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

Food Notes for February 1, 2021

In-Person Dining Permitted to Resume

Last week, the Alberta Government announced that due to declining hospitalizations, certain restrictions would be lifted. This includes permitting in-person dining as of February 8, 2021, as long as hospitalizations remain below 600.

The guidelines in place are similar to those introduced back in November, and limit 6 individuals to a table from the same household or two close contacts for those living alone. Liquor service must also end at 10pm and in-person dining by 11pm. A new requirement is the need for the establishment to collect contact information from one person in the dining party.

Some restaurants have already announced that they will be opening on February 8, 2021, including Braven and Dalla. Others, such as Pho Tau Bay, are gearing up to open in March.

Many restaurants have announced that they will remain closed to in-person dining in spite of the change in restrictions. These businesses include Northern Chicken, Cartago, and Jack’s Burger Shack, who shared:

“On Feb 8th we will not be opening our dining room. The reality is our restaurant is just too small to serve everyone safely. At the end of the day, the safety of our staff and guests is paramount. We are suffering along with all other restaurants; we went from a bustling room to only being able to take 40 orders a night before we are sold out of pick times, to avoid overcrowding. Regardless of the impact, we will continue to only provide take out at this time.”

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • New vegetarian restaurant Palette Cafe is now open in Old Strathcona at 10047 80 Avenue.
  • Hey Croffle is open in the Premium Outlet Collection by the Edmonton International Airport, serving up croissant waffles. Sharon enjoyed her croffles.
  • Freson Brothers is opening a store in Edmonton proper on March 5, 2021 at 5139 Mullen Road.
  • Jess noticed Phoenix Diner coming soon to 10803 Jasper Avenue.
  • Ghost kitchen Flying Burrito is now open.

Closures

  • Careit’s Downtown location in the Fox Tower is closing on February 5, 2021.

Upcoming Events

  • The Edmonton Intercultural Centre is hosting a series of free virtual cooking classes from February 4 – May 6, 2021, with cuisines ranging from Bengali, Sudanese, Turkish, and Vietnamese.
  • The next Edmonton Eats event on February 12-14, 2021 celebrates honey in all its forms, and features recipes for honey marinade, honey vinegar dressing, and honey cake. Tickets are $75 per household.
  • Milk Crate is hosting two virtual cooking classes on February 13, 2021, one for women seeking men/men seeking women, and a second for LGBTQ2 community members. Tickets are $30.
  • Deep Freeze is taking place this year, but with many modifications due to the pandemic. One such change is their annual tourtiere contest, which will be a recipe draw instead of a tasting competition. Share your recipes with the festival by e-mail and be entered to win a prize. The submission deadline is February 14 2021.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • Last week, we were fortunate to receive a gifted Meuwly’s Secret Meat Club package to help celebrate their fourth birthday. The bag includes charcuterie, sausage, condiments, and their house-made Fleur Jaune cheese. We tried the Cassonade sausage over the weekend, and it is some of the best sausage we’ve had in some time. First time subscribers can get 30% off their first month’s subscription by using the promo code SMCTURNS4, valid until February 15.

Secret Meat Club

Secret Meat Club package from Meuwly’s

  • We got our annual fill of Love Pizza’s mac and cheeza on Friday – it’s one of the rare things to look forward to in January!

LovePizza

Mac and cheeza from Love Pizza

  • We were so spoiled by a gifted curbside brunch from the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald this weekend. It was a sneak peek of their new menu created by new Executive Chef Jiju Paul. The crispy chicken (buttermilk marinated crispy chicken, smoked bacon, mushrooms, hash brown potatoes, and fried eggs) was our favourite, so flavourful and crunchy even after the ride home. The menu launches to the public on February 6.

Fairmont Hotel Macdonald

Crispy chicken from the Hotel Mac

  • One of the best things about living in #yegdt is the diversity of small businesses within walking distance. For Emily’s birthday, we ordered cupcakes from My Cupcake Mama, housed in the Don Wheaton YMCA (and the COVID-19 pivot of Maka Eatery). They were fantastic to work with, and the cupcakes were delicious and not too sweet (their Swiss meringue buttercream is a nice alternative to super sweet icing). I’d definitely recommend them, as would Emily!

My Cupcake Mama

Cupcakes from My Cupcake Mama

Food Notes for January 25, 2021

JustCook Kitchens to Open Downtown Food Hall This Spring

Edmonton might finally get its first food hall. JustCook Kitchens is planning to open the 5th St. Food Hall this spring at 105 Street and 103 Avenue.

