Food Notes for May 17, 2021

The Backyard and #Eat124StBingo Highlight Small Businesses

The drive to support local continues, and two new initiatives seek to highlight small businesses.

The Backyard, established in a vacant lot at 10004 103A Avenue, seeks to create a new gathering space Downtown. Using art, lighting, and seating to create a sense of place, the centrepiece of The Backyard are its repurposed sea cans that can operate as a bar, pop-up kiosk, and washrooms. During the pandemic, the patio will be able to accommodate up to 150 people.

“The Backyard believes that supporting local is more than a statement,” said Peter Stetsko, owner & operations manager of The Backyard. “It’s a lifestyle.”

They’ve partnered with a number of local food and drink providers to ensure patrons shop small. “There will be up to two food trucks on site when The Backyard is open,” said Stetsko. “To name a few, local favorites such as Coast Lunchbox, Sosyal Scoops, Drift, Casa 12 Doce, Smokehouse BBQ, and Laker Coffee will be onsite this summer.”

The Backyard’s food and snack menu, sold out of one of the retrofitted sea cans, also features local purveyors. “[We’ve] partnered with Toast Culture and Coast Lunchbox to provide a small roster of salads, sandwiches and wraps, which are only available at The Backyard,” said Stetsko. “In addition, we’ve curated our favourite snack items such as Caramunchies, Zwick’s pretzels, and chips and salsa from La Patrona restaurant in Sherwood Park to sell at The Backyard.”

Alcoholic beverages will be sourced from Sea Change and Strathcona Spirits, and Stetsko promises a seasonal cocktail program.

While no official opening date has been announced yet, Stestko is hopeful for a late May or early June launch.

Over on 124 Street, Meuwly’s and the 124 Grand Market are spearheading a campaign to support neighbouring businesses. Inspired by a similar initiative led by Empire Provisions in Calgary, #Eat124StBingo seeks to encourage social media shares for a chance to win a grand prize valued at over $1,000.

Until June 15, 2021, people are encouraged to complete as many bingo squares as possible, with each post or tagged story earning one entry into the prize draw. Those who complete a bingo line will be provided with a small prize pack until supplies last, which could include gift cards, packaged food products, and branded apparel.

To put together the list of businesses, Peter Keith, the general manager of Meuwly’s, reached out to 30 businesses in total, and included the first fifteen respondents (the sixteenth being Meuwly’s). “The goal was to include a nice mix of different types of food businesses from all over the neighborhood, and I definitely tried to reach out to some of the smaller family run businesses that have less of a digital presence,” said Keith. He hasn’t ruled out organizing a second round of bingo later in the year, but is also hopeful the 124 Street Business Association could take that on.

While #Eat124StBingo just launched over the weekend, Keith shared that about five people have already completed a bingo line. “I am hoping we can get a few hundred entries and twenty or thirty ‘bingo’ scores over the next month,” said Keith.

Like all businesses, Meuwly’s has been impacted by the pandemic, related to decreased foot traffic and less restaurant wholesale orders. However, they’ve also made some successful shifts. “We’ve made some great progress on our e-commerce presence and other special packages like the meat club, our D.I.Y. charcuterie kits, and our partnership with Art of Charcuterie,” said Keith.

He is optimistic that this initiative will spotlight the 124 Street food community in this challenging time. “It’s also just a fun morale booster for all of us as small business owners to see the excitement from our audience online,” said Keith.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

Reviews

Local News

What I Ate

  • I had another breakfast date with Mack last week and enjoyed one of the best deals in #yegdt – the egg, bacon, and cheese sandwich from A Bite of Brazil (on their delicious cheese bread, no less), is a steal at under $5! It was super filling, and the service is always so friendly. The sandwich is available until 11am on weekdays and all day on weekends.
  • A Bite of Brazil

Breakfast sandwich from A Bite of Brazil

  • Winner, winner, chicken dinner: on Friday, we had the fried chicken feast from Rosewood Foods and it was even better than I expected. We loved the crispy, juicy lemon and thyme buttermilk chicken, salsa verde kale salad, and scallion buttermilk biscuits (we saved Mack’s favourite carrot cakes for later). We added a side of potatoes for Emily, who polished off more than her share. We’ll definitely be ordering this again!
  • Rosewood Foods

Fried chicken dinner from Rosewood Foods

Food Notes for May 10, 2021

Northern Chicken Offers Vaccine Discount

Several local businesses have stepped up to create incentives to encourage Edmontonians to get the COVID-19 jab. This includes 10% off at Glass Bookshop for a “celebratory vaccine order”, and Fleisch, which is accepting vaccine selfies as entries for a chance to win a $100 gift card.

On May 7, Northern Chicken jumped into the fray, offering 5% off meals with proof, valid on the day of the vaccination. Co-owner Andrew Cowan credits his partner Matt Phillips with the idea. “It’s a small incentive to get people to get vaccinated,” said Cowan. “We talked about it, and it fits with who we are and what we do.”

Northern Chicken was an early adopter of voluntarily shifting to a take-out and delivery only model in November, prior to provincial restrictions limiting in-person dining introduced in early December. Even when indoor dining restrictions lifted in February, Northern Chicken chose to remain closed to in-person dining, citing a need to minimize risk to their staff.

