Food Notes for November 29, 2021

Restaurant May opens at the Art Gallery of Alberta

May is the newest restaurant to open at the Art Gallery of Alberta, occupying the space that formerly housed Zinc, which closed permanently last fall. May’s soft opening comes about five months after the AGA announced that Prairie Catering would exclusively operate its food service, events, and facility bookings.

The name of the restaurant links back to owner Jimmy Shewchuk’s own family heritage. “Both of my grandparents were farmers in Vegreville,” said Shewchuk. “I remember getting our hands dirty in May, and the name celebrates the start of the work instead of just the harvest.”

That connection to farmers underlies executive chef Doreen Prei’s approach to creating the menu at May. Specifically, she took advantage of the restaurant’s proximity to the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market. “We visited the market every weekend in the process of opening. We wanted to ensure things were available for us but also needed to be flexible with what they have,” said Prei. “Planning a menu around farmers was super fun.”

Among the local producers that make up 80% of the menu, May sources from Ocean Odyssey Inland, Lacombe Fresh, Four Whistle Farm, Reclaim Farm, Mo-Na Food, and Purple Gate Haskap Orchard. Because it is producer-driven, Prei anticipates the menu will change every three months.

Prei has created dishes that have been inspired by her surroundings and her past. For instance, images of snow falling on cows led to her decision to plate braised short rib with kohlrabi foam, a dish she calls “full-on Alberta, with farro and dark green kale.”

Or, the wild mushroom dish recounts her memories of trekking through the woods. “It’s made from a variety of seven wild mushrooms, served with black garlic emulsion, sunchoke chips, and a tiny touch of greens,” said Prei. “I found lots of mushrooms as a child and when you walk through the forest you hear a crunch on the treeline so this is my homage to that.”

Prei has the distinction of not only working at Zinc when it first opened in 2010, but also serving as the executive chef when it closed in 2020. However, Prei has no issues with returning to the Gallery again, as she professes a deep connection to the space. “I was pregnant [while working] in that building, and have always considered it my third child,” said Prei. “May is a totally different restaurant, and people get a different vibe.”

The interior has been updated with natural elements, and features art pieces on loan from the Gallery’s rental program. The restaurant plans to offer lunch beginning some time in the new year, and though brunch is served in conjunction with the Downtown Business Association’s Holiday Light-Up, it won’t be an ongoing occurrence.

After 20 months of not cooking for diners, May feels particularly close to Prei’s heart. “I didn’t cook for people for so long because of the pandemic, so I can’t wait to feed people,” said Prei. “It’s like people are coming to my house. It’s very personal for me.”

Openings

Upcoming Events

Local News

  • Some restaurants are facing supply chain delays, including Pho Tau Bay, who was forced to close when they ran out of rice noodles.
  • CoffeePass is back with a winter edition featuring 30 local cafes. This iteration is priced at $39.
  • Sharon sampled a trio of pasta restaurants, including Basil Pasta Bar, Ragazzi, and Dalla.
  • Edify checked out Blue Truck Barbecue and Let’s Grill Sushi.
  • Twyla has suggestions of how to travel through food at several local restaurants, including Dadeo’s, XO Bistro, Narayanni’s, and Three Vikings.
  • Linda is giving away $1,000 worth of gift cards to local restaurants and businesses for those subscribing and commenting on her YouTube channel.
  • Police seized $60,000 of cash and drugs from Day & Night Pizza last week.
  • Safeway is now open in Oliver in the location formerly occupied by Planet Organic (12210 Jasper Avenue).
  • It was great to learn about the partnership between The Organic Box and the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op to launch the Khair for All food box, offering discounted produce targeting families facing food insecurity.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Dustin Bajer has started The Bee Community, a “space that supports small-scale and backyard beekeepers with classes and networking opportunities to manage honeybees using techniques that align with nature.”
  • Yellowhead Tribal College has partnered with AltaGreen to offer a new Vertical Farming Operator Certificate Program.

What I Ate

  • We still haven’t exhausted the restaurant options within walking distance of our home. On the weekend, we ordered take-out from Delux Burger Bar in Ice District. It’s been years since we’ve been to Delux (their tiny shopping carts were whimsical and unique when they first opened), but of what we tried, the mushroom burger was the standout.
  • Deluxe Burger Bar

Our Delux Burger Bar order

Food Notes for November 22, 2021

Bonne Vie Bakery Celebrates First Birthday

Bonne Vie Bakery, which specializes in artisan sourdough bread, commemorated their first anniversary this month. Bonne Vie was a part of a large contingent of small businesses that opened during the pandemic after the province relaxed the rules around the preparation and sale of home-prepared low-risk foods in June 2020.

Owner Larry Harris started the microbakery in November 2020 after losing his job at MacEwan that summer, and the subsequent twelve months have been a whirlwind.

“I’m dumbfounded as to how well things have gone,” said Harris. “A year ago, we baked a dozen loaves of bread, and we wanted to see if people would pay money for it, and they did! Yesterday, we baked a record eighty loaves of bread.”

