CRAFT BEER MARKET

A review of the food and drink at CRAFT’s pre-opening event on December 18th, 2013. I’ve already written about the history, foundation, and philosophy of CRAFT Beer Market, so this post will strictly cover the food and drink I (and a few friends)

Cavern

Serving up delicious espresso-based beverages with local chocolate fixings, charcuterie boards made with a variety of cheeses and cured meats, and liquor to delight everyone (wine, scotch, bourbon, port, cognac), Cavern is a revelation in everyday coffee shop gastronomy.

Cavern is a next generation coffee shop. Similar to (the dearly departed) Roast, the cafe offers not only amazing coffee, but a variety of beautiful food items and lots of liquor. Lovely, lovely liquor.

Found in the basement of Phillips Lofts on 104 street, Cavern is a small (i.e. four 4-top tables and a small bar) but beautifully well-kept cafe that specializes in one of my favourite things in the world: cheese. The restaurant sells retail cheese along with a light menu for brunch and lunch that features some excellent cheese board and charcuterie options.

Featured cheeses include anything from Spanish manchego, to the Cheesiry’s lavender pecorino, to British cheddar. Cheese-lovers will find much to rejoice in at this particular location – pair your favourite cheese with a hearty latte, a glass of malbec, or mini chorizo. Whatever you like.

It might sound like a regular cafe/diner/cheese shop to you, but there are several things that make Cavern really stand out above the rest.

First, they’ve built a partnership with JACEK Chocolate in Sherwood Park and have utilized this partnership to expand their menu offerings. Guests can order a hot chocolate made from JACEK chocolate, or a mocha – a latte that comes with a chocolate JACEK spoon for you to stir in. You can order a cheese and JACEK Chocolate pairing for nibbles. You can buy JACEK Chocolate bars at the till.

Secondly, I’m a fan of nice bathrooms in restaurants. It’s that small, unexpected touch that can really impress me about a place. Cavern’s individual bathrooms are a work of art in white marble and shiny brilliance. They’re just lovely.

As for food, I’m convinced. I ordered a Charcuterie for One, which included two cheeses or meats. I selected the prosciutto di parma and the brie de meaux, and paired them with the Don Rodolfo malbec. Beautiful.

The charcuterie came served on a lovely slate cheeseboard with a handful of almonds, figs, cranberries, apricots, and pears. On a separate slate board came half of a baguette and a delicious jam, both of which were spectacular when combined with the brie.

The prices are reasonable at Cavern, too – $16 for a Charcuterie for One, which is enough for a light lunch, and $8 per 6 oz glass of wine. You can get a fresh baguette sandwich for $11 and a UK-inspired brunch of baguette, cheddar, fruit, and accompaniments for the same price.

All in all, Cavern won’t break the bank, but it’ll definitely tantalize those taste buds.

Cavern
#2, 10169 104 Street
Edmonton, AB T5J 1A5
(780) 455-1336

 5/5

UNDER THE HIGH WHEEL

Under the High Wheel is a cute, hip diner that serves simple comfort food made from local ingredients. Under the High Wheel reminds me very strongly of the Glasshouse Bistro in St. Albert’s Enjoy Centre: both serve an amazing brunch, both utilize

CHEFS, UNCENSORED: THE DUCHESS BAKE SHOP TEAM

Ever wondered who’s behind the delicious dishes? Here’s your chance to get to know the masters of grilling, the best of the bakers, and the kings and queens of Edmonton’s food scene.

Welcome to Chefs, Uncensored.

Duchess Bake Shop has been around since 2009 and is one of 124 Street’s staple foodie havens. All items are made daily in-house…from scratch. There are over 20 pastry chefs in the Duchess kitchen, so this interview was put together as a collaboration from the whole team, with pastry chef Kerri Stennes as a representative.

How would you describe your baking style?

The baking style at Duchess is mainly French inspired, but we also include some popular Canadian favorites.

What’s your food/shop philosophy?

Our philosophy is that there are no shortcuts to making good quality product. For us, that means using the best quality ingredients we can find, and making everything by hand in small batches, in house, every day. Those basic techniques allow us to maintain the freshest and best products.

What inspired you to become a chef?

Being able to bake a pie from scratch, give it to a friend or neighbour and then seeing the joy that it brought is what made me realize my dream was to become a pastry chef. Working at Duchess has brought that dream to a new level because everyone on our team is so passionate about creating memorable experiences through pastry. I have learned that baking is a great art; it requires careful attention to detail and a steady hand!

What’s the first thing you ate that made you realize food was an important part of culture?

A blueberry muffin in my grandmother’s kitchen. From a young age I knew that food had the power to bring people together. My mother was always encouraging us to help out with dinner or baking, and I have fond memories of sharing that time with her. It was great watching the family enjoying our food over multiple conversations.

What’s your favourite wine and what do you like to pair it with?

My favorite wine is a rich, Spanish Rioja paired with a goat cheese blanc mange and muddled blackberries.

