Edmonton’s First Secret Supper

Edmonton’s very first Secret Supper took place on Monday, November 4th, 2013. Hosted by Dishcrawl, the event served up 8 courses of Cajun cuisine, including an icy-tart Intermezzo, at Creole Envie in Edmonton’s Highlands district.

Edmonton’s first Secret Supper has come and gone! On Monday, November 4th, 40 people arrived at Creole Envie to indulge themselves in Dishcrawl’s inaugural Underground Supper Club event. Guests were informed of the restaurant’s location only two days before the event and all dishes were kept secret until arrival.

The Secret Supper was a unique experience and we tried some new and interesting dishes that aren’t on the usual restaurant menu. Everyone got the chance to add another taste or a new flavour to their repertoire, whether it was frog legs, turtle soup, or a gin old fashioned.

Overall, the event was a success. The length of time between courses was a bit longer than I would’ve liked, but it’s understandable when you have a small kitchen trying to get out 40 simultaneous courses. Each dish came out beautifully presented and our empty plates were cleared way extremely promptly–thanks to Gemma and Tracy for all of their hard work!

Guests paid $79 for 8 courses ($109 for a meal with drink pairings, if one so chose) over 2.5 hours. We went over the time frame by about 70 minutes but it was really nice to see the unique items created by Chef Danielle Majeau.

Here’s an overview of each course and my responses to it:

Amuse: Tasso Prawns

Served with pickled okra, crystal salt, and hot sauce, this first course set the bar very high. The hot sauce added a beautiful kick to the prawns, while the pickled okra was crunchy and flavourful. This course was paired with the Hurricancocktail, a very sweet vodka drink that tasted very much like grenadine. Luckily, I like grenadine, so the drink was a win. Verdict: Great.

Appetizer: Crab Stuffed Portabellas

Our next course was a gigantic portabella mushroom topped with a crab and cream mixture and parmesan cheese. I enjoyed this dish, although the crab didn’t have as much of its usual moisture, likely as a result of the sauce it was mixed with. The mushroom had a strong taste that complemented the crab mixture well and the cheese was a nice finishing touch. Verdict: Very good.

Soup: Turtle Soup with Sherry

The soup course afforded me my very first taste of turtle soup…and I rather liked it! Mixed with sherry, hot sauce, and the Creole ‘holy trinity’ (onions, bell peppers, and celery), the soup had a meaty taste that was offset beautifully by the sherry. Only midly spicy, the soup offered a warm intermission after the cooler prawns and portabellas. This course was paired with a Gin Old Fashioned. I’ve never had an Old Fashioned made with gin before; it was strong, but I enjoyed it. (The girl next to me found it much too strong…heh heh.) Verdict: Very Good.

Salad: Bay Scallops with Pancetta

I love scallops. I particularly love scallops when they’re cooked well. The salad course offered two gorgeous scallops amidst a sweeter-than-sweet cherry tomato and cooked pancetta. Beautiful. The mixture of flavours was amazing. Verdict: Great.

Starch: Smothered Grits with Crawfish

For the starch course, Chef Majeau cooked up a true Creole favourite: grits. These were cooked in whipping cream and riddled with crawfish and topped with cheese, green onions, and paprika. I’m usually a huge fan of starches, but I found the grits just a little too rich for my tastes. They had a nice flavour but the whipped cream was a bit too powerful. The crawfish was a nice touch, though. Verdict: Ok.

Intermezzo: Meyer Lemon Ice

An orangey-lemon sorbet to cleanse our palates! Very delicious.

