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Category: Weekly Dish columns from The Edmonton Sun

Weekly Dish columns from The Edmonton Sun

Langano Skies is an Ethiopian surprise - Weekly Dish, Edmonton Sun, Sept. 26, 2012

Langano Skies Ethiopian Restaurant 9920 82 Ave. 780-432-3334 www.langanoskies.comDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $25; fully loaded, $40Ethiopians are comparative newcomers to the city's culinary scene. But in a long-standing tradition of recent ethnic arrivals, Ethiopian entrepreneurs have taken over inexpensive restaurants in the 118 Avenue and 97 Street area to introduce the country's unique foods to the rest of us.The Sumamo family realized Old Strathcona would also be an neighbourhood where ethnic variations are sought after.Their dining room on 82 Avenue near 99 Street is now one of the more established Ethiopian restaurants in town.Ethiopian — think spicy, meaty "wots" or stews, legumes, and, most of all, injera, a honeycombed easily-rolled crepe with a unique sourdough taste.Think of similarities to South Asian (samosas, spice) or Middle Eastern (the mashed fava bean, tomato and feta cheese mix known as foul).Langano Skies — the reference is to Lake Langano in Ethiopia's Grea ... Read the rest of entry »

Wild Game a specialty at Normand's - Weekly Dish, Edmonton Sun, Sept. 19, 2012

Normand's Fine Regional Cuisine 11639A Jasper Ave. 780-482-2600 www.normands.comIt's mainly because of the meat.Normand's Fine Regional Cuisine has become an Edmonton institution — in the same tucked-away, Oliver end of Jasper Avenue location, with the same hands-on owner Normand Campbell, for 23 years. Chef Cui Kouch rivals Normand for longevity.Just about everybody at Normand's is a repeat customer. Restaurants don't flourish for 23 years without being on a plethora of favourite restaurant lists.And they go for the meat. As the late, great judge Ed Wachowich used to say, "I love animals — right beside the mashed potatoes."Other restaurants have dabbled in wild, exotic and unusual meats — bison, venison, elk, duck, pheasant, wild boar, ostrich, kangaroo.Normand's has made such meats an enduring speciality. Campbell knows what to look for in his purchasing, Cui has decades of experience in optimal preparation. Every entree on the wild game side of the menu is a good bet.In most restaurants, bi ... Read the rest of entry »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

At Piccolino's, every customer is a friend: Weekly Dish column originally published in Edmonton Sun, July 18, 2012

Piccolino Bistro9112 142 St. 780 443 2110 Food: 4 of 5 starsAmbience: 4 of 5 starsService: 4 of 5 starsDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $40; fully loaded, $60 Why Italians are so much better at this than anybody else, I do not know.But it's the Italians in this town — Canadians of Italian heritage 1/3 who understand the art of hospitality.After a fine, tummy-filling dinner at Piccolino, owner (with his dad Joe) Lino Rago sits down to catch up on the last few years.He's not really sitting down, he's like a Jack-In-The-Box.Every few minutes, Lino jumps up to greet every customer coming through the door like a long-lost cousin, to give an "arrivederci" or "ciao" and a hug to departing favourite customers. Everybody is a favourite.Piccolino is an immensely popular, small (80 seats) Italian restaurant in the inner west end.There's nothing in its appearance to suggest something special. It looks like your basic eatery in a tree-lined, upper-scale neighbourhood's strip mall, south of Stony ... Read the rest of entry »

A food lesson from Spain: Weekly Dish column in Edmonton Sun, July 10, 2012

Since early June, Maria and I have been on a steady diet of fresh seafood, fresh bread and Spanish omelettes known as tortillas. Not just fresh, but fresh, fresh. Food cooked in dozens of small bar-café kitchens across northern Spain, almost always by theA proprietor. No Starbucks, no Timmy’s, no McDonald’s.For our 25th wedding anniversary project, we walked the “Camino de Santiago” or “Way of St. James,” an 800-kilometre trail starting on the French side of the Pyrenees Mountains separating France from Spain.You just keep walking westward, across mountains, hills, plains as flat as Saskatchewan, vineyards, pastures, chestnut groves. Keep walking, keep walking, and one day (five weeks if you do the whole thing – we did about half ) you end up at Compostela de Santiago in the far north-west corner of Spain.Walking the Camino de Santiago is a story unto itself ‑ the hostels, the friendships, the spirit and, on a practical level, feet management. But this is a story about re-discovering the lost art of fresh foo ... Read the rest of entry »