Food Notes for January 24, 2022

On The Edge Coffee Adopts Self-Contained Coffee Roaster

A new kind of ventless coffee roaster is allowing Edmonton’s On The Edge Coffee to release less pollution and tailor its roast to each type of bean.

Bellwether Coffee, based out of Berkeley, California, has created an electric and automated system that allows roasters to operate in spaces without requiring separate ventilation. On The Edge started using the machine at its Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market kiosk in December 2021, becoming the first in Edmonton and one of just a handful of roasters using the system across Canada.

Owner Jodine Chase acknowledged that coffee has challenges when it comes to sustainability, considering the distance it travels to reach consumers in other parts of the world. But transitioning to the Bellwether was a way for On The Edge to cut down on its own emissions. “Roasting accounts for about 15% of the coffee industry’s footprint, and so there’s room to reduce that right here in coffee-consuming countries instead of mainly burdening low- and middle-income coffee-growing countries,” said Chase.

The Bellwether’s air filtration system reduces the volatile organic compounds and particulate matter that traditional roasters release into the atmosphere, she added.

IMG_1053.jpg

Jodine Chase with On the Edge Coffee’s Bellwether Roaster

Another big selling feature of the Bellwether is its consistent product output. Bellwether users have the option to source beans directly from the company, then program the machine to roast it based on a specific profile uploaded by Bellwether for that particular bean. That seamlessness allows roasters with less experience to tap into global expertise through the power of the internet. Currently, 75% of the beans roasted by On the Edge are from Bellwether.

“On my best day, I couldn’t do it as consistent as the (Bellwether) does,” said Jennifer Graham, head barista with On the Edge. Graham said the system permits the creation of roast profiles for beans sourced from elsewhere, or to edit existing profiles if they aren’t satisfied with the results. She believes that coffee roasted in the Bellwether has a cleaner flavour most apparent in light-roast coffees. “In our Ethiopian coffee, you can better taste the bergamot and blueberry notes,” she said.

On the Edge has plans to offer coffee cuppings and tastings in the spring to showcase what the Bellwether can do. They’re also not averse to the possibility of offering tastes of conventionally roasted beans alongside their Bellwether roasted beans to allow consumers the chance to judge the product for themselves.

Currently, most of the roasting is done on Sunday afternoons during market hours, and customers are welcome to stop by to see the Bellwether in action. “Customers really love it,” said Chase. “Most folks coming to farmers’ markets have a real interest in supporting local and supporting growing and food production practices. They can sip a coffee while learning about the farm it comes from as they watch the beans turn from green to brown right in front of their eyes.”

COVID-19-related News

  • Mikado temporarily closed dine-in service and will re-open on January 30, 2022. They remain open for take-out.
  • St. Louis Bar and Grill in St. Albert had to close for two weeks due to staff illness.
  • Restaurants continue to struggle as the pandemic continues, including those downtown that continue to face reduced foot traffic.
  • The Granary, a restaurant in Red Deer, was forced to close after AHS received complaints that staff had permitted guests to dine in after showing the picture of a dog with their identification. They have since been allowed to re-open after demonstrating their understanding of the Restrictions Exemption Program.

Openings

  • Les Moulins La Fayette is a new French bakery that opened on January 14, 2022 at 4460 Calgary Trail. It joins locations in Calgary, and several in Ontario and Quebec.
  • Mama Mia Pizzeria is now open at 6875 Ad Astra Blvd.
  • KB and Co will be opening a location on the north side (16715 127 Street) in February 2022.

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Check out the Chinatown Transformation Collaborative’s Pop-Up Shop, running every weekend at the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market until February 26-27, 2022. Find local products from Caramunchies, Mama Han, and Hungry Zine, with more to be added!
  • Eats on 118 is launching its Lunch Club with an event at Mama Asha Cafe on January 26, 2022. The meal includes an opportunity to learn more about the business owner and their inspiration. Tickets are $25.
  • Chef Table Living is offering several different food tours in conjunction with Ice on Whyte. Adult tickets are $79 and include visits to a couple of restaurants and VIP access to the festival.
  • The Colombian is hosting a Valentine’s Experience featuring a six-course plated menu paired with natural wines on February 12, 2021. Only tables of 4 remain, for $300.

Local News

What I Ate

  • We walked over to check out Ayco Bakery last week. They will maintain their West Edmonton Mall location but bake everything for both shops downtown. I thought their cinnamon roll was tasty, and Emily could not stop talking about her strawberry-glazed donut.
  • Ayco Bakery

Part of Ayco’s baking case

  • We finished Chinatown Dining Week strong with a feast from Spirit Bistro and Namaste India. Thanks to everyone who came out to support the event this year!
  • Chinatown Dining Week

Our spread from Spirit Bistro and Namaste India

  • When Love Pizza offers a great customer appreciation deal at the same time as their amazing mac & cheeza, you order two Big Love size pies! Emily also got to customize her kid-size pizza which was also included as a part of their usual Sunday deal.
  • Love Pizza

You can never have enough mac & cheeza

Food Notes for January 17, 2022

News of Incoming American Chain Disheartens Local Business Owners

On January 13, 2022, it was announced that American chain restaurant P.F. Chang’s would be opening their first Alberta location in Edmonton later this year. To be located in the Currents of Windermere, this would be the chain’s third location in Canada, with existing operations in Montreal and Winnipeg.

Predictably, as has occurred when other international brands enter the Edmonton market for the first time, every media outlet in Edmonton released a story about the forthcoming P.F. Chang’s. At a time when local businesses are challenged because of an unrelenting pandemic with no end in sight, it was especially disheartening to the owners of small establishments.

