“A Very Sexy Party” at Eden Lilly

There was an intriguing invitation to something billed as “a very sexy party” in the latest Kerstin’s Chocolates newsletter I was sent last week. “A collective of likeminded business who like to have fun would like to invite you to share in something chic,” it went on. Among the businesses were Kerstin’s, Leva, Elegant Touches, To Be in Pictures, and Eden Lilly, where the party was to be held. Food and drink were to be expected, but beyond that, I didn’t know what to anticipate. Mack agreed to come with me, and off to Whyte Ave we went on Friday night.

I think the party was most interesting to me because the collective was outside of any established group, such as Keep Edmonton Original or Original Fare, but in my mind, was a great way to cross-promote each other.

When we arrived, we were greeted by someone at the door who checked our name off the guest list (150 people were anticipated, we were told later), and given two drink tickets. Cosmopolitans, wine, and beer were available, and we happily imbibed.

With my Cosmo

Eden Lilly was definitely not meant to house large groups of people for any lengthy period of time (the space was rather stuffy and humid by the end of our stay), but the organizers had done a great job in setting the atmosphere. A DJ had set up shop at the cash counter (which answered my question of whether or not we would be asked to buy anything), the lighting was perfect for a cocktail party, and beautiful flower arrangements were scattered on tables throughout the store.

The spread (containing a divine baked brie)

Kerstin’s had provided the chocolate for a self-serve fondue station, which involved dipping raisin bread into rich chocolate, then coating it with a choice of cocoa nibs. Yum!

Mack tests the fondue

We caught up with Roz from Eden Lilly later on in the night, and asked her what inspired the group to come up with such a unique event. She mentioned that customer appreciation was one factor, but also, as all of the businesses had similar goals (and likely similar clientele), that it was a good opportunity to host an event together.

Thanks to everyone involved for organizing a great party! I hope there are similar events in the future.

Lunch with Liane Faulder

When Liane Faulder contacted me for an interview about my blog, I jumped at the chance to meet her. New to the Journal’s Bistro section as of May (and stepping into the arguably mammoth shoes of her predecessor, Judy Schultz), I have been intrigued by her seemingly haphazard direction and how she felt about the continued presence of Schultz, whose pieces during the summer season on the farmer’s market beat dwarfed any of her own contributions.

We scheduled to meet for lunch at Leva Cappucino Bar (11053 – 86 Avenue) on the weekend, my choice to align with Liane’s expressed geographic preference, and our joint penchant to satisfy  foodie pangs.

It was absolutely hopping in Leva around noon on a gorgeous fall day. Families, couples, and groups of friends packed the place, and the line-up stretched all the way down the counter towards the washrooms. Since I’d been there last, the proprietors had put up an “Eat Local First” sign, and included a list of the area suppliers they tap for ingredients. I think this Keep Edmonton Original and Original Fare campaign is great, as it makes eating local more prominent but not overbearing to the average consumer.

Eat Local signage

When Liane arrived, we scooted in line and chatted while we waited patiently for our chance to order. It turned out Liane hadn’t been to Leva for about four years. As my acquaintance with the charming café has been more recent than that, I couldn’t comment on the changes that she noticed in the décor.

Though the Journal was covering the cost of our lunch, I didn’t feel right going “all out”. I ordered a Mushroom Pizza, while she stuck with a more healthy Spinach Salad with blue cheese and pecans.

Mushroom Pizza (cambozola & porcini cream sauce, mushrooms, potatoes, mozzarella)

Throughout our meeting, I never felt (besides her occasional note taking) that I was being interviewed. It was very much a two-way dialogue, and Liane never hesitated to answer any of my questions (and gave me the freedom to write about what we talked about). She is extremely down-to-earth, humble and frank. I’m not sure what of our conversation  she will translate into the Bistro piece, but I hope it will touch on some of the threads of Edmonton’s social media community that we discussed, particularly because Liane will be starting a blog of her own some time in the new year (the awful Journal website is also supposedly getting an overhaul in the not-to-distant future).

I found out that Liane has written for nearly every section of the Journal, with the exception of Sports. She covered the news beat for a while, wrote film reviews for a time, and most recently, contributed features to Sunday Reader. When she returned from an eight-month internship at Ryerson University in Toronto, she was offered the lead in Bistro because at that point, she had proven that she could “pretty much write anything.”

Her love of food begins with the “democratic” nature of it – meaning that everyone, with some effort and instruction, can learn to make a meal. She juggles about four stories at a time, and is reveling in the intrinsic flexibility of a weekly section, as compared with news reporting.

I asked her about the potential sabotage that she may be facing at the paper, as there are weeks when a story from another Canwest affiliate takes up the space above the fold, or a story from Judy Schultz seems to crowd out her articles. Having been with the paper for seventeen years, she said, she has “no ego left.”

We agreed on the potential minefields in the restaurant review world, and she understood my staunch position of not having my meals paid for by a third party, and not reviewing the food once I have met the chef behind it. Liane told me about a recent excursion to a new restaurant, and how the owner fawned all over her, bringing to her table coupons and extra napkins in an effort to extract a good Journal-backed word from her. She also shared her opinion that one of her fellow colleagues should not have published a review about a restaurant he had a personal connection to.

On the topic of favourites, Liane leans toward restaurants that provide “value for money”. In that vein, the Sugar Bowl is her best bet, though she also enjoys the more pricey fare at Culina Millcreek and Hardware Grill. In her opinion, local restaurants don’t do enough to promote themselves, though she acknowledged how busy most independents are simply cooking good food day in and day out.

I can’t recall what our end note was, but I remember feeling elated – a natural feeling after throwing around ideas on a subject I’m passionate about. It was great to meet another local foodie, and I hope once the article is published, other bloggers come out of the woodwork as well.