Fun Fusion: Wild Tangerine

Last week I met up with Jennifer for a late lunch. My first pick, Il Pasticcio, unfortunately only serves lunch until 2pm, but Jennifer’s trusty foodie colleague recommended Wild Tangerine, whose operating hours span both afternoon and evening.

I’ve been to Wild Tangerine for dinner a couple of times in the past, and have been more impressed with each visit. They are a great example of a successful, independent business (and one of the first Original Fare members), and are well-known for their creative Asian fusion cuisine that highlights local producers.


As expected, we hit the tail end of the lunch rush, with only two other parties in the restaurant when we arrived. We were greeted immediately by co-proprietor Wilson Wu, ever-affable and chatty. This was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to speak extensively with him, and through the conversation, realized how health-conscious Wild Tangerine strives to be. Their current focus is on a line of pre-cooked frozen meals (available at the restaurant and through the Good Food Box) – from gourmet pizzas like Moroccan mint lamb to bison short ribs – which, like d’Lish, fills the niche of convenience with a conscience. He also told us that their Mobile Cuisine location (which had been located in Manulife Place, and served similar healthy takeout dishes), closed when their sublease of the space ended. Wilson said that it was difficult to hire staff (Mobile Cuisine opened during the boom), and that the appetite in Edmonton for such meals isn’t yet comparable to other cities.

While I can’t vouch for their bagged cuisine, I do love their menu. I think their play on Western concepts are clever: for lunch, for example, they offer Asian Po’Boys, really just a fancy term for “sandwiches”, said Wilson. Jennifer and I each ordered one – she the smoked salmon egg fooyung ($13), which tasted like a frittata encased in a bun, and I the butter masala chicken ($15). The sauce that enrobed the chicken was spiced for more timid palates (not a bad thing for a daytime meal), but the real star of the plate was the sweet corn relish, and the crisp green salad alongisde the po’boy.

Butter masala chicken po’boy

An order of four shrimp lollipops ($12) also found their way into our meal. We agreed they would be a disastrous first date appetizer, but were darn tasty. How could you go wrong with deep-fried, phyllo-wrapped shrimp?

Shrimp lollipops

Between their attentive service, interesting menu, and unrelenting support of local producers, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed lunch at Wild Tangerine. I’ll be back soon!

Wild Tangerine
10383 112 Street
(780) 429-3131
Monday-Thursday 11:30am-10pm, Friday 11:30am-11pm, Saturday 5-11pm, closed Sundays

Al Fresco on the Boardwalk: Sabor Divino

Sabor Divino is the latest restaurant to join the downtown fray, with a prime location on the Boardwalk along 103 Street – close enough for mall shoppers, theatre goers and festival revellers on the Square to access on foot, but far enough from main traffic thoroughfares to allow for a patio experience shielded somewhat from noise.

Although many (myself included) have labelled Sabor Divno a Portuguese restaurant, co-owner Christian Mena refuses to pigeonhole his eatery, and instead prefers to say their cuisine is inspired by a multitude of flavours, including those from Portugal, Spain, and the Mediterranean.

My first meal at Sabor Divino was a part of Fork Fest, an eight day celebration of Original Fare independent restaurants in Edmonton, offering pre-fixe meal deals for $20 or $35 (Mack had dined there once before, with his colleagues for lunch). The Fork Fest menu that Mack and I enjoyed at Sabor definitely seemed to sample a bit from each of the above regions, with the overall consensus being the kitchen was heavy on both balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

We opted to take advantage of a warm Edmonton day (which seems to be rare this summer), and chose a seat on Sabor’s small patio made up of three two-person tables complete with parasols. I loved that the ground level of the restaurant opened up onto the street, inviting a feeling of al fresco dining even for the tables technically tucked inside. And though the seats on the main level looked sumptuous, befitting the presence of a grand piano in the centre amongst a dark wood and dimly lit setting, I didn’t regret our choice of table.

