Food Notes for September 30, 2019

Chef Celebrates his Indigenous Roots in New Cookbook

Chef Shane Chartrand, fresh off an appearance on Iron Chef Canada, has just released his first cookbook (co-written with Jennifer Cockrall-King).

tawâw, Cree for “welcome, there is room”, features seventy-five recipes and chronicles his journey from childhood to award-winning chef at SC Restaurant at the River Cree Resort and Casino.

Containing “personal stories, interviews with Chartrand’s culinary influences and family members, and contemporary and archival photographs of his journey, tawâw is part cookbook, part exploration of ingredients and techniques, and part chef’s personal journal.”

The book is available now, and will also be highlighted at an event at LitFest on October 19, 2019 at the Royal Alberta Museum.

Openings

  • The folks behind Die Pie have opened up their second venture, a vegan cafe serving up breakfast and lunch called Pêche Café. It is located at 101, 10255 97 Street.
  • Alchemy, the new bar located in the JW Marriott (10360 102 Street), opens to the public on October 3, 2019.
  • Another Filipino-based chain is now open in Edmonton at West Edmonton Mall: Potato Corner specializes in all sorts of fries. It’s the first Canadian location.
  • Ice District will be adding two new establishments to open in winter 2021: a flagship location of The Canadian Brewhouse, called The CANADIAN ICEhouse, which will feature Edmonton’s largest rooftop patio, and The Banquet, a restaurant that also hosts bowling lanes, shuffleboard, and ping pong tables.
  • Dirtbelly, a Calgary-based salad chain, will be opening its first Edmonton location at Southgate Centre.

Closures

  • They were “temporarily closed” for some time, but Sweet Jesus couldn’t make it work in the Edmonton market. Both Southgate Centre and West Edmonton Mall locations closed before their one year anniversaries.

Upcoming Events

Reviews

Local News

  • Congratulations to Ply of Rogue Wave Coffee who was named the 2019 Aeropress Canadian Champion last week. He will be representing Canada at the World Aeropress Championships in London later this year.
  • It sounded like the chefs behind the recent Edmonton stop of the Prairie Grid Dinner Series made the most of a small and non-ideal ad hoc kitchen.
  • Linda shared a sponsored post about the fall menu offerings at The Rec Room.
  • Learn about the inspiration for the collaborative Filipino multi-course dinner that took place earlier this month; the organizers say the Bayanihan Dinner Series may return as early as October!
  • The latest Fast Food webisode features Wishbone Chef Lasha Gust’s recipe for perogies.
  • Just in time for fall – The Marc has shared their recipe for pumpkin soup.

Beyond Edmonton

  • Calgary’s City Palate is shutting down after 26 years.
  • A contentious new study seems to reverse guidelines and advice that limiting red and processed meat may not be scientifically supported.

What I Ate

  • Mack, Emily, and I finally made it to Blue Plate Diner’s new location just off 124 Street. Walking in, we were amazed how they managed to replicate the relaxed, low-key vibe in a new space. Service was great, and Emily gobbled up most of my gnocchi (and wanted more!).

Blue Plate Diner

Green pea pesto gnocchi with chicken at Blue Plate Diner

  • Mack and I had brunch at Cafe Bicyclette over the weekend to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary. Service was indifferent at best, but thankfully the food more than made up for the front of house staff. We enjoyed both dishes – the brunch poutine was as indulgent as we had hoped for, and the eggs benedict (served over a croissant) was well-made.

Cafe Bicyclette

Brunch poutine and eggs benedict at Cafe Bicyclette

    Food Notes for September 23, 2019

    New Social Enterprise Highlights Edmonton’s Diverse Community

    Edmonton Eats is a new social enterprise that will offer locals the opportunity to learn more about different cultures through food.

    They will be hosting their first event, a Taste of Libya, on October 19, 2019 at NAIT. The traditional menu will be prepared by chefs at Ernest’s based on recipes provided by a newcomer family, and will include 6 food stations, and a tea ceremony. The family will also deliver a presentation about Libya. Tickets are $65, with a $26 charitable receipt.

    Founded by Maureen Murphy-Black, Edmonton Eats combines her interests in “learning about new cultures, hearing peoples stories, building welcoming communities.” Funds collected from the events will go to the families hosting the dinner.

    Future events this year will feature Somalia, East Africa, Eritrea, and Mexico.

    Openings

    Upcoming Events

    • The second annual Harvest Fest, organized by the Downtown Business Association, features special events and menus from October 17-20, 2019. This year, 24 restaurants are offering $18 brunch, and $30 or $45 dinner menus.

