Food: Edmonton


Food: Edmonton and General and work (kinda)15 Oct 2009 06:10 pm

Reporters and editors watch the newsroom tvs intently as the balloon boy comes down. Well, as his balloon comes down, anyhow.

bubbleboy

Then, my friend Ben and I went out for lunch. I just wanted tea, but he promised a delicious wrap. So we went to Wrapture in City Centre mall. Although the mall is less than five minutes walk away, I have not eaten at that food court in over a decade. Wrapture might convert me to eating there again.

Wrapture started in Calgary, and offers wraps, smoothies, soups and healthier fast food. I jokingly called it a Chipotle knock off. Their typefaces, logo, branding, even their tinfoil wrapping and upsells (extra meat, chips and salsa) all remind me of Chipotle. The burrito I had (Baja Chicken) was pretty solid, if slightly under seasoned (odd for fast food!) I have to say I preferred it to Mucho Burrito.

Packed with rice, chicken, black beans, fresh salsa and cheese, at $7.95. Available in a bowl as well. Thanks for lunch, Ben.

wrap

On the way to Wrapture, we saw this mysterious birthday cake, perched on the side of a city garbage can. Ben took a photo with his Blackberry.

bdaycake

Naturally, all I could think of was throwing it to the ground, a la SNL’s and Lonely Island’s Andy Samberg.


i threw it on the ground
by noki86
Food and Food: Edmonton06 Oct 2009 12:09 pm

Driving down 124 Street on Sunday, scouting new hair salons, I spied something out of the corner of my eye. A new store, perhaps?  Black awning, letters spelling “bake shop” … it seemed a dream.

duchess bake shop edmonton

I pulled a u-turn, pulled to the side of the road and sat in front of the storefront, in shock. A new bakery. In MY neighbourhood! ADVERTISING MACARONS NO LESS.

I have been waiting for a French patisserie in Edmonton for some time. Don’t get me wrong, La Favorite is nice, but they really miss the huge array of sweet treats the French have to offer. I’ve been longing for a place like Nectar, in Calgary. Fresh meringues, madeleines and croissants. I’ve had even more dreams of opening such a place my self.

Well, my wait is over.

Duchess Bake Shop, “open four days,” according to the clerk, has arrived in Edmonton.

duchess bake shop edmonton

Duchess features a huge array of baked treats with French flavours and lovely branding and packaging. “We bake something between 60 and 70 varieties,” the clerk said when I asked how big of a baking roster they kept. 60 things are not baked every single day, mind you, but look for a rotating selection. They also serve up coffee and teas.

There were cherry pies, large and miniature, savoury and sweet shortbreads dressed in pistachios, lavender and almonds, pain au chocolat, croissants, and freshly made items coming out of the kitchen, even as I paid.

duchess bake shop edmonton

But the most exciting thing: macarons, in Edmonton. I sighed with pleasure.

They are a steep $1.25 each (and tiny, dainty little things they are indeed) but considering the labour (dear lord, the labour, as I found out when I made them) and high quality ingredients worth it, in my opinion. I would gladly fork over the dough for one of these over a slab of dry, gummy Starbucks loaf, and be far more satisfied.

Lavender, lemon and pistachio featured on this day.

duchess bake shop edmonton

duchess bake shop edmonton

And so, in the end, I came out with a golden box full of macarons (which are delectable; crispy, sweet and airy), a pain au chocolat, croissant and a bag of rosemary shortbread, which I shared around the office I was so excited about this place.

duchess bake shop edmonton

$1.50 for a slightly smaller than average croissant. But bursting with above average flakiness and flavour. Very buttery and tender.

duchess bake shop edmonton

duchess bake shop edmonton

$1.25 each for a macaron. I can’t say enough about how great these are. If you have never had one before, you should get thee to the Duchess bakery! Who knew something that was primarily egg white and icing sugar based would be this delicious?

Oh, that’s right. The French.

I hope they do a fennel one like the ones I ate at Guy Savoy.

duchess bake shop edmonton

The bag of rosemary shortbread, $4.95. Buttery, sweet and a little bit savoury from the rosemary. Perfect with tea. I’m also so into their packaging. Some consider it frivolous, but for things like this which make great gifts (even for yourself) I think it is important. After all, do we not eat with our eyes, first?

