Food Notes for July 18, 2021

Geoscapes Returns to Elevate More Local Chefs

Geoscapes, the brainchild of co-founders Kris Harvey and Trevor Lipton, is returning for a second series of special events. Featuring guest chefs who prepare multi-course menus served up in transparent dining domes, the event runs from July 15-August 28, 2021. This time, they have partnered with Snow Valley who is not only hosting the domes, but also a separate full-service patio and bar.

Back in March, Geoscapes was the latest iteration of domed dining opportunities to appear in Edmonton, similar to the set ups offered at the Courtyard Marriot and Tiramisu Bistro, or during last year’s Dining Under the Stars. Located then at Victoria Golf Course, the domes offered what many guests were looking for at the time – a safe way to dine out indoors. “It was a huge success and was sold out almost every day of the week,” said Harvey. “We created really safe [dining] opportunities, and people said they loved that we brought life to that dark corridor of the river valley.”

It was also a boon to the hospitality professionals involved at a time when indoor dining was limited. “The chefs and businesses were doing double or triple capacity during that time period [because of Geoscapes],” said Harvey. “Over the six weeks, those businesses made over $150,000.”

In addition, unlike other domes that were imported, Geoscapes customized and manufactured their own structures locally. Harvey shared that the polycarbonate panels can hold 300 pounds of weight and can withstand wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour. In fact, Geoscapes is getting so much interest in the domes themselves from tourism boards and resorts abroad that they may be able to grow this aspect of their business as well.

This summer, Geoscapes will highlight the food from eight chefs. While there are some returning chefs from the previous event, including Shane Chartrand and Lindsay Porter, others are new to Geoscapes. “We really wanted to represent Edmonton as best as possible,” said Harvey. “We made sure we had representation from different communities and backgrounds, including women – we have amazing women chefs in Edmonton.”

Chefs Mai Nguyen of Gourmai Dumplings and Eric Hanson (formerly of Prairie Noodle) are participating in Geoscapes for the first time; neither are currently working at restaurants, and Harvey is excited that guests will be able to enjoy their exclusive menus. Chefs Tony Le and Troy Griffith from Century Hospitality Group are also new additions, and will be bringing their cuisine to the domed environment.

Harvey was also happy to invite Rub’d chef Calvin Tuefeld to the event. “We wanted to create opportunities for young chefs who are doing interesting things,” said Harvey. “This event can also open doors for future generations [of chefs].”

Tickets for the event are $125 for adults, with a minimum of four people per dome. While they did introduce the chance to purchase tickets for children at a discounted rate of $25, Harvey admits that the cost may exclude some diners. For this reason, they worked with Snow Valley to create two more approachable outdoor experiences in Tito’s Patio and Botanist Garden.

Tito’s Patio is led by Chef Kevin Ostapek (formerly of Prairie Noodle and Three Boars), and is promising a slice of Austin, Texas in Edmonton. “It’s truly an accessible option,” said Harvey. “You can get everything from hot dogs and burgers as well as amazing smoked brisket and pulled pork.” Sweet tea and lemonade complete the southern experience.

Botanist Garden, on the other hand, aims to transport guests to a garden party with fresh spritzes and flower-filled planters. Both patios are open for walk-ins only from Thursday to Sunday, 12-8pm.

Given restrictions have been fully lifted as of July 1, and summer weather begets outdoor dining, some might be questioning the need to dine in a closed (albeit air-conditioned) dome. But Harvey insists that the personalized nature of Geoscapes is priceless. “[The domes] give people the opportunity to create their own experience,” said Harvey. “At a restaurant, the table next to you is a factor, or the restaurant’s music selection.” And the reality is, many people aren’t fully ready to dine out in public yet. “Some people don’t want others in their space,” said Harvey.

Harvey is also looking towards the future, as the concept travels well. Their first chef in this series, Edmonton ex-pat and Food Network Canada star chef Roger Mooking, has expressed excitement that Geoscapes might tour the country. “We’ll be looking for partnerships,” said Harvey. “And we want to take our local chefs along, too and show the world how good they are.”

Openings

  • There’s a new soft serve ice cream purveyor in town called Drizzle Ice Cream, located at 10322 81 Avenue.
  • Bodega’s Sherwood Park location, its fifth in the Edmonton area, is opening on July 20, 2021. It is located at 210, 410 Baseline Road.
  • The Italian Centre’s fourth location in the Edmonton area is opening in Sherwood Park on July 21, 2021. Find it at 8005 Emerald Drive.
  • The Alley is opening its third location in Edmonton at 11966 104 Avenue later this month.
  • Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea is now open in West Edmonton Mall, inside T&T.
  • New bagel vendor Beb’s Bagels is selling its product at the 124 Grand Market.

Upcoming Events

  • Eats on 118 tours are back this summer, running July 21, August 4 + 18, and September 1, 2021. Each event will involve stops at 3 restaurants. Tickets are $40, and act fast, because the first event is already sold out.

Local News

What I Ate

    • It’s been great to have both my sisters back in town for the first time in 18 months! We’ve been hitting up certain places they’ve missed, including King Noodle House.

King Noodle House

Take-out from King Noodle House

    • We had a great time returning to the haskap u-pick at Rosy Farms for a second year! We did not expect it to be as windy and chilly as it was (Mack had the foresight to suggest we bring jackets), but the pickings were even better than last year. Emily had a blast and ate her weight in haskaps (we topped up our pail charge to accommodate). We look forward to eating our way through the berries this week. Rosy Farms will be open for their u-pick for just another week, as a hailstorm unfortunately shortened their season this week.