“The only thing more depressing than trying to maintain your small independent biz during a pandemic is doing it while watching everyone & their dog get a raging hardon for yet another garbage US chain coming to town to serve you bowls of overpriced starch & commodity meat.” – Paul Shufelt, of Workshop Eatery, Woodshed Burgers, and The Greenhouse

“Watching a few more local restaurants close their doors. We are now in the “it’s not worth it” phase. I fear we are entering the death of the small business (under $1 million). When you buy yourself a job and take home all the pressures, unless your plan is to scale…..” – Jimmy Shewchuk, of Prairie Catering, Say Uncle, and May

“If it’s not one thing, it’s another…If you think I’m heartless or driven by profit that I express frustration, you’re mistaken. I’m speaking from a position of survival. And we will not unless this entire situation changes…like, now. We will continue to do what’s necessary to get us to the next checkpoint. We will continue to fight for the survival of our business. We will continue to serve our loyal customers. But fatigue is definitely setting in. And we’re getting tired.” Ariel del Rosario, of Filistix

“Whether or not they’re type of restaurant you personally enjoy, we can all agree that large multinational chains can afford their own advertising. Let’s try to offer more free media coverage to the openings/stories of small independents that make our community vibrant!” – Peter Keith, of Meuwly’s

June’s Delicatessen was the latest local business to announce their closure last week, after many more shuttered their doors in 2021.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Ayco Cafe will be opening downtown at 10551 Jasper Avenue on January 19, 2022.
  • Honey Jam, which serves katsu & udon opened on January 14, 2022. They are located at 8130 Gateway Blvd.
  • Fuzed Kitchen + Bar is now open at 2335 111 Street (formerly a Brewster’s location).

Upcoming Events

Local News

What I Ate

  • Our first (of many) Chinatown Dining Week meals over the weekend involved pho from King Noodle House. It’s such a great deal for $18: large pho, spring rolls, grilled pork balls, and a drink!
  • King Noodle House

King Noodle House Chinatown Dining Week special

  • Mack thinks we’ve created a bubble tea monster in Emily! She tore through a majority of the two fresh fruit bubble teas we picked up from Tea Bar Cafe. They’re offering an amazing $10 Chinatown Dining Week special featuring a bubble tea + a bubble waffle.
  • Tea Bar Cafe

Bubble tea from Tea Bar Cafe

  • We followed that up with a Chinatown Dining Week meal from Syphay, who never disappoints! I love their pad Thai!
  • Syphay

Syphay Chinatown Dining Week special

  • Any day with Brio is a good day – I had been missing their Prairie loaf terribly. If you haven’t tried it already – their pre-order service is so convenient; it means you not only get to skip the line, but also means you don’t necessarily have to stop inside the shop if you prefer not to.
  • Brio Bakery

Goodies from Brio

  • We also stopped by the Green Onion Cake Man this weekend after taking in the Deep Freeze festivities on 118 Avenue. There’s nothing like a salty green onion cake right off the griddle!
  • Green Onion Cake Man

Green onion cakes from Green Onion Cake Man

Food Notes for January 10, 2022

Awn Kitchen survives setbacks with community support

Nothing could have prepared Kaelin Whittaker for the challenges she would encounter while trying to build her business, Awn Kitchen, in the middle of a pandemic. But she’s still standing, and her latest shift has been greeted with tremendous support.

“It’s been a roller coaster…I’ve lost sight of the why, I’ve lost sight of the strength and resiliency of myself, I’ve felt defeat, I’ve felt fear, and a whole slew of other emotions,” she said. “But I have also felt so much positivity, love, grace, and so much pride and happiness. The team at Awn is incredible and willing to pivot and adapt as needed, they are there to support one another and the dream and vision that is Awn, to keep dreaming and keep pushing forward, even when the days are hard.”

Awn Kitchen grew from Whittaker’s home-based business, originally called Ruby Apron, which offered baking and cooking classes out of her home. In June 2021, she opened a brick-and-mortar storefront in the neighbourhood of Lansdowne, fulfilling a dream to have a space that would accommodate those classes and a full-service café. She had started planning it in 2019, before COVID-19 turned everything upside-down.

“I had built a strong foundation for Awn before deciding to expand,” said Whittaker. “I knew Lansdowne needed and wanted a café.”

When Whittaker announced the postponement of all in-person classes in December, the community was disappointed but understanding. And their response was overwhelming when she introduced Awn at Home, which offers prepared meals made with seasonal ingredients.

“We’ve sold out every day, the feedback has been so positive, and it’s been a fun way for us to pivot,” said Whittaker. “It’s something we aim to continue doing once we are back to dine-in and offering in-person classes again.”

Whittaker said two things prompted her to expand: “Wanting more as a business owner and the idea of not wanting to put all of my eggs in one basket!”

She’s worked to shelter her 10 staff from layoffs throughout this period, and has been grateful that her team has consistently been on the same page about the pandemic. Awn has been through three sets of government restrictions, though Whittaker notes that she’s always been ahead of the mandated changes.

“In March 2020 I stopped teaching (in my home-based business) before any restrictions were put in place,” she said. “Late in 2020 I did the same, and I didn’t start teaching again until this July. To me, the virus has always been bigger than you or I. It’s about our community, about our first responders, our frontline workers, and about kids.”

Although the last couple of years have been a whirlwind, Whittaker still has a positive outlook on the future for Awn.

