Food Notes for April 12, 2021

Downtown Dining Week Returns Amidst Indoor Dining Restrictions

Downtown Dining Week is an annual event organized by the Downtown Business Association. It highlights the hospitality industry in the core, and is typically a fixture on the March events calendar. Having pushed the event back to April this year, it was an unfortunate coincidence that the news about indoor dining restrictions would be implemented on April 9, 2021, just days before the event was due to start.

Running April 13-25, 2021, 48 participating restaurants are offering $20 multi-course lunch or brunch menus, and/or $35, $50 or $65 multi-course dinner menus.

Because of the restrictions, some of the restaurants have had to change course and adjust menu offerings, shared DBA Marketing & Communications Manager Tracy Hyatt. Most menus have been redesigned for take-out, while three restaurants are offering the specials through delivery as well.

In addition, the event has accelerated the timeline for al fresco options. “The restrictions and Downtown Dining Week have also made a lot of participating restaurants open up their patios ahead of the normal patio season,” Hyatt said. “26 restaurants are offering some form of outdoor dining.”

New to Downtown Dining Week is the inclusion of a “fast casual” category; in previous years, only establishments serving more high-end fare were eligible to be included. “Fast casual is a growing dining concept and downtown has some pretty amazing ones, such as BUOK and Rosewood Foods,” said Hyatt. “They are great additions to the food scene and you can’t find them anywhere else in the city.”

A list of menus of participating restaurants can be found on the DBA website, but given the current situation, Hyatt encourages diners to check the social media accounts of individual restaurants for hours and other information.

COVID-19-related News

  • Effective noon on April 9, 2021, indoor dining at restaurants and other food service businesses were again restricted, with no announced end date. While some of the measures echo the restrictions imposed in December, one significant difference is that businesses can still offer outdoor dining. The guidelines specify that “If the patio or facility has a roof, it cannot have more than 1 enclosing wall”; as such, some of the enclosed structures some local restaurants have brought in would have to be modified to fit these specifications. In addition, the restrictions require individuals to “stay seated with their dining party unless using the washroom, paying, or entering/exiting the facility”, which seems to address the comment Premier Kenney made about some patrons transmitting COVID-19 when “table hopping”.
  • The Alberta Hospitality Association continues to request data to support the closure measures, even as studies about indoor transmission rates abound.
  • On the outdoor dining front, the Old Strathcona Business Association is advocating for extended semi-permanent walkways to be installed along Whyte Avenue, while the Downtown Business Association would like to see 104 Street closed to vehicular traffic on weekends for extended patios.
  • Some restaurants across the province have chosen to defy the indoor dining orders, including the Crown & Anchor Pub and Grill on Edmonton’s north side. In December, a waitress at the business required 14 stitches after an altercation with a patron about mandatory masks inside the pub. On the weekend, AHS issued a closure order to cease dine-in services.
  • Premier Kenney projected that large-scale summer events will be able to go forward if vaccination supplies remain consistent, and that most restrictions would be lifted by June.
  • Palette Cafe is struggling with the recent closures to indoor dining, while others like Barb & Ernie’s express their frustration about the hospitality industry being “targeted”.
  • Formerly a ghost kitchen, the Burger Brawl menu will now be offered on the DOSC patio.

Openings

  • Spring means one thing: food truck season has begun! Some new trucks have already started appearing on Edmonton streets, including El Santo Taco Truck and Korean fried chicken truck Oh! Chicken.
  • The Colombian shared that their second cafe, located in the French Quarter at 8816 92 Street, will be opening in a few days.
  • Italia Mia is a forthcoming restaurant to open in the former Il Forno space, at 14981 Stony Plain Road.
  • Barbacoa is a new restaurant in Spruce Grove that opened for take-out only (for now) last week. They specialize in barbecued meats over open flame.
  • Also in Spruce Grove, Alberta’s newest small brewery RavenWolf Brewing opened last week.
  • A & G Burgers is now open on Rice Howard Way, at 10127 100A Street.

Upcoming Events

  • The University of Alberta is offering a free webinar open to the public about the benefits and how to participate in local food systems. The webinar will take place on April 16, 2021.

Local News

  • Dalla is launching Rano’s Take-Out Pop-Up, which will serve up “classic Italian-American dishes that have been popularized in film and in your favourite kitschy Italian restaurants”.
  • The Journal has more on the back story behind Sherwood Park’s first brew pub, 70 Acres.
  • Eleanor and Laurent lands as the Alberta representative on a Readers’ Digest list of the best coffee in every province.
  • Dished highlighted the hot pot kits that can be delivered from Liuyishou Hot Pot.
  • Given the number of likes on this tweet, it’s fair to say that Old Strathcona stalwart Steel Wheels has quite the reputation outside of Edmonton.
  • There is a crowdfunding campaign for Island Grill, a restaurant that “suffered severe damage” from a fire on March 28, 2021. The campaign seeks to raise $20,000.
  • Twyla wrote a sponsored post about the diversity of products available at Bountiful Market.
  • Edmonton Eats is offering a sweet way to celebrate Mother’s Day, with treats traditionally eaten during Eid al-Fitr. The boxes are $20 and have to be pre-ordered for pick-up.
  • Fresh Routes, the social enterprise that set up mobile grocery markets in underserved communities in Edmonton, has had to pause their operations while they review how they can remain sustainable into the future.
  • Future Fields, an Edmonton-based start up helping to produce lab-grown meat, received $2.2 million in seed funding from American venture capital firms.

