BLISS BAKED GOODS

As a British expat living in Canada, there are a number of things I miss about my birth country that I just can’t seem to find even in the busiest cities of the Great White North.

Certain foods, for example, remind me of my childhood. A smell or a taste can bring me back to my life in our quiet British village—a life that saw me regularly making the trek to the local newsagents to pick up the latest Beano comic. I’d grab a Sherbet Fountain (a tube of sherbet that came with a black liquorice dipping stick) along with my comic before heading around the corner to the bakery, where I’d buy my favourite cheese straws (cheesy puff pastries).

Flavours and textures bring back memories—sometimes I can seek them out, such as finding Lyle’s Golden Syrup at Save on Foods. Others come upon me when I least expect it, such as a taste of pizza in New York reminding me instantaneously of Cottingham’s sole pizza takeaway joint. Food has an uncanny ability to prompt involuntary memories, creating an instance of time travel with a mere taste.

The same feeling came over me the second I bit into a cinnamon and sugar doughnut from Bliss Baked Goods, a family-owned bakery located in Edmonton’s Glenora district.

Found next to Gini’s Restaurant, Bliss is a modest bakery that uses their space solely to make and display their products—there’s nothing superfluous in the setting. The bakery is owned by husband-and-wife team Lawrence and Shaindel Bliss, who have been running Bliss Baked Goods since they started the business on 118th Avenue more than 11 years ago. They moved into the new Glenora location in September 2014.

Lawrence Bliss

The bakery specializes in 100% kosher, dairy-free and nut-free baked goods, with a number of vegan options, including pastries and some specially made doughnuts.

We visited on a Friday morning to pick up a dozen doughnuts for the office and ended up chatting with Lawrence and Shaindel, who explained their bakery’s philosophy and specialities. They gave us a taste of the cinnamon and sugar doughnut, which immediately brought me back to my favourite bakery in England—the soft, fluffy texture of the doughnut mixed with the gritty sweetness of the perfect blend of cinnamon and sugar. I haven’t had a doughnut like that in years.

They insisted I take with me a vegan maple doughnut, which I devoured as soon as I returned to the office. I’ve never had a vegan doughnut before and, to my surprise, it wasn’t much different from a regular doughnut. It was delicious, creamy, soft—everything you’d assume a vegan doughnut could never be. (Then again, if they can make vegan bacon…)

After tasting the delicious treats at Bliss Baked Goods, I’m not surprised to learn that they were recognized in Avenue Magazine’s 25 Best Things to Eat (2013) for their cinnamon and sugar doughnuts. If they can bring back my memories of childhood innocence, sweet cravings, and English cobblestones, then how will these sugary treats work their magic on you?

Bliss Baked Goods
10710 142 Street
Edmonton, AB T5N 2P7
(780) 453-0101

4.5/5

Lemon-inspired Recipes for Super Bowl Sunday

It’s one of the biggest sporting events of the year and you’re having people over. You want to make something easy but delicious. Something that you can eat with your hands but that doesn’t get too messy. Whether you’re drinking beer, cider, or wine, these recipes all have a delightful lemon-inspired twist to help make this the most satisfying Super Bowl Sunday ever.

All recipes were provided by the good folks at Savanna Dry, but I’ve put a little ‘Cheryl’ spin on each of them for those who are feeling exceptionally adventurous. Game on!

Lemon Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium lemons
  • 2 tbsp. minced onion
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. mint, minced
  • cilantro
  • basil

Directions:

  1. Cut ends off the lemons, exposing the fruit. Stand it up on one end and use a knife to remove the peel and pith.
  2. Chop the lemon flesh into small pieces. Discard the seeds and large pieces of membrane.
  3. Transfer lemon and juices to a small bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients and serve with tortilla chips.
  4. Cheryl’s Twist: Add chopped cucumber to make this dish even more refreshingly satisfying.

healthfitnessrevolution.com

Lemon Pepper Wings

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. chicken wings
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • Oil

Directions: 

  1. Heat oil in deep fryer. Place seasoning in a bowl or zip style bag and set aside.
  2. Deep fry wings for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned.
  3. Take cooked wings and place into seasoning and coat. Make sure the wings are still hot in order for seasoning to stick.
  4. Cheryl’s Twist: Coat the wings in two heaping tablespoons of corn starch before cooking to make the wings perfectly crispy.

thefitnessfashionista.com

Dill, Cucumber and Lemon Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (plain)
  • 1 cup diced and peeled cucumber
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh dill, minced
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper

Directions: 

  1. Place yogurt into a small bowl and add cucumber, garlic, dill, and lemon juice.
  2. Stir ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve with chips or vegetables.
  4. Cheryl’s Twist: Toss in a tablespoon of paprika to make this the best tzatziki you’ll find this side of the Atlantic.