He credits the rise of social media platforms as one of the reasons for Bonne Vie’s success. “I don’t think I could have done this ten years ago,” said Harris. “But with Instagram in particular, it helps to spread the word about something and get you noticed.”

For Harris, it was also fortuitous that he landed a spot on the fourth season of CBC’s The Great Canadian Baking Show, which began airing in February 2021. “Before the show was announced we were selling out in two to three hours,” said Harris. “After the show, everything was selling out in fifteen minutes.”

His appearance on the show also led to a connection with Get Cooking Canada, where he was booked soon after to conduct online sourdough classes. It’s also fed back into his business in a number of ways, including being able to sell bread baking tools such as proofing baskets and bread bags to students through Bonne Vie directly, and creating new customers for his bread products. “It’s neat that the customers take the classes and learn how to make sourdough but they also keep buying bread every week,” said Harris.

Bonne Vie bread is also used to create Partake’s signature croque ‘mon’ soubise sandwich. After the restaurant’s previous supplier closed down, Harris met with owner Cyrilles Koppert about the potential partnership. “I had to make lots of practice loaves and finally got it right,” laughed Harris. Although the volume for the contract is modest, Harris is pleased with the validation. “This is a well-known restaurant saying they want your product,” said Harris.

Harris is keenly aware that his home kitchen cannot meet the increasing demands, but recognizes that a significant expansion has to make financial sense. A space they were interested in fell through over the summer, but they are in no rush to secure another spot. “The right space would allow me to substantially grow and have some employees and economies of scale, but it has to be the right place,” said Harris. “It’s hard to find that right community, and try to keep it close to where we are [now]. We have to think about the customer and how we want to serve them.”

For the holidays, Bonne Vie will be offering Christmas cookie boxes, and so far has had great feedback on a new hot chocolate mix they just added to their product line.

Harris is hopeful that Bonne Vie can continue into the future, but acknowledges the challenges of running a small business. “I’ve never been so happy when doing Bonne Vie and baking for people and seeing the joy of people getting their bread and breaking into it,” said Harris. “But it takes a lot of work for an individual to put themselves out there and create their dream. Support all of these little businesses that have started up – they need the support from the community.”

Openings

  • Halawa Lebanese Bakery is open at 9951 170 Street.
  • Food truck YEG Pizza on Wheels has moved into the Don Wheaton YMCA at 10211 102 Avenue.
  • Twins Restaurant, offering Chinese and Western cuisine, is now open at8331 Chappelle Way SW.

Upcoming Events

  • The Brick & Mortar Festival Vignettes Design Series now doesn’t have an opening date. Taproot wrote a feature about the event.
  • The Old Strathcona Business Association is hosting Winter Whyte Light Up on November 27, from 4-7pm, with entertainment, family activities, food vendors, and some farmers’ market vendors opening late that night.

Local News

  • Congratulations to The Butchery on their first birthday!
  • Kitchen by Brad is offering Stew/Soup & Bagel for lunch on Fridays from November 26-December 10, 2021. Their from-scratch bagels are also available by the half-dozen.
  • The latest Best Dish column features A Bite of Brazil.
  • Out of Bounds Restaurant located on Cattail Crossing, is drawing non-golfing diners in with a menu designed by Larry Stewart (formerly of Hardware Grill).
  • This year’s gingerbread house at Duchess is a recreation of Whoville from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. As in previous years, those who donate new underwear, socks, mittens, or warm hats for the Bissell Centre will be entered into a draw to win a chance to destroy the gingerbread structure. Co-owner Garner Beggs spoke to CBC about their fundraising drive.
  • Candid Coffee Roasters collaborated with Alley Kat Brewery to create Candid Coffee Porter.
  • Edmonton AM received lessons in Chai 101 from New Asian Village and in bubble tea from TeaCup2Go.
  • Chef Joakim Gomes is the new executive chef at The Westin.
  • There are many local businesses delivering or packaging goods for the holidays, including Bloom Cookie Co.’s cookie boxes, Roasti Coffee’s gift box with a portion of proceeds to be donated to CASA Foundation, social enterprise Edmonton Eats’ holiday cultural cooking boxes, cookbook, and spice blends, and the Sturgeon Hospital Community Foundation’s Stars Box featuring products from Meuwly’s, Jacek, and Riverbend Coffee Roasters, among others.
  • 10 year old Edmontonian Kyssara Mueller is hosting a cooking show on Telus Optik TV.
  • Julie Van Rosendaal talks about adapting recipes to potential supply chain-related shortages. Local shops Blush Lane and Earth’s General Store are warning about supply gaps in organic and natural foods.
  • The Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Castle Downs has started a “take-what-you-need, share-what-you-can” community pantry.