What I Ate

  • We satisfied our King Noodle House craving with #PhoToGo! The restaurant remains open for take-out.

King Noodle House

Bun Bo Hue from King Noodle House

  • We were lucky enough to be treated to a preview two of the $20 Downtown Dining Week menus from Bao Bao this weekend, one of the new “fast casual” additions to this year’s event. All of their set meal options include one of their signature soup dumplings. In my opinion, their pan-fried bao are particularly fantastic, while Emily loved their dry noodles. We have and will order from them again in the future! Thanks to the Downtown Business Association for arranging the meals.

Bao Bao

Downtown Dining Week meals from BaoBao

Food Notes for April 5, 2021

More Hospitality Businesses Voluntarily Close to Indoor Dining

The number of COVID-19 cases in Alberta continue to rise. Numbers released on April 5, 2021 point to a provincial positivity rate of 9.9%, with 39% of active cases being variants of concern.

Some in the medical community continue to advocate for a return of restrictions. In an open letter to the Premier dated April 1, 2021, the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association recommends an immediate lockdown or circuit breaker, “advising people to only leave their homes for essential services or outdoor exercise.” In an interview with Global Edmonton, University of Alberta infectious diseases expert Dr. Lynora Saxinger expressed her concern about “places where, for example, people have to unmask to eat like in restaurants, food services and things like that.”

With escalating cases, some hospitality businesses are voluntarily and proactively closing indoor dining, mirroring the shift that took place back in November before the Alberta Government mandated in-person dining restrictions in December.

Arcadia, which opened their Manchester Square location in late November, suspended their indoor service on April 1, 2021. They remain open for patio service and take-out:

“This is a very difficult decision, especially being such a new business & still trying to get off the ground. But, the safety of our staff & you the customers is much more important.”

Similarly, Chartier in Beaumont closed to indoor dining as of April 5, 2021, but will continue to offer curbside pick-up and patio service:

“We understand that everyone may not agree with this move. And that’s ok. At the end of the day, we’d rather be remembered as the jerks who cancelled meemaw’s birthday vs. the jerks who played a part in meemaw’s COVID-19 infection.”

Some restaurants have remained closed to indoor dining since November, including Fleisch, NongBu, Northern Chicken, The Local Omnivore, and Jack’s Burger Shack in St. Albert.

COVID-19-related News

  • Sabor’s Downtown location is temporarily closed due a staff testing positive for COVID-19.
  • Transparency is so important for diner trust, so this example from Calgary’s Ship & Anchor Pub is perhaps one to follow in terms of notifying the public of possible transmission even when not required by Alberta Health Services.
  • Cerdo in St. Albert and Spinelli Bar Italia locations have re-opened for dine-in service.
  • Eat North rounded up responses from restaurant operators in the Prairies reflecting back on the year that was, including Chris Sills from Tres Carnales Taqueria and Tres Carnales Rostizado.
  • Alberta Loblaws and Sobeys stores are reporting new COVID-19 cases.

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • Sorrentino’s is hosting its 29th annual Garlic Fest, with cooking classes and wine dinners running throughout the month of April.
  • A free webinar called Restaurant Possible will be hosted on April 14, 2021 to provide information about mental health as well as strategies and tools for moving forward beyond the pandemic.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • Joveena Holmes alerted me to a free cookbook download from Ikea called The Scraps Book, which features recipes to decrease household food waste.

What I Ate

  • Last week during a particularly sunny day I decided to treat myself to another #Eatson118 picnic. This time, I tried Jasmine Belle Cafe, which serves up Colombian cuisine. The patacon piaso was a delicious surprise – light and crispy fried plantain topped with fresh guacamole and chicken, it’s something I’d definitely order again.

Jasmine Belle Cafe

Patacon piaso from Jasmine Belle Cafe

  • Over the weekend, we enjoyed some eats from Culina On the Lake, including this tasty breakfast burrito.

Culina on the Lake

Breakfast burrito from Culina on the Lake

  • It’ll be hard to go back to a scratch-prepped meal after this – the A Capella Catering turkey feast was convenient and delicious, and for our family of three, will be enough for the week.

Acapella Catering

Turkey dinner from A Capella Catering

Food Notes for March 29, 2021

Hotel Macdonald To Launch Its First Pop-Up Restaurant

There is no doubt the hospitality industry has been forced to be innovative during the pandemic. The restaurants inside the historic Fairmont Hotel Macdonald have been no different, pivoting to curbside pick-up, producing pantry staples, and organizing socially-distanced outdoor events to sustain business.

Next month, they’re launching their first ever pop-up restaurant, called Ephemeral. Running over two weekends, April 15-17 and April 22-24, 2021, the Mac has partnered with Edmonton artist Giselle Denis, florist FaBLOOMosity, and Special Event Rentals to evoke a “magical garden sanctuary” in the Wedgewood Room. Guests will enjoy a 4-course meal and two signature cocktails inspired by the floral art and the promise of spring. Tickets are $159 per person, and as with all indoor dining, guests must be from the same household, or the 2 close contacts of a person living alone, in order to dine together.

Danielle Lundy, the Director of Sales & Marketing for the hotel, notes that it was the change in season that ultimately led to this pop-up. “We’ve infused this feeling of renewal into every part of Ephemeral, from the elaborate floral décor, to the forest landscape paintings to our nature inspired menu,” she said.

