Date Night: Hawkers Market & Parka Patio Party

In spite of how far we’ve come, there’s still a stereotype that nothing happens downtown on evenings and weekends. Well, on a recent weekend, we hopped from a great food event to a happening party, which all took place within a few blocks of one another.

We started out the evening at the second Hawkers Market to take place in Edmonton, again at the Mercer Warehouse. Conceived as an incubator of sorts for new food-related businesses, I think it still has a ways to go before it is able to attract the newer entrepreneurial efforts who really are seeking a platform to road test products.


Brittney and I at Hawkers Market

That said, Hawkers Market is still a great addition to the food scene in Edmonton, particularly in the winter, when economical events are harder to come by. Although the line-up of vendors was remarkably similar to the previous event, it didn’t deter the crowds. Organizers estimated about 100 more people this time around, and at least one vendor sold out an hour and a half into the evening.


The Drift team!

Kara of Drift Food Truck made a good point – the provision of seating really changed the experience for attendees. They encouraged people to linger and stay and to perhaps have another drink or dish that they wouldn’t have otherwise indulged in.


Busy night

As a result, the atmosphere seemed more festive, with friends gathering around tables, facilitating sharing all that much more. Mack and I sampled a handful of dishes, starting with bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers ($5) from Low & Slow Barbecue, a new vendor at the event. Some people might be familiar with them from the 124 Street Grand Market, but this was our first encounter with their food. Mack enjoyed them well enough, though we were told later on that their pulled pork was the standout.


Jalapeno poppers from Low & Slow Barbecue

Slow Food Edmonton had a booth, offering both sweet and savoury concoctions. I really liked their version of grilled cheese ($3), made up of a base of Bon Ton bread, a crackling crust of The Cheesiry’s pecorino, and a dollop of Mojo JoJo Pickles’ salted caramel pear butter.


Chad Moss cooks up some sandwiches


Slow Food Edmonton’s grilled cheese

Their local marshmallow trifecta ($4) was a unique dessert, with my favourite of the three being the honey-scented treat, topped with a honey toffee crumb.


Marshmallow treats from Slow Food Edmonton

Mack couldn’t resist Bully’s perogies and ham ($8). We anticipated tasty perogies, but what blew us away was the house cured and smoked ham steak, which was so tender it flaked under a fork alone. And you can always hand it to Bully to win the serving size sweepstakes!


Dean serves a mean ham!


Bully’s perogies and ham

Our favourite dish of the night was from Parts & Service, a food truck hoping to hit the streets this spring. Their take on chicken and waffles ($5) was ingenious from a street food perspective, as it could easily be eaten standing up with one hand. Not to mention, the house made chicken sausage (wrapped in a waffle cone) was delicious! It was served with maple syrup and an apple hot sauce, but really, the sausage was seasoned so well it didn’t need any accompaniments. I’m even more excited about their truck now!


Chicken and waffles from Parts & Service

I was most looking forward to dessert from Paper Bag Donuts (cooked up by Red Ox Inn chef Sean O’Connor). I had missed them at the last event, as I mistook their table as an extension of the bar. This time, they had an overhead sign advertising meyer lemon curd donuts ($3)  and honey crullers ($5). We chose the latter, and weren’t disappointed with the warm, freshly fried treats.


Paper Bag Donuts

We had a great time, and based on that night, I think Hawkers Market has the potential to become a staple event in our community. For those who missed out, mark your calendars – the next event is scheduled for April 12, 2014.

Full, we walked over to Latitude 53, which was hosting their annual Parka Patio Party. Mack and I had attended their first ever winter patio party in 2012, but the weather had been kinder that year. This year, with temperatures hovering around –30 with windchill, we were grateful that the event had an indoor component.

Parka Patio Party

Parka Patio Party

That said, we had dressed for an outdoor function, and like other attendees, had no use for the coat racks set aside.

Parka Patio Party

What coat racks?

Hot tea and soup were served inside, but playing up the Ice Land theme, organizers were offering make-your-own cocktails out on the patio. Not only did this involve an ice luge, but also an array of frozen fruit. Needless to say, we gave it a shot.

Parka Patio Party

Ice luge!

If that wasn’t enough, Pinocchio Ice Cream was also on hand sampling newer product varieties – popcorn and salted caramel ice cream.

Parka Patio Party

Tom from Pinocchio Ice Cream

A DJ kept the spirits up indoors, and in addition to art up for silent auction, there was also a fun “Scandinavian Toy-Scape” installed in the space (I loved the little waving monster!).

Parka Patio Party

Too cute

It was great to catch up with some familiar faces at the party, and to take part in a winter event, that in spite of the cold, played to a packed house.

Parka Patio Party

The cold didn’t keep people away

Thanks again to Latitude 53 for the tickets! Here’s hoping it’s just a few degrees warmer next year.

Date Night: Birch Patio and the Devonian Botanical Garden

Though we later decided to indulge at the Hardware Grill Chef’s Table for my birthday, my initial answer to Mack’s question about what I wanted to do for my birthday was, “Date Night at the Devonian Botanical Garden”.

