HicksBiz Blog

Night of the Living Dead - Klondike Days returns to haunt Edmonton

July 30, 2012: So after a well-publicized vote on what to call Edmonton's annual summer fair - currently under the generic Capital EX- the producer of said event  Northlands has announced the winner. K-Days! K-Days was the abbreviation, the slang-term, for the fair's long-standing name of Klondike Days. The original idea for the Klondike Days theme stemmed was Edmonton's peripheral involvement in the Klondike Gold Rush, as a staging area for one of the toughest ways to get to the Klondike gold rush up north. It came complete with barbershop quartets, men dressed in turn-of-the-century stifling hot vests and suits, ladies in the full Victorian style regalia of dresses. All of which the city was completely bored with by the mid-80s, especially when we really didn't have much historical claim to calling ourselves a Klondike gold rush town. So here's the can of worms that'll be opened with the decision to call Capital EX K-Days. What does K-Days stand for, the visitor will ask. Wel ... Read the rest of entry »

Power struggle - why the black-outs: Hicks on Biz in the Edmonton Sun, July 14, 2012

Blame it on the lack of wind, or blame it on the inherent weakness of Alberta’s deregulated power system.Blaming Monday’s rolling power black-outs, on the hottest day of the year, on the lack of wind is a bit of fun.But the deeper reality is the black-outs are the result of an entire electrical system that needs fixing.The wind argument first.If Alberta’s electricity producers were not so dependent on wind power, there’d have been no need for the rolling blackouts.Seven per cent of Alberta’s power-producing capacity comes from wind-powered turbines. We’re a “leader” in wind power, primarily because of the wind corridors of Southern Alberta. Lethbridge isn’t called the Windy City for nothing.But on Monday, the great weakness of wind power was exposed.No wind.The Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO), the folks who are supposed to ensure electricity is flowing nice and evenly all over the province, want to have 7% more power available than is being consumed, especially during peak periods.With no wind, most ... 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 »

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 »

Tech industry third most valuable in Alberta: Hicks on Biz column in Edmonton Sun June 9, 2012

It’s the giant nobody knows about.The gorilla in Edmonton’s garage, our invisible backbone.ICT – standing for “Information Computing Technology” has now, its advocates suggest, passed forestry as the third largest industry (by sales) in Alberta, after energy and agriculture.According to the industry association, 5,500 ICT companies in Alberta in 2010 produced $10 billion in revenues.Of those 5,500, the Alberta ICT Industry Association outgoing chair Tom Ogaranko suggests 33% to 40% are in Edmonton and region.Information – solid, reliable data, mountains of it, with the computing tools to properly analyse it – is the competitive edge of the 21st century business world. He who has the most computing power and the best analytics wins.Yet this industry is hard to find. There’s no ICT Tower, no ICT industrial zone.Geeks in front of computers are everywhere, but nowhere.Some of the biggest companies have the tiniest south side offices. Their people work as contracted “systems integrators” alongside provincial gover ... 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 »

City's solar-power subsidy suggestions are absurd: Hicks on Biz column in the Edmonton Sun June 1, 2012

My eyes nearly popped out of my head. I could not believe what I was reading. The city-appointed Renewable Energy Task Force, in its preliminary report to Edmonton City Council’s Executive Committee, is suggesting the city subsidize alternative energy sources – mainly residential photovoltaic (solar) panels – to the tune of $83 million over five years! The task force chairman’s reported rationalization, that conventional energy (oil, coal, natural gas) had been using the environment as a “free sewer” all these years, and “they don’t pay for that.” If you couldn’t figure out the bias of the members of this task force beforehand, you sure can now. Big Oil and Big Energy is bad, bad, bad. Wind power and solar energy is good, good, good. I have a great idea as to how the city can save $83 million over the next five years. Ignore the rubbish in this report! Don’t get me wrong. The entire world wants to be as green as green ca ... 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 »

Quesnell construction quagmire: Hicks on Biz column, originally in Edmonton Sun May 25, 2012

It wasn’t quite a “I told you so” when Quesnell Bridge contractor ConCreate went bankrupt some weeks ago. But the folks at another major construction firm had an office pool going, taking bets on how far behind schedule the rehabilitation and widening of the massive Whitemud Drive bridge across the North Saskatchewan River would be. The worst-case bettors won. After massive pressure from the city, ConCreate finished the bridgework in November 2011, a year behind schedule. Four months later, the company went bankrupt. “A year behind schedule!” exclaims another bridge expert, whose company also lost the Quesnell contract to ConCreate. “Just imagine the value of drivers’ time, waiting to cross the bridge. Even at a loss of a minute a day, over 365 days, times 145,000 drivers, earning an average $20 an hour each.” Which is about $18 million. The $64,000 question — actually $10 million in contested costs with the now-bankrupt company’s b ... 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 »