Park After Dark: Tweetup at Northlands Park

Something Mack and I have wanted to do for ages in Edmonton is watch a live horse race. Though my only exposure to horse racing in general is watching the Triple Crown on television, we knew Northlands Park had a reputation for putting on a good show (and those tongue-in-cheek commercials with aptly named horses like getoffthecouch probably didn’t hurt either). Fortuitously, the Park was hosting a tweetup on a Friday night two weeks ago. We signed up through EventBrite and hoped for the best.

We rode the train over to Northlands (though I know it’s obvious, it would have been nice if transit was mentioned on the EventBrite ticket, instead of only listing the availability of free parking), and walked through some of the preliminary Capital Ex set-up on our way to the Park. Once there, we found quite a happening space.

Park after Dark Tweetup

Park After Dark

In an effort to attract a younger demographic, and to de-mystify the aura around horse racing, Northlands transforms into what they bill as “Edmonton’s largest patio party” once a week in the summer. I was really amazed at what some cushy rattan furniture and a live DJ could do to transform the uninviting pavement into a sun-drenched lounge. The Park in the Dark series, which takes place every Friday through to September, also features a free shuttle to The Pint.

Park after Dark Tweetup

The DJ was nice enough to invite us to have a photo taken

The entire patio is licensed (and also serves up a casual barbecue menu), but patrons of all ages are permitted. This translated into quite a diverse range of parties – from families with young children to the bar crowd to older couples. In many ways, Northlands has done a great job to make it a destination for almost everyone.

Park after Dark Tweetup

Lounging al fresco

They even had a few hilarious bouncy ball races down the track between races, similar to the silly competitions hosted at other sporting events at half time.

Park after Dark Tweetup

In it to win it

Of course, part of the intention behind the tweetup was to teach those of us racing neophytes how to place bets. We had missed the initial group lesson (5:30pm was much too early to begin the formal program), but it actually worked out for the best. We were hooked up with a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide, who took some time to go through the rudimentary elements of a wager, as well as some of the statistics to look for (e.g., jockey’s record, horse’s lifetime record, horse’s record at Northlands Park). In the end though, he encouraged us to have fun with it – sometimes the best wagers are made on superficial elements like the names or colour of an animal (Cathy has a cheeky breakdown of more random betting schemes).

Park after Dark Tweetup

Justin was a good mentor!

All guests of the tweetup received a free $2 wager, but we were lucky enough to receive an additional $25. With that, we were able to play around quite a bit with the types of bets we made – from choosing a jockey with a winning streak that night and the horse with the best record to a horse with a memorable name (“Dream Nettie”, in our case, who reminded us of our Belua Designs creation). It was definitely hit or miss, but cheering for our horse to reach the post was made that much more exciting with money on the line!

Park after Dark Tweetup

Here they come…

Park after Dark Tweetup

Right in the action

At the end of the day, we made slightly more than what we wagered, which is all we could have hoped for our first time out – call it beginner’s luck!

Park After Dark

Mack’s all smiles with his highest winning ticket

Thanks to Northlands for putting on a great tweetup, and for helping us get our feet wet in the world of horse racing!

More Than Just Cocktails: Devlin’s

This guest post was written by Mack, an Edmonton-based geek who fancies himself a part-time foodie. You can find him online at his blog, and on Twitter.

Edmonton’s third tweetup, an event for local Twitter users to get together in person, was held on Thursday evening. The tweetups aren’t terribly hard to organize, all I need to do is pick a date, time and location. I asked Sharon to help me choose the venue this time, and she suggested Devlin’s Cocktail Lounge (10507 82 Avenue). I had enjoyed our visit in August, and agreed that it would be a good choice. I was keen to try the new fall menu that Sharon had written about in her Vue Weekly article. I called a couple of weeks in advance to ensure they could accommodate a group of 15 to 30 people, and they assured me that wouldn’t be a problem. A few days before the event, they called me back to confirm, which I thought was a nice touch.

When I arrived at the restaurant just before 6pm, I found it locked. After a moment of panic, I peered through the window and caught the attention of Executive Chef Sebastian Lysz who came to unlock the door for me. Fortunately, that was the only hiccup of the evening! My fellow Twitterers started streaming in, and soon we filled up the entire right side of the restaurant. We had around 25 people come and go by the time the evening was finished, and although not everyone ordered food, Sebastian was kept sufficiently busy in the kitchen.

Mack & Sharon
Mack & Sharon, photo courtesy Bruce Clarke

I was occupied chatting with people, so I was more than happy to let Sharon order for me. The first dish that arrived was the Wild Mushroom & Chicken flatbread ($9). Though it didn’t look incredibly appetizing being almost completely devoid of color, it tasted very good. The chicken (from a local producer in Ardrossan) was moist and the bread itself was nicely warm and chewy. I found the mushrooms flavorful, but not overpowering.

Flat bread

The second dish we ordered was also the one I was most looking forward to: the Surf & Turf ($15). Reminiscent of the sliders in its presentation, the dish was definitely easy on the eyes. Unfortunately the portion size was also similar to the sliders, and I found myself wanting more when the plate was empty. The tri-tip steak from Spring Creek Ranch was absolutely delicious, and I enjoyed the roasted potatoes too (though Sharon didn’t). We both agreed that the prawns were fairly average.

Surf and Turf

Usually we’re too full after dinner to have dessert, but that wasn’t a problem thanks to the small size of the dishes at Devlin’s. We decided to give the Dessert Sampler ($15) a try, as it sounded more interesting than the Creme Brulee. Though I couldn’t have the Peanut Butter Bombe (due to my mild peanut allergy), I was able to try the other items. I liked the warm Fruit Crumble in an over-sized shot glass, but my favorite was easily the Bacardi Rum Pumpkin Pie. I love both rum and pumpkin pie, so it was a match made in heaven for me! The Chai Voyant Nitro Ice Cream (with “nutella” powder) was interesting, but it didn’t evoke the familiar flavor of chai.

Dessert Platter

We received great service all night, and everyone seemed to enjoy the food and ambience. A number of people remarked that they were pleasantly surprised with the lounge, and said they’d probably be back. Devlin’s is not the place to go if you’re starving (or feeling the pinch in your wallet), but if all you’re looking for is something tasty to go along with conversation, I can safely say it’s a great choice for small and large groups alike.

The key thing to know about Twitter is that entries are restricted to 140 characters. With that in mind, here’s my mini-review of Devlin’s:

More than just a cocktail lounge, Devlin’s has unique, tasty food and adds something special to Whyte Avenue. Just don’t arrive too hungry!

Devlin’s Cocktail Lounge
10507 82 Avenue
(780) 437-7489