“The community in Lansdowne and beyond have been so receptive to what we are doing both in the café and workshop,” she said. “As we pivot and continue to offer new and exciting things, they’re on board for all that we do. It might sound cliché, but on the tough days it’s the community that keep pushing me forward.”

COVID-19-related News

Openings

Closures

  • June’s Delicatessen in Highlands announced their closure, with their last day being January 16, 2022: “Not to blame it all on ol’ Covey but it’s definitely been a huge factor. We set out to bring the Edmonton community a great lil’ Jewish inspired deli where we could all come together over blintzes, matzo ball soup, Reubens, bagels & much more. What we’ve had to do is change over and over and over again moving us further away from the initial vision we set out to share with all of you.” They will be sharing their new plans for the space at some point.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • Calgary-based cookbook author Julie van Rosendaal had such an overwhelming response to her free online kids cooking camps last week that she’ll be continuing with classes in the evenings and on weekends.

What I Ate

    • We ventured outside over the weekend to pick up lunch from Jack’s Burger Shack, making it easily our longest outdoor walk in a week. It was well worth it though, and they even kicked in a grilled cheese for Emily to make up for the small fries they left off our order last moth. It’s so great having them in #yegdt.

Jack’s Burger Shack

Take-out from Jack’s Burger Shack

    • We were able to get a sneak peek of some of the Chinatown Dining Week deals (a benefit of being a volunteer!). Emily immediately took to the chicken skins from Kim Fat Market. They don’t seem like much, but fried to a crisp and showered with garlic, they’re savoury and incredibly addictive. They’re available for just $10 as take-out from January 13-23, 2022, along with dishes from 17 other participating businesses. I hope you’ll check it out!

Kim Fat Market

Emily and her chicken skins

Food Notes for January 3, 2022

Chinatown Dining Week Returns for a Fifth Year

It’s hard to believe Chinatown Dining Week is now into its fifth year! When a small team of volunteers launched this event back in 2018, we did so because we wanted to encourage the wider community to explore what we believed to be an underappreciated neighbourhood in Edmonton. Five years later, this continues to be the case, and perhaps even more so because of the pandemic.

From January 13-23, 2022, participating businesses are offering special $10 and $18 menus. It is our biggest cohort yet, with a total of 18 participating businesses this year, with 7 of them joining the event for the first time.

We’re coming off our most successful event, thankful that the community rallied around the participating businesses in 2021, just as restaurants were shuttered to in-person dining. This year, many of the businesses are offering takeaway options in addition to dine-in service.

Please consider checking out a new restaurant during Chinatown Dining Week, or perhaps revisiting an old favourite, at a time when they could really use the patronage.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • El Cortez is again hosting Yoga and Tacos on January 11, 2022, with an hour-long yoga session followed by a taco meal.
  • Monsoon Bistro & Bar is hosting a Regional Indian Cuisine & Culture Series event on January 12, 2022, featuring a guest speaker and a four-course menu with wine pairings. Tickets are $145 per person.
  • Chinatown Dining Week returns for its fifth year, January 13-23, 2022! Check out the special $10 and $18 menus being offered by 18 participating businesses.
  • Deep Freeze, the annual winter festival in Alberta Avenue, is scheduled for January 14-23, 2022.

Local News

What I Ate

Happy New Year! It’s felt like a particularly gluttonous holiday season, mostly because heading outdoors for walks (my preferred exercise method) has been non-existent over the past two weeks. While I’m not looking forward to returning to the usual routine, I will be looking forward to more low-key meals, and hopefully, a break in the temperature! I hope you had a good holiday with loved ones as well.

  • Earlier in December, feeling under the weather (and thankful for a negative COVID result), take-out from King Noodle House hit the spot.
  • King Noodle House

Bun Bo Hue for the win!

  • Food trucks in the winter are new to me, but props to the team behind Winter Promenade for their successful first event. The Avila Arepa empanadas helped warm us up, and Emily loved the visit from Santa.
  • Avila Arepa

Avila Arepa empanadas

  • Given the current circumstances, my family has reverted back to take-out only (I managed to dine indoors five times since March 2020), but I will say we were disappointed by a recent OEB brunch order. The serving size seemed unfortunately small, especially for those of us who opted for their signature brunch poutines.
  • OEB

Confit de Canard poutine take-out from OEB

  • Our love affair with Rosewood Foods has spread to my family with this amazing Christmas Eve box – the Black Forest cupcakes and gingerbread crullers in particular were hits.
  • Rosewood Foods

Rosewood Food’s Christmas Eve box

  • We also recreated a birthday tradition we started in the pandemic – enjoying Mack’s favourite carrot cake from Rosewood.
  • Rosewood Foods

All smiles for Rosewood Food’s carrot cake

Food Notes for December 13, 2021

Pandemic Shift for Confetti Sweets Becomes Permanent

Confetti Collective, which started as a pandemic-era side business for local bakery Confetti Sweets, has become a permanent fixture of the company’s brick and mortar shop in Sherwood Park thanks to a warm embrace by customers. Ubiquitous at Edmonton-area farmers’ markets for well over a decade, Confetti Sweets opened up a storefront in Sherwood Park back in 2014. In early 2020 owner Kathy Leskow decided to significantly expand, not knowing a pandemic would soon derail her vision.

“We actually took a big risk and tripled our space with leasing another bay in February 2020,” said Leskow. “To earn revenue for the extra space, we had plans to launch a birthday party program and to open a cafe style concept. COVID became a thing one month later and our plans were put on hold.”