And don’t forget to pair your Super Bowl appetizer creations with a few bottles of Savanna Dry!

Dundee Hills Pinot Noir and Sautéed Pacific Salmon

When I first made the foray into drinking red wines, pinot noir was always a favourite. The pinot noir grape produces a softer, lighter wine with low tannins that acts as a perfect entrance into the wild and wonderful world of reds. For newbies, it’s a great starter wine. For those who have been in the game for quite some time, it’s a beautiful alternative to the full-bodied, heavier options. Pinot noir wines can have as much complexity as their bolder cousins and even more versatility–it’s a great wine to pair with any number of dishes: red or white meat, sweet or savoury.

On a cold and quiet winter night, I sat down to taste the Dundee Hills Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir for the first time. The first few sips showed a delicate, dry red wine with minimal sweetness but an almost overwhelming hint of berry fruits. The best part about the wine is its ability to give off flavourful hints of raspberries and cherries without actually being sweet.

I paired this wine with L’Extra’s Pure Goat Cheese, which has a light yet distinct taste. Similar in appearance to a round of brie or camembert, this goat cheese is delightfully creamy and delicious when eaten alone, atop a cracker, or paired with a nice red wine.

I haven’t had a pinot noir I’ve enjoyed this much in quite some time and I highly recommend it for newer wine drinkers or established winos looking for an intriguing lighter option. And, if you’re someone who’s concerned with pesticides in wine, you’ll be happy to know that the Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir is made from 100% organic grapes. The wine itself retails for around $35-45 a bottle.

Sokol Blosser recently partnered with several restaurants in Calgary and Edmonton to challenge local chefs to create a perfect salmon appetizer to go with the wine. In support of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, restaurants such as Edmonton’s Bothy Wine and Whisky Bar and Calgary’s Q Haute Cuisine and La Chaumière develop unique salmon recipes to pair with the Dundee Hills Pinot Noir at each of their locations. A portion of sales of the wine are donated directly to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. The full list of participating restaurants can be seen on the Sokol Blosser website.

Below is a recipe for Sautéed Pacific Salmon, courtesy of La Chaumière Restaurant. We hope you enjoy it alongside a bottle of the pinot noir!

Sautéed Pacific Salmon with Lentils, Bacon and Red Wine Butter

By La Chaumière Restaurant (Calgary)

Main Dish

  • 4-120g Pacific salmon filts, skin on
  • 160g cooked red lentils
  • 50mL chicken stock
  • 25g finely diced bacon (approx. 3 strips)
  • 1 shallot finely chopped
  • 1 carrot finely chopped
  • 1 leek finely chopped

Instructions:

  1. Sauté shallot, carrot, and leek with bacon, slowly rendering fat and cooking the vegetables.
  2. Add lentils and soften with chicken stock; reduce gently.
  3. Season and sear salmon (skin side down) slowly until top is warm to the touch. Finish with lemon juice.

Sauce

  • 120mL Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir wine
  • 1 shallot sliced
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon

Instructions:

  1. Whisk wine and shallots until thick syrup is achieved.
  2. Add butter and whisk over low heat.
  3. Season with salt and white pepper.

Ampersand 27

A short while ago, I was invited to the Ampersand 27 media night on November 13th, where a number of Edmonton’s magazine editors and restaurant critics came together for a tasting of the new restaurant’s sharing menu.

As the new inhabitant of the space that was formerly Murrieta’s, Ampersand 27 is in a prime location on Whyte Avenue, occupying a portion of Varscona Hotel’s ground floor. The restaurant is the newest venture of Chef Nathin Bye, of Wildflower Grill and Lazia fame.

As for the name–well, it’s an unusual one. There’s a story behind it that you can read on their website; a cute tale that involves the ampersand as the 27th letter of the alphabet (prior to the 19th century). Chef Bye stated during the media event that he was a big fan of fonts, which explains the quirky name. As a copywriter (and not a graphic designer), I personally hate ampersands; thus, despite the restaurant’s use of alternative typography within their name (&27), I will humbly defer to the 21st century letters of the alphabet for this post.