    Reviews

    Local News

    • Two local amateur bakers, Chris Koo and Nataliia Shevchenko, have been chosen to compete on season 3 of The Great Canadian Baking Show.
    • The third annual Gifted catalogue, featuring products made by Edmonton-based companies, is now available. It features over a dozen local food-related products, including El Gringo Foods, Chicks-n-Chaps mustards, and Herbologie.
    • Honest Dumplings just returned from the first all Canadian FoodTech Trade Event in Chicago to launch an investment round.
    • Teresa Spinelli did an interview with The Tomato in conjunction with the Italian Centre’s 60th anniversary, where she shared that she’d like to open another store in Edmonton and two more in Calgary.
    • A bit of a shameless plug – I was a guest on my friend Nadine Riopel’s podcast, Welcome to Town, on an episode all about food, where I talk about how the local food scene has evolved, and some of my favourite restaurants in Edmonton.

    Urban Agriculture and Farming

    • The Downtown Farmers’ Market is relocating to the GWG Building on October 12, 2019, and will continue to be open on Saturdays and Sundays over the fall and winter months. It seems the market hasn’t yet decided on whether they will remain indoors next summer, or return to 104 Street.

    What I Ate

    • Any week when I get to Pho Tau Bay is a good week. Given the number of colds going around my office, the visit was a preventive measure.

    Pho Tau Bay

    My usual at Tau Bay

    • Mack, Emily, and I went to Amore Pasta for the first time. We love the idea of build-your-own-pasta, but on this occasion, we stuck with their menu of creations. I enjoyed the Amore Classic, with a sweet sambuca rose sauce, mushrooms, chicken, and green onions, and Mack chose the Show Me the Balls mac, with 3 meatballs, rose sauce, provolone, and gruyere. Service was great, and the portions were large enough for leftovers, too. We’ll be back.

    Amore Pasta

    Amore Pasta for dinner

    • I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Hotel Macdonald for their special Downton Abbey-themed afternoon tea over the weekend. It was such a beautiful day that we were able to enjoy it out on the terrace. They launched their new afternoon tea menu in August, which features a honey-lavender cheesecake, made with honey harvested from the Hotel’s beehives.

    Hotel Macdonald

    My Mum and our tea tray

    Food Notes for September 16, 2019

    Two Local Butchers to Represent Team Canada at World Butchers’ Challenge

    For the first time, Canada will be sending a team to compete in the World Butchers’ Challenge in September 2020, taking place in Sacramento, California.

    Two Edmonton-based butchers are on the team, selected after a “rigorous try-out process”: Corey Meyer of ACME Meat Market and Elyse Chatterton, currently a freelance butcher.

    Over the next year, the team will be coming together to practice as a group, as well as gathering funds for uniforms, props, and practice proteins. They have launched a crowdfunding campaign in the hopes of raising $45,000 that will go towards expenses.

    Openings

    • Greta, the rebranded Hudson’s at 10141 109 Street, opens September 20, 2019.
    • Midway Bar, featuring music, an arcade, and food, also opens September 20, 2019 at 6107 104 Street.
    • It looks like Campio Brewing (the new brew pub taking over the space formerly occupied by Characters) might be open by October 4, 2019.
    • Dalla Tavola Zenari (opened by the family behind the former Zenari’s in Manulife Place), revealed their floor plans for their forthcoming Enbridge Centre location. It will open in winter 2020.

    Upcoming Events

    • Kitchen by Brad is hosting a pop-up brunch by Chef Tracy Zizek (formerly of Cafe deVille) on September 21, 2019. Tickets are $18.
    • The second annual Wein, Schwein & Dine, in support of the Edmonton Food Bank, takes place on September 29, 2019, featuring wine and spirits served alongside pork-based dishes from Ono Poke and Say Uncle. Tickets are $35.
    • The next Prairie on the Plate dinner will be hosted at Northern Chicken on September 30, 2019. Tickets for the family-style meal will be $65.
    • If you want a sneak peek of what Dalla Tavola Zenari has in store food-wise, they’ll be supplying the lunches for the Edmonton International Film Festival’s Lunchbox Shorts, on September 30-October 4, 2019. Tickets for the films and lunch are just $15!
    • LitFest’s Food Matters event on October 26, 2019 has added an additional speaker: Giselle Courteau of Duchess will be on the panel, and will be serving up treats from her new cookbook, Duchess at Home.