Vendors that had become her “market family” thanks to years of selling alongside them at farmers’ markets had an uncertain future in those initial months after things shut down. “Farmers’ markets had no idea whether they would be able to continue as usual,” said Leskow. “In April 2020 I invited about 15 of them to sell in our space, and it grew from there. Now we have over 50 brands in our store.”

Leskow noted that while this side business was originally a part of the Confetti Sweets umbrella, with so many new products coming into the store and taking over their social media, they eventually decided to spin the effort out into a separate entity called Confetti Collective.

The Collective doesn’t charge the vendors any ongoing fees. “We typically purchase at wholesale prices and sell for retail prices,” said Leskow. “This pays for space in the store and any collective marketing we do. There are no other costs for vendors.”

The growth of their product catalogue, available both in store and through delivery, has been somewhat organic. Customers have requested specific items, and Leskow is also open to housing additional items. “We love new brands,” said Leskow. “They have to be produced in a commercial kitchen, and we try to have a good variety.  For example, we have a great Mexican variety so we won’t take on any more Latin foods at this time.  We do our best to support the brands that have helped us grow.” She shared that some of the most popular items include El Gringo chips, Kick Ass Caramels, Auntie Jean’s Fudge, KGW Popcorn, Chocolicious, and Sherwood Park Soups.

The Collective has been a win-win for Confetti Sweets. “Our average customer spend has doubled if not tripled in the past two years,” said Leskow. “If customers do come in for just a quick dinner solution from the freezer, they usually end up grabbing at least one cookie.”

While Confetti Collective was unplanned, Leskow enjoyed the challenge, and is grateful for the community support. “I kind of went from running a bakery, to running a grocery store, and I am still learning,” said Leskow. “The growth of this ‘side business’ has been super exciting. You don’t know how special it is when we start placing larger and larger orders with these local companies. It truly makes their day!”

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • I’m looking forward to Edmonton’s first Winter Promenade event on December 19, 2021 from 11am-4pm at 116 Street & 100 Avenue. There will be food trucks, among live entertainment. It’s been years since we organized a What the Truck?! on Victoria Promenade, but looking back, that was always one of our best locations.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

What I Ate

This will be my last Food Notes until the new year. Thanks to everyone for reading, and a safe and happy holidays to you and your loved ones!

  • I am definitely a creature of habit, and when I find a dish I love at a restaurant, it takes a lot for me to stray from that favourite. That’s definitely the case with the fried instant noodles with minced pork at Gui Lin. There’s no other place I’ve found with this dish, which holds up particularly well as take-out (and tastes great as leftovers). It’s definitely worth the trip out to Chinatown.
  • Gui Lin

Fried instant noodles with minced pork from Gui Lin

  • We wouldn’t make it out to St. Albert very often, but when we did, a stop at Jack’s Burger Shack was a must. Now, we have our very own Jack’s a block away from our home in #yegdt! We grabbed dinner there over the weekend – their hangover style buns (two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of bread) are a must, and we love their poutine. We’ll be back again soon!
  • Jack’s Burger Shack

Our Jack’s Burger Shack order

Food Notes for December 6, 2021

RGE RD First in Edmonton to Require Deposits for Reservations

In October, RGE RD became the first restaurant in Edmonton to require deposits for some reservations. No-shows and last-minute cancellations have been increasingly problematic for local restaurants. But restaurants around the world were grappling with the issue long before the pandemic began, leading fine dining establishments in particular to begin taking deposits or upfront payments for reservations.

Caitlin Fulton, co-owner of RGE RD, said they had been mulling the decision to implement a deposit system for months. “We found that once dine in service resumed, we had full bookings on Fridays and Saturdays, with wait lists of thirty people,” said Fulton. “Then we would have people not showing up or cancelling last minute. It was making me cry, because we confirm every reservation the day before. On some nights, we had up to 10 no-shows or cancellations. We only have 16 tables so it was a big impact.”

Fulton shared that it was a trip to the west coast that was the tipping point. “[Co-owner and partner] Blair and I went to Vancouver at the end of summer and it cemented our decision,” said Fulton. “In Vancouver we found that at restaurants of a certain category you couldn’t make a reservation without a deposit.”

On October 8, 2021, RGE RD began requiring a deposit of $10 per person for reservations on Fridays or Saturdays (weekdays are exempt because of a smaller demand for tables). The deposit is refunded as soon as guests dine in, or if cancellations are made 24 hours in advance. “I expected pushback and that’s why we hesitated,” said Fulton. “And then we implemented it and nothing happened. The odd person has asked questions about it, but honestly there has been such little feedback that I was astonished.”

Their no-show rate has decreased substantially to just three in total since they started the policy. “It’s been enough of a deterrent,” said Fulton.

Fulton said that the last twenty months has required constant adaptation (RGE RD offered elevated heat-at-home meals for a time). Once The Butchery, a complementary business that offers fresh meat, charcuterie, and prepared foods, opened in November 2020 the business found its footing. “In the first shut down in March of 2020 we were stuck with a lot of food that we ended up donating,” said Fulton. “In subsequent shut downs we had the ability to redirect the food to The Butchery and we ended up having more traffic because restaurants were shut down and people were looking for special experiences at home. The Butchery is what kept us insulated from the highs and lows.”

When asked about the potential for the Omicron variant to derail this holiday season, Fulton is cautiously optimistic. “We’re just hopeful that if everyone adheres to the restrictions and gets vaccinated, that we can continue on in a safe way.”

Openings

  • Oodle Noodle continues its expansion, this time into St. Albert (330, 935 St. Albert Trail) and Airdrie (10, 105 Main Street).

