Recap: What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

We were overwhelmed with the turnout at our first What the Truck?! of the season, which took place at Churchill Square last Saturday.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Although we knew we’d have record crowds given our Facebook event had swelled to over 12,000 RSVPs in the weeks leading up to May 23, 2015, the perfect weather conditions put us over the edge.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

It was obvious we attracted many first-time What the Truck?! attendees that day, some shocked at the frenzy surrounding food trucks. But for the most part, we saw Edmontonians celebrating the chance to be outdoors, enjoying some of the city’s best mobile food purveyors.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Given the circumstances, I was so proud of the trucks for serving a crowd we estimated to be 8,000 strong. It was a great team effort between veteran trucks like Bully (who, for the first time ever, sold out of food) and those new to What the Truck?!.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

This may have been the tipping point for food trucks in Edmonton, and to help manage future turnouts, our volunteer committee will be doing our best to promote positive experiences at our events. For instance, we’ve started to bandy about the idea of a multi-day opening for next year, given our spring gathering has consistently been the busiest day in our festival calendar.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

In our fifth year, it’s already become difficult to find suitable and accessible spaces that can accommodate us. One of our guiding principles has been to highlight the roaming nature of food trucks by shifting through different areas in the city, and consequently, hopefully encouraging exploration of adjacent businesses, parks or neighbourhood features. This will become more and more challenging with the festival’s success, but I’m optimistic that we can find a way to stay true to our roots.

Thanks to those who came out to our first event – you’ve showed us that the love of food trucks is alive and well in Edmonton! If you haven’t already, mark your calendars for our next event – Brunch on the Boulevard – taking place on Sunday, June 14, from 11am-3pm at 108 Street and 99 Avenue. Hope to see you there!

What the Truck?! Season 5 Kick-Off

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately (it’s no coincidence the series finale of Mad Men drove me to rewatch “The Wheel”, featuring Don’s famous carousel speech). But in the lead up to our fifth season of What the Truck?!, I’ve been reflecting more on where we started.

Some may remember that first event in June 2011, seven trucks huddled between the decorative poles in Beaver Hills House Park. Mack and I were floored that Edmontonians came out, in spite of the rain, to gather, eat and share – it was a demonstration of an appetite for great food to be enjoyed outdoors during our short but brilliant summers.

What The Truck?!
Beaver Hills House Park (2011)

True to the mobile nature of food trucks, over the years, we’ve continued to shift our festival locations to a number of central neighbourhoods, like Oliver’s Victoria Promenade (anecdotally, our most popular event), Old Strathcona’s family-friendly Gazebo Park, the recently renovated Borden Park by Northlands, and the underutilized Louise McKinney in our beautiful river valley.

What the Truck?!

Victoria Promenade (2012)

Our events have mirrored the increase the number of food trucks vending in Edmonton, growing from seven at that first event to nearly two dozen at our event last September. With more than sixty-five trucks registered this season, we’ll be doing our best to highlight as many as we can. That said, because mobile vendors have become mainstream, found at farmers’ markets, community gatherings, and other food festivals, What the Truck?! has to adapt to stay relevant.

What the Truck?! at Louise McKinney

Louise McKinney Park (2013)

This year, What the Truck?! will be focusing only on large events, to ensure we can cast a spotlight on trucks both new and experienced. You can expect that our gatherings will feature at least fifteen trucks or more, providing a variety of food not found elsewhere.

What the Truck?! at Borden Park

Borden Park (2014)

We also believe that What the Truck?! can still play a key role in using food trucks as a conduit to encourage exploration of some of Edmonton’s hidden gems. We’ll be releasing the details of our season later this month, but we hope you’ll be as excited about our new locations as we are!

For the first event of the season, we’ve decided to return to Churchill Square. The reality is – we’ve outgrown most other sites, and it’s hard to beat the central, accessible and open space of the Square.

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Churchill Square (photo by Dave Feltham)

What: What the Truck?! at Churchill Square
Where: Sir Winston Churchill Square
When: Saturday, May 23, 2015
Time: 4-8pm
RSVP on Facebook!

