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Category: Weekly Dish columns from The Edmonton Sun

Weekly Dish columns from The Edmonton Sun

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 »

A downtown Remedy: Weekly Dish review of Remedy Cafe, Edmonton Sun June 11, 2012

Remedy Café licensed chai bar 10279 Jasper Avenue ( 780 757 7720 )8631 109 Street ( 780 433 3096 )Remedycafe.caMorning to midnight, seven days a week Food: 3.5 of 5 starsAmbience: 4.5 of 5 starsService: 4.5 of 5 starsDinner for two: $30 with plenty to take home In a unique eatery, it’s the personality who shapes the restaurant, rarely the other way around.An upbeat, gracious owner will be reflected in the serving staff, in the décor, in the ease with which hospitality is extended without thought of immediate return.The Remedy Café, at Jasper and 103 Street, is all about owner Sohail “Zee” Zaidi’s sense of community.And that is why Remedy, in just four months, has become a cornerstone of the downtown renaissance.It’s a meeting spot, a hangout, a place of harmony.And it’s extraordinarily different. I haven’t seen anything quite like Remedy as a combination chai (South Asian tea) shop, a simple Canadian-South Asian fusion restaurant, and a morning to midnight café with a full range of beers, wines, etc. for the ... Read the rest of entry »

Lazia is affordable quality: Weekly Dish column published in Edmonton Sun June 6, 2012

Lazia10200 102 Ave. (Edmonton City Centre West) 780 990 0188 Lazia.caLunch and dinner, 7 days a week Food: 3.75 of 5 starsAmbience: 3 of 5 starsService: 3.5 of 5 stars Dinner for two: Basic, $30; loaded, $50 It’s no wonder that Lazia – in the downtown Edmonton City Centre Mall, across from the YMCA – is a busy place.It’s clean, it’s attractive, it’s fast if time is of the essence.And for the food quality and attention to detail, Lazia is remarkably inexpensive.If something on the 60-item menu (excluding desserts) does not call out to you, then you must be the pickiest eater alive.Lazia’s menu has a split personality. One face is Canadian cuisine, the other Canadianized Asian.The “small plates” are primarily Asian and quite delicious. But unlike most Vietnamese or Thai restaurants, presentation is a priority. The five fat gyoza (Japanese dumplings), for instance, are presented on pressed seaweed for visual effect with a line of sweet chili for decoration and taste, and a light soy dipping sauce.On the Lazia me ... Read the rest of entry »

Worth the gamble: Weekly Dish review of Sage Restaurant, published in Edmonton Sun May 29, 2012

Sage at the River Cree Resort & Casino 300 East Lapotac Blvd. (Whitemud Drive and Winterburn Road) Enoch, AB. 780 484 2121 www.rivercreeresort.com/dining evenings only, closed on Monday Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambience: 3.5 of 5 stars Service: 4 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $85; fully loaded, $140 Reassurement can be a wonderful thing. It's reassuring to report, despite reports of financial turmoil, that life goes on at the Enoch Cree First Nation's River Cree Resort & Casino just outside the city. It's more reassuring, from a fine-dining point of view, to tell you the casino's high-end Sage Restaurant remains one of Edmonton's top restaurants. You enter Sage from inside the casino. For the non-gambler, the approach around the perimeter of the casino's VLT zone is daunting. All that ambient noise and non-stop electronic bell ringing is like West Edmonton Mall on steroids. But as you cross the glass-floored entrance into Sage, all is ... Read the rest of entry »

Nefeli's is classic Italian: Weekly Dish column Edmonton Sun May 22, 2012

In praise of classicism. Nefeli’s – way up in the northeast, in a new strip mall bordering the storm-lake communities north of 153rd Avenue – is all about old-fashioned, classic, Italian food. As it should be. Operating partner Joe Jamal Eddine is happily old-school, a career maître d' who understands customer retention is as much about hospitality as it’s about good food. Joe’s curriculum vitae goes back 25 years in Edmonton. He was maître d’ at the downtown Pazzo Pazzo for many years before striking out to do his own entrepreneurial thing at Nefeli’s with partner Chad Protasiewich. It’s only natural he has stayed with that which brought him to the dance, being traditional, delicious, plated Italian cuisine. You won’t find trendy at Nefeli’s (which means goddess of the clouds in Greek mythology).No wild pairings, no presentation of the month. Just fresh, creamy, bursting with flavour, traditional and formal Italian dishes. ... Read the rest of entry »

Wildflower Grill in full bloom: Weekly Dish review originally published in Edmonton Sun May 15, 2012