Since introducing the incentive, over 30 people have claimed the discount. Cowan isn’t sure how long the promotion will be offered, but is optimistic that greater vaccination rates will help move things forward. He shared that nearly half his staff have already been vaccinated. “The quicker we can get people vaccinated, restaurants and businesses can get back to normal,” said Cowan.

Although they are doing a reasonable amount of take-out and delivery orders, Cowan is looking forward to the day when it is safe to welcome diners back again. “We’re itching to get people back into the restaurant,” said Cowan, without committing to a timeline or a trigger for when he would feel comfortable with in-person dining again. “It’s social with staff but it’s nice to have new people come in, having friends and family come by,” said Cowan. “I miss it.”

COVID-19-related News

Upcoming Events

  • Root 107, a pop-up park with seating at 107 Street and Jasper Avenue, has extended its run. They are continuing to host food trucks daily; check the schedule here. Even though outdoor gathering restrictions are now limited to 5 people between two households, the event can continue.

Local News

What I Ate

  • Tau Bay is offering $5 delivery within a 5km radius during their regular business hours. Of course we had to try it out, with Friday’s drizzly conditions making it the perfect day for soup. It tasted just like I remembered.
  • Tau Bay

Our usual orders from Tau Bay

  • The new feature Butter Chicken-zas from Love Pizza sounded so delicious, we had to try both versions! The shahi chicken and paneer were super tasty, and highly recommended. We were also able to redeem the gift card we received some months back from the ATB Financial and Linda’s #AdoptAShopYEG initiative, so it felt like a treat! The feature pizza is only available until the end of May.
  • Love Pizza

Butter chicken pizzas from Love Pizza

Food Notes for May 3, 2021

Edmonton Approves New Places To Enjoy Alcoholic Beverages Outdoors

This summer, Edmontonians can look forward to enjoying a cold one at a local park or at the zoo.

On Monday, City Council approved a pilot permitting alcohol at 47 designated picnic sites in seven parks. Running May 28-October 11, 2021, certain sites in Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Whitemud, William Hawrelak, Government House, Victoria, Gold Bar, and Rundle Parks will allow alcohol. Sites include both bookable and “first-come, first-served” sites, and permit responsible alcohol consumption from 11am to 9pm daily.

A survey had been conducted earlier this year that found 71% of respondents were favourable to alcohol consumption in parks. Councillor Jon Dziadyk was among those in favour of the pilot.

“For a city of a million people with a short summer, but a beautiful summer, I think this is one way to get out and enjoy parks,” Dziadyk said.

Last week, Prairie Catering, operators of Sandwich & Sons and 40 Acres Cafe at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, received a license permitting the consumption of alcohol at the Zoo anywhere where food and beverages are allowed.

Prairie Catering owner Jimmy Shewchuk believes this will make the Zoo more appealing to a wider demographic, and brings the facility in line with broader trends.

“You see events like music festivals moving away from strict consumption zones every year,” said Shewchuk. “Being able to walk around and enjoy your beverage at your own pace is much more in line with responsible consumption. I think it will help the Zoo become a new date night hot spot.”

The Edmonton Valley Zoo is currently open with restrictions.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • The local craft breweries just keep on coming – the latest to open is Longroof Brewing, located at #104, 9916 72 Avenue.
  • Hoang Long’s Rice and Noodle Shop location at 10350 124 Street (in the former Prairie Noodle Shop) opened in April.
  • Bodega just announced that they will be opening an outpost in Sherwood Park at 410 Baseline Road.

Closures

  • Graziano’s Catering is closing on May 31, 2021.

Upcoming Events

Local News

  • Whimsical Cake Studio owner Darcy Scott appeared on The Food Network’s baking competition show The Big Bake last week.
  • Glenora restaurant Upper Crust Cafe has joined the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market as a vendor.
  • El Gringo Foods is offering a Cinco de Mayo sampler box featuring 1 bag of chips and 6 jars of salsa. Proceeds from each purchase will result in meals provided to 2.5 families in need. Orders include free delivery in Edmonton.
  • Another way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo is with cochinita pibil from Tres Carnales. Twyla wrote a sponsored post about the special tacos, quesadillas, burritos and tortas available that day.
  • The latest episode of CBC’s Best Dishes column focuses on Kind Ice Cream.
  • To recognize their positive experience working with City of Edmonton staff, Remedy Cafe is providing a 10% discount to all City employees in the month of May.
  • Happy 15th birthday to Downtown stalwart Sofra.
  • Linda interviewed Rochelle Ignacio of Black Owned Market Edmonton. She has some great insights on how to support BIPOC-owned businesses: “Are there new local artists you can support? Can you try a new restaurant? Can you find a gift for a friend at a business you aren’t frequently visiting? Challenge yourself to spread out your dollars.”
  • The latest episode of Startup Edmonton’s podcast The Get Started Show features Vinson Luong of Food Search Inc.
  • Two concepts from Miami-based chef Michael Lewis will be available in Edmonton starting May 6, 2021. Food from breakfast concept Laid Fresh and Chikin (offering Korean Fried Chicken) will be available on Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, and Door Dash through ghost kitchen Reef Kitchens.
  • Outdoor farmers’ markets are back! The first to return is Callingwood Farmers’ Market.
  • An Edmonton location of Sobeys has an in-store vertical farm, providing fresh herbs and greens year-round.
  • The St. Albert Food Bank held its inaugural food drive over the weekend.

