Food Notes

  • I’m sure most of my blog readers have seen the Journal article that was published in part about this website on Wednesday. I was asked on Twitter about how I felt being on the other side of the interview card, and I have to say, not having control over what will be printed has made me more aware of what I write after conducting an interview. For the most part though, I’m happy with the article. And for those who are curious – my stats shot up the three days following the article (doubling my usual traffic), and has since slipped back into the same rhythm it has held over the past few months.
  • Kimmi tipped me off that Kai Asian Grill (which I had mentioned as Tao a while back), at 100, 10909 Jasper Avenue, just opened. They have a pretty decent website.
  • A second Famoso Neopolitan Pizzeria will open in Terwilligar in January (142 St & 23 Ave). It seems to me the South West is the place to be these days, at least for new places to chow.
  • They really are many-fingered, via Mack – a Caffe Sorrentino is going into West Edmonton Mall.
  • A new tea shop opened in Southgate Mall (11100 51 Avenue) recently, called Tea Desire. There really is a growing demand for “gourmet” tea in the city.
  • I met the Studio Manager of D’Lish over the weekend – he said the grand opening will be in early December, but they are already open for lunch. Check out the menu on the website.
  • With Vancouver’s very successful Salt, and now Farm in Calgary, will a charcuterie-serving wine bar be the next big thing in Edmonton?
  • The Edmonton Journal gave a disappointed review of Hundred over the weekend, while See Magazine offered a thumbs up for The Hat.
  • Foodie Suz very bravely wrote about her $2000/month grocery bill on her blog. Brave to me in particular because I don’t really keep track how much I spend on food…
  • Open Table teamed up with over 1300 restaurants in the U.S. to come up with an “Appetite Stimulus Plan”, offering discounted lunch and dinner deals. How long until these kinds of discounts come to Canada?
  • Starbucks unveiled their 2008 Red Cup on November 13. I couldn’t resist popping by for my favourite drink – the newly-renamed Gingersnap Latte. Yum!

 

Gingersnap Latte

Food Notes

  • There’s a new restaurant on the block: Twisted Fork (11162 82 Avenue, (780) 761-3675) was reviewed by See Magazine last week.
  • It seems the space that housed the historic Silk Hat is due to be revitalized again. There have been help wanted ads in Vue Weekly for The Hat Resto-Pub. I wonder why they chose the word “resto-pub” instead of the more trendy and current “gastropub”?
  • Sorrentino’s annual and very popular Mushroom Harvest is on September 1-30. Just don’t make the mistake I did last year and call to make sure the location you’re heading to is actually offering the special dishes that day.
  • My sister (a Sobeys employee) let me know that Sobeys is unleashing their own version of a membership card in September called ClubSobeys. Points accumulated can be redeemed as cash discounts towards future purchases or as Aeroplan Miles – score one for Sobeys!
  • I was disappointed to see that Aaron McCargo Jr. won this season of The Next Food Network Star. I was cheering for Lisa Garza, a master of entertaining, but given her panache for fashion and her cooking style, Giada de Laurentiis may have vetoed her win.
  • Mack and I tried a classic sausage and egg Starbucks breakfast sandwich while in Vancouver on the weekend. It was ready in no time and piping hot to boot, but I didn’t get a chance to see how they warmed it. I have to agree with Mack – it is a far cry from the similar sandwiches available at McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s, but as they are available all day, and are cheaper than the $5.95 sandwiches in the cooler, I can see why some people would opt for the eggy treat.

Starbucks Breakfast Sandwich

Notes on Coffee & Tea

  • Finally went to DeCapo Caffe (8738 109 Street) last week. It reminded me of Caffe Sorrentino with its polished metal, pendant lighting, and sleek, simple decor. It was also more expensive, with my iced latte ringing up as $4.75. It’s an eco-friendly alternative to Starbucks (they have a no paper cup policy), but just not as cozy.
  • Essence Organic Tea Bar (10011 102 Avenue) is now open.
  • Second Cup is now in the business of granola bars! Boxes of Moccaccino or Vanilla Bean Latte Cafe Delights are available at a grocery store near you.
  • I mentioned this back in May, but beyond special occasions, Starbucks has created a line of greeting cards. Of the three, my favorite is the birthday one featuring the text, “Lattes are the new birthday cake.” Hee. While I don’t think the cards are very unique, the convenience factor of picking one up along with a mug or a pound of coffee is tough to ignore.
  • This summer, you can also send a friend an electronic Starbucks invitation for coffee here.