    Reviews

    Local News

    • The NAIT Culinary Team is hoping to crowdfund $5,000 that will go towards uniforms and food costs in preparation for the IKA Culinary Olympics in Germany in February 2020. Their campaign runs until September 18, 2019.
    • Filistix’s Downtown restaurant was featured in both The Tomato and The Yards this month.
    • Following Calgary’s lead, Edmonton is getting its first mobile grocery store that will bring affordable food to communities in need. The first location is the Clareview Community Recreation Centre on Wednesday evenings.
    • Food4Good is hosting its second annual Bowling4Good on October 20, 2019 at Plaza Bowl. Teams of 4 need to raise $1,000 to participate.

    Urban Agriculture and Farming

    • The weather conditions haven’t been ideal this summer, and have had a particularly negative impact on local farmers. The Tomato interviewed Jenny and James Berkenbosch of Sundog Organics about the challenges they faced this year.

    What I Ate

    • It seemed like a shame not to take advantage of the beautiful conditions last week for some time on a patio. Mack, Emily, and I hit up Say Uncle on Thursday for their $10 pizza special, made with dough fermented for 36-48 hours. The chorizo, roast peppers, corn, and cheese curds was our favourite.

    Say Uncle

    Pizzas from Say Uncle

    • We also took in our first Kaleido Festival over the weekend. There was so much to see all along the Avenue, but we also grabbed a bite to eat from Paraiso Tropical – the flautas were the perfect street food (and Emily loved them too!).

    Paraiso Tropical

    Flautas from Paraiso Tropical

    Food Notes for September 9, 2019

    Hardware Grill Announces Closure

    Hardware Grill, one of the stalwarts of Edmonton’s fine dining scene, announced its closure on Saturday.

    The following message, signed by owners Larry and Melinda Stewart, is up on its website:

    “Dear Customers & Friends,

    It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we inform you that Hardware Grill is permanently closed for business. We apologize for the impact this will have on our employees, customers and community. Our employees were hardworking and dedicated and we are grateful for their service. Thank you to each and every customer who we had the chance to serve and entertain. Edmonton, we thank you for the support this community has given us for the last 20+ years.”

    Hardware Grill opened in 1996. The Stewarts also opened Tavern 1903 in 2013; it was well received but short-lived, closing before the end of 2014, due to a dispute with the landlord.

    Openings

    • OEB’s second Edmonton location at 10240 124 Street has pushed their opening date to September 11, 2019.
    • The Alley, a bubble tea chain that boasts handcrafted tapioca, will be opening their first Edmonton location on September 19, 2019 at 6183 Currents Drive. They will be offering 10% off beverages on September 19-20, 2019.

    Closures

    • The Sbarro Pizza, Vera’s Burger Shack, and Pinkberry locations inside the Grand Villa Casino at Rogers Place are now closed.

    Upcoming Events

    • Sorrentino’s is offering its 25th annual Mushroom Harvest, with special menus, cooking classes, and dinners that celebrate all things fungi.
    • The next Food4Good discount Fruit & Veggie Sale will take place on September 24, 2019 at the Glendood Community League.
    • In line with the Downton Abbey movie, the Hotel Macdonald have planned some special afternoon teas on September 21 and 22, 2019, priced at $55 per person.

    Reviews

    Local News

    • Chef Shane Chartrand’s episode of Iron Chef Canada aired on September 4, 2019; he spoke about his experience with The Journal. It was a close battle, but Iron Chef Lynn Crawford eked out a win. The full episode is now online.
    • Last week, The Journal published their first Food Notes curated by Tom Murray (who has taken on this role since Liane Faulder stepped away from the food beat).
    • Alberta Health Services has issued a public advisory for diners who ate at London Local on certain dates in August due to possible exposure to Hepatitis A.
    • Where Edmonton is collecting submissions for their People’s Choice Award for Best New Restaurant (covering restaurants that opened between November 2018 and October 2019). Entries will be accepted until November 15, 2019.
    • Congratulations to Pampa, who has expanded to a fifth location in Red Deer! They also have three restaurants in Edmonton and one in Calgary.
    • Inabuggy is a new grocery delivery service now operating in Edmonton, partnering with Costco, Safeway, Wal-Mart, and M&M Meat Shop. The delivery cost is $19.99 for picking, packing, and delivery from one store.

    Urban Agriculture and Farming

    • CBC featured Gruger Family Fungi.
    • Northlands has launched two 4-H clubs in Edmonton this fall for youth aged 6-20 with an interest in gardening, beekeeping, cooking, archery, photography, scrapbooking, woodburning, or electronics.

    What I Ate

    • Mack, Emily, and I spent the weekend in Rocky Mountain House. We usually try to rent places with kitchens for ease of meal times with Emily, and took along some frozen food for convenience. It was a good excuse to finally try the resurrected Culina TV Dinners, available at Culina To Go. There wasn’t much selection the day we went, so we ended up with the roast chicken and dill-feta mashed potatoes ($16). The chicken was so moist and flavourful (I loved the pan juices), and I’d never thought to enhance mashed potatoes with dill and feta but I am definitely doing so in the future.