Beyond Edmonton

  • On the heels of Epicurious’ announcement that they have since phased out beef-related content, world-renowned New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park will be going entirely plant-based moving forward.

What I Ate

  • We picked up a pair of chicken parm sandwiches from Bar Bricco’s new take-out concept Zio’s on Friday. We loved the focaccia bun and the generous portion of fried chicken, but found by the end the sauces impeded our ability to enjoy the lovely, crispy breading. We hope to try the baked pasta some time though!

Zio’s by Bar Bricco

Chicken parm sandwich from Zio’s

Smokehouse BBQ

Pulled pork poutine from Smokehouse BBQ

Food Notes for April 26, 2021

TYP TOP Bakery is a Sweet Social Enterprise

Running a business in the pandemic is not for the faint of heart, let alone operating a social enterprise that relies on sales to provide participants provides connection and meaningful employment.

Clark Hardy, Founder & Director of the Trinity Youth Project, has had a whirlwind few years doing just that. He started the project as an art-based program while working as a high-risk youth worker. However, in 2019, after being hired on full-time by the Anglican Diocese, he introduced a small baking program as a way of providing employment opportunities for vulnerable youth in Edmonton. “With the pandemic hitting in early 2020, we had to put our art program on hold,” said Hardy. “But because the bakery was considered an essential service, we were able to continue to grow that.” The bakery was rebranded as TYP (Trinity Youth Project) TOP Bakery.

Since being established, about 60 youth have been involved in TYP TOP Bakery. “In addition to our employment stream, we also take on youth looking to complete volunteer hours, sometimes as part of a restorative justice agreement, or probation conditions,” said Hardy. “This allows us to build further connections with more youth, and opens up the door for them to work with us as positions become available.” They work closely with the employment program at the Youth Empowerment Support Services, and have helped a few youth work towards long-term careers in the food industry.

The bakery started with a few of Hardy’s family recipes, specifically his grandmother’s cinnamon buns and dinner buns. More recently, they’ve added some new items, such as stuffed cookies. “These have been really fun to work on because the youth get to be very directly involved in coming up with crazy new ideas and flavour combinations in a way we haven’t been able to do with some of our previous staples,” said Hardy. Flavours include peanut butter & Reese’s Pieces, and vanilla birthday with sprinkles. Just in time for Mother’s Day, TYP TOP has launched a box that includes a half-dozen chocolate dipped strawberries along with two feature cookies.

The pandemic has led to some opportunities but also many challenges. “As a result of the pandemic, we were able to apply for and received several government grants that allowed us to hire on some staff,” said Hardy. Those staff included Chef Kelsey Johnson (formerly of Cafe Linnea, which has permanently closed), who helped with recipe and product development for a six month period. Through the grants, TYP TOP was also able to increase the number of days they were baking and offer more hours to the youth. “We were able to provide thousands of baked goods for other vulnerable folks around the city through various church meal programs and other non-profit organizations, so it was really a win-win,” said Hardy.

TYP TOP Bakery has collaborated with a number of local restaurants, including Baijiu and Biera, where they’ve featured some of their goods on their menus. More consistently, they provide baking to Lui-Chi’s Cafe, The Dapper Beaver, Fringe Grounds Cafe, and Flat Boy Burgers. “Our wholesale partners have really been great as they’ve provided at least some stability in an otherwise very chaotic year with all of its ups and downs,” said Hardy. “Each of these have been great for the youth to get to see their baking in great food establishments around the city.”

An ongoing challenge for the bakery is the lack of a dedicated space. Last year, TYP TOP participated in some markets and special events, but with those on hold due to public health restrictions, their goods are only available via pick-up once a week from Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Old Strathcona or The Grizzlar. Also, they will need to find a new kitchen in the very near future. “[The Church] has graciously allowed us to operate out of their facility, but once their regular operations resume, the kitchen won’t be as available,” said Hardy.

In the meantime, their website is open for orders. “When people support TYP TOP Bakery, not only are they getting to try some exciting and unique baking, but they are also having a direct positive impact in their community,” said Hardy.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • Root 107, part of Downtown Spark, takes place April 28 – May 2, 2021, and will see a variety of food trucks set up along a pop-up public space with art, greenery, and unique seating areas.
  • Firefly Theatre has organized a unique fundraiser called Bread & Circus that is part virtual cooking class and part performance. On April 30, 2021, attendees will learn to bake Fougasse Bread with Get Cooking, and while the bread bakes, they will be treated to circus acts and live-streamed music. Tickets are $100 per household and include a bread making kit delivered to your door. Ticket sales end on April 28.
  • Free Wheelin’ Food Truck Fest returns on May 7, 2021 from 3-8pm at Kingsway, and will feature ten food trucks in the parking lot of Kingsway Mall.
  • Save the date for Al Fresco on 4th, which returns to 104 Street June 5, 2021, and will run every Saturday from 10am-3pm until September 11, 2021.
  • The Edmonton Craft Beer Festival has been scheduled for September 17-18, 2021 at the Edmonton Expo Centre.

