Celebrating Valentine’s Day in Edmonton

In case you missed the teaser heard ‘round the world, the theatrical version of Fifty Shades of Grey is being released on Valentine’s Day. I’m sure the movie will garner a lot of holiday tie-in traffic, but if the film isn’t on your short list of plans with your sweetheart, you’re in luck – there are a multitude of activities to choose from in the city!

Go Back In Time

  • All aboard: The Capitol Theatre at Fort Edmonton Park is hosting an amorous adventure called a Valentine’s Train Radio Show with storytelling and musical performances. Shows run February 13-15, 2015.
  • Help celebrate the Hotel Macdonald’s centennial at their Sweetheart-themed Royal Tea & Tour on February 14 & 15, 2015. The dessert menu alone is Valentine’s worthy.
  • For classic films (and prices to match – screenings are just $6), look no further than the Edmonton Film Society. Their winter series, beginning on February 9, 2015, focuses on comedies.

Head Outside

  • How about some cross-country skiing? The Canadian Birkebeiner takes place February 13-14, 2015 at Cooking Lake, east of Edmonton.
  • If that’s a little too intense, a sweetheart snowshoe on February 13 or 14 might be more up your alley. After a guided walk through the river valley, enjoy hot chocolate and bannock.

Explore Your Senses

  • Winefest Edmonton runs February 13-14, 2015. The all-inclusive event includes hors’d’oeuvres and tastings from over 60 wineries.
  • For a good cause, you can romance your Valentine at an exclusive dinner by Culina inside the Tropical Pyramid at the Muttart Conservatory on February 13, 2015. Tickets for the six tables are being auctioned off, with a portion of proceeds going to the United Way and Mealshare.

Play Some Games

  • Have a low-key (or high stakes, depending on how you play) evening at one of Edmonton’s board game cafes, Table Top Café or the Hexagon.
  • Or head over to Denizen Hall downtown for drinks and some retro arcade games (nothing says love like taking on Shredder together).

Get On Your Feet

  • For those looking for something a bit more active, the Edmonton Paintball Centre is hosting a unique couples paintball event on February 14, 2015, inclusive of gear and a snapshot with your significant other to remember the occasion.
  • The Sugar Swing Dance Club’s Affair of the Heart on February 14 looks like fun, with dance lessons, games and a photo booth.

Get Your Hands Dirty

  • There’s definitely been an increase in the number of Valentine’s Day-themed cooking classes, but why not get on the other side of the kitchen? Gail Hall is offering a Foods from the Heart express cooking tutorial on February 10, 2015, if you’re looking to surprise you sweetie with a homemade meal.
  • NAIT has put together a V-Day-inspired menu for their February 13, 2015 session.
  • Sorrentino’s has an intriguing “Oysters and other aphrodisiacs” date night scheduled for February 13, 2015.

Celebrate Culture

  • The Silver Skate Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, with the milestone of being the longest-running winter festival in Edmonton. Check it out in Hawrelak Park February 13-22, 2015.
  • The annual WildFire Festival takes place February 10-28, 2015, and celebrates the improv talents of junior and senior high school students from all over Alberta.

Cheer On the Home Team

  • Let’s hope, for the city’s sake, that the Edmonton Rush are up to repairing our “City of Champions” reputation this year. They face the Colorado Mammoth on February 15, 2015.

Be a Homebody

If you’re still in need of ideas, check out Linda’s post for even more suggestions. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ten Alternatives To Valentine’s Day Dinner

It’s been a few years since Mack and I have had dinner out at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. We’ve never had a great experience, and in general, find that we have better meals on days when the kitchen is more relaxed and the ambiance is a little less forced.

So, given the occasion is less than two weeks away, here are ten alternatives you to consider.

