Food Notes for June 20, 2022

Oonnie Aims to Connect Consumers with Local Producers

Oonnie, a website that aims to assist consumers who are looking for more convenient ways to shop locally, is set to officially launch on June 25, bringing to life the vision of a Métis entrepreneur who has spent the past 13 years in the commercial construction business.

Oonnie is the brainchild of Nicole Matos, who founded Rivet Construction in Sherwood Park in 2009 and served as its CEO until March of this year.

Matos grew up in rural Alberta on a small cattle farm but eventually ended up relocating to the Edmonton area. During the pandemic, faced with empty shelves at grocery stores, she was reminded of her roots of sourcing food more directly, but she realized she had been away from farms for 20 years, and no longer had those connections with producers. Farmers’ markets also weren’t ideal for Matos based on their limited operation times. She saw this gap as an opportunity to create a portal to bridge consumers with local producers.

The name Oonnie was the result of bingeing Korean dramas during the pandemic. “Unnie” is Korean for “older sister,” which describes the role she believes she will play for many of the entrepreneurs she is onboarding onto her platform.

“I have so many skills, having founded and run a successful business,” said Matos. “So it will be like having an older sister to help guide you.”

Matos has been working with Courtney Hanak, Oonnie’s business manager and owner of William Rae Designs, on building up the number of vendors on the site. So far, they’ve signed on over 20 merchants, including beef and honey producers, as well as established brands such as Confetti Sweets and Roasti Coffee. But Matos intends to broaden the directory even further.

“We’re hoping to have everything,” said Matos. “Our goal is to cover every food department that you would find in a traditional grocery store. I want to have a lot of different cultural foods.”

Matos has heard from conversations with immigrant women in particular that they have found it challenging to break into the market. “It’s so hard if you don’t have something established already,” Matos said. “The hope with this is that people could start from home, and within a day they could have an online presence.”

Matos also sees Oonnie as a way to promote Indigenous-owned businesses. “There’s a huge divide between Indigenous communities and people in urban centres, and COVID created a bigger divide,” she said. “What if people could live on reserve and notify people about when they are coming to town again with their products?”

Matos is aware of other similar sites that have sprung up in recent years, such as Good Goods, Uproot Food Collective, or The Public Food Hub, but she believes the demand can support all of these initiatives.

“We’re about community over competition,” said Matos. “There are many huge grocery stores, so there is room for many.”

The first 100 vendors who sign up on Oonnie will only pay for the credit card processing fees for the first year; vendors who join after this initial group should expect to pay a 12% fee on sales made. Matos is also planning learning sessions for vendors on topics such as Alberta Health Services standards, permitting, and packaging options, to ensure the businesses are set up for success.

Oonnie’s model is similar to Etsy, in that each vendor is responsible for delivering their own products. Matos has arranged with some local small businesses to act as pick-up points, but it is up to each individual vendor to list different fulfillment options.

“You’re dealing directly with that producer through our site,” said Matos. “It’s going from an oven to you – it’s not sitting in a warehouse for a long time.”

Oonnie’s June 25 launch coincides with a scavenger hunt in the Sherwood Park area. Participants will have the chance to win prizes, while all proceeds from food and drinks served at the event will benefit the Strathcona Food Bank.

Openings

Closures

  • Noodle Bar by Nomiya is closing on June 26, 2022 because the owner’s family’s dad is retiring.
  • Say Uncle is closing the first week of July.

Upcoming Events

  • Al Fresco on 104 returns June 25 – August 27, 2022 and will feature outdoor vendors, extended patios, and other festivities.
  • Campio’s outdoor Summer Markets are back once a month until September. They had to postpone their kick-off date due to weather, but mark your calendars for the other events.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Health Canada is proposing that ground beef and pork will have front-of-package nutrition labelling, joining products high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat.

What I Ate

    • We were away in Jasper last week, and enjoyed many of our meals outdoors. As I’ve mentioned during previous staycations, we always use it as an opportunity to try out different meal kits (something I do hope sticks around even as the pandemic fades). We tried the frozen Alberta Donair kits on this trip, and found them to be quite satisfying! We added our own vegetables, but there was definitely enough meat and sweet sauce to go around!

Alberta Donair

Alberta Donair with a view

    • We did make an exception to have lunch at Sunhouse Cafe. The mascarpone French toast was such a treat (I loved their citrus curd), and was even better enjoyed on their sunny second floor patio.

Sunhouse Cafe

Mascarpone French toast from Sunhouse Cafe in Jasper

    • Mack, Emily, and I returned to Langano Skies for one last meal before their closure, and was graciously and unexpected hosted by Amsale and Paul. We loved the lunch combination platters (Emily particularly enjoyed the siga tibs, and Mack and I were partial to the ater kik aletcha wot). The couple will be announcing their future plans later this summer, so stay tuned!

Langano Skies

Combination platters from Langano Skies

    • I tried the Too Good to Go app for the first time, and picked up a box of goodies from Ayco Cafe. It was a pretty decent deal, with three savoury croissants for $5.99. Heated up in the oven, they were great.

Ayco Cafe

Too Good to Go box from Ayco Cafe

    • Over the weekend, we visited some of our favourite businesses in Chinatown, and used it as an excuse to grab take-out from Gui Lin Noodle House. Their fried instant noodles with minced pork is hard to beat.

Gui Lin Noodle House

Fried macaroni and instant noodles from Gui Lin Noodle House

    • We also walked over to the 124 Street Market for the first time this season, and grabbed lunch from one of our favourite food trucks, Coast Lunch Box.

Coast Lunch Box

Buttermilk fried chicken sandwich from Coast Lunch Box

Food Notes for June 6, 2022

Langano Skies Leaves a Legacy of Awareness About Ethiopian Cuisine

Longtime Ethiopian restaurant Langano Skies will host its last meal on June 19. After more than 18 years in business, owners Paul and Amsale Sumamo have decided it’s time to close this chapter in their lives.

