Olde Towne Beverly Dining Week Returns, October 17-25, 2019

For a second straight year, the Beverly Business Improvement Area has partnered with Wild Heart Collective to organize the Olde Towne Beverly Dining Week. The event runs from October 17-25, 2019, and will highlight some of the diverse cuisines that can be found in this east end neighbourhood.

The number of participating restaurants have increased from eight to ten this year, but the parameters of the event are still the same: each establishment will offer an exclusive deal to entice diners to their doors. A majority of restaurants have chosen to highlight their most popular dishes, a good strategy to gain repeat business.

Like last year, I had the opportunity to attend a media preview and sample some of the fare to be served during Olde Towne Beverly Dining Week. My friend Su came along for the ride; it was her first time down in Beverly!

Olde Towne Beverly Dining Week 2019

Amy Hayduk (Wild Heart Collective), Wes Robson (Executive Director of the Beverly BIA), and Michael Benti (Old Beverly Cafe) kick-off the evening

The tour launched from the Olde Beverly Cafe, a cozy space owned by Rachel and Michael Benti that offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They are returning Dining Week participants, and said that they did see some new faces during the 2018 event. They served up tastes of some of their Dining Week specials, including beef on a bun with au jus, apple pie, and my favourite bite – the Belgian waffle with whipped cream and fruit.

Olde Towne Beverly Dining Week 2019

Tastes from Olde Beverly Cafe

Our second stop was Chicken For You, a restaurant serving up Korean and Canadian favourites located in the Drake Hotel. Opened by Jane Kim and her husband James in August 2018, they have maintained some of the menu items from the previous restaurant owners (namely, eggs and bacon breakfasts, burgers, and some Chinese plates), but have expanded the repertoire to include dishes from their native Korea.

Olde Towne Beverly Dining Week 2019

Chicken For You

We were able to try three types of their Korean fried chicken – crispy fried, spicy sauce, and soy garlic sauce. Our table couldn’t get enough of the chicken, all prepared fresh, and at least for the pieces I enjoyed, were all boneless. My favourite was the spicy chicken, as it was balanced with some sweetness to take the edge off.

Olde Towne Beverly Dining Week 2019

Crispy fried chicken from Chicken For You

We also sampled Chicken For You’s beef bulgogi. Jane explained that the sauce is made once a week by her husband, and contains no sugar; instead, it is sweetened entirely with fruit (apples and pears).

Our final stop was Mumbai Dakar Restaurant, which opened in June of this year. The menu represents the heritage of the two chefs – Solo Dilallo, originally from Senegal (he owns the restaurant along with his partner), and Ahmed Ashfak, who is from India. Solo shared that Mumbai Dakar is the only restaurant that he is aware of that offers Senegalese cuisine.

Solo was very proud to serve some traditional dishes, including Joloff rice with beef (broken rice baked in a tomato sauce with onion, garlic, bell peppers), and Yassa (charbroiled chicken marinated in Dijon, lemon, and spices). Ahmed had prepared butter chicken and chicken tikka to serve alongside.

Olde Towne Beverly Dining Week 2019

Sample plate from Mumbai Dakar with Joloff rice, Yassa, and chicken tikka

Beverly may not be on the radar for some, but hopefully Olde Towne Beverly Dining Week encourages more people to explore some of the gems in this neighbourhood. Thanks again to the Beverly BIA and Wild Heart Collective for the invitation!

Olde Towne Beverly Dining Week runs October 17-25, 2019. The menus are available here.

Dine the Ave: Eats on 118 Continues!

Eats on 118 was an initiative that the Alberta Avenue Business Improvement Area (BIA) launched in 2016, in order to highlight some of the great restaurants located in an often overlooked area. The BIA contracted Wild Heart Collective to organize restaurant walking tours; each tour featured a visit to 4 or 5 different businesses with a meal or an activity served up at each stop. Over the last four years, more than 500 guests have attended the tours that have involved more than 45 businesses. I was fortunate to have been attended several of those tours over the years, and given my office relocated to 118 Avenue two years ago, it was especially fortuitous as a means to get to know my culinary neighbours better.

This year, the BIA wanted to continue Eats on 118, but in a different format, and Dine the Ave was born. Although they found that the tours were a great way to expose new people to the area, only a few businesses could participate in each round, and they found that it limited participants to restaurants. Through Dine the Ave, 20 hospitality businesses from NAIT to Northlands will be offering special menus priced at either $10, $15, or $20 from June 17-23, 2019. Last week, I was invited to attend a media preview that saw us sample our way through 5 stops (portion sizes were scaled down to ensure we’d be able to maintain our appetite throughout!).

