Showcasing Alberta Avenue: Eats on 118

It was kismet for the 2017 season of Eats on 118 food tours to start at the end of April. My office just relocated to 118 Avenue this week, so I thought the tour would be a great way to acquaint (or reacquaint) myself with some of the eateries I’ll be frequenting more.

Wild Heart Collective (the same folks behind the 124 Grand Market, among other placemaking events) was brought in by the Alberta Avenue Business Association to run a pilot of food tours in September 2016. The four tours in four weeks were so successful that they decided to continue in 2017. It appears to be a good decision so far; the first tour of the season was so popular Wild Heart had to open up a second seating to accommodate those interested.

Eats on 118

Eats on 118

As with most food tours, the hope for participating restaurants is that patrons will return on their own after the guided introduction. Happily, Business Association Executive Director Joachim Holtz shared that many of the restaurants that participated last fall did notice an uptick in traffic following the tours.

On this tour, the $40 ticket would include tastes at three restaurants that we would reach by foot. As I mentioned in a recent post however, the value for organized tours is not found in the food alone, but in the information or access provided by the guide. In some ways, the buy-in from the Business Association (and the connections they can bring) has resulted in a solid foundation for Eats on 118; all three restaurants were enthusiastic and well prepared for their showcase.

Mack and I joined about two dozen others for the first seating on Wednesday evening. Kirsta Franke was our tour guide.

Eats on 118

A welcome from Kirsta and Joachim

We began at Battista’s Calzones, an Alberta Avenue gem. Battista Vecchio has been in business for six years, and his handmade calzones have been featured on Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here. But you have to visit in person to understand why Battista’s Calzones is worth seeking out. Hot out of the oven, the dough is soft and yielding, encasing savoury combinations ranging from all-beef meatloaf (my favourite) to prosciutto, artichokes and truffle oil (Battista’s favourite).

Eats on 118

Battista’s Calzones

That night, everyone had the chance to sample two calzone flavours. Though I could have easily finished a whole calzone, it was probably wise of the organizers to limit this appetizer to only part of a calzone so we’d be able to pace ourselves for the other establishments.

Our second stop was on the next block at T & D Noodle House. A family-run restaurant open for more than two years, T & D is named after its proprietors Thien and Diep. Their daughter Laura (who also happens to serve on the Business Association Board of Directors) offered us a warm welcome. She served up one of their most popular dishes – chicken, beef, and spring roll combination plate.

Eats on 118

Chicken, beef, and spring roll combination plate at T & D Noodle House

Everything was well-prepared, but I was really hoping for a sample of their pho. One of the things I’m still mourning with our office move is not being within walking distance of Chinatown’s Pho Tau Bay any longer (my go-to for quick lunches), so I’ll be back to T & D to see if they’ll work out as an adequate stand-in.

Our final visit was another neighbourhood favourite – El Rancho. Open for thirteen years, El Rancho has been a part of the Avenue’s revitalization efforts. Last year, restaurant owner Dora Arevalo founded a street festival that celebrated Latin food, dancing and music; expect the event to return again this July.

Although Dora was away in El Salvador last night, her hospitable staff ensured we were well-fed and happy. Each table was provided with a platter of chorizo, beef, and chicken tacos to share. Although we’ve been to El Rancho many times, we typically stick with their pupusas and flautas, so it was great to be reminded of their other menu options. The chicken tacos were by far our favourite.

Eats on 118

Tacos at El Rancho

Mack and I agreed we were served just enough food to be comfortably full – any more and we would have had to bag leftovers!

It sounds like the Business Association recognizes the assets they have in the neighbourhood, and have found a good way to highlight them. I hope these initiatives do encourage ongoing return visits to an area that is often overlooked.

Thanks to Wild Heart and the Alberta Avenue Business Association for organizing a fun evening! If you missed it, there are two additional tours to come on June 28 and August 30, 2017 – tickets are now available, and are likely to sell out fast.

Food by Foot: Edmonton’s Best Brunch with Epicurean Adventure Tours

When travelling, Mack and I try to join at least one walking tour – we’ve found it’s the most enjoyable way for us to explore and learn about new destinations. Of course, when food can be added into the mix, all the better.

For that reason, it’s great to see that Edmonton is finally getting its share of pedestrian-oriented food tours. Last summer, Calgary-based Karen Anderson expanded Calgary Food Tours to include Edmonton and Canmore, under the banner Alberta Food Tours. Local food writer Liane Faulder and chef Cindy Lazarenko lent immediate credibility to this new Edmonton venture. Coincidentally, another upstart company also launched at the same time in the city called Epicurean Adventure Tours (EAT).

EAT is the brainchild of two local foodies, Bryanna Kumpula and Melissa Bourgoin. Inspired by similar tours they’d experienced abroad, Bryanna explained that their original intentions were to showcase Edmonton’s food scene to intrepid tourists. However, they’ve found in the last six months of operations that it’s actually mostly locals that have discovered them through EventBrite. In my mind, it really speaks to the continued growth of our culinary industries on all fronts.

I met up with Su for EAT’s Edmonton’s Best Brunch tour on a Sunday in March. Tickets were priced at $60, and covered our tastes at five locations. We were joined by two other pairs; EAT groups range in size from 4 to 12.

Our day started at Blue Plate Diner, one of Downtown’s most popular brunch haunts (they also offer breakfast on weekday mornings). Here, we were treated to a half order of their eggs beneduckt, made with duck confit – it had a nice balance of textures, enhanced with a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs beneduckt from Blue Plate Diner

One of my chief complaints about the tour as a whole was the lack of backstory – whether that be history, context, or points of interest. One of the reasons I choose to participate in paid group tours is for the value add of information or access. And when the tours centre around small businesses in particular (when there are fewer degrees of separation between the customer and the owner), the connection to the story behind the business is important because it can help encourage repeat visits.

I acknowledge that for this particular tour, I was biased because I happen to live on the same street as many of the establishments we visited. Still, in the case of Blue Plate Diner, I was expecting some introduction to co-owners John Williams or Rima DeVitt, or in lieu of that (as not all owners or managers can be available at all times), for our guide to fill in the blanks. Blue Plate would have been a great place to talk about the evolution of 104 Street from its warehouse roots to the modern day condos, outdoor City Market, and Ice District proximity.