Rosy Farms

Haskap picking at Rosy Farms

Food Notes for July 12, 2021

Taste of Edmonton Returns to Churchill Square

After being forced to cancel the festival in 2020, Taste of Edmonton has not only returned to the summer event calendar, but also to its long-term home at Churchill Square. This year’s iteration runs July 22-August 1, 2021.

In 2018 and 2019, Taste of Edmonton had relocated to Violet King Henry Plaza on the Alberta Legislature grounds, and though some guests and restaurants expressed that they preferred that site, the festival always intended to return to Churchill Square. “[Violet King Henry] Plaza was a temporary home until construction on the Square was finished,” said Leana Santos, Marketing Manager for Events Edmonton, the organization that operates Taste of Edmonton. “The LRT construction will not have any effect on physical distancing at the festival and 2021’s site plan is the largest in the festival’s history to allow for ample physical distancing.”

A number of gates will contain the festival site to manage capacity. However, guests will not have to queue for entrance or restrict their time on the festival grounds, Santos said.

The Heritage Festival announced this year that they have eliminated paper tickets in favour of direct electronic transactions with pavilions. Taste of Edmonton, however, is moving forward with the use of paper tickets. “In 2019 we had the option to purchase digital tickets [through the Taste of Edmonton mobile app],” said Santos. “However, after receiving feedback from our restaurant partners and attendees, we decided to switch back to hardcopy tickets to increase the speed of sale.”

The 2021 festival will feature 51 restaurants and food trucks. The menu as presented in the guide is akin to the Heritage Festival, with items organized by ethnic cuisine. As this is the first event since the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, I was curious what Events Edmonton might be doing to address systemic inequities in their festival. “Events Edmonton welcomes all cultures at the Taste of Edmonton,” said Santos. “We are celebrating the city’s diverse cultures with over 150 menu items and the menu has everything from Canadian to Jamaican to Indigenous and everything in between.”

Although the website is coy regarding whether live entertainment will take place, Santos confirmed that patrons will be able to expect live entertainment.

Early bird pricing for Taste of Edmonton tickets ends July 21; they can be purchased in-person, online and at special events such as Al Fresco on 4th on July 17.

Openings

  • Roasti Coffee has set up a temporary trailer at Snow Valley for the summer, from Thursdays to Sundays.
  • After closing Mandarin, their successful University-area restaurant, due to the pandemic, Patrick Wong and his wife opened up 888 Dim Sum and Noodle in Devon.

Upcoming Events

  • The dining domes of Geoscapes is returning, but this time at Snow Valley from July 15-August 28, 2021. Chefs involved in this iteration include Eric Hanson (formerly of Prairie Noodle), Lindsay Porter (of The Common), Mai Nguyen (of Gourmai Dumplings), and Toronto-based Roger Mooking. Tickets are $125 per person, with a minimum of 4 persons per dome.
  • The Summer Fun Midway in place of K-Days will be running July 23-August 1, 2021, and will feature rides and fair food.
  • The Black-Owned Market Edmonton is celebrating their first anniversary with an event on July 24, 2021 at Victoria School. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP.
  • Backstairs Burger (still gearing up to open at 5th Street Food Hall), is popping up at the Coals and Cleavers patio on July 24, 2021.
  • 17 Edmonton area restaurants are participating in Alberta on a Plate, a festival that celebrates local producers. Running August 6-15, 2021, the menus for the restaurants will be up on August 1.
  • Packwood Grand returns on August 28, 2021 at the Century Mile Racetrack. It combines horse racing, fashion, and food and drink.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • Our new daily route takes us by Rosewood Foods, so there will be a lot more patty melts in my future. Such a great sandwich.
  • Rosewood Foods

Patty melt from Rosewood Foods

  • We had take-out from Coals and Cleavers on Friday. It’s a hidden gem only in its second week run by the Alberta BBQ Collective. They’re operating a pop-up patio Downtown behind the Freemasons Hall (10318 100 Avenue). I really enjoyed the whole hog pork, and Emily ate up her share of mac and cheese!
  • Coals and Cleavers

Whole hog plate with collard greens and baked beans from Coals and Cleavers

Food Notes for July 5, 2021

Black Box Hospitality Embraces Pandemic-Induced Changes

It’s been over ten years since Nate Box opened the modest but mighty Elm Cafe in Oliver, and it’s safe to say that in that decade, he’s seen it all. Now at the helm of Black Box Hospitality Group, made up of four businesses including restaurants and a liquor store, even that experience couldn’t prepare him for the challenges wrought by a global pandemic. “The hardest part was the initial closures in [March] 2020,” said Box, “We laid off nearly 60 staff members overnight.”

Box’s longevity in the hospitality business is no accident, however. He attributes much of their success in navigating the changing restrictions to his strong team and their ability to continuously adapt. He also shared that some of the changes made in the last year may end up being permanent. At June’s Delicatessen, for instance, they expanded the takeaway menu with more transportable food and added shelves for pantry and home items. “It’s strange [be]cause we’re not sure if the plated-style menus we initially came up with will ever return,” said Box. “This grab-and-go style has been so much more accessible and simple to execute.”

Box shared that Highlands Liquor has, like other liquor stores in the province, been busy. However, to overcome the narrow margins in the business, they have been fortunate to build up a loyal clientele who return for their curated selection and staff knowledge. “It’s been encouraging to see people stocking up…on amazing craft Alberta beers, spirits, and small producer natural wines,” said Box.

District, on the other hand, was hit hardest, as it has been closed for nearly ten months in total since March 2020. Reliant on traffic from workers occupying the surrounding corporate and government towers, Box indicated that District won’t resume even partial operations until after Labour Day. In the meantime, the space has since been transformed to a pizzeria from Wednesdays to Sundays, called Young & Restless. “Pizza just makes sense for the District space and the current dining and takeout trends,” said Box. “Not to mention that that neighbourhood is in a bit of a pizza desert.” Box acknowledges (and supports) the success of other pizza concepts that have developed during the pandemic such as Sepp’s and High Dough, but is aiming to be more affordable and accessible than his counterparts.

