Recap: All is Bright on 124 Street

Mack and I took in the second annual All is Bright Festival on 124 Street last Saturday. With a gentle, glistening snowfall heralding winter, the event was christened with a beautifully ethereal quality.

All is Bright on 124 Street

High Street

Sure, it was a little chilly, but organizers were prepared, with warming fires clustered around the High Street shops. There were even a handful of outdoor vendors, sheltered by custom-built WinterCity huts (these could be the start of a more permanent winter market!).

All is Bright on 124 Street

Huts

There was also a covered tent that doubled as a stage, though some performers braved the elements on the chance of gathering an even larger crowd.

All is Bright on 124 Street

Ta-da!

Food trucks were on hand also, though their numbers were fewer than last year. Street Eats is fully winterized, so it’s possible you may see them again this season! We were a little disappointed that with all of the foot traffic, event organizers elected not to close any adjacent streets. With the 102 Avenue bridge construction, we thought it would have been natural to close the avenue to vehicles for a more family-friendly set-up as was the case last year.

All is Bright on 124 Street

Street Eats

Of course, one of the best things about this festival is its close proximity to great independent shops, so we definitely took advantage of the opportunity to not only warm our toes but also a head start on Christmas shopping.

Carbon on 124 Street

Carbon

The festival footprint extended north of 107 Avenue, with horse-drawn sleighs and ETS shuttles connecting the two ends of 124 Street. We opted to walk to Drift’s new storefront to have lunch, and were rewarded with a steaming plate of poutine and wonderfully spiced bowl of mulligatawny soup.

Drift on 124 Street

Drift’s new space

Drift on 124 Street

Poutine

Across the street, Duchess was handing out hot chocolate and freshly-fried beignets. It was also an opportunity to see their annual gingerbread cathedral still under construction (the intricate “stained glass” windows are a marvel).

Duchess Bake Shop

Giselle all bundled up!

Duchess Bake Shop

Beignets (seconds, please)

Duchess Bake Shop

Gingerbread cathedral in progress

We met up with Hannah and Stephanie in the new neighbourhood Credo, which was bustling with patrons needing a break from the cold.

Credo on 124 Street

Geoff behind the bar

By the time we were done catching up, we realized we had missed the official light-up and fireworks. But it didn’t really matter – one of the best things about All is Bright is an excuse to acquaint (or reacquaint) yourself with all of the wonderful shops and galleries in the area.

All is Bright on 124 Street

Lights!

We did hustle back to the main site just in time to marvel at the lights and closing activities. Although crowds had dwindled down, it was still a wonderful scene of Edmontonians making the most of winter.

Steph, Hannah, Sharon

With Steph and Hannah

Mack and I thought better of slogging away in the kitchen that night, and left the cooking up to The Bothy. We snagged the last free table, and though we had to be patient with the kitchen, it was well worth the wait. Both our dishes were well prepared.

The Bothy on 124 Street

Roasted lamb sausage pasta

Kudos to the All is Bright organizers for putting together a fabulous event – I’m looking forward to what’s in store for next year!

The Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

It’s finally here! A project nearly a year in the making, Edmonton’s Duchess Bake Shop has launched its first self-titled cookbook. Although it won’t be publically available until Wednesday, November 12, 2014, Mack and I were part of a lucky group invited to the bakery Sunday evening to not only preview the publication, but also to get our hot little hands on it first!

Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

Duchess Cookbook launch crowd

Given how popular Duchess has become in our community, it’s hard to think back to when they opened, in the fall of 2009, with just four staff. In the five years since, Duchess has grown to eighteen staff, churning out sixty-five different products, and astonishing quantities of delicious pastry, including two thousand macarons per day.

Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

Let them eat macarons!

Giselle Courteau, Garner Beggs and Jake Pelletier were all born and raised in Edmonton, and their vocalized desire to “put Edmonton on the map” is one of our city’s great success stories. Borne from hard work and a scratch-made philosophy, Duchess quickly outgrew their original space, and doubled their storefront size two years later. In 2012, Duchess Provisions opened, providing specialty items to help ambitious home bakers. And that same year, the National Post pointed to Duchess as possibly the best patisserie in Canada.

Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

Giselle introduces her book

Late last year, Giselle started writing the cookbook, which steadily became a family affair. All the more astonishing, Giselle managed to complete and self-publish the book while she was pregnant, welcoming her first baby last month!

Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

Giselle and her (other) baby!

The Duchess Bake Shop Cook Book contains nearly ninety recipes, which range from more basic cookies to the complex cakes and pastries the bakery is known for. So far, the book will only available in-store and online at Duchess Provisions (priced at $45), but a national launch is planned for next year.

Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook Launch

Lillian and I flip through the cookbook

I picked up a copy for myself, and though I will likely remain at the beginner’s end of the cookbook, the full colour pages are a treat to flip through nonetheless. I’m also hopeful the more studious bakers in my family might want to borrow my copy for a spin (hint, hint).

Congrats to Giselle and the Duchess Bake Shop team for this accomplishment! I’m certain the book will find its way under many a Christmas tree this year.