“We are older, and it is a 24-hour job,” said Amsale. “Even if we aren’t here, we are always thinking about it. Everything is cooked from scratch, and it takes a lot of time – 14 hours a day, six days a week. We have three grandchildren and want to spend time with them. Time is too short, and the more we get older, the more we want to spend time together outside of the kitchen.”

Still, it was a bittersweet decision to close the restaurant. “It’s been emotional,” she said. “It’s been very hard. I couldn’t smile during the announcement, I was so sad. If I was younger I would keep going.”

The couple’s four adult children have been involved in the restaurant, but have other full-time careers and weren’t interested in taking over the business. The Sumamos were also adamant that the brand will remain with them. “Langano Skies will retire with us. It has a lot of meaning for us. The place, the lake(Lake Langano in Ethiopia), how we started,” Amsale said.

The Sumamos acknowledge that they were not the first Ethiopian restaurant in Edmonton when they opened in 2004. But they still had to educate non-Ethiopian diners about the cuisine. In those early years, they participated in festivals such as the Taste of Edmonton and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, where they worked hard to make people aware of Ethiopian food and how to eat with injera.

“People had no clue about the taste, the texture, how to eat it,” Amsale said of the flatbread made of teff flour. “In the beginning, we had to teach people about the food and how to eat it with their hands. We had people who took forks out of their purse! But we guided them – make sure the injera is flat, scoop your food, and put it in your mouth. It’s that easy.”

Amsale believes her high standard is the primary reason diners have become loyal fans. “The quality didn’t change from Day 1,” she said. “The time I put in, no one else will put. We bring the spices from Ethiopia and I need to know what’s in it. I am very proud of (everything from) the appetizers to the dessert.”

Their ability to adapt to different dietary needs also broadened their reach, Paul added. “We are available for everyone, vegetarians and meat-eaters. We are for both, and we stretched ourselves that way.”

Amsale’s greatest joy in running the restaurant has been sharing their culture and food with the people of Edmonton. In many cases, that has resulted in seeing generations of customers come through the door.

“I was able to see people dating and get engaged. And then they would bring their baby! I have tears I am so happy,” she said. “I was happy I was able to do it for 18 years. I will miss that.”

The Sumamos are planning to operate food booths at both the Edmonton Folk Fest and the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival this summer. They will also share another announcement about what’s next in late August or early September on their Instagram page.

Since their announcement, the Sumamos have been inundated with calls from people eager to have one last meal at the restaurant (they are strongly recommending reservations to avoid disappointment). And though they wouldn’t share the details of how they intend to continue Langano Skies after the summer, they know it will be impossible to replicate the restaurant.

“We make it very cozy with the art, the decor, the paint,” Amsale said. “If we do anything else it won’t be this kind of atmosphere. But you will see us somewhere. As long as we can do it, we will do something.”

The couple is grateful for the community support that has enabled the restaurant to operate all these years. “Thank you to our customers, we wouldn’t be here without them,” she said. “We are very humbled by Edmontonians and love them back.”

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • Tickets for Linda’s Instagrammable Edmonton E-Bike Tours, which feature 4 food stops, are still available for June 8 and 9, 2022. Tickets are $75 per person.
  • Chef Table Living is offering a new series of Brewery and Distillery Bike Tours, running Friday evenings from June 17 – September 2, 2022. Tickets are $89, and include tastings from two local breweries and distillery, as well as a small snack and sandwich.
  • DOSC, Evolution Wonderlounge, and Say Uncle are hosting Pride on 104th event on June 18, 2022, featuring a Drag Brunch and Beer Garden.
  • The Taste of Edmonton returns to Churchill Square July 21-31, 2022. Advance tickets are now available until July 20.

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

  • Canada’s 100 Best List was released last week, without a single Edmonton restaurant represented. It’s always been a list heavily focused on businesses in Toronto and Montreal. While I believe Edmonton has the goods to stack up against national heavy hitters, I am reminded of the excellent piece Jen Agg wrote for the Globe a few weeks ago about the Michelin Guide’s first ever Canadian venture into Toronto, exposing the city’s “desperate hunger for outside praise.”

What I Ate

We’re away next week, so there won’t be a new edition of Food Notes until June 20, 2022. Have a great week!

    • We’re certainly going to miss Downtown Spark, which has brought such vibrancy to our neighbourhood Alex Decoteau Park. It’s been great having a series of rotating food trucks available, alongside music and the art installations! On Friday, we dined on tacos and churros from El Mero Mero.

El Mero Mero

Vanilla churros from El Mero Mero

    • We snuck in one last Downtown Spark visit on Sunday, and indulged in some Sosyal Scoops while they were in the neighbourhood.

Sosyal Scoops

Strawberry milk tea ice cream from Sosyal Scoops

    • Edmonton’s playoff fever might be coming to an end next week, but until then, we couldn’t resist picking up some Oilers-themed bagels from Bagel Bar.

Bagel Bar

#LetsGoOilers bagels

    • We also took in the family-friendly viewing party at Churchill Square on Saturday, and enjoyed some food from Ukrainian House Smachno during the game.

Ukrainian House Smatchno

Hearty dinner from Ukrainian House Smatchno

Food Notes for May 30, 2022

Openings

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • The Twilight Picnic Experience is back at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden. The events resume in June, and the $125 tickets include admission to the Garden for two, activities, and a gourmet picnic box.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • When the cap of urban hens was lifted in 2019, the number of backyard hens in 2020 and 2021 exceeded all previous years combined.
  • The Wâposo-Wâti Park and Community Garden is now open at 107 Avenue and 110 Street. It is a partnership between Native Counselling Services of Alberta, the City of Edmonton, and Alberta Retina Consultants.