When it was announced that Elm Café would not only be taking over food service at the Devonian Botanical Garden, but also would be organizing a series of themed food and amusement nights every Thursday in the summer, I knew I wanted to check it out. It seemed like a great way to increase traffic to the attraction in a creative way. The evenings range from Cuban-inspired dinners with a side of rumba, pasta- and ricotta-making paired with an Italian feast and Taiko drumming lessons followed by a Japanese meal. But Mack wasn’t the least bit surprised with the date night I was most taken by: the July 4th County Fair. Hot dogs, burgers and popcorn with some live music? Count me in!

The drive out to the Gardens at rush hour wasn’t as bad as we originally anticipated, not taking much longer than the suggested Google Maps time. We paid admission ($13 for adults) and were immediately whisked away with the musical stylings of Up the Creek, a bluesgrass band.

Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden

Up the Creek

It was a gorgeous night to enjoy dinner outdoors. Elm Café’s concession stand at the Gardens is called The Birch Patio, and that night, in addition to their usual menu of daily soups and sandwiches was bison or chorizo bratwurst, beef burgers and ice cream sundaes. I ordered a chorizo bratwurst ($5) and Mack chose the burger ($7).

Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden

Al fresco dining at its best

Neither was particularly fancy, but they were tasty, and fitting for the night’s theme and atmosphere. It also meant that we had room for popcorn and ice cream afterwards!

Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden

Bratwurst, burger and lemonade

The real treat for us was the excuse this date night provided to get out to the Garden in the first place. Neither of us had been before, so we relished the opportunity to finally explore the greenery for ourselves.

Our biggest mistake was failing to remember bug spray, and again, when encountering bottles of it at the admissions counter, not recognizing that as a sign. We were literally chased off of some of the wooded trails by mosquitos, so hopefully this serves as a warning to any who follow in our footsteps – do not forget the repellant!

Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden

Into the woods

Besides the unavoidable pests, we really enjoyed wandering through the different areas, encountering wildlife, and stopping to smell the roses.

Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden

A family of geese

Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden

I found a treat!

Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden

Rose garden

Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden

More flowers

Mack even had the chance to do his best impression of Juliet!

Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden

We both looked forward to finishing our visit at the Kurimoto Japanese Gardens, and they didn’t disappoint. The soothing water feature, manicured lawns, and blossom-lined paths were even more beautiful than the pictures suggested.

Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden

Kurimoto Japanese Gardens

Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden


Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden


Date Night @ the Devonian Botanic Garden

On the bridge

Date night at the Devonian Botanical Garden was a fun way to spend a summer evening – I’d encourage you to check it out while you have the chance! Take a peek at the remaining schedule here.

Date Night: The Cavern and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

This is a bit of a composite “Date Night” post, as I had planned for a pre-symphony visit to The Cavern before an outing to the Winspear Centre last Friday. But an intense craving for wine and cheese hit me on Thursday, and I gave in.

The Cavern is the newest storefront to open up on the 4th Street Promenade, and in spite of being first and foremost a cheese shop, owner Tricia Bell has designed a dine-in concept that easily transitions from day to night. Early birds can head to The Cavern for an espresso and a bite of breakfast in the morning, while downtown office workers might be more interested in her daily grilled cheese lunch options. For the after work crowd, The Cavern offers wine and spirits alongside meat and cheese boards, great for some nibbles leading up to dinner, or as the main attraction before a night out on the town.

Mack and I walked in to a near full house that Thursday, and snagged the last two seats at the bar. During our previous visits, Tricia and the rest of her staff have always been warm and welcoming, and tonight was no different. It was clear they were all very busy trying to manage the room and handling new walk-ins, but we never felt rushed or not taken care of.

The Enomatic system makes it ideal for The Cavern to serve small 3 ounce pours of wine in addition to 6 or 9 ounce glasses, but Mack and I were fine with a regular glass each. For those interested in pairings, the cheese menu lists both wine and beer selections.

The Cavern

Malbec and Cava

We had to choose between a cheese board for two featuring three cheeses ($19) or a cheese and meat board with two of each ($24). We opted for the latter, and selected two meats from a list of five, and two cheese from a list of twenty. Tricia was a great help in answering our questions and guided us to a Quebec washed-rind cheese, Le Douanier, with a unique vegetable ash centre. It was soft and mild, with a lovely creamy texture. Our other cheese choice was Sylvan Star’s award winning Grizzly Gouda.

The Cavern

Meat and cheese board, with all beef salami and prosciutto di parma

The board was beautifully presented, with some fruit, fresh bread, and dollops of cherry jam and jalapeno jelly. I also loved the ability to imprint on the board itself with chalk, a seamless way to identify multiple items.

The Cavern


The Cavern was a wonderful place to spend the evening, and one that we will be returning to again.

The following evening, Mack and I walked over to the Winspear Centre for Radio from the Head, a show in the “Late Night with Bill Eddins” series. It has been a while since we last took in one of these concerts, but we knew we were in for an entertaining night, mostly due to the conductor’s personality and ease on stage.