What I Ate

  • It’s great to see life again in the restaurant space at the Art Gallery of Alberta. May, from the folks behind Say Uncle and Chef Doreen Prei, opened last week. I was fortunate to have been hosted for a meal. Standout dishes included the Arctic char and the braised short rib (I love a good charred kale). Thee restaurant will also be open for brunch during the Downtown Business Association Holiday Light Up celebrations.
  • May

Cocktails at May

  • We tried Siam Thai Kitchen for the first time this weekend and it won’t be our last! The flavour of the pad Thai and tamarind shrimp were delicious, even after sitting in take-out containers for some time. Huge portions also meant enough for another meal the next day.
  • Siam Thai Kitchen

Order from Siam Thai Kitchen

  • We also ordered from Thamel Bistro. The transit time wasn’t as kind to the momos but we preferred the chicken to the pork filling.
  • Thamel Bistro

Meal from Thamel Bistro

  • We stopped by at Dalla’s A Mano Holiday Market on Saturday. It will be running again on December 4 and 18 from 11am-3pm, featuring vendors and roasted chestnuts.
  • Dalla

Elisa Zenari roasting chestnuts at Dalla

Food Notes for November 1, 2021

Jack’s Burger Shack to Open Location Downtown

St. Albert eatery Jack’s Burger Shack announced plans to open its second location, in Downtown Edmonton at Jasper Avenue and 104 Street.

This expansion is a slight shift from Jack’s pre-pandemic plans. Back in February 2020, Jack’s was primed to become the anchor commercial tenant in Rohit’s Stadium Yards project, but then COVID-19 shut everything down. “I wanted to put it on hold,” said Jack’s owner Tu Le. “I had to put all our energy in the [existing] restaurant to get the take out program air tight, so I didn’t have time to open a new restaurant. I think they got tired of waiting and asking.”

Jack’s, like all other hospitality businesses, had to adapt when in-person dining was halted in March 2020. “When we created Jack’s, I never thought people would take our food to go,” said Le. “[Customers are] watching us cook, and we’re chatting with people sitting at the bar. But everything that made us a quaint neighbourhood place changed. If you look at our numbers in 2019, 35% of our business was take-out. We had to bump it to 100%.”

Le says they were fortunate that the community has to support Jack’s in spite of the changes, including still not offering dine-in services at their original location. “People embraced our take-out program,” said Le. “Burgers and fries are geared towards take-out, and we’re lucky that we’re in St. Albert and have a strong following.”

Le also credits their forthcoming move into Downtown to “pure luck”. When a real estate broker made him aware that the former Oodle Noodle location was available, Le’s low-ball offer was, to his surprise, accepted by the landlord. “With the cost being that low, if we can do a little bit of take-out and [offer indoor dining] with the vaccine passport and more space [than the St. Albert location], then we can make a go of it,” said Le. “It’s still a risk with the pandemic and restrictions, but we know more now than we did, so I feel more confident opening a place now.”

Le hopes the new shop will be open in 4-6 weeks, and promises that the menu and prices will mirror the original restaurant. The plan is to be open five days a week. “It will be a place where you can get a good quality meal that is quick and affordable, and a friendly place where you can have a chat with one of the staff,” said Le. “I can’t really do that in St. Albert [right now], but with a little more space we can get back to that and get to know everybody [in the neighbourhood]. I miss that in St. Albert.”

COVID-19-related News

  • At least 14 businesses in the province were issued closure orders or had their permits suspended due to failure to comply with the restrictions exemption program.
  • On October 25, 2021, customers entering businesses participating in the restrictions exemption program must have proof of two doses of a two-dose series of vaccines. Some restaurants interviewed say it contributes to guests feeling safer.
  • District 102’s Craft Cafe (located at the top floor of Edmonton City Centre Mall) has now re-opened.
  • District Cafe is gearing up to re-open in “the coming weeks”, and they will also continue to sling Young & Restless Pizza in the evenings.

Openings

  • Stanhope Eatery and Bar opened up back in August at 4208 Calgary Trail (formerly a Sorrentino’s location).
  • California Pizza Kitchen has broken ground for its first Canadian location. It will be built in the Currents of Windermere. It is expected to open next year.

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Jasper Park Lodge is hosting a new event called A Weekend With…featuring Duchess’s Giselle Corteau. The event runs November 5-7, 2021 and starts at $749 per might, based on double occupancy.
  • Filistix’s Kamayan Feast returns on November 6, 2021. They will have two seatings but will also offer take-out.
  • The Northern Light Dining Experience will take place at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden from November 27, 2021 – January 9, 2022. Diners will enjoy their meals in domes amidst the garden’s Luminaria fixtures. Tickets are $125 per person and $50 for children aged 3-12.

Local News

What I Ate

I’m on vacation next week, so I won’t be posting Food Notes on November 8. Your regularly scheduled update will return on November 15 – see you then!