While previous menus at District included pizza, the pies served at Young & Restless are quite a bit different. “[That pizza] wasn’t the kind you could box up and takeout,” said Box. “So we went back to the drawing board…Erica [Box, chief baker] spent 6 weeks or so figuring out a dough recipe that would work.” The cauliflower and sage pizza has carried over to the new menu, but other topping combinations, such as a mushroom ricotta and meat lovers, are all different.

Their newest establishment, Fox Burger, required the biggest pivot. Pre-pandemic, they relied (as most other restaurants did) on in-person dining. “We learned and adapted new software, websites, and promotions to change on the fly,” said Box. “And the neighbourhood and city rallied behind us to be their go-to choice for burgers and beers.”

The food truck was a fortuitous addition, when an ad for a fair priced, well-equipped truck came up. “Through the pandemic our limitation has been location and size of the kitchen,” said Box. “We didn’t and don’t need a big ass dining room to do what we were doing, we needed a bigger kitchen.” The Fox Burger truck has been in operation since May, with Wednesdays earmarked for service in different areas across the city. “It’s been great fun and also such an amazing way to test and engage with other neighbourhoods,” said Box. “We’ve had block-long line ups and even served 200+ burgers one evening in the pouring rain.” Box sees the truck as an additional revenue stream that will help Black Box recover in the long run.

While he stresses that Black Box has been doing okay, Box isn’t certain of the future, even with the removal of all restrictions as of July 1. “To be frank, I think that small businesses, especially those like ours in hospitality, are unaware of our vulnerability right now,” said Box. “Summer’s here, people are excited about going out, it’s bustling and it feels normal, but we’re forgetting that most businesses have been able to rely on government subsidies that will dry up soon, and that debts will be called, and that the cold slow months are four months away.”

COVID-19-related News

  • Since mandatory mask requirements were lifted on July 1, some businesses have continued to require that patrons don a face covering. These include Fleisch and Sugared and Spiced.
  • Depending on the community and the approach, restaurants across Alberta, including Campio Brewing and Fleisch, are grappling with the challenges that come with the removal of restrictions.
  • Some patrons rang in the occasion of lifted restrictions at BRBN St at West Edmonton Mall at midnight on July 1.

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • Another Sari Sari Market, highlighting Fillipino businesses, will be held on July 24, 2021 at 9912 72 Avenue. Sosyal Scoops and Filistix will be among the vendors.
  • Linda is hosting two cooking classes on July 27 and 28, 2021 with Pei Pei Chei Ow as a part of her month-long birthday celebrations. This comes as a part of her personal reconciliation efforts: “One of those acts includes pledging to spend money intentionally supporting local Indigenous businesses, such as artists and restaurants.” Tickets are $40, and 100% of the ticket fee will go to Pei Pei Chei Ow.

Local News

  • On July 1, some businesses including Biera, Kind Ice Cream, Rosewood Foods, and Roasti Coffee chose to donate profits to organizations supporting Indigenous survivors or anti-racism groups.
  • The Thursday 124 Street Market has been forced by the City of Edmonton and 124 Street Business Association to reduce their footprint to pre-COVID guidelines. This will mean vendors will not be able to physically distance booths. They are asking patrons to fill out a survey in July and sign a petition to support an expanded footprint. However, organizers are threatening to potentially move the market if a resolution cannot be found: “In the event that the market cannot secure additional space to support 60+ vendors and is found to not be able to operate safely and effectively for customers, we will be forced to move the popular, flagship 124 Grand Market location that has been operating harmoniously in the 124 Street neighborhood the last decade.”
  • EDify’s Best Things to Eat series continues with Partake’s beef tartare and the bronzed ribeye from Rigoletto’s.
  • Meuwly’s Artisan Food Market just celebrated their third birthday.
  • Heat wave or no heat wave, it sounds like the Calle Mexico patio is becoming a popular spot for Edmontonians.
  • The Transit Hotel restaurant owner is frustrated with the challenges he’s faced with the City’s permitting process, which has delayed their opening.
  • There are consequences to being the last to adopt new service methods: the Edmonton Downtown Famers’ Market is closing their curbside pick-up option after six months in operation (Old Strathcona and Bountiful are continuing their programs).

Beyond Edmonton

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Ceres Solutions is an Olds-based company taking spent grain from the brewing process then reusing it to grow mushrooms, then as protein-enhanced livestock feed.

What I Ate

    • I hit up the Campio Brewing Market that takes place every other week to pick up cinnamon buns from Typ Top Bakery. I have a soft spot for them and with the business also being a social enterprise, it’s a win-win.

Typ Top Bakery

Typ Top cinnamon buns

T&D Noodle House

Grilled chicken and spring roll vermicelli bowl from T & D

    • Mack and I had a breakfast date at OEB last week. We’re still not comfortable dining indoors, so we’re grateful for the restaurants who have preserved their patios even as they’ve more fully opened up their dining rooms.

OEB

Breakfast plates from OEB

Food Notes for June 28, 2021

Some Food-based Businesses Will Continue to Require Masking After July 1

With the Province’s Stage 3 set to launch on Canada Day, Edmonton City Council voted to deactivate the mask bylaw to align with that date. As a result, face coverings will no longer be required indoors (there are some exceptions with public transit, vehicle-for-hire, and long-term care facilities). The Old Strathcona Business Association had sent a letter on behalf of its 500 businesses to urge Council to extend the bylaw, but to no avail.