Earth Day at Starbucks

As I posted a few weeks ago, Starbucks stores would be offering free cups of brewed free-trade coffee today in celebration of Earth Day. All customers needed to do was bring in their own tumbler.

So before my seminar this afternoon, I popped into a nearby Starbucks for a cup of coffee. In addition to the coffee however, the barrista also gave me a small, plantable card that contained wildflower seeds. It was a nice, unexpected surprise.

My tumbler and seed card

Starbucks Notes

I think I’m cheating with the number of “Notes” posts I’ve written as of late, but they’re so much easier to put together than a full length post…

  • Starbucks will be offering free brewed coffee to those who bring in a tumbler on Earth Day, April 22. Too bad it falls on a Sunday this year.
  • I tried a Black Tea Latte a few weeks ago. Expecting something similar to the tea-based offerings at Blenz, I wasn’t sure what to make of the rather odd aftertaste. Has anyone else had one lately?
  • I sampled the new Dulce de Leche Latte today. It tastes like a Cinnamon Dolce Latte with a hint of caramel.
  • It was great catching up with my workmates at the 109 Street Starbucks today. Smile everyone!

Happy and mostly caffeinated

Random Food Notes

  • I’d never really been bitten by the Iron Chef bug, but as with most other Food Network shows, I can watch it if it’s on. I was excited, however, to tune in to a battle featuring Canadian chef Lynn Crawford, of Restaurant Makeover and Four Seasons fame (in that order, I suppose), up against the caustically-arrogant Bobby Flay. I thought the secret ingredient of peanuts would be an easy challenge for Flay, with his expertise in Southwestern cuisine, and in the end, he did “reign supreme.” And though my dislike of his television personality isn’t secret, even I had to hold myself back when he pulled out his peanut butter French toast served with a port wine reduction and concord grapes (an upscale PB & J).
  • Rachel Ray (or her marketing puppeteers) is selling a line of t-shirts screened with her most annoying -isms, including “Yum-O” and “Got EVOO.” Gag me.
  • On my next visit to Vancouver, I will have to make a stop at Vij’s. Rarely does a week go by when I don’t come across some mention of this famous Indian restaurant in my readings. Perhaps I’ll have to placate myself in the meantime with his widely-available cookbook, Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine. It’s a testament to how food can foster and develop relationships. As Vikram Vij said in an interview, “I don’t know what other newlyweds talk about, argue about or discuss for hours on end, but [my wife] Meeru and I built our relationship through our recipes. Our first argument, hurt feelings and personal accomplishments all occurred at Vij’s while we were coming up with these recipes.”
  • Over the last few weeks, there has been quite the fervor over a “leaked” memo written by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. A lot of the discussion centres around the contradiction behind wanting to recapture the ‘authentic’ Starbucks experience with a continued push for brand and location expansion. What do you think? Read it here.
  • Speaking of Starbucks, I was happy to get my free cup of brewed coffee on Thursday morning on my way back to work. And I figured now is a good time to showcase my equivalent of a Starbucks shrine on my corkboard at work – a collection of various promotional materials:
Clockwise from top – Christmas 2006 postcard, reminder about Starbucks Coffee Break promotion, and two Akeelah and the Bee flashcards

Random Weekend Notes

  • Millwoods finally has its first stand-alone Starbucks (2331-66 Street)! Though “finally” is a misnomer in this case, as its been in operation since August of last year. I guess I just haven’t paid enough attention when passing by the south side of the Mill Woods Town Centre complex. Anyway, to help ease the pain of phonetic transcription exercises this morning (I naively thought my days facing the evil schwa were over), I bought myself a vanilla cupcake. I must say it wasn’t bad – moist, and topped off with creamy, buttery icing, I even pardoned the oily paper cup as a byproduct of forced freshness. So at $1.95, and more accessible than the few and far between specialty cupcake shops, it’s a worthwhile indulgence.