I spy Mack’s BlackBerry…

The tapas menu was tempting, and one I’d likely consider more closely on a non-Fork Fest occasion. As it were, Mack and I built our individual meals from a $35 fixed menu comprised of two appetizers, two entrees, and four dessert options. I chose the pasta fagioli soup, black cod Mediterraneo, and Leite Crème “Dona Irene”. Mack, in an effort to supply me with more blog fodder (even at my explicit objection), ordered the mista salad, chicken in red wine, and cheesecake with black cherries.

While enjoying our bread, the pair seated behind us were accosted by a passerby looking for a smoke. They began talking, and we couldn’t help but listen (yes, we’re eavesdropping diners – but in our defense, their raised voices made it difficult not to do so). It turned out the wayward pedestrian was a bartender at the nearby L’Azia, and invited the pair to the restaurant. She described it with the following gem: “It’s an infusion restaurant. Like Taste of Edmonton, only year round.”

Bread with olive oil, butter and balsamic vinegar

I thought our appetizers came much too soon after our bread basket had been delivered (I barely made it through two slices), but Mack didn’t mind getting right to the meal. The pasta and bean soup was a hearty way to start off, though the beans were on the too-soft side, permeating the broth with a chalky texture. Mack’s salad was beautiful as it was a towering achievement, with the even larger achievement being that he managed to finish all of the greens. His only comment was that it was overdressed.

Pasta Fagioli Soup

Mista Salad

I expected the entrees to interrupt our first course, but I was pleasantly surprised – the rest of the meal was timed quite nicely. My black cod was a visually stunning dish that screamed freshness – a bed of bright green kale accentuated with bursts of rouge tomato and ink-black olives. The fish had perfectly crossed char marks, and, though I’d been warned that the kitchen often undercooked their seafood, found no unwelcome rawness inside. The pops of sprinkled salt pockets were a welcome touch, and my only flavouring complaint was the heavy balsamic pour.

Black Cod Mediterraneo

Like mine, Mack’s chicken in red wine was also generously portioned, with a theme of red throughout – red onions, red grapes and red pesto sauce. Though enjoyable, it was the less unique of our two entrees.

Chicken in Red Wine

Dessert was presented as a “taster”, which, after the preceding plate, was just the right size. My Portuguese version of a crème brulee was fired fresh to order, with a richer, more flavourful custard than usually encountered. Mack enjoyed the cheesecake portion of his dessert, but could have done without the cherries, which tasted to him like the canned variety.

Leite Crème “Dona Irene”

Cheesecake with Black Cherries

At the end of our meal, I asked our waiter if the restaurant was considering any sustainable seafood choices (guided by, for example, Blue Ocean or Monterey Bay). He said that he himself used to cook, and that sustainability was very important to him personally. As a result, he would be bringing in samples from Ocean Odyssey Inland for the chef to try very soon.

With solid service and a seafood focus that differentiates it from other mid-range establishments, Sabor Divino is a welcome addition to the family of Original Fare restaurants as well as Edmonton’s food scene.

Sabor Divino
10220 103 Street
(780) 757-1114
Main dining room: Monday-Friday 11:30am-10pm, Saturday-Sunday 5-10pm; Cafe lounge: Monday-Friday 2:30-10pm, Saturday-Sunday 5-10pm

Raising Awareness: Eat Local First

When I had heard that the folks behind Eat Local First had “put up signs” at Wild Earth Foods, I wasn’t sure what that meant. I was already familiar with their pamphlet that describes the benefits of eating local, so I didn’t know what else they had prepared to increase consumer awareness on area producers and products.

Liane Faulder posted a more concrete description of their new campaign last week, and I was finally able to grasp what they were trying to do – label all of the store’s local products with an “Eat Local First” tag. So on our way home from Whyte on Saturday, we decided to stop by and check out these markers in person.

While I have been to Wild Earth Bakery in the past, I hadn’t set foot in their sister grocery store before. It’s a small store not meant to be a one-stop shop, but like Sobeys Urban Fresh, it’s a place for neighbourhood residents to pick up small necessities.