Late Night with Bill Eddins

The beautiful Winspear Centre

I was particularly drawn to this show because of the promise of a song to be paired with chocolate. Symphonic Chocolates by Maxime Goulet is composed of four movements, where the audience was invited to eat a different chocolate during the corresponding movement. The ESO partnered with local chocolatier Carol’s Quality Sweets, who produced the custom boxes of chocolates which were sold prior to the performance for $5 each.

It was an innovative multi-sensory experience that reminded me of Karen Brooks’ presentation at Feast in Portland which involved a communal tasting component, and the trend of food deliberately being paired with music. While we weren’t floored by all of the pairings, Mack and I enjoyed the dark chocolate which accompanied a theme cloaked in mystery, and a mint chocolate coupled with a movement reminiscent of a spring breeze.

Late Night with Bill Eddins


The show’s special guest was Christopher O’Riley, known for his piano interpretations of Radiohead. Mack, more familiar with Radiohead than I, was drawn to O’Riley’s performances of the three Radiohead songs. And though we can appreciate the difficulty of the four-hands Stravinsky piece, its 33 minute length was a rather bulky way to end the late-night concert.

“Late Night with Bill Eddins” will be back in the 2013-14 Edmonton Symphony Orchestra calendar. No mention of chocolates, though.

The Cavern
2, 10169 104 Street
(780) 455-1336
Monday-Thursday 7am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 7am-11pm, Sunday 10am-5pm

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Winspear Centre, 4 Sir Winston Churchill Square

Date Night: Tzin and Theatresports

Mack and I are fortunate to live on a street where there are so many great restaurants, but the truth is, when we’re at home, we typically end up dining in. As a result, we generally don’t eat out at the establishments closest to us, though we walk past them almost every day. So during Downtown Dining Week, we made a conscious decision to make a reservation at Tzin, the charming little wine bar just down the street from our condo, our first stop after work last Friday.

Tzin was packed, as per usual – reservations are a must at this 18-seat restaurant. It is such a warmly designed room, from the autumnal colours to the rich tapestries and throw pillows. Though seating is quite intimate (we were inches away from the next tables), space is cleverly utilized – from the closet slotted in the alcove between the kitchen and the front door, to the purse hooks located on the table posts.

We loved that the $50 3-course prix fixe menu featured several dishes off of Tzin’s regular menu, which provides a better snapshot of what the restaurant can do on a regular basis (as opposed to a special menu designed just for the occasion). It also offered us some choice, as we were able to select from two different appetizers, entrees and desserts. No question both Mack and I were felled by the promise of braised Irvings Farm bacon to start, but deviated for the rest of the meal.

The braised bacon raised the bar high right from the start. The thick-cut pork belly was braised to perfection; the fat just melted away, complemented by a balsamic apple compote and calvados gastrique. We both remarked that we would come back for this dish alone.


Braised bacon

Mack enjoyed his chicken breast supreme well enough. My Four Whistle Farm rack of lamb was cooked to medium rare, but I would have preferred more aggressive spices. Likely, this was done on purpose, to balance with the underlay of harissa couscous, but it ended up meaning the starch provided the dominant flavour.


Chicken supreme


Rack of lamb

Dessert left us wanting more. The flourless chocolate torte, encased in a velvety chocolate ganache was bliss on a plate. Mack, who usually skips dessert, devoured his warm gingerbread cake, drizzled with Kracken rum caramel. The accompanying brown butter ice cream was so good we thought about asking Chef Corey McGuire to start hawking this flavour on the street in warmer climes.


Warm gingerbread cake and flourless chocolate torte

Proprietor Kelsey Danyluk is the consummate host, and always takes care of her diners. Her wine recommendations are always spot on, too! The kitchen was also extremely efficient – we were never left waiting long for the next dish.

I look forward to our next visit to Tzin – we’ll have to make sure to take advantage of its patio when the time comes!

After dinner, Mack and I walked over to the Citadel Theatre to take in Theatresports. Since Rapid Fire Theatre relocated downtown last fall, we’ve been meaning to check out their new home at Zeidler Hall.

The 7:30pm show that night was probably a smaller crowd than usual, but it did give the audience members a better chance that one of their suggestions would be taken up by the improvisers.

Rapid Fire Theatre

Matt Alden welcomes the audience

We watched several teams duke out one another in a series of improv challenges. As each team had to incorporate suggestions from the audience, it guaranteed that no show is the same. We were amazed by how quick-witted the actors were, and how the vignettes ended up in unpredictable, but hilarious places (such as a spontaneous song about Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan).

For $12, we thought that the ticket price was well worth the entertainment. You can look for Theatresports every Friday at 7:30pm and 10pm, while Chimprov, Rapid Fire’s long-form improv show, runs every Saturday at 10pm.

10115 104 Street
(780) 428-8946

Rapid Fire Theatre
Zeidler Hall @ the Citadel Theatre, 9828 101A Ave