Food Notes for September 6, 2021

The Tomato Turns 25

The Tomato, Edmonton’s longest-standing food publication, celebrates a milestone this month as it reaches twenty-five years in business. Their first issue debuted in September/October 1996.

Founder and editor Mary Bailey remembers those early days, driven by a perspective gained from inside the food scene itself. “When I started, I was from hospitality and in the wine business and knew nothing about publishing magazine,” said Bailey. “I really liked City Palate in Calgary and thought, ‘We need to have one of those in Edmonton.’”

At that time, City Palate was a publication focused on Calgary’s food culture that began in 1993. Bailey arranged to co-publish an Edmonton edition for a few years, paying them a royalty to use the City Palate name. Eventually, realizing that the shared identity wasn’t necessary, Bailey rebranded the magazine as The Tomato in 2010 (City Palate folded in 2019). “Funny thing about it was when we did it, everything – advertising, readership – went up,” said Bailey. “That taught me a big lesson: you have to reinvent yourself every few years because it felt new and fresh.”

That same year, they also started publishing content online, but Bailey acknowledges that much of her readership continues to be driven by their print copies. “I think people look for different things in different places,” said Bailey. “I was under the impression that people under 30 didn’t pick up publications but so many of my readers tell me they like the print edition because they can’t make a recipe and have it on their phone at the same time.”

The cover of the September/October 2021 issue features the images of twelve past covers, and in Bailey’s editorial note, indicates that they “selected cover images of many of the people who make our food scene what it is.” When asked how it is possible that no BIPOC persons were included, Bailey indicated that it was not intentional. “I don’t think we’ve ignored the diverse cultures in terms of food,” said Bailey. “It’s in our pages and not on the covers. We’re going to try really hard to do better.”

As for the future of the magazine, Bailey believes The Tomato will last because she continues to be excited about Edmonton’s food scene. “I’m a chronicler of the food scene,” said Bailey. “I think of my job as finding the people in the business that are doing interesting things. We will continue on talking about food, because food always changes.”

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Mojo Jojo Pickles has a new home – their storefront Nosh and Quaff is open at 9627 82 Avenue. They had a shop in Kingsway that was open for two weeks before the pandemic shut them down.
  • JustCook Kitchens is gearing up to launch their 5th Street Food Hall concept in September. One of the vendors, Seitans, has released their menu in anticipation of the opening.
  • Gangnam Street Food and Coco Fried Chicken will be opening a location in Windermere (1109 Windermere Way SW).
  • Flame Pizzeria is opening a second location at 989 Tamarack Way.

Upcoming Events

  • The 124 Street Business Association is hosting Flavours of 124 Street on Fridays and Saturdays beginning September 10 and running until September 25, 2021. Participating restaurants will be offering menu specials.
  • The Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts is hosting a Fall Harvest Market on September 18, 2021 at the Strathearn Centre with a variety of frozen and fresh food vendors.
  • The next NOSH Food Fest featuring a variety of food vendors will be held on September 18-19, 2021 at the Strathcona County Community Centre in Sherwood Park.
  • Dining in the Dark guests will eat their meals blindfolded for a different experience. Tickets for the October events start at $80.
  • Save the date for the annual Pizza Pig Out event in support of KidSport, to be held on October 8, 2021.

Local News

What I Ate

  • In between errands on Saturday Mack and I grabbed some coffee from Roasti in Sherwood Park and happened upon a Chamber Orchestra of Edmonton concert in a nearby park. It was a nice way to enjoy our drinks outdoors!
  • Roasti Coffee

Roasti Coffee in the ‘Park

  • We also stopped by Bountiful Farmers’ Market for lunch (they have an outdoor eating area set up). It was absolutely bustling – and though it will always pain me that the market is not situated in a residential or retail area (meaning that most shoppers are reliant on personal vehicles for transportation), they are clearly doing something the longer-standing markets are not. The tacos from Frida were great, and definitely makes me want to check out their storefront on 124 Street.
  • Frida

Frida at Bountiful Market

Food Notes for August 30, 2021

DRTY Brings Filipino Ice Cream to Edmonton

The profile of Filipino cuisine has continued to rise in Edmonton over the last several years, thanks to upstart businesses like Filistix, Kanto 98 St., and Yelo’d, as well as with the arrival of Filipino fast food giant Jollibee in 2019. New food business DRTY Ice Cream is adding an additional cultural touchstone for the local Filipino community with their take on sorbetes, or Filipino ice cream.