This flagship location will feature four restaurant concepts and a bar. The name of the company is derived from a desire to help food entrepreneurs pursue their passion. “We put the infrastructure, technology, and processes in place for the chefs to just cook,” said COO Luke Butterworth. “[By] taking away the additional burden and complexities of being a business owner, we aim to give chefs and foodpreneurs the keys to succeed and thrive.”

JustCook envisions that they won’t be just a landlord to the businesses, but a partner to help them achieve success. “We designed our Food Hall concept around [the chefs], said JustCook CEO Jennifer Keith. “We realized that many restaurants are still lagging behind in terms of technology, so we decided to ensure our food halls would be fully integrated with technology in mind for every step of both the chef and the customer experiences.”

No tenants have been confirmed yet, but they have received interest from several chefs and food entrepreneurs. Their plan is to open additional locations around the city. CMO Maëlle Piquée shared that they want to help build new restaurant brands, and intend to be a “destination food hall for dedicated restaurants in our space and distribute food through eat-in, take-out, and delivery networks.”

The JustCook concept is not too dissimilar from The Public, WildHeart Collective’s initiative to assist small food vendors with scaling up their business. They believe their eat-in space differentiates them, as does JustCook’s approach to technology. “We believe that being able to make data-driven decisions is what will lead to smooth and lean operations,” said Piquée. “Easy identification of best dishes, food trends, or not-so-successful dishes and ways to improve, which will ensure continued success and growth.”

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • California-style smashburgers are available at Flatboy Burgers, at 8717 53 Avenue.
  • Hanjan and Let’s Go Round Two are behind a new concept called Honey Jam, offering a handful of burgers and sides.
  • Rub’d Smokehouse BBQ is a ghost kitchen located in Crash Hotel Downtown.
    • Tacos El Nido is now open, in the same space as Jiro Ramen and a Presto Tea location, at 11113 87 Avenue.
    • Let Eat Snow has rebranded to Urban Plant Cafe, and re-opens on January 26, 2021. Sharon has a photolog of the renovations.
    • The third Edmonton location of Jollibee is slated to open on January 28, 2021 at 17136 90 Avenue.
    • Noodle Xtreme is opening up a second location in Sherwood Park on January 31, 2021 at #182, 270 Baseline Road.
    • Corner Hub is now open at the University of Alberta campus, at 8623 112 Street, offering coffee and light fare.
    • I was remiss in not mentioning that the sister French bistro to Eleanor and Laurent, La Petite Iza, opened at the end of last year. It is located at 10926 88 Avenue.
    • Bicycle Bakery is another home-based business that opened during the pandemic. The unique aspect is that all orders are delivered by bicycle in several central west communities.
    • The new restaurant in the Transit Hotel is not yet open, but owners are confident their permits will come through soon.
    • A new branch of The Canadian Brewhouse is under construction in Manning Town Centre, to open this summer, and another is in the works for the Edmonton International Airport.

    Local News

    • The Anti-Social Running Club is putting on Dine and Dash, an initiative that encourages people to run a 10K, half marathon, or full marathon from February 7-14, 2021. As a reward, runners will be able to pick up dinner from one of six restaurants on February 14, 2021. The cost starts at $45 for an individual.
    • It’s never too early to plan for Valentine’s Day – Linda has a fantastic post about sweet treats available from small businesses in the Edmonton area (including one of my favourite Valentine’s treats on the list – Cookiegrams from Bloom, which also benefits the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton).
    • Phil Wilson’s latest Best Dishes column highlights the chicken shawarma from El Fino Kabab and Shawarma.
    • It’s always great to see more restaurants move into the online/digital sphere, such as the 45 year old Coliseum Steak & Pizza.
    • Farrow has been able to expand their pastry production in their new location, and are optimistic their shop fits in with the Downtown crowd.
    • This listicle contains 25 Edmonton restaurants offering Oilers game day specials.
    • City Council voted to move forward with public engagement about the possibility of permitting alcohol in public parks.
    • The Taste of Edmonton has announced that the 2021 festival will be relocating to Churchill Square this summer, if the event is permitted to happen.
    • The first episode of NAIT’s new Career Essentials podcast features Chef Steven Brochu of MilkCrate and his mental health initiative MilkCrate Listens.
    • Plant-based products continue to grow in availability – plant-based sausages and burgers from Victoria-based Very Good Butcher are now available at Meuwly’s.
    • Hungry Zine is accepting submissions for their first issue, centred around the theme of home cooking.
    • Additional FreshCo conversions were announced, including the Safeway by the Coliseum, in Millbourne Mall, and Palisades Square.
    • Sikhs for Humanity is giving away free groceries to those in need, then transitioning to a kitchen that can provide meals in downtown Edmonton.
    • Edmonton-based Nabati Foods Inc. is looking to raise four million dollars to help with their expansion.
    • How do urban bees survive? This is a great thread from local bee expert Dustin Bajer about re-locating a wild honeybee colony in a tree.