Our second stop was down the street to KB & Company. I was most looking forward to this visit, as I’m a little embarrassed to say I hadn’t made it down to this eatery yet. I was curious about what led owner Kristina Botelho to pilot a vegan menu in an area that hasn’t embraced similar ventures (see Earth’s General Store). Alas, the tour didn’t include that tidbit, or anything about KB & Company beyond its menu.

The half order of oat & hempseed waffles, with bananas, macaroon granola, almond-coconut whipped cream, and maple syrup, was very good. Served warm, it tasted every bit as indulgent as waffles with powdered sugar and dairy-based whipped cream, but not as sweet.

EAT tour

Oat & hempseed waffles from KB & Company

We detoured next to Craft on Rice Howard Way. The brunch crowd here was quiet, but it was still pretty early for a Sunday. We were seated at one of the tables at the front where the Great One had autographed (lacquered over, of course).

Craft was prepared for our arrival – a manager took us to their keg room, where they had 30 Alberta beers on tap, including Red Deer’s Troubled Monk, one of their newer additions. We learned that they do source from some local producers, including Morinville Greenhouses and Popular Bakery. We also trekked up to the mezzanine level where we could watch some of the cooks prep Craft’s Meals that Mend contribution to the Ronald McDonald House that evening. Craft sealed the deal with a 2 for 1 coupon for a future brunch meal.

EAT tours

Rotating keg room at Craft

We tried one of their breakfast tacos, with scrambled egg, beer can chicken, guacamole, feta, and pica de gallo in a flour tortilla. It was accompanied by their signature hot sauce, though most of us thought it could have rated higher on the heat meter. But overall, it was something I’d consider ordering for myself.

EAT tours

Breakfast tacos from Craft

We returned to 104 Street for our final two businesses. Evoolution was our penultimate stop. If you’ve been to any of their locations before you know that customers are encouraged to sample the different olive oils and balsamic vinegars, ranging from single origin and flavoured oils to vinegars of varying types and flavours. Our group was not treated any differently as we browsed the different products available on the shelves. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Evoolution (which has since expanded to six locations in Edmonton, St. Albert, Canmore, Banff, and Calgary), and it was great to see the number of made-for-Evoolution products they’ve expanded to include, such as olive leaf tea and Wild Prairie soap and Violet Chocolate Company bars made with Evoolution olive oils.

Our last visit was to Credo, the always bustling neighbourhood coffee shop. Our group managed to snag a couple of tables, and enjoyed a cup of coffee or tea. Owner Geoff Linden came to say hi before we left, but again, I was left wanting a bit more from our EAT guide – she could have talked about the Intelligensia coffee they use, the third wave coffee scene in Edmonton, or even how they anchor the so-called "Coffee District".

EAT currently offers two other walking tours in addition to Downtown brunch – a desserts tour and a bacon and brews tour. Bryanna says she hopes to add Old Strathcona and Ellwood Drive tours to the roster in the future.

While I enjoyed spending the morning with Su and other food-loving Edmontonians, I was hoping the tour would offer more information along with the food. I hope EAT considers integrating more of these stories into future tours.

Recap: 2016 Alberta Open Farm Days with Northlands

Last year, Mack and I were invited to enjoy a long table dinner in the evening at Northlands Urban Farm during Alberta Open Farm Days. This year, we decided to spend most of the day with them.

For just $5 per person, Northlands had organized bus tours that would visit Edmonton-area farms. Mack and I signed up for the morning tour, which featured Gold Forest Grains and Horse Hill Berry Farm.

We boarded the coach across the street from Northlands Urban Farm, joining about two dozen other people already on the bus. Quite a few of them had been on the tours led by Northlands the year prior. Although both farms we visited were open to the public that day, it was a much more efficient means of transportation to go with a group – if they decide to organize a third year of tours I can only hope even more people take advantage of this deal.

Gold Forest Grains

Gold Forest Grains

Gold Forest Grains has been a fixture at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market for many years. John Schneider and his family grow heritage and ancient varieties of certified organic grain on 300 acres near Morinville. Unlike other grain farmers, who typically have to farm between 2000-3500 acres, they can make it work on a smaller scale by selling directly to consumers.

Gold Forest Grains

John Schneider

Gold Forest Grains mills their own flour (they had a small hand mill on display, but most is done in large quantities now), but they offer value-added products as well. For many, their introduction to Gold Forest Grains is through their excellent pancake mix or Sturgeon River Cereal. John also mentioned that they continue to experiment with other varieties, including corn he obtained from local farmer Deb Krause that matures on the stalk, which may mean an unprecedented source for non-gmo, local cornmeal in the future.

Gold Forest Grains

Corn

While we didn’t venture too far onto the farm, John toured us around the perimeter of their straw-bale home, featuring a small fruit garden (including heritage apples and haskaps), poultry coop, and a cob oven.

Park wheat is one of the grain varieties they grow, and John shared that he has some gluten intolerant customers that can eat this type of wheat. This is the type of flour used to make the whole wheat crust at Love Pizza. As a treat, he had put together some park wheat-based dough, which he used to fire up some focaccia in the 800 degree cob oven.

Gold Forest Grains

Park wheat focaccia

I would have appreciated it if John had also spoken about some of the other products they grow, including lentils and farro, but I recognize that we didn’t have much time.

Next up, we headed to Horse Hill Berry Farm in northeast Edmonton. Operated by Dave & Jackie Wilson, the 10 acre u-pick farm opened in 2010.

Horse Hill Berry Farm

Horse Hill Berry Farm

They currently offer six different types of raspberries, but have been thinking about adding other fruit. Although they are not certified organic, they do not spray their crops. They will be putting in drip irrigation (the plants require about 1 inch of water a week) and will continue to prune using machinery, though labour-intensive hand pruning is more effective. The ideal air and sunlight penetration Dave described is similar to what grape vines need to thrive.

Horse Hill Berry Farm

Dave demonstrates pruning

It was actually the last day of operations for the farm this year, what they termed the “bonus” week as the growing season typically only lasts five weeks. As their gift to us, we were all given a carton to fill with raspberries.

Untitled

My bounty

Until Dave mentioned it, I didn’t realize that they had deliberately planted grass between the rows to make the raspberry patch more patron friendly (so parents and kids alike wouldn’t have to worry about trekking through the dirt or mud). This, combined with their raspberry guide of the types of berries better suited for canning, freezing or wine-making, points to the thoughtful design of many aspects of their farm.