Closures

  • Prairie Fish ‘N Chips announced that they will be permanently closing their storefront on January 1, 2022: “The pandemic combined with our name change (wouldn’t change it FOR THE WORLD, we knew this was a risk we’d run and we stand behind it) and general overfishing and supply issues have all contributed to it not being sustainable for us anymore.” They will still be available through Skip the Dishes in mid-January.
  • The Dapper Beaver announced that it is permanently closing in January. Back in September, the business closed its cafe space, but the roastery remained.
  • Love Pizza closed its St. Albert location at the end of October. They are hopeful that it is temporary until they are able to secure a smaller space.

Upcoming Events

  • Christmas in Little Italy returns December 12 and 19, from 12-4pm. Roast marshmallows, enjoy free hot chocolate, and sample some roasted chestnuts!
  • Learn how to bake babka virtually with Larry Harris of Bonne Vie Bakery on December 19, 2021. For non-Jewish Federation of Edmonton members, the ticket cost is $36.

Local News

What I Ate

  • It was our first time trying YEG Pizza on Wheels, which just opened up in the Don Wheaton YMCA Downtown. We were swayed by the idea of a hot dog-stuffed crust, and it didn’t disappoint! With a ton of cheese and meat (we ordered the Canadian classic), it felt a bit indulgent, but Emily especially enjoyed the hot dog bites.
  • YEG Pizza on Wheels

Canadian classic with hot dog stuffed crust from YEG Pizza on Wheels

  • It’s certainly been a while since I’ve hit up my go-to work lunch T & D Noodle House, but their consistency is a large part of their charm. I love their grilled chicken and spring roll vermicelli bowl.
  • T and D Noodle House

Two colour vermicelli bowl from T & D Noodle House

  • I was lucky enough to be hosted on the weekend by the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald for their Festive Brunch. It felt as comfortable as possible, given the circumstances, with tables spread out, and sanitizer and disposable gloves for use at the buffet stations. The food selection and quality was stellar. But it was really that legendary Fairmont service standard that shone, with staff at every turn ensuring guests had a warm and memorable experience. Although their brunches are sold out for the holidays, they are booking for Sundays in January for seatings from 10:30am-12:30pm. Thanks for the wonderful hospitality!
  • Hotel Macdonald

Customized dessert crepe at the Hotel Mac

Food Notes for November 29, 2021

Restaurant May opens at the Art Gallery of Alberta

May is the newest restaurant to open at the Art Gallery of Alberta, occupying the space that formerly housed Zinc, which closed permanently last fall. May’s soft opening comes about five months after the AGA announced that Prairie Catering would exclusively operate its food service, events, and facility bookings.

The name of the restaurant links back to owner Jimmy Shewchuk’s own family heritage. “Both of my grandparents were farmers in Vegreville,” said Shewchuk. “I remember getting our hands dirty in May, and the name celebrates the start of the work instead of just the harvest.”

That connection to farmers underlies executive chef Doreen Prei’s approach to creating the menu at May. Specifically, she took advantage of the restaurant’s proximity to the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market. “We visited the market every weekend in the process of opening. We wanted to ensure things were available for us but also needed to be flexible with what they have,” said Prei. “Planning a menu around farmers was super fun.”

Among the local producers that make up 80% of the menu, May sources from Ocean Odyssey Inland, Lacombe Fresh, Four Whistle Farm, Reclaim Farm, Mo-Na Food, and Purple Gate Haskap Orchard. Because it is producer-driven, Prei anticipates the menu will change every three months.

Prei has created dishes that have been inspired by her surroundings and her past. For instance, images of snow falling on cows led to her decision to plate braised short rib with kohlrabi foam, a dish she calls “full-on Alberta, with farro and dark green kale.”

Or, the wild mushroom dish recounts her memories of trekking through the woods. “It’s made from a variety of seven wild mushrooms, served with black garlic emulsion, sunchoke chips, and a tiny touch of greens,” said Prei. “I found lots of mushrooms as a child and when you walk through the forest you hear a crunch on the treeline so this is my homage to that.”

Prei has the distinction of not only working at Zinc when it first opened in 2010, but also serving as the executive chef when it closed in 2020. However, Prei has no issues with returning to the Gallery again, as she professes a deep connection to the space. “I was pregnant [while working] in that building, and have always considered it my third child,” said Prei. “May is a totally different restaurant, and people get a different vibe.”

The interior has been updated with natural elements, and features art pieces on loan from the Gallery’s rental program. The restaurant plans to offer lunch beginning some time in the new year, and though brunch is served in conjunction with the Downtown Business Association’s Holiday Light-Up, it won’t be an ongoing occurrence.

After 20 months of not cooking for diners, May feels particularly close to Prei’s heart. “I didn’t cook for people for so long because of the pandemic, so I can’t wait to feed people,” said Prei. “It’s like people are coming to my house. It’s very personal for me.”