    Beyond Edmonton

    • An owner of a Montreal Chinese restaurant’s very honest menu descriptions went viral last week after they were shared on social media. They include such gems as, “it has curry flavour, don’t expect it to be SO tasty but it’s a safe choice and make you happy.”

    What I Ate

    • Mid-week, Mack and I had time to visit Farrow’s newest location close to home for a couple of grick middles. It might just be my favourite sandwich in the city.

    Farrow

    Grick middle from Farrow

    • Thank you for all of your support of our fourth annual Chinatown Dining Week. The event just concluded on Sunday, but it’s safe to say that the participating businesses felt the love from the community. We ordered our Friday night take-out from Syphay – their pad Thai is so good!

    Syphay

    Our order from Syphay

    • We also popped over to Tea Bar Cafe over the weekend for some bubble tea and egg waffles. Emily has been a part of Chinatown Dining Week from the beginning (she was born on the final weekend of the first event in 2018), so it’s great that she’s more actively sampling the food now. She thoroughly enjoyed these treats!

    Tea Bar Cafe

    Emily and an egg waffle

    Food Notes for January 18, 2021

    Curated Samples of Local Goods Provide Positive Exposure

    Many consumers are looking for ways to support small businesses, and there are a couple of recent examples that offer compiled collections of local goods.

    The Alberta Box, an initiative of Sobeys, is a package of 22 locally-produced products, including candy, soda, soup mix, and oats. Participating companies, including Gramma Bee’s Honey, appreciated the exposure. Priced at $49.99, the boxes were very well-received and are 90% sold out. As a result, Sobeys will be releasing an additional box featuring new vendors in the spring.

    The Silver Skate Festival has created its own version of an Edmonton box, in the form of Celebrate Edmonton surprise gift bags. The bags not only support the suppliers highlighted, but also the festival itself. This promotion ran over the Christmas holiday (I picked up a bag and was pleasantly surprised by the range and quality of items), and was so popular that the festival has brought it back again for Valentine’s Day. Vendors for this version include Caramunchies, Smokey Bear, Acquired Taste Tea, and Token Bitters. Bags start at $25 and orders must be placed by February 9, 2021.

    COVID-19-related News

    • Love Pizza’s Spruce Grove location is temporarily closed due to a staff testing positive for COVID-19.
    • Northern Chicken has re-opened again after a temporary closure due to a COVID-19 positive staff member.
    • Bundok has chosen to remain closed until at least January 21, 2021.
    • The Calgary-based Alberta Hospitality Association is asking the government to consider allowing in-person dining to resume and to commit to no further shutdowns.

    Openings

    • Farrow’s fourth location is now open in the former Wishbone storefront at 10542 Jasper Avenue.
    • East African restaurant Rayyan is now open in Chinatown (in the space formerly occupied by Garden Bakery, 10019 106 Avenue).
    • Sunflower Eatery is now open at 10014 104 Street.
    • The Express Chef, offering Indian fusion food, is now open at 10534 111 Street.
    • Ayco, a local artisan bakery, opened in West Edmonton Mall back in December.
    • Bubble tea chain Presto Tea added a location to Southgate Centre.

    Closures

    • Cacao 70’s Ice District location has been closed since March 2020, but for some reason remains on the company website.

    Upcoming Events

    • Celtic Kitchen is still taking orders for Robbie Burns dinners for pick up on January 23, 2021.

    Local News

    • Chinatown Dining Week has received some great press in the last week. The event runs until January 24, 2021.
    • The Journal profiled Alberta BBQ Collective, which delivers smoked meats of all kinds.
    • New Asian Village’s Sherwood Park location has been experimenting with fusion-style dishes, including a popular tandoori fried chicken.
    • Vote for your favourite Edmonton cafe in the Th3rd Wave Awards – in categories including coffee shop of the year, best new coffee shop and best new coffee roaster.
    • Edmonton chef Mai Nguyen is back in the MasterChef kitchen for a second chance in MasterChef Canada: Back to Win. It begins airing on February 14, 2021.
    • Kirsta Franke of Wild Heart Collective and Aga Wajda-Plytta and Nina Karpoff of Good Goods Co. were highlighted as a part of EDify’s first class of Edifiers.
    • CTV covered Kind Ice Cream’s recent foray into learning American Sign Language and about Deaf culture. It was driven partly because mask-wearing has made it more difficult for their Deaf or hard of hearing customers.
    • Long-time Old Strathcona Market vendor Hendrickson Bagel has retired.
    • Edmonton’s Food Bank is commemorating 40 years of community service.