In response, a couple of food-based businesses will continue to require patrons mask up, even after July 1, 2021. Kind Ice Cream will require masks until at least mid-July in order to protect their staff:

“While we’re eager to see the eventual return to normal, we plan on taking extra precautions while we see how things evolve following reopening and in order to give our team a bit of extra time to get their second doses…Our staff feeling safe at work is our biggest priority as we roll into these next several weeks.”

Earth’s General Store will also be asking customers to continue masking, regardless of vaccination status:

“This means that acceptable well-fitting cloth masks are required by everyone entering the store. There is NO exception for people older than 5 years of age. This extra period of time will allow all of our staff to be fully vaccinated AND the full two-week period after vaccination is observed…If you are fully vaccinated – good for you, and thank you – but you will still need to wear a mask while being in the store and practice social distancing.”

Earlier this month, Fleisch tied its indoor dining opening to the date at which their staff have acquired full immunity.

COVID-19-related News

  • The owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alberta, which earlier this year defied public health orders by keeping his restaurant open to in-person dining, was found guilty of contempt.

Openings

  • Awn Kitchen is now open at 104, 5124 122 Street.
  • Namaste India has added a third location to their roster, having opened in Old Strathcona at 10354 82 Avenue.
  • Browns Crafthouse’s first Edmonton location is now open at 10141 124 Street.

Upcoming Events

  • The Backyard’s opening night is taking place on July 2, 2021. They’ll have food trucks on hand, live painting and performances. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12.
  • MilkCrate is hosting Feast in the Field on July 24, 2021. Expect a family-style meal featuring a whole hog and ice cream cookie troughs for dessert. Tickets are $85 per person.

Local News

  • Chef Table Living’s Food Bike Tours are back every weekend from July 3-September 5. 2021. Tickets (excluding bike rental) start at $129 per person, and include 3 stops over the course of 3.5 hours. They’re also continuing to offer Chef Kits in partnership with local chefs, and Linda is offering a discount code for those interested.
  • Alternate Route Coffee opened its roastery and distribution centre at the Edmonton International Airport’s Sustainability Campus.
  • Northern Chicken has set up a water station available to anyone to access during this heat wave.
  • EDify’s latest Best Things to Eat highlights the vermicelli special bowl from An Chay and the cookies and sour cream ice cream from Kind Ice Cream.
  • Also from EDify is a profile of Au Chocolat, a Morinville-based business that features bars and bonbons made from cacao sourced from ten different regions.
  • Twyla Campbell’s latest series with Edmonton AM will focus on different seasonal ingredient sourced from farmers’ markets. Her most recent story focused on asparagus, coinciding with the last week Edgar Farms’ spears were available at local markets.
  • Perhaps during this heat wave, what can get us through are thoughts of Christmas – Duchess is soliciting votes on what they should tackle for their annual gingerbread project this holiday season. The choices are Whoville from The Grinch, Arendelle Castle from Frozen, or the Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto.
  • The Real Success podcast for entrepreneurs featured an interview with Colleen Heidecker of Colleen’s Chocolates.
  • Expect some changes to Taste of Edmonton and the Heritage Festival this summer.
  • Jennifer Cockrall is hosting a 5-week food writing lab from July 20-August 18, 2021 through Pandemic University. Registration is $339.
  • Since the start of the City of Edmonton’s pilot project for alcohol consumption at certain park sites, over 30 tickets have been issued at parks where alcohol consumption is not permitted.

Beyond Edmonton

  • Based on a new report looking at Canadian perceptions of tipping, even with the ups and downs of the pandemic, it looks like the practice of tipping isn’t going anywhere.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • It’s been some time since we indulged in Bagel Bar, so we picked up an order of bagels and bialys last weekend. It was as good as I remembered; the texture of the bagels is something worth seeking out if you haven’t tried it already!
  • Bagel Bar

Bagels and bialys from Bagel Bar

  • For my birthday last week, Mack picked up the pasta trio from Cafe Amore, and it was enough food for a couple of days! I’m looking forward to getting onto their patio when we feel more comfortable, but in the meantime, we enjoyed the meal on our balcony!
  • Cafe Amore

Pasta trio from Cafe Amore

  • We had an impromptu picnic with Fat Franks take-out after running some errands over the weekend. It certainly feels more like summer weather-wise, but the grilled dogs help, too!
  • Fat Franks

Fat Franks picnic

  • We were doing our best to keep cool on Saturday; it was handy to have soft serve from Coffee Bureau in the #yegdt ‘hood to turn to!
  • Coffee Burrau

Mack and Emily with their soft serve from Coffee Bureau

Food Notes for June 21, 2021

Restaurants and Events Prepare for Stage 3

Premier Jason Kenney announced that Alberta would be moving forward with Stage 3 of its Open for Summer Plan on July 1, 2021. Stage 3 will see all restrictions lifted, including the general indoor provincial mask mandate. Edmonton City Council will be voting on potentially repealing its temporary mandatory face coverings bylaw on June 22.

In preparation for this phase, some restaurants are scrambling to staff their establishments in order to meet the anticipated demand. Many business owners are finding that candidates are hard to come by, with many choosing to leave the service industry altogether.

Fleisch co-owner Katy Ingraham, and spokesperson for the Canadian Restaurant Workers Coalition, isn’t surprised that some restaurants are struggling to fill positions due to low wages and the potential for unsafe working conditions.

“Restaurant work is work that needs to be valued and respected with a living wage…Frankly, many of them are leaving the industry because they don’t see that change happening fast enough, or at all,” said Ingraham.

Meanwhile, some Edmonton summer festivals are preparing to move ahead with their large scale outdoor events. Pre-sale tickets for the Taste of Edmonton are available until the event begins. Running July 22-August 1, 2021 at Churchill Square, the event will feature 33 restaurants and 12 food trucks.