The Cooking Chronicles: Mother’s Day Duck Confit

Between Media Camp and volunteering for Homeless Connect over Mother’s Day weekend, Mack and I didn’t have the time or energy to prepare a special meal for my Mum. So instead, we promised her supper the following Sunday – great timing not only because my parents were fresh from a short holiday to Vancouver, but also because it allowed us to finish up our ingredient shopping at the City Market.

Though I didn’t set out to cook a meal made up almost entirely of local ingredients, it ended up that way – being more conscious about where your food comes from tends to do that. On the menu: braised lentils with confit of duck (from Grainworks and Greens, Eggs and Ham); roasted root vegetables (from Kuhlmann’s, Sundog Organics, Greens, Eggs and Ham); and mixed heritage greens (from Greens, Eggs and Ham).

Knowing that the confit of duck would take the longest (the recipe indicated 45 minutes), we started with that. Of course, with Murphy’s Law, the entire dinner took about two hours to complete – I always seem to overestimate my adeptness in the kitchen.

The recipe is printed in The Food Lover’s Grail Guide to Alberta, by Mary Bailey & Judy Schultz, and is courtesy of Chef Kelly Strutt, who worked at the Deer Lodge at the time of the book’s printing. The instructions directed us to cover the duck legs with fresh thyme, rosemary and salt and refrigerate for 48 hours. To cook the duck legs, we rinsed off the salt and herbs, then simmered them in duck fat (also from Greens, Eggs and Ham) for thirty minutes. It was my first time cooking confit-style, and for whatever reason, I thought the fat would retain its solid consistency, but instead, it melted into a thin yellow oil.

In the meantime, we had prepped the carrots, parsnips and baby potatoes, tossed with some dried herbs, salt, pepper, honey and Mighty Trio Organics canola oil, and had put them into the oven. I also started on the braised red and green lentils, cooked with sautéed shallots and chicken stock.

To toss with the mixed heritage greens (our first bag of the year!), I whisked up my favourite vinaigrette – lemon juice, olive oil, grainy mustard (from The Bison in Banff), honey, salt and pepper.

The last task was the most difficult – to “flake” the duck meat from the bone. The recipe made it sound easier than it actually was – Mack and I fought tooth and nail to separate the meat from both skin and bone. I actually resorted to tearing with my fingers instead of using a knife and fork. In the end though, we were able to wrench a fair amount of meat from the pair of duck legs, and definitely enough to feed the six of us, with accompaniments.

Braised lentils and duck confit

I am happy to report that my mom enjoyed the meal. The duck meat was tender and flavourful, and though the lentils probably could have used another ten minutes on the stove, I didn’t mind that they still had a little bite to them.

Plated with roasted vegetables and mixed heritage greens

For dessert, we purchased the show stopping Duchess from the eponymous bakery. I’d been looking for an excuse to try it, and a meal for my Mum seemed like the perfect occasion.

The Duchess

Chiffon cake layered with pastry cream and raspberry, then topped with a dome of vanilla bean whipped cream and encased in a marzipan shell, it is no doubt a dessert made with skill and care. My favourite part was the light and airy chiffon and the delicate raspberry filling.

Inside the Duchess

Family and good food – what more could you ask for?

Edmonton’s Newest Bakery: Duchess Bake Shop

Life is all about the little things. Watching the leaves fall from the trees in autumn. Drinking in the mid-afternoon sun. Savouring that first sip of morning coffee. Or, finding that a new bakery opened up in your neighbourhood.

Thanks to Nate Box (who will be opening his own restaurant, Elm Cafe, soon enough), I found out about Duchess Bake Shop, located in the High Street area within walking distance of Mack’s place, and right along my homeward bound bus route. I stopped in on Monday to check them out, and found that they had only been open a whirlwind three days.

Interior

The shop has a chic, sophisticated feel about it, with hardwood floors and a dominant white interior. A chandelier and a handful of tables and chairs round out the space, helpful for those looking to stay and pair their indulgence with something from the bakery’s cafe menu.

Owners Garner and Giselle Beggs have been thinking about opening a bakery for years. Fresh from a four year sojourn in Tokyo, they decided the time was ripe to return and make their dream a reality. Although Duchess offers many French-inspired treats (croissants, macarons, madelines), Garner says they aren’t restricting themselves to a French repertoire, with apple and banana cream pies also available, among other treats. Everything is made from scratch without preservatives – even the food colouring they use is from natural sources.

Macarons

I picked up two croissants ($1.50 each) for Mack and I to serve as a savoury bridge to dinner. They smelled of butter, and on first bite, had that crispy-crunchy texture I look for in a croissant. Mack didn’t like it as much (he prefers the softer variety), but I’d buy it again.

Croissants

Duchess also serves croissant sandwiches, which would make it an interesting destination for lunch. Or, like the couple who filed into the shop after me – for those looking for something to “make a bad day better”. I will be back.

Duchess Bake Shop
10720 124 Street
(780) 488-4999
Hours as of October 26, 2009: Wednesday 9am-6pm, Thursday-Friday 9am-8pm, Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 10am-5pm, closed Mondays and Tuesdays