I wasn’t sure what to expect before I visited. I’d heard that the charcuterie was the thing, but that portions were akin to many higher-end fine dining restaurants (i.e. teeny). I’d browsed the menu online and wasn’t sure whether to be amused or exasperated at some of the hipster-esque terminology (i.e. specials that were “evolving daily”; bread options that are referred to as “flour & water”; a menu item called “The Living Salad”). Was the restaurant aiming too high? It’s vision of uniqueness too grand?

Charcuterie

In a word: no. Chef Bye has crafted something incredible with Ampersand 27–a stylish and unique concept that feeds off a family dining experience, variations in texture, and edgy menu items that offer just the right amount of daring. I came, I ate, and I was charmed.

There’s nothing quite like walking into a stunningly decorated restaurant and being presented with two plentiful charcuterie boards: wooden platters overflowing with an abundance of Ampersand 27’s specialties. Cheddars, bleus, chevres paired with mounds of your favourite salumi: chorizo, prosciutto, genoa–accompanied by pickles, mustards, grains, and the most decadently creamy duck and chicken liver pate you’ll ever taste.

Charcuterie

Their cocktail list is just as inspired as the menu. I tried the Flora cocktail, made from gin, elderberry liquor, hibiscus raspberry shrub, and tonic. I’m a huge fan of gin cocktails when done well; this one was a little sweeter than I usually drink, but it was delicious and the hibiscus shrub was a cute touch.

Flora Cocktail

After the charcuterie boards came a flurry of tastings from their menu, as per below.

Beet Texture: A dainty salad of roasted, gelled, and crisp beets, served with sous vide and goat cheese ganache. Beautifully different for those who don’t usually eat beets, or who generally think all beets are served pickled. I thoroughly enjoyed the sweet and savoury flavours of this dish.

Beet Texture

Confit Parsnip: Sliced parsnip served with gremolata, pine nut, red pepper dust, and jam. A creamier take on the average parsnip and one that combined flavours together that were completely new to me. A nice dish, although I did prefer the Beet Texture.

Confit Parsnip

The Living Salad: Ah, The Living Salad. Order this and you’ll be presented with a mini tree trunk hosting a plant pot of local micro greens and a jar of cold pressed canola emulsion. And scissors, so that you can harvest your own salad. It’s a really cute concept, especially for those who think the novelty of cutting your own salad at dinner is exciting. For $15, though, it’s a fairly pricey novelty–especially for just a handful of micro greens.

The Living Salad

Maple Butter Pork Belly: It’s pretty difficult to screw up pork belly. Add some maple butter and Chef Bye’s inimitable talent, though, and you’ve got a winner of a dish. A true homage to the south, the pork belly was served with southwestern mesquite corn, baked beans, green peas, and fritters. Lovely and savoury.

Maple Butter Pork Belly

Pastrami Pork Cheeks: I feel like this dish is Chef Bye’s sharing menu’s understated pièce de résistance. Coming out under a glass dome (reminiscent of the one covering the rose in Beauty and the Beast), the pastrami pork cheeks are unveiled amidst a heady, charcoal-scented haze of smoke–the smell of which will incite memories of barbeques, smoked meats, and everything good and smoky and tender. Served with braised red cabbage, rye spaetzle, and sauerkraut creme, this dish is delicious and exciting. I strongly recommend giving it a try.

Pastrami Pork Cheeks

Seared Albacore Tuna: Almost every restaurant in Edmonton has a version of seared tuna or tuna tataki at the moment. It’s become a popular dish, particularly for those who aren’t quite ready for sashimi but want the flavour and texture of not-quite-cooked tuna. Ampersand 27’s version takes the seafood aspect a little more seriously than most, serving the tuna with pickled hearts of palm, citrus, seaweed, and cashew puree. The result is a seared tuna dish that’s a little more fishy than I’m used to, but that combines some interesting textures and flavours together that will surprise even the most veteran of seared tuna-goers.

Seared Albacore Tuna

The Seashore: I missed out on a photograph of this dish, which offered scallops, prawns, smoked trout brandade, and sea asparagus. A lovely option for seafood-lovers, The Seashore combined some of my favourite under-the-sea items and made them taste spectacular. Scallops. I’m always for the scallops.

We were also given the Pressured Octopus, which I only nibbled at because I despise the thought of eating octopus or squid (they’re two of the few things I won’t eat). Nevertheless, I tried the dish’s sea salt crusted potato and slices of chorizo. The chorizo tasted as most chorizo is wont to taste and the potato was delightfully seasoned. There were some concerns from the table that the potato was too salty, but I thought the salt level was just fine.

