HicksBiz Blog

Category: Around town

Around town

Master chef is quite a character: Weekly Dish column originally published in Edmonton Sun, Sept. 5, 2012

Characters Fine Dining, 10257 105 St. 780 421-4100 www.characters.ca It is delightful to head to a restaurant where the chef is in full control, is a true master of the kitchen, and likes to have fun.When an extremely young Shonn Oborowsky returned from European and Asian chef apprenticeships, he opened Characters on 105 Street.It’ll never work, scoffed skeptical foodies. The kid’s just been given a toy by his parents. (Dad Don Oborowsky owns Waiward Steel, both Don and Shonn’s mom Judy are community leaders.) Edmonton’s not ready for another high-end restaurant, they said.Well. 13 years later, Characters is not only still here, it’s thriving.And certainly, after our fine-dining experience last week, Characters must be included in any list of Edmonton’s Top 10 restaurants.Characters is in its own stand-alone building, a single-story former warehouse on 105 Street a few blocks north of Jasper. The 50-something crowd may remember Night Fever dancing here, when it was the Sugar Tree discotheque. ... Read the rest of entry »

Violina a classical delight: Graham Hicks Weekly Dish column originally published in the Edmonton Sun Aug. 29, 2012

There’s going out for dinner.Then there’s dining out.Violino Gastronomica Italiana should be an all-evening affair, best experienced with those whose company one truly enjoys, whose culinary expectations equal one’s own.The atmosphere in the beautiful old mansion on High Street lends itself to the spirit of dining out. It once housed La Spiga, before Vince and Connie Cultraro uprooted to Palm Springs.The tables are set for classical dining, with linen tablecloths and napkins, multi-course cutlery, sparkling wine glasses and discreet waiters in suits or tuxedos.As is so often the case in Edmonton, fine dining at Violino’s is Italian. The menu moves from primi piatti (first plates) to zuppa e insalata (soups and salads), pasta e risotto (pastas and risotto-style rice), manzo e pesce (meat and fish), finishing with dolci (dessert).Our party of four is at Violino’s to eat well.And we do.The beginning is auspicious, with one of the finest antipasto misto platters I have ever sampled. In formal Italian cuisine, ant ... Read the rest of entry »

Fringe food: Mixed reviews: Weekly Dish, originally published Edmonton Sun, Aug. 21, 2012

By Graham HicksNobody really knows how many people wander through the Fringe in Old Strathcona for these fading days of summer, from last Thursday to this coming Sunday. The daily attendance figures are an “educated guess.”But enough growly stomachs traipse through to attract 21 on-site food venders, shelling out up to $6,000 for the right to sell at the Fringe. Most of the vendors return, despite the competition both at the Fringe and off-site in Old Strathcona.I, for one, hate wasting money on lousy street food – the greasy, lukewarm stuff that leaves you with a big lump in your tummy and follow-up problems of passage. So here’s a quick guide to the good, the great and the to-be-avoided on the Fringe food front.Forget the myth. Decent green onion cakes cannot be had at the Fringe. Green onion cakes were an Edmonton festival legend when Siu To, currently running Noodlemaker, and his family made them from scratch. The task became too daunting for Siu once his kids had their own careers.The current green onion ... Read the rest of entry »

How to keep the Edmonton Indy alive: Hicks on Biz column originally published Edmonton Sun, July 28, 2012

The Edmonton Indy just had its eighth birthday.That’s right. Though it’s been a bumpy road, the race has never not been held since Greg Macdonald (now back in the outdoor advertising business) persuaded Champ Car to put Edmonton back on the car-racing map in 2005.Through near-bankruptcies, forced changes in ownership, city subsidies and crisis after crisis, this race has never missed a beat.Click here to check out our Indy section for a wrap of all the action.There was a bit of tizzy after last week’s race, when race producer/owner Francoise Dumontier of Octane Motorsports suggested Octane needed more business support and better attendance before it would consider extending its agreement with IndyCar and the city (as landlord) beyond 2013.While there are challenges and a few potholes to be filled, there’s no reason for doom and gloom.In fact, the Edmonton Indy’s odds of not only surviving but prospering into the long-term are better than ever.The IndyCar league doesn’t release race attendance numbers. Octane ... Read the rest of entry »

Of human love: Graham Hicks' review of The Citadel Theatre's Midsummer Night's Dream

Graham Hicks’ review of Midsummer  Night’s Dream  Citadel Theatre, through April 29, 2012. There’s a great charm to Tom Wood’s 2012 take on Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s not only about the oh-so-talented young actors from the Citadel /Banff training program, with whom  (Pride and Prejudice, As You Like It, Three Musketeers, Little Women) we are becoming quite familiar at this time of the year. As always, the program actors work their own magic, being so thoroughly professional, but so vital and enthusiastic and joyous. And they are a true ensemble, having been through an intensive six-week educational exercise far more binding than your usual rehearsal period. The charm is on top of this masterpiece of the English-speaking theatre, Shakespeare’s enormous talent turned to love, with three shows in one that continually interact, one with the other, of those inhabiting the supernatural world,  the Athenian aristocracy and its working classes. Directo ... Read the rest of entry »

Why the Sorrentino's Garlic Festival is so successful on so many different levels

(This blog posting is a follow-up to the Weekly Dish column in the Edmonton Sun on Wednesday, April 4, 2012, entitled "Alberta's Garlic Advantage" in print, and "Garlic Festival an all-Alberta affair" in the on-line version) The Sorrentino’s Garlic Festival, in its 21st year, has become part of the very fabric of this city. And along the way, a textbook case of great marketing that should be thoroughly studied by any student of marketing and promotion. Most restaurants owners – 99% of them –lack the energy and imagination to separate themselves from the pack. It’s enough, they think, to simply open their doors, provide adequate service, good food and enough advertising to get by. Then there’s Sorrentino’s. Among their many other entrepreneurial strengths, Carmelo and Stella Rago understand the power of being different. Inspired by a world-famous garlic festival in California, Carmelo found the extra energy and extra effort to start that first Garlic Festival two deca ... Read the rest of entry »
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