Right as we entered the store, there was a sign advertising the “Eat Local First” campaign, with pamphlets people could take with them. And then the hunt began.


We didn’t make an exhaustive inventory of the store, but wanted to take note of the variety of local products available in stock. From Spring Creek Ranch beef to Highwood Crossing pancake mix to Pinocchio sorbets, I think the “Eat Local” tags are unobtrusive but effective in helping the consumer seamlessly identify which product will support a home-grown company.

Products from Highwood Crossing

Pinocchio ice creams and sorbets

Bread from Italian Bakery

I can’t see why other stores wouldn’t be jumping on this campaign to promote local goods, particularly with the heightened public awareness about the benefits of buying local (sustainability, food security, among other reasons).

As we were checking out our purchase, we noted a sign that read “Yesterday, 120 people said no to plastic bags”. It reminded us that the small changes we make can add up and do make a difference.

Read more about the campaign here.

Wild Earth Foods
8910 99 Street
(780) 439-4555

Fork Fest Frenzy: Red Ox Inn

My original plan was to try and snag a Fork Fest reservation at the Red Ox Inn (9420 91 Street NW) for Monday, January 24 (fitting, it seemed, to eat in a restaurant named for this Chinese Zodiac year). But after a particularly maddening day at work on Thursday, I called Mack before entering into a late meeting to see if he could look into what might be available that night. We were lucky enough to obtain the last seating of the day at 8:45pm.


Fork Fest!

I had been to Red Ox Inn before, but was hoping that this occasion would bear an entree better suited to my tastes. We entered an absolutely packed restaurant, and were promptly greeted by a server and directed to a table. It turned out we were seated next to the authors of Loosen Your Belt and Eat Around Edmonton, Marriane and Zed – the last in a series of online food writers that have patronized the Red Ox this week (perhaps the restaurant should receive some sort of award for blogger attraction). It’s always nice to meet local culinary counterparts in person – I’m sure it won’t be the last time we run into them!

As I commented in my previous post, the Inn is a tiny, boutique-style restaurant. Space and intimacy are definitely two things they cannot offer though, and between the hardwood floor and tile-like ceiling, the Red Ox ends up having one of the highest sound levels of any restaurant in Edmonton. At the same time, as laughter and conversation echoes through the venue, it’s hard not to loosen up and feel like a part of one large group, dining and enjoying the experience together. Just don’t head to the Red Ox if you’re looking for a quiet evening out.


Red Ox Inn interior

We settled in with both the Fork Fest and a la carte menus, though like everyone else in the restaurant, would be ordering from the former only. Mack and I both decided on the puree of wild mushroom with maderia and gruyere-mushroom rye crostini to start, but deviated in choice on the rest of the meal. He chose the fish (seared Arctic char with ratatouille, roast garlic butter sauce and mashed potatoes) as his main, while I opted to stay away from their char and ordered the pork (marinated pork rack chop, Moroccan BBQ sauce, tropical fruit chutney, savoy cabbage and herbed rice) instead.

We aren’t very accustomed to late dinners, so the pacing of the meal didn’t quite match our appetites that evening. Still, we found the service to be attentive and gracious overall, though Mack commented that he could have done without the overemphasized “sir” at the end of seemingly every sentence.

Our first course arrived without a moment to spare, a wide bowl containing a thick grey-brown “paste”, in Mack’s words. My first spoonful of soup was the best, as the flavour somehow seemed to dull over the course of the bowl. The floating crostini was actually the best part, as the puree was made to be eaten with a bread accompaniment, to soak up the savoury goodness. 


Puree of Wild Mushroom with Maderia and Gruyere-Mushroom Rye Crostini

Our entrees took a bit longer than we would have liked, though I’m sure being the last table of the night didn’t help. My plate was stacked, my pork chop sitting high atop a bed of rice, vegetables, and garnished with a healthy amount of chutney. The Moroccan BBQ sauce was lovely (even though it tasted slightly like my Mum’s own sweet and sour base), and complimented the juicy, perfectly-cooked pork well. I made sure to soak up the rest of the sauce with my rice!