Mack and I also wandered to the look-out on the property (where you can see the North Saskatchewan River), featuring an old family heirloom. The rusted truck is also apparently a haven for snakes, which I found out first hand (it was one small garter snake, but I wasn’t expecting it).

Horse Hill Berry Farm

Family heirloom

The bus ended where we started, and by that time in the afternoon, the Northlands Urban Farm activities were up in full swing.

Northlands’ beekeeper Patty Milligan was leading a honey demonstration, and crafts and a petting zoo provided entertainment for the young ones.

Open Farm Days at Northlands

Family activities

We also swung by the newly-installed chicken coop, where the heritage chicken breeds were happily picking at apples and greens.

Open Farm Days at Northlands

Northlands’ chicken coop

Before we left, we had a bite to eat from the Northlands 1879 food truck, and regretted choosing to share the garlic fries instead of ordering our own.

Untitled

Meatball sub and garlic fries

Thanks to Northlands for organizing an economical and seamless way to visit a few of the region’s farms – check out the Alberta Open Farm Days website for more ideas next August on how you can meet some of our rural neighbours.

Recap: 2016 Grand Taste Tour with Northlands Urban Farm, Brix ‘N Berries, Triple M Dairy and Tangle Ridge Ranch

At the end of July, Mack and I were honoured to be asked to be among the hosts of the third annual Grand Taste Tour. It was the second year of the event where attendees were bussed to the various farm locations, as opposed to a self-guided tour. This allows participants to meet and break bread with other folks interested in learning about local agriculture, all while taking advantage of more efficient group-based transportation.

Linda and Brittney headed up one bus, while Mack and I led another. The first stop was within city limits – a one acre lot cultivated in partnership with Northlands. The farm is a part of the Northlands Urban Farm, intended for educational purposes and to support innovative practices. 600 students from local schools have already toured the farm this year, and 26 children will be selected to take part in their junior beekeeping pilot this fall. Northlands also successfully applied for an urban chicken permit which will allow them to add eight hens to the property.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Northlands Urban Farm

We spent some time with Travis Kennedy of Lactuca, whose crops make up most of the one acre. His enthusiasm and pragmatism make him a wonderful urban agriculture ambassador. While Lactuca began its business in a backyard garden, it now has the chance to produce 200-300 pounds per week at Northlands. New challenges have come with that opportunity in the form of supply exceeding demand, so much of his focus this year has been on developing new markets for their products. Lactuca currently supplies to 15 restaurants in Edmonton and area, including Farrow and Three Boars.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Travis

Salad greens (primarily kale, lettuce and arugula) make up most of the crop. The reason these were chosen relates to their short 7 day production cycle to make the most of Edmonton’s 100 growing days, their lightweight nature (Travis used to transport his crop to farmers’ markets on a bicycle), and that all restaurants have a salad on their menu, increasing his market potential. That said, greens require an incredible amount of water to flourish – on hot days, Lactuca can use up to 7000L of water. Northlands was permitted to run below-ground water lines to help with this.

Although Lactuca does experiment with other crops (corn and French fillet beans, to name a few), they’ve embraced salad greens because they want to stay true to seasonality. They haven’t ruled out hydroponics in the future though, so stay tuned!

Lactuca relies on organic practices, using City of Edmonton compost, and Travis doesn’t mind the holes he finds among the leaves. He believes it speaks to their terroir and lack of pesticide use. That said, he recognizes that what may sell to consumers at a farmers’ market will not pass inspection with restaurants (pointing out the odd dichotomy between the success of “ugly produce” campaigns and the unchanged expectations of diners eating out).

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Demonstrating the drill-powered harvester

I was particularly amazed by the method in which they now harvest their greens. When Travis started, they relied exclusively on hand-harvesting, which is laborious and time consuming. They’ve since moved to using a drill-powered aluminum harvester, which can harvest up to 150 pounds an hour.

The group then listened to Patti Milligan, who is the beekeeper for urban hives at Northlands and the Shaw Conference Centre.

The hives at Northlands are kept primarily for educational purposes. Patti explained that Alberta is the largest honey producer in the country, due to the abundance of sunlight and flowers. In our province, clover, alfalfa and canola dominate, but Patti did mention a movement towards manipulating where bees go through timing of blooms and placement of plants. She said we should watch out for locally-sourced borage, raspberry, fireweed, and dandelion honeys in the near future.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Patti

It’s great to have such a rich resource centrally located in Edmonton, available for children and adults alike to learn about agricultural practices, especially when it is helmed by passionate connectors like Travis and Patti. Northlands is offering free public tours on September 10 – pre-registration is required.

Our second stop took us just outside of city limits to Brix ‘N Berries in Leduc County. Operated by Greg Moline and Laurie Erickson, Brix is primarily a berry u-pick garden, though they also offer limited vegetables as well.

Greg and Laurie do have off-farm income – their main work is in the area of soil amendments, assisting farmers who are looking to transition from using fertilizers to relying on other practices. They highlighted the difference between great soil and poor soil on their own land – a portion of their farm has naturally enriched number one grade soil (where they joked that seeds germinate even before they hit the ground). The Saskatoon bushes here grew without restraint, full and unwieldy. Across the field, bushes planted in the same year in sub-par soil struggled to fruit, branches spotty and inconsistent.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Greg points out the number one grade soil

Brix began with 50 acres of Saskatoons, but soon added strawberries, raspberries, a greenhouse, then a market garden. Greg shared that it has been challenging for operations like theirs to stay in business without an agri-tourism component such as Prairie Gardens. Brix doesn’t charge an overhead for consumers to pick their produce because they just focus on growing food, and perhaps because of that, they can’t keep up with the demand. In the face of several other u-picks that closed this year (Roy’s Raspberries on a permanent basis and Happy Acres for 2016), Brix has had to close from Sundays to Tuesdays this season to allow the fields to regenerate. Even then, that previous Wednesday, they found that 250 people picked the field clean in a day.

Brix 'N Berries

Linda picks some raspberries

My sisters and I, city children through and through, benefited from the u-picks we visited with our parents growing up. I’m not sure I would have been able to identify field-grown produce as a kid without those experiences, and through the relationship we had with the farmers, learned to appreciate how difficult it was to grow food for the masses. With development pressures and the work involved in maintaining a public farm, I’m sure more of these operations may fall by the wayside, but I really do hope the tide turns – these u-picks are a valuable community asset for the next generation.