Local News

  • The 5th Street Food Hall, branding itself as Edmonton’s First Foodhall, has announced its four restaurant tenants, which include Backstairs Burger (an initiative of Chef Levi Biddlecombe, formerly of Why Not?!) and HOM run by Chef Gregory Sweeney, who successfully ran some pop-ups last year. The Food Hall plans to open in June at 10344 105 Street.
  • Tamara Vineberg is at it again with her Bagels for Breakfast fundraising initiative, which sees Montreal bagels sold, then shipped to Edmonton, with proceeds going to the Bn’ai B’rith Youth Organization. Orders for the St. Viateur bagels will be accepted until May 17, 2021, with pick-ups to take place on June 1. On the first day, 279 dozen bagels have already been ordered.
  • Looking ahead for Mother’s Day? Consider this list of patio dining and take-out options.
  • EDify visited The Sandwich Project, which opened last year at 4511 97 Street, and along the same vein, highlight three breakfast sandwiches worth trying.
  • DailyHive has a listicle featuring the best places for cake by the slice in Edmonton.
  • EDify covers the shifts that were forced upon two new breweries in Edmonton because of the pandemic: Irrational Brewing and Longroof Brewing.
  • Several businesses, including a KFC and Little Caesars were destroyed in Sherwood Park from a fire over the weekend. A man has since been charged with arson.
  • Goodwill Industries installed a bee hotel at the Goodwill Impact Centre in northwest Edmonton.

Beyond Edmonton

  • Recipe website Epicurious has made the decision to cut out beef from its new recipes, articles, newsletters, or social media as a way of addressing climate change.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • Our final Downtown Dining Week meal was from Buok. I don’t know why it took us so long to try their fare, but their Downtown Dining Week special was a great way to sample their menu. We found it really satisfying, and loved the bulgogi beef in our rice and noodle bowls. The chicken ginseng broth was also great to sip!

Buok

#TasteYEGDT from Buok

  • Last week, it was too beautiful not to pick up a kouign-amann from Lockstock to enjoy in the sunshine.

Lockstock Coffee

Kouign-amann from Lockstock

Food Notes for April 19, 2021

Making Edmonton Digital Helps Businesses Get Online

The pandemic has accelerated the need for businesses to create and maintain an engaging online presence. Making Edmonton Digital, a partnership between the University of Alberta, City of Edmonton, and Digital Main Street, is helping local businesses with this transition.

Funded by the City of Edmonton and Western Economic Diversification, this free program connects business owners with a consultant who can work with them for a maximum of 12 hours. Services could include learning how to update Google listings, creating websites or accounts on social media channels, and work on branding. The program will run until September, or when they reach a total of 630 businesses. So far, approximately 400 businesses have signed up.

According to Brett Eigner, Marketing Lead on the project, services are tailored to the business owner’s level of understanding. “We walk everyone through the steps carefully and cater [to] each individual and digital literacy level accordingly”, he said. “Whether we are showing them how to edit their webpage or how to use email, everyone gets the utmost respect, care, and attention.”

Of the businesses in the food and hospitality sector that have joined the program, include farmers’ market vendors such as Sunshine Organic, shops like Carol’s Quality Sweets, long-standing restaurants like Blue Willow, and newer establishments like Pine & Dine. Food-related businesses currently make up 67 of the program participants.

Businesses run by individuals or families who may not speak English as their first language, or represent marginalized barriers, often face additional barriers. “We have a range of languages spoken by our consultants,” said Eigner. “When we have had a language not spoken by our team we have arranged to get a translator to assist our work with the business owner.”

Eigner also shared that while they have done some targeted outreach, including with an Indigenous business association and Black-Owned Market, they are hoping to do more over the summer.

Eigner acknowledged that some additional support may be required beyond the 12 hours allotted. Their partner Digital Main Street can offer some extra training, but it is limited. Eigner said they are working through various ideas, but nothing is confirmed yet.

To sign up, businesses can go to the website for more information.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • We loved the Twilight Picnic Experience we were treated to at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden last year, so it’s great to see the idea has expanded to include a brunch option, too! This option is available between 10am-2pm from Thursday to Sundays starting in May. Prices are $60 per adult (and $35 for children) and include an individual box, non-alcoholic beverage, and admission to the Garden.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • The newest episode of The Well Endowed Podcast features an interview with beekeeper and gardener extraordinaire Dustin Bajer.
  • Also on the topic of bees, the Alberta Beekeepers Commission is warning that bee import delays could impact production of honey and canola this year.

What I Ate

  • PSA: just one week left to check out Downtown Dining Week deals, as the event only runs until April 25, 2021. 48 restaurants are offering multi-course meals for $20, $35, $50, and $65. Last week, we were gifted dinner from Sofra – the Kusleme Kebab (lamb medallions) were a perfect medium rare, and the bulgur pilaf was pakced with flavour (and a bit of heat!). Emily loved the pita bread and Biber Ezme (red pepper dip). It was another reminder of how fortunate we are to have so many diverse restaurants in #yegdt.