The first featured restaurant is a favourite of mine: Battista’s Calzones. In my opinion, the calzones here are the best in the city; the dough (a family recipe) has just the right chew and is always baked to perfection, and their filling varieties mean there is something for everyone. They will be celebrating 10 years in business in the fall.

During Dine the Ave they’re offering three of their most popular calzones (the Spicy Italian, Giovanna, and Pesto Presto) for just $10 each.

Dine the Ave

Co-owner Doug Mah of Battista’s Calzones

Next, we headed half a block down to T & D Vietnamese Noodle House, another restaurant on my regular rotation. Laura Truong has been running the restaurant with her family for five years, and chose the 118 Avenue location specifically so they could grow with the evolving community (she currently sits on the Board of the BIA). For Dine the Ave, T & D will be serving up 2 house-made spring rolls and chicken on rice or noodles for $10.

Dine the Ave

Rice plate from T & D Vietnamese Noodle House

I was looking forward to trying our third restaurant, La Bodeguita de Cuba. Early this year, it replaced the neighbourhood stalwart El Rancho. Although I was sad to see the restaurant go, the spot is the perfect size for a start-up establishment looking to make their mark. This was exactly what owners Yordanis and Jennifer Lamoru are hoping to do, having dreamt of opening a restaurant for years.

We received a taste of their $20 Dine the Ave multi-course menu, featuring Cuban comfort food like rice and beans. The ropa vieja (shredded beef in an onion, pepper sauce) was the standout on the plate, and for some at our table, it was also their first time encountering plantains.

Dine the Ave

Cuban comfort food from La Bodeguita

The highlight of the stop was a serenade from Yordanis, who is also a musician. Expect live music at La Bodeguita on weekends; it’s an understatement to say the couple are doing it all themselves!

Dine the Ave

A performance by Yordanis Lamoru

I had also never been to Simba’s Den Pub & Bistro. It opened in May 2018, and owner Senait Tamene, recognizing the “up and coming” nature of the neighbourhood, purchased the building and opened the newest pub on the block. Also, Senait, like Laura Truong, is also on the Board of the BIA.

Although they do offer nachos, chicken wings and burgers, Simba’s Den prides itself on the Ethiopian and Eritrean fare on the menu, which is what we sampled that evening. The heat level was pretty tame in the chicken, beef, and lentils, and I particularly enjoyed the house-made enjera. For $20, Dine on the Ave guests can have their own vegetarian or meat platter with enjera or rice.

Dine the Ave

Meat platter sample from Simba’s Den

Our final stop is a community landmark – The Carrot, which operates under Arts on the Ave as a non-profit, has been open for twelve years. The baristas are volunteers, and the shop showcases and sells art and jewelry from local artisans. They just changed their sandwich menu, which they will be featuring during Dine the Ave as a $15 special, in addition to a dessert combo of carrot cake and a house-made beverage for $10.

Dine the Ave

Carrot cake and coffee from The Carrot

Thanks to the Alberta Avenue BIA and Wild Heart Collective for hosting a fun evening – it was great to discover even more gems on 118 Avenue. Check out the menus for Dine the Ave here!

5 Questions about the City Market’s New Downtown Location

When the news broke in March that the City Market would not be returning to its outdoor home on 104 Street this year, reaction was mixed. While some were excited about the idea of a permanent, year-round space, others grieved the loss of something that has become a summer tradition for many.

The City Market was one of the reasons why we decided to move to 104 Street, and I had already been looking forward to showing Emily how our front step transforms every Saturday. There’s no question the setting of 104 Street will be hard to replicate elsewhere; the combination of historic facades, mature trees, independent businesses, and residential concentration all helped create the welcoming and lively atmosphere that attracted visitors from across the city.

City Market

With Emily at the last City Market on 104 Street on October 6, 2018

That said, I recognize that the success for outdoor markets is very much weather dependent. Although rain, sleet, and snow has never deterred our family because of our proximity to the market, we acknowledge that many vendors rely extensively on fair weather customers. The last few years have also seen rough inclement conditions, including several windstorms that resulted in early closures as precautionary measures.