Rocky Road: For dessert, we were treated to a taste of Ampersand 27’s Rocky Road, a selection of “rocks” that have a hard shell and liquid interior and are served on edible “moss and sand.” In continuation of the restaurant’s attention to textures, this dessert is unique and delicious with a beautiful presentation. The “rocks” come in chocolate, mint, mango, and lychee flavours.

Rocky Road

Neaveau Misu: The restaurant’s most popular dessert is a modern take on tiramisu–a toffee pudding served with coffee caramel, amaretto, hazelnut, and brown butter, topped off with a side of macaron and ice cream. Bring me any kind of toffee pudding and I’m satisfied, but this one was exceptional. This was my favourite dessert of the evening.

Neaveau Misu

Citron Bleu

Citron Bleu: The Citron Bleu is a light, delicate serving of lemon buttermilk mousse alongside a portion of blueberries, earl grey gel and milk crisps. Lovely and sweet, this dessert is a must-try for those who like fruity and tart flavours.

There were so many things to taste and try that I’m certain I’ve missed out a few in this post, where I’ve simply tried to focus on the things that stood out during my experience. Regardless, I was very impressed by Chef Bye’s vision come-to-life at Ampersand 27. I look forward to returning to try a full-blown charcuterie, filled with my favourite things. And, in the future, I’d like to give some of their “Larger Provisions” a try–doesn’t a lacquered leg of duck and duck fat potatoes sound amazing?

I strongly recommend this restaurant with one small word of warning: it isn’t cheap. Like most other high-end restaurants in the city, the price point can be higher than most. A single charcuterie with two meats, two cheeses, and a few accompaniments can easily shoot past the $20 price range into the $30s and $40s, depending on what you order. Sharing plates range from $11 to $19 and the full meals start at $23. It’s not overpriced, by any means, but be wary of those charcuterie boards if you’re on a budget.

Ampersand 27
10612 82 Ave
Edmonton, AB T6E 2A6
(780) 757-2727

5/5

Cookie Pairing at Baseline Wine

Wine and cheese: standard. Wine and steak: played out. Wine and cookies: wait…what?

It might sound like an unnatural pairing, but Baseline Wine recently bit the bullet and put the two treats together in a Cookie Pairing event. In partnership with Kathy Leskow from Confetti Sweets, the two Sherwood Park businesses combined their wares to offer a selection of delectable cookies paired with wines and liquors chosen to enhance flavours, bring out subtleties, and shock those who thought it couldn’t be done.

However, if you’re an avid wine drinker or someone who likes the challenge of a pairing, you’d know that anything is possible. Ryan Tycholas, manager of Baseline Wine, was our gracious host during the Cookie Pairing event on November 14th, which focused on a variety of six alcoholic drinks selected to pair with six of Kathy’s cookies.

We started the evening with a glass of prosecco to cleanse our palates then dove right into a Hochheimer Königin Victoriaberg Riesling and coconut cookie pairing. These two tastes, when put together, brought out another depth of flavour in both the cookie and the wine. As we would learn throughout the night, a perfectly paired couple has so much more to offer as a pair than as individual tastes. In any case, I loved this pairing and bought myself a bottle of the riesling after the event–which is fairly significant, since I don’t usually drink white wine.


We moved onto the next pairing: Smashberry White with Kathy’s sugar cookie. I’m not usually a fan of sugar cookies and I wasn’t a huge fan of the Smashberry on its own, but I well and truly liked these two together. The sweetness of the cookie amped up the sweetness of the wine, making them a great mix. The vanilla flavouring of the sugar cookie was an excellent counter to the acidity of the wine.

Course three included a glass of Earthquake Zinfandel and a delectable chocolate chunk cookie with Skor pieces. This was one of my favourite pairings of the evening–rich, heady flavours with a beautiful hint of caramel decorated each bite and sip. Delicious.
Next up was Molly Dooker’s The Boxer wine with Kathy’s peanut butter cookie–a good pairing, as all the others had been throughout the evening. I’m not much of a peanut butter cookie person, though, and shiraz is always touch-and-go for me, so this was probably the least memorable pairing for me. (Which isn’t to say that I still didn’t enjoy it!)

My ultimate favourite came near the end with the Taylor Fladgate Port and breakfast cookie pairing. The breakfast cookie had a nutty flavour that went brilliantly with the heavy sweetness of the port. Together, they were a beautiful pairing with hints of cinnamon throughout.

