What the Truck?! @ Al Fresco: June 9, 2012

It’s that time of year in Edmonton – because our summer is so short and precious, every weekend is an opportunity to take in something outdoors. Next weekend, the place to do this will be downtown, with numerous events and three festivals colliding on the same day.

Downtown Edmonton Community League is kicking things off at 8:30-11am, with its annual Pancake Breakfast (all proceeds benefit charity). The 4th Street Promenade summer mainstay, the City Market, will be running from 9am-3pm. Midway through at noon, the Pride Parade will wind down 102 Avenue from 108 Street all the way to Churchill Square. And to round off the night from 5-11pm, the 4th Annual Al Fresco Block Party will take over the Promenade from Jasper to 103 Avenue. Expect a wine and spirits tasting tent, extended patios, a great musical line-up, fashion show, and a kids zone.

Al Fresco Block Party

One of the extended patios in 2011

Mack and I are two of the members of this year’s Al Fresco organizing committee. After attending the festival in 2009, 2010 and 2011, we thought it was time to give back, especially because we now live on the street and love events where neighbours can get to know one another. On the committee, Mack represents our condo (The Century), while I represent the Downtown Edmonton Community League (of which I volunteer as a Board member).

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Volunteering for the 2011 DECL Pancake Breakfast

That said, we’re also involved in another capacity – Al Fresco was looking for a different way to feed hungry festival goers. Last year, the food component was expanded by hosting several downtown restaurants on the street – you may remember Tres Carnales in particular, because their Rice Howard Way digs weren’t yet complete at the time.

Al Fresco Block Party

Tacos to the people!

Given the rise of food trucks in Edmonton over the last year, the committee thought they would be a wonderful addition to the festival. Mack and I might be a bit biased, but we agreed with them.

As a result, our first What the Truck?! extravaganza this year will be taking place in conjunction with the Al Fresco Block Party.

What: What the Truck?! Edmonton’s Food Truck Extravaganza
Where: 104 Street, north of 102 Avenue
When: June 9, 2012
Time: 5-11 p.m.

This will be the largest What the Truck?! we’ve ever organized, with ten of Edmonton’s premier food trucks ready to show the city why street cuisine is here to stay:

Best of all – the trucks will all be donating a portion of the evening’s proceeds to Zebra Child Protection Centre, Al Fresco’s charity of choice this year. A non-profit, community-based organization that improves the lives of children who have suffered abuse, the Zebra Centre is able to provide children and their families with essential social, medical and mental health services and supports.

We will be updating the website with menus on Tuesday – so check back then to whet your appetite. Hope to see you there!

Check out the Facebook event here, and follow us on Twitter! Read more about last year’s What the Truck?! events here and here.

The 2011 4th Street Promenade Al Fresco Block Party

We’ve been looking forward to Al Fresco for a while now – I love a good block party, and all the better when it’s in our neighbourhood! It was great to see the street closed down to allow only pedestrian traffic, too – between the extended restaurant patios, the fashion runway, and the stage, it definitely put the street to good use!

Al Fresco Block Party

An overhead shot of Blue Plate Diner’s patio

Al Fresco Block Party

Crowds galore

Of course, I was particularly excited for the event’s new food program. Discussed as “what the Taste of Edmonton should be”, the block party would be highlighting “high end street food” from downtown and neighbouring restaurants, including MRKT, Elm Cafe, Pampa, Sabor Divino.and newcomer Tres Carnales Taqueria. Corso 32 dropped out last minute, and had been replaced by the always eager Eva Sweet. Pinocchio was also on hand, adding ice cream to the roster of items available.

Al Fresco Block Party

Nate pretends to be fazed by the hungry hoards

Mack and I met up with Jane and Yi-Li at around 6:30, and at that time, the lines were already rampant! It was clear that food was the main attraction for many, with certain stalls barely able to keep up.

Al Fresco Block Party

Line-ups

The organizers had opted for the Taste of Edmonton-esque ticket format instead of cash (which was likely good on the two fronts of fundraising and ease of use). At $1 per ticket, food items ranged from three to ten tickets each.

Al Fresco Block Party

Ninja meat cleavers!

Our waffle appetizer kept us afloat while we waited in line for Tres Carnales, which had a crowd second only to Pampa. We ordered both the tacos and the corn on the cob, while Jane and Yi-Li opted only for the carnitas.