Our third stop was Triple M Dairy in Calmar. Genzinus Martins runs the farm along with his sons, comprised of 180 cows. Considered a medium-sized operation, they produce 1.3 million litres of milk per year sold through Alberta Milk.

Mack and I were fortunate to have toured Bles Wold a number of years ago, and had already seen an example of a mechanized milking machine. For many on our bus however, this was their first encounter with a machine that can milk up to 60 cows per hour. The technology also monitors the health of an individual cow through a transponder in their neck, tracking their production over a period of time. Most animals supply 40L of milk per day.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Genzinus explains how the milking machine works

Genzinus was proud of their operation, as they are constantly striving to improve the health of their cows and ensuring the animals continue to produce for 4-5 years. Their cows get a two month break from milking every 12-13 months to wander the fields. He emphasized that Alberta Milk provides incentives for better quality milk, so farmers aren’t just driven by quantity alone.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

What are you looking at?

Our last stop was Tangle Ridge Ranch located in Thorsby. Vicky and Shane Horne are first generation farmers, and when they purchased 60 acres they knew they wanted to have a strong connection with consumers. Although they had experience with cattle farming, they wanted to start out with smaller animals, and thought they could find a niche with grass-fed lamb, a product not widely known in Alberta. 50% of lamb sold in the province is imported, something Vicky and Shane hopes will change in the years to come.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

The best kind of tour!

Vicky and Shane carefully selected the breeds of sheep they would raise. Katahdins and Dorpers are “hair” sheep that naturally lose their coats and thus don’t require regular shearing, with their energy going into meat instead. Without wool, believed to produce lanolin oil, the meat from these sheep breeds are much milder in flavour. Currently, Tangle Ridge raises 70 sheep per season, but want to eventually grow to a flock size of 250. They sell direct to consumers every fall through their website, and are now taking orders for November 2016.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Hair sheep

The foundation of their farm is pasture management, as they believe healthy soil is the key to healthy animals. They seeded their land with a mix of alfalfa and clover, and manage with temporary fences for rotational grazing. A portable water truck follows the flock so the animals always have access to water.

The story of Tangle Ridge Ranch wouldn’t be complete without mentioning their dogs. Virgo, Mojito and Bailey protect the sheep, circling them night and day to deter the coyotes in the area.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

A sheep dog in his element

After the tour, all guests were ushered onto the second floor of the barn on the ranch. It’s been transformed into an event space that’s used for long table dinners and private functions. With the overhead lights and mismatched chairs, it was a rustic setting that befit the closing of the day.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Barn dinner

The food is where the Grand Taste Tour sets itself apart from other farm-related events. Whereas other events focus on either tours or meals alone, Grand Taste successfully marries both for an unmatched value. Last year, they brought in Chef Daniel Costa of Corso 32 fame. This year, not to be outdone, Chef Frank Olson from the Red Ox Inn and Canteen prepared a six course meal utilizing ingredients from producers we had met along the tour. This was also the first year where alcohol was available for purchase at dinner.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Chef Frank Olson and crew cooking up a storm

To start, we sampled three Winding Road cheeses, accompanied by a compote made from Brix ‘N Berries cherries, and Coal Lake Honey. Winding Road is a small cheesiry that began selling its products at the French Quarter Market this year.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Winding Road cheeses

Pork ribs glazed with a Saskatoon berry barbecue sauce with an underlay of kohlrabi were up next, food meant to get your hands dirty.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Pork ribs

Lactuca and Sundog Organic supplied the vegetables in the salad course, made up of radishes, greens, carrots, pumpkin seeds and a green goddess dressing.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Green goddess salad

My favourite dish was the gnocchi, served with basil and tarragon from Reclaim Urban Farm, pecorino from The Cheesiry, and peas from Erdmann’s. Selfishly, I was thankful this had been served family-style, as some of my dinner companions chose not to eat their full share.

2016 Grand Taste Tour

Gnocchi

Many had been awaiting the main course – Tangle Ridge lamb was served two ways: cumin-scented meatballs, and slow roasted for 8 hours with horseradish and nettle. Perhaps it was the knowledge from the tour, but the meat was noticeably mild in flavour, outside of the spices imparted by the kitchen.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Lamb served two ways

As if we weren’t full enough, the dessert course was too good to pass up, a glorious canola oil cake dolloped with whipped cream and Brix ‘N Berries raspberries.

Grand Taste Tour 2016

Canola oil cake

Thanks again to Kirsta, Amy and the rest of the Grand Taste Tour organizers for a fantastic day full of learning and great food. I’m looking forward to next year already.

Back in the 6ix: Escape to Niagara

As much as I love Toronto, I was happy with our decision to escape the bustling city for two days. We rented a car and drove out to Niagara wine country.

Jordan

Jordan, a real life Stars Hollow

I was enticed by the photos and reviews online for the Inn on the Twenty in Jordan, and it was possibly the best decision we made on the trip. The boutique hotel was charming and situated on a street that could have doubled as the set for Stars Hollow. Breakfast was included in the restaurant, and the dinner we enjoyed the night prior was well done. I’d heartily recommend a stay to anyone considering a night in the area.

Toronto Trip

Perfect pickerel and fiddleheads

We also joined a wine tour so neither of us would have to worry about driving. Crush on Niagara Wine Tours offers pick-ups from area hotels, which was perfect for us. It was supposed to be a group tour, but the bonus of travelling in the off-season is that it ended up being a private tour just for the two of us!

We visited 4 larger (160 acres) and smaller (10 acres) wineries, which was a good representation for us. They all offered something interesting – Flat Rock Cellars had the best view, with their tasting room on stilts allowing a glimpse of Lake Ontario and even Downtown Toronto.

Jordan Wine Region

At Flat Rock Cellars

DiProfio was obviously a family-run business, and provided the best hospitality during our tasting, with generous pours.

Jordan Wine Region

DiProfio Winery

GreenLane was the most educational, and my favourite stop, as Jane, our guide, was thorough and able to answer all of our questions about the type of grapes that thrive in cold climate viticulture (explaining why you find so many Ontario Rieslings but never any Malbecs). We had no idea the last two winters had done so much damage to the area’s wineries, some losing as much as 65% of their vines.