DRTY (pronounced “dirty”) is the brainchild of Abby Ulanimo, who is half-Filipino and was born and raised in Canada. In 2019, she visited the Philippines for the first time and had a reverential initial encounter with a sorbetero (ice cream vendor). “You can imagine it’s plus forty degrees, you’re so hot, and you hear this bell and when you turn around this guy has delicious frozen treats,” said Ulanimo. “The sorbetero brings those feelings of relief and joy.”

Ulanimo explained that sorbetes are typically made with coconut milk or cassava, as ingredients typically found in ice cream like eggs, milk, and cream are expensive in the Philippines. Sorbeteros, lacking access to refrigeration, would make fresh batches of sorbetes by hand daily, sold out of roving wooden carts.

Through its development, DRTY has gone through some recipe changes to adapt to the different context. “When we first started, we were using a cassava base,” said Ulanimo. “But then we found that cassava flour cannot hold its integrity in the freezer. This wouldn’t be a problem in the Philippines because their batches are never frozen overnight.” DRTY has since adapted to using plant-based stabilizers in most of their ice cream flavours.

DRTY’s name is inspired by the history of sorbetes in the Philippines. Ulanimo shared that when larger corporations began stocking grocery stores with their ice cream, those companies made efforts to brand sorbetes as “dirty” to discourage people from patronizing sorbeteros. “Our name is such a conversation starter,” said Ulanimo. “We are very passionate about highlighting the tradition and the culture behind sorbetes. If I can teach someone something, my job is done.”

The names of their flavours are puns in Tagalog (the primary language spoken in the Philippines) as a means to appeal to their target Filipino demographic. But DRTY also showcases non-traditional sorbetes flavours. The flavour “As In Asin” marries a ubiquitous Fillipino coconut jam with salted caramel. “Mangga Gala” replicates a common cake-like dessert many who grew up in the Philippines would be familiar with. “Not everyone has electricity or an oven in the Philippines,” said Ulanimo. “So if they couldn’t afford a cake or couldn’t bake a cake they would layer graham crackers, condensed milk, and mangoes, and the graham crackers would absorb the moisture and act like a cake. I want people to taste it and remind them of something they had while they were sitting in their grandmother’s lap.”

Last year, friends of hers who owned Intent Coffee offered her the chance to make her dreams of creating sorbetes in Edmonton a reality by offering to stock her product. Ulanimo worked as a marketing coordinator by day, and in December 2020 started making ice cream every night in a commercial kitchen until 1am to meet the increasing demand. In June of this year, she finally quit her full-time job and brought on her sister, Emmalyn Ulanimo-Bulan, to help.

While Intent Coffee closed earlier this summer, DRTY is available in single-serving cups and pints at the Shoe Shine Shack in the Mercer Warehouse, and Filipino shop 3J Variety Store, as well as at various markets around the city. They have also found success in supplying customized cups to people throwing birthday parties, bridal showers, or other special events.

Long term, Ulamino wants to see a fleet of DRTY carts servicing the city. “We want to offer that experience of scooping the ice cream and ringing the bell,” said Ulamino. “Bringing sorbeteros carts to Canada would just tie the experience together.”

COVID-19-related News

  • City Council voted in favour of reinstating the indoor mask bylaw, effective September 3, 2021. This would include masking to enter a restaurant, but once seated, patrons could unmask to eat or drink.

Openings

Upcoming Events

  • Shake, Stir & Strainbow runs from August 13-September 3, 2021 with participating restaurant and bars donating $1 from each feature cocktail to the Skipping Stone Foundations, a charity that supports trans and gender-diverse youth. In Edmonton, Central Social Hall, Three Vikings, and Tres Carnales Rostizado are participating.
  • Le Burger Week runs from September 1-14, 2021, when participating restaurants will offer special burger creations.
  • The Alberta Avenue Business Improvement Area is hosting Vybz on 118 on September 4, 2021 with Jamaican, Italian, Vietnamese food on 119 Avenue between 83-84 Streets from 11am-6pm.
  • Root 107 is playing host to the Cocktails & Jerk Festival on September 5 from 11am-9pm. Expect Caribbean street food and non-alcoholic and alcoholic cocktails along with live music.
  • The Chinese Benevolent Association is organizing another long table feast in the Quarters on September 19, 2021 to be attended by vulnerable community members and low-income seniors. They’re looking for volunteers and donations.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • I had a lovely meal with a friend on Friday on La Petite Iza’s beautiful rooftop patio. I loved the Parisian gnocchi in Dijon creme, and the service was great. I hope to be back again soon!
  • La Petit Iza