Even with the ever-growing interest in food trucks, the organizing team (now a group of seven!) has been blown away by the online response to our first event – over 10,000 people have RSVP’d already. We’ve posted the menus, so folks can start to plan their attack, and if you’ve never been before, please review our tips for attendees to make the most of your experience.

We hope you’re as excited for the season as we are – see you on Saturday!

Love the Dove: Dovetail Delicatessen

Drift has become a fixture of the city’s food truck scene since they introduced their take on sandwiches to Edmontonians back in 2011. And although the number of trucks in operation have more than tripled, they haven’t lost their game – it was a three-peat when Drift was again named Best Food Truck in Avenue Edmonton’s best in food issue back in February.

Drift’s consistency, focus on local ingredients and interesting flavour combinations have resulted in a sizable fan base, one that has been hungry for a year-round ability to enjoy their food. Next week, it will finally be possible.

Nevin and Kara Fenske are about ready to open their brick and mortar shop, Dovetail Delicatessen (the name represents the coming together of their two businesses). Nestled in the 124 Street area, Kara shared that in a way, Dovetail represents a homecoming for her. Kara’s parents have owned a jewelry store in the neighbourhood for more than thirty years, and she remembers spending a lot of time in the area growing up.

Dovetail Delicatessen

Nevin and Kara with Kirsta Franke (of 124 Street Grand Market)

The Fenskes took over the space formerly occupied by Blossoms Café. While they’ve kept the concept of the open kitchen (mimicking customers being able to peek into their truck), they have since maximized the space, allowing for easier movement through and increasing the seating to about thirty.

Dovetail Delicatessen

Nevin readies lunch

Fans of Drift’s sandwiches will be happy to know they are at the core of Dovetail’s offerings. A daily roast will be served in sandwich form, while samosas, salads and dips will also be available from their cooler. At the VIP opening on Friday, we dined on a delectable roasted pork shoulder sandwich with chimichurri and pickled fennel, as well as (for Mack) a roasted carrot salad with parmesan and chokecherry vinaigrette and (for me) a barley salad with roasted apple, pear, toasted almonds and lemon vinaigrette.

Dovetail Delicatessen

Roasted pork shoulder sandwich with chimichurri and pickled fennel and barley salad

To start, Dovetail will be open Monday to Friday 10:30am to 6:30pm, a boon to residents and office dwellers looking for a healthy but hearty lunch. But Nevin and Kara also hope to capitalize on those seeking to unwind with a post-work nibble (they’re licensed!), or want to grab a quick dinner on their way home.

Dovetail Delicatessen

Country style pork paté with pistachio

And if you’re concerned that Dovetail means the end of Drift – set those worries aside. Drift will be back on the streets this year, including as a fixture of the neighbourhood 124 Street Grand Market starting May 14, 2015.

Dovetail Delicatessen

Cooler

Follow Dovetail on Twitter to find out exactly when they’re opening up next week. Congrats to Nevin and Kara on this big achievement – and Mack and I will be sure to return soon!

Dovetail Delicatessen
10721 124 Street
(780) 705-1293
Monday – Friday 10:30am-6:30pm

We Got Married!

Mack and I got married in Edmonton on September 27, 2014. We had the most wonderful day. But, as anyone who has planned a wedding can tell you, the number of people and goods involved can be complex. We wanted to sum up our day, which would also pay homage to the great vendors we worked with along the way.

Sharon: The most common question leading up to the wedding was whether or not it was stressful planning it. To be honest, the wedding was one of the most fun occasions I’ve ever organized – it was a chance for Mack and I celebrate with our loved ones, and through the process, work with vendors we respect. Any stress leading up to it was related to the fact that the wedding was the last of four “events” we were producing in the seven weeks leading up to the end of September, followed by our honeymoon departure two days after. But we made the bed, so although it was hectic, it was entirely by choice.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

Mack: I was thrilled with the way our wedding day went and it was all thanks to Sharon. I certainly tried to help, but it probably won’t surprise you to learn that she was the one that truly made it happen. Maybe it was because we’ve attended a bunch of our friends’ weddings over the last few years, but she just knew what to do, from start to finish. As usual, I’d have been completely lost without her. I appreciate that she included me in the planning process and always asked for my opinion, even if sometimes she had already made up her mind!

