East Meets West Festival 2014

Mack and I met up with Maria and Roxanne last Saturday to check out the East Meets West Festival in Chinatown, now into its sixth year. In the past, the timing usually coincided with an event in Little Italy (hence the name), but this year, the Business Revitalization Zone-organized Chinatown portion took place about a month earlier.

East Meets West 2014

97 Street

It was great to see the festival return to 97 Street, the main artery of the neighbourhood, and a location that gives the event much more prominence. A stage was set up near 105 Avenue, while vending tents and food trucks were spread out on the street.

East Meets West 2014


No doubt the weather was much improved from last year (when a flash hailstorm forced the event to shut down early), but I had to assume it was the poor experience the organizers had with small tents in inclement weather that caused them to go with the larger, heavier-duty cover this time. Though its hard to argue with their sturdiness, the walled structures felt disconnected from the rest of the street.

East Meets West 2014

Inside the tent

Most of the vendors beneath the tent sold items typically found at Chinese markets – trinkets, small toys, clothing and accessories. The theme didn’t necessarily continue throughout the marketplace – while it was great to see the Organic Box’s Fruit Truck, it would have been great if they had been able to incorporate some Asian produce into their wares.

East Meets West 2014

Fruit Truck

East Meets West chose to partner with Hawkers Market to organize a combination of pop-up food vendors and food trucks. I was hoping more of the trucks would be serving Asian-themed menus, but it was a bit hit or miss.

East Meets West 2014

Knosh and So-Cal Smoothies

Long Lost Foods was one that absolutely hit the mark with their unique vegan donair made with green onion cakes. Given the recent debate about whether the donair or green onion cake should be crowned Edmonton’s official dish, it was an ingenious way to settle the argument – why not combine the two?

East Meets West 2014

Long Lost Food’s green onion cake donair

With the scorching hot weather, we also couldn’t resist an ice cream sandwich from One Cool Cookie. The trailer is not only equipped with ovens (fresh baked cookies, anyone?), but because they assemble the sandwiches on-site, we were able to personalize our treat with our choice of cookie and ice cream.

East Meets West 2014

One Cool Cookie

I ended up with one of their suggested combinations – skor cookies with Pinocchio’s salted caramel ice cream. The thin, room temperature cookies made this one of the easiest homemade ice cream sandwiches I’ve ever had, and it was darn tasty, too.

East Meets West 2014

Mack’s double chocolate and black cherry ice cream sandwich

It was a great day to be outside, and though the heat may have chased away mid-afternoon revelers, we hoped more foot traffic would come in the evening.

East Meets West 2014

Squinting in the sun

If you missed this event, not to worry –  we’ll be announcing the details of our follow-up to our successful 97 Street Night Market shortly. Stay tuned!

A Summery Sunday in Edmonton: Viva Italia Viva Edmonton and the Alley of Light

Mack and I started off our Sunday at Urban China for dim sum with my family. It’s been much too long since we’ve done that on a weekend morning, because we clearly underestimated the crowds: it was a forty minute wait from the time my parents arrived around noon. We’ll get an earlier start next time; Urban China is still one of my favourite places for dim sum in Edmonton!

Urban China

Crispy pork dumplings

We then headed off to Giovanni Caboto Park for the last day of the East Meets West Festival that celebrated all things Italian!

This was our first time at Viva Italia Viva Edmonton, though we’ve taken in the Chinese and African legs of the celebration in past years. It was easily the best part of the festival we’ve ever attended.

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Chasing Jones

Part of that had to do with the amount of space afforded in Little Italy, especially when compared with Chinatown or the McCauley School grounds. With a playground, spray park, wide green spaces as well as the street, there were definitely a lot more possibilities because of the area.

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Lots of families were out!

That said, the organizers still had to program the wide expanse, and they did that with panache. We arrived around 2pm, and found an abundance of things to peruse. Between browsing the shops and the car show, watching the soccer tournament, taking in the cooking demonstrations, or enjoying the on-stage entertainment, there really was something for everyone (Maki thought so too).

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Zocalo tent

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Mack’s dream car

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Soccer tournament

I have to say I particularly enjoyed Chef Daniel Costa’s demonstration. He made something I’ll never be able to pronounce, let alone spell out. Needless to say, it was a bucatini pasta with cured pig jowl and a San Marzano tomato sauce. He was great handling audience questions, and clearly loved sharing his passion for Italian cuisine with the crowd. Perhaps most invaluable was learning about some of his favourite products available at the Italian Centre (such as the Rio brand of olive oil for cooking).

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Chef Daniel Costa

Speaking of food, one of the most entertaining moments of the day for us was the pizza eating contest. Four women who work in local media were recruited for the spectacle, which required them to eat as much of a medium pizza as they could in five minutes. Brandy Taylor of Sonic and Kit Koon of OMNI tied, and ended up in a two minute eat-off. Brandy emerged as the champion.

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Sizeable crowd on hand

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Chow down!