I was so excited I did not pause to photograph the hours (update: added hours below). But I will tomorrow, when I most certainly will return. I’m so pleased they have moved into the neighbourhood.

Duchess Bake Shop
10720-124 Street
New hours as of October 25, 2009
Monday + Tuesday, Holidays: Closed
Wednesday: 9-6
Thursday + Friday: 9-8
Saturday 10-6
Sunday 10-5

My advice: get there early.

Food and Food: Edmonton13 Sep 2009 12:52 am

Mike and I just returned from a long hike (more on that later) and I have been incredibly ravenous since we returned. I was particularly craving Indian food, as two reporters were walking around the newsroom with leftovers from Karma Bistro at work today. YUM.

Acting on a tip, we checked out Zaika Indian Bistro. I’ll admit I didn’t have high hopes. The restaurant had several things going against it in my eyes.

zaika, edmonton

Exterior of Zaika Indian Bistro & Bar

Firstly, it’s in the deep DEEP south of Edmonton, in a new suburb. It’s in the fabled SW zone of addresses, folks. Secondly, it’s not even on Google Maps yet, and I was concerned it would be hard to find. Thirdly: “Indian Bistro Bar”? Uh oh. Sounds pretty trendy. Finally, it has been open just two weeks. Nothing ventured, nothing gained…

We pulled up after finding the restaurant fairly easily (first surprise.) The best way to get there is to head south on 91 Street from 23 Avenue. It’s located in a new strip mall to the west of 91st, just past Henday. You can also find it by going south on Parsons Road from South Edmonton Common, past Wal*Mart. The restaurant is to the east. If you hit Ellerslie, you’ve gone too far. Here’s a map showing the approximate location. Trust me, it is not in a field.

zaika, edmonton

The outside and restaurant itself was fairly sleek. It reminds me of an Indian themed OPM or Kai; even a junior Earl’s or Cactus Club Cafe. There is ethnic electronic music, dark interiors, shiny light fixtures and a stylish bar and large booths.

However, I am happy to admit the restaurant is not all style with no substance. Although they have a huge, well stocked and fresh looking buffet in a beautiful set up ($17, available every night of the week), we ordered from the menu.

I indulged in a cocktail (ginger mojito at the suggestion of our server, it was alright, $8) and our food started to come out quickly. The menu is not that extensive, but covers a range of dishes, most of them favourites with the Canadian crowd. (Butter chicken and paneer make appearances.)

To start, chatt pa pri (papadum with tamarind, yogurt and chick peas) and, surprisingly, wings. The chatt pa pri ($7) was a dissapointing start. The tamarind sauce was cold, and may have come from a bottle. The papadums were not freshly fried. This dish was just okay, and I was seriously concerned about the rest of our meal.

zaika, edmonton

Wings, Zaika-ized!

The wings ($9) were a huge improvement, however. They were were spicy, but fruity. The chicken drumsticks were meaty, hot, not too fatty and came with a much needed (for my mouth, anyways) cooling raita dipping sauce and pickled carrots. A nice change from regular hot sauce wings.

zaika, edmonton

For mains, lamb korma and bhindi masala. The serving size of one main entree was sufficient for two. If you are very hungry, I would say get two mains, or order heavily off the appetizers to supplement, especially if you like leftovers.

The lamb korma ($15) was good – tender meat coated in a lake of rich creamy sauce. The best was the bhindi masala ($13) though. It is okra, stir fried with tomatoes and onions and spices. Mike has become a real whiz at making this dish, and it is one I frequently request he make as it is a personal favourite, so naturally I had to try Zaika’s. Their bhindi masala was excellent, and I couldn’t stop popping the almost carmelized spicy okra morsels in my mouth.

All main dishes ($11-17) at Zaika come with a well sized portion of basmati rice and a piece of fluffy fresh naan, which was a pleasant surprise. Service was good, if a little inexperienced at times. But hey, it’s a new restaurant.

zaika, edmonton

This buffet ($17) has got to be one of the most stylish in town, and the easiest to access. Circles! Why has no one done this before?!

