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

Date Night: The Dish and Vi’s for Pies

Mack and I don’t normally schedule “date nights” anymore, but during a particularly demanding week, it just seemed right to make sure we had something to look forward to when it was all over. So when Friday evening rolled around, we were more than ready for dinner and a movie.

Though I love being central, and within walking distance to work and (of course), right above the City Market, I do miss Oliver sometimes. Their mature boulevard trees – a canopy that 104 Street doesn’t have – their peaceful streets, and the quiet parks.

Paul Kane Park

Paul Kane Park

Predictably, we aren’t in the Oliver and High Street areas as much any more, but heading for dinner in the neighbourhood was a good excuse to take up our old walking route again.

Oliver School

Oliver School in the fall

I was craving comfort food, and Mack was up for anything, so we ended up at The Dish. They’ve since expanded into what was formerly the Electrum Design Studio (a room that can be booked for private functions), but the additional space thankfully hasn’t made the dining room any less intimate: the cozy wood floors, warm wall colours, and attentive service has remained the same.

We ordered what has to be one of the most inexpensive bottles of wine I’ve ever seen on a menu – the Mad Housewife white zinfandel, priced at just $23. We were first introduced to this label just down the street – at a performance of Hey Ladies! at the Roxy Theatre. Knowing that the bottle itself sells for around $18 at Sherbrooke Liquor Store, we both thought it was quite the deal (and we were able to take what we didn’t finish home with us).

The Dish

Mad Housewife white zinfandel

It was just before Thanksgiving, so their special was a turkey pot pie with stuffing, an orange-cranberry sauce served with a salad. I was ready to get my turkey on, so was happy with the amount included in the piping hot ramekin. The only ingredient missing in the dish, however, was mashed potatoes – funny how we crave traditional fixings around the holidays.

The Dish

Turkey pot pie with salad

Mack ordered the day’s flatbread, with ham and pineapple, and enjoyed it, but was hoping for a larger serving.

The Dish


After dinner, we walked over to Vi’s for Pies (13408 Stony Plain Road), one of my favourite places for dessert in the city.

We probably should have just shared a dessert, but we both have different preferences when it comes to sweets. Mack ordered a slice of pumpkin pie (and apparently, half a carton of whipped cream), while I opted for a chocolatey-rich fudge cake. With a cup of coffee, it was the perfect end to our meal.

Vi's for Pies

Pumpkin pie (I love the cookie topper)

Vi's for Pies

Fudge cake

We caught a bus back downtown, and (finally) went to see a movie at the Empire City Centre theatres. A big perk of living in the core is being able to avoid the long lines and carjams at North and South Common – at least in theory, as we hadn’t taken advantage of our neighbouring theatre since we moved.

We watched the late showing of The Social Network (I loved the opening scene – pure Aaron Sorkin, and Jesse Eisenberg did a fantastic job), and though it was busier than I expected, it was still nothing when compared with the suburban cineplexes.

Thanks for an awesome date night, Mack!

Lingering the Night Away: The Secret Garden at The Dish

Restaurants, as of late, have never been the destination. For us, eating out has been a bridge to some other event, a necessary evil prior to another engagement. As a result, we haven’t had a meal in quite some time where we could linger, relax, and simply soak up the ambiance. Last Friday presented an opportunity to do that, and we made the most of it.

We’ve been to The Dish a few times, but its Secret Garden, accessible only by a separate entrance, was never made apparent to us. We walked past its concealed gate a few weeks ago, and after peeking in to discover a hidden terrace bursting with romance and greenery, resolved to return before autumn fully reared its head.

Mack called ahead to make a reservation, which ensured us a cozy table under the twinkle lights, next to the lone tree that seemed simultaneously out of place and yet right at home. From the overhead rafters hung baskets of plants, infusing the space with a touch nature so sorely lacking on many other patios in the city.

Mack in the Secret Garden

As the sky darkened to dusk and then nightfall, staff brought out tabletop candles for each party as hushed conversations continued amongst the serenity. It was a lovely setting in which to wind down after a long work week.

The food was pitch perfect as well, straightforward and comforting. I was again swayed by their deep dish quiche ($14), this time featuring chicken, artichoke hearts, Portobello mushrooms, asiago, brie and cream cheese. Mack opted for their meatball flatbread ($15), and we both decided on a side of creamy tomato and basil soup.

The soup was a little too tangy for me, though it suited Mack’s palate just fine. My quiche was as I had expected, the crisp and flaky crust and dense baked egg being exactly what I was looking for. Mack’s flatbread, however, won the entrée sweepstakes that night, with the flavourful herb-flecked meatballs stealing the show.

Deep Dish Quiche

Meatball Flatbread

Portions at The Dish are modest, meaning that while leftovers are usually out of the question, having room for dessert is a distinct possibility. Over coffee, we pondered our options, and settled on the phyllo lemon tart. After receiving our phyllo-encrusted dish, we realized puff pastry might have been the better choice for ease of separating the crust from the serving vessel, but the custard, which manoeuvred between sweet and tart with ease, accented with the smooth whipped cream and biting raspberries, made up for it.

Phyllo Lemon Tart

Service was warm but not overly attentive, but it suited the relaxed mood of the patio. I would imagine, however, that as most parties seemed to be of the lingering sort, the level of staff attentiveness might have been an adaptation to the clientele.

Our coffee mugs were refilled as we finished the last of the dessert and relished the freedom of our open schedule that evening. Though we may not have the opportunity to do it again for a while, I’m glad were able to whittle the night away at the Secret Garden before the end of summer.

At dusk

The Dish (Secret Garden hours are dependent on the weather – call ahead)
12417 Stony Plain Road
(780) 488-6641
Monday-Saturday 11am-9pm

Neighbourhood Bistro: The Dish

I consider The Dish Mack’s neighbourhood bistro. Just a two minute walk from his apartment, it’s surprising that last week was our first visit there together since he moved into the area a year ago. We needed a quick bite prior to a show on Tuesday, and craving their brand of comfort food as I wasn’t feeling too well, we headed out the door.

It was surprisingly busy for a random weekday, so I was a little worried that we would end up late for the theatre. However, service was actually quite brisk, and we made it out the door with time to spare. We both ordered off the specials sheet, seasonally tailored for cool winter evenings. I decided on the Deep Dish Quiche with a side of Creamy Tomato Basil Soup ($14), while Mack chose the Chicken Pot Pie and a side of Caesar Salad ($15).

I loved the interior of the restaurant the first time I set foot in it, and that affection hasn’t changed. The creaky wooden floors, the well-worn furniture, and the dim, intimate lighting sets the tone for a cozy and inviting space. And despite the risk of high noise levels (there isn’t any soft materials present to help with sound absorption), something about the small tables that draw patrons inward still provide a semblance of privacy for dining parties.

Our food arrived promptly, and I think I had dish envy as soon as I saw Mack’s pie. He let me steal a bite of the pie (and puff pastry), and it tasted as good as it looked. He didn’t care so much for the visually appealing nature of the diagonally-placed strips of pastry though, as he prefers his pie crust solidly attached to the dish.

Chicken Pot Pie

I thought the kitchen was a bit frugal on my quiche, but it was good all the same. The havarti, spinach, sundried tomato and caramelized red onion combined well with the light and airy baked egg, and I appreciated the finish of parmesan shards on top. The soup was a little on the tart side for my palate, but served its inner-warming purpose on my plate.

Deep Dish Quiche

I am looking forward to their menu change come spring, and to perhaps finally get a peek at their well-known “secret garden” patio.

The Dish
12417 Stony Plain Road NW
Edmonton, AB
(780) 488-6641