Executive Chef Jiju Paul embraced the challenge of creating a meal reflective of spring. “Chef Paul’s background growing up on a farm has imparted a deep appreciation for farm to table [and incorporating] fresh ingredients into his cooking style which is a perfect inspiration for this menu,” said Lundy. She promises that the dessert in particular will be an “absolute showstopper.”

Lundy said that the response to Ephemeral has been positive so far, with some seatings nearly sold out. Two other pop-up concepts are in the works.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Edmonton’s first location of Canadian chain Leopold’s Tavern, located in the renovated Strathcona Hotel, is now open. Find them at 10328 82 Avenue.
  • Alberta’s first location of Canadian restaurant chain Pür & Simple opens on March 30, 2021 in Kingsway Mall. They offer brunch, breakfast, and lunch.
  • Edmonton will soon have its first Japanese bakery cafe in Old Strathcona, offering “the best cheese tart in Japan”. Pablo Cheese Tart will open in the spring at 10163 81 Avenue.
  • The Poppy Barn Cafe is now open at #100B, 10235 124 Street.
  • Indian Fusion has relocated to Old Strathcona, in the space formerly occupied by The King and I (8208 107 Street).
  • 70 Acre Brew Co., Strathcona County’s first brewery, is set to open in April.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • Alberta Food Tours relaunched their Alberta Food Finder app in March. Described as an “escape room meets self-guided food tour”, it offers a socially-distanced way to explore the neighbourhood of Kensington in Calgary.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • We feel refreshed after a return to our favourite local getaway, The Prairie Creek Inn, near Rocky Mountain House. Their breakfasts (delivered to our suite) are always such a treat, especially when enjoyed amongst beautiful scenery.

Prairie Creek Inn

Breakfast from The Prairie Creek Inn

  • The staycations over the last year have allowed us to support local businesses in a different way (and to excuse me from doing the cooking!). We brought most of our food again on this trip; I love all of the heat-and-eat products available even now, a year into the pandemic. Pictured:  soups from Drift, pasta and chicken parmesan from Amore Pasta, ramen from Dorinku Osaka, pork adobo from Filistix, and hot dogs from YEG Smoked Meats.

Staycation Provisions

Staycation provisions

Food Notes for March 22, 2021

Hospitality Workers Call for Vaccination Priority

The Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community (EIHC) and the Alberta Hospitality Association released open letters calling on the Government of Alberta to prioritize hospitality workers in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. From the EIHC letter:

“Without mandatory rated PPE for hospitality workers in Alberta, the increased risk of being indoors with unmasked patrons for prolonged periods of time poses a significant risk that can not be overstated.”

On March 22, during Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s regular briefing, she shared instances of restaurants being the site of outbreaks:

“We have seen, for example, very rapid spread in some restaurants where individuals had the variant, were infectious, went to multiple restaurants and spread the virus very quickly in multiple locations in one night.”

In other provinces, including Ontario and Prince Edward Island, restaurant workers will be included in phase two vaccinations.

At present, if Alberta hospitality workers do not have a chronic condition or are above a certain age, they will have to wait until phase three for a vaccine, in spring or early summer.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Banh Mi Cali, offering California-inspired Vietnamese sandwiches, is now open at 10503 Kingsway Avenue.
  • Canadian chain Pur & Simple will be opening up their first Alberta location in Kingsway Mall.
  • It looks like Hoang Long is moving into the space vacated by Prairie Noodle on 124 Street.
  • Ghost kitchen Katsu, operated by SoJu, is now open, serving up breaded and fried meat and seafood.

Upcoming Events

Local News

  • Yelp released their Top 100 Places to Eat in Canada list, sourced from their online community. Edmonton ended up with six restaurants on the list, including Battista’s Calzones, the Italian Centre Shop, The Bedouins, Padmanadi, An Chay, and Hathaway’s Diner. The owner of Battista’s Calzones was floored they made #45 on the list.
  • CBC Radioactive’s latest Best Dishes column focuses on sweet treats available from CH. Cafeteria.
  • The Journal profiled micro-meadery Stolen Harvest, based in Grovedale, Alberta.
  • Siu To, operator of Green Onion Cake Man and the person who is credited with introducing the green onion cake to Edmonton, received some exposure from American food writer Mark Bittman.
  • In the wake of the shootings in Georgia last week, there continues to be discussion about racism towards Asian communities, overt and otherwise. Chef Mai Nguyen posted about one example of this, surrounding the campaigns against and perceptions of MSG.
  • Congratulations to Cask and Barrel, who is marking their ninth year in business this April!
  • NOSH Food Fest, which ran over the weekend in Sherwood Park, was a success. Organizers are planning another event in September.
  • It’ll be interesting to see if businesses like EasyRoutes, which helped design efficient routes for Uproot Food Collective’s delivery drivers, will become more commonplace.
  • Uber Eats has expanded its services to Spruce Grove.
  • More grocery stores in walkable areas are always welcome: a “boutique-style” Safeway will be taking over the former Planet Organic location on Jasper Avenue and 122 Street, while Ottewell residents are joyful about the No Frills that opened in their community.
  • The first FreshCo (the discount chain of the Sobeys/Safeway brand) opened in Edmonton last week at 2011 111 Street.

What I Ate

  • Mack and I have been trying to build in the occasional breakfast and lunch dates as daytimes are the only time we have to ourselves. Last week, we grabbed lunch from MilkCrate – the poutine was the star of the show; I am still thinking about that gravy!