Mack & Sharon Wedding

What We Wore

Sharon: I have always loved the look of Audrey Hepburn’s wedding dress in the final scene of Funny Face – elegant, chic, and tea-length. Although conventional wedding dresses are typically to the floor or beyond, I knew something less fussy and easier to wear would suit me better.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

A few years ago, while visiting Amanda in Toronto, we were riding the streetcar on Queen West, when I caught a glance of a storefront window featuring cocktail-length wedding dresses. The shop I was admiring turned out to be Cabaret, a respected vintage retailer which, in recent years, had also developed an in-house collection of vintage-inspired wedding dresses. The Cabaret staff were fabulous to work with, and I loved that the garments were handmade in Toronto. In May, I ordered “The Bijou”, one of the dresses I had seen in the window all those years ago. They shipped it out to me free of charge, and it fit perfectly, requiring no alterations. I couldn’t have imagined getting married in anything else.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

Sharon: For my sisters’ bridesmaids dresses, we were hoping to continue that vintage look. Our colour palate was cranberry and charcoal. After shopping around, we couldn’t shake the appeal of Alfred Sung’s line of dresses. We found a great selection at Bridal Debut in Sherwood Park.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

I also wanted to mention the two lovely ladies who did our hair and make-up that day. It’s an understatement to say I rarely dabble in beauty products, so I entrusted Jenn Chivers and Jenise Wong to help me. Jenn was efficient, professional, and was able to create art from an image. Jenise, a friend of Felicia’s, knew my apprehension about not looking or feeling like myself, so made sure I was comfortable with the make-up. I think she did a fabulous job!

Mack & Sharon Wedding

Mack: Honestly, I had never really considered what I would wear on my wedding day. There’s no “That Suit is a Beaut” or “Say Perfecto to the Tuxedo” show on TLC for guys. I guess I always figured my bride would guide me. Fortunately, she did. At Sharon’s suggestion, I decided I liked the lighter grey color with some red to pop. I wanted to look good, but I certainly didn’t want anything that would take attention away from Sharon and her dress. So with that in mind, service became the most important criteria for choosing where to get my tux.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

After checking out a couple of options, we made our way to Moore’s on Calgary Trail, where we met an awesome sales associate named Agnus. She was helpful right from the start, and made great suggestions such as getting an off-white shirt because Sharon’s dress wasn’t pure white (and could look yellow in photos if my shirt was). I ended up renting a BLACK by Vera Wang tuxedo, and was very happy with it. Again, the service at Moore’s was fantastic.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

Sharon: Although we were impressed by the sample arrangements at Wild Orchid, our deciding factor to book with them was their proximity to our condo. Being one block away, we negated delivery charges, and a member of our wedding party simply walked over the morning of to grab the bouquets. Sticking to vendors close to home definitely had its advantages!

Taking Care of Business

Sharon: I liked the idea of a first look – not only would it take the pressure off waiting until the start of the ceremony to see each other in our wedding attire, but it also meant we could be more economical about our time that day.

Mack & Sharon Wedding  
We squeezed in an extra location for our wedding party shoot in the time leading up to the ceremony, taking advantage of having the City Market right outside our front door. It was important to us to incorporate as many of our favourite Edmonton activities into our day as possible – sure, our wedding was primarily to celebrate our love of each other, but why not celebrate our love of Edmonton, too?