Finally, we paired a glass of RumChata with a ginger snap cookie and enjoyed the combination of milky sweetness with the gingery bite of the cookie. I thoroughly enjoyed this pairing and thought it was a brilliant end to a great tasting event–akin to a glass of milk and cookie before bed time.

And with that, we were all stuffed to the brim with excellent sweets and drink. Ryan and Kathy provided a unique experience that takes a daring spin on the traditional wine pairing event. That risk paid off with a number of perfect pairings and a room full of convinced tasters. I’m looking forward to seeing what Baseline Wine and Confetti Sweets will come up with next!

Baseline Wine
11 Athabascan Avenue, Unit 172
Sherwood Park, AB T8A 6H2
(780) 449-4448

Confetti Sweets
41 Broadway Blvd
Sherwood Park, AB T8H 2C1
(780) 570-5080

Taste of Edmonton 2014

Ten days of Taste of Edmonton is never enough.

This year, the festival amped up their Sip ‘n Savour tent, offering cooking workshops, local flavours, pop-up events, and even a children’s tasting and exploration session. As always, there were plenty of restaurant pavilions to choose from, each one offering two of their speciality treats.

Prices were reasonable this year–most items were only three tickets. At $1.25 a ticket, that’s only $3.75 a dish. I remember spending quite a bit more last year, so this was a welcome change.

I didn’t get the chance to do a full round of the festival, but what I did try was great. Here’s an overview of each dish I sampled and where you can find them.

Beef Short Ribs and Mash
Normand’s Bistro

As my first dish of the day, Normand’s knocked it out of the park. The tenderest boneless short rib peeled away with the touch of a plastic fork, complemented by a beautiful gravy and creamy mashed potatoes. There’s not much I can tell you about beef short ribs, which I’m sure you’ve eaten before–these ones, in particular, were simply an excellent version of the same.

Injera and Doro Wot (Chicken Breast) and Ater Kik Aletcha Wot
Langano Skies Ethiopian Restaurant

Doro wot with chicken breast was similar to a spicy, thick stew and, served with injera, was a beautiful kick to the senses. While not quite searingly hot, this dish had enough of a kick to merit the ater kik aletcha wot, a pureed split pea dish (similar to lentils). Eaten together, the split peas offered a cooling sensation that made the heat of the first dish much more bearable. Luckily, I love heat, so I could’ve eaten a big ol’ bowl of that doro wot. Yum.

Grilled Quail with Pomegranate Sauce
Hoang Long Casual Fare

This was definitely the winner of the day. Hoang Long grilled whole quails (which takes 15 minutes per quail) and served them with a pomegranate sauce that had just a hint of sweetness. Tender, perfectly cooked, and absolutely delicious, this dish caused people all around to take a seat and bask in the delicate flavours of this tiny bird. It was messy and a little awkward to eat, but completely and utterly worth it. If the whole point of Taste of Edmonton is to convince diners to visit their restaurants, then Hoang Long has me sold.

Bison Slider with Gorgonzola Blue Cheese
The Underground Tap and Grill

I’m not generally a slider kind of person. I’d much rather eat a big burger or something else. With that in mind, this bison slider with gorgonzola was pretty good, but not something that I’d normally spend my money on. I admit that the blue cheese was a nice touch–I’m a sucker for a nice blue cheese. Nothing about this dish particularly amazed me, but it was solid pub food. I can appreciate that.

BBQ Pork Spring Rolls
Hong Kong Bakery

I didn’t actually try these, but you can take Funmi‘s word for it that they were very good. Just enough meat without being overly greasy, apparently. I liked how Hong Kong Bakery kept it simple and classic: what could be more Chinese than spring rolls and green onion cakes?

Bacon, bacon, everywhere! Edmonton’s first BaconFest.

The inaugural BaconFest launched on July 4th, leaving behind a wealth of thoroughly-porked, completely satisfied event guests. Because who doesn’t love bacon?

While Americans celebrated the 4th of July in their own fashion, with the usual fireworks, barbecues, and excessive drinking, Edmontonians did things a little differently. Those inclined towards the edible flocked to the ATB Financial Arts Barns for a taste of the good stuff: bacon. The city’s first Bacon Festival had two back-to-back events, offering guests a 150-minute opening to the best of the city’s porkiest treats. A ticket to the inaugural BaconFest guaranteed entry and gave you unlimited access (within reason) to each of the booths at the event.