What I Ate

  • I finally swung by YEG Smoked Meats to fulfill my #AdoptAShopAB commitment. I picked up our family’s favourite beef pepperoni, along with some sausage and Montreal smoked meat.
  • YEG Smoked Meats

YEG Smoked Meats product

  • Summers are for picnics: we grabbed some take-out from Jack’s Burger Shack and enjoyed it at our neighbourhood park.
  • Jack’s Burger Shack

My go-to Hangover burger

  • We are happy to have a tasty new Downtown neighbour – it will be ready handy (and dangerous) to have Seoul Fried Chicken so close. I especially love the golden kari.
  • Seoul Fried Chicken

Our Seoul Fried Chicken spread

  • We celebrated a family birthday at Branches at the Greenland Garden Centre. It was certainly a hit with Emily – she wolfed down the mini pancake bites (it helped that they were covered in sugar, alongside whipped cream, syrup, and Nutella for dipping).
  • Branches

Breakfast bowl and breakfast pizza from branches

  • Mack and I had a hosted date night at Fu’s Repair Shop. We loved the vibe, and everything, from the drink menu to the dishes was so playful but well conceived. Our favourite dishes were the pork wontons and the green onion cake panzanella salad.
  • Fu’s Repair Shop

Noodles and won tons from Fu’s

  • Our plot is in at the Alex Decoteau Community Garden! We always put our faith in tomato plants from Sundog Organics, but this year we’re also trying out growing peppers and cucumbers for the first time. It’s a great excuse to spend time outdoors, and Emily is now at the age where she loves assisting her fellow community gardeners.
  • Alex Decoteau Community Garden

Garden selfie!

Food Notes for May 23, 2022

Renovations to Bridge Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market into the Future

With its fortieth anniversary approaching, the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market is planning a slate of renovations that will make multi-day operations possible, something the market says both customers and vendors are asking for.

Keith Persaud, market manager, said the building’s history as a former City of Edmonton bus barn has made it difficult for the facility to meet current Alberta Health Services standards and that infrastructure upgrades are a prerequisite if the market were to ever consider becoming a multi-day operation.

“You need to have sinks for sampling and tastings and concession-type food,” said Persaud. “Our vendors have plastic bottles with a bucket.”

Changes to the local food ecosystem during the pandemic have also been a factor in moving renovations forward, given the proliferation of farmers’ markets over the past several years, and the rise in home delivery options. “The industry is changing, becoming more competitive,” said Persaud. “People don’t want to be in a room shoulder to shoulder with 15,000 people, they want more options to come on other days.”

Persaud notes that the shift to a younger cohort of vendors with a different approach has helped make the multi-day conversation possible.

“The new generation is not looking at what their mom and dad did. It’s not coming to the market and standing here. It’s ‘I make this, I hire people, and trucks go out,'” said Persaud. “There’s good and bad with that. You’re not meeting the owners like you used to. The upside is that the vendors are getting more opportunities to sell products and customers are getting more days to shop markets. It’s not as personal as it used to be, but that’s the way it’s going.”

When the proposed renovations — which will include redesigned vendor stalls — are complete, the market intends to open on Fridays from 11am-5pm and on Saturdays from 8am-3pm.

The market also plans to add a general store and a new kitchen and events space, both of which would operate seven days a week. The general store would sell vendor products during off-market hours, and would enable the market to expand its curbside pick-up service to seven days a week. Looking into the future, Persaud teased that a delivery option might even be on the table.

“We’ve talked about home delivery from the market — why couldn’t people call here for delivery if we had the general store? It’s not that hard to do any of that if we’re set up for it. We’re open to anything that is driven by the customers if we have the infrastructure.”

As for the kitchen, Persaud is excited about the possibilities. “The concession we will be one of the truest farm to table experiences. My chef is going to be shopping the market for everything he or she does. When it’s out, it’s out,” said Persaud.

Inspired by an idea he heard about in Red Deer, Persaud will also be looking into whether the entire market could be licensed. “Hopefully you can walk the market with a glass of wine in your hand,” said Persaud. “Why not? One doesn’t ask, one doesn’t get.”

The idea to activate the building seven days a week comes on the heels of questions about whether the lot across Gateway Boulevard should continue to be designated for parking (the market has a lease on the lot until 2025). Persaud could not speak to whether the plans are contingent upon access to free parking, but did confirm they are in ongoing conversations with the city.

“In an ideal world, I would like to tell you that we have that parking lot forever. We are working with the city, and everybody realizes what is needed in order for this vision to happen,” said Persaud. “People drive to the market, it is a destination. You can’t build a Safeway without a parking lot.”

The market has contracted Clark Builders to carry out its vision over the next 18 months at an estimated cost of $3 million dollars, funded through a mix of private and public funds. Construction would take place on days the market is not operational, and the intention is for vendors to continue with minimal disruption during this period.

“If everything goes according to plan, next year is our 40th anniversary and we’re looking to do a ribbon cutting in the fall during harvest time at the end of September,” said Persaud. “We just want to give people more energetic things for the next forty years.”

Openings

  • Seoul Fried Chicken’s second location, at 10145 104 Street, is now open.
  • Takopo is a new food truck on Edmonton’s streets, offering “one of a kind takoyaki…just like the way it is being served on the streets of Osaka.”
  • A second location of Westgate Halal is now open at 12512 137 Avenue.

Upcoming Events

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • It’s such great news that Stanley Milner now hosts a free-to-access Seed Library – check it out if you’re looking at planting this season (or have seeds to share or donate after you’re done planting for the season).