So while Zaika does not offer anything too new or surprising, it does turn out a good meal at above average value, in a pretty setting. There are some funky additions to the menu (like the “naan bar” appetizer) and of course, vegetarian options, but nothing too wild. I also did not see the word “fusion” anywhere. Whew!

The server told us the restaurant has roots in another Indian establishment in town, Indian Garden. I think this really shows in their menu, and cooking. We were also told that all their produce comes from the new Asian market next door. Unfortunately, it had just closed when we left Zaika at 9pm, but I will return. I love a restaurant that supports neighbours!

It will not surprise me if they become a very popular southside restaurant, even given their close proximity to the chain restaurant hellhole that is South Edmonton Common. A pox on thee, S.E.C!

Zaika Indian Bistro & Bar
2303 Ellwood Drive SW, Ellerslie Crossroads
780 462 8722

(dinner for two, with drinks, appetizers and ample leftovers, about $60.)

bonus: nearby, a cafe called Dumplings Plus is in the works, as well as “Real Deal Meats”. I’m ashamed to admit I had no idea this area was bubbling over with possibilities!

update, October 16 2009: The buffet is excellent value. The items change daily, and are all fresh. Naan is freshly made and brought to your table, and there are light, crispy freshly  made pappadums. Highly recommended. You can read a bit more about a recent visit here.

Food and Food: Edmonton30 Aug 2009 06:12 pm

urban china, edmonton

Seems that my craving for asian food has helped me discover some new downtown eateries (in development) lately.

Spurred by my desire for sushi, I spotted a Healthfare sign in a window front on Jasper Avenue recently. Then, I saw this (above) Sunday at 106 Avenue and 101 Street while on a Vietnamese submarine run to Van Loc. The restaurant, which was the site of a former Rosie’s restaurant (a small local restaurant chain), seems set to become “Urban China.”

The proprietress, Evelyn “Rosie” Barnett recently passed away, but her restaurants/popular karaoke lounges dot the city, offering diner fare and classic Sunday dinners. Seems this former establishment with its glassed in atrium will be turning into an asian restaurant now. Nice to see some renewal going on in the area, instead of seeing restaurants being boarded up and forgotten as their “For Lease” signs blow in the wind.

Food and Food: Edmonton and General25 Aug 2009 03:03 pm

I walked to work today, partly to save bus fare and partly to enjoy the weather. The saving money idea didn’t get me far though, as Who Cares? was having a sale and I netted a pair of shoes for $50, and then got a hankering for sushi.

I stopped in to get some toro and other selections from Sankyu. I don’t care much for their bowls and popular bento boxes, but their toro is the best in downtown Edmonton. The chef commented that he didn’t normally see people getting six pieces of it, but I love tuna belly.

sankyu sushi

toro from sankyu

14 piece mixed sushi with 4 piece of toro, $20.42.

Additionally, I saw that Healthfare has put up a sign in the window of the old Adecco building at 102 Street and Jasper Avenue. Fun fact; just before I worked at the newspaper, I interviewed for a job in the cash office at the new H&M store. Their temporary office was at Adecco. That seems so long ago!

healthfare downtown edmonton

I look forward to trying Healthfare sometime soon. Their healthy “diet friendly” line up has been piquing the interest of Edmontonians for months. I think the downtown location will be very popular if the lines at the Sunterra salad bar are any indication.

Food and Food: Edmonton10 Aug 2009 07:30 pm

While my parents have considerably trimmed back their raspberries bushes and apple trees and we do not have as much to pick, I know not everyone is in the same boat. With no time or simply too much fruit to get to, some home owners have buckets of fruit left to waste on their plants, once the animals have had their fill.

However, a new group of people in Edmonton have gathered to rescue your fruit: Operation Fruit Rescue! The team of volunteers representing OFRE comes to pick your fruit, and the bounty is divided into thirds. 1/3 to the pickers, 1/3 to the home owner and 1/3 to the Food Bank or other food centre. How great is that?

