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Hicks Weekly Dish: Revisiting some of Edmonton's classic restaurants BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 03, 2017

Isn’t it something when a restaurant remains competitive and vital after 30, 40 or more years of operation? At least 20 dining establishments in Greater Edmonton are 30 year or older and are still well-patronized. Months ago, the Weekly Dish reviewed a few classics – The Flamingo and Billy Budd’s among them. Suggestions then poured in from readers of other “classics” worthy of mention. At 75 years old, The Commodore (10712 Jasper Ave.) leads the longevity pack, although Teddy’s claims to be older. To walk in The Commodore is to step back in time, to plastic plants, brown vinyl counter stools and laminated tabletops. Third-generation owner David Gee describes it as a “proper greasy spoon.” No surprises in the Commodore’s $10.75 (cash only) eggs, sausage and endless-coffee breakfast. The fried potatoes were under-cooked. The coffee, while endless, was watery. Everything went well with ketchup. The High Level Diner (10912-88 Ave.), now 34 years old, ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Bottega 104 has about as much soul as Joey or Earl’s BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2017

Where’s the soul?   This is not to question the economics of the Crudo family’s latest hospitality venture, Bottega 104. The 60-seat restaurant on 104th Street is just a block south of Rogers Place. The new restaurant was jam-packed on Saturday evening before an Oilers pre-season game. The fancy cocktails, wine and beer were flowing. The pastas and pizzas streamed out from the busy kitchen. Ka-ching, ka-ching! You could hear the cash registers singing! But where was the soul? The two other major restaurants owned by Nick and Cristo Crudo and their dad Giuseppe, Café Amore and the Black Pearl Seafood, overflow with soul and old-world hospitality. Half the staff seem to be related, the smells, the conviviality, the big platters of fabulous fresh food, the checkered table cloths, the bantering, the fabulous soups .... When the Weekly Dish last reviewed Café Amore two years ago, it earned 4.5 of 5 Suns for food, 4 for ambience, 4.5 for service. The Black Pearl, rev ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Sorrentino's Mushroom Harvest Festival BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2017

Downtown – 10162-100 St. – 780 424 7500 South – 4208 Calgary Trail – 780 434 7607 West – 6867 170 St. – 780 444 0524 Little Italy – 10844 95 St. – 780 425 0960 Stony Plain – 108 Genesis Drive – 780-591-2121 Bistecca Italian Steakhouse – 2345 111 St. – 780 439 7335   Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambience: 4 of 5 stars Service: 3.5 of 5 stars   Festival dinner for two without tip or beverages, $60 basic, $90 loaded. September may mean back-to-school, frosty nights, shorter days and the (sigh) end of summer. But for so many Edmonton families, there’s still joy is Mudville thanks to the traditional, September-long Sorrentino’s Mushroom Harvest festival. A tradition? Of course! The special one-month-only mushroom menu at all six Sorrentino’s area restaurants plus Bistecca, has been around for 23 years. Many a dining group – be they relatives, friends or associates – never ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Patisseries just popping up BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 05, 2017

It’s a truly remarkable, and most welcome, phenomenon. In the past 18 months, at least 10 new patisseries have sprung up in the city. The French, who lead the world in creating these delightful baker’s confectionaries, have two different words for bake shops. A patisserie is about pastries and cakes. A boulangerie is about bread. Edmonton has always had independent bread-based bakeries – Italian, Handy, Popular, Bon Ton, Artistic, Boulangerie Bonjour, Italian Centre, Hazeldean, Portuguese Canadian, Cobs and more. But this patisserie thing — small boutique bakeries with sit-down tables, making hand-crafted and individually-sized pastries and cakes — is something new. What’s surprising is the overall quality. In my patisserie rounds, every single shop was impressive. Not one failed in freshness, quality, price or ambience. This is due to several possible reasons. The reigning queen of Edmonton’s patisseries has set high the bar: Duchess Bake Shop, o ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Northlands empire has fallen BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 01, 2017

It is the way of the world. Seasons come and seasons go. Empires rise and fall. Northlands had a good run — 138 years. But now its empire, sitting on city-owned land, has all blown up. The aging Coliseum sits empty other than the occasional C-circuit concert and the Canadian Finals Rodeo this fall and in 2018. Horse racing will be gone by this time next year. The Edmonton Expo Centre, a questionable expenditure 33 years ago, was originally financed with a $75 million city-guaranteed loan. Northlands still owes $47 million and is unable to pay the mortgage, so the Expo Centre is being taken over by the city. A visioning experiment caused much interest last year — but none of the alternative roles envisioned for Northlands has panned out, especially with tight government purse strings in this oil-depressed economy. Today, Northlands is de facto bankrupt. The city is turning the Expo Centre over to the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, which has long run the Shaw Conf ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: The Situation needs a service upgrade BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, AUGUST 29, 2017