Mack & Sharon Wedding

Mack & Sharon Wedding Mack & Sharon Wedding

Mack: Though I was happy for Sharon to take the lead on figuring out what our day would like, I knew for sure that I wanted a tea ceremony to be part of it. The modern tea ceremony is a nod to Chinese culture and tradition and is a great way to show respect to our parents. There are variations on the procedure, but in general it consists of the bride and groom serving tea to their parents (and sometimes other elders like aunts, uncles, and grandparents). In exchange, they are presented with a small gift to wish the couple good luck.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

In our case, we served our parents tea. We also included Sharon’s sisters, and they served us tea in exchange for a red pocket (as we’re their elders). It was a fun way to include a little bit of Sharon’s familial heritage into our day.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

Saying “We Do!”

Mack: Because we have decided to live in the core, Sharon and I walk whenever possible – we walk to work, to the market, and to activities. So it was important to us that we be able to walk on our wedding day too. That meant a venue downtown, and though we initially had our sights set on the Citadel’s Tucker Amphitheatre, we ultimately settled on the historic McKay Avenue School. Located a few short blocks from home, we knew it would make the logistics on the day much easier for us, and we hoped that being centrally located would mean easier access for our guests too. The third floor assembly hall was where we held our ceremony, a beautiful space with old wooden beams and floors, and a skylight too. We are thrilled that City Council has recently decided to proceed with designating the building as a Municipal Historic Resource, so that other Edmontonians can enjoy its history and character for years to come.

Mack & Sharon Wedding
Mack & Sharon Wedding

Sharon: Mack and I had elected to use an internet-based system to manage our guest list instead of issuing paper-based invites. And though we had some functionality challenges with Appy Couple, it was still the right choice for us. It also allowed us to invest more of our budget into the paper program, which we treated as the primary souvenir from the ceremony. Erica Leong, a close family friend, is a designer based out of Vancouver, and she did a fantastic job translating our vision for a whimsical representation of a few of our favourite places in Edmonton. The program text itself was adapted from an online template.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

Sharon: After moving to 104 Street, I started associating City Market mornings with the sound of Martin Kerr’s voice. Windows open, his acoustic songs would float up into our condo, and over breakfast, we’d be able to enjoy his renditions of everything from Oasis to Jack Johnson. Knowing he also performed at weddings, we booked him early on in the planning process – while we didn’t get a chance to shop at the market that morning, we did have a piece of the market at our ceremony that day.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

Mack: Friends of ours had Fat Franks at their wedding a few years ago and we thought it was a fun, unique way to offer guests something to eat after the ceremony. Plus, with our penchant for food trucks, we knew we wanted to incorporate them into our day in some form! We decided to ask Eva Sweet to serve the waffles we have enjoyed so regularly at the City Market downtown. They were also one of the very first participants at What the Truck?! Back in 2011.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

What We Ate

Mack: Whenever Sharon and I are feeling gluttonous and don’t want to cook, we make a trip over to Route 99. We have been eating there since our first trip together in 2007 and I guess you could say that over the years it has become “our place”. We love the easy-going atmosphere, the quick service, and the non-traditional but extremely tasty poutine.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

It was important to Sharon that we plan lunch for the wedding party into the schedule of the day as this is often overlooked and just makes everyone hungry and grumpy until the reception. That’s how we found ourselves at Route 99 for lunch in our fancy wedding clothes! It was a great way to relax slightly after the stress of the ceremony, to take a look at the social media posts that had gone up, and to go over our plans for the remainder of the day.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

Sharon: We’ve always loved Chef Blair Lebsack’s food. Since his tenure at Madison’s Grill, to his outdoor farm dinners, and now, his celebrated establishment RGE RD, Blair has been an integral part in our journey of understanding the possibilities of locally-sourced ingredients. That said, we knew hosting our reception at RGE RD would require a very select guest list, as the restaurant only has the capacity of forty. We didn’t regret our decision – an intimate group meant we were able to spend more time with our friends and family, and the absolutely gracious staff made us feel right at home.

Mack & Sharon Wedding
Mack & Sharon Wedding
Mack & Sharon Wedding
Mack & Sharon Wedding
Mack & Sharon Wedding

We were able to customize a menu with Blair (to the point of requesting specific dishes we’d enjoyed in the past), while Caitlin designed the drink pairings. Mack and I especially appreciated Blair’s willingness to introduce each dish – the guided tasting elevated the experience, which was a first for many of our guests. And of course, the food – I will never forget the tempura-fried, ricotta-stuffed tomato, the incredibly flavourful potage, the wood-fired roasted chicken and the panna cotta that everyone couldn’t stop talking about. It was a beautiful end to a wonderful day, and I’m so grateful to the staff that made it happen.

