Supper Club Style: A Dinner at the Queen of Tarts

On Saturday night, Mack and I joined a dozen others at the Queen of Tarts who had snagged a reservation to their first ever dinner. A $45 prix fixe meal, this special event was a way for the cafe to ease into evening service. Although proprietor Linda Kearney has said that she would like to be open for supper more, they are still trying to stabilize the bakery side of things, and are in need of a sous chef (e-mail Linda if you’re interested!).

At any rate, these dinners will feature guest chefs in the kitchen for the time being, which will provide up-and-coming talent the opportunity to showcase their philosophy and skills. The chef on Saturday was Vikram Redganokar, who works with Shane Chartrand at L2. His meal highlighted several local suppliers (nearly all of whom were clearly identified on the menu, something we were happy to see).

It’s worth noting that the Queen of Tarts after dark is much different than the same venue during the day. Unlike its bright, bustling self, with the dimmed lights and jazz streaming through the sound system, the dining area transformed into an intimate bistro. Plus, because we were among such a small number of parties, it almost felt like we were part of an underground supper club, the best kept secret in the city.

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Mack, all dressed up!

The meal started with arguably the best bread basket available in Edmonton – how many restaurants can boast house-made bread? Although the crust of the epi didn’t fare well with reheating, it was more than made up by the warm gougères. These little cheese puffs tasted like buttery pockets of air. Thankfully, these pastries are available for purchase in the bakery on Fridays and Saturdays as well – so I know we’ll be coming by soon for another taste.

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Bread basket

The soup precluded the amuse that night, and couldn’t have set the bar higher. The roasted organic butternut squash soup had the luxuriously silky texture of a finely sieved mixture, with an underlying hint of sage and a drizzle of Mighty Trio hemp oil. The only downside was that we wished for a larger serving!

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Roasted butternut squash soup

An amuse of organic golden beets, and Icelandic rye (featuring Gold Forest Grains rye) followed. Instead of the tiny bowl and fork supplied, this would have worked better served in a Chinese soup spoon (porcelain, of course, to match all of the other dinnerware). Mack, ever the beet fan, loved it, right down to the crisp rocket finish.

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Golden beet amuse bouche

Neither of us expected such a generous entree portion. Between the braised Medicine Man Bison short ribs bourguignon, the Sundog Organics root vegetable pavé and the caramelized fennel, I had trouble finishing my plate! The ribs shredded easily with a fork and knife, but I was looking for a sauce that would tie the entire plate together (perhaps incorporating fennel somehow?).

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Short ribs bourguignon

Dessert was the only course that Linda herself took care of, a BC apple tart tatin. The pastry, no surprise, was exquisite, baked to a flaky, golden perfection. Topped with a fig jam, hazlenuts and crème fraiche made with Johnson Family Farm cream, it was a sweet end to an even sweeter meal.

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BC apple tart tatin

Expect the next Queen of Tarts dinner some time in November. Linda isn’t sure who the guest chef will be yet, but she knows she will be stepping into the kitchen some time in the future to create a menu herself. I’m sure it will be worth checking out!

Queen of Tarts Bakery & Bistro
10129 104 Street
(780) 421-4410

Ladies who Lunch: Queen of Tarts

Annie and I got together for lunch over the long weekend at the Queen of Tarts. She hadn’t been to the charming bakery and cafe before, and though I’ve been popping in sporadically since it opened to satisfy our needs and cravings (bread and sweets, respectively), I hadn’t yet sampled their lunch menu.

The lunch crowd was steady at Queen of Tarts – not surprising because the bright and airy room is the sort of space made for leisurely weekend afternoons. The French-inspired menu is short but accessible, with the cafe taking full advantage of their bread case and pastry expertise.

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Dining area

I chose the croque monsieur ($14.95), made with local ham, béchamel, dijon mustard and gruyere on miche bread and served with organic greens. I probably could have done with a third piece of croque monsieur (who can pass up melted cheese and ham?), but I will admit that the mustard layer was a bit too potent for me – especially because the vinaigrette atop the salad was also mustard-based.