Jordan Wine Region

A revelation in discovering the difference made by aged vines

The sommelier at Vineland Estates was clearly experienced and had a fine palate, but both Mack and I were suspicious of the technology they chose to adopt. They’re the first winery in Canada who has invested $250,000 in an optical-based camera that only selects the ripest grapes for inclusion in their wine (everything else is blown off the conveyor belt, and not considered even for compost). It seemed unnecessary and wasteful, but then again, what do we know? At any rate, the tour was a great way to get a feel for some of the area’s wineries without the stress of having to navigate the wine trail on our own.

Jordan Wine Region

Vineland Estates, complete with two helipads

Before heading back to town, we made a pit stop at Dillon’s. The distillery is not only known for their spirits, but also for their bitters (found in Edmonton at The Silk Road and Habitat, among others). We didn’t have enough time for a full tour, but did taste some of the products not available in Alberta. I really enjoyed their Limoncello, sweeter than the traditional liqueur. But we both found their gin 22 (with 22 botanicals without a juniper-forward taste) to be the one we will pick up in the future (thankfully, available in Alberta, including Everything Wine, where we picked it up in Sherwood Park).

Dillon's

The very photogenic Dillon’s tasting bar

We didn’t even make it out to Niagara Falls this time but neither of us regretted that decision – there was just so much else to experience! If you’re able to schedule a day trip out to Jordan or the surrounding communities the next time you’re in Toronto, I’d highly recommend doing so.

A Tour of the El Mercado Tortilla Factory

Two weeks ago on an overcast Saturday, Mack and I headed to south Edmonton for a tour of El Mercado corn tortilla factory. You may already be quite familiar with their product, as it is used in several popular restaurants in the city, including Tres Carnales, Rostizado and Glass Monkey. El Mercado also produces a line of corn tortilla chips.

Tres Carnales

A spread at Tres Carnales

We’ve picked up their tortillas and chips in the past for home use, usually at Tienda Latina, though they are also available outside of Latin markets at about two dozen locations in the city, including Save-On Foods and the Italian Centre. Impressively, their distribution runs even further south to Red Deer and Calgary.

The opportunity to tour the factory, however, meant not only seeing the production in action, but also getting to taste fresh tortillas off the line, something neither of us have done before.

El Mercado

Masa ready to be loaded into the machine

El Mercado imported a tortilla machine from Mexico in 2010, and had to adapt it to meet local safety guidelines. But the mechanization of the process results in an incredibly efficient system – once staff have prepared the masa (dough made from corn flour and water), they feed it into the machine which flattens, cuts, bakes, then cools the tortillas, all in 8 minutes. El Mercado generally produces 12,000 tortillas a day, two to three times per week.

El Mercado

The roller

They employ uses three different roller sizes, creating 14 cm and 10 cm diameter tortillas, as well as the triangular shapes that are prepared into chips.

El Mercado

Tortillas feeding into the oven

El Mercado

Three levels of heat bake the tortillas

We had the opportunity to try a white corn tortilla still warm from the line, which Karla, our volunteer tour guide, demonstrated how to eat it Mexican-style. First, we sprinkled the surface with salt, then rolled it up in the palm of our hand. They were surprisingly pliable, and tasted almost like a flour tortilla.

El Mercado

Karla demonstrates the technique

The tour was a bit of a trial run for El Mercado; depending on the interest of the community, they are considering the possibility of selling freshly-made tortillas straight from their factory on a monthly basis. Let’s hope this happens so more people have the chance to try El Mercado’s products as they were meant to be enjoyed.

El Mercado

Ready to go!

We picked up a bag of their new flavoured tortilla chips (spicy, though sweet was also an option). Mack hasn’t stopped eating them since, finding the seasoning of onion, garlic, and chili powder extremely addictive. If you’re looking to purchase El Mercado’s products, check out this handy list.

El Mercado

Snacking on the spicy tortilla chips

Thanks to Karla for the invitation, and to El Mercdo for hosting us!

Check out Cindy’s post about the tour as well.

Recap: 2015 Grand Taste Tour with Wolf Willow Honey, Tofield Packers and Irvings Farm Fresh

On July 12, 2015, Mack and I were guests of the second annual Grand Taste Tour, a partnership between the 124 Grand Market and Taste Alberta.

The Grand Taste Tours began in 2014 and seek to showcase some of the great local producers we are fortunate to have in this province, and to enjoy some of their bounty as prepared by a talented local chef.

In our case, Mack and I joined Phil and Robyn on the "bee bus", meaning that we would be visiting an apiary to start. Our counterparts on the "dairy bus" headed to the Breevliet Dairy Farm first, after which both groups would meet up at the second and final stops.

We learned that the 2014 Grand Taste Tour was much different, as it was self-guided, and participants had to reach the participating farms on their own. Although some might appreciate the choice and freedom of a choose-your-own-adventure tour, we appreciated the fact that all logistics of transportation and food taken care of this time around.

It took the bus over an hour to reach our first stop, Wolf Willow Honey. Their products can be found on the shelves at Duchess Provisions, but for the most part, Wolf Willow prefers to sell their honey direct to consumers from the farm or at the Camrose Farmers’ Market.

Wolf Willow Honey

Wolf Willow Honey

Doug Chalmers shared that Wolf Willow has 400 hives (with 50-80,000 bees making up each hive). He described the surrounding area as a “bee haven”, with more than 200 perennials available to their bees. That said, he does liken the collapse of bee colonies to the changing landscape after the second World War, linked to the decrease in food sources and the increase in pesticide use.

Wolf Willow Honey

Doug Chalmers

Using burlap smoke to sedate the bees, the beekeeper was able to pull up a frame for us to see.

Wolf Willow Honey

Beekeeper Ben

The bees were busy working away – did you know that a single bee makes just 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey over its lifetime?

Wolf Willow Honey

Bees

We also had the chance to sample some of their honey products, which included light clover, dark clover, dandelion, creamed buckwheat and an end-of-season 100 flower blend. Mack and I would have appreciated more of a guided tasting, but then again, we’ve been spoiled with superb honey education sessions led by Patty Milligan.

Honey tasting

Mack

It was then on to Tofield Packers, a small abattoir used by Irvings Farm Fresh, among other local producers.