  • I met up with Linda last week for an outdoor lunch at The Hallway Cafe. It’s always great to support their program, which offers at-risk youth with the opportunity to learn hospitality skills through a restaurant setting. The half donair pizza was satisfying, and paired nicely with a hot soup to sip outside.
  • Hallway Cafe

Half donair pizza and soup of the day

  • I was lucky enough to be gifted an advent calendar from Evoolution. It’s great to see so many local businesses creating their own advent calendars. Evoolution’s first-ever calendar includes twenty-four 15mL oils, vinegars, blends, and sea salts, with short recipe videos that will be posted each day of the calendar to make it more interactive. It would make a beautiful gift, with artist Jason Carter lending his talents to the cover. The calendar retails for $59.95 and will be available after November 15.
  • Evoolution

Evoolution advent calendar

Food Notes for October 25, 2021

Jacek Chocolate Couture Shifted Online To Meet National Demand

When the pandemic shut things down in March 2020, Jacek Chocolate Couture was forced to shift their business online like so many others. Owner Jacqueline Jacek recalls wondering whether people would still be seeking out the company’s products during that time. “When the pandemic started, we thought, ‘Who is going to be buying luxury high end chocolate?’”, said Jacek. “But our core purpose of spreading joy is what made the difference.”

Early on, Jacek launched a campaign allowing customers to send sweet hugs to loved ones, offering chocolates with messages such as ‘thinking of you’ and ‘virtual hugs’. “More than ever, we see people sending love and joy through chocolate,” said Jacek. “In seasons where they couldn’t catch up with people, people are choosing Jacek to spread joy.”

Jacek Chocolate is among the few chocolate suppliers in the province who have achieved certification with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which enables them to ship their products across the country. This was especially important in the pandemic, as the demand for Jacek has grown Canada-wide.

Jacek Chocolate also had to shift their popular chocolate tastings to a virtual model, where chocolates are now shipped to attendees prior to the session. While Jacek won’t rule out a return to in-person events in the future, there are certain advantages to the online model. “It breaks down geography,” said Jacek. “Now we can present to guests across Canada.”

the business did have to make some significant changes as a result of these shifts, including closing their 104 Street boutique back in May 2020. In hindsight, Jacek acknowledges that it was the right call. “When the pandemic hit, we didn’t know it would last two years,” said Jacek. “But it wasn’t like we had to pull our brand completely, as we are still downtown through retail partnerships like Credo.”

Last week, the business announced that their beloved advent calendars sold out online in less than two days. Even Jacek couldn’t pinpoint the reason behind the frenzy. “It was our eighth year [of offering advent calendars], and they usually sell out in two weeks,” said Jacek.

The business is not publicly sharing the numbers of calendars they are producing, but Jacek did say the quantity exceeds previous years. “Our real struggle is that we don’t freeze the chocolates; we make them à la minute, and they are hand packaged,” said Jacek. “That is our true limitation and we’d have to compromise.”

For those disappointed that they weren’t able to reserve a calendar, the business is in the process of readying other special holiday products, including egg nog meltaways and limited edition hand-painted chocolate ornaments. People are encouraged to join the mailing list as subscribers are notified about new items first.

Jacek has learned a lot about her business over the last two years. “One of the biggest lessons was simplification,” said Jacek. “And really understanding what your core business is and focusing on that.”

COVID-19-related News

  • Spruce Grove restaurant Broadway & Grand had originally chosen not to participate in the Restrictions Exemption Program, but has since reversed this decision because they are “days away from going out of business due to these new restrictions.”

Openings

Upcoming Events

Local News

What I Ate

  • We grabbed take-out from JustCook Kitchens for the first time on Friday. The ordering interface on the app wasn’t as seamless as we thought it might be, as separate orders had to be initiated for each concept. We also couldn’t place an order ahead of time, which seems like a pretty basic function (and one we rely heavily on for take-out orders). The Backstairs OG burger itself was good (the bacon was especially crispy), but hopefully the process eventually matches the quality of the food.
  • Backstairs Burger

OG Backstairs Burger

  • We were also invited by Explore Edmonton to try some of the businesses included on their Old Strathcona Dining Pass. The deals are valid one year from the date of downloading the pass, but some of the offers are valid for those dining in only. As our family isn’t comfortable with indoor dining, we chose to grab take-out. The arepas from Avila Arepa were fantastic. I had the namesake arepa, with oven roasted pork, cheddar cheese, tomato, arugula and mild spicy aurora sauce. Mack ordered the chacaito, with pulled beef and house-made cheese. We were both wowed by the portion size and the freshness of the ingredients. For those dining in, Avila Arepa’s offers a free order of arepitas with the purchase of two arepas.
  • Avila Arepa

Avila arepa’s namesake arepa

  • At Yelo’d (who has the cutest outdoor take-out window, not dissimilar from Overflow across the street), their buy one, get one free offer is hard to pass up. We each got a scoop of ice cream. Emily downed her mango ice cream, and Mack and I loved the full flavours of our respective coffee and chocolate peanut butter scoops. We were appreciative that the ice creams also weren’t overly sweet. Thanks again to Explore Edmonton for hosting us!
  • Yelo’d

Chocolate peanut butter ice cream from Yelo’d

Food Notes for October 18, 2021

Downtown Restaurants Had Front Row Seats for Filming

Several streets were closed Downtown over the last two weeks to accommodate filming preparations for HBO’s The Last of Us. Edmonton is standing in for Boston, twenty years after the apocalypse. While businesses remained open as the post-apocalyptic sets were being constructed outside their storefront windows, in a few cases, they had to close completely during filming and were compensated for doing so.

