Best Christmas Gifts for YEG Food Lovers

That’s right…you can run, you can hide, but you can’t avoid the fact that Christmas is right around the corner. It’s hardly possible to ignore the fact that radio stations, media, and storefronts have made the complete 180 from Halloween-pushing to full-blown festive paraphernalia. Ugly Santas and cheesy decorations abound, Edmonton.

Speaking of cheese, I’ve got some in this article. If one of your loved ones is a foodie, then you’re in luck. Food lovers are the easiest people to buy for during the holiday season. Just buy them food.

Well…ok. Don’t buy them just any food. Stay away from the horrible Christmas gift staples, such as crackers from Costco, Toffifees, and god-awful chocolate liqueurs. You can give a great foodie gift without breaking the bank; it’s all in thinking outside of the $2 box.

On the other hand, in some cases, it’s obvious. You know someone who loves wine? (And maybe blogs about it? *ahem*) Buy them wine! You know someone who can’t live without coffee? Buy them coffee!

I’ve categorized this list according to the type of foodie you’re buying for. However, if you’re lucky and they’re just an all-around food lover, feel free to mix and match. And don’t worry – I’ve included gifts from a range of prices.

Happy shopping!

For the Cheese Eater

I love cheese. You love cheese. We all love cheese.

Monogrammed Cheeseboard from Indigo, $19.50
A cheese lover always needs a good cheeseboard. This monogrammed cheeseboard makes a stylish and personalized gift for those friends who love all things cheese. It comes with a monogrammed spreader and a festive green ribbon. If you’re really nice, you’ll give this gift with a nice slab of cheese, too.
www.indigo.ca; also found in select stores.

A Gift Card to Cavern, denominations vary
One of 104 Street’s newest additions, Cavern is a retail cheese store and café/bar. Cheese lovers can relax with a custom-made cheese and charcuterie board paired with their favourite wine, beer, scotch, sherry or port. All cheese can also be bought to take home. It’s the perfect little hole-in-the-wall getaway for cheese lovers.
www.thecavern.ca; 10169 104 Street; (780) 455-1336

A subscription to the Cheese of the Month Club at Everything Cheese, $195 for 3 months (9 cheeses), $375 for 6 months (18 cheeses), $545 for 9 months (27 cheeses)
A new addition to the offerings at Everything Cheese, people can now sign up for 3-, 6-, or 9-month subscriptions to the Cheese of the Month Club. Each month, three selected cheeses will be delivered to your door. Subscribers will receive approximately 750g of cheese, attractively packages and delivered with serving suggestions, drink pairing recommendations, and tips. This gift is a pricier option, but definitely worth the money for cheese fanatics!
www.everythingcheese.ca; 14912 45 Avenue; (780) 757-8532

Jams, Jellies, and Chutneys from Fruits of Sherbrooke, $5 each
Fruits of Sherbrooke is a fruit rescue operation that saves fruits from throughout Edmonton, St. Albert, and Sherwood Park. All fruits are then made into preserves, such as jams, jellies, and chutneys. These are amazing when paired with cheese (I’m a huge fan) and will last for a long time. Flavours include: Spiced Rhubarb Jam, Chocolate Cherry Jelly, Apple Lime Cardamom Jelly, Hot Pepper Rhubarb Spread, Lemon Pepper and Gin Jelly, and Peach, Peppers, and Port Jelly. The Fruits of Sherbrooke booth can be found at the Downtown Farmer’s Market, which is now in City Hall for the winter. All products have at least 60% rescued fruit, with some that are made wholly from rescued local fruit.
www.fruitsofsherbrooke.ca

For the Wino

Wine lovers like…wine. So buy them some!

A bottle of Domaine Bousquet Grande Reserve Malbec, 2010, <$25
Firstly, this is an excellent wine for those who like malbec – and who doesn’t like malbec? It’s made from organic grapes at an Estate located in Gualtallary, Tupungato, at an altitude of 1200 meters (4000 feet) above sea level, one of the highest points in Mendoza. One of the great things about most Argentinian wines is that the high altitudes reduce the chance of insects, mold, fungi, and grape disease. This means much less pesticides and, in some cases, none at all – yay! The wine is composed of 85% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 5% Syrah.
Several locations throughout the city – use www.liquorconnect.com to find.