What I Ate

  • I picked up some breakfast sandwiches from Pei Pei Chei Ow at Whiskeyjack Art House last week. They included pesto, greens, 2 eggs, and mortadella. And bonus, while you wait, you can check out the “We are Medicine” exhibition by Lana Whiskeyjack. It was their third week serving food; they are open 7:30am-4:30pm on weekdays. I’ll be swinging by again to try some other sandwiches soon!
  • Pei Pei Chei Ow

Pei Pei Chei Ow Breakfast Sandwich

  • We feasted on take-out from Padmanadi (with a side of Burmese pork curry from Hom) on Friday. Their ginger beef never disappoints, but we also really enjoyed the salt and pepper tofu, which was new to us.
  • Padmanadi

Padmanadi (and Hom) take-out

  • We’ve been in the thick of Oilers fever living so close to Rogers Place, and have taken every opportunity to walk through Ice District on viewing party nights. Last week, we were lucky enough to be treated to some Jackie O’s on our way through, our first mini donuts of the season!
  • Jackie O’s

Excited for mini donuts!

  • We also took in the first period at Churchill Square’s family-friendly viewing party over the weekend, and couldn’t pass up some El Mero Mero tacos during the visit.
  • El Mero Mero

Pescado tacos from El Mero Mero

Food Notes for May 16, 2022

Edmonton Urban Farm Continues to Grow

After a year of significant expansion, the Edmonton Urban Farm continues to grow, as staff plan to add infrastructure, further diversify its community of farmers and open its doors to the public on a regular basis.

Established in 2014, the Edmonton Urban Farm is made up of two acres and is located at 113 Avenue and 79 Street. In addition to garden plots, the Urban Farm is also home to one bee hive and six egg-laying hens. The goal of the Urban Farm is to connect people to food and farming within the city, explained Jessie Radies, director with Explore Edmonton.

“The urban farm is a community hub for urban agriculture, education and sustainability,” said Radies. “It’s also a thriving example of how surplus urban lands can be used to build connections and enhance local food security.”

With the dissolution of Northlands in 2021, Explore Edmonton took over the management of the Urban Farm. In that same year, the Urban Farm was able to double in size thanks to grant funding from the United Way and the Butler Family Foundation. Last month, it was announced that the Urban Farm would receive nearly $100,000 from Prairies Economic Development Canada to further enhance the property.

“This project encompasses the expansion that happened last year, which expanded the urban farm by 30,000 square feet”, said Radies. “It will also allow us to add infrastructure to extend our growing season and provide a shaded area for visitors to protect from heat and rain.”

The Urban Farm allocates plots to partner community groups, and this year, will involve over three hundred people from 20 different groups. Groups include Homeward Trust, Right at Home Housing Society, Student Association of MacEwan University, and Wild Outside. But Patty Milligan, agriculture education specialist, shared that the largest number of their new groups are made up of newcomers to Canada, connected with the Urban Farm through the Multicultural Health Brokers.

“Some are experienced gardeners or farmers, some are brand new to gardening in general, and some are brand new to gardening in Alberta,” said Milligan. “We’ll be helping gardeners become familiar with the unique requirements of Alberta’s climate.”

The participating newcomers represent a diverse number of cultural communities, including Afghan, Filipino, Karen, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Somali, Syrian, South Sudanese, and Vietnamese.

“Groups appreciate being able to grow specific vegetables that are not easily found in Edmonton supermarkets, or, if they are, they are very expensive,” said Milligan. “One group grew three different kinds of bok choy last year. Several groups appreciated being able to harvest pumpkin leaves, amaranth, and bean leaves. I suspect those varieties will expand in the coming year.”

As all plots were already spoken for earlier in the year, it is clear interest from prospective gardeners continues to be strong. Milligan cites a number of factors, such as a desire to gather with other members of the community, and an appetite to gain gardening knowledge and skills. However, food security and safety have also played a role.

“Many gardeners have commented on the expense of fresh vegetables and appreciate being able to walk away from the Urban Farm with a bag full of tomatoes or kale,” said Milligan. “People also want to be able to gather in a safe space, both safe from COVID, and also safe from racism. One gardener mentioned that seniors from their community don’t always feel welcome when they visit public spaces.”

For the first time, the Urban Farm will be open to the public every Saturday from 10am-4pm from May 21 until Oct. 8. Visitors can opt for a self-guided walk, or join scheduled activities to be posted on their website.

Milligan is looking forward to what this season will bring. “This will be a year of much energy and change and I am excited to see the results. I also hope that we start to be noticed as a model – there should be urban farms all over the city!”

Openings

  • Takam Market at MacEwan University is adding another concept called Big Sky Sandwich. It launched on May 16, 2022.
  • A branch of Good Earth Coffeehouse is now open at The Maclaren at 10147 124 Street.

Closures

  • District’s Young and Restless Pizza pop-up is now closed, but they left the door slightly open for the future.
  • Burger Brawl announced their closure last week. Their last day of operation was May 14, 2022.

Upcoming Events

  • Swine and Dine returns on May 31, 2022 to Hayloft Steak and Fish. Tickets for the 3-course meal, featuring Irvings Farm pork, are $68 each.
  • This summer, Alberta Food Tours is bringing back a limited run of their Savoury and Sweet Strathcona food tours. Tickets are $95 and include a sit down brunch and four food tasting stops.

Local News

  • Too Good To Go, an app that helps divert food waste by connecting consumers with discounted food that would otherwise be thrown out, is coming to Edmonton. The app is currently live in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Quebec City, and Calgary.
  • Western Living announced their ten short-listed 2022 Foodies of the Year, and two Edmontonians made it: Omar Mouallem for his Burger Baron documentary, and Scott Iserhoff of Pei Pei Chei Ow.
  • Linda’s #AdoptAShopAB list is up, and features 50 Edmonton (and 50 Calgary) businesses ready to adopt. Sign up to commit spending at least $25 from May 16-30, 2022 at one of these local independent shops.
  • Also from Linda, she hits up several brunch favourites in Edmonton, and visits third-generation owned Bing’s #1 Chinese Restaurant in Stony Plain.
  • The Public has partnered with the Capital Care Foundation to offer a Feast on Your Field experience at home, with pre-order kits available for pick-up this week from Highlands Golf Club, Royal Glenora Club, and Meuwly’s.
  • NAIT released a patio guide featuring restaurants run by NAIT grads.
  • Battista’s Calzones reopened this weekend after repairing damages sustained in a fire.
  • DRTY Ice Cream has faced several set backs this year, but owner Abby Ulanimo is persevering.
  • The Culinary Cook-Off was held this past weekend, to benefit the arts program at Highlands School. Congratulations to the winning teams, including the Highlands Golf Club, Von’s, Bloom, and Red Balloon Sweet Co.
  • Edify checked out the hot dogs at Pub 1905.
  • Edify also chatted with the owners of Blue Plate Diner and Northern Chicken as they struggle to keep up with rising canola oil prices.
  • St. Albert follows in Edmonton’s footsteps in permitting alcohol consumption in specific park sites starting in July.