So although I’ve slowly come around to being open to the City Market’s new home, I know that many people have some unanswered questions:

    1. What will the new City Market look like?

    The market announced that its opening weekend in its new location will take place May 18-19, 2019, transitioning from one day per week to twice weekly. The Board worked with the City on securing a lease for the Great West Garment Building (also known as the GWG Building), at 97 Street and 103 Avenue, in addition to the permission to animate some of the nearby streets.

    GWG Building

    GWG Building

    The building has been vacant for more than a decade, having most recently operated as the Red Strap Market that closed in 2007. Built in 1911, some of the original features, including the hardwood floors and pressed ceiling tiles, remain as historical marvels. If the renovations are done right, it could be stunning.

    GWG Building

    Inside the GWG

    However, given the short timeline, we’ve learned that the market will operate outdoors this summer. When we toured the space in mid-March, washrooms were under construction, and they hadn’t moved to creating vendor stalls yet.

    GWG Building

    Planning for two floors of vendors

    When completed, vendors will occupy the first and second floor of the building. The market is currently exploring options to program the third and fourth floors.

    2. What can visitors expect from the City Market this summer?

    The outdoor City Market will have quite the footprint in the Quarters, taking place not only on 103 Avenue but also spilling onto the Armature on 96 Street.

    City Market

    The Armature

    Although a majority of the street may be the same width as its previous home of 104 Street and 102 Avenue, the lack of mature trees and active street-front retail make it feel quite different. In addition, the size of the two adjacent parking lots on 103 Avenue may provide convenience to some shoppers, but ultimately may bring a level of car traffic and noise that can disrupt the ambiance.

    City Market

    103 Avenue, looking west

    Dog owners will be happy to hear that the market will permit four legged visitors. Guidelines for etiquette are in place, but otherwise, bring your puppy!

    I do think the market’s new location could open up new opportunities for Chinatown South. In touring people through the area over the past two summers, people were interested in learning more about the cultural buildings and services located in the Quarters. Some in the Chinese community have already routinely organized events in Kinistinaw Park on the Armature, so it would be great to see even more engagement from the public because of the market’s presence.

    City Market

    Kinistinaw Park, along the Armature 

    3. How will the new indoor City Market experience compare to other indoor markets?

    Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market has held exclusive court over being Edmonton’s only year-round market. Because of that, some have wondered why they haven’t shifted to a multi-day operation.

    A newcomer to the scene has shaken things up, and is perhaps one reason the City Market has already committed to Saturday and Sunday hours. Bountiful Markets, set to open in June in a light industrial area at 3696 97 Street, will be operating three days a week, Friday to Sunday. Some of the same vendors who sell at both OSFM and the City Market will be at Bountiful, including Irvings Farm Fresh, Riverbend Gardens, and Doef’s, but it’s likely a multi-day public market will also attract new vendors who could benefit from the additional hours. Bountiful also promises a food court with multiple options, which may be more appealing to many, in addition to an entertainment stage and a kids play area.

    Bountiful Markets may be Edmonton’s answer to the revamped Calgary Farmers’ Market, which moved off Blackfoot Trail in 2014. The renovated flea market has survived its competitors (for a variety of reasons), and is so successful it will be opening a second location in northwest Calgary in 2020.

    Calgary Farmers' Market

    Calgary Farmers’ Market

    The Calgary Farmers’ Market seems designed with the intention of getting customers to linger – through a large food court with ample seating, a kids play area, and special events. I’ve also always found it very easy to navigate the wide aisles – even on our most recent visit in April with a stroller.

    Calgary Farmers' Market

    Food court at the Calgary Farmers’ Market

    Given Bountiful’s opportunity to transform an empty warehouse to spec, it seems the Calgary model (including choosing a location really only accessible by car) is what they may be trying to emulate.

    4. Will the new indoor City Market have a food hall?

    Food halls are a hot trend in North America, with choices carefully curated and the quality elevated from a typical food court. The City Market has a food fair in its plans, with a dozen vendors proposed.

    Mack and I checked out Calgary’s Avenida Food Hall & Fresh Market in April. It opened last fall, and though they have a few fresh food vendors, a majority of the stalls are dedicated to prepared food (interestingly enough, they also had a hybrid vendor – Sunworks Farm had a stall selling their fresh cuts of meat and some other products, but it was also equipped with an oven so they could sell hot rotisserie chickens).

    Avenida Food Hall

    Ample seating in Avenida

    My favourite thing about Avenida was the diversity of the food they were offering. In addition to the more conventional Italian and Southern Barbecue stalls, there was impressive representation from other ethnic cuisines, including Mexican, Salvadorian, Ethiopian, Indonesian, Thai, Indian, and Japanese.