On 104 Street, when filming took place on October 15, businesses from DOSC to Tzin shut their doors for the day. Most restaurants temporarily relocated their patios, but Bottega’s set-up required more intentional dressing with strategically placed vines. Bottega 104 was contacted about their involvement in the production, but declined to comment.

Bottega 104

Bottega 104 readied for filming

Over on Rice Howard Way, the set was much more elaborate, and required Dalla to close for two days from October 13-14. Server Trish Morgan confirmed that although Dalla wasn’t ultimately reconfigured into a salon as was reported by the Journal, the restaurant did act as a green room for the cast and crew. “It was an exciting week in the restaurant,” said Morgan. “Dalla had front row seats to the action on Rice Howard Way.”

Unfortunately, Morgan did not personally have the opportunity to meet the actors in the production. “Security informed me I was not to speak to the actors unless they spoke to me,” said Morgan. “It was still pretty cool to be in the same room as [The Last of Us stars] Pedro Pascal and Anna Torv.”

Dalla has already dallied in film and food tie-ins; their Big Night-inspired Timpano kit was back by popular demand this past Thanksgiving. Given Boston’s North End may be prominent in the show, and that neighbourhood’s history as an Italian-American enclave, the possibilities are especially ripe for Dalla to create themed specials. “There are no plans that I know of yet but I’m sure Ran [Huget] and Elisa [Zenari, owners of Dalla] are thinking up some great ideas,” said Morgan. “All of us at Dalla can’t wait for the series release!”

COVID-19-related News

  • Beaumont-based Bake My Day had their food handling permit suspended by Alberta Health Service on October 8 because they broke COVID-19 related rules. However, they continue to operate.
  • Lux Steakhouse re-opened for the first time since early 2020 on October 12, 2021.

Openings

  • PACT Coffee will open in the former Starbucks location in Old Strathcona in January 2022.
  • Woodrack Cafe has re-opened their Old Strathcona location at #102, 10324 82 Avenue.
  • Chick N Flames serves up Nashville Hot Chicken at 8927B 82 Avenue.
  • SoDo on Jasper offers “elevated cocktails, shareable small plates & wine options” at 11011 Jasper Avenue (the former location of Tapa Vino).
  • BC-based pasta restaurant Basil Pasta Bar opened earlier in the summer at 9655 62 Avenue.

Upcoming Events

  • LitFest’s closing event is called Brunch of Writers: Celebrity Dish. The special guest is Tom Vitale who will discuss his memoir In the Weeds, about working with Anthony Bourdain. The event is free to attend.

Local News

What I Ate

  • Treats from Rosewood Foods make any day a better one! Mack especially swears by their carrot cake.
  • Rosewood Foods

Carrot cake and chocolate olive oil cake from Rosewood Foods

  • We had to get our fill of Love Pizza’s Lovesgiving pie before the month was out. It’s a family favourite.
  • LovePizza

Lovesgiving pizza from Love Pizza

  • These waning days of October have been a good excuse to put our Coffee Pass to use! This weekend we indulged in a large box of churro nuggets from Caffe Sole alongside our hot drinks.
  • Caffe Sole

Churro nuggets from Caffe Sole

  • We were blessed with beautiful weather to harvest the last of our community garden bounty this weekend. We were successful with carrots for the first time, but our potato crop was much less than in previous years. Emily is also happiest in the dirt, so she had a great time bidding adieu to our plot for the season.
  • Alex Decoteau Garden

Carrots from our Alex Decoteau Community Garden plot

Food Notes for October 11, 2021

Drift Food Truck Celebrates a Decade in Business

Drift Food Truck, which was among the handful of businesses that helped usher in the golden age of food trucks in Edmonton, just celebrated a decade in business.

Run by the husband and wife team of Nevin and Kara Fenske, Drift has built up a fan base ravenous for their sandwiches and seasoned fries over the years. They’ve been a fixture on the streets and at farmers’ markets since 2011, and though the Fenskes once had a brick and mortar of their own (Dovetail Delicatessen was open for about a year in 2015-16 on 124 Street), since 2017, they’ve made Shamrock Curling Club their home in the winter months.

Kara Fenske shared that this ten year milestone was reached with many ups and downs. “The high was definitely with the first five years, being at the forefront of our industry in Edmonton, helping other mobile entrepreneurs, and creating an awareness for the food truck industry,” said Fenske. “Losing our restaurant on 124 Street was a low, but not for long as it allowed us to analyze our vision for our company once again, and create a new path.”

After they retire their truck in the fall (lovingly referred to as “Drifty”), Drift offers a modified menu at the Shamrock in addition to continuing with catering engagements. “It has allowed us to have an affordable home base year round, as well as reaching a winter customer base, which we didn’t have the first 5-6 years,” said Fenske (this season, their Shamrock operation begins on October 12).