  1. Food and Wine Pairings Jacek Chocolate Couture & Baseline Wines Tasting
    • Instead of wine with dinner, explore how well wines pair with sweets. The Italian Centre is hosting a desserts and drinks pairing at their west end location on February 12, 2014, with tickets priced at $50 for two.
    • For chocoholics, Jacek is repeating their successful chocolate and wine tasting at the Muttart Conservatory on February 22, 2014. End the evening with live music and exclusive tours of the pyramids. Tickets are $60 per person. Mack and I participated in a similar tasting last year.
  2. Get Your Hands Dirty
    • Make a sweet treat for your Valentine at the City Arts Centre on February 11, 2014 at their chocolate making class. Registration is $45 per person.
    • The City Arts Centre has teamed up with Chef David Omar of ZINC to help couples create the ultimate Italian feast on February 13, 2014.
    • Shoot the one you love on Valentine’s Day – with paintballs, that is. The city’s newest facility, the Edmonton Paintball Centre, is the largest indoor range in Alberta. They’re offering pink paintballs, and the option to come as a single or a couple.
  3. Music
    • I’m not sure if tickets are still available, but I love that CKUA is inviting Edmontonians to spend Valentine’s Day with Colleen Brown. Tickets are free, but have to be picked up in advance.
    • The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra has a family-friendly option with their Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II, playing February 15-16, 2014. The original scores of some of your favourite cartoon moments will be played live by the symphony.
  4. Theatre
    • Rapid Fire Theatre’s annual Wildfire Festival, celebrating the improv talent of students from across Alberta, takes place all this month. And you know what they say – we love those who can make us laugh.
    • Three may be a crowd, but never at the info-tainment show Hey Ladies!, taking place at the Roxy on February 7, 2014. Among other segments, the hosts will run a Pseudo Valentine’s Match Game that night.
  5. Take in a Winter Festival
    • Nothing is more romantic than a walk in the park, especially on illuminated winter paths. The Flying Canoe Adventure takes place February 7-8, 2014 in Mill Creek, with storytelling, sleigh rides, and even an outdoor patio.
    • The annual Silver Skate Festival runs February 14-23, 2014. Check out their range of activities, from live performances to Olympic-themed fun, and my personal favourite – fire sculptures.
  6. Explore a Neighbourhood On the Spot Pop-Up
    • Pick up a locally-made gift for your loved one at On the Spot Pop-Up’s Maker’s Faire, manifesting itself for the first time at the Boyle Street Plaza, February 8-9, 2014. The facility is a cornerstone of the neighbourhood’s new direction, and it is wonderful to see it being employed for a variety of uses. Besides vendors, there will be a craft room for kids, and a pop-up coffee shop.
    • The North Edge (made up of Central McDougall and Queen Mary Park) is hosting The Snow Ball on February 20, 2014 at the Prince of Wales Armouries. There will be music, refreshments and of course, ballroom dancing. The event is free.
  7. Find a Valentine
    • The sixth annual Animal Attraction at the Valley Zoo on February 14 and 15, 2014 combines speed dating with the opportunity to learn about animal romances.
  8. Anti-Valentine’s Day
    • The third annual Glitterball, “anti-Valentine’s edition” takes place on February 15, 2014 at Yellowhead Brewery. Expect bellydancing, comedy and burlesque. Tickets are $20 in advance
  9. Get OutsideValentine's Day Disco Skate
    • Try your hand at snowshoeing or cross-country skiing at the Strathcona Wilderness Centre.
    • Last year, Mack and and I headed to City Hall for their Valentine’s Day Disco Skate – free skate rentals and hot chocolate under the pyramid lights. This year, it is taking place on February 16, 2014, as a part of their Sunday Swing ‘n Skate. Live swing music and dance lessons inside, and skating outside!
  10. Stay Inside
    • Two years ago, Mack and I watched IBM’s Watson beat Jeopardy’s human champions on Valentine’s Day. This year, we will be binge watching season 2 of House of Cards on Nextflix, to be released on February 14, 2014. To each their own.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day Disco Skate

On one of the most commercially-driven days in the year, it was great that the City of Edmonton was offering a free, family-friendly alternative. Their Valentine’s Day Disco Skate was scheduled a bit early, running from 4-7pm, but the time did allow for kids to fit in a visit right after school, and for couples to have dinner following the event.