    Avenida Food Hall

    Some of the food options in Avenida

    There are currently plans for a food hall downtown, located in the revamped YMCA Building at 100 Street and 102A Avenue to be known as Williams Hall. The tentative opening date is fall 2019.    

      5. Will the new City Market continue to be a summer destination?

      Although those aforementioned parking lots may make it easier for some to reach the market in its new location, parking doesn’t create a destination. Only time will tell if the City Market will be able to retain and attract a strong mix of vendors, create an atmosphere that encourages visitors to linger, and hopefully promotes some of the area’s nearby amenities as additional attractions. If not, those seeking better outdoor market experiences may end up heading to competitors like the St. Albert Farmers’ Market or the 124 Street Grand Market.

      I’m hopeful that the City Market will make the most of this change, and I am looking forward to the long weekend in May to see what they have in store.

      Details Matter: Aarde

      It goes without saying that in leaner economic times, restaurants need to be even more competitive, and distinguish themselves with memorable experience to ensure repeat visits. A meal at one of Edmonton’s newest eateries, Aarde, left me wondering if they will be able to stand out amongst the increasingly crowded dining scene Downtown.

      Mack and I happen to live in the same building as Aarde, and after seeing multiple tenant turnovers and long vacancies in the ground floor space, really want the restaurant to be successful (it is an unfortunate reality that there is a glut of prime, empty streetfront retail bays Downtown). Aarde, which means “earth” in Dutch, opened in November. It was opened by Chef Guru Singh who wanted to bring the best of the European dishes he sampled to Edmonton.

      I like the aesthetics of Aarde – neutrals, clean but modern furniture, and some plant accents. The layout of the tables doesn’t necessarily maximize the space, but I appreciated some room to breathe. That night it didn’t matter though, as we were just one of two parties that late Sunday evening in December.

      Aarde

      Interior

      After we were seated, my first impressions weren’t positive – the candle on our table was left unlit, and dried leaves that had fallen from a nearby plant had been left on the floor unswept. Although these were small details, and perhaps not intentionally careless, it communicated an ambivalence that felt surprising for a brand new restaurant. It’s also strange to me that Aarde has yet to adopt (even now, in January) any signage indicating that they are, in fact, open – the closest they’ve come is putting out a sandwich board advertising weekend brunches served from 10am-2pm.

      With some guidance from the server, Mack and I decided to share four dishes. The roasted potatoes ($11) were a pretty standard dish, but ended up being our favourite – perfectly cooked, with a nice level of spice in the aioli.

      Aarde

      Roasted potatoes

      Mack wished we had been told beforehand that the confit leeks and tomato ($10) were served cold. While the ricotta date stuffing was enjoyable, we found that the leeks themselves were tough and hard to eat.

      Aarde

      Confit leeks and tomato

      The bacalao fritters ($14) weren’t quite executed as well as they could have; the batter tasted almost gristly in texture, though the fish within was well seasoned. The dry mango powder, which sounded interesting on the menu description, was not discernable.

      Aarde

      Bacalao fritters

      The presentation of the beef ribs ($24) left something to be desired. That said, we liked the charred cabbage bits, and the creamy celeriac, but what should have been the star of the plate was not fall-off-the-bone tender as we would have expected.

      Aarde

      Beef ribs

      We’ve found that chefs at most chef-owned restaurants make their presence known, especially in the early days. So Chef Singh’s absence was even more conspicuous that evening. While I’m not certain it would have made up for an overall disappointing meal, it was evident that more care and oversight was needed in the kitchen and the dining room. I have heard more positive things about Aarde’s brunch, however, and with the restaurant being so close to home, I do want to give it another chance. Only time will tell if the dining public feels it is a worthy addition to the food scene.

      Aarde
      10184 104 Street
      (587) 881-7891

      The K-Wave Continues: Gangnam Street Food

      Back in 2017, I noted in my year end wrap-up that Korean eateries were making their presence in Edmonton known. What was particularly impressive was the range of establishments that were opening – mainstream-friendly Korean Fried Chicken and Korean BBQ joints, but also bingsu (Korean shaved ice) dessert bars, Korean soup restaurants and anju (food to accompany alcohol).