Mack & Sharon Wedding
Mack & Sharon Wedding

Mack: Photography is of course an important part of any wedding, and truth be told we’ve known for a while who wanted to help us capture the day. We first met Bruce and Sarah Clarke of Moments in Digital a few years ago at one of the tweetups we hosted, and we were immediately impressed with not only the quality of their work but also how great they were to work with.

Mack & Sharon Wedding

We knew that Bruce and Sarah would make us feel comfortable and that the result would be a series of beautiful images that we’d be able to enjoy for years to come. They were incredibly helpful right from the start, and played a big role in helping us to organize and plan the day. We’re very happy with how the photos turned out and hope you enjoy them too!

Mack & Sharon Wedding

Sharon: No wedding can happen without the help and support of family and friends, and ours was no exception. From our parents to our wedding party, and our friends who lent, manned or otherwise ensured things were done before or on the day, Mack and I are in your debt.

2014 What the Truck?! Wrap Up

Before autumn rolls in, I wanted to take a look back at our last two What the Truck?! events of the season.

What the Truck?! @ Borden Park

One of the things we’re most proud of about What the Truck?! is our commitment to mobility, and the fact that the festival has convened at at least one new location every year.

This year, that location was Borden Park, a green space that the City has spent a pretty penny revitalizing. The new walkways, benches, playground, washroom facilities and public art are definitely worth exploring, and we hoped our event would help draw out more Edmontonians who haven’t yet discovered this revamped gem.

What the Truck?! at Borden Park

In the shadow of Northlands Park

Though it was more stressful than we would have liked (involving the blatant overlooking of no parking signs), the event saw friends and young families gather to enjoy an outdoor picnic and take advantage of the park’s amenities.

What the Truck?! at Borden Park

Short lines

DJs – Thomas Culture, Chesterfield and Polyesterday played a danceable soundtrack, which more than one young attendee enjoyed.

What the Truck?! at Borden Park

Dancing!

As always, it was great to have a mix of veteran and new trucks, which on this occasion included Canicus Catering, Dolce & Banana and One Cool Cookie. Ice cream sandwiches were definitely on the menu for most on that warm day!

What the Truck?! at Borden Park

Chocolate chip and salted caramel sandwich from One Cool Cookie

Thanks to everyone who came out!

What the Truck?! at Borden Park

You can’t miss us in our t-shirts

What the Truck?! @ Churchill Square

Our season finale at Churchill Square also happened to be our biggest event ever, featuring a gathering of 24 trucks. To accommodate this, we closed off an adjacent street, occupying roughly the same footprint as the Taste of Edmonton.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Churchill Square

It really was unfortunate the weather didn’t cooperate – overcast and drizzling for most of the afternoon, the grey skies intimidated many from taking in the last event of the year.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Under the trees

That said, those that did attend were able to take in a dizzying variety of food, short lines, and ample space to mingle.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

99 Street

It was also the first event where we offered a printable, PDF version of the menu. We were happy to see many used this feature, which we will definitely be implementing again in the future.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Menus in hand!

Thanks to our sponsors the Downtown Edmonton Community League and the Old Strathcona Business Association, and of course, a big thank you to our team of DJs – Thomas Culture, Chesterfield and The Hugonaut. And a HUGE (belated) thank you to our fabulous clean-up volunteers – the Square has never looked so good. We couldn’t have done it without you!

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

Dinner crowd

The organizing team will be taking a break over the winter months, but details about another season of What the Truck?! will be released in the spring. In the meantime, if you did attend any of our events this past year, please consider filling out our survey – we’d love to hear your feedback as we look towards 2015.

Until then – the trucks will be out for another few weeks before the frost rolls in – make sure to get your fix before then. See you next year!