Valentine's Day Disco Skate

City Hall

Mack and I headed over to City Hall after work. At dusk, the spotlights were getting to be more noticeable, but the disco music was certainly casting a net of attention – pedestrians wanted to see what all the fuss was about!

Valentine's Day Disco Skate

Beautiful night for an outdoor skate

Free skate and helmet rentals were offered, alongside bannock roasting. To add to the festivities, stilt-walkers danced around the rink, and costumed actors roamed the perimeter, handing out red carnations as they went.

Valentine's Day Disco Skate

Mack with our carnation

I am a tenuous skater at best, but Mack was patient with me, and we managed to make it around the rink several times (more than a few children raced circles around us).

Valentine's Day Disco Skate

Look Ma, I’m standing!

It was wonderful to see families, couples and friends enjoying themselves on and off the ice. Given the Winter Strategy would like to see more people taking advantage of the outdoors in the season of snow, I think a few more events like this would definitely be a step towards making that happen! Kudos to the organizers for a wonderful night.

Be Mine in Edmonton: 14 Alternatives to a Valentine’s Day Dinner

When Mack and I first started dating, our approach to Valentine’s Day was pretty traditional – Mack bought me flowers and chocolates, and we went out for dinner. Over the past few years though, we’ve opted to stay in, choosing to save our entertainment dollars on a night not dominated by prix-fixe menus, timed table turnovers, and the air of a perfunctory meal.

That said, many restaurants do still offer a first-rate experience even in such a climate, but given the number of Valentine’s Day alternatives I’ve stumbled upon this year, I think there is a general appetite to shrug off the dinner standard in favour of something a little different. For us, this means a paired wine and chocolate tasting put on by Baseline Wines and Jacek Chocolate Couture the week prior to Valentine’s Day.

So for your planning pleasure (Valentine’s Day is just two weeks away!), here are fourteen alternatives to dinner with your sweetheart. Note, some of the events do take place before or after the big day, but are noted as such:

For the romantics

  • What’s more romantic than a moonlit stroll with your valentine? And since February falls during our winter season, it only makes sense that this stroll would be done on snowshoes. The John Janzen is running this special after-dark event on February 1 and 8, 2013. Participants will look for animal tracks, warm up with apple cider, and enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride to end the evening! Tickets are $20 each.
  • An inexpensive way to take advantage of our winter wonderland is to make use of one of the City’s many public rinks and skate under the stars. Although the picturesque Victoria Oval is closed to the public on February 14, there are numerous other rinks that will be open. Skate to your heart’s content!
  • Serenade your sweetheart with songs from none other than Irving Berlin. On February 8, 2013, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra takes on his well-known songbook which features songs like “Cheek to Cheek” and “Falling In Love Is Wonderful”. Tickets from $20.