Sofra

Lamb and scallops from Sofra

  • Friday night was made for balcony dining! Mack and I picked up Downtown Dining Week take-out from our neighbours Tzin and DOSC for a dinner date. We couldn’t get enough of Tzin’s gnocchi with mushrooms and Parmesan cream and bison brisket risotto. Consider mixing and matching meals to try even more restaurants!

Tzin and DOSC

Meals from Tzin and DOSC

  • I love that I am still discovering #yegfood hidden gems, even now. We hit up Hazeldean Bakery last week for the first time, and I had to use Emily for scale of the apple fritters (though we actually ended up enjoying their cinnamon buns more)! Bakeries also have to be one of the few pandemic-proof businesses.

Hazeldean Bakery

Emily loves doughnuts!

Food Notes for April 12, 2021

Downtown Dining Week Returns Amidst Indoor Dining Restrictions

Downtown Dining Week is an annual event organized by the Downtown Business Association. It highlights the hospitality industry in the core, and is typically a fixture on the March events calendar. Having pushed the event back to April this year, it was an unfortunate coincidence that the news about indoor dining restrictions would be implemented on April 9, 2021, just days before the event was due to start.

Running April 13-25, 2021, 48 participating restaurants are offering $20 multi-course lunch or brunch menus, and/or $35, $50 or $65 multi-course dinner menus.

Because of the restrictions, some of the restaurants have had to change course and adjust menu offerings, shared DBA Marketing & Communications Manager Tracy Hyatt. Most menus have been redesigned for take-out, while three restaurants are offering the specials through delivery as well.

In addition, the event has accelerated the timeline for al fresco options. “The restrictions and Downtown Dining Week have also made a lot of participating restaurants open up their patios ahead of the normal patio season,” Hyatt said. “26 restaurants are offering some form of outdoor dining.”

New to Downtown Dining Week is the inclusion of a “fast casual” category; in previous years, only establishments serving more high-end fare were eligible to be included. “Fast casual is a growing dining concept and downtown has some pretty amazing ones, such as BUOK and Rosewood Foods,” said Hyatt. “They are great additions to the food scene and you can’t find them anywhere else in the city.”

A list of menus of participating restaurants can be found on the DBA website, but given the current situation, Hyatt encourages diners to check the social media accounts of individual restaurants for hours and other information.

COVID-19-related News

  • Effective noon on April 9, 2021, indoor dining at restaurants and other food service businesses were again restricted, with no announced end date. While some of the measures echo the restrictions imposed in December, one significant difference is that businesses can still offer outdoor dining. The guidelines specify that “If the patio or facility has a roof, it cannot have more than 1 enclosing wall”; as such, some of the enclosed structures some local restaurants have brought in would have to be modified to fit these specifications. In addition, the restrictions require individuals to “stay seated with their dining party unless using the washroom, paying, or entering/exiting the facility”, which seems to address the comment Premier Kenney made about some patrons transmitting COVID-19 when “table hopping”.
  • The Alberta Hospitality Association continues to request data to support the closure measures, even as studies about indoor transmission rates abound.
  • On the outdoor dining front, the Old Strathcona Business Association is advocating for extended semi-permanent walkways to be installed along Whyte Avenue, while the Downtown Business Association would like to see 104 Street closed to vehicular traffic on weekends for extended patios.
  • Some restaurants across the province have chosen to defy the indoor dining orders, including the Crown & Anchor Pub and Grill on Edmonton’s north side. In December, a waitress at the business required 14 stitches after an altercation with a patron about mandatory masks inside the pub. On the weekend, AHS issued a closure order to cease dine-in services.
  • Premier Kenney projected that large-scale summer events will be able to go forward if vaccination supplies remain consistent, and that most restrictions would be lifted by June.
  • Palette Cafe is struggling with the recent closures to indoor dining, while others like Barb & Ernie’s express their frustration about the hospitality industry being “targeted”.
  • Formerly a ghost kitchen, the Burger Brawl menu will now be offered on the DOSC patio.

Openings

  • Spring means one thing: food truck season has begun! Some new trucks have already started appearing on Edmonton streets, including El Santo Taco Truck and Korean fried chicken truck Oh! Chicken.
  • The Colombian shared that their second cafe, located in the French Quarter at 8816 92 Street, will be opening in a few days.
  • Italia Mia is a forthcoming restaurant to open in the former Il Forno space, at 14981 Stony Plain Road.
  • Barbacoa is a new restaurant in Spruce Grove that opened for take-out only (for now) last week. They specialize in barbecued meats over open flame.
  • Also in Spruce Grove, Alberta’s newest small brewery RavenWolf Brewing opened last week.
  • A & G Burgers is now open on Rice Howard Way, at 10127 100A Street.

Upcoming Events

  • The University of Alberta is offering a free webinar open to the public about the benefits and how to participate in local food systems. The webinar will take place on April 16, 2021.