    What I Ate

    • Mack and I took advantage of the sun last week to walk over to On the Edge, a new cafe located in the Co*Lab space in the Quarters. We loved the welcoming yellow paint and fixtures outside, and it was a good chance to pick up some beans from the new-to-us local roaster 8 Acres Coffee.

    On the Edge Coffee

    Coffee from On the Edge

    • Our Friday night takeaway was from King Noodle House, our first Chinatown Dining Week meal so far! The soup definitely hit the spot for me, and Linda’s tip about ordering uncooked noodles made a world of difference.

    King Noodle House

    Chinatown Dining Week combos from King Noodle House

    • We finally ordered some bread from Bonne Vie Bakery – the Sturgeon River Cereal sourdough was dense and hearty, and definitely will lead me to try their other products! I also loved how the loaf was presented with such care.

    Bonne Vie Bakery

    Beautifully presented loaf from Bonne Vie Bakery

    Food Notes for January 11, 2021

    In-Person Dining Restriction Extended

    Last week, the provincial government announced that the public health restrictions that had been introduced in mid-December would be extended until at least January 21, 2021. This includes restrictions on in-person dining.

    Some restaurants are doing their best to maintain take-out during this period, but are finding it challenging. Chef Paul Shufelt of Workshop Eatery and Woodshed Burgers has had to lay off staff, and isn’t certain when, even after restrictions are lifted, whether he will re-open indoor dining again. He shared:

    “I don’t know if it’s actually going to be the 21st of January that we can reopen or if it’s going to be mid February or later. Furthermore, I don’t know, just because of the province says it’s OK for us to open, will I feel safe for us to make that decision for the sake of our staff and for the sake of our customers.”

    Other restaurants are choosing to close outright due to the length and unpredictable nature of the restrictions. DOSC and Sober Cat Cafe have decided to close as of January 11, “due to the financial burdens of the pandemic.” They hope to re-open for dine-in when it is safe to do so. Their ghost kitchen Burger Brawl will continue to operate for limited hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

    COVID-19-related News

    Openings

    Local News

    • Chinatown Dining Week starts later this week, and runs from January 14-24, 2021. I was interviewed on CBC Radioactive alongside Phong Luu of Kim Fat Market to help promote the event.
    • The Tomato is collecting nominations for their annual list of Top 100 Best Things to Eat in Edmonton. Submissions are accepted until January 31, 2021. The folks at Jack’s Burger Shack have a suggestion on the types of businesses to nominate – “Vote for a restaurant that opened in 2020. Vote for a restaurant owned by immigrants. Vote for a restaurant with no social media presence. Vote for the mom & pop’s.”
    • The most recent episode of Radioactive’s Best Dishes column focuses on the brisket donair and the nacho kit from The Next Act.
    • Local baker Larry Harris will be on the next season of CBC’s Great Canadian Baking Show. He is also continuing to offer loaves and baked goods through his microbakery, Bonne Vie.
    • Sugared and Spiced turned some bad politics into some tasty treats, and will be serving up Hawaiian-themed desserts for the month of January.
    • The Moth Cafe was included on this Eat North list of vegan restaurants.
    • The Ritchie Community League has launched a hyper-local monthly subscription service that supports businesses in the area.
    • The Muttart Conservatory (and Culina Cafe inside) has been delayed in re-opening after its modernization due to current public health restrictions.
    • Restaurant Yarrow celebrated their first birthday last week.
    • The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald is welcoming Executive Chef Jiju Paul to their team. He was most recently the Executive Chef at the Edmonton Expo Centre.
    • The staff at Kind Ice Cream are taking workshops on basic ASL to be more inclusive with the Deaf community.
    • The latest from MilkCrate Listens involved a conversation with Chef Andrew Fung of XIX Nineteen about maintaining positive mental health during the pandemic.
    • Congratulations to Caramunchies for partnering with Sobeys (bringing their retail partners to 35).
    • The Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market is the last year-round market to add curbside pick-up as an option.