MilkCrate

Sandwiches and poutine from MilkCrate

  • I had forgotten just how much I missed picnics until our first one this year. On Friday, we picked up Eats on 118 take-out from Flava Cafe and Green Onion Cake Man to enjoy at Eastwood Park – everything tastes better al fresco!

Flava Cafe and Green Onion Cake Man

Take-out from Flava Cafe and Green Onion Cake Man

  • We also grabbed a bag of bagels from Green Onion Cake Man – it’s an interesting pandemic pivot from a restaurant serving Chinese cuisine, but the bagels weren’t bad. Plain, but it had a pleasant chew.

Green Onion Cake Man

Green Onion Cake Man bagels

Food Notes for March 15, 2021

Food Festivals Cautiously Optimistic About the Summer

On the heels of a sold-out Flying Canoe Volant this year, it’s clear Edmontonians will be eager for opportunities to gather and enjoy the outdoors, especially as temperatures rise.

The two largest food-related festivals, the Taste of Edmonton and Heritage Festival, have not yet received the green light to proceed this summer. But organizers of both events are ready to modify their plans based on public health guidelines.

Taste of Edmonton had planned to return to Churchill Square from July 22 – August 1, 2021, and already put out a call for food truck vendors in January. Events Edmonton General Manager Donovan Vienneau is confident the area can safely accommodate patrons:

"We’ve got a rather large space, probably the biggest in history. We’ve also implemented a six-foot gap between each of the restaurant tents.”

The Heritage Festival is more optimistic, posting, “There is hope. It was dim a while ago but the chances of us moving ahead are growing.” Executive Director Jim Gibbons indicated they are also planning for a socially-distanced event July 29-August 1, 2021, with ticketing moving entirely online, and the necessary spacing across the park:

“We’re going to keep the number of pavilions down. People will be much more spread out, for sure, if they’re on site.”

Permission to operate the festivals will require approval from the City of Edmonton, Alberta Health Services, and the province.

COVID-19-related News

  • It’s great to see restaurants be as transparent as possible in these times – one example is Baijiu, who chose to close when a staff member was experiencing COVID symptoms; they re-opened several days later. Similarly, Kind Ice Cream closed while awaiting test results of a close contact, and re-opened a couple of days later.
  • The Next Act, Meat, and Pip all re-opened to dine-in service in early March. Cafe Bicyclette re-opened for regular service on March 9 after being closed since late November.
  • The folks behind Vintage Fork were forced to pivot – first to pizza, then to online tea sales – when their Rutherford House-based restaurant was forced to close last year.

Openings

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Bartender James Grant is hosting more virtual cocktail tastings on March 19-20 and April 8-9, 2021. The $60 accompanying kits can be picked up or delivered.
  • Wholly Handmade is hosting Nosh Food Fest on March 20, 2021 at The Agora in Sherwood Park.
  • Save the date for A Taste of Al Fresco, on from March 27-28, 2021. A part of Downtown Spark, a festival happening in March and April, the event will include extended restaurant patios, $15-25 food and drink deals, and a Hot Bevvy Showdown.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • We picked up some comfort food for dinner from Coliseum Steak & Pizza, part of the Eats on 118 event on until the end of March. The lasagna, Caesar salad, and garlic toast was just $15 (though we chose to upsize with meatballs). It hit the spot!

Coliseum Steak and Pizza

Coliseum Steak & Pizza Eats on 118 deal

  • It seemed like too beautiful of a weekend to not indulge in some gelato, so we walked over to La Carraia for a sweet treat.

La Carraia

Emily enjoyed her strawberry gelato

Food Notes for March 8, 2021

Cartago Announces Permanent Closure

Last week, Forest Heights restaurant Cartago announced that after three years, it is permanently closed.

“After an incredibly challenging year, we are proud to know that we did everything we could to put our employees and our community’s safety first.”

Back in November when COVID-19 community transmission numbers were escalating, Cartago was among the first of a small group of restaurants to voluntarily close their doors to indoor dining. Since then, co-owner of Cartago Katy Ingraham has been active on social media advocating against indoor dining until conditions are made safer for hospitality staff and patrons. Fleisch, Cartago’s sister deli business, will remain open (for take-out only), but it was a series of challenges that led to this closure.

“When we shutdown March 15, 2020 we were about a month away from completion on our other business Fleisch,” said Ingraham. “Any government support that existed to attempt to help businesses through this crisis does not exist for new businesses [that] opened in 2020. When we reopened to the public in June 2020 and opened Fleisch for the first time, we were paying to complete the project and the expenses of two businesses while only receiving support for one of them.”

Ingraham also explained that the government support is largely credit-based, meaning that taking on the additional debt to help both businesses survive soon became “untenable.”

Ingraham said Cartago was too far gone to even consider re-opening for in-person dining when restrictions lifted in February, but more than that, she believes the COVID-19 variants and high risk of exposure to staff and the community made it an easy decision to remain closed to indoor service.

She is a part of a local group called Go4zero, which consists of doctors, scientists, biologists, business owners and community stakeholders. They have put together recommendations to improve the safety of maskless people indoors, such as having doors and windows open, HEPA filters, C02 monitors, and the use of K95 respirators. “A sore spot for me,” said Ingraham, “is that the provincial government has not updated their sector guidelines since September 2020 and there are no recommendations regarding ventilation for hospitality businesses open to dine in.”