For the food and wine inclined

  • Feature PyramidI wondered why Baseline and Jacek weren’t offering the wine and chocolate pairing on Valentine’s Day itself, but I soon found out why: they’re booked to lead the same tasting at the Muttart Conservatory on February 14! Tickets are $79 each.
  • Is there a saying that a couple that cooks together, stays together? There must be, given that couple’s cooking classes seem to be all the rage. The Pan Tree in Sherwood Park picks up on this trend, offering up their recipe for romance: a three course dinner featuring mussels, rack of lamb and a chocolate crème brulee. Registration is $75.
  • I know there’s more than a few people out there who would proclaim bacon their valentine if given the opportunity. Shovel & Fork is teaching a class on February 17, 2012 on how you can make your own bacon and other cured meats – why not learn this skill with your sweetie? The buy in is $80 per person.
  • For chocoholics, making your own sweet treats may be more up your alley. Get your hands dirty and learn how to make your own chocolate with the City Arts Centre. Registration is $45 per person.
  • The Freewill Shakespeare Festival is hoping to inspire romance and raise money at their Brunch o’ Love at the Hotel MacDonald on February 10, 2013. Attendees will enjoy an elegant brunch and champagne, and have the opportunity to bid on silent auction items. Tickets are $85.
  • For the Love of Wine, deVine’s stand-up wine tasting on Valentine’s Day highlights several love-themed wines, including Red Lips and Saint Armour. Tickets are $30.
  • The Art Gallery of Alberta has organized a new Valentine’s-themed event called Cold Night, Hot Date. The food alone makes it a worthwhile event (I love the idea of a build-your-own cheeseboard), but with romantic shorts, old world carnival games, and exhibition tours, it sounds like it will be a great night! Tickets are $95 each.

For the cynics

  • The High Street Social Club is organizing an Anti-Valentine’s Day party to take place on February 17, 2013 at the Manor Cafe. Expect a menu where you can literally eat your heart out (beef heart tartare) and be cheeky (cherry cola and chilies with braised beef cheek). Tickets are $55 each.

For the unconventional

  • How about a blind date for your valentine? The Citadel’s popular show Blind Date is back, just in time for February 14! One lucky man in the audience gets pulled on stage for an evening of improvised fun. Tickets from $35.
  • For more improv, Rapid Fire Theatre is hosting its annual Wildfire Festival from February 12 – March 2, 2013. The student improv festival celebrates the talent Alberta has to offer.
  • Spend Valentine’s Day exploring your Star Wars identity at the Telus World of Science. It’s a wonderful exhibition for those who love the films, but also those who appreciate the art of moviemaking.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love that Menu: Valentine’s Day 2011 in Edmonton

Mack and I decided to collaborate on this post. Enjoy!

Mack:

Last year, Sharon and I collaborated on a Valentine’s Day post. We decided it would be fun to compare the special and regular menus at a variety of local restaurants in order to find out which one offered the best deal on Valentine’s Day. It was a nice mix of my penchant for stats and Sharon’s knowledge of the local food scene. This year, we wanted to do something different.

Sharon:

Eater nicknames Valentine’s Day “Black Monday” for a reason – restaurants pull out all the stops, hoping to woo diners with their prix fixe menus. Though I’m sure most of them are well intentioned (and Mack and I have certainly indulged in many Hallmark holiday dinners), some seem to be really over the top.

After perusing over a dozen Valentine’s Day menus, we’ve collected some observations. Here are our tongue-in-cheek picks for the best and worst of what the city’s restaurants have to offer this weekend.