What I Ate

    • We picked up dinner from Nourishak on Friday night. They have a cute and charming interior with cozy nooks, but we opted for take-out. My sous-vide chicken sandwich was satisfying (I liked the crunch from their house-made potato chips), and both Mack and Emily loved the addictive seaweed chips. Their lemonades were also great – I can see us returning for cold drinks on a hot day!

Nourishak

Take-out from Nourishak

    • We indulged in some Little Bear Gelato after our market run at the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market on Sunday. It was the perfect day to enjoy a sweet treat in the sun – I love their Belgian chocolate flavour.

Little Bear Gelato

Belgian chocolate gelato from Little Bear

Food Notes for May 9, 2022

Openings

  • Pei Pei Chei Ow started serving breakfast and lunch take-out at Whiskeyjack Art House in early May. They are open Wednesday to Friday 8am-3pm. Find them at #102, 11051 97 Street.
  • Nuttea, specializing in nut-based “mylk tea”, hosted their grand opening on May 7, 2022 at 8204 Gateway Blvd.
  • It looks like Japonais Bistro will be opening a second location in Windermere.
  • Vish is opening up its first Canadian franchise location at 10326 124 Street. Their concept is an “urban hummus bar”.
  • Serengeti BBQ, serving up East African cuisine, is now open at 8815 118 Avenue.
  • Y-Not Indian Bar & Bistro, focused on Indo-Chinese and Nepalese cuisine, opened on May 4, 2022 at 3311 34 Street.
  • The Golden Spoon, serving South Asian food, opened recently at 3820 17 Street.
  • Gigi’s, a “walk-up window ice cream shop creating ice cream inspired by cheesecake”, opened in Spruce Grove this weekend.

Closures

  • After 18 years in business, the owners of Langano Skies has announced that they will be closing in late June. It may not be the last we see of Amsale and Paul Sumamo: “While this may be sad news to some, please understand this is not a final goodbye – but a “see you later”…We’re hoping to continue serving our food at Edmonton’s summer festivals & have some extremely exciting plans in the works – so be sure to keep your eyes peeled!”

Upcoming Events

  • The Backyard is hosting a live music series that starts called For the Love of Downtown. It starts May 19, 2022 and runs every Thursday into September, and admission is free by donation to local charities, and food from partner restaurants will be available during the events.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Did you know that Canada is celebrating the Year of the Garden in 2022? People are encouraged to plant something red to celebrate their pride.

What I Ate

  • Mack and I stopped by Hoang Long’s third location, in the former Al Centro space (9892 Jasper Avenue), last week for some iced Vietnamese coffees. We found out they make their own doughnuts and macarons in-house, and also serve Flirt Cupcakes. Their signage could use some work, but they are open Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm.
  • Hoang Long 888

Sweet treats from Hoang Long 888

  • Mack and I had a date night at Dalla Tavola Zenari on Friday! We had a lovely meal (the lasagna would have been big enough to share) with great service. I am looking forward to returning, hopefully on the patio!
  • Dalla

Lasagna bianca and salsicce crostoni from Dalla

  • Comfort in a bowl from Kasey Ramen was the perfect way to start off the week.
  • Kasey Ramen

Kitakata ramen from Kasey Ramen

Food Notes for May 2, 2022

Fu’s Repair Shop Aims to Celebrate Chinese Culture

The folks behind a new bar and restaurant called Fu’s Repair Shop hope it can showcase Chinese culture in a different way.

Since opening in early April in the former Prairie Fish and Chips space, partner and head chef Winnie Tsing Chen says the response from guests has been overwhelmingly positive. “I think Edmonton has been needing a place like this for a very long time now, and we are so glad to be able to provide it,” said Chen.

Fu’s is a project spearheaded by Chen and four individuals who co-own The Common and 9910, which includes Justin Der, who separately also owns the clothing store Foosh. The establishment’s name, which obscures the fact that food or drink will be served, is deliberate and is connected to some of Der’s family heirlooms.

“Who is Fu? It’s a mystery just like our repair shop exterior,” said Chen. “‘Fu’ is also a double nod to the Cantonese word for fortune or good luck. A framed swatch of the character hangs on Justin’s family wall, saved from the baby carrier used for Justin’s dad 70 years ago.”

Fu’s seems to be joining a national trend of hip, Asian-inspired restaurants that have popped up in other cities across Canada over the past decade, such as DaiLo in Toronto, and more recently, Gwailo in Calgary. But for Chen, the impetus for Fu’s was much simpler.

“The inspiration behind Fu’s was just wanting to open a fun place … that serves fun, delicious food that we want to eat and cook, serve drinks that we want to make and drink, in a place where we would want to hang out,” said Chen. “We love dim sum and Chinese food, and we wanted it for more than just brunch.”

The food menu will be familiar to those who have frequented dim sum restaurants, including dumplings, rice rolls, and lotus-wrapped sticky rice, but it also features some more fusion-style dishes, such as five-spice duck tacos and green onion cake panzanella salad (as a fun aside, the food items are all priced to end with .88; the number eight is considered lucky in Chinese culture).

