Date Night: The Cavern and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

This is a bit of a composite “Date Night” post, as I had planned for a pre-symphony visit to The Cavern before an outing to the Winspear Centre last Friday. But an intense craving for wine and cheese hit me on Thursday, and I gave in.

The Cavern is the newest storefront to open up on the 4th Street Promenade, and in spite of being first and foremost a cheese shop, owner Tricia Bell has designed a dine-in concept that easily transitions from day to night. Early birds can head to The Cavern for an espresso and a bite of breakfast in the morning, while downtown office workers might be more interested in her daily grilled cheese lunch options. For the after work crowd, The Cavern offers wine and spirits alongside meat and cheese boards, great for some nibbles leading up to dinner, or as the main attraction before a night out on the town.

Mack and I walked in to a near full house that Thursday, and snagged the last two seats at the bar. During our previous visits, Tricia and the rest of her staff have always been warm and welcoming, and tonight was no different. It was clear they were all very busy trying to manage the room and handling new walk-ins, but we never felt rushed or not taken care of.

The Enomatic system makes it ideal for The Cavern to serve small 3 ounce pours of wine in addition to 6 or 9 ounce glasses, but Mack and I were fine with a regular glass each. For those interested in pairings, the cheese menu lists both wine and beer selections.

The Cavern

Malbec and Cava

We had to choose between a cheese board for two featuring three cheeses ($19) or a cheese and meat board with two of each ($24). We opted for the latter, and selected two meats from a list of five, and two cheese from a list of twenty. Tricia was a great help in answering our questions and guided us to a Quebec washed-rind cheese, Le Douanier, with a unique vegetable ash centre. It was soft and mild, with a lovely creamy texture. Our other cheese choice was Sylvan Star’s award winning Grizzly Gouda.

The Cavern

Meat and cheese board, with all beef salami and prosciutto di parma

The board was beautifully presented, with some fruit, fresh bread, and dollops of cherry jam and jalapeno jelly. I also loved the ability to imprint on the board itself with chalk, a seamless way to identify multiple items.

The Cavern

Cheers!

The Cavern was a wonderful place to spend the evening, and one that we will be returning to again.

The following evening, Mack and I walked over to the Winspear Centre for Radio from the Head, a show in the “Late Night with Bill Eddins” series. It has been a while since we last took in one of these concerts, but we knew we were in for an entertaining night, mostly due to the conductor’s personality and ease on stage.

Late Night with Bill Eddins

The beautiful Winspear Centre

I was particularly drawn to this show because of the promise of a song to be paired with chocolate. Symphonic Chocolates by Maxime Goulet is composed of four movements, where the audience was invited to eat a different chocolate during the corresponding movement. The ESO partnered with local chocolatier Carol’s Quality Sweets, who produced the custom boxes of chocolates which were sold prior to the performance for $5 each.

It was an innovative multi-sensory experience that reminded me of Karen Brooks’ presentation at Feast in Portland which involved a communal tasting component, and the trend of food deliberately being paired with music. While we weren’t floored by all of the pairings, Mack and I enjoyed the dark chocolate which accompanied a theme cloaked in mystery, and a mint chocolate coupled with a movement reminiscent of a spring breeze.

Late Night with Bill Eddins

Chocolates!

The show’s special guest was Christopher O’Riley, known for his piano interpretations of Radiohead. Mack, more familiar with Radiohead than I, was drawn to O’Riley’s performances of the three Radiohead songs. And though we can appreciate the difficulty of the four-hands Stravinsky piece, its 33 minute length was a rather bulky way to end the late-night concert.

“Late Night with Bill Eddins” will be back in the 2013-14 Edmonton Symphony Orchestra calendar. No mention of chocolates, though.

The Cavern
2, 10169 104 Street
(780) 455-1336
Monday-Thursday 7am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 7am-11pm, Sunday 10am-5pm

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Winspear Centre, 4 Sir Winston Churchill Square

The New Cheese on the Block: The Cavern

Since we moved into our condo on 104 Street nearly three years ago, we’ve seen some wonderful food-related additions to the block. Dauphine (formerly Queen of Tarts) in 2011 and Pangea (now much better stocked), Evoolution and Kelly’s Pub in 2012. Cask and Barrel, Roast and Mercer Tavern round out the Promenade.

On Tuesday, a cheese shop will join this growing list of establishments. The Cavern, located in the Phillips Lofts, will open its doors to the public on April 9. Mack and I were lucky enough to attend a private opening last Friday for a sneak peek.

The space formerly housed a swim shop, but walking in, not a single trace of its former occupant remained. Instead, we found an elegant space that elevates what can be expected of a subterranean storefront – a neutral but modern colour palette, gorgeous masonry that mimics the original brickwork and sparkling granite countertops.

The Cavern

The Cavern

The Cavern is first and foremost a cheese shop. Proprietor Tricia Bell has over 20 years of hospitality experience, but more recently, studied under the 2011 Cheesemonger of the Year, Steve Jones of The Cheese Bar in Portland, Oregon. It’s obvious that Tricia adores cheese; her enthusiasm was infectious as she described her cheeses having different “personalities” and “behaving differently”.

The Cavern

Cheese case

Tricia stocks a range of cheeses, but focuses on the middle range of cheeses that most people are familiar with. Regarding locally-made products, she currently stocks several varieties from Sylvan Star and The Cheesiry, and is working on bringing in Smokey Valley Goat Cheese as well. It is notable that The Cavern carefully packs cheese in a layer of Formaticum, a patented paper technology made of organic materials that helps to better preserve cheese.

Beyond the cheese counter, however, The Cavern will also offer food service. Without a full kitchen, the menu is limited, but their Cavern-inspired cheese, vegetarian and meat grilled sandwiches (which will feature Sylvan Star cheese) sound delicious. For dinner (after 5pm), they will serve cheese and charcuterie boards alongside wine and beer.

The Cavern

Cheese board

Tricia chose beans from Portland-based Coava Coffee Roasters for her coffee and espresso-based drinks, and will use Jacek chocolate in her mochas. She is also currently experimenting with desserts made with chocolate and cheese – a two ingredients not normally combined.

The Cavern

Coffee and chocolate

We’re already looking forward to visiting The Cavern this week for some nibbles and of course, to stock up on some cheese! Thanks again to Shauna for the invitation, and to Tricia for having us!

The Cavern
2, 10169 104 Street
(780) 455-1336
Monday-Thursday 7am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 7am-11pm, Sunday 10am-5pm