    What I Ate

    • We finally tried El Beso for the first time on Friday. Mack had the carnitas tacos while I chose the enchiladas. They definitely didn’t skimp on the meat, and their website made ordering pick-up a breeze. If dining restrictions lift, we hope to snag a seat one day on their great Beaver Hills patio in warmer climes.

    El Beso

    Takeout from El Beso

    • Mack, Emily, and I continued our outdoor dining streak with Jack’s Burger Shack. Their Quebecer poutine burger really hit the spot.

    Jack’s Burger Shack

    Quebecer from Jack’s Burger Shack

    Chinatown Dining Week Returns January 14-24, 2021

    Chinatown Dining Week is back for a fourth time! This year, 9 participating restaurants will be offering $10 and $18 takeaway deals from January 14-24, 2021.

    IG CDW Poster 2021

    Our mission has not changed – Chinatown Dining Week was created in 2018 to help promote and raise awareness of culinary gems in a neighbourhood that is often overlooked and undervalued. However, amidst an economic downturn and an ongoing pandemic, our partner businesses could use even more support. Foot traffic is understandably down in the area, as consumers plan only targeted visits, and pre-pandemic, many businesses served food not ideally suited for take-out. These family-owned businesses have done their best to pivot, offering delivery or enhancing their social media presence, but many are still struggling.

    This year, due to ever-changing public health restrictions, Chinatown Dining Week will offer take-out meals only. Menus are available here, and diners are encouraged to call ahead to order.

    We’re excited to welcome back eight returning businesses, offering a range of cuisines including Indian, Indonesian, Szechwan, Thai and Vietnamese, along with bubble tea, baked goods, and pastries. We are also thrilled that Kim Fat Market is joining us for the first time. Some may be aware of Kim Fat as a Chinatown grocer and butcher, but a well-kept secret is that they also offer prepared meals, too.

    KimFat_alldressedribsAll-dressed ribs from Kim Fat

    We hope you’ll consider enjoying a meal from one of our participating businesses during Chinatown Dining Week!

    We’ve also launched a giveaway on Instagram for a couple of dinners for two and other specials!

    Food Notes for January 4, 2021

    New Restaurants Continue To Open During Pandemic

    In spite of the ever-changing public health regulations, more than 4,000 new businesses opened in Edmonton between March and November 2020. Not all of these businesses were in the food and hospitality sector, but they are among the most visible.

    Even this month, as in-person dining restrictions continue until at least January 14, new establishments and concepts continue to pop up. Transit Smokehouse & Bistro, the new restaurant in the renovated Transit Hotel, was set to open by New Year’s Eve, but has since delayed their opening date. The ramen bar in Dorinku Osaka Downtown has been replaced by a new concept called Korea Town.

    COVID-19-related News

    Openings

    • XO Bistro’s second location will be open in February in southwest Edmonton, located at 5021 Mullen Road (Rabbit Hill Crossing).
    • There appears to be a third Jollibee location in the works in west Edmonton.
    • Mondo Pizza has opened in the space formerly occupied by Die Pie (11215 Jasper Avenue).
    • Spirit Bistro is a new-ish Chinese restaurant located at 10824 97 Street.

    Upcoming Events

    • The menus for the fourth annual Chinatown Dining Week are up. The event runs January 14-24, 2021 and features 9 restaurants offering $10 and $18 takeaway deals.
    • Filistix held a couple of successful Kamayan feasts pre-pandemic. They’ll be bringing it back for home consumption on January 16, 2020 for pick up only.

    Local News

    Beyond Edmonton

    What I Ate

    • Mack and I treated ourselves to some cocktails from Woodwork over the holidays! Convenient single servings and pre-mixed, it was easy to order from their online system to boot. I found the Nocturne to be deliciously refreshing, and Mack loved his WW (boozy) egg nog.

    Woodwork

    Nocturne from Woodwork

    • We also dug through our freezer for provisions last week and sampled Nepa Food’s chicken momos. They had great flavour and just a bit of a kick. Find them at the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market.

    Nepa Food

    Chicken momos from Nepa Food

    • On the occasion of Mack’s birthday, we finally tried pizza from High Dough. We loved that the Detroit-style crust was thick, but fluffier than expected. We ordered the Dirt City de Luxe.

    High Dough

    Dirt City de Luxe from High Dough

    • A quiet birthday deserves an epic cake! We decided to go all in for an old fashioned carrot cake from Rosewood Foods (it smelled amazing, and didn’t disappoint).

    Rosewood Foods

    Happy birthday, Mack!

    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.