Parisian gnocchi from La Petite Iza

Food Notes for August 23, 2021

New Bakery Brings Baked Goods to Riverdale

The folks behind Riverdale’s Little Brick are set to open the doors to a new neighbouring business on August 26, 2021. Bread & Butter Bakery is the newest sibling establishment from the River Valley Company, who has participated in the operation of Little Brick since 2015.

Their vision for the river valley is bold, “to create an international tourist destination with beautifully unique buildings, and to provide world-class hospitality businesses and tourist-centric activities for people from all over the world to come to Edmonton to enjoy.” With the addition of the Umphreville Block at 10158 90 Street, which is home not only to Bread & Butter but also a forthcoming pub called Dogpatch, the River Valley Company is making strides towards creating a destination in Riverdale.

Ange Minor, the Bakery Manager at Bread & Butter is keen for people to finally taste the hard work she has put into developing the launch over the last year. “I always wanted to have more of savoury-focused shop, and the wonderful owners [at the River Valley Company] gave me complete free reign of how I wanted to do that,” said Minor. “All the recipes have been tested and tested until they became absolute perfection.”

She feels the savoury nature of the Bread & Butter sets it apart from others in Edmonton’s bakery scene. “We will have a beautiful bread wall stocked full of a variety of from scratch, baked fresh daily breads,” said Minor. “From focaccia, signature sourdough, brioche loaves, multigrain loaves, gluten-free focaccia, and savoury pastries like scones and croissants.”

Those hoping to find the shop’s namesake “butter” for sale will not be disappointed, either. “Our bakery cooler will be filled with signature butters, which are meant to be eaten together with our breads to make a perfect pair,” said Minor.

Bread & Butter will also satisfy those with a sweet tooth, with treats such as brioche Danishes and gluten-free fudgy brownies and granola bars.

Although Bread & Butter won’t have any seating, they will offer drip coffee and locally-sourced tea along with cold drinks, ideal for those looking to grab a snack to accompany a walk through the adjacent river valley paths. The bakery will be open 9am-5pm daily.

Complementing its sister establishments, Bread & Butter will also be supplying scones, cookies, and muffins to Little Brick, and when Dogpatch opens, they will be featuring Bread & Butter-made breads and pies.

Umphreville Block was first announced back in early 2019, so it has been a long time coming for Bread & Butter. “I know how long the neighbourhood has been waiting for a bakery, so my team & I are very excited to serve our neighbours,” said Minor. “But we are also excited to serve the whole city we love!”

Openings

  • Wilfred’s, which now also houses a Made by Marcus, has re-opened with a new menu focusing on “handhelds”.
  • China Marble Restaurant is now open in the former Pagolac storefront in Chinatown (10566 97 Street).
  • Eat Jamaican is now open at 9518 Ellerslie Road.
  • The Little Spot, located at 11907 Jasper Avenue, stocks a variety of locally-made products, including Battista’s Calzones, and Da Capo Coffee.
  • Lost Dogs is a ghost kitchen operating out of Campio Brewing, serving up hot dogs and sides, with 50 cents from each hot dog supporting the Edmonton Humane Society.
  • New York’s The Halal Guys will have franchise locations across Canada, including in Edmonton. A location already opened in Calgary in July.

Closures

  • The long-standing Starbucks at Jasper Avenue and 109 Street is now closed.

Upcoming Events

Local News

Beyond Edmonton

What I Ate

  • Our neighbourhood burger joint Wayback Burgers had a great special on in conjunction with the Al Fresco Market on Saturday, so we picked up some take-out for a picnic at the Legislature Grounds with some friends.
  • Wayback Burgers

Wayback Burgers picnic

  • On Sunday, we ventured out in the drizzly conditions to take in an Edmonton Jazz Festival’s Jazz Around Town performance at The Backyard, and enjoyed a Korean BBQ pork wrap from Coast Lunch Box. It’s great to see this otherwise desolate corner animated, but it will be interesting to see how they transform it for the winter.
  • Coast Food Truck

Coast Lunch Box’s Korean BBQ pork wrap

Food Notes for August 16, 2021

Wine Bars Liven Up Whyte Avenue

Edmonton might be seeing a resurgence in wine bars. Darling, a wine bar focused on natural wines opened in July, while Culina shared news that they will be re-opening their much loved Bibo later this year.