The Heritage Festival also confirmed it will be taking place in Hawrelak Park from July 31-August 2, 2021. Free timed-entry passes are now available to be booked, and this year, no food tickets will be sold. Instead, food and goods can only be purchased directly from pavilions by credit or debit.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Phoenix Diner is now open in the former Doppio Zero space, at 10803 Jasper Avenue.
  • There is now another ramen option in town called Ramen House, located at 10430 61 Avenue.

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Kingsway Mall is hosting another Food Truck Fest on June 25, 2021 from 3-8pm.
  • MLA Rakhi Pancholi is hosting a virtual Taste of Edmonton-Whitemud on June 27, 2021. Those who purchase tickets will receive a delivery of a sampling from area restaurants for the event. Tickets are $75.
  • Awn Kitchen is organizing farm tours on July 17 to Rosy Farms and on July 24 to Lazuli and Grey Arrow Farms. Tickets range from $55-75.
  • The Edmonton Craft Beer Festival has been rescheduled again to October 22-23, 2021.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Taproot Edmonton published a story about those in Edmonton spurned on by the pandemic to grow more of their own food.

What I Ate

  • Summer just isn’t the same without mini donuts! We returned to #Root107 on Friday to kick off the weekend with Jackie O’s Street Treats.
  • Jackie O’s

Cinnamon sugar mini donuts from Jackie O’s

  • It’s been dangerous to have pho at my fingertips with Tau Bay now available via delivery. #patiopho is something I can get used to.
  • Pho Tau Bay

Steak and brisket pho from Pho Tau Bay

  • With my parents now fully vaccinated, Mack and I were able to get away for a brunch date at Chartier over the weekend! It was a beautiful day to enjoy a patio, and though we will continue to support restaurants primarily via take-out, it sure was nice to enjoy a fully-serviced meal with real dinnerware and cutlery.
  • Chartier

Breakfast poutine from Chartier

Food Notes for June 14, 2021

Edmonton Riverfront Patio Is Now Licensed

River Valley Adventure Co. has been operating for nearly a decade in Louise McKinney Park, offering Segway tours and equipment rentals year-round. This year, their patio is now licensed, and can now offer Edmontonians another place to enjoy alcoholic beverages.

Chad Murphy, a Hospitality Consultant working with River Valley Adventure Co., is hopeful that more people will take advantage of what he calls, “the only riverfront patio in Edmonton offering craft Alberta beer, wine and seltzers.” He is particularly proud of their choice to source drinks locally. “[You] will see a rotation in our craft beer, but it will always be Alberta produced craft brews only,” said Murphy. At present, their current offerings include cans from Medicine Hat Brewing Co., Bent Stick Brewing Co., Last Best Brewing & Distilling, Blindman Brewing, and Sea Change Brewing Co.

In addition to alcoholic drinks, River Valley Adventure Co. also brews Sherwood Park-based Roasti Coffee.

Food-wise, they have partnered with The Greenhouse to serve their prepared meat and vegetarian sandwiches. The Greenhouse, led by owner Paul Shufelt, operates restaurants at three city-owned golf courses.

Currently, the patio seats 16, but when restrictions are lifted, they will be able to accommodate up to 28 people. Their hours are also limited at the moment, as they are open 10am-4pm on Monday and Thursday, and from 10am-6pm on the weekends. Murphy indicated that they hope to extend their hours as conditions allow. City-run restrooms are open and available in the adjacent building.

While Segway Tours continue to be their most popularly booked activity, River Valley Adventure Co. has also expanded their rental options to include 5-person inflatable rafts, e-bikes, and side-by-side Surrey Bikes. “We feel that with the introduction of our liquor license and enhanced offerings, that we will open ourselves up to a wider customer base,” said Murphy.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Wilfred’s will be re-opening this summer with a refreshed menu with a Southern twist. They will also be partnering with Made By Marcus for a dual concept storefront.
  • Evario Kitchen + Bar is now open at 950 Parsons Road SW.
  • Another location of Joey’s Fish Shack is opening on June 17, 2021 at 2571 17 Street.

Closures

  • Food business Nai Nai Mie has decided to close down the business by June 30, 2021. Orders will be accepted until then or when they sell out.

Upcoming Events

  • Another Ritchie Food Court is taking place on June 19, 2021 from 11am-3pm at Ritchie Hall (7727 98 Street). Drift, Calle Mexico, Sosyal Scoops, Fox Burger and Go Nuts 4 Donuts.
  • Campio Brewing is once again hosting their Campio Summer Markets, every other Saturday until September. The next market runs June 26, 2021 from 11am-4pm.

Local News

What I Ate

  • We had a great virtual lunch gathering this week with the Taproot Edmonton team. We enjoyed food from Tiffin Fresh Kitchen, perhaps the most efficient fast casual player in #yegdt.
  • Tiffin Fresh

Tiffin take-out

  • We satisfied an Ono Poke craving for our Friday night picnic.
  • Ono Poke

Ono Poke picnic

  • Emily has had prior exposure to bubble tea, but a venture over the weekend to CoCo may have sealed the deal – she couldn’t get enough of the tapioca pearls!
  • CoCo Fresh Tea and Juice

Drinks from CoCo

  • After rescheduling several times, we finally made it to the University of Alberta Botanic Garden to enjoy their Brunch Box offerings alongside my parents. The Freson Bros. mushroom and asiago quiche was tasty, and would have definitely been even better warm, but our favourite was the Chocorrant gruyere and ham croissant. We finished our morning off with a stroll through the gardens. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday!
  • University of Alberta Botanic Garden

Brunch Box at the Botanic Garden

Food Notes for June 7, 2021

Stump Kitchen’s Alexis Hillyard featured by Google

This week, local YouTube star Alexis Hillyard was featured by Google in a new YouTube video:

“Alexis, an LGBTQ+ and disabled chef, uses YouTube and Google Meet to help pursue her passion for vegan cooking. At the same time, she creates a safe space to celebrate the unique ways we move through the world. http://goo.gle/3fOYOxt

Hillyard, known for her popular Stump Kitchen series, has been producing videos on her YouTube channel for five years. Her videos highlight vegan and gluten-free recipes, often assembled using her stump as a kitchen tool. She uses her platform to celebrate limb differences, and more recently, after having a baby, focus on parenting with one hand.