      A year later, Culinaire Magazine published a piece further categorizing the variety of Korean cuisine available in Edmonton and Calgary, which has continued to grow. In fact, a new restaurant specializing in Korean street food is set to open tomorrow, January 24, 2019.

      Gangnam Street Food is situated in a south side strip mall on 34 Avenue. It is also known as “K-Mall”, in recognition of its cluster of Korean businesses, including bingsu place Let Eat Snow and the newly-opened grocer A-Mart. Gangnam Street Food is the brainchild of the folks behind Dookbaeki and Baekjeong, so they’re already somewhat familiar with Edmontonians’ appetite for Korean cuisine, but this concept brings the team back to their youth.

      Gangnam Street Food will offer inexpensive dishes found in Korea that are popular with young people; quick handheld bites picked up after school, or before a night out. Dishes will be priced from $4-9, so for the price of one main elsewhere, diners can easily sample several plates. The restaurant is primarily set up for those looking for take-out, but there are also about 30 seats to eat in. In addition, their menu will be available on Skip the Dishes.

      Two weeks ago, I was among a small group that was invited to preview Gangnam Street Food. We were able to try 7 of the dishes (though there will be more on the full menu).

      Gangnam Street Food

      Part of our spread

      It’s no surprise that the deep-fried items we sampled were the most crowd-pleasing overall; they would easily appeal to those unfamiliar with Korean cuisine. The Korean-style hot dog features a wiener wrapped in mozzarella cheese and house-made dough, then fried. It fared best when eaten right away (which I had failed to do), but I still enjoyed the concept.

      Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

      Korean style hot dog

      Similarly, the Dak-gang-jung, or deep-fried boneless and breaded chicken, was straightforward and tasty. Here, it was served with honey mustard sauce, though there were spicier dips available on the counter for those keen for more heat.

      Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

      Dak-gang-jung

      Gangnam Street Food’s version of Dduck bo kki, was plenty hot for me; the rice and fish cakes were stir-fried with a spicy sauce. When I was first introduced to this dish in Korea years ago, I always opted for the more pedestrian version on menus, so just for the reason of my personal preference, this was my least favourite dish.

      Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

      Dduck bo kki

      In addition to the hot dog, skewers also make an appearance as an easy-to-eat meat on a stick. That night, we tried two of their kkochi (skewer). Both were charcoal-grilled, but the chicken was basted in a Korean Bulgogi sauce, while the pork belly had been brushed with a house-made “super spicy sauce”. The portions here were on the smaller side, but would be ideal for those just looking for a snack-sized amount of meat.

      Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

      Kkochi

      The spam and sausage cup-bap was the full meal deal. Rice was layered with ham, sausage, stir-fried kimchi, bean sprouts, corn, lettuce, and a pan-fried egg. This dish will be very familiar to those who have frequented standard Korean restaurants, albeit in a smaller serving. It was satisfying enough, and helped balance out some of the heavier courses.

      Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

      Ham and sausage cup-bap

      For dessert, we sampled the Ho dduck, a Korean-style pancake with melted cinnamon and sugar filling, served hot. This was also a favourite of the night, unsurprising given the classic flavours, but notable for the dense and doughy texture of the pancake itself. We were told this was perhaps the most difficult recipe to develop, though I can say it was worth their time – I will be returning in the future for seconds!

      Gangnam Street Food Edmonton

      Ho dduck

      It’s great to see how the Korean food scene continues to evolve and mature in our city, and Gangnam Street Food is certainly poised to help introduce another facet of this diverse cuisine to Edmontonians. Thanks again for having me (and for the very generous $100 in gift cards to their “family” of businesses). Best of luck with the opening!

      Gangnam Street Food
      #15, 9261 34 Avenue
      (780) 244-0148
      Monday-Sunday 11am-9pm

      Segway Fun: Exploring the Legislature Lights with River Valley Adventure Company

      My first taste of riding a Segway came six years ago, when we partnered up with River Valley Adventure Company for our pop-up Blink: Urban Picnic event held in Louise McKinney Park. During that event, the owner of the company, Chris Szydlowski, gave our attendees mini lessons on Segways, which they were using to lead tours on the area’s trails. I was only able to try the Segway for a few minutes, but I remember not feeling all that comfortable on the vehicle.

      Fast forward to now: River Valley Adventure Company is not only leading tours in green spaces, but starting last year, they also began hosting the Legislature Lights Adventure! The 60-minute tour combines a few of my favourite things – Mack and I are frequent visitors to the grounds during the holidays, as we find that the lights and music create a magical effect. Also, being that he is a very passionate Edmontonian, Chris delights in being able to share fun and interesting facts about the area throughout the journey. He invited us to experience the Adventure for ourselves last Friday.