Protein: Frog Legs Sauce Piquant

I’ve had frog legs before, so this course wasn’t that unusual to me, although it seemed as if many in the room had never tried them before. They’re not bad, right? Frog legs taste very much like a firmer, drier chicken wing. These ones were tossed in a not-so-spicy sauce made from tomatoes and the holy trinity. They were nice, although the amount of meat on them was pretty minimal (to be expected, I suppose). This course was served with the New Orleans Fizz cocktail. Now, I’m pretty good with drinks. I’ll drink just about anything. When it comes to creamy, milky drinks, though, I usually pass. The New Orleans Fizz was made from gin (which I usually love!), cream, lemon juice, and lime juice. In my opinion, gin and cream are not a good mix, and this drink didn’t do much to change my mind. Verdict: Good (except for the drink).

Dessert: Peaches with Bourbon Cream and Pecans

Whipped cream made from bourbon? Pecans? Peaches? I’m sold. This final course was paired with a shot of straight bourbon, which I did, in fact, shoot. After delighting in the bourbon’s burning sensation, the peaches and cream dessert was a great end to my meal. I heard from others (non-drinkers) that the cream tasted too much like bourbon. After my shot, it tasted like heaven. Verdict: Great.

Overall, I enjoyed this event and would definitely attend another Secret Supper. It was a bit difficult to fit in over 3.5 hours for a meal when we had other things to do that evening, so the time frame was a little bit of an issue. As this was the first event, though, I know that things will be ironed out in the future. I truly did enjoy indulging myself so thoroughly! Time for another Gin Old Fashioned, methinks!

Dishcrawl Edmonton

Creole Envie
6509 112 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB
T5W 0P1
(780) 477-2422

4/5

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!

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!

Soda Jerks Burgers and Bottles

I’d never been to or heard of Soda Jerks until the other day, so I don’t know what I was expecting. Something similar to Fatburger, perhaps?

I was pleasantly surprised. Soda Jerks is a delightful, modern restaurant that – simply put – sells great burgers. They don’t have any claims to pretension, and they definitely don’t put on any airs. They’re a diner. And they have a large selection of bottled sodas and uniquely-flavoured milkshakes.

One of the first things I noticed about their menu was their Big Kid (a.k.a. alcoholic) milkshakes. I was instantly in love. Who wouldn’t want to try a Captain Nut, a butter pecan shake with a shot of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum? And who isn’t curious about mixing cookie dough vodka with a banana shake?

I ordered a small mint chocolate shake (sans alcohol, I’m afraid, because it was a work day), which was deliciously creamy and minty. The milkshakes at Soda Jerks aren’t quite as thick as the ones at Fatburger but they’re cheaper and they have a better selection to choose from. Blue raspberry, cappuccino, peanut butter and jam, pink lemonade…you name it.

And, obviously, as the name entails, they’re known for their sodas. The restaurant offers: Dad’s, Jones, Stewart’s, Boylan, The Pop Shoppe, San Pellegrino, Bawls, Koala, Orangina, Grizzly Paw, Fentiman’s, and Coca-Cola products, all in glass bottles.

Their food menu is just as extensive. We opted for the regular burgers rather than the Build-Your-Owns that the restaurant is so famous for. I tried the Black and Blue burger, with Cajun spice, blue cheese, a beef patty, bacon, and vegetable trimmings, and Taner had the Buffalo Chicken Burger, with hot sauce, mozza, bacon, and vegetables. Both burgers were served with delicious hand-cut fries, and we both opted for a side of their poutine gravy (I liked it, although Taner didn’t).

Customers can opt for a gluten free bun, if they like, which I thought was a nice recognition of varying diets by a restaurant that serves a traditional meat-bread-potatoes kind of meal.

I’d recommend Soda Jerks to any fan of a good burger. The food was delicious, the menu extensively customizable, and the service friendly and efficient; likewise, the 50’s diner concept offering is modernized by the restaurant’s attention to modern dietary concerns. Huge, huge kudos to Soda Jerks for paying such attention to nutritional detail. And it’s reasonable, at approximately $15-20 per person.

Be sure to Instagram your burger for the chance to win a $50 gift certificate!

Soda Jerks Burgers and Bottles
17520 100 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5S 2S2
(780) 486-5375