    Culina TV Dinner

    Roast chicken and mashed potato Culina TV Dinner

      Food Notes for September 2, 2019

      Duchess to open second bakery in Ritchie Market

      Ten years after Duchess Bake Shop popularized the macaron in Edmonton, they will be opening a second location south of the river later this fall.

      Located in Ritchie Market next to Transcend Coffee, Little Duchess will be offering a condensed menu and selected Duchess Provisions products.

      Openings

      • If one new bakery wasn’t enough, Doughnut Party will also be opening a second location in Ritchie at 9610 76 Avenue.
      • RGE RD will be opening a standalone location of The Butchery next door to their restaurant, offering a new “one-stop-shop featuring whole animal butchery and all things meat”.
      • Smokey Bear, a “wood-fired eatery”, is expected in the Old Strathcona space formerly occupied by Accent Lounge at 8223 104 Street.
      • A cocktail lounge is slated to open this fall at 10432 Jasper Avenue called Pablo.
      • OEB’s second location will be opening over the next few weeks in the former North 53 space (10240 124 Street).

      Closures

      • Rush Bowls was short-lived; their Edmonton location in Old Strathcona has closed.

      Upcoming Events

      • Some of Edmonton’s finest Filipino chefs, including Chefs Edgar Gutierrez of Kanto and Ailynn Santos and Jason Wong of Yelo’d, are collaborating on an 8-course dinner at Filistix on September 18, 2019. Tickets are $85.
      • Bacon Day, an annual fundraiser hosted by Chef Paul Shufelt, is celebrating its 10th anniversary on September 21, 2019. This year’s event will raise money for In the Weeds, a charity founded to support positive mental health in the hospitality industry. Tickets are $95.
      • LitFest has some great food-related events in October, including Food Matters with authors Twyla Campbell and Ann Hui, and a chat with Chef Shane Chartrand, whose cookbook is being released this fall.

      Reviews

      • Graham published an early review of Lyon Restaurant, helmed by former Packrat Louie alumni Chef Jan Trittenbach and manager Jodh Singh.
      • Sharon posted an early review of Country Coco, Edmonton’s newest Korean fried chicken restaurant.
      • Also from Sharon, she reviewed her experience at Ramen Misoya, and wasn’t a fan of their broth style.
      • Leduc paid a visit to Made by Marcus.

      Local News

      Urban Agriculture and Farming

      • The City of Edmonton put together a Local Food Map containing links to one place about community gardens, urban bees and hens, farmers’ markets, edible yards and trees, and urban agriculture development permits.

      What I Ate

      • I was fighting a cold for most of this week, so it’s always super handy to have T and D Noodle House just down the street from my office for a pick-me-up lunch.

      T and D Noodle House

      Bun bo Hue from T and D Noodle House

      • When I’m craving pastries in the morning, it’s a blessing to be just a block away from Lockstock Coffee. Nothing beats a kouign amann with my coffee to start the day.

      Lockstock

      Kouign amann and herb and cheddar scone from Lockstock Coffee

      • On the weekend, I met up with some friends for lunch at Blowers and Grafton, which offers “Halifax street food”. I had to order their OG Halifax donair to see what the fuss was about (the donair was apparently invented in Halifax). It was pretty tasty, particularly because the meat had been thoroughly topped with their B&G sweet sauce. I’d come back to have it again!

      Blowers and Grafton

      The OG Halifax Donair from Blowers and Grafton

      Food Notes for August 26, 2019

      The Edmonton Journal Downgrades Food Coverage

      Liane Faulder, who has been reporting on the food beat for The Edmonton Journal since 2008, shared that she will no longer be writing about the food scene. While she will remain with the paper (contributing a weekly city column, theatre reports, and news features), the Journal’s food coverage has been diminished to a food notes column by freelancer Tom Murray to be published every two weeks, and occasional reviews.

      Some may recall that back in January 2016, Liane was originally among the staff laid off by Postmedia. This was short-lived, as she was re-hired less than two weeks later, and remained on the food beat.

      Openings

      • Blue Plate Diner is now open in their new location at 12323 Stony Plain Road. In addition to the restaurant (they’re currently only serving breakfast and lunch until they get their liquor license), they’ve added a cafe section to their space.
      • Lyon Restaurant has opened in the former Packrat Louie space in Old Strathcona (10335 83 Avenue), helmed by former Packrat alumni Chef Jan Trittenbach and manager Jodh Singh. And yes, the lemon pizza is back on the menu.
      • Richmond-based Chef Tony has opened a restaurant in Edmonton, located at 14821 Stony Plain Road. Thanks to Stephen for the heads up!
      • The former Sobeys building continues to pick up new food establishments – the latest is El Beso, a Mexican style restaurant at 10432 Jasper Avenue slated to open in September.