What do you think is Edmonton’s next big innovative ingredient?

I don’t think it is one particular ingredient. Edmonton is realizing the potential of using high quality, local ingredients. Any ingredient can be innovative when you experience how unique its flavour is and feel inspired to create a dessert around it.

Why should people visit your bake shop?

We’re trying to create an elegant, cosmopolitan environment full of amazing people and world class food – it’s a unique experience.

Duchess Bake Shop
10718 124 Street
Edmonton, AB T5M 0H1
(780) 488-4999

Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival

One of Edmonton’s largest and most densely populated food and wine exhibitions–the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival–took over the Shaw Conference Centre last weekend for its 12th year. Read all about it here!

The 12th annual Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival has come and gone, leaving thousands of wine-tasting, food-loving people in its wake. The festival took over the Shaw Conference Centre on October 25th and 26th, offering 3 sessions for attendees’ tasting pleasure.

The event is sponsored by Liquor Depot and Liquor Connect, and is run by the same people who organize Winefest each year. While Winefest offers an all-inclusive pass for about $70, the RMWFF sells entrance tickets for $15-24 and sample tickets at $0.50 a piece. With over 75 wineries and 35 purveyors of food, it’s easy to spend a solid $50 per person on sample tickets, provided you’re an eater and a drinker.

Which, of course I am. There are a number of great food festivals throughout the city every year, but only a handful of great wine ones. This was one of them.

There’s really nothing quite like a wine tasting event. An afternoon (that’s right – I went to the afternoon session) of sipping a multitude of global wines, nibbling on tasty treats, and meeting some very knowledgeable vendors is one of my favourite things to do in the world.

The first booth I visited was good ol’ Johnnie Walker’s. The first thing that passed my lips at 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon (excluding the coffee from Timmy’s, of course): a taste of JW Gold Label Reserve. Nothing like a honey-laced shot of scotch to start your day off right. I absolutely hate Black Label, but I’d buy the Gold Label Reserve. It’s lovely.

Here are some of my other favourites from the event:

Wine

  • Red Rock Malbec
  • Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sierra Cantabria Rioja Crianza (TOP WINE)
  • Caligiore Malbec (Organic)
  • 1884 Reservado Malbec
  • Anciano Tempranillo, aged 7 years
  • Cricova Prestige Dry Red
  • Primal Roots Red Blend (very similar to Apothic Red)

Food

  •  Castello Alps Chiantino Cheese
  • The Cheesecake Cafe’s Creole Mussels
  • NaanOLicious’ Cinnamon Naan
  • Sloppy Hoggs Roed Hus’ BBQ Beef Ribs
  • Sunterra’s Cheese Plate, especially the Cambozola (TOP FOOD)

One of the things I liked most about this event was the availability and abundance of cheeses. Unlike Winefest, which only showcased two cheese booths (both from The Cheesiry), the RMWFF offered a variety of cheese options, including a Dairy Farmers of Canada sample station. Brilliant.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hit each and every booth during our time there, so I didn’t get to try a lot of the food. I was there for the wine, though, and in that regard, RMWFF lived up to my expectations. There were more than enough options for the avid wine lover and each company representative was more than willing to chat with you about vintage, body, retail, and all of the other details I’m sure you’re dying to know.

I really enjoyed this event and was glad I selected the afternoon session, because there were very few line-ups or busy areas. I’d have liked them to provide a tasting notebook, though, similar to Winefest’s; it was difficult to keep track of which wines I did or didn’t like without having anything with which to take notes. The map we were given wasn’t made for note-taking. We didn’t get to keep the wineglass, either, but that’s all right. I have plenty.

While I enjoyed the food options from some of Edmonton’s well-known restaurants, there wasn’t very much that stood out for me. I definitely enjoyed Sunterra’s Cambozola–a blue cheese that’s similar to a brie and gorgonzola mix–and Sloppy Hoggs’ beautiful beef ribs. They fell right off the bone: delicious!

By the end of the event, it was getting difficult to focus my camera (and my eyes), so I’d say RMWFF did a job well done. I look forward to Winefest early next year, and will definitely be back for more Rocky Mountain treats next Autumn!

CHEFS, UNCENSORED: MARTIN FLINT, PADMANADI

Padmanadi has been in Edmonton since 2002 and is dedicated to providing delicious vegan dishes to herbivores and carnivores alike. Chef Martin Flint has cooked for the restaurant for several years and now works as the assistant manager and occasional chef.

How would you describe your cooking style?

In a word, my cooking style is vegan. Having been vegetarian for many years and strictly vegan for the last seven years, I will only use vegan ingredients in anything I cook. I try to keep my cooking simple, using as few ingredients as possible to create uncluttered dishes that allow fresh, natural flavours to come through.

What’s your food/restaurant philosophy?

Here at Padmanadi the whole team is dedicated to bringing an awareness of the vegan lifestyle to the people of Edmonton and all who come through our doors. We aim to show everyone that there is an incredibly tasty, wholesome alternative to what I call the SNAD (Standard North American Diet), and it’s available here in the capital of “beef country.”