The video came together quickly over the last few months. “Google googled me and said they were looking for creators to feature and they were looking for disabled or queer creators that were having a good impact,” said Hillyard. “They found my page and loved it and knew they wanted to feature me right away.”

Filming occurred over two days in April with strict COVID-19 protocols in place with Google staff in town from Toronto and Vancouver. Hillyard had a strong say in what content was filmed, including scenes with her partner and child. “I was called a creative consultant on the ground because I got to shape what they caught on camera,” said Hillyard. “It was not artificial.”

Stump Kitchen started as a side project but has morphed into a nearly full-time job for Hillyard, who, as a trained teacher, still teaches one half day a week at a junior high school. The rest of her time is spent hosting classes and workshops, conducting speaking invitations and social media gigs, and being a Canadian ambassador for the Lucky Fin Project. She also relies on her Patreon page for support.

The channel has grown its audience over the years, and while she has a significant fan base in the Prairie provinces, her reach is international including the US, South America, and Australia. “[My audience] ranges from people who are amputees themselves, to families who have members with limb differences, and random people who like cooking shows or have found a different way in – I burp and swear and don’t wear a bra,” laughs Hillyard. When restrictions lift, she hopes to resume travelling to continue to meet and highlight others with limb differences.

While Hillyard isn’t the planning type – she much prefers the joy of living in the moment – she does have one dream that she would love to fulfill one day. “I could open a small café or restaurant called ‘Stump Kitchen’ made up of staff with limb differences and we would sit on tree stumps,” said Hillyard. “It would be great to have a space to celebrate my local community.”

Hillyard credits a lot of her success to the city she is proud to call home. “The community here is so vibrant,” said Hillyard. “It’s so small but it’s so big; we have incredible local businesses and creators that I can learn from, and it’s the kind of city where you can have an impact and be known and not get lost in the rumble of a big city.”

COVID-19-related News

  • Stage 2 of Alberta’s Open for Summer Plan is expected to start on June 10, 2021, and will increase outdoor dining to tables of 6, and will re-introduce indoor dining for the first time since April 9.
  • After a lengthy hiatus, Bundok will be re-opening on June 10, 2021.
  • Red Star’s patio is now open.

Openings

  • Black Box Hospitality has launched a new concept called Young & Restless Pizza, operating out of District Wednesday to Sunday. They have first come, first served picnic tables available. It’ll be great to see District bustling again after it’s been closed since January.
  • Italia Mia (operating out of the former Il Forno space at 14981 Stony Plain Road) is now open.
  • Cafe La Reine will be opening later in June at 8927D 82 Avenue, in the space formerly occupied by Amandine Cafe.
  • Downtown is getting another southern BBQ restaurant called Coals and Cleavers, set to open June 26, 2021 at 10318 100 Avenue. The restaurant is from the folks at the Alberta BBQ Collective and the team behind Pitt County BBQ.

Upcoming Events

  • The Al Fresco #on4th market with extended patios kicks off on June 12 and runs every Saturday from 10am-3pm until September 18, 2021. The closure of the street will also extend into Sundays to accommodate the extended patios throughout the weekend.
  • The Black Owned Market YEG is hosting a Dance and Coffee Cultural Experience on June 19, 2021. Tickets for the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, to be held at the Habesha African Market, are pay-what-you-can.
  • Noodle company Nai Nai Mie is hosting its first pop-up with Chef Doreen Prei on June 30, 2021. Guests will be treated to a 2-course dinner and the event promises to be ”hot, saucy and more than a little noodly. Maybe even a little naughty.” Tickets are $35 with location TBD.

Local News

  • The Journal has more details behind Calle Mexico’s taco carts and their connection to the godfather of Edmonton’s food carts – Fat Franks. The carts may debut on city streets as soon as this week.
  • CRAFT Beer Market will be debuting their new rooftop patio on Rice Howard Way on June 21, 2021.
  • Kitchen by Brad is open for “Meatball Madness” this summer, offering take-out on Fridays over lunch through their take-out window.
  • The Butchery made the Canada’s 100 Best list of  “things to savour right now” across Canada. It’s also worth noting that Chef Shane Chartrand also made the list, but in a composite item that included several Indigenous chefs that the list creators didn’t feel warranted their own individual features.
  • EDify released their 2021 patio guide. The Downtown Business Association (DBA) created a Google map of patios in the neighbourhood.
  • Also from EDify – they will be sharing Best Things To Eat as chosen by prominent Edmontonians throughout the summer. First up – the DBA’s Puneeta McBryan highlights the chocolate olive oil cake from Rosewood Foods, and Oilers play-by-play announcer Jack Michaels selected the chorizo tacos from La Patrona.
  • Uproot Food Collective will be the first long-term tenant of the new Ag-celerator at the Edmonton International Airport, a new federally-certified food production and contract packing facility. Also from Uproot, they now offer frozen bulgogi from Edmonton favourite NongBu.
  • The accommodation and food services sector continues to be the hardest hit in Alberta with a loss of 57,000 jobs from February 2020 to May 2021, based on analysis of Statistics Canada data.
  • Home-based bakery Söta Saker YEG that started early this year has continued to gain patronage.
  • Malaysian-style jerky business Dai-Lou has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $35,000 to help launch a food truck and increase stockists in Edmonton.
  • Luxe picnic experiences continue to crop up; the latest from YEG Picnic and YEG Scoot combines a boho picnic experience with scooter transportation, and costs $130 for two.
  • That’s Food, a food-focused podcast from CJSR, returned in May with new episodes. Their latest this week features a blind taste test of $5, $12, and homemade cake, and an interview with The Art of Cake’s Gloria Bednarz.
  • Congratulations to Tamara Vineberg, the chair of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization bagels fundraiser, who helped to raise over $14,000 this year with the sale of 17,280 bagels.
  • Some people are hopeful that the bigger bees that have been spotted around the city might mean a more healthy population this year.