      We met him in the visitor parking lot south of the Terrace Building, where he had positioned three Segways. Because neither Mack or I were experienced Segway riders, Chris added a 30-minute introduction clinic to get us started.

      Legislature Lights Segway Tour

      Chris Szydlowski

      It was the mark of a great teacher, because after that lesson, I felt surprisingly confident on the Segway. I had been afraid of tipping or losing control of the machine, but with his expert instructions, I was able to trust in using what I had learned to ride, stop, and safely disembark the Segway.

      Something I should have done was listened to his advice on layering up for the conditions! He had recommended dressing like we were “headed for the mountains”, but at -8C that evening, we didn’t think it was necessary. However, at times, when we were cruising along at the top speed of 20km/hour, it was a bit more biting than what we are used to as pedestrians. Our feet, in spite of not standing directly on the cold pavement, also could have used proper snow boots.

      Chris shared that in its second year, the Legislature Lights Adventure had already more than doubled its bookings when compared with the previous year. And while many who have attended the tour have been from out of town, some were playing tourist in their own home. Certainly for us, we learned many facts that we did not know – Chris took us to the spot (commemorated by a plaque) that was the home to one of the previous Fort Edmontons. In addition, we found out that the domed fountain that operates in the summer is actually an exact sized replica of the Legislature’s dome!

      Legislature Lights Segway Tour

      Holiday lights at the Legislature

      Chris told us that Edmonton is one of the most Segway-friendly cities in Canada; the vehicles are permitted on city sidewalks. It so happened that our tour coincided with rush hour, so for our brief trek up Capital Boulevard to admire the public art, Chris was adept at guiding us to cross streets safely and warning pedestrians of our presence with a bike bell.

      Legislature Lights Segway Tour

      On Capital Boulevard

      For those hoping to document their experience, Chris makes sure to build in a number of photo opportunities along the way. As we started in the late afternoon, the lights didn’t have as dark of a backdrop to shine against. The public tours are offered later in the evening, however, so would be adventurers needn’t worry!

      Legislature Lights Segway Tour

      Our favourite vantage point at the Legislature

      Overall, the tour was a fun way to explore one of my favourite places Downtown, and one that I would highly recommend! Thanks again to Chris for the invitation to experience the Legislature grounds on a unique set of two wheels.

      The Legislature Lights Adventure is available until January 31, 2019.

      Chinatown Dining Week Returns, January 17-27, 2019

      I’m thrilled to share that Chinatown Dining Week is returning for a second year, running January 17-27, 2019. It was so successful last year that we knew we wanted to bring it back again and make it even bigger!

      Chinatown Dining Week 2019 postcard

      Although many are familiar with the great eats available in Chinatown, others continue to be unaware of the diversity and value of meals to be found within walking distance of Downtown. With Chinatown’s proximity to several prominent attractions, including the newly-opened Royal Alberta Museum, Ice District, and the Arts District, those planning an evening out could easily incorporate a stopover in the area.

      Chinatown Dining Week is about highlighting some of the tasty options in the neighbourhood through $15 2-course fixed price dinner menus. This year, we’ve expanded the event to 11 days (up from 9) and will have 8 participating restaurants (up from 5). The menus will be online at edmontonchinatown.ca starting January 7.

      Our volunteer team is excited to welcome back three of our partner restaurants from our pilot last year – Asian Express Hot Pot, Gui Lin Noodle House, and King Noodle House. They embraced this new idea early on, and we’re happy to help introduce even more people to their food!

      We also have five new restaurants on our roster:

      • Fuqing Lanzhou Noodles – located on the northern edge of Chinatown, this noodle house is often overlooked. But their steaming bowls of noodle soup and dumplings make it an ideal place to gather on a cold winter evening.
      • Kanto 98 St. Eatery – shortlisted for the prestigious list of 2018 Best New Restaurants, Kanto made a splash even before it celebrated its first birthday. Their brand of Filipino fusion eats has won over its share of fans.
      • Namaste India – a hidden gem, it seems that few know that a delicious Indian buffet spread can be found in the heart of Chinatown.
      • Padmanadi – this vegan restaurant was serving plant-based cuisine before it was trendy. Their vegan takes on classic Asian dishes have a cult following in Edmonton.
      • Tea Bar Cafe – so much more than bubble tea, Tea Bar also serves Hong Kong-style savoury and sweet dishes to complement their drink menu.

