Epicureous in Edmonton: 2008 Year in Review

I thought 2008 was a great year for Edmonton’s burgeoning culinary scene, and many in the community that I’ve talked to in the past few months have expressed the same opinion. Of course, with maintaining this blog, my bias is staying afloat of news and trends, and picking up on information that I would have ignored just as easily in the past.

That said, more local bloggers joined the online fray in 2008, the number of locally-owned and independent restaurants continue to rise, and farmer’s markets are not only mainstream, but the consumer thirst for seasonal, sustainable agriculture is stronger than ever.

Here are a few of the year’s notable occurrences:

  • Edmontonians flexed their culinary muscle this year – Chad Moss of Transcend Coffee placed fourth in October at the Canadian National Barista Competition, while the Culinary Team from NAIT brought home a total of five medals from the prestigious Culinary Olympics that took place in Germany.
  • Edmonton Journal readers bid adieu to longtime Bistro writer Judy Schultz at the end of 2007, and welcomed Liane Faulder to the section. She published her first series of articles in mid-May, and is continuing to dodge her predecessor’s still-looming shadow.
  • The city mourned the loss of a few beloved eateries, most notably Il Portico in October. Four Rooms, Nikita’s, and Bacon, among others, also called it quits.
  • On the upside, downtown Edmonton has been the recipient of quite a number of new and exciting endeavours: Kerstin Roos opened her fantastic chocolate shop The Cocoa Room in February; Sobeys piloted their new “Urban Fresh” concept on the rapidly-developing 104th Street in May; Century Hospitality swooped in on the vacant storefront in the historic McLeod Building for Hundred Bar & Kitchen in October; and a new incarnation of an Edmonton institution, renamed The Hat, began on October 24.
  • Other culinary pockets are popping up in our sprawling city, such as southwest Edmonton with Health Fare and Red Brick Pizza, and a trend of more upscale food alternatives on Whyte Avenue, like Devlin’s and Origin India.
  • Many locally-grown establishments also branched out this year, including Sorrentino’s, with Bistecca, an Italian steakhouse, and a second Culina, nestled in Highlands.

I have a feeling 2009 will be even better, as citizens continue to become more aware of where their food is coming from, and the food community grows in presence and vocalization.

On that note, look forward to a meetup of local foodies in the new year, spearheaded by Hanne from Supper in Stereo and I. Keep an eye out on the wiki for details.