Local News

  • Dalla is launching Rano’s Take-Out Pop-Up, which will serve up “classic Italian-American dishes that have been popularized in film and in your favourite kitschy Italian restaurants”.
  • The Journal has more on the back story behind Sherwood Park’s first brew pub, 70 Acres.
  • Eleanor and Laurent lands as the Alberta representative on a Readers’ Digest list of the best coffee in every province.
  • Dished highlighted the hot pot kits that can be delivered from Liuyishou Hot Pot.
  • Given the number of likes on this tweet, it’s fair to say that Old Strathcona stalwart Steel Wheels has quite the reputation outside of Edmonton.
  • There is a crowdfunding campaign for Island Grill, a restaurant that “suffered severe damage” from a fire on March 28, 2021. The campaign seeks to raise $20,000.
  • Twyla wrote a sponsored post about the diversity of products available at Bountiful Market.
  • Edmonton Eats is offering a sweet way to celebrate Mother’s Day, with treats traditionally eaten during Eid al-Fitr. The boxes are $20 and have to be pre-ordered for pick-up.
  • Fresh Routes, the social enterprise that set up mobile grocery markets in underserved communities in Edmonton, has had to pause their operations while they review how they can remain sustainable into the future.
  • Future Fields, an Edmonton-based start up helping to produce lab-grown meat, received $2.2 million in seed funding from American venture capital firms.

What I Ate

  • We satisfied our King Noodle House craving with #PhoToGo! The restaurant remains open for take-out.

King Noodle House

Bun Bo Hue from King Noodle House

  • We were lucky enough to be treated to a preview two of the $20 Downtown Dining Week menus from Bao Bao this weekend, one of the new “fast casual” additions to this year’s event. All of their set meal options include one of their signature soup dumplings. In my opinion, their pan-fried bao are particularly fantastic, while Emily loved their dry noodles. We have and will order from them again in the future! Thanks to the Downtown Business Association for arranging the meals.

Bao Bao

Downtown Dining Week meals from BaoBao

Food Notes for April 5, 2021

More Hospitality Businesses Voluntarily Close to Indoor Dining

The number of COVID-19 cases in Alberta continue to rise. Numbers released on April 5, 2021 point to a provincial positivity rate of 9.9%, with 39% of active cases being variants of concern.

Some in the medical community continue to advocate for a return of restrictions. In an open letter to the Premier dated April 1, 2021, the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association recommends an immediate lockdown or circuit breaker, “advising people to only leave their homes for essential services or outdoor exercise.” In an interview with Global Edmonton, University of Alberta infectious diseases expert Dr. Lynora Saxinger expressed her concern about “places where, for example, people have to unmask to eat like in restaurants, food services and things like that.”

With escalating cases, some hospitality businesses are voluntarily and proactively closing indoor dining, mirroring the shift that took place back in November before the Alberta Government mandated in-person dining restrictions in December.

Arcadia, which opened their Manchester Square location in late November, suspended their indoor service on April 1, 2021. They remain open for patio service and take-out:

“This is a very difficult decision, especially being such a new business & still trying to get off the ground. But, the safety of our staff & you the customers is much more important.”

Similarly, Chartier in Beaumont closed to indoor dining as of April 5, 2021, but will continue to offer curbside pick-up and patio service:

“We understand that everyone may not agree with this move. And that’s ok. At the end of the day, we’d rather be remembered as the jerks who cancelled meemaw’s birthday vs. the jerks who played a part in meemaw’s COVID-19 infection.”

Some restaurants have remained closed to indoor dining since November, including Fleisch, NongBu, Northern Chicken, The Local Omnivore, and Jack’s Burger Shack in St. Albert.

COVID-19-related News

  • Sabor’s Downtown location is temporarily closed due a staff testing positive for COVID-19.
  • Transparency is so important for diner trust, so this example from Calgary’s Ship & Anchor Pub is perhaps one to follow in terms of notifying the public of possible transmission even when not required by Alberta Health Services.
  • Cerdo in St. Albert and Spinelli Bar Italia locations have re-opened for dine-in service.
  • Eat North rounded up responses from restaurant operators in the Prairies reflecting back on the year that was, including Chris Sills from Tres Carnales Taqueria and Tres Carnales Rostizado.
  • Alberta Loblaws and Sobeys stores are reporting new COVID-19 cases.

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • Sorrentino’s is hosting its 29th annual Garlic Fest, with cooking classes and wine dinners running throughout the month of April.
  • A free webinar called Restaurant Possible will be hosted on April 14, 2021 to provide information about mental health as well as strategies and tools for moving forward beyond the pandemic.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • Joveena Holmes alerted me to a free cookbook download from Ikea called The Scraps Book, which features recipes to decrease household food waste.

What I Ate

  • Last week during a particularly sunny day I decided to treat myself to another #Eatson118 picnic. This time, I tried Jasmine Belle Cafe, which serves up Colombian cuisine. The patacon piaso was a delicious surprise – light and crispy fried plantain topped with fresh guacamole and chicken, it’s something I’d definitely order again.

Jasmine Belle Cafe

Patacon piaso from Jasmine Belle Cafe

  • Over the weekend, we enjoyed some eats from Culina On the Lake, including this tasty breakfast burrito.

Culina on the Lake

Breakfast burrito from Culina on the Lake

  • It’ll be hard to go back to a scratch-prepped meal after this – the A Capella Catering turkey feast was convenient and delicious, and for our family of three, will be enough for the week.