Situation Brewing Co. 10308 81 Avenue situationbeer.com 780-705-1377 Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverage: basic, $30; loaded $60.   At what point does “not snobby” morph into sloppiness and indifference? At what point does a deliberately casual attitude – as befits Situation Brewing Company’s brew-pub location in the heart of the Old Strathcona – become too casual? I can’t say I was enamoured with the view of my server’s hairy armpits. He was wearing a tank-top, a backward ball-cap and shorts. Situation Brewing has been open for about a year. It was the first of the new generation of gastro-brew pubs to open in town. (Brewsters has long brewed good beers on site at its three Edmonton locations, but is roundly ignored by the trend-setters.)   Situation was followed by Biera restaurant, which opened last spring with on-site brewed Blind Enthusiasm beer. Biera was glowingly reviewed in this column last week. Polar Park Br ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Oil on decline but pot is hot BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, AUGUST 24, 2017 UPDATED: FRIDAY, AUGUST 25, 2017

An industry is being born around Edmonton that will, ever so slightly, offset the decline of Alberta’s oil, natural gas and coal sectors. Marijuana! The fast-approaching legalization of recreational pot, plus the now-legal production of medical marijuana, will create a Canada-wide industry every bit as big as booze is today. Greater Edmonton, thanks mostly to the Aurora Cannabis Company’s massive indoor marijuana farm being built out by the Edmonton International Airport, is about to become a major centre of the new, legal, Canadian cannabis industry. It’s not just about getting high. Medical marijuana has a big market, both domestic and international. Hemp – essentially marijuana without the buzz – is coming into its own with dozens of non-recreational uses. Edmonton has a thriving hemp industry. Here are some of the immediate economic benefits flowing into our city and region. Now publicly traded on the TSX, with shares collectively worth a billion bucks, A ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Biera, a most satisfying meal BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2017

Biera Ritchie Market, 9570-76 Ave. 587-525-8589 biera.ca Wednesday to Saturday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Sunday to Tuesday Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $40; loaded, $80 Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns    A pile of chefs talk the talk. Beer is as sophisticated as wine, they say. Beer can be as carefully paired with food as wine, they say. Beer this, beer that … Few, however, walk the walk. Very few chefs actually create foods that discernibly, in the mouth, are truly enhanced by the addition of beer and its bubbles. Even fewer chefs make dishes that go well with one style of beer, and not so well with another. In fact, I was convinced (other than a cold lager with a hot curry) that the whole fine beer/fine food thing was just another millennial trend, featuring nothing but fashionable pretense. Then I went to Biera – the recently-opened gastro-pub/bistro/neighbourhood eatery in the new ul ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Biera, a most satisfying meal BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2017

Biera Ritchie Market, 9570-76 Ave. 587-525-8589 biera.ca Wednesday to Saturday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Sunday to Tuesday Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $40; loaded, $80 Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns    A pile of chefs talk the talk. Beer is as sophisticated as wine, they say. Beer can be as carefully paired with food as wine, they say. Beer this, beer that … Few, however, walk the walk. Very few chefs actually create foods that discernibly, in the mouth, are truly enhanced by the addition of beer and its bubbles. Even fewer chefs make dishes that go well with one style of beer, and not so well with another. In fact, I was convinced (other than a cold lager with a hot curry) that the whole fine beer/fine food thing was just another millennial trend, featuring nothing but fashionable pretense. Then I went to Biera – the recently-opened gastro-pub/bistro/neighbourhood eatery in the new ul ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Canada’s tax system is needlessly complicated BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED Edmonton Sun: MONDAY, AUGUST 21, 2017

Will no one rid us of this crazy, illogical, overwhelmingly difficult Canadian tax system? Our income tax calculations have reached absurd levels of complexity. The cost of compliance – i.e. accountant fees – has become almost as big a burden on small business as taxes themselves. Canada’s Minister of Finance Bill Morneau is oblivious to the problem; Justin Trudeau’s government has shown no interest in reviewing, overhauling and simplifying Canadian taxation rules. The problem, at its heart, is quite simple: Band-Aid upon Band-Aid upon Band-Aid. There has been no major review and reform of the Canadian tax system since 1971. Successive governments have expanded, modified, and changed the rules of the game by adding amendments, more regulations, closing loopholes, adding incentives and so on. It’s mind-boggling, but can be succinctly illustrated. The original income tax legislation, the 1917 “Income War Tax Act” was 10 pages long. Today’s 2017 I ... Read the rest of entry »
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