Ingraham is confident that Fleisch will be able to adapt to community needs, but she is not optimistic about the local food scene as a whole. As a co-founder of The Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community, she sees the stress in the industry. “I think that most operators are faced with incurring more debt if they’re able or closing and the window to stop the bleed is closing rapidly,” she said.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • Geoscapes is running at Victoria Golf Course from March 4-April 8, 2021, with domes set up for private dining. Eight guest chefs are participating, including Lindsay Porter, Paul Shufelt, and Shane Chartrand. Tickets start at $250 for two people.
  • Leftovers YEG is hosting a webinar exploring food waste in Edmonton on March 10, 2021.
  • An Edible School Yards webinar on March 10, 2021 will answer the question: how can schools contribute to climate change mitigation, educational opportunities, and helping stop school hunger? Join permaculture and educators to learn more about how schools can help meet the goals of the Edmonton City Plan.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • Top Chef Canada returns for a ninth season on April 19, 2021, but again without any Edmonton representation. There are two chefs from Calgary amongst the competitors.

What I Ate

  • Mack and I planned a breakfast date last week, which doubled as an excuse to try the breakfast sandwich from Rosewood Foods. As with everything else on their menu, it was delicious!

Rosewood Foods

Sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich from Rosewood

  • We’ve been meaning to try a family meal from Little Village for ages, and finally did so on the weekend. It didn’t disappoint – we loved the tender lamb shank and all the fixings.

Little Village

Braised lamb shank feast from Little Village

  • After picking up our Little Village order, we also popped into ch. cafeteria on the same street for a pick-me-up.

CH Cafeteria

Coffee dates

  • It’s so great that Food Network Canada’s Big Food Bucket List exposed more people to the gem that is Zwick’s Pretzels, but I’m also glad they accept pre-orders so when I’m hankering for some pretzels it’s a quick trip in and out!

Zwick’s Pretzels

Zwick’s Pretzels

Food Notes for March 1, 2021

King Noodle House Announces Forthcoming Closure

Last week, the family behind King Noodle House Pho Hoang announced that their building has been listed for sale and they are preparing for the closure of the restaurant.

Unfortunately, owners Hoa Sen Dao and Tan Hoang (also known to regulars as the “Moustache Man”) weathered the worst year of business in their 26 years of operation, and shared that the pandemic accelerated their retirement plans.

Their noodle soups have been a fixture in the local food scene since 1995, simmered for up to fourteen hours per day. King Noodle’s soup recipe had been passed down for three generations, and though their three children had discussed the possibility of taking over the business one day, the couple had been adamant this wasn’t what they wanted.

“It is bittersweet for the whole family to see the legacy come to an end,” said Linda Hoang, daughter of Hoa Sen and Tan. “Our parents didn’t want any of the kids to take over the restaurant because the last 26 years of business have been so challenging for them in terms of very long work hours, poor work/life balance, and just general restaurant industry stress and hardships—they worked hard in the hopes that their kids wouldn’t need to work as hard.”

Unlike Hathaway’s Diner, who posted their restaurant for sale last February with the hope that someone would want to take over the business, King Noodle House wants to keep their recipes in the family. “It was very important to us to ensure only family would take over the actual restaurant, recipes,” said Linda Hoang. “We are hopeful that even after the building sells, there would be opportunities in the future for pho pop ups and other ways to keep the legacy and recipes in Edmonton.”

As the restaurant closure will depend on the speed at which the building is purchased, the early announcement provides ample notice for those hoping for one last bowl of soup before the doors close for the last time. “It could be two years, it could be two months,” Tan Hoang said.

COVID-19-related News

  • HanJan’s Oliver location had a staff test positive for COVID-19, but found it frustrating that Alberta Health Services was not able to provide clear instructions on next steps for their other staff and business operations.
  • Katy Ingraham of Cartago and Fleisch continues to advocate against indoor dining in spaces with poor ventilation.
  • The Journal covered Tiramisu Bistro’s outdoor heated dining domes, while CTV covered some additional outdoor dining spaces, including Little Brick and the Courtyard Marriot.
  • Lynsae Moon of The Nook Cafe opened up on Instagram on the challenge of keeping her social media accounts active and engaged, “This has been challenging for me to reconcile as I have this narrative telling me I can do it all and this capitalistic idea of productivity eating away at me but the truth is I don’t have the capacity to show up 100% in every area right now.”
  • Alberta Health Services is no longer pursuing legal action against a small town cafe in Mirror, Alberta which defied public health orders by re-opening for dine-in services back in January. In addition, AHS is paying for the legal costs incurred by the restaurant.

Openings

  • Shree Restaurant promises a “modern Indian gourmet experience”. They opened on February 25, 2021 at 5025 Mullen Road.
  • XO Bistro opened up their second location on the south side at 5021 Mullen Road.
  • Downtown has added another Mexican restaurant called Maria which shares a kitchen with Haweli at 10220 103 Street.
  • Barcelos, an international Peri chicken chain not unlike Nando’s, is adding to its Edmonton area locations with a second restaurant in the Windermere Currents (6189 Currents Drive SW).
  • Chain quick-serve strEATS Kitchen serving up “globally inspired street foods” is now open in Oliver at 11327 104 Avenue.
  • International ghost kitchen concepts continue to proliferate – the latest is Man vs Fries.
  • Awn Kitchen Workshop + Cafe will be opening up later this spring in Landsdowne at 104, 5124 122 Street.