Darling is the brainchild of Justin and Derrick Jones. Justin is an industry veteran, and is currently the general manager of hospitality at Biera. It was there that he was introduced to the idea of natural wines, as the restaurant wanted to ensure the drinks matched the quality of the food they were pairing. “Natural wines involve no intervention,” said Jones. “It’s making wine but not messing with it.” Jones said mass wine producers prioritize consistency above all else, and as a result, add flavouring components, dye, or animal products to ensure bottles taste similar year over year. For Jones, the beauty of wine is to enjoy the nuances imparted by the inconsistencies of farming. “This really is not a new concept,” said Jones. “It dates way back in Europe, but is now becoming a craze in Canada.”

Jones is passionate about sharing his love of natural wines with guests, and so far, Darling’s customers have run the spectrum of those eager to learn to more seasoned wine drinkers keen to see their inventory. “That’s why it’s fun,” said Jones. “We are not pouring wine and walking away – we want to share the story of the winemaker.”

Justin and Derrick had been thinking about opening a permanent restaurant before the pandemic, but things were put on hold in 2020. However, they were approached by their friends, the owners of Take Care Cafe and Weekly Trim True, who asked if they wanted to test the waters in their space in the evenings. As a result, Darling is currently a pop-up, and runs in the cafe and salon from Thursdays to Sundays from 7-11pm. They have indoor and outdoor seating, but Jones has a preference for the latter. “The courtyard is the best part, with 32 seats in the back under the apple tree,” said Jones. “It’s a nice little oasis.”

Food-wise, without proper ventilation in the current space, they are restricted from preparing hot foods. Still, Jones is happy about the curated menu of locally sourced items, which include breads from Brio Bakery and sustainable mussels from Prince Edward Island. “We don’t have complicated items,” said Jones. “Just high quality and tasty things to pair with wine.”

Since Darling opened in July, the community has embraced their concept, and Jones is hoping to find a more permanent home before the snow flies, with the goal to have a full restaurant with natural wines. As he was born and raised in the Ritchie area, he hopes to secure a space in the same community.

Further west down Whyte Avenue is where Bibo will re-open as early as October (Bibo’s Mill Creek location closed back in 2016). Owner Brad Lazarenko was approached by Beljan Development, developers of the Oliver Exchange Building which houses his Culina To Go location. They wanted him to resurrect Bibo in the lobby of the Old Strathcona Hotel. “We’re working on the concept together,” said Lazarenko. “They have a vision for an atrium lobby bar, with very open, high ceilings.” Lazarenko said the plan is for the space to be a café by day, and wine bar at night.

People shouldn’t expect the same Bibo, however. “The aesthetic will be different,” said Lazarenko. “It’s not going to be the same menu.” He teases that Japanese street foods will make an appearance, along with cheese and charcuterie and the option of picking up some Culina To Go-inspired grab-and-go items. “It’s not going to be a place to get big meals,” said Lazarenko. “It will be a place you go before or after dinner.”

For Lazarenko, this shift into Old Strathcona came as a surprise, but the opportunity to work with Beljan again was too good to pass up. “Ten years ago I never would have come to Whyte Avenue, but the area is going through a renaissance,” said Lazarenko. “It has a good energy about it, with good restaurants and lots of good food.”

Back at Darling, Jones agrees that things seem to be building for the area, and he couldn’t be happier to hear that Bibo will join their neck of the woods soon. “It’s amazing because I remember going to Bibo right before it closed,” said Jones. “It was the coolest place with a really smart sommelier who poured me the perfect glass of wine. It’s time to bring back the wine on Whyte Avenue!”

Openings

Closures

  • After nearly 10 years in operation, Mercer Tavern is closing its doors on August 31, 2021. It will be replaced by Calgary-based Home and Away in time for the start of the hockey season.