Openings

Upcoming Events

Local News

  • Some restaurants are facing supply chain delays, including Pho Tau Bay, who was forced to close when they ran out of rice noodles.
  • CoffeePass is back with a winter edition featuring 30 local cafes. This iteration is priced at $39.
  • Sharon sampled a trio of pasta restaurants, including Basil Pasta Bar, Ragazzi, and Dalla.
  • Edify checked out Blue Truck Barbecue and Let’s Grill Sushi.
  • Twyla has suggestions of how to travel through food at several local restaurants, including Dadeo’s, XO Bistro, Narayanni’s, and Three Vikings.
  • Linda is giving away $1,000 worth of gift cards to local restaurants and businesses for those subscribing and commenting on her YouTube channel.
  • Police seized $60,000 of cash and drugs from Day & Night Pizza last week.
  • Safeway is now open in Oliver in the location formerly occupied by Planet Organic (12210 Jasper Avenue).
  • It was great to learn about the partnership between The Organic Box and the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op to launch the Khair for All food box, offering discounted produce targeting families facing food insecurity.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Dustin Bajer has started The Bee Community, a “space that supports small-scale and backyard beekeepers with classes and networking opportunities to manage honeybees using techniques that align with nature.”
  • Yellowhead Tribal College has partnered with AltaGreen to offer a new Vertical Farming Operator Certificate Program.

What I Ate

  • We still haven’t exhausted the restaurant options within walking distance of our home. On the weekend, we ordered take-out from Delux Burger Bar in Ice District. It’s been years since we’ve been to Delux (their tiny shopping carts were whimsical and unique when they first opened), but of what we tried, the mushroom burger was the standout.
  • Deluxe Burger Bar

Our Delux Burger Bar order

Food Notes for November 22, 2021

Bonne Vie Bakery Celebrates First Birthday

Bonne Vie Bakery, which specializes in artisan sourdough bread, commemorated their first anniversary this month. Bonne Vie was a part of a large contingent of small businesses that opened during the pandemic after the province relaxed the rules around the preparation and sale of home-prepared low-risk foods in June 2020.

Owner Larry Harris started the microbakery in November 2020 after losing his job at MacEwan that summer, and the subsequent twelve months have been a whirlwind.

“I’m dumbfounded as to how well things have gone,” said Harris. “A year ago, we baked a dozen loaves of bread, and we wanted to see if people would pay money for it, and they did! Yesterday, we baked a record eighty loaves of bread.”

He credits the rise of social media platforms as one of the reasons for Bonne Vie’s success. “I don’t think I could have done this ten years ago,” said Harris. “But with Instagram in particular, it helps to spread the word about something and get you noticed.”

For Harris, it was also fortuitous that he landed a spot on the fourth season of CBC’s The Great Canadian Baking Show, which began airing in February 2021. “Before the show was announced we were selling out in two to three hours,” said Harris. “After the show, everything was selling out in fifteen minutes.”

His appearance on the show also led to a connection with Get Cooking Canada, where he was booked soon after to conduct online sourdough classes. It’s also fed back into his business in a number of ways, including being able to sell bread baking tools such as proofing baskets and bread bags to students through Bonne Vie directly, and creating new customers for his bread products. “It’s neat that the customers take the classes and learn how to make sourdough but they also keep buying bread every week,” said Harris.

Bonne Vie bread is also used to create Partake’s signature croque ‘mon’ soubise sandwich. After the restaurant’s previous supplier closed down, Harris met with owner Cyrilles Koppert about the potential partnership. “I had to make lots of practice loaves and finally got it right,” laughed Harris. Although the volume for the contract is modest, Harris is pleased with the validation. “This is a well-known restaurant saying they want your product,” said Harris.

Harris is keenly aware that his home kitchen cannot meet the increasing demands, but recognizes that a significant expansion has to make financial sense. A space they were interested in fell through over the summer, but they are in no rush to secure another spot. “The right space would allow me to substantially grow and have some employees and economies of scale, but it has to be the right place,” said Harris. “It’s hard to find that right community, and try to keep it close to where we are [now]. We have to think about the customer and how we want to serve them.”

For the holidays, Bonne Vie will be offering Christmas cookie boxes, and so far has had great feedback on a new hot chocolate mix they just added to their product line.

Harris is hopeful that Bonne Vie can continue into the future, but acknowledges the challenges of running a small business. “I’ve never been so happy when doing Bonne Vie and baking for people and seeing the joy of people getting their bread and breaking into it,” said Harris. “But it takes a lot of work for an individual to put themselves out there and create their dream. Support all of these little businesses that have started up – they need the support from the community.”

Openings

  • Halawa Lebanese Bakery is open at 9951 170 Street.
  • Food truck YEG Pizza on Wheels has moved into the Don Wheaton YMCA at 10211 102 Avenue.
  • Twins Restaurant, offering Chinese and Western cuisine, is now open at8331 Chappelle Way SW.

Upcoming Events

  • The Brick & Mortar Festival Vignettes Design Series now doesn’t have an opening date. Taproot wrote a feature about the event.
  • The Old Strathcona Business Association is hosting Winter Whyte Light Up on November 27, from 4-7pm, with entertainment, family activities, food vendors, and some farmers’ market vendors opening late that night.

