HicksBiz Blog

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Sorrentino’s West Garlic Festival, BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED TUESDAY, APRIL 15, 2014

Sorrentino’s Garlic Festival Sorrentino’s West 6867 170 St. 780-444-0524 Sorrentinos.com Food: 4 of 5 suns Ambience: 4 of 5 suns Service: 4 of 5 suns Garlic Festival Dinner for two, just food – Basic $40, loaded $80 *** We were digging into our main dishes – mighty portions of pork tenderloin, beef in a puff pastry and ruby trout. Almost as one, we dropped our forks. The three of us looked at one another in astonishment. There was no taste! We were at Sorrentino’s West, in the middle of the 35th annual April-long Sorrentino’s Garlic Festival, having had four delicious garlic-laced appetizers, an exquisite garlic/olive oil dip for our focaccia bread and, for one member of the party, garlic-infused beer. And these recently arrived mains were tasteless? “Hang on a minute,” said our third dining partner. “Let’s rest our tastebuds. Have some bread. Drink some water.” We had bread and water, waited for what see ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on biz: Don't forget the compacts! BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2014

They are the orphans of the Edmonton Motor Show, at the Northlands Expo Centre through April 13. The mighty pick-me-up trucks, the honkin’ big SUVs (sports utility vehicles) , the trendy CUVs (Crossover Utility Vehicles - what used to be small SUVs) and the muscle cars are all front and centre, up on tilted platforms, gussied up with every accessory imaginable and with price-shock stickers starting at $50,000 plus. But the subcompacts … poor things, they sit at the very back of the manufacturers’ display areas, are given a cursory shine and then parked facing the wall, wearing the dunce cap. I suppose it is self-evident why only about 1 out of about every 20 vehicles sold in Northern Alberta are subcompacts. It’s mostly about the weather, sweetheart. Icy pavement, big snowfalls, pothole-filled roads and 80 kph sleet-laden winds do not favour the tiny subcompacts. Click here to visit our Edmonton Motor Show site Click here for our Edmonton Motor Show virtual guide ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' weekly dish: What happened to The Keg?! BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED TUESDAY, APRIL 08, 2014

The Keg (Old Strathcona) 8020 105 St. 780-432-7494 kegsteakhouse.com Food: 3 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Dinner for two, just food – Basic $50, loaded $100 I’ll say one thing for The Keg. It has an excellent returns policy. I’d chewed my way through a seven-ounce filet mignon. It was a serviceable piece of meat, if it was a top sirloin, or a flank steak. It had a blob of cheese mix on top, described by the menu as a “bleu cheese crust”. But for $33? Brianne the server bounced by, all smiles and happiness as Keg servers do. “How’s your meal, is everything fabulous?” I mumbled “not bad” and averted her gaze. We Canadians are polite to a fault, eh? My wife gave her a smile and said the salmon was delicious, and it was. Minutes later, a manager came by, concerned that I hadn’t fully agreed with the server, offering a replacement steak. Naw, that’s OK, I already ate it. ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton entrepreneur won't give up, BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED FRIDAY, APRIL 04, 2014

She's back! Jackie Shan could have called it quits when Afexa Life Sciences (of COLD FX fame) was sold to Montreal pharmaceutical giant Valeant Pharmaceuticals for $89 million. As the co-founder, long-time CEO and Chief Scientific Officer behind the Edmonton-based natural health products company, Shan was a major shareholder. COLD FX was based on her team’s research from the University of Alberta, where she was both a physiologist and a pharmacologist. Afexa’s ginseng-based health products found a huge market across Canada. Shan could have retired, wintered in Phoenix. Valeant removed the entire Afexa operation from Edmonton. What was an 80 employee company is completely gone. But Dr. Shan is doing it again. Her new company Afinity Life Sciences was unveiled last month at Global Edmonton's Women of Vision Shaw Conference Centre luncheon. Already, Afinity is polished and sophisticated, offering Omega 3 natural health products. “I didn’t want to stop,” ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Edmonton Eatery combines delicious pizza and pho, BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED TUESDAY, APRIL 01, 2014

  When casual conversation turns to food and restaurants, it’s satisfying to have that cute-little-hole-in-the-wall-restaurant-with-great-prices tucked away in your hip pocket. Have you ever heard of …? It has to be in a trendy but sketchy area (107 Avenue, 118 Avenue, Chinatown), visually non-descript, no website, a mom-and-pop’er with smiles but little English, an order-by-numbers menu … and really good food. The listener texts him or herself with the restaurant name … doesn’t matter if they ever get there, they just want to tell the next person at the next party. The King Noodle House Pho Hoang in Chinatown has long been my go-to for a big, delicious $10 meal-in-a-pho-bowl. (Pho is a spicy Vietnamese beef and noodle soup. Any decent pho shop makes its own, long-simmered pho broth from scratch.) Now I have another. The Pho Huong Mama Pizza answers all the above: A stone’s throw from the NAIT LRT crossing on 107 Avenue, a plain ol’sign ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Crowdfunding hits Edmonton startup scene, BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 2014

