HicksBiz Blog

Hicks Weekly Dish: Great kitchen, staff and space BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 2017

Vaticano Cucina 10310-45 Avenue (corner of Gateway Boulevard and 45 Avenue) 780-250-1110 Vaticanoyeg.com Mon. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tues. to Thurs. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $40; loaded, $70 Food:  4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns   It’s a brave move, to open a new mid-to-higher level Italian restaurant in a city where about half the top restaurants, it would seem, are Italian. Especially since Vaticano Cucina’s principal owners, brothers Joe and Riccardo Francese, are new to the hospitality business. Especially since Vaticano Cucina executive chef Dione Harwood’s reputation is just starting to grow. But good on the brothers: For a restaurant with no known pedigree, Vaticano Cucina is a credible, comfortable and modern dining experience. Comfortably parked in with the Sorrentino’s restaurants, Vaticano is not trying to compete with t ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Funding aboriginal business BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JUNE 16, 2017

It’s all about money. It always is. An entrepreneur full of dreams wants to create a better mousetrap that’ll take the world by storm and make him or her a gazillionaire. But they can’t find the money — the thousands, the hundreds of thousands of dollars — it takes to get a company up and running before the better mousetrap starts selling. The aboriginal community is no different – except it may be even more daunting for a young community member to launch a business. Which is why a lot of local pride will be on display next Wednesday and Thursday at the Shaw Conference Centre. The Alberta Indian Investment Corporation (AIIC) is hosting a gathering of the 52 aboriginal financial institutions belonging to the cross-Canada National Aboriginal Capital Corporation Association. The occasion happens to fall, not un-coincidentally, on Canada’s June 21 Aboriginal Day. The AIIC has been among the most successful of those lending institutions, providing capi ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: May Tang Bistro thrive and inspire BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 2017

At long last, a modern, authentic Chinese restaurant has opened its doors in Edmonton. Don’t get me wrong. At times all of us hanker for old-style take-out North American Chinese food – big, greasy egg rolls, chicken balls with sweet ‘n’ sour sauce, broccoli stir fry, chow mein. But other Asian eateries in this town have evolved. Dozens of Vietnamese, Thai and Korean eateries are aware of culinary trends and have adapted accordingly. Chinese food has been frozen in time. The dishes available 30 years ago at the city’s faves – The Lingnan, Pearl River, Blue Willow, Golden Rice Bowl – are still their best sellers. So the two-month-old Tang Bistro on 109 Street, immediately south of the High Level Bridge, is a breath of fresh air. These young fellows – owner Tim Yan is still in his 20s, as is his head chef – are overthrowing old-school thinking that Canadian-Chinese food must stand still. In line with adventurous cuisine is a contemporary ap ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: To tip or not to tip BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JUNE 09, 2017

It’s that moment of restaurant reckoning. Dessert is over. Your small group, be it friends, family or colleagues are ready to go home. The server brings you the bill. You discreetly look it over, trying not to raise your eyebrows. With cocktails, starters, bottled water, the asparagus upgrade and those two bottles of wine, it’s twice as much as you expected. The remote credit card machine is insistent. The tip, it says — percentage or amount? Tipping has become awkward. Not just in restaurants, but in taxis, hotels, coffee counters, home delivery and hot-food delicatessens. Everybody wants a tip. Coffee shops have tip jars. Some restaurants now want payment upon ordering, before food is delivered to the table. But there’s still an expectation of a tip. My wife and I recently travelled through rural Portugal and Spain. Tipping is not part of those cultures. What a relief: No guilt, no raised eyebrows, no confusion. You paid the bill’s tally for food a ... Read the rest of entry »

Weekly Dish: Lux, a range of refreshing, interesting options BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JUNE 06, 2017

Lux Steakhouse + Bar 94 10150-101 St. (Commerce Place, main floor) 780-424-0400 centuryhospitality.com Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight Closed Sunday Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $60; loaded, $120 Food:  4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns When the Lachance family first opened LUX Steakhouse — then known as Chance — in Commerce Place, it was big news indeed. Millennials won’t remember, but the downtown was as dead as a door nail 17 years ago. Many thought opening a new high-end restaurant downtown was an invitation to failure. In fact, the timing was good. Within a few years, the downtown revival took shape. Other business district steakhouses followed – Chop, Ruth’s Chris, Pampa – but the re-named Lux was first-to-market, and it also had Bar 94, a terrific, fancy, long-counter bar named after the number of Lux shareholder and beloved ex-Oiler Ryan Smyth. Bar 94 still fill ... Read the rest of entry »