Local News

  • Congratulations to The Butchery on their first birthday!
  • Kitchen by Brad is offering Stew/Soup & Bagel for lunch on Fridays from November 26-December 10, 2021. Their from-scratch bagels are also available by the half-dozen.
  • The latest Best Dish column features A Bite of Brazil.
  • Out of Bounds Restaurant located on Cattail Crossing, is drawing non-golfing diners in with a menu designed by Larry Stewart (formerly of Hardware Grill).
  • This year’s gingerbread house at Duchess is a recreation of Whoville from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. As in previous years, those who donate new underwear, socks, mittens, or warm hats for the Bissell Centre will be entered into a draw to win a chance to destroy the gingerbread structure. Co-owner Garner Beggs spoke to CBC about their fundraising drive.
  • Candid Coffee Roasters collaborated with Alley Kat Brewery to create Candid Coffee Porter.
  • Edmonton AM received lessons in Chai 101 from New Asian Village and in bubble tea from TeaCup2Go.
  • Chef Joakim Gomes is the new executive chef at The Westin.
  • There are many local businesses delivering or packaging goods for the holidays, including Bloom Cookie Co.’s cookie boxes, Roasti Coffee’s gift box with a portion of proceeds to be donated to CASA Foundation, social enterprise Edmonton Eats’ holiday cultural cooking boxes, cookbook, and spice blends, and the Sturgeon Hospital Community Foundation’s Stars Box featuring products from Meuwly’s, Jacek, and Riverbend Coffee Roasters, among others.
  • 10 year old Edmontonian Kyssara Mueller is hosting a cooking show on Telus Optik TV.
  • Julie Van Rosendaal talks about adapting recipes to potential supply chain-related shortages. Local shops Blush Lane and Earth’s General Store are warning about supply gaps in organic and natural foods.
  • The Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Castle Downs has started a “take-what-you-need, share-what-you-can” community pantry.

What I Ate

  • It’s great to see life again in the restaurant space at the Art Gallery of Alberta. May, from the folks behind Say Uncle and Chef Doreen Prei, opened last week. I was fortunate to have been hosted for a meal. Standout dishes included the Arctic char and the braised short rib (I love a good charred kale). Thee restaurant will also be open for brunch during the Downtown Business Association Holiday Light Up celebrations.
  • May

Cocktails at May

  • We tried Siam Thai Kitchen for the first time this weekend and it won’t be our last! The flavour of the pad Thai and tamarind shrimp were delicious, even after sitting in take-out containers for some time. Huge portions also meant enough for another meal the next day.
  • Siam Thai Kitchen

Order from Siam Thai Kitchen

  • We also ordered from Thamel Bistro. The transit time wasn’t as kind to the momos but we preferred the chicken to the pork filling.
  • Thamel Bistro

Meal from Thamel Bistro

  • We stopped by at Dalla’s A Mano Holiday Market on Saturday. It will be running again on December 4 and 18 from 11am-3pm, featuring vendors and roasted chestnuts.
  • Dalla

Elisa Zenari roasting chestnuts at Dalla

Food Notes for November 1, 2021

Jack’s Burger Shack to Open Location Downtown

St. Albert eatery Jack’s Burger Shack announced plans to open its second location, in Downtown Edmonton at Jasper Avenue and 104 Street.

This expansion is a slight shift from Jack’s pre-pandemic plans. Back in February 2020, Jack’s was primed to become the anchor commercial tenant in Rohit’s Stadium Yards project, but then COVID-19 shut everything down. “I wanted to put it on hold,” said Jack’s owner Tu Le. “I had to put all our energy in the [existing] restaurant to get the take out program air tight, so I didn’t have time to open a new restaurant. I think they got tired of waiting and asking.”

Jack’s, like all other hospitality businesses, had to adapt when in-person dining was halted in March 2020. “When we created Jack’s, I never thought people would take our food to go,” said Le. “[Customers are] watching us cook, and we’re chatting with people sitting at the bar. But everything that made us a quaint neighbourhood place changed. If you look at our numbers in 2019, 35% of our business was take-out. We had to bump it to 100%.”

Le says they were fortunate that the community has to support Jack’s in spite of the changes, including still not offering dine-in services at their original location. “People embraced our take-out program,” said Le. “Burgers and fries are geared towards take-out, and we’re lucky that we’re in St. Albert and have a strong following.”

Le also credits their forthcoming move into Downtown to “pure luck”. When a real estate broker made him aware that the former Oodle Noodle location was available, Le’s low-ball offer was, to his surprise, accepted by the landlord. “With the cost being that low, if we can do a little bit of take-out and [offer indoor dining] with the vaccine passport and more space [than the St. Albert location], then we can make a go of it,” said Le. “It’s still a risk with the pandemic and restrictions, but we know more now than we did, so I feel more confident opening a place now.”

Le hopes the new shop will be open in 4-6 weeks, and promises that the menu and prices will mirror the original restaurant. The plan is to be open five days a week. “It will be a place where you can get a good quality meal that is quick and affordable, and a friendly place where you can have a chat with one of the staff,” said Le. “I can’t really do that in St. Albert [right now], but with a little more space we can get back to that and get to know everybody [in the neighbourhood]. I miss that in St. Albert.”

COVID-19-related News

  • At least 14 businesses in the province were issued closure orders or had their permits suspended due to failure to comply with the restrictions exemption program.
  • On October 25, 2021, customers entering businesses participating in the restrictions exemption program must have proof of two doses of a two-dose series of vaccines. Some restaurants interviewed say it contributes to guests feeling safer.
  • District 102’s Craft Cafe (located at the top floor of Edmonton City Centre Mall) has now re-opened.
  • District Cafe is gearing up to re-open in “the coming weeks”, and they will also continue to sling Young & Restless Pizza in the evenings.

Openings

  • Stanhope Eatery and Bar opened up back in August at 4208 Calgary Trail (formerly a Sorrentino’s location).
  • California Pizza Kitchen has broken ground for its first Canadian location. It will be built in the Currents of Windermere. It is expected to open next year.

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Jasper Park Lodge is hosting a new event called A Weekend With…featuring Duchess’s Giselle Corteau. The event runs November 5-7, 2021 and starts at $749 per might, based on double occupancy.
  • Filistix’s Kamayan Feast returns on November 6, 2021. They will have two seatings but will also offer take-out.
  • The Northern Light Dining Experience will take place at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden from November 27, 2021 – January 9, 2022. Diners will enjoy their meals in domes amidst the garden’s Luminaria fixtures. Tickets are $125 per person and $50 for children aged 3-12.