  • This Dish Gets Around
    • Aside from fondue, which is a Valentine’s Day staple, Chicken Supreme was the most common dish on the menus we examined. It is featured at Homefire Grill, Vic’s Steakhouse, Sorrentino’s Downtown, and even Hardware Grill. Those chickens really get around, don’t they?
  • Most Appealing Menu
    • Last year we picked Hardware Grill as the tastiest-sounding menu, but this year the honor goes to Madison’s Grill. Five courses with two choices each (plus a dessert course) means there’s a good chance both you and your date will find something to enjoy. Pan seared scallops, pulled pork crepe, and grilled Spring Creek Ranch beef tenderloin are just a few of the delicious sounding options!
  • Best Bang for Your Buck
    • At $45 per person, The Manor might not be the cheapest option, but with three courses (which include a choice of three entrees, with nary a chicken supreme in sight), we’re confident that between the food and their cozy rooms, couples will be well taken care of, and for a price less than a third of the most expensive meal in the city.
  • Big Spender
    • That brings us to the five course prix fixe at Red Ox Inn. If you’re on a budget, this one isn’t for you – it will set you back $160 a person (which includes food, gratuity and tax). Each course is paired with a wine though, and given the meal has been at the same price point at least two years in a row, it has likely continued for a good reason.
  • Best Dish Name
    • With images of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in our heads, Zinc’s “Cheek to Cheek” entrée is hard to beat. Comprised of a Spring Creek Rank beef cheek and a butter-poached halibut cheek, it also probably tastes as good as it sounds. We used Zinc’s photo above.
  • Worst Dish Name
    • Maybe we need to get out of the city more, but there’s nothing particularly romantic to us about two slabs of meat. That’s what you’ll get at Teddy’s with “Lovers’ Steaks” – an 8oz New York and a 6oz Fillet Mignon. The dish comes with prawns, Caesar salad, and three cheese mashed potatoes for $49.
  • Say Cheese
    • We really thought restaurants would be more forthcoming with the extras they would shower on you and your date, but no dice. So almost by default, The Melting Pot wins this category. You have the option of “enhancing” your meal with different feature packages, such as “The Cupid’s Arrow”, which includes one dozen roses in a vase, rose petals on your table, a bottle of sparkling wine, two champagne flutes to keep, and a framed photo of you and your Valentine. The price tag? $225, which also covers a four course dinner for two.
  • What’s the Point Prix Fixe
    • With a Valentine’s Day menu that is so similar to the regular menu, we have to wonder why Chop even bothered! All of the entrees and most of the appetizer platter can be found on the regular menu. Only the dessert, Dark Chocolate Pecan Banana Cake, is new. If you’re superstitious you might like this option, however – the three course meal is priced at $88 per couple.
  • No Date Required
    • Who says you need a table for two on February 14? Take a look at the menu from Bistro La Persaud and tell us you’re not seduced (braised boar bacon? poached lobster?). Best of all, it’s priced per person! Ooh la laa!

Mack:

However you choose to spend Valentine’s Day, we hope it is filled with love!

Eight Alternatives to Valentine’s Day Dinner

Looking for alternatives to dinner on Valentine’s Day? Here are a few that I’ve come across:

  • Instead of a box of chocolates, how about a chocolate tasting? Kerstin’s is offering a chocolate and wine pairing tasting on February 11, 2011.
  • The Dish is offering dinner and a movie, their way: for the “Dateless, the Down-on-Love or the Just-Not-Into-It”, alongside a pre-fixe meal, they are screening The Break-Up, Fatal Attraction and Rear Window, on February 11, 12 and 13, respectively.
  • The Valley Zoo is hosting their annual Animal Attraction event on February 11 and 12, with a round of speed dating, music, and dessert.
  • A walk outdoors with your loved one might be a bit chilly, so the Muttart Conservatory might be the best alternative. Their Sweetheart Stroll, on February 11 and 12, features a harpist, a dance floor and food from Culina Muttart.
  • The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s Robbins Pops on February 11 and 12 is titled Love Will Keep Us Together, featuring “Moon River”, “My Heart Will Go On” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, among others.
  • Love Valerie’s cheeky event on February 12  – a sausage making class. All the grinding, mixing and stuffing you and a friend/partner can handle! Check out the Taste Tripping website for more information.
  • The Oliver Community League is hosting a wine and cheese on February 12. A $15 ticket includes two glasses of wine, lots of food, music, door prizes, and games, but you have to be a League member or guest of a member.
  • The Edmonton Film Society is screening Doris Day and Rock Hudson’s classic, Pillow Talk, at the Royal Alberta Museum on February 14.

Mack’s suggestion – relaxing at home, watching to see if an IBM computer can beat humans on Jeopardy.

Valentine’s Day in Edmonton: Deal or No Deal?

Mack and I decided to collaborate on this post. Enjoy!

Sharon:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a holiday where consuming chocolate is the national norm, and for an occasion that is marked with an indulgent feast. And though I realize that Valentine’s Day has been escalating in its commercial nature over the past two decades (and one that that Mack and I embraced wholeheartedly last year), a gander at one too many pre-fixe restaurant menus sent me over the edge this time around.