      We hope you’ll join us for Chinatown Dining Week!

      A High Tea Tradition: The Art of Cake

      It’s been a tradition over the last number of years that Mack and I take Grandma Male to high tea at Christmas. As a result, we’ve been able to sample our way through most of the high teas available in the city, ranging from the opulent experience at the Hotel Macdonald to more quaint settings such as Reinette Café in Mill Woods. I had only recently heard about the high tea at The Art of Cake, held on certain Sundays each month. With a few dates in December to choose from, we made a reservation for the four of us a couple of weeks ago.

      We had been running a little behind, and it turned out we were the last party to be seated (the staff had graciously included a high chair at our table). It was a full house that afternoon; clearly the word has gotten around about their high tea! Much to Emily’s delight (she loves music), our table was situated next to a guitarist who added to the pleasant atmosphere.

      Art of Cake

      Emily enjoying high tea

      I had only been to The Art of Cake once before, ducking in to pick up some baked goods, so hadn’t before taken the time to survey the interior. It’s a lovely space, with high ceilings and numerous chandeliers beckoning the eye upward. I liked the natural light and the cozy vibe imparted by the wood furnishings and dining sets that are charmingly not uniform.

      High Tea at The Art of Cake

      Mack and Grandma Male

      Moments after we were settled, we were provided with a pot of crème de Earl Grey tea. While I appreciate the pomp and circumstance of the choice of tea in some cases (the presentation of the tea box at the Hotel Macdonald, for instance), it is much more efficient when tea is simply set. It was also an unexpected bonus that the tea was pre-steeped in the kitchen so we could simply enjoy refills without having to wait for the leaves to steep in our tabletop pot.

      High Tea at The Art of Cake

      Tea setting

      A few minutes later, staff descended from the kitchen and started serving all tables in rapid succession. The presentation of the tiered tray (created by My Uniquely Vintage), plates of mini quiches, and scones rivals any high tea I’ve been to in the city. It was also a lovely touch that menu cards were left on the table so we could easily reference each item.

      Art of Cake

      High tea tray

      We found there to be a great variety of savoury and sweet items. The spinach and feta quiche and cranberry chicken salad puffs were a favourite on the savoury side, and Grandma Male enjoyed the festive gingerbread men-shaped scones (served, of course, with clotted cream and strawberry preserves).

      High Tea at The Art of Cake

      Festive scones

      For dessert, Mack liked the flavour and texture of the gingersnaps, while I marveled at how much the cream cheese mints reminded me of After Eights. And though cupcakes are not a typical high tea item, I’m a sucker for them, so I loved that they were included here. At $45, The Art of Cake falls in the middle price range of available high teas, but we thought it to be of good value overall.

      Service was amazing; tea refills were provided quickly, and because the food was delivered so expediently, we found we could really take our time to work through the treats.

      I would highly recommend high tea at The Art of Cake – with a picturesque setting, good food, and excellent hospitality, it was the best high tea we’ve been to in recent memory.

      The Art of Cake
      11811 105 Avenue
      (780) 441-1229
      Tuesday-Thursday 8am-6pm, Friday 8am-9pm, Saturday 9am-6pm, Sunday 10am-5pm, closed Mondays (high tea served on select Sundays; reservations needed)

      Cultivating Regulars: Partake

      Having Emily has reduced the frequency of our experiences dining out. For that reason, when we do eat out, we often default to restaurants that are unfussy, where I can relax after spending the day caring for Emily. Partake fits this bill perfectly. I’ve been to the restaurant twice thus far; once in early November and a second time this week, and I enjoyed myself both times.

      Opened by the folks behind Manor Café and Urban Diner, Partake has taken over the former La Favourite storefront on High Street. No trace of the bakery remains – in its place is a space with old world charm that feels worn in, and would not seem out of place on a Parisian side street. I love the interior – rounded door frames, pressed ceiling tiles, a comfortable central bar, and a mix of small tables and cozy booths. I felt comfortable immediately, at ease with the kind of establishment that seeks to cultivate regulars.

      Partake

      Interior

      The one page food menu is French-inspired and unpretentious, with a focus on nibbles and comforting share plates. Those seeking something more experimental won’t find it here, but the familiarity is part of the attraction.