      Closures

      • The landlords have terminated the lease held by the folks behind Holy Roller, due to outstanding rent.
      • Kallin Restaurant at 10534 109 Street has closed.
      • It looks like the Red Robin location on 104 Avenue is now closed.

      Upcoming Events

      • Edmonton VegFest takes place on September 14, 2019 at ReMax Field. Admission is free and features vegan food, beverages, and vendors.
      • The Prairie Grid Dinner Series returns to Edmonton on September 21, 2019. The evening features a meal prepared by chefs representing restaurants from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Winnipeg. Tickets are $145.
      • Tickets for Canada’s Great Kitchen Party (formerly known as Gold Medal Plates) to be held at the Edmonton Convention Centre on October 10, 2019 are now available. Individual tickets are $350.
      • Formosa Bistro is hosting an event on October 20, 2019 which will provide an overview of Taiwan’s history. The $10 ticket will go towards covering a meal at the restaurant.

      Reviews

      Local News

      Urban Agriculture and Farming

      What I Ate

      • After a foray at the Fringe, Mack, Emily and I finally made it to Made by Marcus. I love that the shop is accessed through an alley, with lots of outdoor seating. I really enjoyed my double cookies and cream, while Mack sampled the sea salt & goat milk caramel. Emily loved the waffle cone!

      Made by Marcus

      Ice creams from Made by Marcus

      Food Notes for August 19, 2019

      Jollibee Opens in Edmonton to Much Fanfare

      The most anticipated restaurant opening of the year finally took place last week. Jollibee, often referred to as the “McDonald’s of the Philippines”, opened its first location west of Winnipeg on Friday. The storefront is located at 3803 Calgary Trail.

      A local man helped break a company record after waiting in line for nearly three days for the restaurant to open; Jollibee’s previous record stood at around 20 hours.

      Openings

      • Country Coco, offering Korean-style BBQ chicken, will open on August 20, 2019 at Unit 2, 9621 34 Avenue (in K-Mall).
      • Sian City BBQ Bar is now open on the south side at 5728 104 Street.
      • Highlands Liquor, the first of the Gibbard Block’s hospitality businesses, opened on August 17, 2019. It is located at 6427 112 Avenue.
      • Sandwich and Sons opened at the Edmonton Valley Zoo (13315 Buena Vista Road) back in June. Their shop is accessible before the paid admission gates at the zoo.
      • The Grand Cafe & Bistro is opening soon on the main floor of the building that replaced the former Colonel Mustard’s space at 10802 124 Street.

      Closures

      Upcoming Events

      • Zoobrew, a fundraiser for the Edmonton Valley Zoo, takes place on August 23, 2019. Attendees will be able to purchase beer, spirits, and food to enjoy alongside the animals. Admission is for adults only; tickets are $25.
      • St. Albert’s food festival Dig In is in its 6th year, and runs from September 12-18, 2019. Tickets are now available.

      Reviews

      Local News

      • I love this idea – Sugared and Spiced is hosting an “unsanctioned Fringe production” which sees them set a 10 minute timer starting at 6pm, which they reset if someone buys something. The shop closes when the timer goes off or they sell out.
      • It’s great to hear that some Mojo JoJo Pickles products, including pickled asparagus, carrots, and Caesar Mix are now available at Safeway.
      • Pre-orders are being accepted for Giselle Courteau’s second cookbook, Duchess at Home. It will be released on October 16, 2019.
      • The Downtown Farmers’ Market, Boyle Street Community League, and the Chinese Benevolent Association hosted a long table dinner for 1000 people in the Quarters on Sunday.

      What I Ate

      • In anticipation of Alberta Open Farm Days (and the new Alberta On the Plate festival), Mack, Emily and I attended a launch event at the 124 Grand Market on Thursday. Among the food we tried were slider versions of The Woodshed’s signature burger, served up by Chef Paul Shufelt.

      Woodshed Burgers

      The Woodshed’s Chef Paul Shufelt

      • We also couldn’t leave the market without a taste of Drift’s poutine (Emily loved the fries!).

      Drift

      Poutine from Drift

      • I was eagerly anticipating the end of Tau Bay’s summer break, and finally satisfied my pho craving on the weekend!