Upcoming Events

  • You Need a BBQ in Sherwood Park is celebrating its one year anniversary with the Bangers & Beer YEG Sausage Battle on September 12, 2021. Butchers and chefs will compete for your vote for the best sausage, and ticket proceeds will go towards funding Team Canada’s trip to the World Butcher Challenge in Sacramento. Tickets are $25 plus fees.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

Food Notes for August 9, 2021

Fleisch Reopening Indoor Dining to Vaccinated Guests

Fleisch announced on Friday that they will be expanding into the former Cartago space to offer “elevated pub food, craft beer and cocktails” at The Bar at Fleisch. Along with that news, they shared that after closing dine-in services for nearly ten months, they will finally reopen their doors for indoor dining – but only to those who can prove that they’ve received both COVID-19 vaccine doses.

“We will be requiring proof of FULL vaccination (both shots) to dine indoors.  This is non-negotiable and is part of our commitment to keep both our staff and the greater community safe.  We understand that this may be controversial for some, but making this choice was easy for us. Community > everything, and we will continue to do our part in prioritizing your health.”

Fleisch will not require proof of vaccination to dine on their patio, and they will continue to offer take-out and delivery as well.

Earlier this summer, Fleisch had posted that their timeline for re-opening indoor dining would be tied to the date at which their staff acquired full immunity. Co-owner Katy Ingraham has also been a strong advocate for better ventilation and safety measures for hospitality staff throughout the pandemic. Ingraham declined a request to be interviewed for this story.

Although most of the social media response has been positive, there have been some notable detractors, such as comments from Marnie Ashcroft, the founder of Glow Juicery.

Legal precedent in Canada has not yet been established, particularly as the idea of vaccine passports for COVID-19 are new. But legal experts indicate that accommodations may need to be made in certain circumstances.

“There is nothing legally preventing businesses from requiring proof of vaccine. But the human rights code basically demands that people be accommodated if they have a health reason (for why) they can’t be vaccinated,” said Lorain Hardcastle, an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary.

An opening date for The Bar at Fleisch has not yet been announced.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • A second location of the international chain Earl of Sandwich is coming to 109 Street and Jasper Avenue.

Upcoming Events

  • A dozen restaurants are participating in the inaugural YEG Hot Dog Fest, run by Meals on Wheels. $1.50 from every hot dog creation sold at restaurants will go directly towards the charity. The festival runs the entire month of August.
  • 16 Edmonton-area restaurants are participating in Alberta on the Plate, with special menus showcasing local ingredients. The festival runs from August 6-15, 2021.
  • Spruce Grove is hosting the Grove Rotary Ribfest, from August 13-15, 2021.
  • Sturgeon County is offering Summer in Sturgeon Picnic Boxes that can be pre-ordered for pick-up at various parks from August 13-22, 2021.
  • Savour Strathcona returns on September 12, 2021 to Strathcona County Community Centre Agora. Over a dozen restaurants and food trucks will be on hand.

Reviews

  • Sharon reviewed the unique Vietnamese food offerings at Co Chin Saigon in Chinatown, and also ate her way through the menu at Caffe Sole.

Local News

What I Ate

  • At the end of July, as a part of Linda’s month-long birthday celebrations, I took part in one of Pei Pei Chei Ow’s cooking classes. I learned how to make Nohtawey’s potato pancakes and a fermented berry drink called Meenishapiy. Chef Scott Iserhoff incorporated history and personal stories throughout the one hour session, so the time went by quickly! The online classes are available to be booked with groups of at least 5 participants.

Scott2Chef Scott Iserhoff of Pei Pei Chei Ow

  • I met up with some friends last weekend for brunch in Old Strathcona. Our original destination was Pip, but with an hour long wait, we ended up next door at The Next Act instead. The patio was great, with an awning to shield us from the threatening clouds, and service that was friendly and relaxed. I loved the breakfast poutine – who can ever pass up tater tots?
  • Next Act

Breakfast poutine from The Next Act

  • Our patio plans on Friday were dashed by the weather, but it led to us finally trying Rub’d, a ghost kitchen operating out of Crash Hotel. The brisket sandwich was great, and the huge portion of fries remained crispy even after our walk home (I’m assuming this is by design for a take-out/delivery-only joint). I’d definitely be open to ordering it again!
  • Rub’d