      My first visit coincided with Partake’s happy hour, which runs from 4-6pm and 10pm-close from Monday-Thursday, and from 4-6pm on Friday. With the purchase of any drink, the kitchen treats customers to several complimentary snacks. It was a more generous spread than I was expecting, and included pesto-drizzled popcorn, cheese-stuffed dates, olives, and meatballs. It’s a great incentive to come in early (or late!).

      Partake

      Our happy hour spread

      My favourite dish from that meal was the potato fondue ($10), a blend of gruyere and emmental cheeses, potato, and garlic. I loved the smooth texture with the addition of the starch; it’s an idea that I’ll steal for my own use in the future.

      On my more recent visit, my friends and I shared the beef tartare ($16). Prepared tableside, the mixture was beautifully seasoned, dotted with capers, beet-barley relish, and chives. It was served with a delicious roasted garlic spread that elevated each bite.

      Partake

      Beef tartare

      The croque mon’soubise’ ($14) will have me returning again. Featuring the amazing ham from Meuwly’s (which alone is work a trek to the meat shop) and gruyere, the toasted sandwich is served with a side of creamy soubise sauce. An onion-based butter sauce, it would probably make anything taste infinitely better, and in this case, it absolutely does.

      Partake

      Croque mon’soubise’

      I don’t typically order dessert during meals out, but I did both times at Partake. This was primarily because they offer mini desserts that appeal to people like me who are looking for just a few bites of something sweet, as opposed to another course onto itself. Their tiny creme brulees ($3.50) were just perfect, the caramelized crust concealing a light and creamy custard underneath. Flavours change constantly, but the white chocolate mint was the favourite of the ones I’ve sampled.

      Partake

      Mini creme brulees

      Service was a bit more attentive on my first visit, but that was a minor detail in an otherwise very pleasant duo of meals. In my opinion, Partake is a very welcome addition not only to High Street, but to the Edmonton dining scene as a whole.

      Partake
      12431 102 Avenue
      (780) 760-8253
      Monday-Thursday 4-11pm, Friday 4pm-1am, Saturday 5pm-1am, closed Sundays

      Vegetarian Vietnamese Cuisine: An Chay

      After my coworker introduced me to Pho Tau Bay years ago, that was it. I had a hard time ordering pho at any other local restaurants, as I always found myself comparing it to my beloved Tau Bay (Pho Hoan Pasteur is the one exception; it was also recommended by my coworker to get us through the weeks when Tau Bay is closed). I made an exception to this rule at lunch with Linda (and Emily!) last week at An Chay.

      An Chay is part of the recent wave of vegetarian/plant-based restaurants that have opened in Edmonton over the last two years. Within that niche, An Chay serves up meat-free Vietnamese cuisine; much of An Chay’s one page noodle and rice-based menu will look familiar to diners, minus the meat.

      An Chay took over the space previously occupied by Pitaghetti on Jasper Avenue and 112 Street. I’m not certain if much has changed – the décor is pretty minimal – but the best feature of the room by far are the windows that line two sides of the restaurant. On that day, the natural light made it a very pleasant place to have lunch.

      An Chay

      Interior

      Linda had already tried several dishes on the menu, and recommended we share the shredded tofu rolls ($9). These fresh rice rolls were expertly packed with shredded bean curd, lettuce, mint, bean sprouts, pickled daikon, and carrots. While I enjoyed the texture (and Emily liked munching on the tofu), they were a bit plain for my taste, even with the vinaigrette for dipping.

      An Chay

      Shredded tofu rolls

      The pho ($15), on the other hand, had flavour to spare. The broth, laced with heady five spice, had a nice hint of sweetness. There was also a great variety of vegetables included, from baby bok choy, to enoki mushrooms, and lotus root. I would have preferred more tofu, however, especially since it was essentially replacing the typical meat protein found in pho. While I did really enjoy the soup, I still have a hard time recognizing it as “pho”; I likely would never crave it in the same way as a hearty bowl of noodles with beef.

      An Chay

      Pho

      That said, service was efficient, and my experience overall was very positive (they had a couple of high chairs and a change table, making it a great baby-friendly option for parents). So although my go-to restaurants for pho have not changed, it’s likely I’ll be back to An Chay in the future to sample more of their Vietnamese fare.

      An Chay
      11203 Jasper Avenue
      (780) 752-2203
      Monday, Wednesday-Friday 11am-8pm, Saturday-Sunday 12-8pm, closed Tuesdays