Recap: the 97 Street Night Market, 2014 edition

On August 23, 2014, the second annual 97 Street Night Market took place in the heart of Chinatown.

97 Street Night Market

97 Street Night Market

Closing off part of 106 Avenue just off of 97 Street ensured we were accessible, and adjacent to several of the neighbourhood’s most popular restaurants.

97 Street Night Market

Lion dance

The market built on much of the foundation we had established last year, comprised of vendors, Asian-themed food trucks, dynamic performers and walking tours.

97 Street Night Market

Food trucks

New this year to our vendors was Sunny Snapshots. They provided attendees with the chance to take home a keepsake of the market with a photobooth picture (and props to enhance the shots!). The photos are also online in a digital format, for handy sharing.

Sharon and Felicia

Felicia and I crammed our props inside the booth

Rory Lee, a local artist, also committed to live painting a piece during the market. Many onlookers watched to see the progress he made throughout the night.

97 Street Night Market

Rory Lee

We were fortunate to have Molly’s Eats back for a second year, who was joined by Nhon Hoa and Yellowbird. They provided a nice variety of dishes, from banh mi to sesame fish tacos. I personally enjoyed the braised beef shank wrapped in a green onion pancake from Molly’s Eats.

97 Street Night Market

Fried rolls with beef from Molly’s Eats

The stage that night hosted a range of performers demonstrating more traditional arts to those who practice more modern endeavors. And they were all fantastic.

97 Street Night Market

The sidelines were full that night

Vivian Tao, a twelve year old master of the Chinese guzheng, blew the crowd away with her talent. Wing Choy of the Red Dragon Tai Chi Club enthusiastically led a tai chi lesson. The Sung Lee Taekwondo Demo Team brought their A-game with their high energy routine.

97 Street Night Market

Vivian Tao

97 Street Night Market

Wing Choy

97 Street Night Market

Sung Lee Taekwondo Demo Team

We also had two great K-pop dance crews: Rise to Beat and a favourite from last year, Convergence Dance Crew. Someone suggested we host a “dance off” in the future, but both crews are so passionate it would be hard to choose a winner!

97 Street Night Market

Rise to Beat

Of all the elements of the night market, walking tours are perhaps closest to my heart. They’re something I always seek out when travelling, since they’re a great way to learn about the history and geography of a neighbourhood.

97 Street Night Market

Returning guides Peter Wong and Lan Chan-Marples lead a Chinatown history tour

This year, I was most proud of the fact that we added a new tour to the mix that was all about the area’s culinary gems. A popular way to learn about Chinatowns all over North America, I was happy to finally bring such a concept back to Edmonton (I heard Judy Schultz, formerly of the Edmonton Journal, used to lead such tours herself).

97 Street Night Market

Tour participants enjoy samples at Ying Fat

Wild Tangerine’s Wilson and Judy Wu did a phenomenal job introducing five of Chinatown’s food businesses to a small group of lucky individuals (we unfortunately couldn’t take everyone who was interested in the tour!). The food-filled stops included Ying Fat, Edmonton’s fresh tofu factory, who go through 1000 pounds of non-gmo soybeans sourced from Ontario, and Hing Lung, a barbecue shop that cures and roasts its own meat.

97 Street Night Market

How many people can fit into Hing Lung?

The tour feedback was great; some commented that they would have gladly paid for the tour! Many participants also remarked that they now felt less intimidated in Chinatown, and would soon return to patronize the shops they now feel familiar with. Food tours in Edmonton’s Chinatown are definitely an untapped opportunity; I’m hopeful someone will pick up the torch in the future.

97 Street Night Market

The market after dark

Overall, I am proud of what we achieved with the 97 Street Night Market. We not only created a vibrant, safe gathering place in Chinatown, but also highlighted some of what the neighbourhood has to offer.

97 Street Night Market

With my co-organizers, Maria and Roxanne

Thanks to those who attended this year!