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Croque monsieur

Annie chose the day’s special, a French onion soup served with a side of organic greens ($12.95). Her soup was absolutely packed with onions; she also commented on their sweetness, a testament to their lengthy cooking time.

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French onion soup

Though the portion sizes are modest, it did mean adding a dessert course to our lunch (not something we normally do) was possible. We shared a pot of Earl Grey tea ($6.95), a thunder brownie ($3) and a chocolate dacquoise ($3.50).

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Dessert!

The rich, decadent thunder brownie has crossed my paths many a time (it’s Amanda’s favourite dessert), but it was Annie’s first encounter with it. She appreciated its chocolate depth. The dacquoise, on the other hand, was new to both of us, and surprised us with its delicate meringue sandwich. Its texture was absolutely perfect – just the right amount of chew and sweetness, enhanced with a thin layer of chocolate in between.

The Queen of Tarts started offering high tea this past Friday, and will run daily until May 7, 2011 (with 10% of proceeds being directed to The Bissell Centre). After that, the high teas will be held on a monthly basis. Based on this lunch experience, I would be happy to return again to check out their high tea – especially if I can find a way to work in a dacquoise into the meal.

Queen of Tarts Bakery & Bistro
10129 104 Street
(780) 421-4410
Tuesday-Wednesday 9am-6pm, Thursday-Friday 9am-8pm, Saturday 8:30am-6pm, closed Sunday & Monday

Welcome Home: Queen of Tarts

It has been a long time coming, but Queen of Tarts has finally opened, just a stone’s throw away from her summer home at the City Market!

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Queen of Tarts

It was announced back in September 2010 that Linda Kearney would be opening a permanent storefront on 104 Street in the historic Armstrong building, with an anticipated opening date of November. Construction delays pushed that back four months, but after visiting the shop today, I think it was well worth the wait!

In October, Mack and I popped our heads inside the still bare room, where Linda was kind enough to receive us. This was the space before renovations:

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This is the space after:

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Isn’t it gorgeous?

It feels bright and airy and just the sort of place that can help you escape from Edmonton – even if just for a moment.

They similarly did a lot of work to create a cozy dining space that takes advantage of the room’s lone window. Before:

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After:

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The cases were filled to the brim with delectable treats. Among them – pear frangipane tarts, flourless chocolate cakes and brownies, and their signature lemon and lime curd tarts. They even had take-home containers of their ganache-based twist on a chocolate hazelnut spread!

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Desserts

The shelves behind the cases were stacked with fresh bread (most still warm out of the oven). Those who had the chance to visit the Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Market received a preview of some of the levain breads, but now, patrons will be able to buy her breads almost daily (though I love dessert, I’m most thrilled about the fact that we now have access to a great artisan bakery across the street)!

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La Fourchette silverware

Queen of Tarts also serves lunch, including soups, salads and quiche. Check out the day’s menu here.

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Savoury case

The shop may also become a go-to spot for those looking to pick up small gifts. Besides Mighty Trio Organics oils and Jam Lady spreads, Queen of Tarts also sells packages of biscotti, granola, and their popular cheddar shorties, among other things.

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Cheddar shorties and chocolate biscotti

With Credo across the way, Transcend about to open up down the street, and now, the Queen of Tarts on the Promenade, 104 Street and Jasper Avenue is now the go-to place for a coffee break (I even ran into Cathy inside the shop – she wrote about her visit here).

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Stunning

I look forward to more trips down the stairs to feed our bread (and sweets) fix!

Queen of Tarts Bakery & Bistro
10129 104 Street
(780) 421-4410
Tuesday-Wednesday 9-6pm, Thursday-Friday 9am-8pm, Saturday 8:30am-6pm, closed Sunday & Monday