There was also plenty of food options to keep festival-goers well fed. Fantasia Gelato easily had the longest line-ups that day, though Sorrentino’s and the Italian Centre were also serving up Italian fare.

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Gelato line

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Cooking up sausages


Wine and cheese tasting tent

Our only suggestion for next year is to have all of the information up on a website prior. The postcards with the festival week schedule were nice, but didn’t have the detailed information that would definitely help them attract an even bigger crowd.

We hopped on a bus, and on the walk home, came across the Alley of Light public art installation still in progress.

Alley of Light

It’s a really neat project – three artists were commissioned by the Edmonton Arts Council to create a design that could be made into a stencil. The stencil would then be used to paint a portion of the alley.

Alley of Light

Alley of Light

Featuring bold, bright colours, it is a project that puts art in unexpected (but welcome!) places, and will definitely turn some heads. And hopefully, as forecasted by the speech bubble, invite dialogue about public art and the Alley of Light itself.

Alley of Light

Check it out the next time you’re downtown!

East Meets West 2010: Karibuni Afrikafest

Last year, the inaugural East Meets West Festival, put on by the Chinatown and Little Italy Business Association, was a great success. So much so that its 2010 incarnation was expanded from one to three days, with an additional cultural group added to the mix. Though I had good intentions to attend the Viva Italia Viva Festival on Sunday (I really wanted to watch the pizza eating contest!), I didn’t make it. Thankfully, we were able to take in the newest portion of the event on Friday – the Karibuni Afrikafest.


East Meets West poster

There really was a lot going on along 107 Avenue that day – Jill and I walked over to McCauley School after checking out the Outdoor Nite Market in Central McDougall, and Mack joined us soon after. A large stage had been set up on one end of the soccer field, with several merchandise booths placed at the opposite end. Food vendors were isolated inside the gymnasium, probably for reasons relating to power needs, but it was unfortunate – nothing draws a crowd like wafting food smells.

Merchandise booths

Merchandise booths

We took in a few of the acts before attacking the food stands. The entertainment would have benefited from better pacing throughout the evening – we saw three acts in the first fifteen minutes we were there – but in some ways, their enthusiasm and eagerness to showcase their community talent was admirable, if not infectious.


TKO (a young rap group)

Ugandan dance

A traditional dance from Uganda

Stomachs grumbling, we headed inside to satisfy our hunger. There weren’t many options, but that day at least, it was evident that the focus was quality over quantity. We started off our meal with dessert (the best way to eat, in my opinion), with a mandazi each. The African doughnuts were cakey on the inside, with a very fragrant, aromatic taste, and went very well with the accompanying cup of Chai ($3).



Out of the two entrée options, Rendezvous (10810 95 Street, 780-756-8902), an Ethiopian restaurant in Little Italy, won me over with their absolutely stunning plate of food, in spite of the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of injera. A myriad of colours, the cooked vegetables and lentil and meat stews were as delicious as they looked. It was also a great deal – the entire combo was just $8.


Jill holds up a plate from Rendezvous

Mack was equally buoyed by his plate, filled to the brim with tomato rice, chicken, fried plantain and a samosa (all for $7). He left no grain behind.


Mack before digging in

We also wandered the retail tents, which were selling a variety of imported goods, from clothing to jewelry to creams and decorative items.


Colourful clothing

The turnout was good – it’s always hit or miss for new initiatives – but I was impressed by the number of people who came out. Should it happen again next year (and I hope that it does), I’m sure the crowds will be even larger. Bravo to the organizers of Afrikafest for a great first year!

East Meets West Festival

After a trip to the City Centre Market (after a few busy weekends and the Fringe, I think I was going through withdrawal), Mack and I walked over to Chinatown to check out the first East Meets West Festival.

We weren’t sure what to expect – the grassroots committee had put together the festival as a means to promote the Chinatown and Little Italy neighbourhoods – but if anything, we were happy that the event seemed to attract locals that perhaps wouldn’t otherwise set foot in the area.

Lion Dance

We arrived just on time for the opening lion dance, and ended up wandering up 97th Street which had been closed to traffic. As Mack noted, the tables were too spread out and sporadic, and there was a definite lack of food vendors (food smells are half the reason outdoor fairs attract crowds). Still, knowing that this is hopefully the first of many such festivals, I’m sure it will be much improved next year.

97th Street

Handmade Felt Cupcakes and Cookies (too cute!)

Zocalo’s Mobile Flower Cart

99 Supermarket’s Outdoor Market

Pretty lanterns outside of Lucky 97 (standing behind my zodiac animal – cheesy, I know)

We didn’t make it all the way down 97th into Little Italy, but we heard there were also festivities to be seen in Giovanni Caboto Park.

In the end, we chowed down on our own version of “east meets west”:

Mack’s jalepeno-cheddar smokie from Fat Franks and my shredded pork sub from Nhon Hoa 2

Mack’s complete photo set is here.