Of course, restaurants shouldn’t be blamed for feeding a consumer-driven hunger for extravagance, excess, and unbridled expense on February 14. No doubt, some meals, and the ultimate experience of spending time with your sweetheart could be worth every penny. Also, some restaurants do offer embellishments – providing a rose to the lady, employing a musician to set the ambiance, offering a treat at meal’s end – but could it really be worth the heightened price tag? How much more are patrons charged on Valentine’s Day, compared with any other day? With Mack’s penchant for statistics and graphs, we set to find out.

Mack:

Coming up with the data was harder than we thought! Finding the set price of the Valentine’s Day menu was easy, but finding something to compare it to was not. We decided to generate a comparable figure using the closest dishes we could find on the regular menu. Definitely not scientific, but fairly representative.

We started by finding as many restaurants with Valentine’s Day menus as we could, and then narrowed it down to those which also had regular menus online. We ended up with 12 restaurants:

The average Valentine’s Day menu price was $71.08 per person, with prices ranging from $35 per person at The Dish to $160 per person at Red Ox Inn. The average regular menu price was surprisingly similar at $69.65 per person. On average, Valentine’s Day menus featured 4 courses.

So what’s the best deal? By far, Madison’s Grill. Their 6 course Valentine’s Day menu is just $85 per person – the regular menu would cost roughly $116 per person. Of course, we’re not sure about portion sizes, but based on our recent Farmers’ Market Dinner experience, we expect they will not be small. The worst deal? Hardware Grill – you pay $31 more for the Valentine’s Day menu than you would on a regular day.

I wouldn’t cite any of this data in an academic paper, and the numbers don’t take into account ambiance, food quality, freedom of choice and service, but it was fun to generate just the same. I was surprised to discover that the Valentine’s Day menus aren’t that much more expensive after all!

Sharon:

So numbers aside, after scrutinizing more than a dozen pre-fixe menus, I can tell you that considering the menu options only, both Mack and I agree that Hardware Grill wins, hands down. We were salivating as we read through each course (butternut squash-mascarpone tortelloni
with truffle butter cream sauce and fresh chanterelles? Porcini crusted sea bass, lobster-truffled potato crêpes, white corn-arugula & gulf prawns? Where do we sign up?).

While I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend any one restaurant (personal choice being that last intangible), based on our experience, Madison’s Grill and The Dish would top our list. If you’re looking for innovative, creative food that celebrates local producers, there would be no better choice than Blair Lebsack’s dining room in the Union Bank Inn. However, if you desire something more casual and comforting, The Dish is a great choice with its consistent kitchen and friendly service.

Mack:

You could, of course, avoid restaurants altogether and cook that special someone a tasty meal at home! Because as Sharon pointed out, Valentine’s Day is about spending time with your sweetheart, not spending lots of money. If you do go the restaurant route, keep in mind that there are more to choose from than the dozen we mentioned here.

We hope you enjoyed this light-hearted look at “Black Sunday” (a la Eater) in Edmonton, and we wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day!

A La Carte For The Win: Normand’s

Eater is always an entertaining website, but in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, it was even more so. They had dubbed V-Day “Black Saturday”, as many restaurants predictably offered only very expensive prix fixe menus and nothing else, leaving diners at the mercy of establishments. Eater made sure to ridicule some of the more ridiculous Valentine’s Day offers, and also, to help readers spend wisely, posted lists of restaurants that continued to offer their regular menu in the face of “Black Saturday” temptation.

Well, back in Edmonton, we found the same phenomenon – many of our favourite restaurants were guilty of this. While I understand the desire to streamline the kitchen and make service more efficient, do the majority of people really need (or want) a four or five-course meal (especially one priced at upwards of $150)? It seems excessive, and a money-grabbing ploy, and we made sure we weren’t a part of it.