Despite the complementary success in the cooler months at Shamrock, every spring, Drift has had to find ways to stay current. “Since we aren’t open year-round in the truck, we do lose momentum,” said Fenske. “It can be tricky to try and predict the next season during the off-season.”

As with most hospitality businesses, Drift’s business was affected by the pandemic. The Shamrock was closed at times, while outdoor events have faced numerous restrictions over the last two years. In spite of the challenges, Drift was able to find some success. “One positive was that communities were really coming together to host small gatherings and getting to know their neighbours,” said Fenske. “Being creative in order to have outdoor-safe events was something that really shone the last 2 summers.”

In addition, Drift partnered with Uproot Food Collective last year to start selling their sauces, seasonings, and frozen prepared foods, including their popular fried chicken. With the ever-increasing appetite for local products to prepare at home, this may become Drift’s focus in the coming years. “We are currently in the process of building a production kitchen so that we can better keep up with the demand, expand more product offerings, as well as approach larger retailers with confidence,” said Fenske.

But for those concerned that their food truck may be permanently parked, Kara wants to reassure their fans. “Drifty isn’t going anywhere,” said Fenske. “You will see the truck out in the spring as always!”

COVID-19-related News

  • Food courts in Alberta have been able to participate in the Restrictions Exemption Program as of September 24, 2021.
  • Beaumont-based bakery Bake My Day failed to comply with the Restrictions Exemption Program, but remains open in spite of a visit from Alberta Health Services.
  • Without Papers Pizza in Calgary was issued numerous tickets and had its business and liquor licenses suspended for violating public health orders.

Openings

  • The second location of Gangnam and Coco Fried Chicken will open October 18, 2021 at 1109 Windermere Way SW.
  • Ghost kitchen Eat Food opened earlier this year, and is currently making sushi and Thai food for pick-up or delivery orders.

Closures

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • We had take-out from Northern Chicken on Friday. All day, Emily was excited about the mac and cheese, and it delivered! We also tried the chicken fingers for the first time, and they were great (and huge!).
  • Northern Chicken

Take-out from Northern Chicken

  • We were able to enjoy the gift of a warm October weekend on the Dogpatch patio. Mack’s The Patch Benny was the better of the two dishes we tried (the Irish Boxty was a tad too doughy for my liking), but I would consider returning again, as the walk down into Riverdale is also one that we should do more often! We also picked up some goodies from the neighbouring Bread + Butter Bakery, including an absolutely delectable pumpkin loaf.
  • Dogpatch

The Patch Benny

Food Notes for October 4, 2021

Edmonton’s First Food Hall Opens This Week

JustCook Kitchens will open Edmonton’s first food hall on October 5, 2021 downtown. Announced back in January, the 5th St. Food Hall at 10344 105 Street experienced some delays, but the extra time has allowed the business to embrace change wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As JustCook Kitchens was still in the brainstorming stage when the pandemic hit, we were able to ensure we would take into account the many difficulties and restrictions COVID brought to light,” said Maëlle Piquée, JustCook’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We built our application and processes around both in-person and digital interactions, where take-out or delivery isn’t an afterthought by necessity, but core to our business model.”

JustCook diners will order through their independent app, whether they intend to enjoy their meal in-person in the dining room or for take-out or delivery. At this stage, Piquée anticipates an even split between in-person business and take-out/delivery.

When asked how the app will compete with prominent third-party delivery apps like Skip the Dishes and Uber Eats, Piquée believes JustCook offers something distinct. “We’re a vertically integrated market and food hall combined,” said Piquée. “We provide a holistic offering in our local community that is unique to JustCook and isn’t designed to take on delivery companies such as Skip or Uber Eats, but instead offer a new, different experience.”

The 5th St. Food Hall is home to four concepts. Backstairs Burger is co-led by Chef Levi Biddlecombe; Biddlecombe is most known for his former food truck Attila the HUNgry and restaurant Why Not? (the restaurant was destroyed in a fire in December 2020). HOM, which started as a series of pop-ups, offers South East Asian-inspired dishes. Seitan dishes up plant-based southern food including “chickun” and pizzas. Lastly, Three Foodies serves comfort food including poutine and donut bites.

Piquée shared that the vendors came together organically. “We weren’t really looking for any specific type of food or cuisine – outside of them being delicious and somewhat unique or innovative,” said Piquée. “The one thing we paid close attention to was not to have similar concepts within the same space, as we’re looking for the restaurants to build on each other, not compete against.”

In addition to the four restaurants, the 5th St. Food Hall also stocks products from local companies, including El Gringo, Bent Stick Brewery, and Annex. The products can be ordered through the JustCook app.

The 5th St. Food Hall will be open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am-9pm. Piquée is excited for Edmontonians to finally be able to experience JustCook Kitchens. “We want people to try something new, a food or product they haven’t had before,” said Piquée. “We know that once they’ve done it once, they will want to do it again.”

Openings

Closures

  • Madison’s Grill (along with Union Bank Inn) is currently closed, and is available as a leasing opportunity.