Chen shared that the menu is both a practical compilation but also an homage to what she has enjoyed eating over the years. “The dim sum is basically a ‘greatest hits’ of our combined favourites, keeping in mind what is achievable given our budget, kitchen size, team, and equipment availability. And the rest of the menu is things I was inspired by during our mini food trip to Vancouver back in January, some personal favourites, and other delicious dishes from some personal travels from when I was young.”

One of Chen’s family recipes also made the cut. “My proudest dish has to be Mr. Chen’s beef noodle bowl, just because it is my dad’s personal beef and soup recipe,” said Chen. “My family used to have a noodle shop in Chinatown when I was younger and that was my favourite dish that my dad would make. I’m really happy to be able to bring it back. It also makes me really happy to see him smile when I get to tell him about how we’ve sold out of soup on a particular day.”

On the drinks side, social media has been buzzing about Fu’s boozy bubble tea. “I think I’m lucky that while everyone else spent their lockdown downtime making sourdough, my girlfriend and I spent our time mastering boba and cheese foam,” laughs Chen. “While our food menu leans heavily Chinese, we wanted our cocktail menu to be more pan-Asian just to open up the options for ingredients and flavour profiles we can explore.”

Fu’s has allowed Chen to build on her personal connection with Chinatown through the intentional sourcing of ingredients.

“My parents were immigrants to Canada and I grew up in the Boyle Street area, just blocks away from Chinatown, so Chinatown has always felt like home to me,” said Chen. “We use Delta for our rice noodles, and I go to United Grocers, 99 Supermarket, and Hiep Thanh to pick up our produce, dry goods, and spices. I’m really hoping this can be my platform to contribute my part to support Chinatown and its businesses and revitalization.”

Due in part to Fu’s unconventional exterior and how it leans into some Chinese tropes in décor, there have been some questions about whether the restaurant could be seen as commodifying Chinese culture. Chen believes those who visit Fu’s for themselves will see what they are trying to achieve.

“I never thought for once, ‘Hey, I think we can make lots of money off Chinese food or Chinese culture.’ My goal with the menu is to share some of my favourite Chinese dishes, but also just have fun with the menu and enjoy what I cook. We just want to let the food and experience speak for itself, and I think that in itself is the essence of celebrating the culture.”

Chen is optimistic that Fu’s could act as a bridge for guests to further explore Chinese culture, including through visiting businesses in Chinatown.

“I would really like diners to leave the experience wondering, ‘What else is out there? Where did this come from?’ And even though I may have been inspired by hip and trendy places around the world, I’m also trying to translate my memories of family vacations, home-cooked meals from my parents and grandma, and childhood memories of my favourite restaurants in Chinatown that are sadly no longer in business,” she said.

“That food and that vibe, even though not visually the same as Fu’s, is a feeling I’m trying to recreate with the food and experience.”

Openings

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • 11 Edmonton area restaurants are participating in Le Pizza Week from May 1-14, 2022.
  • EdmontonEats will be hosting a new series called World Community Feasts at Avonmore Community League, starting with their first event on May 13, 2022. Cindy Lazarenko will share recipes from her Ukrainian roots. Tickets are $25 each.
  • Ice District will be hosting tailgate parties during the Oilers’ playoff run.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • I am really hoping local meal kits, possibly my favourite pandemic pivot, continue to thrive. We tried Momma Tong’s frozen bun bo hue kit that we picked up at the Chinatown Transformational Collaborative pop-up at the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market back in February. Although the noodles took longer to cook than I was expecting (I probably should have pre-soaked the noodles), the soup had great flavour and it made for a great lunch.
  • Momma Tong’s

Momma Tong’s Bun Bo Hue

  • For lunch at Dagu Rice Noodle with Linda last week, I tried one of their crossing the bridge soups for the first time! The do-it-yourself process felt a little like having an individual hot pot, and having access to unlimited noodles was a nice bonus.
  • Dagu Rice Noodle

Crossing the bridge soups from Dagu

  • The return of fair weather also means the return of picnics! We dined on take-out from Backstairs Burger, including the Chip Shop Sammich.
  • 5th Street Food Hall

Chip Shop Sammich and fries from Backstairs Burger

  • We tried Banh Mi Cali for the first time on the weekend. We shared the charbroiled beef and charbroiled pork banh mi. The bread was outstanding, and though it was pricier than #yegchinatown competitors, they were pretty satisfying sandwiches.
  • Banh Mi Cali

Our Banh Mi Cali order

Food Notes for April 25, 2022

Felice Café Embraces Local at Stadium Yards

The founders of Felice Café, a new café and market located near Commonwealth Stadium, are hoping their love for local is infectious.

Felice (the musical term for “happy”), which opened on April 25, is the brainchild of couple Michelle and Tim Brouwer.

In addition to serving drinks and treats, Felice features a market where local vendors can display and sell their products for a flat monthly fee. This support of entrepreneurs extends to allowing participating businesses to access a devoted loft space at Felice where they can network, have meetings, and host classes.

“I just wanted to create a place where local businesses can come together and support each other better,” said Michelle Brouwer. “Across my vendors, under this one roof, the support they’re offering each other is overwhelming.”

So far, Felice has partnered with 20 local companies, ranging from food to personal goods. The café side will serve locally-sourced products to enjoy on-site, in addition to housing items from the same brands for customers to buy for at-home consumption. The companies include Bakenary, Benny’s Bread, Caramunchies, DRTY Ice Cream, The Cove Tea Company, Mala Foods, Mama Han Pastries, Maestro’s Empanadas, and On the Edge Coffee.

“We purchase items wholesale and don’t rebrand,” said Brouwer. “We sell everything under that local business’s name. We want them to increase their sales, and assume the food wastage costs on our end.”

Felice is the Brouwer’s first foray into food and hospitality and came as a result of the pandemic.