Acapella Catering

Turkey dinner from A Capella Catering

Food Notes for March 29, 2021

Hotel Macdonald To Launch Its First Pop-Up Restaurant

There is no doubt the hospitality industry has been forced to be innovative during the pandemic. The restaurants inside the historic Fairmont Hotel Macdonald have been no different, pivoting to curbside pick-up, producing pantry staples, and organizing socially-distanced outdoor events to sustain business.

Next month, they’re launching their first ever pop-up restaurant, called Ephemeral. Running over two weekends, April 15-17 and April 22-24, 2021, the Mac has partnered with Edmonton artist Giselle Denis, florist FaBLOOMosity, and Special Event Rentals to evoke a “magical garden sanctuary” in the Wedgewood Room. Guests will enjoy a 4-course meal and two signature cocktails inspired by the floral art and the promise of spring. Tickets are $159 per person, and as with all indoor dining, guests must be from the same household, or the 2 close contacts of a person living alone, in order to dine together.

Danielle Lundy, the Director of Sales & Marketing for the hotel, notes that it was the change in season that ultimately led to this pop-up. “We’ve infused this feeling of renewal into every part of Ephemeral, from the elaborate floral décor, to the forest landscape paintings to our nature inspired menu,” she said.

Executive Chef Jiju Paul embraced the challenge of creating a meal reflective of spring. “Chef Paul’s background growing up on a farm has imparted a deep appreciation for farm to table [and incorporating] fresh ingredients into his cooking style which is a perfect inspiration for this menu,” said Lundy. She promises that the dessert in particular will be an “absolute showstopper.”

Lundy said that the response to Ephemeral has been positive so far, with some seatings nearly sold out. Two other pop-up concepts are in the works.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Edmonton’s first location of Canadian chain Leopold’s Tavern, located in the renovated Strathcona Hotel, is now open. Find them at 10328 82 Avenue.
  • Alberta’s first location of Canadian restaurant chain Pür & Simple opens on March 30, 2021 in Kingsway Mall. They offer brunch, breakfast, and lunch.
  • Edmonton will soon have its first Japanese bakery cafe in Old Strathcona, offering “the best cheese tart in Japan”. Pablo Cheese Tart will open in the spring at 10163 81 Avenue.
  • The Poppy Barn Cafe is now open at #100B, 10235 124 Street.
  • Indian Fusion has relocated to Old Strathcona, in the space formerly occupied by The King and I (8208 107 Street).
  • 70 Acre Brew Co., Strathcona County’s first brewery, is set to open in April.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • Alberta Food Tours relaunched their Alberta Food Finder app in March. Described as an “escape room meets self-guided food tour”, it offers a socially-distanced way to explore the neighbourhood of Kensington in Calgary.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • We feel refreshed after a return to our favourite local getaway, The Prairie Creek Inn, near Rocky Mountain House. Their breakfasts (delivered to our suite) are always such a treat, especially when enjoyed amongst beautiful scenery.

Prairie Creek Inn

Breakfast from The Prairie Creek Inn

  • The staycations over the last year have allowed us to support local businesses in a different way (and to excuse me from doing the cooking!). We brought most of our food again on this trip; I love all of the heat-and-eat products available even now, a year into the pandemic. Pictured:  soups from Drift, pasta and chicken parmesan from Amore Pasta, ramen from Dorinku Osaka, pork adobo from Filistix, and hot dogs from YEG Smoked Meats.

Staycation Provisions

Staycation provisions

Food Notes for March 22, 2021

Hospitality Workers Call for Vaccination Priority

The Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community (EIHC) and the Alberta Hospitality Association released open letters calling on the Government of Alberta to prioritize hospitality workers in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. From the EIHC letter:

“Without mandatory rated PPE for hospitality workers in Alberta, the increased risk of being indoors with unmasked patrons for prolonged periods of time poses a significant risk that can not be overstated.”

On March 22, during Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s regular briefing, she shared instances of restaurants being the site of outbreaks:

“We have seen, for example, very rapid spread in some restaurants where individuals had the variant, were infectious, went to multiple restaurants and spread the virus very quickly in multiple locations in one night.”

In other provinces, including Ontario and Prince Edward Island, restaurant workers will be included in phase two vaccinations.

At present, if Alberta hospitality workers do not have a chronic condition or are above a certain age, they will have to wait until phase three for a vaccine, in spring or early summer.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Banh Mi Cali, offering California-inspired Vietnamese sandwiches, is now open at 10503 Kingsway Avenue.
  • Canadian chain Pur & Simple will be opening up their first Alberta location in Kingsway Mall.
  • It looks like Hoang Long is moving into the space vacated by Prairie Noodle on 124 Street.
  • Ghost kitchen Katsu, operated by SoJu, is now open, serving up breaded and fried meat and seafood.