Mack let me choose the restaurant, and I decided to go with the elusive Normand’s (11639A Jasper Avenue NW). The only thing I knew about the restaurant was that they served game, and that they had been a fixture on Jasper Avenue for many years. I had called to make a reservation back in mid-January – at that time, the earliest seating we were offered was 8pm; we found out when we got to the restaurant that they had lined up reservations until 10:30pm that night.

Normand’s

The host was efficient – after taking our coats, he led us up a few stairs to a table in the corner. It gave us a fairly nice view of the tiered space, but was unfortunately placed near the bustling bar where orders were being placed a mile a minute, and near the kitchen where orders were streaming out on a continuous basis.

The interior reminded me of a cross between Le Table de Renoir and Bistro Praha – framed Renoir prints were hung on the stucco walls, and the plaster arches that divided the dining room aged the space at least twenty years. It was nice enough, but Normand’s could use a makeover, or at least an update.

We were given the choice of their regular menu, or a four-course Valentine’s Day special. The latter was tempting, given the decent price point ($54.95 per person for soup, salad, one of three entrees, and chocolate fondue to share), but none of the mains listed caught our eye. So a la carte it was.

As someone always taken by the mushroom soup option, I elected for the wild mushroom cream ($7.50), while the tomato basil soup du jour ($6.75) appealed to Mack. For our main courses, we deviated as we usually do – Mack went straight for the lobster and scallops mornay ($33.95), and I, still on a duck kick, opted for the Lac Brome Roast Duck ($30.95).

I was expecting the soup course to be fairly generous, as the price of a bowl wasn’t cheap, and Normand’s delivered. The cream soup (which is apparently one of the restaurant’s most well-known dishes) was rich, but not overly so. I thought it was better than the thicker puree I tried at Red Ox a few weeks ago, but it was still nothing exceptional. Mack enjoyed his soup, and there was definitely a roast garlic kick to it.

Tomato Basil Soup

Our mains arrived fairly promptly – Normand’s definitely had the air of a well-oiled machine. My dish had a bit of fanfare to it – not content to just serve either breast or leg, I received both in a small pot. Our server transferred the leg onto my plate, and helped me spoon some of the cranberry and orange port wine sauce over top of it. Mack’s mornay, in comparison, was quite a bit smaller, but drenched in a shallot white wine cream sauce, it made up for size with richness.

The duck meat was unfortunately a touch overcooked, but combined with the sweet sauce, was all right to eat (the large serving also meant that I had enough to top off a salad the next day – for whatever reason, the meat tasted better eaten this way). The crispy skin was also a nice treat – I think duck skin is the new bacon.

Lac Brome Roast Duck

Mack thoroughly enjoyed his dish (containing two of his favourite proteins, this wasn’t a surprise), though he said that the scallops tasted better with the thick, creamy sauce than the lobster.

Lobster & Scallops Mornay

I couldn’t decide on dessert, but swayed visually by the table next to us that had opted to share fondue, I thought fondue for two ($13.95) would be an appropriately cheesy way to end the night. Normand’s uses Bernard Callebaut chocolate, so the fondue mixture was decidedly sweet. Paired with the sliced fruit, however, it was perfect. Mack preferred the bananas, while I was a sucker for the strawberries. The toasted slices of almonds were a thoughtful touch on the plate and allowed that extra bit of indulgence.

Chocolate fondue for two

While I wasn’t blown away by our experience at Normand’s, I was very happy that they chose to offer their a la carte menu in the face of Black Saturday. They also managed to provide excellent service in spite of a full house. So although I’m not sure Normand’s would become my standby, it seems like a reliable establishment that isn’t likely to change its menu or its style anytime soon.

Normand’s
11639A Jasper Avenue NW
(780) 482-2600
Monday-Thursday 11:30am-10pm, Friday 11:30am-11:30pm, Saturday 5-11:30pm, Sunday 5-9pm