Upon entry, guests were given a ticket for a free Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, although those averse to hops and malted barley could go left instead of right and find themselves at the Bakon Vodka booth, where two lovely ladies were serving up tasters of Bakon Caesars.

Across the entry lobby, you’d find bacon wares from Chicken Scratch, nibbles from restaurants such as La Ronde, Cookshack BBQ Nisku, and Century Hospitality Group, wine tasters from Lifford Wine and Spirits, and a delightful lounging area for those wanting to sit and savour their porky treats.

In the main hall, guests were treated to everything bacon, from Acme Meat Market‘s smoked bacon, to Central Social Hall‘s Bacon Roses, to The Popcorn Shoppe‘s bacon popcorn and Passion Sucree‘s Beer and Bacon Brownies. At the centre of it all, a DJ played great tunes while a big screen flashed bacon trivia to entertain the guests lingering at cocktail tables.

This festival didn’t just focus on the food, though. Around 10:30pm (we had attended the later time slot), the MC introduced the Baconmeister–Edmonton’s answer to Alan Carr in a bacon suit, bacon socks, and beautifully classic handlebar moustache. Games were played and prizes were awarded while the Baconmeister entertained the crowd with his delightfully flamboyant character and worldly “knowledge” of languages. In all honesty, I couldn’t quite keep my eyes off of his socks.

The event wrapped up with an acrobatic performance from Edmonton’s own Firefly Theatre, in which one performer undertook great aerial feats while wrapped in long sheets of cloth, which happened to look suspiciously like large pieces of streaky bacon.

As if these elements weren’t enough, there were also a gaggle of food trucks waiting outside for those who simply just wanted more. From Big City Sandwich to Molly’s Eats, the trucks had your back with even more bacon-inspired nibbles. They weren’t included in the ticket price, but that would be nothing to deter a true bacon-lover.

Here are my highlights from the first BaconFest event:

  • Cookhouse BBQ Nisku‘s Bacon and Brisket Sandwich – Coated in mustard, this sandwich was perfect. They kept it simple and it really, really worked.
  • Century Hospitality Group‘s BBQ’d Bacon – Not for people who don’t like a little fat with their bacon, this mini-meal was served with a beautiful smoky bean and bacon cassoulet and jalapeño bacon cornbread. Smoky and delicious.
  • Passion Sucree‘s Beer and Bacon Brownies – Delightfully baked with a hint of bacon, these were perfectly sweet and oh-so-moist.
  • Acme Meat Market‘s Smoked Bacon – As a bacon traditionalist, I appreciated the fact that one vendor served only bacon…and what bacon! Thick, smoky, and beautiful. Mmm.
  • Baconmeister’s Socks – I think I’ve made my point.
  • Chicken Scratch‘s Bacon Board Game – Actually, I’m impressed that Chicken Scratch managed to bring in THAT many bacon-related items. Who knew bacon chapstick, wallets, and Christmas tree ornaments were a thing?
  • Vegan Protesters – Guests were first greeted by vegan protesters outside of the building, all three of whom appeared to hold a personal vendetta against the fact that people willingly choose to eat meat. Their presence made for some pre-show entertainment, at least. C’est la vie, protesters.

All in all, a bacony good time was had by all. Great food and amazing vendors combined with hilarious entertainment and a solid number of bartenders did much to make this event a success. At the end of the day, though, those who love bacon tend to really love bacon, so the buy-in was immense. I’ll definitely be back next year and can only hope to get another glimpse of those bacon socks. Heck, I might even have a pair of my own by then.

BaconFest YEG
July 4th, 2014
ATB Financial Arts Barns
10330 – 84 Avenue 
Edmonton, AB T6E 2G9

Food Blogger Tweetup at La Ronde

On Tuesday, April 15, a host of local food bloggers–including yours truly–was invited to a Food Blogger Tweetup at Chateau Lacombe’s La Ronde Revolving Restaurant. As a promotion for their new Tieless Tuesday events, which include an evening of jazz and half-price bottles of wine, the restaurant offered our group of bloggers a complimentary three-course meal.

We were tasked with simply tweeting or blogging about it at our own discretion. La Ronde, while generous, did not ask anyone for a good review.

So here’s the honest truth: La Ronde is classic. It always has been and it likely always will be. The food, while good, is traditional. It’s not a place you’d go for the latest duck confit-kimchi-truffle salami innovative creation. It is, however, somewhere you’d go for the time-honoured classics: beef wellington, osso bucco, or pan-seared salmon.

