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

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

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?

HONG HUONG VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT

It’s a weekend morning. Or afternoon. You’re not quite sure because the pounding behind your eyeballs is making it difficult to focus on your cell phone. You’re feeling a bit rough (but who wouldn’t after all those shots of Belvedere and your stint as queen of Flip Cup?) and you know–you just know–you need to eat some pho.

It seems as if pho is rapidly overtaking dim sum as the most popular brunchy Asian food and, luckily for Edmontonians, there’s no shortage of places to park your butt and eat some noodle soup.

We recently decided to give Hong Huong Vietnamese Restaurant, a small place on the outskirts of Clareview, a try. To be concise, it was pretty good. It didn’t blow me away, but I did have a good, solid meal.

One of the things that I really liked about this restaurant was the amount of natural light streaming in through the restaurants windows, which covered most of the building’s facade. It makes the restaurant seem more friendly, while also setting the scene for some great food photography.

Our table may have been sticky, but the service was decent. They were reasonably fast with our orders: a 6-colour bowl for Taner and soup with rare beef, flank, and brisket for me. The bun bowl exploded with meats: pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, and meatballs, all accompanied with the usual spring rolls. The pho was less colourful but just as tasty. I generally prefer a darker, full-bodied soup for my pho (as I like my wine)–Hong Huong’s soup was much lighter but was full of flavour. The rare beef had unfortunately already cooked to well done by the time it got to my table, but I ate it with relish regardless.

The vietnamese coffee was much too sweet for either of us to drink, so that was left mostly untouched. Everything else, though, was great. We were happy with the food, content with the service, and pleased with our overall experience. As with most Vietnamese restaurants, the prices are extremely reasonable. For two meals and a coffee, our bill came under $30. Bargain!

If you live in the south or west end of the city, you probably won’t need to make the trek to Clareview for a great bowl of pho. If you’re a northsider, though, give it a shot. It’s about time that you tried something other than Namao Centre’s Pho Hoan Pasteur or 97 Street’s Pho Song Huong.

Hong Huong Vietnamese Restaurant
14425 Miller Boulevard NW
Edmonton, AB T5Y 0L4
(780) 476-3024
Sun-Thurs: 11am-9pm
Fri-Sat: 10am-9pm 

 3.5/5

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

DYNASTY CENTURY PALACE

Dynasty’s dim sum isn’t bad, but the main selling point is the low, low cost. If you’ve never had dim sum at a large-scale Chinese restaurant before, you’re in for an experience. It’s Good Buddy times five. Dearly-deceased Noodle

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