Date Night: The Secret Garden and Museum After Dark 2

Prior to a night out at the museum in early July, Mack and I had dinner at The Dish and the Runaway Spoon. More specifically, we chose to sit in their Secret Garden, one of my favourite patios in the city.

Protected from the noise of Stony Plain Road and in the shade of a tree, the Secret Garden is a gem, a must visit during our precious days of summer. Combined with their comfort food offerings, we were lucky to grab the last available table that night.

Dinner at The Dish

The Secret Garden

I had the chicken and waffles, while Mack ordered the housemade donair. Though the chicken wasn’t as moist as I would have liked the savoury green onion and cheddar buttermilk waffle made up for some of my disappointment. Mack had no complaints about the donair – it could have easily fed two people.

Dinner at The Dish

Chicken and waffles

Dinner at The Dish

Housemade donair

After dinner, Mack and I headed to the Royal Alberta Museum for their second Museum After Dark event. Intended to encourage the “next gen” set to revisit the attraction and supports its programs, the evenings incorporate drinks, music and activities for a fun night out.

We had fun at the first ever Museum After Dark earlier this year, but we were happy to see some positive changes. First off, the entire museum was open to explore, instead of just a few choice galleries. Given this was an opportunity to get to know the attraction better, we appreciated the chance to wander through their permanent exhibits – it has been some time since I’ve visited the dinosaur room, while Mack has never been to the bug room!

Museum After Dark

Mack loves rocks!

Museum After Dark

The Bug Room creeps me out

We also appreciated the evening’s game much more. The last incarnation had attendees running furiously to be the first to complete the challenge, but this time, it wasn’t a timed entry, and instead, had much more to do with chance. The “poker rally” had attendees draw cards from tables located in galleries around the museum, with the best hand winning the grand prize. Luck wasn’t on our side that night, but it was a great way to wind our way through the building at our own pace.

Museum After Dark

Pick a card, any card

The feature exhibit was Worn to Be Wild (on until September 7, 2014), and highlights the history of the black leather jacket. We learned about its origins, interpretations, and most exciting, saw jackets worn in popular culture.

Museum After Dark

Worn to Be Wild

Museum After Dark

Mack does his best Schwarzenegger impression next to a jacket worn in Terminator 2

I also had fun with the prop area of the exhibit…maybe a little too much fun.

Museum After Dark

“Look ma, no hands!”

In line with the feature exhibit, models sporting Luxx Ready to Wear (locally designed by Derek Jagodzinsky) were roaming the galleries.

Museum After Dark

Luxx Ready to Wear models

We spent some time on the second floor landing chatting with other attendees, while DJ Junior Brown spun tunes. My only suggestion would be to perhaps have a standing food station in addition to hand-passed appetizers – I overheard more than a few people comment that they must have just missed the servers.

Museum After Dark

Tomato and cheese skewers from Bridges

We learned that plans for the next Museum After Dark are already in the works, with a theme of “Beer and Bones”. Check the website for more information as it is released. Thanks again to the organizers for the free tickets!

The Dish and the Runaway Spoon
2417 Stony Plain Rd
(780) 488-6641
Monday to Saturday, 11am – 5pm, 5 – 9pm; closed Sundays

Royal Alberta Museum
12845 102 Avenue
(780) 453-9100

Museum After Dark: Fun at the Royal Alberta Museum

It’s been great to see local cultural and learning institutions reach out and engage the “next gen” community, reminding us of their relevance beyond serving tourists and school groups. The Art Gallery of Alberta’s popular Refinery series is probably the best Edmonton example, though the Calgary  Spark Centre’s adult-only themed nights have also been immensely successful. The Royal Alberta Museum has now joined this list with their Museum After Dark series, organized by the Friends of the Royal Alberta Museum Society (FRAMS), which launched last night.

Museum After Dark

Museum After Dark

Combining a cocktail party with an opportunity to learn more about the museum currently under construction, doors opened at 6:30. Mack and I arrived at 7:15pm, not knowing that the official program had already started at 7pm. As a result, along with several others, we missed the beginning of the presentation about the new site (for future events, organizers will be publishing program details in advance, so this won’t be a continuing issue). Neither of us knew much about the design of the new building, so we were heartened to see that elements of the current building and of the former post office are being preserved and will be showcased in the design. As well, from the photos shown, it looks like the majority of the exterior will be constructed of glass, as a better way to visually interact (and not wall itself off) with its neighbours, including Chinatown directly north of the facility. They expect the new building to open in 2017.