Upcoming Events

  • Save Hospitality is hosting LocalLicious! from February 25-March 7, 2021, with participating restaurants offering 3-course menus and donating $1 from each menu to a charity. Braven is the only local participant.
  • The menus for Eats on 118, running March 1-31, 2021, are now live. Half of the Tour and Taste boxes are sold out, so if you’re keen on one, don’t wait!
  • You Need a BBQ! posted their schedule of spring/summer classes, some of which are already sold out! There is still room in their upcoming Ultimate Steak Class on May 15, 2021.
  • Eats on 118 organizers are also planning a long table outdoor dinner for June 19, 2021, with 8+ participating restaurants. Tickets are $118.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • One of the biggest stories was about butter: specifically, because of Julie van Rosendaal’s excellent reporting about palm oil supplements in the feed of dairy cows. There have been some deniers, but as a whole, the industry has started to pay attention. And in the meantime, if you’re looking for palm oil-less butter locally, head to RGE RD.

What I Ate

  • My Toronto-based sister surprised me on Friday with a Doughnut Party delivery. I maintain that one of the silver linings of the pandemic is the increased availability and sharing of food-based care packages.

Doughnut Party

Doughnut Party delivery

  • Our last #yegdt #AdoptAShopYEG was take-out from Tres Carnales Rostizado, including this amazing pizzadilla (pizza +quesadilla). We loved the how the layers of house-made flour tortilla, braised short rib, cheese, and crema came together.

Tres Carnales Rostizado

Pizzadilla from Tres Carnales Rostizado

Food Notes for February 22, 2021

Edmontonians Among Western Living’s Foodies of the Year

Western Living released their 14th annual Foodies of the Year list, and though it is heavily represented by candidates from BC, several Edmontonians were recognized for their contributions to the local food scene.

Journalist Liane Faulder, who covered the food beat for more than a decade at the Edmonton Journal, is among the honorees. Although she continues to cover the arts scene for the publication, I miss reading her food-related stories; Liane’s passion for the people behind the food was always evident.

Also on the list are the trio behind Meuwly’s, Peter Keith, Will Kotowicz, and Glendon Tan. They just celebrated the fourth birthday of their Secret Meat Club venture, which eventually led to opening their 124 Street storefront.

Brian Welch of Farrow was also recognized for the expansion of Farrow (including a fourth location early this year) and the Three Boars pandemic pivot of High Dough.

Rounding out the list is Greg Zeschuk of Ritchie Market, credited for making this southside neighbourhood a food destination. The Market also attracted other like-minded businesses to the area, including Farrow, Kind Ice Cream, and Doughnut Party.

The top ten Foodies of the Year will be released on March 10, 2021.

COVID-19-related News

Upcoming Events

  • Eats on 118 is returning March 1-31, 2021. The event features $15-25 dine-in and take-out specials, and new this year, a Tour & Taste Box featuring products from several vendors, delivered to your home for $65. Menus will be posted soon.
  • Above Average Drinks is hosting a virtual cocktail experience on March 5, 2021 with bartender James Grant (of Little HK and Pablo). Kits containing three single serve cocktails are available through Color de Vino for $65 and must be pre-ordered by March 1, 2021.

Local News

  • There’s a new bread pop-up in town called Breadmonton.
  • It’s also great to see specialized home-based businesses, such as Scandinavian bakery Söta Saker, start up during the pandemic.
  • Chee’s Sandwich + Soup is a ghost kitchen operates out of the Midway kitchen.
  • YEGdate now offers a YEGdate Box, which features four dates, either in the box, or certificates that can be redeemed, two mini dates, and two perks.
  • The latest Best Dishes column on CBC Radioactive highlights Rosewood Foods.
  • On the heels of Chartier’s appearance on Food Network’s Big Food Bucket List, Zwick’s Pretzels also made an appearance on the show over the weekend. Congrats!
  • Businesses in the 124 Street area are offering an incentive to visit their neighbours, with a discount at a second business when you patronize another. Check out the participating businesses here.
  • Mercer Tavern debuted a new menu created by their new chef Kunal Sawhney. It features items like Korean fried cauliflower, grilled romaine salad, and a house cured corn beef sandwich.
  • Tamara Vineberg posted about Olympus Donair in Riverbend that looked like it was in trouble and could use some community support.
  • Oodle Noodle continues their aggressive expansion, with plans to open at least five locations in Edmonton this year, including its first food court branch. They will also be expanding into Calgary and southern Alberta.
  • Home-based pasta business bell’uovo, started by theatre performer Gianna Vacirca, was featured in the Journal and CBC Radioactive.
  • The Journal featured noodle kit company Nai Nai Mie who has grown their business significantly over the last year.
  • Local chefs Allan Suddaby and Chael MacDonald have launched their own podcast called Food Court.
  • FC Edmonton debuted a YouTube series called Eat Like an Eddie, featuring recipes prepared by a Registered Dietician alongside one of the players.
  • Also on YouTube, the Dickinsfield Amity House started the Collective Kitchens YouTube channel highlighting simple recipes for home cooks.
  • It’s great to see local arts organizations partner with restaurants, such as the Citadel Theatre and RGE RD for Valentine’s Day. The Catalyst Theatre is partnering with Dalla Tavola Zenari so those looking for something to enjoy can do so while streaming UnCovered on March 8, 2021.
  • Edmonton-based food processor Canyon Creek is investing $1.7 million to increase their production capacity.
  • A group of volunteers in southeast Edmonton continue to give back to the community through prepared meals for those in need.