Weekly Dish: Two different dining experiences at Little Village and Alder Room BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2017

Between Ben Staley’s Alder Room and Theo Psalios’ Little Village, two more different dining experiences cannot be imagined. But isn’t that what dining out is all about? How diverse and excellent the city’s culinary offerings have become. It would be near impossible, on a weekly basis, to visit every quality dining room in one year. At Staley’s recently-opened Alder Room, you pay in advance via an online ticketing system for one of the 12 spots at 7 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday. In return for your $140 (expensive, yes, unique and top-quality, yes) Chef Staley orchestrates a 12-to-20 dish food evening, lasting 2.5 hours. There is no set menu. As a diner, you put your faith in Staley, the young self-taught chef who captured the imagination of adventuresome eaters as the first chef of North 53. Staley left that restaurant to create his own, all-original food experience at the Alder Room and its adjoining cold-tapas sister restaurant Alta, recently reviewed in this colum ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: The case for phase II of the Sturgeon Refinery BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JUNE 02, 2017

It’s an odd situation. But we live in odd economic circumstances. Immediately firing up Phase II of the soon-to-open Sturgeon Refinery outside Fort Saskatchewan will require a massive provincial government commitment. This in a province that since Ralph Klein days has liked the notion of government staying out of business. But this commitment, in the long run, makes sense. And despite Ralph’s proclamation, previous Conservative governments have already substantially invested in Phase I of the new refinery. Now the New Democrat government is being asked to do the same for Phase II. The downside is minimal: In a worst-case scenario, the government could lose money for periods of time. The upside is substantial: In the long run, the province is highly likely to make good profits (see below). Major construction jobs - 5,000 to 8,000 of them – could be created over the next four years when little else is happening; Fabrication shops and other sub-contractors would be kept bus ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Future is now for Edmonton innovators BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017

Everybody moans and groans about Alberta’s economy being too dependent on oil, coal and gas. Everybody keeps talking as if “diversification” and “innovation” are things of the future. But there are names they should know: Ceapro. Radiant. Localize and Forge Hydrocarbons and Magnet Tx and Alberta Craft Malting, and on and on and on. The list of Metropolitan Edmonton companies keeps growing. Mayor Don Iveson gave his state-of-the-city speech at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday. It was – as befits a mayor still in his 30s – a rousing speech about Edmonton’s spirit of invention and culture of innovation. But always as if it’s around the corner, still to be grabbed, not here yet. They are here! They are today! Economic development people, without realizing it, tend to describe a bleak present but paint a rosy future, providing, of course that their agencies are funded and that they are paid. Business Link, Startup Edmonton, TEC E ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Privada offers intriguing cuisine, and best dessert around BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017

A television hangs over the bar, but instead of blaring play-off hockey, scenic nature photographs quietly rotate.   In one corner of Privada Wine and Tapas in St. Albert, big jars of kitchen-made preserves jostle for room with the restaurant’s fine wine collection. Bunches of garlic dangle above. It may sound eccentric, but Privada is anything but. It’s actually a pleasing mixture of the personalities and talents of its hands-on owners – the husband/wife team of Kaylen and Kaylan Como and Chef Tony Krause, plus the community Privada serves. The menu of $12 to $18 dishes is familiar, comforting, yet different. It changes by the week. Krause is a restless, passionate chef. There were reasons for visiting Privada. My wife and I had just returned from a walking holiday in Portugal and Spain. Tapas dishes were still dancing in our memories. Privada has been a St. Albert gem for some five years; it’s been contentedly low-key, at least until Krause was invited to compe ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Pot has been popular for a while BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2017

Marijuana is rushing out of the closet, what with the federal government’s plan to legalize marijuana use across Canada as of July 2018. Which is somewhat ironic: Pot has been almost as common as booze, smoked by a sizeable minority of Canadians since getting high became popular 50 years ago. The fact it’s been illegal just made users more secretive. In British Columbia, pot might as well be legal now. Dozens upon dozens of “medical” marijuana dispensaries are in Vancouver, with no common definition of what medical means. If you have a headache, you can buy pot. I’d argue Albertans still prefer alcohol over pot for recreational highs. Pot smokers here keep it quiet. Outside of certain crowds, joints aren’t passed around parties. Rarely do you smell pot, outside of Borden Park love-ins. But many Vancouver friends treat the stuff as an aperitif before dinner. They are used to a THC level – the stuff that creates the high – that would have induced a ... Read the rest of entry »
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