A Taste of Whyte: The 1st Annual Red Shoe Crawl

Given how much I love exploring neighbourhoods on foot, I was predisposed to liking the idea of the Red Shoe Crawl, put on by the Ronald McDonald House of Northern Alberta. The fact that it exceeded my expectations was just icing on the cake!

Red Shoe Crawl

Red Shoe Crawl

I received an e-mail from Jen Panteluk a few months ago about a fundraising event the House was in the midst of organizing. The Red Shoe Crawl would be an opportunity for participants to sample fare from different establishments in Old Strathcona, with the entire $35 ticket price going to the charity. Jen shared with me that all of the businesses were not only enthusiastic about the idea, but had all generously agreed to donate food or drinks.

Red Shoe Crawl

Red balloon markers!

We had a three hour window on that Sunday afternoon to visit all nineteen participating vendors. There was even an added incentive to complete the loop: the chance to win prizes. Mack and I thought: with ease! Boy, were we wrong.

Having purchased our tickets ahead of time, we signed in at Chili’s, received our passports adorned with red ribbon that doubled as a lanyard of sorts, and we were off.

Red Shoe Crawl


Our first stop was Accent European Lounge. We were greeted by a friendly volunteer who signed off our passport, then asked us to help ourselves to a tray of tomatoes topped with fresh mozzarella and a balsamic glaze. Because this was our first stop, we assumed all restaurants would providing made-ahead appetizers in a similarly casual, self-serve manner.

Red Shoe Crawl

Tomatoes with mozzarella and a balsamic glaze

Well, perhaps some restaurants should have. Because this was a first time event, and the businesses were donating their food (and staff and space), it’s hard to fault the establishments that didn’t quite make it work. The Pourhouse was one of them. Situated a few doors down from Chili’s, they were slammed from the start, and in the fifteen minutes that we waited, we saw only a single plate of their nacho dogs with stuffed potato soup go out. We ended up leaving, with full intentions of returning, but didn’t get around to it.

Red Shoe Crawl

The Pourhouse

In contrast, Two Rooms was pumping out plates of bannock and bruschetta like a well-oiled machine. It was also the stop that tuned us into the fact that if we had to consume fifteen more plates that size, we likely wouldn’t make it.

Red Shoe Crawl

Bannock and bruschetta – the bannock was great, crispy on the outside, and chewy on the inside

Elephant & Castle had a special place for Red Crawl participants. Cordoned off upstairs, it made it easy for staff to identify who still had to be served.

Red Shoe Crawl

Fish and coleslaw – good, but the fish was a little under seasoned for my taste (Mack disagreed)

With fried food in our bellies, we thought it would be a good opportunity to walk it off, given we still had three quarters of the tour left to go. McDonald’s was the furthest destination we had, and it sounded like at that point in the game, hardly anyone had made it that far. We were rewarded with a full size drink of our choosing.

Red Shoe Crawl

The display cups were too cute!

Red Shoe Crawl

Iced coffees (Mack remarked that he preferred these to the Starbucks iced brewed coffees – sacrilege!)

Back on Whyte, Irie Foods treated us to a beef patty. It resembled a pizza pop, but the spicy, well seasoned ground beef filling was so much better. At $3 a pop on the menu, we thought it would be an easy to eat item to pick up during the Fringe, and a much cheaper, but satisfying alternative to the food on the grounds.

Red Shoe Crawl

Jamaican beef patty

Fuss Cupcakes, further down the street, offered us our first dessert of the afternoon, a cute mini red velvet cupcake topped with yellow icing – a delightful homage to the Ronald McDonald House. Our only grimace – the volunteer who told us she was sick, right before handing us cupcakes without gloves on.

Red Shoe Crawl


Mack had been looking forward to the next stop all day – Molly’s Eats was parked on 104 Street, just south of Whyte. We’d been wanting to try Molly’s for some time now, but this was the first time it worked out. And even better, it was worth the wait! The proveletta sandwich was delicious, packed with melty cheese and perfectly crispy, buttered bread. It was our favourite taste of the day.

Red Shoe Crawl

Susan of Molly’s Eats

Red Shoe Crawl

Proveletta sandwich

The skies were threatening to open up at this point, so it seemed like a good time to start wine-ing down (heh). Well, that and we were starting to get full. Eyecare Group was one of two participating non-food establishments (the other being The Tin Box), so I was eager to see how they fit into the picture. Turns out, they were perhaps the most savvy – offering a wine pour and encouraging guests to browse the store, with the added incentive of a coupon for a $50 discount.

Red Shoe Crawl


We had our most relaxing experience that afternoon at Murietta’s. We were seated and provided with a glass of water while we waited. Staff were calm and professional, and though the visit was brief, it was the restaurant that impressed us the most, and one that we would most likely return to based on that day.

Red Shoe Crawl

Garlic prawns – maybe shrimp would be a more accurate descriptor, but served warm, they were tasty

Next up was another beverage – a chillate from Second Cup. I can’t tell you how relieved Mack and I were when presented with sample instead of full-size servings.