Brisket sandwich and fries from Rub’d

  • Mack and I had an abbreviated date night at Partake. It was ultimately cut short due to rain, but not before we enjoyed some delicious cocktails and appetizers on their beautiful back patio. We ended up ordering the croque mon soubise and poutine to go, so we still had the chance to satisfy that comfort food craving.
  • Partake

No. 11 cocktail from Partake

Food Notes for August 2, 2021

Heritage Festival Returns

After being forced to cancel the event in 2020, the Edmonton Heritage Festival returned to Hawrelak Park over the weekend. Introducing timed ticket attendance was one way organizers responded to the pandemic, in addition to eliminating food tickets in favour of direct contactless sales at pavilions. In spite of the changes, the event met its target audience of half a normal year’s turnout.

I was on the grounds on Saturday as a part of the team responsible for judging the food. Alongside head judge Phil Wilson, Councillor Andrew Knack and his wife Jamie, Lorraine Ellis from Partake, and Aditya Raghavan of Fleur Jaune Cheese, we were tasked with eating our way through over thirty pavilions that were offering food this year.

With the delayed green light for this year’s festival, many countries normally represented at the event weren’t present, let alone able to offer food. As such, all of the cultural associations and their volunteers deserve a huge kudos for even getting food on the menu in such trying times.

I was also initially concerned by the concepts of judging and ranking food associated with a specific country or culture. For many of the participating pavilions, the dishes served represent traditions and tastes that are meant to be enjoyed as a window to their world, and not critiqued.

Thankfully, the criteria we were directed to use took into account more than just the food itself, but also the enthusiasm of the volunteers serving the items, the efficiency of the food service, and even signage.

Our process involved the group splitting into two smaller teams, with each assigned to sample fare from half the pavilions. After that, we met up to share our top three pavilions, and headed off separately one last time to try the other team’s short list. The final list came together after discussions in the large group again.

This experience was great for me personally because over the years, it’s been a routine for me to indulge in specific items from the same pavilions – stewed lentils and injera from Eritrea and langos from Hungary, to name a few. But with neither of those countries represented this year, and the wide expanse of pavilions I did have the opportunity to sample, I can safely say I now have several new favourites!

The lokma from Azerbaijan in particular were a lovely surprise, the freshly fried doughnuts were coated in a floral syrup that elevated each bite.

Thanks again to Phil for the invitation to be a part of the judging team, and to all of the staff and volunteers behind the Heritage Festival to bring back the event this year.

Openings

  • There’s a new wine bar in town that’s now open called Darling, “where Natural Wine flows to old school beats”. It’s located at 9621 82 Avenue.
  • Sharon found a new spot specializing in Yunnan rice noodles called Shimiaodao Yunnan Rice Noodle at 8613 109 Street.
  • Fleisch will be expanding into the former Cartago space with The Bar at Fleisch.
  • Downtown Bistro will be opening in the space formerly occupied by the Free Press Bistro (10024 104 Street).
  • Oodle Noodle’s fourteenth location will be opening soon at Kingsway Mall.

Closures

Local News

What I Ate

  • We ended up spending quite a bit of time at Taste of Edmonton this week, one night with tickets purchased ourselves, and another to use up tickets we won through Coast Lunch Box! We had some great eats throughout, including everything from Pikante, the Coast Lunch Box wrap, and gelato from Little Bear.
Taste of Edmonton
A very small part of our Taste of Edmonton spread
  • Over the weekend, we were in the area so it was a good excuse to finally check out Tito’s Patio and the Botanist’s Garden, run by Geoscapes Events at Snow Valley. The reclaimed pallet furniture and planters were a lovely sight, and Emily loved exploring the surrounding green space. The food menu was somewhat confusing to navigate, but it was very value-forward. I enjoyed my pulled pork sandwich, which could have easily fed two people! The Patio and Garden are open Thursday to Sunday from 12-8pm until the end of August.
Tito’s Patio
Pulled pork sandwich and house salad from Tito’s Patio

Food Notes for July 26, 2021

Intent Coffee Closes Permanently

Back in September, Intent Coffee opened their cafe in Southgate Centre with such promise. Run by Mavi Tolentino and Reika Herradura, both identifying as queer first-generation Philipinx, Intent Coffee had a grand vision: “By hiring, investing, and empowering marginalized people in coffee, we will create a positive social and economic impact to the marginalized communities here in so-called Edmonton and as well as uplift Indigenous coffee producers in the Philippines.”