      Pho Tau Bay

      My usual at Pho Tau Bay

      Food Notes for August 12, 2019

      Edmonton Chef to Battle in Kitchen Stadium

      For years, it seemed like Food Network Canada was ignoring the culinary talent based in Edmonton, with casting that seemed instead to favour chefs from Calgary. While our neighbours to the south haven’t disappeared off the map, it’s encouraging to see some local content finally being highlighted.

      Chef Shane Chartrand, the Executive Chef of SC at the River Cree Casino, will be competing on Iron Chef Canada this summer. New episodes will air starting August 28, 2019.

      Chef Alexei Boldireff of Baijiu was featured earlier this year as a contestant on Top Chef Canada.

      Openings

      Closures

      • The YEG Coffee Can announced that they’ll be closing up for the year, due to the damages they experienced after a break-in earlier this summer. They hope to be back next summer.

      Upcoming Events

      • The Hotel Macdonald is hosting a long table patio dinner on August 20, 2019. Tickets are $69 for the 4-course meal, which includes a glass of wine.
      • Festa Italiana (formerly known as Viva Italia Viva Edmonton) is taking place on August 25, 2019 at Giovanni Caboto Park. It will feature food vendors, and cooking demonstrations, including a conversation and Q & A with Chef David Rocco.
      • The Chinatown Business Association is hosting their annual Moonlight Carnival on August 25, 2019, which includes mooncake making workshops.

      Reviews

      Local News

      Urban Agriculture and Farming

      • If you have surplus fruit in your backyard, consider donating it to Prairie North. They will turn this fruit into craft cider, and donate $1 per every liter sold to the Edmonton Food Bank.

      What I Ate

      • Part of Sabor’s Seafood Festival this year are their Fish & Chip Fridays, in support of the Bissell Centre and the Ronald McDonald House of Northern Alberta. From 11am-2pm every Friday for the rest of August, $10 cash will get you an amazing 2-piece fish and chip deal. The ingenious packaging makes it the perfect street food, too!

      Sabor

      Fish & chips from Sabor

      • Meeting up for lunch with Linda was the perfect excuse to revisit El Fogon. I will never get tired of their beef and gouda arepas!

      El Fogon

      Beef and gouda arepa from El Fogon

      • Mack, Emily, and I attended the second Pastor Party at Get Cooking on Friday, hosted by Chef Victor Hugo. While it was a tad chillier than ideal for the patio, the food and atmosphere made up for the weather! Stay tuned for the dates of future Pastor Parties.

      Get Cooking

      Pastor and vegetarian tacos from Get Cooking’s Pastor Party

      We Still Love Living Downtown: But Now, With Baby!

      When Mack and I first shared with some people that we were expecting, the first question we were often asked was, “So when are you moving?” Our love for living Downtown is well documented, and though we knew raising a child in a very urban neighbourhood would come with some challenges, I couldn’t imagine trying to navigate being a new mother in a new-to-me area, too.

      I also don’t drive, so it was doubly important to reside somewhere not only walkable, but with good access to public transportation. It’s easy to become isolated as a new parent, but I wanted to be able to continue my pre-baby lifestyle that did not depend on a vehicle. Although our household does own a car (which Mack drives when necessary), we want Emily to be familiar with a variety of transportation options.

      Now, after almost a year and a half of seeing Downtown through child-tinted lenses, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. What follows are some of my reflections on our experience (so far!) in raising a baby in Downtown Edmonton.

      Walkable Amenities

      In those early weeks, I was lucky enough to have my parents around for a few hours every week to give me a bit of a reprieve during the day. The weather was pretty brutal in February after we brought Emily home, so I didn’t feel comfortable taking her out for walks just yet, but it was everything to be able to get some fresh air and to stretch my legs. And more than that, it was nice to feel like myself again during simple errands like visiting a drugstore or grabbing a coffee, sans baby. It was convenient to have a destination to visit on foot that wasn’t too far, but one where I could lose myself in the anonymity of white noise for a short while.

      We’ve always relied on our proximity to the City Market to provide us with the foundation of our groceries, and this didn’t change after Emily. We continued to walk to City Hall in the winter (and pop out our front door in the summer) for our weekly shopping trips. Before Emily was born, I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to visit the market any more; I’ve since learned that you can make time for anything, especially those activities that you value. But it’s definitely easier to plan for it when it’s close by.

      City Market

      At the City Market on 104 Street

      One of our more recent discoveries is that our Downtown Edmonton Community League membership (which happens to be free in 2018-19) provides us with access to a free weekly swim at the Don Wheaton YMCA. Being just a block away from our condo, this is a fantastic amenity that we will be putting to use year-round. The family change rooms are clean, spacious, and (bonus), even features a stall with a play yard.