What I Ate

    • I finally felt ready to sit on a patio for the first time this year – mostly because we were the only ones on it! Mack and I had a quick breakfast date at DOSC as we had been meaning to try their combo deal for some time: a bacon, egg, and cheese cruffle sandwich + a coffee for $8. I liked the sweet and savoury flavours of the sandwich, and it was a nice way to start the day.

DOSC

Cruffle date at DOSC

    • Our day trip out to Wabuman Lake required some sustenance from Farrow – namely, some sweet treats and sandwiches!

Farrow

Treats from Farrow

    • Our summer of picnics continued after we picked up some pastries from Shan Shan Bakery in Chinatown after some other errands in the area. We enjoyed them in Little Italy – there were no excuses not to eat outside this weekend!

Shan Shan Bakery

Shan Shan pastries in the park

    • Though Popeyes has been in Edmonton for some time, we’d only had take-out once before. Now that it’s in #yegdt, it seemed like a good excuse as any to try it again for a picnic! The food held up pretty well on our walk over to the Leg Grounds, and I ended up enjoying the chicken sandwich more than I expected. While it won’t be a regular stop for us, I’m sure it will be a popular spot in the ‘hood.

Popeyes

Popeyes picnic

Food Notes for May 31, 2021

Outdoor Dining Returns In Alberta’s “Open for Summer Plan”

Last week, Premier Kenney announced the new metrics that would phase in Alberta’s “Open for Summer Plan”, tied to vaccination rates and declining hospitalizations. Stage one will allow outdoor dining to return on June 1, 2021 with a maximum of 4 people per table, made up of one household or two close contacts for those living alone.

Stage two is projected to come into effect in mid-June, and would permit indoor dining along with a maximum of 6 people per table.

Many restaurants have embraced the return to in-person dining, and have been preparing patio spaces to welcome the return of patrons. As of May 27, 2021, the City of Edmonton has approved 125 requests for temporary patios or outdoor retail spaces.

NongBu Korean Eatery has chosen to remain take-out and delivery only. Northern Chicken shared that they have made a similar decision:

“We’re going to put our staff and customers safety first, and stay takeout/delivery only for a while.”

Both restaurants have remained closed to in-person dining since November, even when restrictions permitting indoor dining lifted in February.

COVID-19-related News

  • With the projected reopening plan, many summer festivals may get the go-ahead to take place. The Heritage Festival is among those planning the changes required to carry out a large in-person event safely. Other festivals including the Taste of Edmonton and K-Days have also announced they are moving forward with their events this year.

Openings

  • Half Shell Cafe will be setting up shop in Burrow’s former kiosk located at the Central LRT Station. They are aiming for a July opening.
  • The parking lot at 124 Street and 107 Avenue has been branded “The Lot” and is the new home of food kiosk Dick’s Tater Ship. They had begun operating last fall in Old Strathcona, but had to cut their season short due to weather. It looks like The Lot also hosts food trucks from time to time, too.
  • Hey Croffle added a second location at West Edmonton Mall.
  • Capital Coffeehouse will be taking over the former Good Earth location at 110, 9942 108 Street.
  • International chain Earl of Sandwich is opening a branch at South Edmonton Common next week (2055 98 Street).
  • The Downtown location of Popeyes is now open at 10188 109 Street (formerly Swiss Chalet).

Closures

  • Due to the ongoing pandemic and issues related to their building, DeRose Bros Meats has permanently closed. The business had been in operation since 1977. The family does hint at a possibility of continuing in the food scene on a catering basis, however.

Upcoming Events

Local News

  • Grandin Fish and Chips will be undergoing a rebrand, in the wake of the discovery of the graves of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, BC. They posted on their Instagram page: “we are aware of Bishop Grandin’s involvement in residential schools and work to actively harm our Indigenous brothers, sisters and folx. It is heartbreaking, wrong, and we don’t condone it in any way.”
  • Karen Anderson featured Chef Scott Jonathan Iserhoff’s story of reigniting his passion for cooking when it allowed him to connect with his Indigenous roots. He will be opening up a Pei Pei Chei Ow food kiosk at the Edmonton Downtown Market.
  • The pilot permitting alcohol consumption at specific picnic sites in Edmonton officially began last week.
  • Coffee Pass is back for its second iteration with drinks at 28 local cafes included. The pre-sale for the $39 pass is now on; the pass can be redeemed until October 31, 2021.
  • Linda interviewed Larry Harris of Bonne Vie Bakery to learn how he got into baking and about his time on the Great Canadian Baking Show.
  • Several Southeast Asian restaurants, including Kanto 98 St., are featured in this Globe & Mail article.
  • CBC focused on the rise of Filipino cuisine in Alberta, including the desserts of Yelo’d in Edmonton.
  • EDify samples the Somali fare at Mareeg Cafe and Restaurant on Alberta Avenue.
  • Curiocity has a listicle about 10 of the best burgers in Edmonton.
  • Faaiza Ramji partnered with Fort Saskatchewan’s Fort Distillery to create a pea-based liqueur flavoured with botanicals called Don’t Call Me Sweet Pea. It isn’t yet commercially available, but Ramji hopes it will be on store shelves soon.
  • It’s really unfortunate that interventions like this are necessary, but it’s wonderful to see a fully stocked community freezer at Brightview School that allows those in need to access food with dignity.