 Craig Knox and Michael Wilson had the coolest idea. Plus perfect timing. The two researchers came up with an idea for a company, a “health dashboard for your body”. OMX Personal Health Diagnostics is one of the first “crowdfunded” startup companies in Edmonton. The duo work in a University of Alberta metabolomics lab, metabolomics being a new scientific ability to diagnose disease through urine analysis. The technology and its scientific foundation is in its early stages, but it’s a medical advance that, should it prove to be accurate, inexpensive and easy to use, could eventually end up in every family doc’s medical bag. We’re at the beginning of something big, said the two U of A researchers. Why don’t we start a personal health monitoring company based on metabolomics – a subscriber-based service would analyze individual urine samples four times a year to optimize personal health? And why not start with a self-funded pilot pro ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Great food, '60s atmosphere at The Rock, BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2014

The Rock Wood-Fired Pizza & Spirits 13580 137 Ave. 780.473.0030 http://www.therockwfp.com/ Food – 4 of 5 Sun Ambience – 2 to 4 Suns, depending on outlook Service – 3 of 5 Suns Dinner for two, food only: Basic $25: severely loaded $50. There are days in this restaurant review business when one is just not in the mood for octopus balls or parsnip puree. Sometimes all you want is pizza, a good burger and/or a heapin’ plate of fries. You can get it all, plus a mega-dose of, er, ambience, at The Rock Wood-Fired Pizza and Spirits. First of all, the food at The Rock — on 137 Avenue in that big-box zone west of 127 Street — is really, really good. But it's the theme of this franchise — the second in Alberta after Red Deer — that’s the knee-slapper. It’s a visual version of K-97, the classic rock radio station here in town. The atmosphere, decoration, music, food names and servers’ costumes are a unified homage to ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Encouraging signs for Edmonton's aboriginal businesses, BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2014

  In the Grandin LRT station, a large mural commemorates the station’s namesake, Bishop Vital Grandin (1829-1902). I’ve always considered this mural to be satisfying public art – tying together Edmonton/St. Albert’s Catholic roots, reflecting the Franco-Albertan community around nearby St. Joachim’s Church, reflecting the health care and education provided by the church in the 19th century. From the perspective of a less-than-devout Catholic, the mural is testimony to Christian love. So what does a mural in a LRT station have to do with business? This is, after all, a business column. In today’s world, a great deal. The mural may have unintentionally offended some 60,000 self-identifying Native and Métis Edmontonians, a community vital to the long-term success of Edmonton and Northern Alberta. In its background is a Catholic nun, holding an obviously aboriginal baby. The problem, and artist Sylvie Nadeau would never have thought of it, is the ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Izakaya Tomo a Japanese delight, BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED: TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2014

Izakaya Tomo 3739 99 St. 780-440-9152 Izakayatomo.net Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 2.5 of 5 Suns Service: 3.5 of 5 Suns Dinner for two, just food – Basic, $25; loaded, $50 At first glance Izakaya Tomo was unimpressive. It looked like a typical strip-mall restaurant, with a wood planking décor. The air felt a little greasy, the tables were picnic-style with no-back benches. The look of the menu — photos behind laminate — was not encouraging. Not the best start to a review. But Izakaya Tomo has suddenly been discovered. Its pork-belly dish was one of Tomato food magazine’s favourite 100 dishes. Avenue Magazine named Izakaya Tomo the city’s best Japanese restaurant for 2013. So it had to be doing something right. And the staff were cheerful, with a collective “hello” as we entered. In Japan, izakaya is a generic term — like “tavern” or “pub” — for bars with tapas-style small plates to wash down ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: A boom IS happening! BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN, POSTED: FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 2014

Remember Edmonton’s last mega-building boom, 1977 to 1982? Don’t roll your eyes … just because you hadn’t yet been born. But it happened. Driving through the downtown, back then, was near impossible. Too many building sites spilled into the streets. Along 101 Street, it was nuts. Scotia Place, ManuLife Place, Oxford Tower and what’s now the Sutton Place Hotel were all going up at the same time. The Bell Tower wasn’t far behind. A block over, in Rice-Howard Way, the Phipps-McKinnon Building had opened its doors. Jasper Avenue, from 99 Street to 109 Street, was one big construction zone. Sun Life Place, Scotia Place, Enbridge Place, Canadian Western Bank Place, Standard Life Centre, ATCO Centre … almost every tower along that stretch was built in the same time period. Don’t forget Phase II of the LRT was tunneling down Jasper Avenue at nearly the same time, creating even more havoc. Here we are, some 35 years later. After the dreadful ... Read the rest of entry »
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