Upcoming Events

  • The Public’s St. Albert pop-up is now open in Breadlove at 46C St. Michael Street until October 15, 2021.
  • Beverly Dining Week returns from October 4-9, 2021, with special menus offered at 9 restaurants for between $10-20. Participating restaurants include Uncle Ed’s, Olde Beverly Cafe, Mumbai Dakar, and Italian Bakery.

Local News

What I Ate

  • We tried the new Green Ash Cafe on the weekend. It is a super-charming converted house in Bonnie Doon with great coffee and tasty cookies (Emily devoured her macaron). They’ve also shared that their entire staff have been double vaxxed and they check vax cards for everyone who enters, even for those just getting take-out!
  • Green Ash Cafe

Coffee from Green Ash Cafe

  • While running errands on the south side, we picked up dinner from Pind Punjab in Millwoods. Their chicken biryani hit the spot, and I’m always a sucker for mutter paneer.
  • Pind Punjab

Chicken biryani and butter chicken from Pind Punjab

Food Notes for September 26, 2021

Mojo Jojo Pickles Expanded During the Pandemic

Johwanna Alleyne and her business Mojo Jojo Pickles have had quite the year. The Edmonton-based company, which offers a range of pickled products, preserves, and cocktail supplements, celebrated ten years in business in 2021 and was forced to move several times due to the pandemic. Still, Alleyne has managed to keep Mojo Jojo growing.

After selling the building where her commercial kitchen was located in 2019, Alleyne bounced around a few times until an attractive offer from Kingsway Mall came along. “Kingsway offered us a permanent spot and we opened two weeks before COVID shut us down [in March 2020],” said Alleyne. “And then all I did during COVID was move things.”

After a brief stint working out of the space at Cartago, her husband happened upon a space in the French Quarter at 9627 82 Avenue. In June 2021, they moved their kitchen into one side, and in August, opened up a storefront called Nosh and Quaff on the other. Alleyne shared that the support from neighbouring businesses has been unparalleled. “It’s the best it’s ever been,” said Alleyne. “And it all came out of this crazy journey. It feels like we’re home.”

Nosh and Quaff is the only place in Edmonton to carry the full line of Mojo Jojo products, in addition to canning supplies and cookbooks. It has also begun hosting classes and demos, following all public health guidelines.

Throughout the pandemic, Mojo Jojo has experienced a huge demand for their products, and has barely kept pace with orders. Although its wholesale business through suppliers like Save-On-Foods and Safeway continues to be significant, half of its sales come from fulfilling online orders across Canada. Alleyne credits a confluence of factors for their popularity. “It was the perfect storm,” said Alleyne. “Shopping local, comfort food, quality food, shopping online, cocktails, and cooking more for yourself at home.”

Alleyne said their Caesar bundles have been popular, but she also wishes she could predict which products would peak when. “There was something on TikTok about snacking on pickled garlic,” said Alleyne. “And pickled garlic is what people order in the middle of the night.”

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Boba Club, a business that started as a home-based business during the pandemic, has opened a brick and mortar storefront at 6538 170 Avenue.
  • Satisfy your poke and bubble tea in one spot with What the Poke and Song Tea at 3354A Gateway Boulevard.
  • Spartans Greek Taverna has taken over the former Vivo space in Windermere (6143 Currents Drive).
  • Community Taps & Pizza is coming to Old Strathcona at 8232 Gateway Boulevard (which previously housed Have Mercy).
  • Soho, a new bar which opened at 11454 Jasper Avenue in early September, now also offers pizza by the slice.
  • Cocktail Culture, Edmonton’s “only fully stocked cocktail supply store for the home bar and professional bartender” is opening soon at 10642 82 Avenue.

Upcoming Events

  • Learn how to make a vegan pad Thai with Roni Zaide through Edmonton Public Library’s Sustainable Kitchen online series. The October 2, 2021 class is free but requires registration.

Local News

What I Ate

  • We’ve been meaning to take advantage of the enticing Dalla patio for a while now, and finally did so on Friday! It was a beautiful evening to enjoy some crostinis and pasta (in my case, the Di Bosco with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and chicken). Emily loved her kid-sized pomodoro pasta.
  • Dalla

Di Bosco from Dalla

  • Mack and I dined on the beautiful rootfop patio at La Petite Iza to celebrate our anniversary. Staff were great with checking for vaccination cards, and we felt safe eating outdoors. As with my previous experience, service and the meal was great, capped off with a lovely sour cherry clafoutis.
  • La Petite Iza

Clafoutis from La Petite Iza

  • It was our first visit to Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm over the weekend, and Emily had a great time. It was also fun to cap our experience by picking a pumpkin out of their expansive patch.
  • Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm

Found our pumpkin!

Food Notes for September 20, 2021

Restrictions Exemption Program Now In Effect In Restaurants

The provincial government introduced additional public health measures last week in an attempt to curb COVID-19 rates in Alberta, including the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) that applies to all restaurants and bars, effective September 20, 2021.

The program requires that all patrons over the age of 12 provide proof of vaccination (one dose is acceptable until October 25), proof of a negative rapid test, or documentation of a medical exemption in order to dine indoors. An apparent loophole in the program is that staff themselves are not required to be vaccinated.