In preparation for their opening, they were able to successfully crowdfund over $6,000 to cover start-up costs. Their initial staff were made up of six people from the queer and trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities, with the hope of creating a safe space for queer youth and people of colour.

Unfortunately, Intent Coffee announced that their shop closed permanently last week. In a statement posted to Instagram on July 26, 2021, they disclosed the financial duress they had been under and how their inexperience affected the business:

“In early July, we literally had $1,000 in our checking account. We have also made bad financial decisions over the past two weeks out of desperation to keep our doors open and keep our livelihoods…Going into this, we didn’t have any business background and definitely didn’t have any money. Our lack of experience led us to making mistake after mistake.”

Tolentino and Herrandura go on to say they are hopeful their work might spark some change:

“We might have failed in moving towards our vision but we at least failed forward and we certainly did not fail in trying. We hope that we have inspired at least one of you to be the change or create the change you want to see in the world.”

Openings

  • A restaurant called Shoyu Sushi is coming soon to the former Allegro spot downtown, at 10011 109 Street.
  • An outpost of The Canadian Brewhouse is now open at the Edmonton International Airport, next to the Central Security.

Closures

  • La Boule, the popular Old Strathcona bakery, is announcing that they will be closing their doors on August 22, 2021. But we may see the business again at some point: “Our lease has come to an end and so we must say farewell. This is not goodbye forever, just so long for now.”
  • Several restaurants at the Edmonton International Airport closed permanently over the last year, including Wayne Gretzky’s Wine and Whisky, Heineken Lounge, and Brioche Dorée Bakery.

Upcoming Events

  • A reminder that the Heritage Festival returns July 31-August 2, 2021. Free timed-entry passes are required for entry.
  • Ice District’s plaza hosts ICE Jam every Saturday starting at 5pm, with live music and food and beverages for purchase.
  • Concert series Lord of the Wings (which hosts local talent but also offering up a side of wings) continues on August 28 and September 11, 2021 with two dates remaining at ReMax Field. The Journal has a backgrounder on the event.

Local News

  • Edify is looking for the best burger in Edmonton in their Edify Burger Challenge. Submissions will be accepted until July 29, 2021.
  • Opinions on 124’s newest addition, The Lot, which hosts a rotating roster of food trucks, are mixed.
  • According to OpenTable data, Edmonton restaurants have seen an increase in customers in July 2021 when compared with July 2019.
  • The Journal has the backstory on Drizzle Ice Cream.
  • Seven local breweries located on 99 Street want to rebrand the road to be called “Happy Beer Street”.
  • On its first day in operation, the Snickerdoodle booth at Taste of Edmonton was destroyed by a self-contained fire.
  • The next item added to Edify’s Best Things to Eat list is the parmesan soup from Bundok.
  • Sharman was invited to try the Hotel Macdonald’s patio offerings at the Confederate Lounge.
  • Alberta’s craft distilleries continue to grow in numbers, alongside the number of craft breweries.
  • The City is conducting a survey about its pilot program of permitting alcohol consumption at select picnic sites in Edmonton.
  • Chef Scott Johathan Iserhoff of Pei Pei Chei Ow was featured in a Travel Alberta piece on his recommendations for Indigenous food, art, and storytelling in Edmonton.
  • Local restauranteur Morris Klimove, who opened multiple restaurants in Edmonton including Steak Lofts, passed away at the age of 97.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • I’m happy I was able to introduce Rosewood Foods to my two visiting sisters last week – I opted for their bistro chicken salad that day – light but satisfying.
  • Rosewood Foods

Bistro chicken salad from Rosewood Foods

  • Friday was the perfect evening to continue our picnic tradition with Young & Restless Pizza. One pie would have easily fed three adults but we wanted to sample both the pepperoni and meat lovers. The crust was thin and chewy, with a generous amount of toppings. Definitely worth a try, especially if you have the chance to enjoy it outdoors!
  • Young & Restless Pizza

Pepperoni pizza from Young & Restless Pizza

  • We walked over to the Black Owned Market’s one year anniversary event on Saturday and picked up some great finds! This included the chin chin poppers from Travelling Dishes, a Nigerian food service – immensely addictive, we all couldn’t stop eating them.
  • Travelling Dishes

Chin chin poppers from Travelling Dishes

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