Red Shoe Crawl

Mini Chillates

At this point, Mack had been utterly defeated by the food. He was stuffed past the brim, while I was just uncomfortably full. We agreed to do two more stops. The first was Sabzy, which had set up its tasting station outside of the storefront. They offered tastes of both a quinoa salad and a rosewater-based drink.

Red Shoe Crawl

Quinoa salad and rosewater

We had saved the ice cream for last – any flavour from What’s the Scoop?

Red Shoe Crawl

Ice cream

We ended up missing six passport markers – Cha Island Tea, The Tin Box, The Pita Pit, Chianti’s (which was offering a full appetizer order – we were bursting just thinking about it), the Old Strathcona Rack (we had wandered in, but no volunteer – or staff for that matter – could be found), and Chili’s (where the after party was being held). I’m not sure how many people actually finished the rounds, but hats off to them!

Red Shoe Crawl

We did our best!

We didn’t stay for the after party – we still had some errands to run that afternoon – but we’re sure it was a good time. On the way home, I kept thinking about how this was such a great medium for a taste event. Not only do chefs actually get to cook in a full kitchen, but diners set foot and get a feel for the actual restaurant. I think it’s also a great way to expose people to a neighbourhood – had Taste 118 gone ahead as planned, I would have hoped for something like this. But other BRZs or districts of interest should also take note – Chinatown/Little Italy, Avenue of Nations, 124 Street, Little India, Little Lebanon…the replication of this type of event is possible all over.

I’ve been told that the Red Show Crawl itself will be an annual event, and that even more restaurants had expressed interest than they could have accommodated this time around. So expect an even better (and possibly bigger) event next year! Kudos to Jen and the rest of the Ronald McDonald House staff and volunteers for planning a fantastic afternoon.

Sweets on Whyte: Fuss Cupcakes and Coney Island Candy

After a quick trip through the always bustling Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market, we had some time to kill on Whyte before a matinee play, so we took the time to visit a few new additions to the neighbourhood.

An article in the Journal on Saturday pointed to the recent cupcake explosion on Whyte Ave – Flirt Cupcakes opened their doors in February, and Fuss Cupcakes followed with an Old Strathcona outpost that opened this past Wednesday. I have been pretty impressed by Flirt so far (I like their online ordering system, and their beautiful pink gift boxes), but to be fair, having met and interviewed the proprietors probably lends some bias in their direction.

Fuss has been in cupcake business at their flagship west end location (17298 Stony Plain Road) for nearly three years, and was originally known as The Cupcake Bakeshoppe & Cafe. I visited back in the fall of 2006, and was less than impressed with the cupcake – it had been refrigerated (a cupcake faux pas in my book), and the icing tasted artificial. I hadn’t been back to give them a second chance, which probably had more to do with their location than anything else, but was eager to see if they had improved their cupcakes during my time away.

Fuss Cupcakes interior

Fuss sets themselves apart from Flirt primarily by their distinction as being the only “nut free” cupcake bakery in the city, and by offering a large eat-in space. In addition to their cupcakes, Fuss also offers specialty coffees, teas, and floats. Branded merchandise was on sale, including this cheeky shirt:

“Legalize Frostitution!”

There were handy color postcards next to the counter, listing the sixteen standard cupcake varieties offered daily. For the Mother’s Day long weekend, Fuss was offering an additional strawberry and chocolate ganache special.

Order counter

I have to say Flirt does a better job with making their cupcakes look attractive to the customer – while Fuss definitely seemed to have an edge on ensuring a healthy supply of all flavours, I found their fluorescent-lit display a bit sterile and as Mack noted, made the cupcakes seem mass-produced.


At $2.95 a pop. Fuss shares Flirt’s price point per cupcake. We decided to get one each (to be consumed while waiting in line at the theatre) – The Diva (strawberry icing) for me, and The Flawless Carat (carrot cake with cream cheese icing) for Mack.

Our cupcakes

The clear clamshell definitely loses out to Flirt’s recyclable packaging, and Mack didn’t like that the cupcake wasn’t firmly held in its place, rolling around as we walked. We both really liked the moist and airy cake however (and I was happy to find that they were at room temperature). Mack’s carrot base had a nice cinnamon aroma throughout, while my vanilla cake had just the right amount of flavour. The icing-to-cake ratio was something to be desired though. Mack liked the icing, and said it was less sweet than Flirt. I found it all right, but as someone who would choose something other than buttercream every time, that was no surprise.

It will be interesting to see how the “cupcake war” plays out as the months get warmer, and each shop experiences a fair bit of foot traffic from both tourists and regulars alike.

Our next stop was Coney Island Candy (10345 82 Avenue), a shop we wouldn’t have seen had it not been for the sandwich board on the sidewalk.

Coney Island Candy

It’s a shop for the visual sense, that’s for sure, filled with fun carney-inspired posters and bright displays reminiscent of the 1920s midway at Fort Edmonton Park.


The shop steps in to fill the void left when Carol’s Quality Sweets was forced to relocate after the fire on Whyte Ave. With over 500 varieties of candy (continuously being added to), including over 200 bulk options, Coney Island is a kid’s dream.