Tofield Meat Packers

Tofield Packers

They are committed to public education, often opening their doors to 4H Clubs, so it wasn’t the first time they’ve hosted external groups. Owner Dale Erickson was our no-nonsense guide, and though he was responsive to questions asked, a more thorough explanation of the process up front would have been ideal.

Tofield Packers

Dale Erickson on the kill floor

We did learn that they process pigs, cows, sheep, goat, bison, elk, ostrich and alpaca. While they have processed game in the past, they shy away from it because the animals are typically very dirty. On a good day, the plant can get through 7 animals.

Dale led us through the various coolers in the facility, including the wet room, where the animals are left to drain of blood and other fluids, and then the aging room, where sides are hung for anywhere from 14 to 21 days.

Tofield Meat Packers

Coolers

Tofield Packers also purchases sides of animals to process into hams, sausages and other cuts of meat which they sell out of their retail shop.

An abattoir is something every meat eater should see, to appreciate the end of a life that has travelled from a farm to your table. Tofield Packers is a great example of a family-owned facility that works with small farmers to put forth good quality products.

Before heading to our final stop, our group congregated in the parking lot to enjoy a snack. Given it was a tour sponsored by Taste Alberta, the big box store granola bars and watermelon was unexpected and ill-fitting. Hopefully snacks better aligned with the tour can be arranged next year.

Mack and I were most looking forward to the visit to Irvings Farm Fresh. We’ve been buying pork from Alan and Nicola Irving from the City Market, Old Strathcona and Salisbury Farmers’ Markets for years, and had always meant to stop by the farm to see where their pigs are raised.

Irvings Farm Fresh

With Alan

We finally had that chance, and we weren’t disappointed. The farm occupies a total of 80 acres, and this year, for the first time, the Irvings are growing their own grain for feed. The barley was surprisingly green, but the grass in an adjacent field was incredibly brittle under our feet.

Irvings Farm Fresh

In the barley field

A few years ago, when Alan and Nicola were deciding on how to expand their operations, they had a choice to make – they couldn’t do it all on their own, and had to choose between outsourcing their breeding or their product line. They decided the latter was more important, and with a facility built to process all cuts on-site, they are able to guarantee their products are free from wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts, soy and MSG.

As a result, their Berkshire pigs are brought to them at 2-3 months. Irvings raises them until they’re between 6-7 months, or approximately 250 pounds. Beyond that, and the ratio of fat to meat becomes unwieldy.

Irvings Farm Fresh

Pigs

The Irvings believe that pigs should live as naturally as possible, so provide their animals with an environment where they have the freedom to move, dig, root, sleep and eat. They self-regulate, and on that warm afternoon, most of them had sought shade to keep cool (pigs don’t sweat). That week, the farm had about 70 pigs.

Irvings Farm Fresh

In their element

Before lunch, we had the privilege of observing a butchery demonstration by Elyse Chatterton. We learned that the pigs are killed at Tofield Packers, then brought back as sides to the Irvings facility (she even pulled out the bullet from the skull of the pig!).

Irvings Farm Fresh

Elyse Chatterton

Trained in England, Elyse learned how to do everything by hand, eschewing the use of even a band saw for cuts through bone. As a retail butcher, Elyse loves the process of transforming a “beast” into attractive cuts of meats that catch a customer’s eye. She skillfully carved up several shoulder roasts (her favourite cut), and indicated that she could dispatch the entire side in one hour.

Irvings Farm Fresh

All by hand

Her sense of humour was evident throughout the demo; for instance, some have questioned whether she is able to do everything a male butcher can do. Her answer: she isn’t able to go into the men’s washroom.

Then it was time for lunch, picturesque communal tables set up beneath several trees, adjacent to a makeshift outdoor kitchen. Chef Daniel Costa (of Corso 32 and Bar Bricco fame) and his team certainly had to work in an untested environment, but in spite of this, managed to create a memorable meal that celebrated the flavours of summer.

2015 Grand Taste Tour

Lunch

A plate of snappy, raw vegetables from Riverbend Gardens reminded us that sometimes, simple is best. It was followed by grilled Bonjour Bakery crostini topped by the most luxurious Fairwinds Farm goat ricotta and fresh spring pea and mint spread.

2015 Grand Taste Tour

Pinzimonio (raw vegetables)

2015 Grand Taste Tour

Goat ricotta

2015 Grand Taste Tour

Spring pea and mint

We were spoiled with platters of porchetta and panzanella made with tomatoes and cucumber from Gull Valley Greenhouses.

2015 Grand Taste Tour

Porchetta

2015 Grand Taste Tour

Panzanella in action

My favourite dish was the spring onion, pea shoot and whey risotto. Given risotto is difficult to make under regular circumstances, it was an even bigger feat on this stage. The whey imbued a creaminess that had me going back for thirds.

2015 Grand Taste Tour

Risotto

Grilled Irvings pork loin capped off the main course. The meat was overdone for my taste, but to be honest, I’d filled up on the preceding dishes.

2015 Grand Taste Tour

Grilled pork loin

But we weren’t done yet – generous chunks of two year old Parmesan, drizzled with the 100 flower blend of Wolf Willow Honey, followed suit. The finale was a silky panna cotta with honey, grappa and berries.

2015 Grand Taste Tour

Parmesan and honey

2015 Grand Taste Tour

Panna cotta

I’m certain that had the menu been advertised alongside ticket sales, the Grand Taste Tour would have been sold out; a similar meal at Corso 32 would have easily cost the equivalent of the $90 ticket price. Next year, organizer Kirsta Franke has already secured the chefs from North 53 for the lunch portion; if the cost of the tour holds steady, the all-inclusive nature of the event and the high quality of the food should sell itself.

2015 Grand Taste Tour

Kudos to the team behind the day

If the tour of Irvings Farm Fresh piqued your interest, you’re in luck – Alan and Nicola are participating in Open Farm Days on August 23, 2015, from 11am-4pm. Visit with the pigs, tour the meat shop, and enjoy a “simply porky lunch”.

Thanks again to Gastropost, Taste Alberta and the 124 Grand Market for inviting us, and congratulations to the organizers for a second successful tour. I look forward to seeing what’s on the agenda for next year!

Check out Mack and Linda’s recaps of the events, too!

