Date Night: The Cavern and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

This is a bit of a composite “Date Night” post, as I had planned for a pre-symphony visit to The Cavern before an outing to the Winspear Centre last Friday. But an intense craving for wine and cheese hit me on Thursday, and I gave in.

The Cavern is the newest storefront to open up on the 4th Street Promenade, and in spite of being first and foremost a cheese shop, owner Tricia Bell has designed a dine-in concept that easily transitions from day to night. Early birds can head to The Cavern for an espresso and a bite of breakfast in the morning, while downtown office workers might be more interested in her daily grilled cheese lunch options. For the after work crowd, The Cavern offers wine and spirits alongside meat and cheese boards, great for some nibbles leading up to dinner, or as the main attraction before a night out on the town.

Mack and I walked in to a near full house that Thursday, and snagged the last two seats at the bar. During our previous visits, Tricia and the rest of her staff have always been warm and welcoming, and tonight was no different. It was clear they were all very busy trying to manage the room and handling new walk-ins, but we never felt rushed or not taken care of.

The Enomatic system makes it ideal for The Cavern to serve small 3 ounce pours of wine in addition to 6 or 9 ounce glasses, but Mack and I were fine with a regular glass each. For those interested in pairings, the cheese menu lists both wine and beer selections.

The Cavern

Malbec and Cava

We had to choose between a cheese board for two featuring three cheeses ($19) or a cheese and meat board with two of each ($24). We opted for the latter, and selected two meats from a list of five, and two cheese from a list of twenty. Tricia was a great help in answering our questions and guided us to a Quebec washed-rind cheese, Le Douanier, with a unique vegetable ash centre. It was soft and mild, with a lovely creamy texture. Our other cheese choice was Sylvan Star’s award winning Grizzly Gouda.

The Cavern

Meat and cheese board, with all beef salami and prosciutto di parma

The board was beautifully presented, with some fruit, fresh bread, and dollops of cherry jam and jalapeno jelly. I also loved the ability to imprint on the board itself with chalk, a seamless way to identify multiple items.

The Cavern

Cheers!

The Cavern was a wonderful place to spend the evening, and one that we will be returning to again.

The following evening, Mack and I walked over to the Winspear Centre for Radio from the Head, a show in the “Late Night with Bill Eddins” series. It has been a while since we last took in one of these concerts, but we knew we were in for an entertaining night, mostly due to the conductor’s personality and ease on stage.

Late Night with Bill Eddins

The beautiful Winspear Centre

I was particularly drawn to this show because of the promise of a song to be paired with chocolate. Symphonic Chocolates by Maxime Goulet is composed of four movements, where the audience was invited to eat a different chocolate during the corresponding movement. The ESO partnered with local chocolatier Carol’s Quality Sweets, who produced the custom boxes of chocolates which were sold prior to the performance for $5 each.

It was an innovative multi-sensory experience that reminded me of Karen Brooks’ presentation at Feast in Portland which involved a communal tasting component, and the trend of food deliberately being paired with music. While we weren’t floored by all of the pairings, Mack and I enjoyed the dark chocolate which accompanied a theme cloaked in mystery, and a mint chocolate coupled with a movement reminiscent of a spring breeze.

Late Night with Bill Eddins

Chocolates!

The show’s special guest was Christopher O’Riley, known for his piano interpretations of Radiohead. Mack, more familiar with Radiohead than I, was drawn to O’Riley’s performances of the three Radiohead songs. And though we can appreciate the difficulty of the four-hands Stravinsky piece, its 33 minute length was a rather bulky way to end the late-night concert.

“Late Night with Bill Eddins” will be back in the 2013-14 Edmonton Symphony Orchestra calendar. No mention of chocolates, though.

The Cavern
2, 10169 104 Street
(780) 455-1336
Monday-Thursday 7am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 7am-11pm, Sunday 10am-5pm

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Winspear Centre, 4 Sir Winston Churchill Square

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra: Late Night Paris

Two weeks ago, Mack and other social media folks were invited to attend an Edmonton Symphony Orchestra concert as a thank-you for having blogged about their shows in the past year. It was a nice gesture, and we happily accepted the tickets.

The tickets say “ESOBLOGGERS” in the top left corner!

The show was Late Night Paris, their second in a series that debuted this year with a later start time (9:30 p.m.), no intermission, and is billed as “interactive and spontaneous” with an opportunity to chat with Conductor Bill Eddins. The concerts also feature live jazz in the lobby afterwards, making for a very full night.

Before the show, we met up with Philip Paschke, the ESO’s New Media Specialist, and organizer of the blogger appreciation event, at Moriarty’s. I was tempted to order a dessert (made by Duchess!), but stuck with a drink. While I enjoyed the very pink Bellini, the stem of the glass was sticky. Ick.

Bellini

The group eventually made their way to the Winspear, and then parted ways, as we were all given the choice of where we wanted to sit. Mack, Jeff, Brit and I all took the plunge and opted for a seat in the Choir Loft, behind the stage.

Jeff and Brittney

The Choir Loft definitely provided me with a different perspective of the orchestra. Not only were we able to watch the audience from our seats, but spy on the musicians as well, and notice all the small details (page turning, mallet swapping) that go unseen when facing the stage.

The audience

The orchestra

That said, an unfortunate consequence of our placement was an inability to hear what was being said into the microphones, as the speakers in the Winspear Centre face the opposite direction. Brittney said that she didn’t have any trouble discerning the banter between Eddins and Conductor Luke Waldin, but for me, it felt a bit like watching the one-sided conversations with the teacher in Charlie Brown – after some muffled sounds, the audience would erupt in laughter.

Bill Eddins and Luke Waldin

As advertised, the tone of the evening was very light – at one point, Waldin even walked on stage, just before Eddins was about to begin another piece, with a glass of wine in his hand. The mood was noticeably more carefree than some concerts I have been to in the past – I can see how this series would appeal to a wider range of people who might appreciate music but may not have the knowledge that more serious patrons do.

As for the music, I loved the Bizet Symphony in C Major – spirited and uplifting, it was a joy to listen to. Eddins is always fun to watch too – he conducts with his whole body, complete with kicks and full arm sweeps.

The ESO has introduced their concert line-up for the 2010-11 year, and Late Night with Bill Eddins will be back. Your next opportunity will be on January 21, 2011, for Late Night Percussion.

You can read Jeff’s thoughts about the night here and Brit’s post here.