Al Fresco Block Party

Jane and Yi-Li are Tres Carnales poster children!

The pork was well seasoned, and packed a worthy punch of heat. We all agreed that the flour tortillas underneath weren’t our favourite though – Yi-Li commented that between the two tortillas, the flavour of the meat was lost.

Al Fresco Block Party

Tacos

The corn, though, was the surprise for me. I’m not usually a fan of mayo, and am definitely not on the fries and mayo boat, but for whatever reason, I loved the combination of corn, mayo and spices. Maybe it was the music, or the atmosphere, but I’d definitely order it again.

Al Fresco Block Party

Grilled corn

Much can be forgiven because this was the first execution of Al Fresco’s street food program, but some improvements for next year would include a small handbill of menu options available, and larger menu displays at each of the food stands. A better layout, keeping in mind the possibility of long lines, should also be looked at (though I know a lack of power on certain sections of the street hampered the organizers this year).

Al Fresco Block Party

Music played well into the night

It should also be noted that Al Fresco was again a successful fundraiser for the E4C School Lunch Program, though final numbers haven’t yet been announced. Congrats to the organizers for another great event – I’m already looking forward to next year!

Want more on Al Fresco? Courtenay, Chris, Liv, Sarah and Raffaella all wrote about it too!

City Market Report: Week 4

It was another busy Saturday in Edmonton! It’s great when there are so many options that you’re forced to choose – it just felt so alive in the city yesterday.

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104 Street before the storm

Though I know the City Market isn’t the only ongoing event in the core, it often feels to me like the farmers’ market is the constant, the backbone of downtown. It definitely bolsters the success of other complementary events, like the Downtown Edmonton Community League pancake breakfast, and the Al Fresco Block Party.

Speaking of the pancake breakfast, one of my first orders of business with DECL was to help out with the fundraiser on Saturday morning. All of the food had been donated by Sobeys, so all proceeds collected would be going towards the E4C School Lunch Program.

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Real “street” food

6:30 was an early wake up call, I’m not going to lie. But I’ve never been up early enough to see the street before the vendors started setting up, so it was neat to be there before the crescendo of energy. It also meant we were able to get things set up before the rush hit, with shoppers fuelling up before perusing the market.

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Patrick makes the first pancakes of the 2011 breakfast!

I wasn’t able to finish up my shift because I had to pop into work for a few hours, but I had great fun while I was there! Most patrons donated more than the requested $2 when they found out proceeds would be supporting children’s nutrition. I would imagine the same generosity would be present at the Al Fresco events.

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Our line cooks Alison, Patrick and Scott hard at work

After work, I was able to do my shopping. It was absolutely hopping at the market!

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Busy market

Similar to last week, there were lots of green to be seen in market stalls!

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Salad onions from Sundog Organics

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Spinach from Riverbend Gardens

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Mixed Heritage Greens from Greens, Eggs and Ham

As the Pride Parade would be travelling down 102 Avenue, some of the vendors had to be relocated. Because the Melcor parking lot between the Great West Saddlery and Armstrong Block had to be vacated for the Al Fresco festivities anyway, some vendors were able to set up shop in the lot.

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An almost craft fair

Although there were a few food-related vendors in this space, most of the merchants were selling arts, craft and clothing. It’s unfortunate the Melcor parking lot couldn’t be vacant on other Saturdays; while there are more crafters than the space could hold, it lent an alternative feel to the shopping experience a (and reminded me of how the largest market in San Francisco operates, with crafters grouped together across the street from the Ferry Building).

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In the shadow of two buildings

The Al Fresco wine and spirits tasting tent had also just opened up for the day.

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Outdoor tasting

At noon though, all eyes were on 102 Avenue, the route of the Pride Parade.

It was fantastic to be a part of, even just from the sidelines. The colours, the sounds, the dancing…the sheer joy of parade participants was infectious.

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A wedding float

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Balloons!

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Dancing!

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Councillor Ben Henderson

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Cowboys representing the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association

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Even puppies got into the spirit!

I ended my afternoon with a pulled pork Filibun from Filistix. It hit the spot – the tender, braised meat, with a hit of freshness from the cucumber and pineapple salsa.

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Pulled pork Filibun

We were planning on checking out the Al Fresco street food later in the day, but I needed a bit of a breather first. More to come!