Vanilla cupcake, coffee, and homework

  • Speaking of Starbucks, Mack told me about a novel documentary called Starbucking that will be out on DVD in April. The movie focuses on why a man has made it his personal mission to visit every Starbucks in the world.
  • Yesterday afternoon, I decided to make like my coworker Anna and walk home after a seminar at the Grey Nuns Hospital (if you were wondering, as I was, Youville Drive, the street the hospital is on, is named after St. Marguerite d’Youville, the first native Canadian to be elevated to sainthood). It was one of those perfect pre-spring winter days with sunshine, fresh, cool air, and active, visible wildlife. The trek was a modest 45 minutes, and particularly after a meandering stint in the Mill Creek Ravine (I wish I had my camera!), made me wonder why I don’t do this more often. Like withdrawn new year’s resolutions, the answer to that is simple of course, but I hope to be more “active” as the weather shifts, and perhaps blogging this will make me more accountable for such grand visions.

Musings on Second Cup

I took advantage of a promotion at Second Cup today, where by ordering one of their new drinks, customers are given a free magazine. I chose the vaguely appealing Dark Chocolate Raspberry Latte, and received a complementary issue of Elle.

The drink, while both rich and saccharine (bitter lattes are not for me), had the tang of fruit that I don’t think mixes well with coffee (I hold the same opinion for chocolate – the best thing, for example, about Terry’s Chocolate Orange is smashing it).

I read an article recently about Second Cup’s upward swing in Canada’s coffee market. While still ranked third behind Starbucks and Tim Horton’s, their goal is to encourage repeat customers by offering excellent service: “It’s taken for granted that the drinks are going to be great – but when you’re treated so well, that’s something people keep coming back for,” says Karen Gold, their Marketing Director.

Gold’s comment is true to some extent – my morning coffee has become such a ritual in my workday that nearly all of the rotating Empire Building Starbucks baristas know my regular even before I open my mouth. It’s such a small thing – earned only over time, consistency, and a lot of money – but their immediate recognition does make me feel “special.”

The Second Cup I visited today is one of the nicest (and newest) in the city. Located in the upscale Manulife Place (10180-101 Street), it’s filled with plush chairs, polished dark wood tables, a fireplace, and stylish drop lighting. The downside of this particular store is its hours of operation – closed on weekends, and after 5:30 on weekdays, it prevents any extensive post-work gab or unwinding sessions. All Second Cups, however, really need to rethink their coffee bar design – is a ledge the size of an arm really functional, or large enough during the rushes? It seems this fundamental fixture should be paid more attention to than say, an additional couch or new product.

While I’ll be faithful to Starbucks until the end, it’s always nice to have competition and choice within the market.

Manulife Place Second Cup

One person’s junk…

Who knew? I read an article in the Edmonton Journal today about a new collectibles phenomenon – Starbucks gift cards. From the piece by Shannon Proudfoot:

BucksCards.com, a website devoted to collectors of Starbucks gift cards – by far the most popular and lucrative on the market – reports that two anonymous collectors recently paid more than $2,000 each for cards that carried no balance but were produced in limited quantities for employees or contest winners.

“‘Gift cards are like stamp collectibles or coin collectibles – just a modern version,’ says Margaret Li, a collector from Vancouver who uses eBay to sell of duplicates or unwanted cards.

“The food news for Canadians is that on the Starbucks gift card market, the little guy may have the upper hand: there are vastly fewer of the ubiquitous coffee outlets in this country, so Canadian designs are more rare and valuable.”

The website provides some interesting tidbits on misprints and other things to look for in collectible cards. It also highlights rare cards issued in countries around the world – I think it’d be a neat idea to pick up such international variations as travel mementos instead of the more commonplace postcard.

I’ve actually kept every card I’ve purchased or received, but for a different reason – I’m a sentimental pack rat. Still, it’s reassuring on some level that there is a market out there for seemingly irrelevant, disposable pieces of plastic.

Starbucks’s Cinammon Dolce Latte

I tried the “new” Cinnamon Dolce Latte at Starbucks on Friday. While nothing can replace my White Chocolate Mocha, the Dolce was very good – rich and creamy, and I couldn’t taste the cinnamon at all. Rather, it tasted to me like an even better version of the Gingerbread Latte.

I’m sad to say, however, that Starbucks has reached Hallmark-levels of holiday agenda pushing, with their Valentine’s merchandise display up already on January 3, when most people still have full-on new year’s denial. Why can’t we just order coffee without the distraction of seasonal gift items?