Businesses that choose not to participate in the program will be barred from offering indoor dining, will need to restrict outdoor dining to a maximum of 6 persons (one household or two individuals who live alone), and end liquor sales by 10pm.

Over the weekend, many restaurants began sharing their plans based on the new restrictions, and it appears the vast majority will implement the program. Some restaurants, such as Fife N Dekel and Pho Tau Bay, have delayed indoor dining until October. Others, including Rosewood Foods, RGE RD, and Bundok, have announced that they will be participating in the program, while volunteering the information that all of their staff have been vaccinated. Restaurants such as Say Uncle have committed to requiring their staff to be fully vaccinated.

These hospitality businesses join Fleisch, EvoWonderLounge, and Arcadia Brewing Co. who mandated vaccine passports dating back to August and early September.

Passport Eats is one website that has popped up, offering to be a database of restaurants that have opted in to the Restrictions Exemption Program. However, because information is crowd-sourced, the information may not be accurate or complete.

One of the more prominent businesses to publicly opt-out of the Restrictions Exemption Program so far is KB & Co. It is yet to be determined if business choosing not to participate will see a decline in sales.

COVID-19-related News

  • Earth’s General Store shared that their continued mask mandate throughout the pandemic has lost them many customers.

Openings

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • Pizza 73 plans to offer beer across all of its Western Canadian shops by next summer. Beer is currently available at nearly two dozen locations in Alberta.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • We picked up a meal from Viphalay to end a busy week. Emily lay claim to most of the spring rolls.
  • Viphalay

Pad Thai and green curry from Viphalay

  • For the last Al Fresco Market of the season, Mack and I snacked on a couple of Whoanuts. Although it was tasty enough, because of the sweetness and the shape, it made me long for something that used to be available on 104 Street in the summers – a warm liege waffle from Eva Sweet.
  • Whoanuts

Vanilla honey dip

Food Notes for September 13, 2021

Third Edmonton Hospitality Business to Require Proof of Vaccination

Arcadia Brewing Co. is the third Edmonton hospitality business to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter. Fleisch was the first to require proof for guests seeking to dine indoors back in August, and bar EvoWonderLounge mandated proof of vaccination last week.

Arcadia made the announcement on September 7, 2021:

“As of September 20th 2021 customers entering Arcadia Brewing Co will require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test result within 48 hours of entering Arcadia…This decision was not made easily and we ask you to please be kind to our staff and please respect our decision.”

Since sharing the policy, Arcadia has received some negative feedback online, but noted that the majority of feedback has been positive. Arcadia co-owner Darren McGeown said:

“Generally, the support has been incredible from people either coming in or messaging me…The past few days people have come in – especially front line workers – have reached out and showed their appreciation, which means a lot to me.”

Venues Metro Cinema, The Starlite Room, and the Winspear Centre also announced similar proof of vaccine requirements.

The Alberta Hospitality Association is currently surveying its members before releasing a stance on vaccine passports.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Brokin Yolk’s first Edmonton location is now open at 1641 102 Street in South Edmonton Common.
  • Catch of the Week, a fish market, will be opening up in the former Bateman’s IGA at 5120 122 Street.
  • Love Pizza will be opening up their first Leduc location at #110, 5411 Discovery Way.
  • Sorrentino’s will be opening in the former Bistecca location in Century Park (2345 111 Street).
  • Another location of Chachi’s is now open at MacEwan University.
  • Secret Pizza opened up earlier this summer in the former Artisti Pizzeria location in Holland Plaza (11998 109A Avenue).

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Sorrentino’s annual Mushroom Harvest event runs the month of September, with mushroom dishes featured on the menu and wine dinners.
  • The Festa Dell’uva, or the Little Italy Grape Festival, is returning to Giovanni Caboto Park on September 19, 2021 from 1-5pm. Expect grape stomping, food, and a wine garden, among other activities.
  • JustCook is hosting their opening VIP event at the 5th St Food Hall on October 2, 2021. Tickets are $100 per person.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

What I Ate

  • We had a great time in Jasper last week! One of our highlights was visiting the Jasper Farmers’ Market. Only the early birds snagged eggs from Stonepost Farms, but we picked up some bagels from Coco’s Cafe and coffee from Vale Coffee Roasters.
  • Jasper Farmers’ Market

Emily loves bagels!

  • As with our other staycations during the pandemic, we brought most of our own food, but did allow ourselves one patio meal at Jasper Brewing Co. We really appreciated the protected patios set up by the municipality, with concrete barricades carving out additional space in the roadways.
  • Jasper Brewing Co.

Fish and chips from Jasper Brewing Co.

  • Mack and I also lunched at Craft Beer Market’s refreshed rooftop patio – it’s hard to say how many fair weather days remain for outdoor dining, so it was nice to take advantage of a sunny afternoon. The half-price Monday pizza special was a nice bonus!
  • Craft Beer Market

Pizzas from Craft Beer Market