Food and Food: Edmonton21 May 2009 04:09 pm

At work Bistro writer Liane Faulder has been doing monthly food tours of little areas of Edmonton. Some are a given, such as Little Italy (this one is to come), but some focus on lesser known areas.

Here’s a microsite with the tours done thus far, including Alberta Avenue (118 Avenue), 124th Street and Little Lebanon. The pieces are mixed focusing on groceries, restaurants and specific recipes, explained through written pieces, video, galleries and soundslide. More are to come! edmontonjournal.com/foodtours.

Food and Food: Edmonton17 May 2009 12:31 pm

Just two quick hits on some delicious desserts this past week.

Mike and I had a quick late night snack at Cactus Club Cafe earlier in the week. It’s reminiscent of a classier Moxies or Earls, with slightly better food. The key lime pie, however, was amazing. The server (who was knowledgeable and personable) said 160 limes go into one pie and that the whipped cream was hand whipped. The texture was not gelatinous, but creamy and smooth, with a nice crunch from the graham cracker crust. I would return just for this pie.

Cactus Club Cafe key lime pieCactus Club Cafe’s Key Lime Pie, $7.75
Yes, we both got a slice. We both love limes, but Mike probably loves them a bit more. This was proven in a lime eating contest he once participated in. My mouth puckers just at the memory of that.

Then, last night, instead of dinner we got gelato at DaCapo Caffe. It was just like I imagined living on my own would be when I was a kid. Ice cream for dinner!

This gelato is legendary in Edmonton. Antonio Bilotta first started making it at Leva, a cafe not far from DaCapo. When he sold Leva and moved into DaCapo, the gelato recipe and techniques followed, and may have gotten better.

I have to admit I’ve never had “real” Italian gelato from an actual Italy-based purveyor, but if it is better than Bilotto’s, I cannot even conceive of how good it must be. They tend to have a good mix of fruit and traditional flavours. Thankfully it was a bit later in the evening and the gelato case was nearly empty, making deciding on flavours easier.

DaCapo gelato

DaCapo gelato

DaCapo’s gelato, 2 scoops $5.50, 3 scoops $6.50
The server really piled on the gelato for Mike. In fact, he gave Mike such a large serving other patrons remarked at its size. He got mint, cinnamon and malaga (a variation of rum raisin). I had blackberry piled on Fior di Latte, a milk-based flavour. The texture was so creamy and delicious.

DaCapo also offers pizzas, sandwiches, salads, housemade granola, all kinds of espresso based drinks, wines and various unusual biscotti flavours as well. I heard the cafe has also recently acquired a new chef from France, who is busily creating pastries and cakes. I saw a few new creations in the cooler, including a decadent multilayer chocolate cake and a few tarts.

DaCapo is CASH ONLY.

Food and Food: Edmonton11 May 2009 08:09 am

Sage is an Edmonton restaurant I’m very fond of. While some people find the fact it is in a casino it off-putting, I love that it is where it is. No wonder, given how much I enjoy Las Vegas!

The River Cree was actually designed by a Las Vegas-based design group, so the layout is a bit different from the other casinos in town. It’s circular, with the various restaurants and rooms spinning off like spokes on a wheel. There is a natural mountain-y wood & stone decorating theme throughout the casino that spills over into Sage.

People on Chowhound are concerned with the casino being a distraction or irritating, but I do not feel it is. Sure, you could notice the casino action if you really paid attention, but the restaurant is insulated against it and, thankfully, also protected against the smoke that permeates areas of the casino floor.

After dining here three times, I can officially say Sage is one of my favourite restaurants in town and hope it is here to stay. Mike and I visited to celebrate my freedom from school, and with the knowledge that Chef David Cruz recently made some menu changes. He has been introducing some dishes with Asian influence, and bringing in a prix fixe menu. At $45, it’s a great deal for three courses that appear to change regularly.

There are some other bargains to be had, such as Thursday night’s 50% off steak option (sorry, does not include the $60 Kobe-style ribeye) or the $18.88 Lobster Sundays.

Hendricks martini

I had a cucumber infused Hendrick’s gin  martini.