Here’s the kicker. Not only is the Wildflower Grill a contender as the top restaurant in town. Not only is the Wildflower Grill, south of Jasper on 107 Street, a pleasure to dine in. Not only does executive chef Nathan Bye insist on nothing but the best leaving his kitchen. It doesn’t have to be expensive! There’s a huge surprise on the Wildflower Grill’s menu. It’s called “lighter fare” in between the “small bites” and the “mains.” Lighter Fare offers 12 delicious, succulent, beautifully cooked dishes ranging in price from $12 to $18. They are perfect for lighter appetites — i.e. what we should all eat if we stayed within a daily calorie intake that doesn’t encourage the gaining of a pound a month. OK, as a reviewer, I had to try a “main” — the mesquite grilled salmon medallions at $36 to follow my beef carpaccio appetizer. The ladies opted for the lighter fare — a Canadian West ... Read the rest of entry »

Manor Bistro is as good as ever: Graham Hicks Weekly Dish review, originally published Edmonton Sun, Wed. May 9, 2012

It’s an unjust world. Big box restaurants have massive marketing budgets for bland, warmed-up frozen food. The best restaurants in Edmonton — small and intimate, with superb chefs using local suppliers — can’t compete marketing-wise. Once past the trendy new restaurant stage, they can’t afford the advertising to stay top-of-mind. Pity. It’s the independents who deliver the very best dining that Edmonton has to offer. The Manor Bistro (originally the Manor Café) is almost 20 years old. The food, the ambience, the entire dining experience is as good, if not better, than ever. You cannot beat The Manor for location. In a former stately old home where 125 Street turns into an elm-lined lane south of Stony Plain Road, the main floor has been opened up to accommodate about 10 dining tables, the upstairs rooms converted into three popular group dining areas. The patio is drenched in dappled sunlight. The Manor has such longevity that chef/owner Cyrilles Koppert is ... Read the rest of entry »

Thumbs up for Suede Lounge: Weekly Dish review originally published in the Edmonton Sun, Wed. May 2, 2012

It's a pleasure to find a gentle, unpretentious, consistent place to eat.It's even more unusual when the establishment is actually a chameleon, a gastro-pub/lounge in the early evening, morphing into a nightclub as time goes by.Suede Lounge has managed to own this turf on the west end of Jasper Avenue (across the parking lot from Earl's Tin Palace) since Jeff Koltec opened the restaurant/lounge in 2004. He sold it last fall.The new owners, thank goodness, see no need for drastic change and have in fact brought in Chef Andrew Seguin from Calgary to maintain Suede's calling card of good, original food.The room is truly versatile. Modern without going overboard on trendiness, it's 60 seats or so, with a stand-up and mingle area, separated by a few stairs from the dining space.We dined at Suede Lounge as a most successful Art of Conversation LXVIII wound down in the stand-up area. While the crowd continued to socialize, the dining area didn't feel crowded or overwhelmed.Suede is known as a wine bar, but its menu ... Read the rest of entry »

Potpurri of fun: The Hot Chefs Cool bEATS food festival at the Shaw Conference Centre: Weekly Dish column originally published in the Edmonton Sun April 25, 2012

Hot Chefs Cool bEATS food festival, Shaw Conference Centre, April 21, 2012Food: 4 of 5Ambience: 4 of 5Service: 4 of 5Much like that re-invented Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, our culinary world evolves.Previous fundraisers for Culinary Team Canada — an Edmonton tradition thanks to long-time organizers Shaw Conference Centre Executive Chef Simon Smotkowicz and NAIT’s Vinod Varshney — were swish, gala events with fancy dresses, business attire and starched linen.Suddenly, it’s not about old-school elegance any longer.It’s about having fun, bringing out the kid in us.It’s about dropping the price tag, as fewer and fewer companies and individuals are willing to shell out for those $300-plus charity event tickets.Hats off to Hot Chefs Cool bEATS co-chairs Simon and Vinomania’s Gurvinder Bhatia.Like Premier Alison Redford’s campaign managers, they figured out where trends are going, and got there first.On Saturday evening, Hot Chefs Cool bEATS was one big, informal, fun street party — and all the better fo ... Read the rest of entry »

Best bread, best French onion soup at The Dauphine Bakery + Bistro: Originally published in the Edmonton Sun, Wed. April 11, 2012

The Dauphine Bakery and Bistro(780) 421-4410 10129 104 st Edmonton, AB T5J0Z9 Mon to Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday open until 7 p.m.   As the Queen of Tarts of the 104 Street Downtown Farmers’ Market, Linda Kearney’s lemon tart pies were usually sold out before noon.  Fortunately, Kearney had the energy to expand into a permanent bakery and bistro, which sadly, for copyright reasons, cannot use the “Queen of Tarts” moniker. The Dauphine is just steps away from her summer market booth, and what a fine addition to the year-round dining scene it is. The ambience is surprising and delightful. The street-front doors of the old building on 104 Street open onto a wide set of cathedral stairs, leading into an airy loft basement that is anything but — huge ceilings and natural light from the storefront windows create an inviting bakery with the floor space of a warehouse. The main dining space is a niche alongside the great staircase, just seven or eight tables, pl ... Read the rest of entry »