Torre and Tagus Wine Rack from Call the Kettle Black, $39.95
I know so many wine lovers who don’t have a good wine rack (or have a hideous old contraption that they’ve inherited from past generations of wine drinkers). Most people don’t drink a bottle a day, so this wine rack—which holds four bottles—is perfect. It has a modern design made from MDF wood and will make a countertop look fabulous.
www.callthekettleblack.com, 12523 102 Avenue; (780) 448-2861 or 444 Riverbend Square; (780) 434-1622

A Monthly Case Sampler of wine from deVine Wines and Spirits, costs vary (approx. $200)
If you really love the person you’re buying for, this is a great gift. deVine puts together 10 to 12 full-sized bottles of wines in their Monthly Case Sampler, allowing you to discover and taste a variety of brands that you might not normally consider. It’s great for the budding wine drinker and established wino alike. It’s also a great way to get that cellar started, if that’s what you’re into.
www.devinewines.ca; 10111 104 Street; (780) 421-9463

For the Chocaholic

The Black Tie Truffle Collection from JACEK Chocolate Couture, $43
There’s nothing more decadent than truffles, and JACEK’s Black Tie collection exemplifies everything anti-waistline. All chocolates are made with fresh ingredients, so the shelf life isn’t as long as you might like, but that just means you get to eat more chocolates! Flavours include combinations of mint ganache, chilli, vanilla bean, burnt caramel, cinnamon, white chocolate, and raspberry. Mmm.
www.jacekchocolate.com; 406 Kaska Road, Sherwood Park; (780) 464-5200

Choklat’s Truffle Martini, $59.95
A truffle martini – doesn’t that sound lovely? Choklat, a new addition to Edmonton’s chocolate scene, is an Alberta-based company that produces and creates chocolate confectionaries completely from scratch. This gift set comes with 12 truffles, one Brazilian dark chocolate bar, and one milk chocolate bar, all wrapped up nicely in a fancy martini glass.
www.sochoklat.com; 8111 104 Street; (587) 524-3117

For the Home Cook

For those who love to cook…we salute you!

Evoolution Gift Basket from evoolution, $109
Evoolution’s oils and balsamics are nothing to be sneezed at. If you know someone who shuns the thought of cooking with Pam, get them this chef-inspired gift basket. It comes with the From the Olive Grove cookbook, Fused/Infused Olive Oil, Dark Balsamic Vinegar, White Balsamic Vinegar, Cascina Marchesa Balsamic Extra Jam, and Cascina Marchesa Pesto. Perfect for those who like to cook with the best quality ingredients…because it all comes down to the oil.
www.evoolution.ca; 10130 104 Street; (587) 521-3445

La Cucina (Italian Kitchen) Gift Basket from the Italian Centre Shop, $60 (small), $80 (medium), $100 (large)
The Italian Centre has a range of gift baskets that utilize some of the shop’s greatest ingredients and products. The La Cucina basket provides you with everything you need to cook an authentic Italian meal. You can have the gift set arranged in a colander or basket. Ingredients vary and can include tomato or white pasta sauce, pesto, pasta, canned tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. What else will you need to cook that perfect Italian meal?
www.italiancentre.ca; 5028 104A Street (with 2 other locations in Edmonton); (780) 989-4869; order 4-7 days in advance and pick up from this location.

For the Food Blogger

A blogger’s toolkit for reviewing restaurants.

Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life Of A Critic In Disguise, $13
A food blogger’s journey is never complete without reading Reichl’s memoir about her stint as restaurant critic for the New York Times. Amusing and mostly light-hearted, this book will make you rethink how you approach restaurants and how to write a captivating, entertaining review. It’ll probably make you hungry, too.
www.indigo.ca

A Moleskine Passion Journal, $26
Food bloggers are almost always writers at heart. Why not encourage their writerly passions with a Moleskine Passion Journal? These journals are a great way to keep track of, well, whatever you want. Types of journals include: Restaurant Journal/Dining-Out Experiences, Wine Journal, Beer Journal, Chocolate Journal, Recipe Journal, and Dessert Journal. If your foodie friend also happens to be a cat lover, they have a Cat Journal for that, too.
www.indigo.ca;www.staples.ca;www.notables.ca

A Gift Card to any of the following restaurants: Corso 32, Tavern 1903, Café Bicyclette, RGE RD, Japonais Bistro.
Yeah, this is pretty self-explanatory. Food bloggers that review restaurants need to actually eat at those restaurants, right?

For the Caffeinated

Give your caffeine-loving friends some of the best coffee in Edmonton!