Local News

What I Ate

I’m on vacation next week, so I won’t be posting Food Notes on November 8. Your regularly scheduled update will return on November 15 – see you then!

  • I met up with Linda last week for an outdoor lunch at The Hallway Cafe. It’s always great to support their program, which offers at-risk youth with the opportunity to learn hospitality skills through a restaurant setting. The half donair pizza was satisfying, and paired nicely with a hot soup to sip outside.
  • Hallway Cafe

Half donair pizza and soup of the day

  • I was lucky enough to be gifted an advent calendar from Evoolution. It’s great to see so many local businesses creating their own advent calendars. Evoolution’s first-ever calendar includes twenty-four 15mL oils, vinegars, blends, and sea salts, with short recipe videos that will be posted each day of the calendar to make it more interactive. It would make a beautiful gift, with artist Jason Carter lending his talents to the cover. The calendar retails for $59.95 and will be available after November 15.
  • Evoolution

Evoolution advent calendar

Food Notes for October 25, 2021

Jacek Chocolate Couture Shifted Online To Meet National Demand

When the pandemic shut things down in March 2020, Jacek Chocolate Couture was forced to shift their business online like so many others. Owner Jacqueline Jacek recalls wondering whether people would still be seeking out the company’s products during that time. “When the pandemic started, we thought, ‘Who is going to be buying luxury high end chocolate?’”, said Jacek. “But our core purpose of spreading joy is what made the difference.”

Early on, Jacek launched a campaign allowing customers to send sweet hugs to loved ones, offering chocolates with messages such as ‘thinking of you’ and ‘virtual hugs’. “More than ever, we see people sending love and joy through chocolate,” said Jacek. “In seasons where they couldn’t catch up with people, people are choosing Jacek to spread joy.”

Jacek Chocolate is among the few chocolate suppliers in the province who have achieved certification with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which enables them to ship their products across the country. This was especially important in the pandemic, as the demand for Jacek has grown Canada-wide.

Jacek Chocolate also had to shift their popular chocolate tastings to a virtual model, where chocolates are now shipped to attendees prior to the session. While Jacek won’t rule out a return to in-person events in the future, there are certain advantages to the online model. “It breaks down geography,” said Jacek. “Now we can present to guests across Canada.”

the business did have to make some significant changes as a result of these shifts, including closing their 104 Street boutique back in May 2020. In hindsight, Jacek acknowledges that it was the right call. “When the pandemic hit, we didn’t know it would last two years,” said Jacek. “But it wasn’t like we had to pull our brand completely, as we are still downtown through retail partnerships like Credo.”

Last week, the business announced that their beloved advent calendars sold out online in less than two days. Even Jacek couldn’t pinpoint the reason behind the frenzy. “It was our eighth year [of offering advent calendars], and they usually sell out in two weeks,” said Jacek.

The business is not publicly sharing the numbers of calendars they are producing, but Jacek did say the quantity exceeds previous years. “Our real struggle is that we don’t freeze the chocolates; we make them à la minute, and they are hand packaged,” said Jacek. “That is our true limitation and we’d have to compromise.”

For those disappointed that they weren’t able to reserve a calendar, the business is in the process of readying other special holiday products, including egg nog meltaways and limited edition hand-painted chocolate ornaments. People are encouraged to join the mailing list as subscribers are notified about new items first.

Jacek has learned a lot about her business over the last two years. “One of the biggest lessons was simplification,” said Jacek. “And really understanding what your core business is and focusing on that.”

COVID-19-related News

  • Spruce Grove restaurant Broadway & Grand had originally chosen not to participate in the Restrictions Exemption Program, but has since reversed this decision because they are “days away from going out of business due to these new restrictions.”

Openings

Upcoming Events

Local News

What I Ate

  • We grabbed take-out from JustCook Kitchens for the first time on Friday. The ordering interface on the app wasn’t as seamless as we thought it might be, as separate orders had to be initiated for each concept. We also couldn’t place an order ahead of time, which seems like a pretty basic function (and one we rely heavily on for take-out orders). The Backstairs OG burger itself was good (the bacon was especially crispy), but hopefully the process eventually matches the quality of the food.
  • Backstairs Burger

OG Backstairs Burger

  • We were also invited by Explore Edmonton to try some of the businesses included on their Old Strathcona Dining Pass. The deals are valid one year from the date of downloading the pass, but some of the offers are valid for those dining in only. As our family isn’t comfortable with indoor dining, we chose to grab take-out. The arepas from Avila Arepa were fantastic. I had the namesake arepa, with oven roasted pork, cheddar cheese, tomato, arugula and mild spicy aurora sauce. Mack ordered the chacaito, with pulled beef and house-made cheese. We were both wowed by the portion size and the freshness of the ingredients. For those dining in, Avila Arepa’s offers a free order of arepitas with the purchase of two arepas.
  • Avila Arepa

Avila arepa’s namesake arepa

  • At Yelo’d (who has the cutest outdoor take-out window, not dissimilar from Overflow across the street), their buy one, get one free offer is hard to pass up. We each got a scoop of ice cream. Emily downed her mango ice cream, and Mack and I loved the full flavours of our respective coffee and chocolate peanut butter scoops. We were appreciative that the ice creams also weren’t overly sweet. Thanks again to Explore Edmonton for hosting us!
  • Yelo’d

Chocolate peanut butter ice cream from Yelo’d