What inspired you to become a chef?

I have long been dismayed by the sad lack of good vegan food available in restaurants and hotels around the world. I don’t think vegans should have perhaps one or two choices of restaurant or just eat mountains of pasta and tomato sauce or fries and salad! Perhaps it was this that made me want to try to do something positive. When I first came to Padmanadi some eight years ago I was completely captivated by the owner, Kasim, who really inspired me to try my hand at doing something that he could see I was passionate about. With his guidance and expert help from his daughter Maya, I learnt the ropes and am still learning.

What’s the first thing you ate that made you realize food was an important part of culture?

I have always believed that food and the sharing of food is a cornerstone of every culture that has ever been on the earth. There is nothing more fundamental than the preparation of [food], and the “breaking of bread” with your neighbour.

What do you think is Edmonton’s next big innovative ingredient?

It’s really hard to tell. After sun dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, who knows? Personally I would like to see an increased interest in the numerous types of fungi now available.

Why should people visit your restaurant and try your food?

People should come to Padmanadi to try something different. I guarantee they will be amazed by the selection of wonderful food on offer; every dish a beautifully cooked and presented explosion of flavour that will leave them counting the days until their next visit. As I say to all our guests, “you come in as a customer but you leave as a friend.”

Padmanadi Vegetarian Restaurant
10740 101 Street
Edmonton, AB T5H 2S3
(780) 428-8899
Tues – Fri: 11am to 2pm; 4pm to 10pm
Sat-Sun: 10am to 2pm; 4pm to 10pm

New Location: Cactus Club Downtown

Last night, I was lucky enough to have attended the new Jasper Avenue Cactus Club Cafe’s media reception launch party. The 25th Cactus Club location in 25 years will open on Jasper Ave and 111 Street sometime next week, with a few new menu items, brilliantly ambient art pieces, and a brand new, shiny interior.

Several of Cactus Club’s big names were in attendance, including Richard Jaffray, founder of the Cactus Club restaurants, Executive Chef Rob Feenie, Canada’s first Iron Chef America champion, and Chef Matt Stowe, product development chef at the Cactus Club Cafe and Season 3 winner of Top Chef Canada.

The Cactus Club Cafe chain is well-known for its stylish interiors, excellently curated wine lists, and their innovative take on classic dishes.

“We really strive to innovate and push the envelope in the casual fine dining scene,” says Jaffray during his welcome speech.

With items such as the Cohiba, a cocktail made from muddled fresh blackberries, lemon, spearmint, vodka, and soda, and tuna sushi cones wrapped in soy paper, it’s easy to see the innovation. And it’s even easier to taste it.

I can’t wait until this location opens so that I don’t have to trek myself over to WEM for a fantastic peppercorn steak. I’ve been a fan of Cactus Club ever since I had an amazing Valentine’s Day meal there (you can read about it here!) and left with my hands gripping a brand new, complementary Rob Feenie’s Casual Classics cookbook.

To whet your appetite for this new location, here are a few sneak peek pictures from last night’s event, including shots of food, people, and the delicious Cohiba cocktail! Enjoy!

Cactus Club Cafe (Downtown)
11130 Jasper Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 2V2
(587) 523-8030
Hours: Coming Soon

BATTLEDISH 2013

On October 5th, pans were ready, ingredients prepared, and chefs pumped up to take home the crown. Hosted by Dishcrawl, Battledish pitted 5 chefs against one another in a culinary competition to name one chef as King of Battledish. The winner of the Most Delicious category and the crowned King of Battledish was Chef Paul Shufelt of Lux Steakhouse and Bar for his Ultimate Slider.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this event, not least because of all the great food I got to try! My favourite dish was Hundred Bar and Kitchen’s Pork Belly Sandwich, which was served with kimchi and a beautiful mayonnaise sauce. I thought this item was the most innovative because of its unorthodox use of kimchi. And it worked!

My favourite cocktail was by far the Pimm’s No. 1 Cup at The Burg. While they didn’t invent this cocktail (just like Lux didn’t invent the Old Fashioned), it was still delicious and a great choice for the day. A close second was Hundred Bar and Kitchen’s Dude Fizz Vodka Cocktail.

A huge thanks to Gemma Huber, Edmonton’s Dishcrawl Community Manager, for organizing the event! I’m looking forward to Cocktail Wars, Dishcrawl’s next big competition. I wonder if former bartenders can enter…I do make a mean gin cocktail! 😉

To find out more about the winners and the other categories, visit the Dishcrawl blog here.

To read my fellow bloggers and judges’ reviews of the event, check out the Only Here for the Food andLittle Miss Andrea blogs!

BURGERS

They have all the charm of an intimate pub, drink specials to knock your sobriety off, and an excellent team of wait staff, but when it comes to food, The Hat falls flat. The Hat is Jasper’s Black Dog. Long and thin, with a bar that practically reaches