After the presentation, guests were invited to mix and mingle over drinks and food by Mercer’s Catering. We just had dinner prior to the event, so we didn’t end up sampling much, but I was surprised at the quantity of the spread. From a custom salad station to stir-fry served over rice in Chinese food boxes and mini grilled cheese sandwiches, organizers spared no expense to make sure attendees were well-fed, especially considering ticket prices were just $15.

Museum After Dark

Gorgeous shrimp cocktails with citrus pipettes

DJ Junior Brown provided the musical backdrop in the theatre lobby, though with 250 tickets sold, for space considerations, it was great that we were also able to explore the first floor of the museum as well.

Museum After Dark

I had too much fun in the gift shop

To encourage this, FRAMS had put together a variety of bingo cards, to be filled in by answering questions related to the ground floor exhibits. The prizes were nothing to sneeze at either, and included an iPad mini and a behind-the-scenes tour of the current and new museums. While we weren’t feeling motivated to compete, given the frenzy around us, there was no question many people were there to win. In the end, we were happy to see Brittney and Scott take home the grand prize – I’m looking forward to seeing photos of their private tour!

Museum After Dark

Our sad attempt at Museum Bingo

We were a bit disappointed that only part of the museum was open to us (Mack had been looking forward to the Bug Room on the second floor), but I understand it was an issue of volunteer/staff resources – hopefully if the event expands, this can be looked at in the future. That said, it was great to finally explore the Chop Suey on the Prairies exhibit.

Museum After Dark

Chop Suey on the Prairies

The exhibit provided a good introduction to Chinese immigration and the challenges early immigrants faced in their new communities. I liked the integration of videos amongst the artifacts and placards, though I have to say, with mouth-watering projections of several Chinese dishes, it’s a shame there isn’t a restaurant take-out window opposite the exhibit to immediately satisfy the cravings that resulted.

Museum After Dark

Good enough to eat!

Kudos to the organizers for a successful first Museum After Dark! Stay tuned for the next event to be announced on the FRAMS website, likely to take place in May 2014.

Recap: Ginger Beef Throwdown

Last Friday, we kicked off our 2013 What the Truck?! season with a Ginger Beef Throwdown. Partnering with the Royal Alberta Museum , the event was organized in conjunction with the current Chop Suey on the Prairies exhibit, which examines the history of Chinese restaurants in our province in the twentieth century.

Although we knew the event would draw a crowd, we never anticipated the sheer number of early birds that staked out a place in line well before the start time. The glorious weather definitely helped, as did the scheduling just before the long weekend, but most of all, I think it speaks to the fact that Edmontonians love food trucks!

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown

The line

I have already written about the rationale for our food ticketing system and the “intentional bottleneck” that we created, and in spite of fielding many complaints, I don’t think we could have done it any other way. Given the constraints of the museum space, as well as a desire to streamline food access to enable sampling of multiple dishes, we were happy with how things worked out overall. That said, we could have done a better job in communicating the reasoning behind the system – hopefully those that left hungry and frustrated will give future What the Truck?! events another chance.

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown

Controlled chaos

It also bears saying that the trucks just rocked it that night. They pumped out servings like nobody’s business, and continued to push the limits of their capacity. Thanks to The Act , Bully, The Lingnan Express and Smokehouse BBQ for a memorable start to the season!

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown

The trucks

As for the food, while we didn’t vote ourselves (The Lingnan took home the crown), we were able to sample Bully’s BLT and The Lingnan’s traditional ginger beef. After the craziness, they really hit the spot! For a more comprehensive look at the dishes that night, check out Teresa and Diane’s posts.

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown

Bully’s BLT and The Lingnan’s ginger beef

Partnerships have been vital to What the Truck?! from the beginning, so we appreciated the opportunity to work with the Royal Alberta Museum for the first time. With over 400 people who checked out the exhibit that night, it was counted as a definite success for the RAM!

Without question, this was our most labour-intensive event to date, as we not only had to facilitate the food tickets, but also drink sales. Because of these responsibilities, we could not have run the event on our own, and were indebted to the generosity of our volunteers. Thanks to my Mum, Dad, Felicia, Caleng, Linda, Phil and Robyn for all of your help!

Lastly, thanks to everyone who came – we hope you had fun! We are already in the throes of planning for the next What the Truck?!, which will take place south of the river in June. Stay tuned for more details next week!