Edmonton on Foot: Doors Open Edmonton and Chinatown Summer Market

One of my favourite things about living Downtown is its proximity to other neighbourhoods we can easily reach on foot. This was illustrated on Saturday, when Mack and I enjoyed some of what Central Edmonton had to offer that day.

I think the Historic Festival and Doors Open Edmonton should make a bigger splash than it does. It flies under the radar, given it takes place over the same duration as the much higher profile Edmonton International Street Performers Festival, but the opportunity to see some of the participating landmarks firsthand only comes around once a year.

Mack and I had already joined a horse-drawn historical tour in Beverly earlier in the week, but what I was really looking forward to was something closer to home – a guided tour of the Westminster Apartments, at 9955-114 Street. We’ve walked by the heritage building numerous times, but I’ve always wondered (a fire stoked by the accessibility of real estate reality shows) what the units inside look like.

Westminster Apartments

Tour of the Westminster

Lucky for us, this was the first year some residents of the Westminster wanted to open their doors up to the public. About forty people signed up in advance – the organizers were a little surprised at the interest in their homes!

The Westminster was built in 1912 as a speculative investment of eastern Canadian capital. It was designed to accommodate people who were transitioning from rooming houses to higher-end apartments. As such, the basement was originally set up as a kitchen, where food was prepared and sent upstairs to residents who re-heated meals in their smaller-than average warming kitchens. In 2004, the building was converted to 24 condo units. Famous occupants of the Westminster include George Bulyea, Alberta’s first Lieutenant Governor.

Westminster Apartments

Clawfoot bathtub

We explored four units, which highlighted each of their individuality. Given the age of the building, some residents had chosen to modernize their spaces, which ranged from opening up the kitchen to installing ensuite laundry and skylights. Most units retained some of the historical features, like clawfoot bathtubs and plate and picture rails.

Westminster Apartments

Picture rails

Coincidentally, we knew the couple who lived in one of the units. Over the last ten years, Mike and Yvonne have extensively renovated their top-floor unit, incorporating many Asian-influenced designs and furniture. It is a beautiful home.

Westminster Apartments

Modernized unit

Hopefully the residents at the Westminster decide to participate in Doors Open Edmonton next year – it is a gem that should continue to be admired and appreciated for years to come.

On a related note, we did try to tour Immigration Hall later that afternoon, but it seemed that the information was contained in error, as Hope Mission staff didn’t seem to know anything about it. As it goes into its twentieth year, one would hope that festival details in its guide are accurate!

After the historical tour, we walked over to Chinatown for their annual Summer Market. It is their rebranded East Meets West Festival, and when I saw that the organizers were promoting the event on social media, I was hoping that the Chinatown BRZ had changed things up this year.

It’s an event that has so much potential, and given the costs of closing down a street, I’m always optimistic that organizers will make better use of the space.

Summer Market in Chinatown

Chinatown Summer Market

They did have a more diverse line-up of entertainment, broadening the cultural lens to include South Asian performers. As well, the vendor tent did seem to house more businesses this year.  But otherwise, it was a similar template to previous events, and unlike last year, had even less street-level engagement.

Summer Market in Chinatown

Vendor tent

The massive stage was placed at the north end of 97 Street at 106 Avenue, blocking the view of the busy grocery store behind it. And while some of the larger performing groups can fill the stage, for the solo dancers or smaller teams, it seems unnecessary and actually serves to distance the audience from the action.

Summer Market in Chinatown

Xiao Hai Ou Dance Group

The food element was also missing. While food trucks don’t always have to be the answer, in lieu of them, it was disappointing that the businesses along 97 Street didn’t set up tables outside to hawk their products. It would have been the perfect opportunity to engage passerby so they might be encouraged to step inside.

We watched a few performances, then headed to Lee House for lunch. In some ways, I was retracing the steps made at the Chinatown Food Crawl back in May – it was a chance to use some of the coupons I’d received then!

One coupon entitled us to a complimentary kimchi pancake at Lee House, which went well with additional dishes of japchae and rice cakes.

Lee House

Lee House eats

To cool off on our walk home, we picked up some refreshing bubble tea from Tea Bar Cafe (also at a discount thanks to the Food Crawl).

Tea Bar Cafe

Strawberry and mango fruit slushes from Tea Bar Cafe

We were ready for a nap after spending so much time in the sun, but it was great to take advantage of what Edmonton has to offer, and (lucky for us) all within a twenty minute radius of our home on foot.

Date Night: Beverly Farmers’ Market and Historical Tour

A few years ago, Mack and I had dinner followed by a carriage ride, and in that post I wrote that this was only possible in Highlands. Well that wasn’t true.

On Tuesday, Mack and I headed to the neighbourhood of Beverly. I’d been meaning to visit their farmers’ market for some time, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine a few activities.

A smaller market open Tuesday evenings from May to September, it is definitely modest in its offerings, but anchored by two recognizable vendors, Riverbend Gardens and Steve & Dan’s, it does draw regular shoppers.

Beverly Farmers Market

Beverly Farmers’ Market

Rounding out the offerings are more than a dozen other vendors, with wares ranging from baked goods, seafood, and crafts. It was nice to see that the Beverly Farmers’ Market had an incentive program in place – if customers purchased $10 from the featured vendor of the week (in this case, it was the kettle corn truck), they would receive $5 in market dollars to spend at a future market.

Beverly Farmers Market

Steve & Dan’s

An inflatable play structure was set up in an adjacent field (accessible by admission), and we were told that live music was also a mainstay. Three food trucks were present, but Dolce & Banana immediately drew our attention. We had the chance to sample their mojito-flavoured Italian sodas at our last What the Truck?!, but we were keen to finally try one of Ernesto’s sandwiches on this occasion.

We ordered the The Soprano, filled with spicy salami, mortadella, banana peppers, muffelata and vegetable spreads, basil pesto and mozzarella. Made fresh and pressed to order, the focaccia was hot and delightfully crispy, each bite layered with salty pops of flavour.

Dolce & Banana

The Soprano from Dolce & Banana

We actually ended up taking our sandwiches on the carriage ride. A part of Doors Open Edmonton (on until July 12, 2015), the free historic tours of Beverly provide a chance to learn more about a neighbourhood that just celebrated its centennial in 2014.

