TMAC Alberta Retreat: Hotel MacDonald and Moriarty’s

A few months ago, I was asked to be a speaker at a retreat hosted by the Alberta Chapter of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC), an organization made up of tourism industry professionals and journalists. I had met Susan Mate, a member of TMAC who was also on the organizing committee, last year. I had provided some information to her for an article she had written about Alberta’s culinary scene, and because of the group’s interest in food blogging, she asked if I would share my experience at the retreat.

I have done conference presentations for my day job in the past, but never about blogging. Turns out, it’s not difficult to speak about something you’re passionate about!

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Speaking at the TMAC retreat

Coincidentally, they also wanted a speaker to address the topic of social media. Someone else on the conference committee had contacted Mack separately, and it was only a few days before the conference that they realized we were partners in crime, heh.

We were fortunate to be invited to join the rest of the activities that evening, arranged by Bin and Amy of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. We started out the night with a light reception at the Hotel MacDonald.

I had no idea the gazebo behind the hotel even existed! Apparently, it is often used for small private parties. When I commented about the number of patrons in the Confederation Lounge, hotel staff made mention of the fact that the Harvest Room had been closed since January due to ice damage, and is not set to reopen until October.

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Inside the gazebo

There was a lovely spread of nibbles, but nothing I tried that night was as tasty as the saskatoon berry cocktail. It went down like Kool-Aid, and though one should have been enough, I couldn’t help myself, and had seconds.

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Salmon tartare and crab cakes

Saskatoon cocktail

Next, we were split up into smaller parties for dinner at nearby restaurants, treated by EEDC. The plan was to regroup at the Winspear Centre for an Edmonton Symphony Orchestra concert. Mack and I had been assigned to Moriarty’s, one of EEDC’s partner restaurants.

The small table facilitated conversations nicely, and it was great getting to know the visitors from Calgary. Lucky for us, we even scored an introduction to Jelly Modern Doughnuts, the city’s hottest bakery, fortuitous especially because Mack would be heading down south the next week (hello, doughnuts!).

Everyone seemed to enjoy the selection of cocktails they had ordered, but I was a bit disappointed with the food. I have a soft spot for butternut squash ravioli, so was eager to try Moriarty’s version with maple cream sauce. Given it was a dish under “small plates”, I assumed that for $12 several small ravioli would be served, instead of a single large one. The filling was nice, creamy and light, but the pasta was a touch overcooked. The vanilla tulle was also an odd choice – its sweetness was off-putting.

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Butternut squash ravioli

I also ordered a second small plate of meatballs ($8.50). Unlike its predecessor, this dish could easily be shared among diners. Although a puree of beets would have made more cohesive sense, the fried golden beet chips were a guilty, well-seasoned pleasure. The meatballs themselves were okay, but the sweet root beer glaze didn’t work for me, especially alongside the jarringly sour mushrooms.

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Mushroom meatballs

Mack found similar inconsistencies with his chicken apple gnocchi ($19.50). He enjoyed the gnocchi, but found it much too greasy. He felt chicken breast would have worked better than chicken sausage. It also lacked an elegance expected in the restaurant’s surroundings – it could have been plated in a bowl, with some garnish, instead?

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Chicken apple gnocchi

The table was saddened to find out that their premiere chocolate dessert, supplied by Duchess, was no longer available (they also weren’t able to provide us with a reason why). In its place, we ordered the French profiteroles ($10) and saskatoon and rhubarb tart ($11). The latter was the better of the two desserts, fresh and tart. The profiteroles suffered from age – a few commented that the pastry tasted dry and lacked the airiness of a good cream puff.

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Saskatoon and rhubarb tart

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French profiteroles

The service was solid throughout our meal, but based on past experiences, I expected the food to be better. I’d just hope for some more consistency from the kitchen next time.

Thanks again to TMAC for the invitation (and for EEDC for hosting) – I had a great time!

Moriarty’s
10154 100 Street
(780) 757-2005
Monday-Saturday 11:30am-close, closed Sunday

Unwind with Wine: Moriarty’s Bistro & Wine Bar

I’m very happy to see that Edmonton is finally getting its wine bar groove on. Moriarty’s Bistro & Wine Bar and LIT Wine Bar (on Jasper Avenue and 104 Street) are joining the fray that already includes Bibo and TZiN. While LIT is still in the works, Moriarty’s opened at the end of December, and after the Winter Light gala at City Hall last week, Mack and I popped over to check it out.

Moriarty’s Bistro & Wine Bar

Moriarty’s is the third business in two years to occupy the space that used to house Ching’s Asian Dim Bar and Mimi’s (10162 100A Street), right across the street from Hundred. I hope the space isn’t cursed, because I do think downtown could use another place for a glass of wine, and Moriarty’s, at least from our first visit, is a great addition to the core.

Wine

Moriarty’s is owned by the same people who run Sherlock Holmes and the Rose & Crown, but you wouldn’t know it from the interior. The black and white colour scheme is sleek and elegant, with one wall lined with cozy white leather banquets (where we chose to sit). The plastic black chairs that made up the bulk of seating options didn’t look too comfortable, but they were aesthetically pleasing. I loved the oversized light fixtures, and large black mirrors on the walls.

Interior

Moriarty’s is the fourth establishment in Edmonton to install and utilize an Enomatic wine system (Vinomania, The Bothy and Hardware Grill are the others). The system allows wine to stay fresher longer, meaning wines served by the glass can be preserved for a longer period of time. We both selected a glass of wine from the Enomatic menu, with eight options to choose from. I won’t even pretend to be a wine connoisseur to say that I can taste the difference between a freshly opened bottle and one with a life lengthened by nitrogen gases, but I think the technology is neat.

We weren’t particularly hungry that day (having sampled some food at the gala), but opted to order something to share. The menu wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped for (particularly after our server told us the chef trained at the Hardware Grill), and consisted of pizza-like flatbreads, sandwiches, salads, and a handful of appetizers. We ended up with the leek and house-roasted ham French tart, recommended by our server.

The server told us the phyllo pastry was made in-house, which was a welcome surprise. Buttery, flaky and rich, it was definitely not an everyday dish, and accompanied with the crunchy shredded leeks and ham, it was wholly satisfying.

Leek and Ham French Tart

Being the only patrons that night had its pros and cons. Our food arrived in no time, but the lack of co-diners made our experience somewhat awkward. Our server was on top of us from the moment we walked in, but given his genuine nature and obvious desire to please, it was excusable. And if anything, his sincerity was much preferred to some of the more condescending service we’ve encountered in the city.

Best of luck to Moriarty’s – I hope to be back for a glass of wine after work soon!

Moriarty’s Bistro & Wine Bar
10162 100A Street
(780) 757-2005