And, to be fair, La Ronde does these well.

Scott Parker, the restaurant’s Pastry Chef, has an affinity for great desserts that have stood the test of time.

“I started baking when I was really young. A lot of the things I’m baking are things I had when I was a child,” says Parker.

“I do a lot of different things…trend things. But as far as flavours go, I suppose you’d call me a traditionalist.”

Below are the options we were given for our three-course meals, along with my selections and a brief overview.

Starter
Choice of
: Seafood Trio, Escargot Vol au Vent, or Crab Cakes.
My selection: Seafood Trio – sashimi-style tuna, chilled spiced scallops, and marinated shrimp served on miso ice, wakame, and tempura “crunchies.”
The verdict: very good. The spiced scallops were my favourite and, as YEGFoodie pointed out, there were a number of unique textures combined in this dish. The crunchy wakame complemented the silky smooth sashimi; the tempura “crunchies” gave substance alongside the whipped wasabi. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.

Main
Choice of: Alberta Rack of Lamb, Deconstructed Beef Wellington, Cyclopene of Alaskan Scallop and Prawn, or Free Run Supreme Chicken Breast
My selection: Alberta Rack of Lamb (of course) – mustard and herb-crusted with a triturate of potato and Tuscan jus.
The verdict: not bad. The lamb was cooked perfectly and had a nice flavour on its own, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the herb and mustard crust. This might be due to the fact that I’m a purist when it comes to lamb–rosemary, garlic, pepper, and rock salt is all I need–but I just found that it added too much, overpowering the flavour of the meat. Some bloggers found the dish too salty, but I’m a salt fiend, so that didn’t faze me.

Dessert
Choice of: all of the desserts.
My selection: Chocolate Torte
The verdict: classic. Beautiful chocolate with a very thin, delicate crust on the bottom. This was lovely when paired with the berry compote and sorbet accompanying the dish.

Overall, it was a very good meal. The service was attentive, the Samurai Caesars (made with sake) were fabulous, and the company was top notch.

Tieless Tuesdays? Worth checking out, if only for a great atmosphere, soothing jazz, and a half-price bottle of wine.

Many thanks to Linda for organizing this event!

La Ronde
10111 Bellamy Hill
Edmonton, AB T5J 0S1
(780) 428-6611

4/5

2 Canteen | by Steve Munro

Guest post from local writer and blogger, Steve Munro.

When a friend texted me birthday plans for supper at Canteen, I couldn’t say no. It’s a relatively new arrival in Edmonton’s restaurant scene, has an easy to find location on 124 Street, and didn’t have a problem with a reservation for ten guests.

We were off to a good start when the servers took our coats for us at the front door before showing us to our long table with a leather cushioned bench seat at one side. Behind us, the bar was circled with hand-crafted metal bar stools with contoured steel backs. Once settled in, the birthday girl ordered herself a Bee’s Knees: a gin and honey drink that she enjoyed. I opted for a simple Americano coffee.

Unfortunately, my coffee was delivered in a mug that needed another run through the dishwasher, but our server quickly took it away and brought me a fresh brew in a new mug. The coffee itself had a strong, bitter aroma, but went down surprisingly smooth without leaving an aftertaste.

Our group decided to try almost one of everything off their “Small Stuff” menu, which seemed to be an alternative to the standard appetizer menu. I was very surprised by the pea falafel and spicy yogurt dip. The falafel was made with sweeter green peas rather than the typical chickpeas, but still maintained the same consistency, crunchy exterior, and texture. The spicy yogurt was fantastic. It had a smooth start and a gradual build to the spice delivery. The spicy flavor mixed very well with the sweeter green peas, and didn’t linger too long after the appetizer.

I also sampled one of the corn fritters with smoky maple syrup and seriously wondered which was better. I still haven’t made up my mind.

Most of our table ordered the Korean beef striploin. My medium-rare steak was excellent. The meat was just tender and juicy enough behind a firm cooked outer layer. It was served with a kimchi cake and yam puree that was surprisingly sweet. The kimchi cake was cut into triangles and cooked with a crispy outer skin to conceal a smoother mousse-like interior. There was an unfortunate mix up between two orders and a rare striploin ended up going to someone who ordered a medium-rare.

Another guest in our group decided to have some fun with her order and asked for all three of their dessert selections as her meal. Somewhere along the way, this order wasn’t processed with the rest of the group’s orders. It wasn’t until we checked on the progress of the dessert-as-supper order that our server realized the mistake.