We had to pre-register, and given the group was at capacity, I was especially glad we did so. Seated in a horse-drawn wagon, it was a comfortable introduction to Beverly. Mack and I were particularly taken with the Cenotaph Park. Built to commemorate the men who served in the first World War, we were told it is the oldest cenotaph in Alberta.

Beverly

Cenotaph Park

Unfortunately, the majority of the tour, led by a member of the Olde Towne Beverly Historical Society, was difficult to follow. The chronology of the events shared were not linear, and given a vast majority of the historical buildings are no longer standing (another discussion altogether), some photographic resources could have been shown for reference. In some ways, it was disappointing that a quick perusal of their website and Wikipedia was more informative than the in-person tour.

Beverly Historical Tour

Horse and wagon

Still, we were directed to some beautiful murals we wouldn’t have otherwise looked for, such as Beverly Beginnings, which shows, among other things, the town’s coal mine foundations.

Beverly

Beverly Beginnings

To end our evening in Beverly, we stopped by Take 5 (11801 48 Street), a doughnut shop I hadn’t heard of until recently. Lucky for us, they still had multiple varieties for us to choose from. The ones we tried tasted really fresh and springy, and both agreed that the most straightforward flavours of honey glazed and raised sugar were the best.

Take 5

Hawaiian and banana cream

It was great to spend the evening in a corner of the city we haven’t frequented before. It has been said before, but a stay-cation in Edmonton over the summer is a blessing in so many ways.

Stories Behind the Chopsticks: Chinatown Food Crawl

I love the idea of food crawls – they’re not only a great way to meet other people, but they spotlight multiple establishments within walking distance of one another, thus promoting the neighborhood on a larger level. In the past, with the seemingly defunct Edmonton branch of Dishcrawl, the focus was on areas that were already mainstream – Downtown, Old Strathcona, 124 Street.  In some ways, the food crawl is a more powerful tool when wielded to expose people to quadrants less ventured. Two years ago, the North Edge Business Revitalization Zone (covering Queen Mary Park and Central McDougall, just north of the Arena District) did this with their Flavour Journey Restaurant Tours. Now, McCauley Revitalization has embraced the food tour with a series called Stories Behind the Chopsticks.

Led by Freya Fu, the tours have been a way for her to connect Edmontonians with an oft-overlooked neighbourhood: Chinatown. Plagued by a reputation of its high concentration of social services and housing, many dismiss Chinatown as unsafe and unwelcoming. Those who do miss out on the gems – food stores like Ying Fat tofu factory and Shan Shan Bakery, happening late night hot pot restaurants like 97 Hot Pot and Urban Shabu, or my personal favourite, pho joints like Pho Tau Bay and King Noodle House.

Freya established connections with several business owners in Chinatown to create four tours in May, each highlighting four restaurants. Two were open to the public, and the $35 tickets sold out in just a few days. I have to say I was initially disappointed that the public tours were held in the afternoon (I think much of the stigma Chinatown has to overcome relates to its evening economy), but I also recognize the need to work with the owners at a time convenient for their regular customer flow.

I had the pleasure of accompanying Freya on her May 30, 2015 tour as a volunteer. There were about two dozen people in the group who gathered at our first stop: Lee House (10704 97 Street). The second location of the southside Korean mainstay, proprietor Mrs. Lee shared that she had started the restaurant twenty-two years ago with her husband. She was clearly very proud of her scratch cooking, and her son shared that she was particularly excited about this branch because of its proximity to the Lucky 97 Supermarket across the street, allowing for easy access to fresh ingredients.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Mrs. Lee and her son, of Lee House

We were treated to a family-style feast, including bulgogi, japchae, chicken balls, and an assortment of pickled accompaniments. The japchae (stir fried sweet potato noodles) is a favourite of mine, and the Lee House version doesn’t disappoint.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Korean-style feast

Zen Sushi (10518 101 Street) was the second stop. I confessed that I had walked past the storefront on 101 Street countless times, but had never peeked inside.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Zen Sushi interior

Henry, the owner, grew up in the neighbourhood, and expressed his commitment to help grow and develop McCauley. He intends at some point in the future to start “Zen After Dark” where their usual all you can eat concept will be set aside in favour of a special ramen menu on Friday and Saturday nights. This would help drive foot traffic in the area and he hopes to make Zen a positive destination.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Making sushi

I’m not a sushi eater, so I didn’t partake in much at this stop. Zen also had some kinks to work out in their ordering system for a group our size, but I’m certain they would have streamlined it by the second crawl.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Travelling on foot

Next, we headed to the adjacent Golden Szechuan (10508 101 Street). Specializing in regional Szechuan cuisine (known for its unrelenting heat), we were served a beautifully plated sampling of dishes: shredded pork with Szechuan sauce, sliced beef tendon in spicy sauce, and my favourite, sliced fish in hot sauce.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Golden Szechuan sampling

It would have been ideal for the owners to provide more of an introduction to the cuisine, as I was certain many would have benefited from learning about what separates Szechuan cooking from other, more familiar, Chinese styles.

Before dessert, we made a quick stop at Ruby’s Bakery (10642 98 Street) to pick up some treats.

Chinatown Food Crawl

How many people can fit inside Ruby’s Bakery?

Offering Hong Kong-style baked goods, including elaborate wedding cakes, it was difficult to ignore the wafting aromas of freshly made sweets. The coconut tarts were such a hit that some tourgoers ended up purchasing more to take home.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Coconut tart and tulip cake

With our to-go boxes in hand, we ambled next door to Tea Bar Café (10640 98 Street), one of several Chinatown establishments serving up bubble tea. An alternative to coffee shops, the blended fruit-based drinks with tapioca pearls proved to be a refreshing way to end our journey. Similar to Golden Szechuan, I would have appreciated some more information from the owner about the history of bubble tea.

Chinatown Food Crawl

Mango bubble tea

Overall, from conversations with participants, most had never been to any of the establishments prior to the tour. Many said they would return on their own, now knowing what to expect. Freya had the ingenious idea to distribute a coupon book offering deals to each of the businesses, which will hopefully further encourage repeat visits.

Thanks again to Freya for the opportunity to join her on the tour! And if you missed it, you’re in luck – due to popular demand, a second tour, featuring different restaurants, is taking place on July 15, 2015 at 6:30pm. The link to the tickets will go live on July 2 at 7am.