Sage Oyster Platter

Oyster platter for $18. Village Bay and Malpeque varieties. The Malpeques were meaty and succulent, but the Village Bay oysters were the stars. Sweet, lots of liquor and a bit chewy. Later, I saw a woman eating an entire platter herself, and it’s no wonder; these were good.

sagelamb

For a main, I had the rack of lamb with black beluga lentils. The lentils were nutty, and very crisp. I couldn’t get enough, and will try to find some on my next trip to the States or to one of the Indian grocers on 34 Avenue.

The glass plate I found…80s inspired. It was also different from Mike’s plain white dish, below:

Sage kobe rib-eye

This is Mike’s Kobe ribeye. On all three visits, this is the dish he has ordered, even after mulling other dishes over. This buttery, tender steak is decadent and delicious, so I’m not surprised it is his old standby.

I could be wrong, but this is the only restaurant in Edmonton I know of that serves a Kobe (style) steak regularly. Other places, such as the Century Hospitality Group restaurants: Lux, delux burger bar, Century Grill & Hundred, serve dishes made with ground Kobe (burgers, meatballs) as do Ruth’s Chris and Bistecca’s wine bar.

We ordered two side dishes. There are some new “small plate” features as starters, but it was too much with the oysters. Next visit!

sagefries

sagebeans

We ordered two sides, a “raft” of truffled french fries and a new item, Szechuan green beans. Although the fries are steak-cut, they were still crispy, and not soggy or greasy. Just the right amount of bite outside and fluffy inside.

The green beans made my mouth tingle with their Szechuan pepper. Liane Faulder wrote that Chef Cruz recently returned from a trip to China, and I think this is one of his “souveniers” from the trip.

sagedessert

We finished with Peanut Praline & Chocolate Mousse Bar, garnished with hazelnut caramel & bananas brulée. The praline was in the mousse and crackled when you ate it. The bananas helped tone down the richness of the dessert.

The service continues to get better each visit. Previous visits felt a bit pretentious and stiff because of the service, but this last visit felt comfortable and unforced, and moved more like an well-oiled machine. I even saw Chef Cruz pop out into the dining room!

Sage at the River Cree
300 East Lapotac Blvd, Enoch, Alberta.
(take Whitemud Drive West past Anthony Henday, and follow to the casino :: directions)
Monday: Closed
Tuesday – Saturday 6 pm – 10 pm
Sundays  5:30 pm – 9 pm

Food and Food: Edmonton07 May 2009 01:55 pm

Seeing that I was fully ensconced in coursework throughout April, I haven’t really been out to eat much. We’ve gone to our usual haunts: King Noodle, Habesha Ethiopian and Sunbake Pita Bakery a few times, but I have not been able to spare more than an hour to a really relaxed meal.

However, we did try two places new to us recently, as things were winding down for me. Karma Indian Bistro & Wine Bar (in the old house that La Tapa lived in at 10523 99 Avenue NW) and Wildflower Grill.

Karma was a pleasant surprise. We popped in at close to 10:30pm on a Friday night, after plans to visit Cactus Club Cafe fell through. (Their kitchen is open late, but they were quite busy when we called.)

The decor is very dark and has the feel of being in someone’s private library/wine cellar. They are definitely passionate about wine…but how was the food?

Wonderful, to be honest. We got a a grill platter for two, with some paranthas. A mini grill was delivered to the table (in case we wanted some extra grilled flavour, the server said) and the selection of meats on the platter was varied and delicious.

Huge succulent shrimp, tender fish, savoury lamb and some kebabs. It was some time before our meal came out, but there were two large groups in the restaurant, the server told us. Oddly, our paranthas were a few minutes behind the grill platter, but the mini grill kept things hot. Mike visited the buffet a few days later and said the roti and naan came fresh to the table and the buffet platters were not soggy dregs. This is a solid choice for those working downtown, I think.

Wildflower Grill was another last minute decision. I have been studying a fair bit at the Starbucks at the Matrix Hotel on 104 Street, which is next to the Wildflower. I had been wanting to go for some time, but it was hard to find a spare minute to go. We had plans to visit a new sushi restaurant (Maki Maki) south of Whyte Avenue, but did not go when we realized it combined both Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine, which was a turn off. We turned around and headed back downtown to Wildlflower Grill.