As far as the desserts go, I loved the dark chocolate ganache – a rich, dense slab of smooth dark chocolate presented in a tart berry sauce. The portion size looks small but is so satisfying that a larger piece would only be a waste. When our friend who asked for all the desserts finally received her order, the only one she reported an issue with was the Poached Pear Verrine, which came across as a bit bland.

If you’re planning on visiting Canteen with a large group of people, say, more than four, you may have a few problems hearing each other. The modern layout and décor takes the form of textured concrete walls and concealed indirect lighting. The restaurant itself is long and narrow, and this tends to create a noticeable echo, which makes a conversation across ten people nearly impossible to participate in. The service staff seemed friendly and courteous enough but, at the same time, unsure and hesitant with a lack of confidence.

Overall, if you’re in no rush, can be patient with your order, and don’t mind the background noise, the menu itself is worth a try!

Canteen
10522 124 Street
Edmonton, AB T5N 1R9
(780) 485-6125
Tues – Fri: 11:30am-10:00pm
Sat – Sun: 10:00am-10:00pm

3.5/5

Canteen | by Steve Munro

Guest post from local writer and blogger, Steve Munro.

When a friend texted me birthday plans for supper at Canteen, I couldn’t say no. It’s a relatively new arrival in Edmonton’s restaurant scene, has an easy to find location on 124 Street, and didn’t have a problem with a reservation for ten guests.

We were off to a good start when the servers took our coats for us at the front door before showing us to our long table with a leather cushioned bench seat at one side. Behind us, the bar was circled with hand-crafted metal bar stools with contoured steel backs. Once settled in, the birthday girl ordered herself a Bee’s Knees: a gin and honey drink that she enjoyed. I opted for a simple Americano coffee.

Unfortunately, my coffee was delivered in a mug that needed another run through the dishwasher, but our server quickly took it away and brought me a fresh brew in a new mug. The coffee itself had a strong, bitter aroma, but went down surprisingly smooth without leaving an aftertaste.

Our group decided to try almost one of everything off their “Small Stuff” menu, which seemed to be an alternative to the standard appetizer menu. I was very surprised by the pea falafel and spicy yogurt dip. The falafel was made with sweeter green peas rather than the typical chickpeas, but still maintained the same consistency, crunchy exterior, and texture. The spicy yogurt was fantastic. It had a smooth start and a gradual build to the spice delivery. The spicy flavor mixed very well with the sweeter green peas, and didn’t linger too long after the appetizer.

I also sampled one of the corn fritters with smoky maple syrup and seriously wondered which was better. I still haven’t made up my mind.

Most of our table ordered the Korean beef striploin. My medium-rare steak was excellent. The meat was just tender and juicy enough behind a firm cooked outer layer. It was served with a kimchi cake and yam puree that was surprisingly sweet. The kimchi cake was cut into triangles and cooked with a crispy outer skin to conceal a smoother mousse-like interior. There was an unfortunate mix up between two orders and a rare striploin ended up going to someone who ordered a medium-rare.

Another guest in our group decided to have some fun with her order and asked for all three of their dessert selections as her meal. Somewhere along the way, this order wasn’t processed with the rest of the group’s orders. It wasn’t until we checked on the progress of the dessert-as-supper order that our server realized the mistake.

As far as the desserts go, I loved the dark chocolate ganache – a rich, dense slab of smooth dark chocolate presented in a tart berry sauce. The portion size looks small but is so satisfying that a larger piece would only be a waste. When our friend who asked for all the desserts finally received her order, the only one she reported an issue with was the Poached Pear Verrine, which came across as a bit bland.

If you’re planning on visiting Canteen with a large group of people, say, more than four, you may have a few problems hearing each other. The modern layout and décor takes the form of textured concrete walls and concealed indirect lighting. The restaurant itself is long and narrow, and this tends to create a noticeable echo, which makes a conversation across ten people nearly impossible to participate in. The service staff seemed friendly and courteous enough but, at the same time, unsure and hesitant with a lack of confidence.

Overall, if you’re in no rush, can be patient with your order, and don’t mind the background noise, the menu itself is worth a try!

Canteen
10522 124 Street
Edmonton, AB T5N 1R9
(780) 485-6125
Tues – Fri: 11:30am-10:00pm
Sat – Sun: 10:00am-10:00pm

3.5/5