Upcoming Events

Local News

  • Yelp released their Top 100 Places to Eat in Canada list, sourced from their online community. Edmonton ended up with six restaurants on the list, including Battista’s Calzones, the Italian Centre Shop, The Bedouins, Padmanadi, An Chay, and Hathaway’s Diner. The owner of Battista’s Calzones was floored they made #45 on the list.
  • CBC Radioactive’s latest Best Dishes column focuses on sweet treats available from CH. Cafeteria.
  • The Journal profiled micro-meadery Stolen Harvest, based in Grovedale, Alberta.
  • Siu To, operator of Green Onion Cake Man and the person who is credited with introducing the green onion cake to Edmonton, received some exposure from American food writer Mark Bittman.
  • In the wake of the shootings in Georgia last week, there continues to be discussion about racism towards Asian communities, overt and otherwise. Chef Mai Nguyen posted about one example of this, surrounding the campaigns against and perceptions of MSG.
  • Congratulations to Cask and Barrel, who is marking their ninth year in business this April!
  • NOSH Food Fest, which ran over the weekend in Sherwood Park, was a success. Organizers are planning another event in September.
  • It’ll be interesting to see if businesses like EasyRoutes, which helped design efficient routes for Uproot Food Collective’s delivery drivers, will become more commonplace.
  • Uber Eats has expanded its services to Spruce Grove.
  • More grocery stores in walkable areas are always welcome: a “boutique-style” Safeway will be taking over the former Planet Organic location on Jasper Avenue and 122 Street, while Ottewell residents are joyful about the No Frills that opened in their community.
  • The first FreshCo (the discount chain of the Sobeys/Safeway brand) opened in Edmonton last week at 2011 111 Street.

What I Ate

  • Mack and I have been trying to build in the occasional breakfast and lunch dates as daytimes are the only time we have to ourselves. Last week, we grabbed lunch from MilkCrate – the poutine was the star of the show; I am still thinking about that gravy!

MilkCrate

Sandwiches and poutine from MilkCrate

  • I had forgotten just how much I missed picnics until our first one this year. On Friday, we picked up Eats on 118 take-out from Flava Cafe and Green Onion Cake Man to enjoy at Eastwood Park – everything tastes better al fresco!

Flava Cafe and Green Onion Cake Man

Take-out from Flava Cafe and Green Onion Cake Man

  • We also grabbed a bag of bagels from Green Onion Cake Man – it’s an interesting pandemic pivot from a restaurant serving Chinese cuisine, but the bagels weren’t bad. Plain, but it had a pleasant chew.

Green Onion Cake Man

Green Onion Cake Man bagels

Food Notes for March 15, 2021

Food Festivals Cautiously Optimistic About the Summer

On the heels of a sold-out Flying Canoe Volant this year, it’s clear Edmontonians will be eager for opportunities to gather and enjoy the outdoors, especially as temperatures rise.

The two largest food-related festivals, the Taste of Edmonton and Heritage Festival, have not yet received the green light to proceed this summer. But organizers of both events are ready to modify their plans based on public health guidelines.

Taste of Edmonton had planned to return to Churchill Square from July 22 – August 1, 2021, and already put out a call for food truck vendors in January. Events Edmonton General Manager Donovan Vienneau is confident the area can safely accommodate patrons:

"We’ve got a rather large space, probably the biggest in history. We’ve also implemented a six-foot gap between each of the restaurant tents.”

The Heritage Festival is more optimistic, posting, “There is hope. It was dim a while ago but the chances of us moving ahead are growing.” Executive Director Jim Gibbons indicated they are also planning for a socially-distanced event July 29-August 1, 2021, with ticketing moving entirely online, and the necessary spacing across the park:

“We’re going to keep the number of pavilions down. People will be much more spread out, for sure, if they’re on site.”

Permission to operate the festivals will require approval from the City of Edmonton, Alberta Health Services, and the province.

COVID-19-related News

  • It’s great to see restaurants be as transparent as possible in these times – one example is Baijiu, who chose to close when a staff member was experiencing COVID symptoms; they re-opened several days later. Similarly, Kind Ice Cream closed while awaiting test results of a close contact, and re-opened a couple of days later.
  • The Next Act, Meat, and Pip all re-opened to dine-in service in early March. Cafe Bicyclette re-opened for regular service on March 9 after being closed since late November.
  • The folks behind Vintage Fork were forced to pivot – first to pizza, then to online tea sales – when their Rutherford House-based restaurant was forced to close last year.

Openings

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Bartender James Grant is hosting more virtual cocktail tastings on March 19-20 and April 8-9, 2021. The $60 accompanying kits can be picked up or delivered.
  • Wholly Handmade is hosting Nosh Food Fest on March 20, 2021 at The Agora in Sherwood Park.
  • Save the date for A Taste of Al Fresco, on from March 27-28, 2021. A part of Downtown Spark, a festival happening in March and April, the event will include extended restaurant patios, $15-25 food and drink deals, and a Hot Bevvy Showdown.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • We picked up some comfort food for dinner from Coliseum Steak & Pizza, part of the Eats on 118 event on until the end of March. The lasagna, Caesar salad, and garlic toast was just $15 (though we chose to upsize with meatballs). It hit the spot!

Coliseum Steak and Pizza

Coliseum Steak & Pizza Eats on 118 deal

  • It seemed like too beautiful of a weekend to not indulge in some gelato, so we walked over to La Carraia for a sweet treat.

La Carraia

Emily enjoyed her strawberry gelato