What the Truck?! @ Churchill Square: September 12, 2014

In previous years, I’ve been able to keep up with the food truck scene in Edmonton – though it usually took me the entire season to get to and try all of the new trucks that debuted that year, it could be done. This year, I’ve all but given up.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square
2012 What the Truck?! @ Churchill Square

It speaks to how pervasive food trucks have become in the city, with over fifty in operation in the Edmonton area. Food trucks have also become nearly synonymous with festivals, farmers’ markets and any outdoor events that make the most of our warm weather months – a good sign that they’re here to stay.

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2013 What the Truck?! @ Churchill Square

Help us celebrate a great season with our last What the Truck?! of the year with a historic event – the largest food truck gathering Edmonton has ever seen.

What: What the Truck?! at Churchill Square
Where: Sir Winston Churchill Square Edmonton
When: Friday, September 12, 2014

Time: 4-8pm
RSVP on Facebook!

Twenty five trucks will fill up Churchill Square and 99 Avenue, with menus so delicious and varied you’ll be hard pressed to narrow down your choices. Among your options: South African bunny chow, Hawaiian spam burgers, and liege waffles topped with cream cheese grand marnier mousse.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square 2013
2013 What the Truck?! @ Churchill Square

DJs Thomas Culture, Chesterfield and The Hugonaut will be on hand that night to set the tone – get ready to party!

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square 2013
DJ Thomas Culture

Hope to see you there!

97 Street Night Market: August 23, 2014

Last August, I was a part of a group that organized the inaugural 97 Street Night Market. The group was comprised of a number of young second-generation Chinese Canadians, and the market was our way to create a lively, energetic gathering to inspire a new vision for the neighbourhood.

97 Street Night Market
2013 Night Market

In many ways, I think we succeeded. It was heartening to see people of all generations from many different backgrounds convening in a single parking lot, feasting, shopping, and otherwise socializing. It was a gathering place not normally found in Chinatown, and one that I hoped would be replicated in the future.

97 Street Night Market
Fortune sticks were really popular that night!

A lot of things came together to make that event happen – from gathering some of Edmonton’s food trucks to serve up Asian-themed dishes, to organizing walking tours of the area, vendors to sell trinkets and other typical night market finds, and securing performers who fit the spirit of the market.

My favourite act was Convergence Dance Crew

We developed connections with like-minded groups and at the time, knew that the market would allow us to build towards other events in the future.

On August 23, 2014, from 6-10pm, we will be hosting our second 97 Street Night Market. This time, we will be situated right in the heart of Chinatown, at 97 Street and 106 Avenue.

2014 Poster and Postcard - modified

We will be building on the momentum from last year, and have invited some of the same food trucks and vendors to return. Molly’s Eats had a menu that was hard to beat, but Susan may have outdone herself again this year – check out the menus from Molly’s, Nhon Hoa and Yellowbird here.

97 Street Night Market
Molly’s Eats feeding the crowd

The tours were so popular that we knew we had to ask our volunteer guides back. The detailed schedule is here, but were thrilled to have Lan Chan-Marples and Peter Wong lead not one, but two historical tours this year, and Paul Giang returns to deliver a perspective on art in Chinatown. New this year (and something I’m most excited about), is our food tour. I’ve long thought Edmonton’s Chinatown deserves its own culinary walking tour, and I can finally say it’s happening! Wild Tangerine’s Wilson Wu will be guiding a small group through some of Chinatown’s food gems, complete with samples along the way. There are limited spaces, so it is first come, first served!

We’ll have a host of great performers. Convergence is back, and we’ve added a second K-pop dance group as well, R2B. Also joining us this year is a martial arts group and a tai chi instructor! We’ll be posting the performance schedule next week.

Our goal for the 97 Street Night Market is to ensure that Chinatown isn’t forgotten. Join us on August 23, 2014 to explore, taste and see what Edmonton Chinatown has to offer!

Find out more on our website, and follow us on Twitter at @yegchinatown.