Beyond Edmonton

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • We were really looking forward to trying DOSC’s weekend ghost kitchen, Burger Brawl. The fun concept of “burger contenders” named after video game characters is immensely marketable, but we were more excited about having another great option on our street. Mack’s Donkey Kong burger fared better, but I was disappointed with my order. The bun on my Bowser burger were so charred I couldn’t taste much else – a pity, as the patty was cooked to a beautiful medium rare. We hope it was a one-off and would consider trying it again – it does seem to be very popular as they consistently sell out.

Burger Brawl

Our Burger Brawl order

  • I signed up to support a couple of businesses on Linda’s #yegdt Adopt A Shop, running until the end of the month. We started with LovePizza – it was a great excuse to finally try Drift’s feature pizza. I loved the sweet hoisin glaze, and of course the pork belly! There’s less than a week to sample The Drifty, if you’re so inclined.

LovePizza

We LovePizza (and Drift)!

Food Notes for February 15, 2021

New Initiatives Highlight Downtown and Old Strathcona Businesses

A couple of new initiatives launched recently to encourage diners to support local businesses in the Downtown and Old Strathcona areas.

Explore Edmonton has created the Downtown Dining Pass, a free mobile passport that currently provides discounts at 11 participating businesses. The pass launched on February 8, 2021, the same day in-person dining restrictions were relaxed, but both dine-in and take-out deals are available. The pass currently doesn’t have an expiry date, but because of its digital nature, deals can be updated by the restaurant at any time. Additional businesses may also be added.

Explore Edmonton Media Relations Manager Nancy Gordy shared that they wanted to curate a pass that wouldn’t overwhelm the consumer, hence the focus on Downtown businesses only at this time. “Many downtown restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic, so we want to do all we can to help,” said Gordy. “We have been chatting about creating passes for other areas, businesses, and neighbourhoods as well.”

The Old Strathcona Business Association (OSBA) has spearheaded the Sweet Treats & Latte Festival in an effort to increase foot traffic into the neighbourhood. 13 businesses are offering either a treat or a hot drink from February 13 – March 14, 2021 for prices around $5.

The event was also created in light of the pandemic, says Jeff Samsonow, Marketing & Communications Coordinator with the OSBA. “This is a perfect grab-and-go [event], allowing folks to try new restaurants or support their favourites, while talking a walk on Whyte Avenue,” said Samsonow. “We’ve still got our winter lights up in McIntyre Park and Ice on Whyte begins this weekend too, so there’s lots to see while staying COVID-safe.”

The OSBA is also encouraging those sampling goods to submit their votes for the best treats and hot drinks for a chance to win gift cards.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Brew + Bloom Cafe delayed their opening last year but have announced a grand opening to take place on February 26, 2020. They are located at 10550 115 Street.
  • Pine & Dine is now open in the former RoseBowl Pizza space at 10111 117 Street. EDify has an early review.
  • The Mill Craft Beer + Kitchen is now open in Fort Saskatchewan.

Closures

  • The Downtown location of Swiss Chalet in Canterra Centre is now closed.

Local News

  • Congratulation to the winners of Th3rd Wave’s annual awards recognizing cafes and coffee roasters, including The Colombian as coffee shop of the year and Take Care Cafe as the best new coffee shop of the year.
  • Food trends seem to come and go at a more frenetic pace in the pandemic – the latest seem to be croffles (croissant waffles). Sharon has a guide of where to try them in Edmonton.
  • I Heart Edmonton ranks Edmonton’s 15 best donair shops.
  • Linda is back with her third iteration of #AdoptAShop, this time focusing on Downtown. Nominations for businesses to be included in the initiative will be accepted until February 16, 2021, and sign-ups for those interested in “adopting” businesses will be live February 18, 2021.
  • YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson (aka MrBeast) has created a burger now available in Edmonton through ghost kitchens.
  • Uproot Food Collective continues to expand the brands and products they carry.
  • The fourth season of The Great Canadian Baking Show kicked off on Sunday, featuring Edmontonian Larry Harris. He spoke to Edmonton AM about his experience on the show. He was also profiled by the University of Alberta School of Business.
  • Local startup CommerceOwl, just launched RecipeStack for those interested in sharing their recipes to build an audience – their tagline is #RecipesNotYourLifeStory.
  • Fresh Routes, who hosts many mobile grocery stores across the city in food deserts and communities with vulnerable residents, is looking to crowdsource $20,000 to repair one of their trucks.
  • A&W is now a Mealshare partner – the restaurant will donate a meal with every Mealshare item purchased.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • It was a strange Lunar New Year – our first without extended family. As a result, we decided to outsource the cooking, opting to order a special multi-course meal from Rosewood Foods. The five-spice chicken legs were outstanding (they know their chicken!), and I also really enjoyed the sticky rice with lapcheong and shiitake. Emily, as expected, couldn’t take her eyes off the citron-honey crullers.

Rosewood Foods

Lunar New Year dinner from Rosewood

  • Mack and I have never been big on Valentine’s Day, so the closest we got to celebrating was using it as an excuse to try a couple of single-serve cocktails from Tumbler & Rocks, picked up during our Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market run over the weekend.

