. Admission by donation.
  • Free admission week at Kinsmen Sports Centre runs from September 22-30.
  • Two fun, cheeky exhibits at the Art Gallery of Alberta, including pieces by Andy Warhol start later this month. Admission into the temporary space at Enterprise Square is free from 4-8pm on Thursdays.
  • The City of Edmonton’s celebration of recreation, Free Admission Day, offers no cost entry to all city-owned facilities on September 30, including the perennially-popular and family-friendly Fort Edmonton Park, Valley Zoo, and Muttart Conservatory, as well as recreation centres and arenas.

Film: “High School Musical 2”

The long-awaited sequel to High School Musical premiered on Friday to tweens armed with VCRs, parents enjoying the wave of non-threatening, family-friendly entertainment, fans of Zac Efron (Dickson), and those curious to see if the film could possibly live up to the expectation and hype (me). It failed to deliver.

Despite being nearly two hours long (thus having ample time to redeem itself and/or improve along the way), the movie played too much like a poor excuse to capitalize on success. There were one or two catchy songs, but for the most part, the numbers were overdone and melodramatic (see Efron’s solo on the putting green), appearing unnecessary and draining whatever earnestness was gained through the acting. The vocals were also terrible, overly synthesized to the point where some of the singers sounded identical. I’m being harsh – harsher because of the grand expectations created in the wake of the original, but ultimately, I was disappointed that this was the final product. I doubt I will shell out cash to watch the third installment in the theatres.

On another note, I figured the late August release date was timed to coincide with a movie that tracked the summer holidays of the musically-inclined bunch, but after seeing the insane merchandising push by Disney, I now know otherwise. Besides the very-marketable back-to-school items, the over one hundred licensed products include video games, pillows, and dolls. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of a shoe I saw in Payless recently, if not only because only the wearer of the flip-flops would know their devotion to High School Musical.

For those who want to step on Troy and Gabriella

Film: “Black Gold”

After dinner, we watched the documentary Black Gold. From the movie’s website:

“Tadesse Meskela is one man on a mission to save his 74,000 struggling coffee farmers from bankruptcy. As his farmers strive to harvest some of the highest quality coffee beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price.”

The film set a global course, from the New York Stock Exchange where international coffee prices are set, to the province of Oromia, Ethiopia, where poverty is pervasive, in part due to the terminally low selling price of coffee, to London where Meskela tries to acquire new purchasers for his collective’s coffee.

I’m not a documentary-junkie, but I did find that there was something missing in the film – it needed a harder edge. Format-wise, there were the expected juxtaposition tactics of extreme destitution against the wealth of developed nations. At the same time, some jump cuts were much too jarring, weakening the effectiveness with the time needed to adjust between locales.

The filmmakers did try to broaden the scope of the problem to include international scapegoats, mentioning an apparently pivotal end of the International Coffee Agreement in 1989, as well as a breakdown of WTO talks between the EU and developing nations in 2003, but overall, this section was much too general. I suppose part of the problem was that the film up to this point had followed Meskela, and without a developed figure present at the conferences, it was difficult to continue the narrative they had worked so hard to construct.

There was one panel of text summarizing how the multinationals (Kraft, Sara Lee, et al.) had turned down requests for interviews. I’m not saying that the filmmakers had to stalk industry representatives or stage a protest in front of company headquarters à la Michael Moore, but there had to be further elaboration. Yes, governments and trade organizations are at fault, but so are the corporations.

Near the end of the movie, the camera tracks Meskela as he searches the aisles of a London supermarket for coffee originating in Oromia. He does find a package, and expresses his hope that consumers on the ground level will begin to investigate the source of coffee, and work to advocate against the injustice faced by third world farmers. I think this point should have been communicated further as well, for example, by interviewing consumers about their awareness of the coffee trade as a whole. I was waiting for the explicit condemnation of those who silently comply with unjust treatment.

So, am I now a hypocrite if I continue to partake in coffee without asking the questions that need to be asked?