      Places for Children

      I was very fortunate to discover several indoor amenities for small children within a short walking distance from our condo; the proximity meant I was much more likely to access them on a frequent basis.

      The Enterprise Square branch of the Edmonton Public Library was a lifesaver for me. I didn’t really know how fantastic their programs were for babies and toddlers until I started attending them on a regular basis. Although the program space is temporary until the Stanley Milner Library renovations are completed in 2020, we didn’t mind the aesthetics. The staff are wonderful, and most create the welcoming atmosphere that encourages repeat visits (a special shoutout to Jenna, who always made the effort to greet Emily by name!). We were attending the Baby Laptime program twice a week religiously for the last six months of my maternity leave; the program and the parents we got to know are one of the things I miss most since returning to work. A side note – the Enterprise Square branch hosts Books2Buy sales every three months, with all proceeds going back to the library; we’ve filled Emily’s bookshelves predominantly with second hand books picked up at these sales.

      Edmonton Public Library

      Enterprise Square Library 

      The Royal Alberta Museum opened up in October 2018. One of the additions in the new facility is a Children’s Gallery, which includes a dedicated area for kids 3 and under. The section is carpeted, with a padded half that doubles for Emily as some of the only “stairs” she encounters on a regular basis. And for $35 (kids under 6 are free), adults can purchase a Mammoth Pass that provides unlimited admission for a year! My only small quibble with the Gallery is that the adjacent dinosaur dig area contains little plastic pellets, which inevitably end up in the toddler section (and, given their size, are prime eating hazards for babies).

      Royal Alberta Museum

      In the Children’s Gallery at the RAM

      The Downtown Edmonton Community League (DECL) has also been offering an Urban Kids playgroup for a number of years. Volunteer-led by Downtown parents, the group gathers in the DECL space every Friday from 10am-12pm for snacks and crafts. While I didn’t start attending the group until towards the end of my leave, my Mom still takes Emily there from time to time to reconnect with the other kids she’s met.

      Urban Kids

      Halloween with Urban Kids

      Green Spaces

      While I welcome the additional green spaces still in development for the core, I treaded some familiar paths on walks with Emily. McKay Avenue School provided a concise loop point when I didn’t want to venture too far, and the adjacent Dick Mather Park features some nicely shaded benches. The Legislature Grounds were further afoot, but Emily and I spent many afternoons there on a blanket people (or bird) watching.

      Legislature Grounds

      Bird watching at the Legislature Grounds

      Closest to home is Alex Decouteau Park, just a block away from our condo. Mack and I were first time community gardeners last summer, and I learned that I could actually enjoy tending to a plot. While Emily was a bit young to appreciate what we were growing at the time, this year, she’s relishing the freedom of exploring the (thankfully fenced-in) yard, eating as many cherry tomatoes as she can fit into her mouth, and peering into the adjacent dog park!

      Alex Decoteau Park Garden

      At Alex Decouteau Park Community Garden

      We did find that one of the downsides of our location is the distance to playgrounds. By foot, the closest playgrounds are located at Grandin or Oliver Schools, about twenty minutes away. As a result, we are thrilled with the new playground installed in Dick Mather Park! It’s not as elaborate as some school-based set-ups, but for now, it’s a fun amenity for Emily to explore.

      Dick Mather Park

      Playground at Dick Mather Park

      Arts and Cultural Activities

      There were a few months where Emily would voice her displeasure when in the confines of the car seat. As such, there was a period when we limited our vehicle trips to non-negotiable errands.

      Swing

      Swing dancing at City Hall

      Because we are so fortunate to live in a neighbourhood rich with festivals and events, it was always easy just to walk out the door for something fun to do. We also found that because the barriers of distance and ease of access were removed, we were more likely to keep our annual traditions alive, just now with Emily in tow.

      Grey Cup Parade

      At the Grey Cup/Santa Claus Parade

      Public Transportation

      While I tended to remain within a radius measured in walking distance of twenty minutes one way, there were times I had to step outside that bubble. On those days, I relied on our public transportation system to do so. The majority of trips were pretty seamless (Emily’s pediatrician, for instance, is just a 10-minute bus ride away), but there were some instances when my frustration level mounted. Sometimes this was because of minor inconveniences (recognizing that I am able bodied and on most occasions had some flexibility with my time), but mostly because it would be easier to be a strong advocate for ETS in a car-oriented city if the system were more reliable.

      Taking Emily on transit in those early days would always involve the stroller, primarily because I had a tendency to overpack and needed cargo space. As a result, taking busy routes during rush hour required some patience; no longer could I pack onto an already full bus and hang on. I did have buses pass me by because they just couldn’t accommodate a stroller with all of the passengers already on board.