“I was raised in an entrepreneurial family as my mom owned a local home decor store,” said Michelle Brouwer. “I worked in health care and never owned a business before. I took stock of my life during COVID and thought about my passions. Music and love of local were the main things. A café seemed to fit the model where I could wrap all of these passions in.”

Michelle & Tim Brouwer
Michelle and Tim Brouwer of Felice Café

With 3,100 square feet of space, Felice has ample room for its owners’ ambitions. Inside there are 35 seats, and outside two patios are currently under construction, with licensing in process. “You can have your coffee in the sun in the morning and beer in the sun in the afternoon,” said Brouwer.

In the near future, a series of after-dark events under the Felice Noir banner will offer entertainment.

“We have a professional sound system that musicians can plug into and play,” said Brouwer. “Anyone who wants to perform — musicians, slam poets, comedians — will have an opportunity. We love local talent and wanted to give them another avenue.”

The café is located at Stadium Yards, a rental development built by Rohit Communities. In February 2020, Rohit organized a high-profile competition called “The Cut” to fill the commercial unit, but the pandemic ultimately sidelined the winner of that contest. When the Brouwer’s original space fell through, they were overjoyed to come across the unit at Stadium Yards, and thought it fit well with their vision.

“Rohit really wanted a community-focused business that serves the community,” said Michelle Brouwer. “It’s kind of a food desert in this area. We want to be that community anchor and hangout spot.”

Brouwer shared that the young professionals that make up most of the tenants at Stadium Yards are their target demographic, and in recent weeks, many residents have expressed excitement about the forthcoming opening. But she said Felice also hopes to attract Edmontonians from elsewhere, too.

“It’s close to public transportation,” said Brouwer. “It’s close to the stadium. People who park nearby and are going to an event will stumble upon us.”

Brouwer believes that Felice represents some of the best of what Edmonton has to offer. “Felice was born out of a love of wanting to support local, and I think we need more of this. All of my vendors are sharing their passions. It’s infectious.”

Openings

Local News

What I Ate

  • Mack and I finally made it to Stopgap Coffee – it’s a charming, bright space that offers some great coffee!
  • Stopgap Coffee

Our drinks from Stopgap Coffee

  • We had some Friday night Thai from Viphalay.
  • Viphalay

Take-out from Viphalay

Food Notes for April 18, 2022

Nourishak Switches Gears for Downtown Crowd

Korean-fusion restaurant Nourishak recently relocated their restaurant from the west end to Downtown, and in the process, is revamping their menu to suit a different population.

Kiwook Lee, marketing director with Nourishak, shared that their intension is to provide a bridge to Korean cuisine. “Our goal is not just selling Korean foods but to build a strong formula that can convince and open minds to enjoy Korean recipes,” said Lee. “Even though K-culture is moving into the mainstream, Korean foods are not always a comfortable choice.”

Nourishak first opened in the west in April 2021, and functioned as a “testbed” as they better understood which menu items did well. “We served Korean authentic food menu such as Korean BBQ, including bulgogi, kalbi, and dakalbi, and also K-donair with Korean BBQ meat and sauce,” said Lee. “The menu received great feedback from our customers so we made a decision to run more menus like donairs with Korean recipes.”

In February, Nourishak relocated Downtown, and over the past few months, have been working to build up a customer base. Some of their fans have followed them from their previous location, but Lee is optimistic that the foot traffic Downtown will continue to increase. “We believe the pandemic is at the end of the corner and workers are starting to come back,” said Lee. “The area of our cafe has a lot of professional and engineer workers around. We are taking our own pace by carefully observing the customers’ needs and trying to build a strong set up for our business.”

Nourishak will be introducing a vegan menu shortly in response to the trends they have observed, and will also be opening up a patio as the weather permits.

Lee is hopeful that Nourishak can play a role in introducing more Edmontonians to Korean culture. “We believe more people are open to knowing about Korean culture and we hope to introduce Korean recipes and let the people find the joy and beauty in them.”

Openings

  • Fu’s Repair Shop has taken over the Prairie Fish and Chips space (9902 109 Street) and is offering dim sum brunch, dumplings, and cocktails.
  • Hoang Long’s third location, Hoang Long 888, is now open at 9892 Jasper Avenue.
  • Mario’s Poutine & Pizzeria is now open at 8943 82 Avenue (the former Cheese Factory restaurant location).
  • Stuffies Pastries Cafe, a BC-based chain, hosted their grand opening this past weekend. They specialize in custard-stuffed pastries. Find them at West Edmonton Mall
  • Oodle Noodle has opened a new location in Fort Saskatchewan at 110, 9382 Southfort Road.

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Biera, Garneau Block, and Little Duchess are hosting a joint pop-up at Ritchie Market on April 23, 2022 to showcase natural wines and some snacks.
  • Kasey Ramen is hosting their second pop-up at District Cafe on April 24-25, 2022. Their first pop-up sold out, so if you’re interested, make sure you jump on the tickets when they become available.
  • Save the date for the ninth annual Culinary Arts Cook-off, which supports arts programming at Highlands School. The event will take place on May 14, 2022 and will highlight cookies.
  • Join Linda Hoang for a Jane’s Walk in Chinatown on May 8, 2022. Registration is required.