Beyond Edmonton

  • CBC featured several families behind some of the small town Asian restaurants that are ubiquitous across the Prairies.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • A three-year pilot with YEG Honeycomb will see six sites across Edmonton, including Mercer Warehouse, host urban hives. The pilot is supported by the City of Edmonton.
  • The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board is working on its first master agricultural plan, which aims to conserve prime agricultural lands over the next thirty years.

What I Ate

  • When leftovers just won’t cut it, I appreciate that I have a multitude of options right outside our door. Last week, we hit up Ramen Misoya for some comforting noodle soup for lunch, and it hit the spot.
  • Ramen Misoya

Take-out from Ramen Misoya

  • My annual Burger’s Priest craving came up early this year, so we indulged in their Vatican City burgers over the weekend. There’s just something about those grilled cheese buns.
  • The Burger’s Priest

Burger’s Priest Vatican City and fries (and Emily’s hand!)

Food Notes for May 24, 2021

Local Business Prairie Catering Takes Over Art Gallery of Alberta Restaurant

Prairie Catering has partnered with the Art Gallery of Alberta to exclusively operate their food service, events, and facility bookings. This will include the space that houses Zinc Restaurant.

In the press release, Prairie Catering owner Jimmy Shewchuk said:

“Our goal with the new space is to inspire and usher in a new wave of hospitality concepts in Edmonton. Considering the disruption throughout the pandemic to the hospitality industry, I believe we have a unique opportunity for new ideas to emerge as we experience yet another hospitality renaissance.”

When public health guidelines permit, Prairie Catering plans to host food pop-ups.

Prairie Catering operates Say Uncle, and has been providing food and beverage services at the Edmonton Valley Zoo since 2019. In April, they announced that all areas of the Zoo where food and beverages are permitted are now licensed for alcohol consumption.

When it first opened in 2010, Zinc was operated by The Compass Group, a multi-national company that provides foodservices in various sectors including universities, hospitals, and work camps. When the pandemic shuttered restaurants in March 2020, Zinc temporarily shut its doors, but never did reopen even after restrictions lifted in the summer. The last chef who helmed the restaurant, Doreen Prei, shared in October 2020 that the restaurant had permanently closed.

Openings

  • There’s another ghost kitchen in Edmonton called Waffle Bird. It operates out of the High Level Diner on Friday and Saturday nights from 8pm-midnight, and serves up chicken and waffles.
  • Iland Vybes Cafe, serving up Jamaican food, is now open at 10027 106 Street (formerly Beans Cafe and Bistro).
  • Awn Kitchen has announced an opening date of June 9, 2021. They are located at 104, 5124 122 Street.
  • I missed the opening of New Gurkha Indian Restaurant and Bar last fall, in the space that formerly housed Thai Orchid at 4005 Gateway Blvd.

Upcoming Events

Local News

  • Calle Mexico will be rolling out taco stands onto the streets of Edmonton soon!
  • You may have heard that the reunion of Friends is airing later this week; local catering company A Capella has jumped on the bandwagon and is offering a Friends-inspired take-and-bake special. The order deadline is May 26 at noon.
  • If you needed an excuse to visit Doughnut Party, $1 from each half dozen order will be donated to Edmonton Cat Fest on May 27 and 28, 2021.
  • Biera and Blind Enthusiasm have supported 24 charities so far through a weekly curated charcuterie and beer box. Each box sells for $65 (delivery is extra) and $20 from each box is donated to a local charity.
  • Simply Supper pivoted last March to exclusively offer pre-assembled meal kit services (dropping their in-person assembly option) and hasn’t looked back.
  • EDify checked out the Dosi-Rock food truck.
  • Boyle McCauley News had pastries from Shan Shan delivered.
  • Alberta quick-service restaurant The Mash has allegedly faced difficulties with the City of Edmonton’s permitting process. They hope to open a restaurant in Edmonton this year.
  • #Eat124StBingo, an initiative of Meuwly’s and 124 Grand Market, was featured on CTV.
  • Speaking of Meuwly’s, Eat North has a short piece about the story behind their name.
  • The Real Estate News EXchange featured Gather Co., the company that owns and has revitalized a number of heritage buildings throughout central Edmonton, including those that house Chef Daniel Costa’s restaurants.
  • Alley Kat’s Full Squeeze beer returns, with partial proceeds to be donated to the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Wild Rose, an organization that supports the LGBTQ2S+ community.
  • CBC’s mocktail columnist JoAnne Pearce talked about zero-proof spirits from Western Canadian producers.
  • Edmonton’s Nabati Foods started at a farmers’ market and recently just expanded into a larger production facility.
  • The John Humphrey Centre created an online emergency food supports map, showing locations of LoveGood Boxes, drop-in food pantries and free food access points, among others.
  • The “Pandemic Planting Project” is running a second year; last year, volunteers helped produce nearly 100 pounds of food for Edmonton’s Food Bank. David Benjestorf has expanded the garden this year.
  • Domino’s Pizza will make a $5 donation to Edmonton’s Food Bank with the purchase of a combo online using a coupon code.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

    • Long weekends are made for picnics! We grabbed take-out from Grandin Fish ‘N’ Chips, picked a sunny spot on the Leg grounds, and revelled in the fact that public washrooms are back (porta potties, but still), and that the fountains on the plaza are on for the first time since 2019! Hope you all had an enjoyable long weekend, too.

Grandin Fish ‘N’ Chips

Dinner for two from Grandin Fish ‘N’ Chips

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