Iconoclast’s Original Don Coffee, $13 per lb
The Glasshouse Bistro is one of Iconoclast’s clients and a cup of this coffee will seriously make your brunch complete. It’s excellent. The Original Don beans are a blend designed to be available year round and offer a “light and bright” profile. Iconoclast, an Edmonton-based company, prepares and roasts their beans entirely by hand. That dedication to gourmet coffee sure does taste good.
www.iconoclastcoffee.com; 11807B 105 Avenue

Transcend Coffee Subscription, $69 for 3 months
You can get cheese delivered. You can get wine delivered. And now you can get coffee delivered. Transcend offers a Coffee Subscription, delivering you a fresh “coffee of the month” on the second Wednesday of every month. Subscribers receive a new 3/4 lb bag of mystery coffee each month, along with documentation explaining where the coffee was grown, how it was processed, and how it should be brewed. You can sign up for a 3-, 6-, 12-, or 18-month subscription and the best part is that they offer free shipping within Canada.
www.transcendcoffee.ca; 9869 62 Avenue or 8708 109 Street; 1-866-430-9198

I want to hear about your shopping experiences! Did you buy any of the above as a Christmas gift? Did you try some of the items for yourself? Leave a comment below!

TRES CARNALES TAQUERIA

Melding a vibrant modern interior and consistently raucous diners with the classic tastes of Mexico, Tres Carnales offers up a bright, flavourful dining experience that’ll simultaneously sucker-punch each of your senses. Exiting the restaurant into a sound-muffled, softly snow-covered Rice Howard Way is like leaving war-riddled England and stepping into the densely quiet Narnian winter. It’s disconcerting.

The restaurant really tries to pay tribute to all of the brilliance that has come out of Mexico. Bottles, figurines, and masks adorn the brightly-coloured walls and fill the restaurant’s shelves, while kitschy star lanterns hang from the ceiling. All of the artwork is lovely, although the Frida Kahlo portrait was definitely the cherry on the Mexican cake.

One of Tres Carnales’ major downfalls, though, is the size. There’s room for only a handful of tables in the restaurant; that, paired with the fortuitous Downtown location, makes it difficult to get seated during peak hours. Line-ups for a weekday lunch stretch outside of the door. While the popularity makes it more desirable, it also gives the restaurant a hipster-esque feel, as if the fuddy-duddy diners who like to take their time and enjoy quiet calm while they eat aren’t welcome here. And, to be fair, it was mostly a younger crowd I saw piling inside of the doors to escape the cold.

Tres Carnales’ tagline is “Real Mexican food.” In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I’ve never been to Mexico and my primary experience with tacos comes from working in a Tex Mex restaurant for over 5 years. As a result, I’m partial to flour tacos and Tres Carnales only serves corn tacos. Normally this would be cause for dismissal, but it’s what Tres Carnales puts inside of those corn tortillas that makes the restaurant so well-worth visiting.

The Tinga Poblana tacos were on special during our visit, so Funmi gave them a shot. These tacos were filled with pulled pork and chipotle peppers, stewed and slow-cooked to tender, flavourful perfection. They were served with a light salsa verde for dipping.

I tried a Chorizo Quesadilla, filled with house-made mexican ground chorizo sausage and oodles of cheese. These were very tasty, although a little greasy. I’m a huge fan of Spanish chorizo, which isn’t as oily, but the Mexican iteration of the sausage went very well in the corn tortillas. They were served with guacamole, which was a little blander than the guacamole I make for myself at home (hint: I use lots of garlic, onions, tiny diced tomatoes, lemon juice, and salt, along with plenty of mashed avocado…and sometimes some dried chili flakes to spice things up). Nevertheless, it was nice to be able to complement the decadent richness of the quesadilla with a cool, fresh guacamole dip.

On a whim, Funmi and I ordered the Papas Fritas to share: a mound of Russet potatoes topped with guajillo chile mayo, queso fresco onions, and cilantro. This side is definitely a must-try; the chile mayo was rich and delicious without being too thick. A perfect addition to our corn tortilla entrées!

One of the owners, Chris Sills (el Surfo), made the rounds of the restaurant during our visit to ensure that everyone was enjoying their dining experience. I’ve read some reviews that disapprove of the restaurant’s minimal service policy (which means that diners usually order at the counter, just like at Famoso), but in the two times I’ve eaten here I’ve never found the customer service wanting.

For one of the owners to concern themselves with the happiness of the dining room means that this restaurant generally cares about the public opinion. No, they won’t be standing by with a white cloth on their arm, waiting to pour you a fresh glass of wine, but this isn’t the restaurant you go to for a fine dining experience. If Tres Carnales is anything, it’s fun, it’s vibrant, and it’s extremely low-key. And the food is pretty damn good, too.

Tres Carnales Taqueira
10119 100A Street
Edmonton, AB T5J 0R5
(780) 429-0911
*Note: does not take reservations

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

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