This place…this place surprised me. It was a place I had preconceived notions about, and that was part of the reason I haven’t eaten there in the year it has been open. It is owned by the group that runs L’Azia, a fusion mini-chain of low-rent Joey’s or Earl’s, which put me off since my experiences there have always been less than stellar.

wildflower grill interior

wildflower grill interior

Wildflower Grill is fabulous though. An amuse bouche (adding to the list of two other local restaurants I have had these at, The Blue Pear and Vic’s Steakhouse) was a pleasant surprise.

They also do an amazing brioche, with came with tiny triangles of two kinds of butter. I would have appreciated more butter, but to be honest the eggy brioche did not need it. It melted in my mouth.

wildflower grill brioche

The cooked to order brioche. This dish alone made me want to immediately return to sample brunch. It’s gotta be good.

wildamuse

Wildflower’s amuse bouche: tart berries offset the rich goose. A nice way to start.

Salmon medallions

Pan roasted sockeye salmon medallions stuffed with crab and lobster, served with scallops & shrimp in an ice wine emulsion. The little braising dish has butternut squash gnocchi in it. Not much squash to taste, but the texture was divine. The sauce came like that, so presentation wasn’t top notch, but I always feel bad breaking into a meal that pretty at first anyhow.

wilddessert

Meyer lemon extravaganza for dessert. Again, berries featured alongside meringue, lemon souffle, candied lemon and a vol au vent. I believe there was also a thyme flavoured tuille.

Salmon medallions for a main for me (another home run with seafood), sea bass for Mike, with a tasting of Meyer lemon souffle for dessert and a huge Bodum of fresh tea to end the meal. (with warmed cream!)

The prices are decent (on par with Culina and Vic’s, not as high as Characters or Hardware) but the romantic atmosphere and imaginative dishes make it worthwhile. I’m sad my work schedule prevents me from trying Sunday brunch, but it would be a good place to sample without dropping a lot on dinner.

Service was in general great, except for the “do you want change” question at the end. Why is that always nails on a chalkboard to me?

Wildflower Grill
10009 107 Street (at the Matrix Hotel)
Hours vary

Food and Food: Edmonton06 May 2009 10:22 pm

On a visit to Dream Tea House (the location off Whyte Ave) today, I noticed they have switched to extended summer hours. They also had some tantalizing new specials, including fresh strawberry juice and the “Carnation” which was made just for Mother’s Day. It’s peach juice, yogurt milk with lychee jelly and tapioca pearls. Yum! After a few moments of indecisiveness, I decided to get the strawberry juice.

I have updated the hours on my Dream Tea menu page.

Food and Food: Edmonton04 May 2009 09:21 pm

key lime cupcakes naked

A previous batch of my cupcakes. There were the unfrosted naked bases for some key lime cupcakes. I filled them with lime curd and frosted them with a citrus buttercream.

It only took four+ years, but cupcakes have arrived in Edmonton. They existed before in small strip malls around the city, but have popped up on Whyte Avenue this year, signaling their true arrival to the masses. I had the fortune to be able to try some from Flirt! today (for free! shhh!)

I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with my “Wild on Whyte”, which was chocolate with strawberry frosting. Medium sized, which is how I prefer my cupcakes, not the enormous ones at Crave in Calgary or Bouchon in Las Vegas. For the price ($2.95ea) I can see people wanting something a bit bigger.

Chocolate base was moist, but had a distinct box cake texture and flavour, and was quite salty. They may be “baked from scratch” but I am not completely convinced. The frosting was quite nice, fluffy and flavourful, but not in the fake way. Overall, kind of plain. No photo since there was only crumbs. I inhaled it in a stressed moment at work, leaving smears of buttery icing and chocolate crumbs all over my desk, and face.

I actually have the exact opposite opinion of Premee’s assessment! Either way, I’m so pleased I have the free time to start making my own again, though. Kelly’s cupcake of the month club, anyone?

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