Taste of Edmonton 2014

The Taste of Edmonton has been getting a lot of love this year, and it couldn’t be at a better time. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Taste is very much a staple in the city’s busy summer festival calendar. But the organizers haven’t been resting on their laurels – over the past few years, they’ve strived to make changes in order to continuously improve the festival experience, and to try and expand their appeal to an even larger audience. To that end, I think they’ve succeeded.

Taste of Edmonton 2014

Taste of Edmonton

Sip ‘N Savour, Taste’s effort to involve chefs and restaurants who might otherwise not participate in the festival with a regular booth, was introduced in 2013. This year, the special workshops and pop-up evenings seemed to have something for everyone, and I loved the idea of the culinary adventures that saw off-site food and drink excursions (in a way, I’d have to think they’d be even more successful in the fall or winter, when festival calendars just aren’t as packed as during the summer months).

Taste of Edmonton 2014

There was a lot more non-beer garden seating this year – hurrah!

But the heart of the festival – the food samples served by restaurants – is the real draw. And with a high menu turnover, and the average item priced at 3 tickets, the value for dollar was better than ever before, and patrons were able to sample an even greater variety of dishes. The complaints heard in previous years about the price of food seemed to fall away this year, as the festival returned to again offering taste-sized portions.

Taste of Edmonton 2014

I wish more booths hawked their wares like Guru

The crowds have been out in full force, and Wednesday was no different. Lines were twenty deep at some booths, and available standing rom in some areas of the Square was sparse. But even at the dinner hour, it only took us about an hour and a half to sample more than a dozen dishes.

Taste of Edmonton 2014

The dinner crowd

One of the highlights for me was the pizza from Canicus Catering. In a way, the food trucks have been a blessing for Taste of Edmonton (introduced in 2012). Whereas restaurant booths are immobile and harder to change over, the addition of trucks provides the festival with the ability to offer “limited edition” items, and with a rotation of trucks throughout the ten days, patrons can return over the course of the event and still try something new.

Taste of Edmonton 2014

The line-up

Canicus Catering is perhaps the most unique food truck in Edmonton, serving up wood-fired pizza cooked out of a converted fire truck (where the water tank has been retrofitted with a pizza oven). It was great to see the pizzas being cooked in front of us (whereas in some cases, restaurants employ the “scoop and serve” model).

Taste of Edmonton 2014

Canicus Catering

The pizza had a wonderfully crisp crust, and bubbly cheese atop the prosciutto. The fact that it was freshly prepared made all the difference.

Taste of Edmonton 2014

Canicus Catering’s prosciutto pizza

Mack’s favourite item was the chicken marsala perogies with sauteed bacon and onion from Select. The tangy flavour was a bit off-putting for me, but Mack had a different opinion.

Taste of Edmonton 2014

Select’s marsala perogies

Although many restaurants claimed to use local ingredients, few named the producers, or, in Culina’s instance, put them front and centre. Listing Calgary’s White Gold and Gull Valley as its primary suppliers for its “Prairie” caprese skewer, it really did live up to its name. Mack didn’t find fault with the chicken and bacon kofta with tomato chutney either, remarking that the dish had a lot of flavour.

Taste of Edmonton 2014

Culina’s caprese skewer and chicken and bacon kofta

Mack, of course, couldn’t turn down crack chicken from The Lingnan. It was actually the perfect portion size in my opinion!

Taste of Edmonton 2014

The Lingnan’s dry spicy chicken

The ricotta cheese fritters from the Edmonton Petroleum Club were disappointing. We had high expectations, but unfortunately, the fritters just needed more salt.

Taste of Edmonton 2014

Edmonton Petroleum Club’s ricotta cheese fritters

Creole Envie’s fried green tomatoes are probably an acquired taste, as they were a little too tart for me. But I did anticipate a thicker breading that would hold up a bit better.

Taste of Edmonton 2014

Creole Envie’s fried green tomatoes

We ended our meal with Eva Sweet’s liege waffle – one of my favourite sweet treats!

Taste of Edmonton 2014

Eva Sweet’s liege waffle

I’m already looking forward to what Taste of Edmonton may have in store for us in its 31st year – see you then!

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

Stage

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!