      I also had to become very familiar with the locations of LRT elevators. Their cleanliness, particularly downtown, was questionable, but that was secondary to whether or not they functioned. I count myself lucky to have not experienced an unexpected outage when out and about on my own with Emily, but a couple of times out with Mack, we encountered elevators out of order. We were able to handle it because there were two of us, but it again factors against the dependability of the system for those with accessibility concerns.

      Edmonton Transit

      Yay, a working ETS elevator!

      Stroller Access

      One of the reasons we love living Downtown is the architectural variety, including the historical buildings in and around our street. That said, I learned first hand that many of these buildings don’t have provisions for strollers (or wheelchairs for that matter). Many independent shops and restaurants that I frequented before baby, located in buildings like the Mercer Warehouse or Beatty Lofts, required that I plan ahead to use a baby carrier so I could easily traverse the stairs when solo. Obviously protecting the historical integrity of these buildings is important, as is ensuring the small businesses can thrive, but it was a reality that I was only forced to reflect on after relying on a stroller for the first time.

      On a related note, construction detours were another constant headache. I am supportive of the infrastructure improvements that are being made, but the frequent pedestrian detours over the past year have been a nuisance to say the least.

      Future Improvements

      One of the biggest potential deterrents for us to stay Downtown for the long term is the lack of an elementary school within close walking distance. Some might consider it a privilege, but we’d really like Emily to be able to walk to school. Although it’s not impossible with Oliver and Grandin Schools (a twenty minute walk for adults), something within the Downtown boundary would further show how serious officials are about making the core welcoming to young families.

      Oliver School

      Oliver School

      So while some changes could be made to further improve Downtown as a welcoming place for young families, in our experience, it’s been pretty great. We hope more parents and parents-to-be consider the core as a viable neighbourhood in which to raise their children.

      I’ll be writing a separate post about dining out close to home with a small child!

      Food Notes for August 5, 2019

      New Culinary Festival Celebrates Local Food and Drink

      Alberta on the Plate is a new culinary festival that is running from August 9-18, 2019. Bringing together chefs and producers from across the province, the festival features special events and fixed price menus highlighting locally grown products at participating restaurants. In Edmonton, 10 restaurants have signed on, including London Local, Lux Steakhouse, The Marc, Three Boars, and Prairie Noodle Shop.

      3-course menu prices range from $19, $29, and $39, while a few restaurants are also offering multi-course kids menus.

      Openings

      • Yoshi Sushi opened earlier this summer at 10009 107 Street in the former Wildflower Grill storefront. It appears to be the second location of the restaurant, joining a more longstanding branch in Sherwood Park.
      • Soleilki Japanese Fusion is now open in Old Strathcona, located at 10828 82 Avenue (the former Seorak Teppan Bar).
      • Another Korean restaurant will be opening this month in K-Mall called Country Coco, to serve Korean-style chicken and tapas. It is located at 9261 34 Avenue.

      Upcoming Events

      • Wishbone is hosting a fabulous women-led evening of dinner and drinks called Cook Like a Girl on Augusg 18, 2019. They’ve assembled 24 of Edmonton’s female chefs and bartenders for a WIN House fundraiser. Tickets are $200.

      Reviews

      Local News

      • Congratulations to the Liberian pavilion at Edmonton Heritage Days for coming in first in the food category for a second year in a row! Scandinavia, Pakistan, and Russia came in second, third, and fourth.
      • Graham’s column this week is a list of where to eat in Edmonton.

      What I Ate

      • What a beautiful weekend for Heritage Days! We ate our way through the festival over the weekend, including this fabulous plate from the Ethiopian pavilion.

      Heritage Days

      Combination plate from the Ethiopian pavilion

      • Mack has been craving Lee House for some time now, so we headed into Chinatown for our fix. I am partial to their their jap chae.

      Untitled

      Jap chae from Lee House

      • It took us long enough, but Mack, Emily, and I made it to Say Uncle. Their patio is a great addition to 104 Street, and I enjoyed the burger, a classic with American cheese, pickles, iceberg lettuce, and thousand island dressing.

      Untitled

      Burgers and poutine from Say Uncle

      • We also finally stopped in at Kind Ice Cream for a treat (and thankfully, were met with a very short line!). I had my heart set on sampling their (sadly sold out) salted caramel, but made do with their seasonal “camping” flavour (think s’mores). I enjoyed the chocolate, but didn’t enjoy the texture of the disintegrated graham cracker. We’ll be back to try a few other flavours!

      Untitled

      “Camping” ice cream from Kind