HicksBiz Blog

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 »

Alberta over a barrel? Hicks on Biz, originally published in Edmonton Sun, Aug. 25, 2012

By Graham HicksHopefully this is a Chicken Little column, harking back to that little piece of poultry, who, certain the world was coming to an end, ran around crying, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”Chicken Little was wrong, of course.But something doesn’t feel right about the soothing words we are hearing from Alberta’s economic forecasters, that good times will roll along in Alberta for the foreseeable future, i.e. at least for another 12 months.It is, surprise, surprise, all about the price of oil.About 2.5 million barrels a day are sucked out of Alberta ground and exported at a price ranging between $70 to $100 a barrel, creating $200 to $300 million in new wealth every day.No other industry employs as many people, no other industry pays half as well, no other industry earns as much revenue for government, no other industry has anywhere near oil’s impact on our standard of living.Our energy wealth continues to shower goodness upon us, despite the fact the once-mighty natural gas industry is on i ... 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 »

Edmonton doesn't exist?! Hicks on Biz, originally published Edmonton Sun, August 17, 2012

By Graham HicksIt’s an annual insult.Every year around this time, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s releases its report on the world’s most livable cities with much fanfare. The Economist is a leading international news and business magazine.Every year, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto make it in the Top 10. This year, Montreal was the only other Canadian city included, coming in at 16th.No Edmonton.A few years back, tired of this slight, I asked the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation why we didn’t rate, even though Edmonton and Calgary come out neck-and-neck in any survey of Canada’s livable cities.The answer, finally dug out of the Economist people, was that since Calgary and Edmonton were in such close proximity, only one needed to be scrutinized, and it was going to be Calgary.We were not even considered for the list! In the eyes of the authors of this prestigious survey, Edmonton does not exist.There’s an argument for not worrying about lack of recognition – why fret over how others see us, when we ... Read the rest of entry »

Dipping into the delectable Melting Pot: Weekly Dish, originally published Edmonton Sun, Aug. 8, 2012

By Graham HicksThe Melting Pot of Edmonton, 2920 Calgary Trail NW780-465-4DIP (4347)www.meltingpot.com Food: 4 of 5 starsAmbience: 2.5 of 5 starsService: 4 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $50; fully loaded, $90The Melting Pot has earned a fine reputation in this town since opening about two years ago, the first Canadian outlet of a successful American fondue restaurant group.No wonder!Unlike so many chains, the Melting Pot does not scrimp on quality, not in the least.The fondues use real cheeses, Fontina, Butterkase, Gruyere and Emmenthaler that cost an arm and a leg in local delis.Cost-cutting isn't happening in the meat and fish selections cooked at the table. The initial preparation is first-rate.The concept, on first glance, looks preposterous.People pay to sit around pots of either melted cheese or broth, stick chunks of bread (for the cheese) or raw meat on skewers and joist for cooking space in the central hot pot? Right!If grandma doesn't accidentally stab herself with the skewer ... Read the rest of entry »

Defending fossil fuels from Toronto attack: Hicks on Biz originally published Edmonton Sun, Aug. 11, 2012

By Graham HicksMy cousin’s husband looked as me as if I was just what he thought I was — an right-wing, oil-snortin’ Alberta redneck.“Don’t tell me about how good fossil fuels are,” growled the Torontonian. “I grew up breathing (fossil-fuel) pollution that drifted over from Detroit and Chicago. I’m done with that stuff.”I wouldn’t worry if said husband had no influence.But he’s a top Canadian architect who designs energy-efficient office towers … and he didn’t want to even hear about the greening of fossil fuels!This deep, stubborn, near-hatred of the cheapest, most efficient and abundant energy source in the world is irrational, but is deeply engrained in the mindset of the chattering classes.Yet the exact opposite is true.Thanks to the power of new technology, Alberta’s hydro-carbon energy industry is cleaning up its act at a breath-taking pace.Energy produced from the burning of oil and natural gas is fast becoming environmentally competitive, at a much cheaper cost, with alternative energy sources like so ... Read the rest of entry »

Marvellous MKT pub grub: Weekly Dish, originally published Edmonton Sun August 1, 2012

By Graham HicksMKT Fresh Food + Beer Market8101 Gateway Boulevard, corner of Gateway and Whyte Avenue780-439-BEER (2337)www.mktbeermarket.com Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $30; fully loaded, $70Food: 4 of 5 stars(Pub) Ambience: 4 of 5 starsService: 4 of 5 stars——Marvellous!As far as pub grub and atmosphere goes, the new MRT Fresh Food & Beer Market raises the bar to Olympian standards.Century Hospitality is just over a decade old, with Century Grill, Lux Steakhouse, the DeLux Burger Bars and One Hundred – all thriving – under its belt.In his latest move, Century’s Chris LaChance took on the defunct Iron Horse Pub space in the original, historical CP Rail train station building in Old Strathcona. The building, with its vast open floor, glows with historical character and has one of the best locations in Edmonton with plenty of parking within walking distance.Century Hospitality’s expertise shines through.The décor is old-time casual, with an enormous oval up the middle, enclosing a modern central ... Read the rest of entry »

Oil's not well in Alberta: Hicks on Biz originally published in Edmonton Sun Aug. 4, 2012

We’ve been dangerously smug.Our American friends are buried in debt, our European allies are gasping for financial air.Cash-rich China, still buying up our oil industry without blinking an eye, is facing an economic slowdown.Our cousins down east are finding jobs harder and harder to come by.But we Albertans have laughed off economic hardship.We have been immune to the world-wide economic misery of the past four years.Thanks to our beautiful, sticky, bullet-proof oil.Oil pouring out of the oilsands, oil miraculously flowing from once-dry oil wells thanks to new technology.While everything else seemed to fall in value these past few years, oil held up.Oil, refined into gasoline and diesel, remained the world's energy of choice for transportation.Oil has stayed on either side of $100 a barrel for several years now.Brace yourselves.The party, muted as it is, may soon be over.Oil has dropped recently from that $100 benchmark down to its latest price of $88, after falling under $80 at the end of June.Hundreds of e ... Read the rest of entry »

Taste of Edmonton near flawless: Weekly Dish column originally published in Edmonton Sun July 24, 2012

By Graham Hicks ,Edmonton SunFIRST POSTED: WEDNESDAY, JULY 25, 2012 12:00 AM MDT | UPDATED: TUESDAY, JULY 24, 2012 09:21 AM MDT It usually takes a while to get things perfect. But did you have to wait until the very end, Giuseppe Albi?Giuseppe is the long-time producer of A Taste of Edmonton. The event started under his watch as general manager of the not-for-profit Events Edmonton.After the 2012 Taste of Edmonton, Giuseppe is retiring. He'll focus on his other career, as a renowned abstract painter.This Taste of Edmonton is his best.Taste of Edmonton is the city's premier food fest. Forty-two restaurants booths line Churchill Square and are open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day until Saturday. Each sells two food items, usually at $4 to $5 each.Taste of Edmonton is now near-flawless. The food choices are outstanding, the balance between yummy grease-o-rama and healthier dishes has been found. There's also balance in the variety of restaurant booths. All tastes are fulfilled.The lay-out creates festivity. ... 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 »