Volcano Restaurant

Volcano is in a great location for those living south of Whyte Avenue–easily accessible by Calgary Trail and Gateway Boulevard, the restaurant offers both Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine in a well-decorated, spacious building. The combination of Asian flavour offerings is unusual but not unheard-of in our city, where one can get Korean short ribs at many Japanese restaurants, or enjoy a Pad Thai served up alongside a Curry Laksa.

When we arrived at the event, we were greeted with a glass of prosecco and given a chance to grab a seat at one of the many tables. The food samplings were laid out in platters: sushi, sashimi, and maki on one side of the table, short ribs, spring rolls, and pork chops on the other. The divide was interesting but not unwelcome–it’s nice to be able to pair cool raw fish with a cooked item or two.

I took a little bit of everything, grabbed a sake caesar, and sat down with my plate of goodies. Everything was good, although the short ribs will always come up tops for me. The tuna sashimi was light and fluffy, as it should be, and the unagi maki was filled with flavour.

We were lucky enough to witness the ribbon cutting ceremony, introduced by Ingrid Schifer de Dennis from Schif and the City and followed by a brief speech from the owner of Volcano. The event also had a photo booth set up by Mojo Photo, which was a great way to document the occasion (other than the usual flurry of tweets and food photos, of course).

I haven’t had a chance to try the full menu yet, but I’d rate Volcano as a tasty, reliable Japanese/Vietnamese restaurant based on my experience at the grand opening. I don’t feel like I can give it a fair rating until I dine there on a regular night, so my apologies for not including the usual wine glass ratings at the end of this post.

The prices are in the mid- to high-range for a sushi restaurant, so I’d estimate prices to be around $40-50 per person for sushi (depending on how much you can eat) and around $15-20 per person for Vietnamese. They also offer a variety of Western and Chinese dishes, including brunch omelettes and chicken stir fry. The menu on the website doesn’t appear to be working at the moment, but you can view their full offering on SkipTheDishes.ca.

Volcano Edmonton
4226 Gateway Blvd.
Edmonton, AB T6K 7J1
(780) 756-2218

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are my highlights from the first BaconFest event:

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

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

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

The Return of the Dishcrawl

Dishcrawl is back! YEG foodies rejoice. The next event will showcase the tasteful, the sumptuous, and the delectable of Edmonton’s 124 Street district. They’ve even opened up a second day of the event, since the first one sold out so quickly. More information on this upcoming Dishcrawl can be found here. 

Joining the Dishcrawl team as the new Edmonton Ambassador is Theresa Engel-Wood, a grade one teacher with a passion for gastronomy. I caught up with Theresa to learn a little bit about her background, her passion for food, and her plans for Dishcrawl’s future.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get involved with Dishcrawl?

I am a passionate eater of foods, sipper of drinks, and planner of events. I am also a devoted baker, cook, and urban gardener. These things are even better when shared with friends, family, and community! 

There is so much going on in Edmonton with our restaurants, farmer’s markets and festivals and I believe a lot of it is based on the strong foodie community in our city. As part of this and living on the cusp of downtown, so close to many new food experiences, I like to keep up on the latest innovations and discoveries in Edmonton. This led to my involvement with Dishcrawl. 

Originally, I started out as a member of the Dishcrawl community and, more recently, became the ambassador for Dishcrawl Edmonton. It has been really exciting to experience the overwhelming interest in these kinds of events!

What do you hope to bring to the Dishcrawl brand in Edmonton?

Events are only as good as the team behind them. I am a ‘details’ person and this is really important with Dishcrawl events since, in order to keep the evening running smoothly, we have to time things to the minute! I also love being on top of trends, whether it involves specific ingredients, preparation and presentation styles, or the general atmosphere and philosophy of a restaurant. This translates into some unique and delicious opportunities for Dishcrawl!

I love planning events that people remember and talk about for a long time afterwards. I want people to have a fun night and to taste foods that they might not have otherwise experienced! I love getting to know people and mingling and this is an important aspect of our events, since we are travelling as a group between restaurants. It is so gratifying when I see that I’ve helped people make new friendships and connections!

It’s also very important to me to build relationships with restaurant owners and staff. Dishcrawls are a fantastic opportunity for guests as well as for restaurants. I’m working hard to make sure that restaurant owners and chefs know just how much they can benefit from participating in our events, while at the same time growing the foodie community in Edmonton!

For those who have never been on a Dishcrawl, how would you describe it? What can they expect? 

A dishcrawl is sort of like a pubcrawl – but with food, and much better results! There will be 3 restaurants, kept a secret until the big day, with 3 delicious dishes served at each one. We get to know each other as we walk between each restaurant and enjoy the experience together. One of the best parts of a dishcrawl is hearing from the chef or owner. We get to hear the story behind the restaurant, the preparation and the ingredients. It’s not often one gets to enjoy a delicious dinner and also be educated about it in a fun way! Guests can expect to visit 3 amazing restaurants in 1 intriguing neighbourhood, eat 3 fantastic dishes and meet 39 other passionate foodies!

How often will Dishcrawl events be held?

I am aiming to hold Dishcrawl events in Edmonton every 1-2 months. You can hear about them via dishcrawl.comtwitterinstagram, or facebook, or you can sign up for our community email list!

Why should people attend Dishcrawls? What’s your elevator pitch?

Who doesn’t love a culinary adventure? Restaurant by restaurant, we introduce Edmonton’s local food scene on a neighbourhood level. Each one of our walking food tours are designed so you’ll be entertained, informed, and well fed. We’ll satisfy both your craving for good food and your curiosity about downtown Edmonton. Come hungry because on all of our food tours, you will get to try a variety of cultural foods from 3 unique establishments that showcase why Edmonton’s local food has become the NEWEST and HOTTEST culinary destination.

Are you doing anything new and innovative for the events in the future?

I have great ideas based on things like cultural/ethnic food trends as well as trends such as using local ingredients or one ingredient like…say…bacon! My next dishcrawl will be happening in the hip Whyte Ave. area!

Finally, if you had to pick one, what would you say is your favourite restaurant in Edmonton?

Agh! How can I pick just one restaurant? One that has been around for awhile would be The Marc, a newcomer would be 3 Boars Eatery, Eva Sweet food truck for authentic Liege waffles, Corso 32 for the ricotta and pasta, Remedy cafe for the extra spicy Chai, Rge Rd for the questionable bits, kitchen board and Hunter’s stew…the list goes on. Sorry – I just don’t know how to pick one!

www.dishcrawl.com

Cover photo courtesy of Kristy L Photography.

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

Avenue Magazine’s Best Restaurants Party

A gallery of photos from the Avenue Edmonton Magazine’s Best Restaurants Launch Party.

I realize that I’m a little late in the day with this post, since the Best Restaurants launch party happened a month ago. I’m also extremely late in the day in comparison to Cindy at Let’s Om Nom, who posted a great review literally the next day.

This post isn’t a review – there’s a reason Avenue named each of these guys as the city’s best restaurants this year. Those judges know what they’re talking about.

Instead, I’m sharing a little gallery of the event with you. Like I said, it’s late in the day–but who doesn’t love pictures of food?

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!