Mack was also happy with his char, though he said it was a tad over seasoned for his liking. The green beans were well-cooked as well.


Arctic Char

Dessert for me that evening was the warm chocolate cake, the same dessert I ordered on my other visit. It was the same as I had remembered – rich and sweet, my only wish was that raspberries were in season to accompany the cake.


Warm Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Mack’s blueberry and white chocolate bread pudding turned out to be better than both of us had expected. Not overly sweet, it appealed to Mack and ended his meal nicely.


Blueberry and White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise

I’m happy I had the opportunity to try a three course meal at the Red Ox for a very reasonable $35 per person. As the server indicated to us that they only had one time slot remaining until next Thursday, we are sure many others will be treated to a great meal as well. Fork Fest runs until January 29, but many of the tables at choice restaurants will likely be booked solid (I would recommend taking a look at availability on Open Table, but calling to see if they have any cancellations if you really are intent on one particular restaurant).

Red Ox Inn
9420 91 Street NW
(780) 465-5727
Tuesday-Sunday 5pm-close, closed Mondays

Dessert is Always the Best Part: Red Ox Inn

On the occasion of a celebration dinner, May, Andrea, Shermie and myself were able to strike another Original Fare restaurant off of our “to try” list.

Red Ox Inn sign

We met at the Red Ox Inn (9420 91 Street NW) on Thursday, a tiny boutique restaurant with a capacity to hold around 26 patrons. The sleek banquets and simple furnishings reminded me of the Blue Pear, but the somewhat crammed design, which allowed for those extra few seats, in my opinion took away any potential streamlined elegance. Because of the size of the room as well, I kept harking back to the “Sound Level” category present at the end of each New York Times restaurant review – while levels weren’t unbearable, the close quarters definitely made an intimate meal an impossibility, save for the one lonely booth in the corner.

The menu and price points are similar to Madison’s Grill, and in effect also made deciding on just a single entrée difficult. I eventually settled on the Arctic Char (hoping it would emulate just some of the glory of Mack’s Blink entrée), while Shermie stuck with her benchmarking steak (Alberta tenderloin medallions, in this case) and Andrea and May began their reflective dining exercise with Duck.

Service was a bit slow throughout due to the fact that there were just two servers on hand (compared to the five at the Blue Pear), but the meandering attention seemed to match with the overall cool, leisurely vibe of the Red Ox – a place where diners are expected to relax and enjoy the food over wine and good conversation.

Eventually, our entrees arrived, each plate artfully arranged with a generous pool of sauce underneath each pile. Shermie thoroughly enjoyed her steak, and though Andrea had dish envy looking over at my char, I had to admit her duck looked pretty good – perfectly cooked, accompanied by a tart raspberry vinaigrette. My sherry vinaigrette, however, was much too sour for my liking. As someone who prefers to eat fish without a citrus adornment, it was probably the wrong dish to order. Thus, though I was hoping to be able to experience the distinct flavour of the fish, I couldn’t through the overpowering and ever-present sauce.

Pancetta wrapped char fillet, roast garlic stuffing, mashed potatoes, warm sherry vinaigrette

Grilled duck breast, mixed berry chutney, ricotta-spinach gnudi, balsamic-thyme demi glace

Alberta tenderloin medallion with cognac wild mushroom cream, roast root vegetables, mashed potatoes

Dessert for the dining twins was the lemon tart with a scoop of house-made raspberry sorbet, while Shermie and I opted instead for the warm chocolate cake accompanied with vanilla bean ice cream. Lovingly rich, but not cloyingly sweet, the oozing chocolate cake was extremely satisfying. Andrea and May also enjoyed their tart and in particular the fresh sorbet.

Warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream

Lemon tart with pinenut crust and raspberry sorbet

I will definitely consider the Red Ox Inn for a future special occasion dinner, but admit that it wouldn’t be high on my list if I was looking for an intimate, quiet space.

Red Ox Inn
9420 91 Street NW
(780) 465-5727
Tuesday to Sunday, 5-10pm