Local News

  • 124 Market is gearing up for the 2022 season, and announced they will be expanding into a third location this summer. On Saturdays from June 5 – October 8, the 124 Market can be found at Manchester Square.
  • Taproot featured the couple behind Stopgap Coffee, and has an update about the progress being made in the Barto Residence which will eventually house Vintage Fork.
  • Chicken King, which has been open for about a year at 10951 101 Street, is worth seeking out, says Boyle McCauley News.
  • Linda’s most recent Lindork Does Life vlog showcases Ernest’s at NAIT.
  • Blues on Whyte opened their expanded patio last summer without the proper permits, and will likely now have to close it as it puts them over their allotted capacity.
  • On a related note, the City opened their Summer Patio Program to enable businesses to “create safe and accessible spaces for everyone.”
  • Kind Ice Cream’s Highlands location just celebrated their first birthday.
  • Edmonton-based Tiffin Fresh Kitchen will be opening up an outpost in Kelowna soon.
  • Hungry Zine’s Issue 02 is now out.
  • The Journal highlighted several local “anti-foodie foodies” who have sprung up as a response to food influencers, including Ramneek Singh, Salvador Garcia of Fat Sal, and Brotherhood of Plates.
  • John Williams of Blue Plate Diner will be stepping back from the day-to-day responsibilities at the restaurant.
  • The new Roxy Theatre features a kitchen named after long-time supporter Gail Hall.
  • This week’s episode of Let’s Do Coffee involves a chat with MilkCrate’s Steven Brochu and how he kept his business going during the pandemic.
  • The latest episode of Let’s Meet For a Beer features Peter Keith of Meuwly’s.

What I Ate

  • After what felt like a long week, we decided to kick off the start of the long weekend with pizza from High Dough. No regrets.
  • High Dough

Pizza for days from High Dough

  • It’s hard to avoid Mini Eggs at this time of year, and I happily indulged this season. The Mini Egg donut at Farrow hit the spot this weekend.
  • Farrow

Mini Egg donut from Farrow

Food Notes for April 11, 2022

Ghost Kitchen Incubator Markt Brands to Launch this Fall

Markt Brands has leased a 10,000-square-foot space in south Edmonton to house up to 25 ghost kitchens, offering food entrepreneurs a chance to get into the restaurant business at a lower cost and with less hassle.

The space at 99 Street and 34 Avenue, which will be carved into bays of 200 square feet each, is set to launch in October. Markt CEO Kyle Ferbey said his experience in the food industry over the past two years led to the idea.

“We’ve seen two big trends in the pandemic,” said Ferbey, who separately operates 16 Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen franchises in Edmonton. “The first is a shift to a delivery-based model. Our delivery numbers at Popeyes increased from 3% to 20%. Second, there are rising costs that make it more difficult to start and operate a restaurant.”

Markt’s model is similar to CloudKitchens, an American-based startup that operates in more than two dozen states and recently launched in Toronto. Markt vendors will pay $5,000 a month for basics like rent, utilities, and pest control, as well as marketing support, third-party delivery app coordination, and securing other backbone services such as accounting at competitive rates. Ferbey compares this overhead cost to an estimated $500,000 to launch a conventional brick-and-mortar restaurant.

“The goal is to eliminate a lot of the major challenges to open a restaurant and set them up as a success,” said Ferbey. “I think there’s a lot of that out there, people who are too afraid to start a restaurant because it’s too financially risky. If someone comes to us and has really great food, we can help them create something great by eliminating the hassles and headaches.”

So far, Markt has nine confirmed vendors, whose concepts include Chinese, Filipino, Thai, burgers, and vegan food.

“We have a mix of people who have never owned a restaurant in their lives to people who have owned restaurants and want to try a new concept, and one gentleman who wants to expand a concept,” said Ferbey. “One woman is currently working at 7-Eleven and has always dreamed about opening a restaurant. We are taken aback that she trusts us.”

Nghia Truong and his wife Nin are among the vendors who have already signed on to Markt. Along with his parents, Nghia ran Sweet Mango and then its successor, Mini Mango, for 13 years. Due to health-related challenges, the family decided to sell the business in 2020, but they are now looking to get back into the hospitality industry in a different way.

“Being a restaurant owner is one of the most challenging ordeals,” said Truong. “When you’re putting your heart and soul into making the best product, and if you have a young family, it makes it even harder. When we first opened Mini Mango, my son wasn’t even one yet. It took a lot of years of sacrifice and time away from my kids to make it work.”

Truong has known Ferbey for more than a decade as a regular customer at Mini Mango, and he’s keen on letting Markt do the heavy lifting so he and Nin can concentrate on the food. They’re considering up to three concepts for their ghost kitchen: a scaled-down version of Mini Mango, offering vermicelli bowls and banh mi sandwiches, a drink concept featuring Vietnamese coffee with boba, and packaged Vietnamese cakes.

“Anyone with a food concept can just focus on making food,” said Truong. “They cover all of the maintenance and nuances of running a restaurant, and the startup will be one-tenth of the traditional restaurant. It’s much more feasible and realistic.”

Truong was also swayed by Markt’s vision for expansion. If successful, Ferbey’s intention is to build additional locations in Edmonton and, eventually, throughout the country.

“By expanding our footprint, it gives vendors an option to rapidly expand their brands across Canada,” said Ferbey. “If we have 25 locations in Canada, people could licence their brand across Canada within a matter of months.”

But it will all come down to good food. “We look at it as a restaurant incubator with people who want to share incredible food with the world,” said Ferbey. “Food brings us together.”

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • El Corazon, a Mexican restaurant located in the West Block Glenora (14101 West Block Drive, #150), opened last week.
  • Burger Daddy is now open at 4351 167 Avenue.

Upcoming Events

  • The Lions Club is hosting a wine and cheese tasting fundraiser on April 30, 2022 at the St. John’s Cultural Centre. Tickets are $65.
  • Urban Pedal Tours start up in April, with public and private tours now available to be booked.
  • Chef Table Living announced their new season of Food Bike Tours, running May 7-September 24, 2022. Tickets start at $139 per person, and each include stops at four businesses.

Local News

What I Ate

  • We had a lovely time last week at our favourite staycation getaway, Prairie Creek Inn. I always look forward to their breakfasts and it’s such a treat to be able to eat outdoors in the spring.
  • Prairie Creek Inn

Hot breakfast from Prairie Creek Inn

  • We also stopped by Rocky Mountain House and grabbed some take-out from Cucina, a restaurant offering Korean and Italian dishes on the same menu. I really enjoyed their bulgogi poutine.
  • Cucina

Bulgogi poutine from Cucina