Tumbler and Rocks

Cheers from Tumbler & Rocks

Food Notes for February 8, 2021

In-Person Dining Resumes in Alberta

Hospitalizations have remained below 600, so today, the province proceeded with the first stage of easing restrictions, which includes the resumption of in-person dining.

The guidelines limit 6 individuals to a table from the same household or two close contacts for those living alone. Liquor service will end at 10pm, in-person dining will close by 11pm and the establishment must collect contact information from one person in the dining party.

On February 5, 2021, the Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community wrote an open letter to government leaders asking for a COVID-zero plan and further financial provisions to assist the hospitality industry: “Many of us are left with no other option than to re-open for dine in and put ourselves and our staff at increased risk of contracting Covid and spreading it to our loved ones and the community because the alternative of not opening is just as grave a predicament.”

Since last week, a slough of restaurants announced re-opening plans. Many, such as Blue Plate Diner, Delux, Central Social Hall, Fife and Dekel, Tiffin, XIX Nineteen, resumed in-person service on February 8, 2021. Remedy locations and Sugar Bowl were busy on the first day welcoming back in-person customers.

Other restaurants have delayed their opening until later this week in anticipation of Valentine’s Day, including The Butternut Tree, DOSC, Guru, and Pampa. A couple are limiting in-person services even further – Filistix is only offering dine-in on Fridays and Saturdays, while Lux is re-opening for the weekend only.

The resumption of in-person dining also means outdoor patios can return. The winter igloos at Riverside Bistro have since re-opened, while Tiramisu Bistro’s new igloos can now be reserved. The courtyard at Little Brick is also open to patrons.

Similar to the case in November, when many restaurants voluntarily closed to in-person dining, some businesses have decided to remain on take-out and delivery models only. This includes Northern Chicken, Cartago and Fleisch, Jack’s Burger Shack, The Next Act/Meat/Pip, and The Nook.

New York City resumes indoor dining this weekend, and this writer for The New Yorker captured my thoughts perfectly:

“But today, on the cusp of a second, nearly identical experiment with indoor dining, the moral weight of our individual decisions has increased. We know what happened last time; we know the limits of what this move can fix, and the extent of whom it can harm. There is a flip side to the fallacy of individual responsibility during the pandemic: just because we’ve been given permission to do something doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do.”

COVID-19-related News

  • Co-owner of Sabor and Bodega restaurants Christian Mena shared his personal experience with COVID-19, and preparing to re-open on February 8.
  • The owner of That Bar-B-Q in Sherwood Park doesn’t believe stage one of re-opening will be beneficial to his business, which relies on diners wanting to socialize with people from other households.
  • The NDP are calling on the province to follow Ontario and BC and cap the fees that can be charged by third-party delivery apps during the pandemic. Some believe that capping fees is only scraping the surface of what the hospitality industry needs to survive.

Closures

  • The owners behind Cibo Bistro have decided to close the business permanently. Lisa and Rosario Caputo shared: “This past year has made it almost impossible to move forward with the constant changes to our industry and the inconsistent rules and regulations due to Covid-19.”

Upcoming Events

  • The second annual Taste of Africa is taking place virtually on February 27, 2021 , with a contactless food pick-up component.

Local News

  • Acclaimed local chef Larry Stewart (formerly of Hardware Grill) will be heading up the kitchen at Cattail Crossing Golf and Winter Club in Sturgeon County.
  • The Journal shares the stories behind HanJan’s new concept HoneyJam and Old Strathcona restaurant Palette Cafe.
  • Phil’s latest Best Dishes column highlights the sandwiches at Zwick’s Pretzels.
  • Twyla shared her sneak peek of Chef Jiju Paul’s new menu at Hotel Macdonald.
  • CTV featured the couple behind Benny’s Bread and Butter.
  • Still making Valentine’s Day plans? Mary Bailey of The Tomato shared some in-person and curbside pick-up options on Global.
  • CoffePass announced that they are extending their expiry date until April 30, 2021.
  • I love that Linda is sponsoring her own giveaway supporting BIPOC businesses in honour of Black History Month.
  • Also from Linda – a wonderful story about how farmers’ markets brought the two people behind Mini Kitchen and El Gringo together in love and eventually, marriage.
  • Alberta Food Tours is offering another curated local box; this one features sweet treats from 11 Albertan chocolatiers and confectioners. The box is priced at $99.
  • The next season of The Great Canadian Baking Show (which includes Edmonton’s own Larry Harris of Bonne Vie Bakery) shared their favourite local bakeries across the country.
  • EDify profiled one of the Edmonton area’s newest distilleries, White Lightning Distillery. It is located in Barrhead County.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • Even the cold couldn’t stop me from satisfying my vermicelli bowl craving. It was also a happy coincidence that all pick-up orders from T and D Noodle House are 15% off until February 14, 2021 to commemorate their 7th birthday!

T and D Noodle House

My go-to vermicelli bowl from T and D Noodle House

  • Emily’s current favourite book is the adorable “My Day With Gong Gong” by Sennah Yee, and after seeing the dim sum restaurant scene over and over again, Mack and I were craving dim sum something fierce. All day dim sum from Dynasty Century Palace to the rescue!

Dynasty Century Palace

Dim sum and noodles from Dynasty Century Palace

  • I likely never would have attempted one from scratch, so Dalla’s Timpano kit was a great excuse to assemble this famous Italian dish at home. Emily had a great time helping us layer the ingredients, and we think it turned out great!

Dalla

Timpano