Even better, Coney Island also stocks novelties perfect for gift giving – I’m sure I could have spent more time peering at the various displays, but I did spy bacon mints and bacon floss – the perfect present for any bacon lover.

Open since March, I’m sure Coney Island will continue to draw in the young, and the young at heart.

Fuss Cupcakes
10441 82 Avenue NW
(780) 761-3877

Coney Island Candy
10345 82 Avenue
(780) 438-9003

“A Very Sexy Party” at Eden Lilly

There was an intriguing invitation to something billed as “a very sexy party” in the latest Kerstin’s Chocolates newsletter I was sent last week. “A collective of likeminded business who like to have fun would like to invite you to share in something chic,” it went on. Among the businesses were Kerstin’s, Leva, Elegant Touches, To Be in Pictures, and Eden Lilly, where the party was to be held. Food and drink were to be expected, but beyond that, I didn’t know what to anticipate. Mack agreed to come with me, and off to Whyte Ave we went on Friday night.

I think the party was most interesting to me because the collective was outside of any established group, such as Keep Edmonton Original or Original Fare, but in my mind, was a great way to cross-promote each other.

When we arrived, we were greeted by someone at the door who checked our name off the guest list (150 people were anticipated, we were told later), and given two drink tickets. Cosmopolitans, wine, and beer were available, and we happily imbibed.

With my Cosmo

Eden Lilly was definitely not meant to house large groups of people for any lengthy period of time (the space was rather stuffy and humid by the end of our stay), but the organizers had done a great job in setting the atmosphere. A DJ had set up shop at the cash counter (which answered my question of whether or not we would be asked to buy anything), the lighting was perfect for a cocktail party, and beautiful flower arrangements were scattered on tables throughout the store.

The spread (containing a divine baked brie)

Kerstin’s had provided the chocolate for a self-serve fondue station, which involved dipping raisin bread into rich chocolate, then coating it with a choice of cocoa nibs. Yum!

Mack tests the fondue

We caught up with Roz from Eden Lilly later on in the night, and asked her what inspired the group to come up with such a unique event. She mentioned that customer appreciation was one factor, but also, as all of the businesses had similar goals (and likely similar clientele), that it was a good opportunity to host an event together.

Thanks to everyone involved for organizing a great party! I hope there are similar events in the future.

Polished but Pricey: Origin India

After visiting the new Old Strathcona office of Lift Interactive (where we won the cutest his and hers t-shirts), Mack and I walked over to Origin India (10511 82 Avenue), the new upscale Maurya Palace outpost. I originally reported about the “coming soon” status of Origin India back in April, and seven months later, it finally opened, apparently because they had to get up to code.

At any rate, we walked past the taped-up paper menu outside, through the doors, and were immediately transported into a world away from the hustle and bustle of Whyte. To the right of the entrance was what looked like a take-out counter, but for the moment was sparkling new and unused. We walked down a few stairs into a dimly lit room and joined the three other parties already seated.

Dominated by brown and reds, the space was warm but chic. Dark leather banquets lined both walls, and above the seats was a wooden, compartmentalized wine shelf that spanned the same length. The buffet section and bar was situated at the back of the room, and without a divide of any kind, the room felt open and welcoming. Knowing that the former occupant of this space was a dollar store, I really have to commend the owners for the absolute transformation they have overseen – I can see how additional construction time would have been necessary.


At the beginning of our visit, the music veered towards the annoying tinkering favoured at Khazana, but thankfully by the end of the night, had switched to an upbeat, Bollywood techno that in my opinion suited the space and the location better.

We were told the buffet was available, but were also provided with menus in case we decided to go the a la carte route. At $19.95 per person, the buffet wasn’t cheap, but we figured it was the best way to sample this new establishment’s fare.

The diamond-shaped plates were an interesting choice, and to some extent, the fact that there was a wide border around it made it easier to grip while we travelled the buffet line. I was disappointed to find, however, that there were only eight hot entrees (plus rice, salad and dessert) to choose from. Along with quality, I figured $20 should also buy variety.

Buffet line-up

We piled our plates high with a sample of everything, and returned to our table where a basket of fresh naan was waiting. The naan was more crisp and not as “doughy” as others I have tried, but the made-to-order factor was a real plus. My favourite dish was the lamb curry – tender, flavourful  and just spicy enough, it was a departure from my usual butter chicken preference. Mack, however, enjoyed his serving of butter chicken, though his only complaint was his need to cut the chicken into more manageable, one-bite sizes (he should have also asked for a shovel in place of a fork, heh).

Our plates (they were almost identical)

The service was fabulous throughout – our waiter checked in with us just often enough to make us feel taken care of without intruding. While I am not sure I will be back (at least not for the pricey buffet), along with Devlin’s next door, I really am starting to see the shift in Old Strathcona businesses from those who target the partying set to those that primarily serve working professionals.

Origin India
10511 82 Avenue
(780) 436-0558
Sunday to Thursday 11:30am-11pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am-2am