HicksBiz Blog

Where's the beef? Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, Oct. 13, 2012

This column began with the thought of reporting on how the closure of the XL Foods meat-packing plant would be whacking northern Alberta’s rural economy. The plant has partially re-opened, but as of Friday was still not allowed to accept live cattle. Our cattlemen, I figured, had to be reeling.Meat-packing is a nice term for slaughter-houses. That industry has become so concentrated that two plants in southern Alberta, XL in Brooks and Cargill in High River, each normally slaughter 3,500 to 4,000 cattle a day.If Alberta’s slaughter capacity is halved (XL processes a third of all Canadian beef) you can’t get most of your cattle to market.The bottleneck should bump its way up the system. The feedlots fattening young cattle can’t ship to the packing plant. Ranchers can’t sell their calves to the feedlots because the feedlots are full. Prices for feedlot-ready young cattle had dropped by 10% in the past two weeks.There had to be pain and suffering happening in the countryside.With apologies to a handful of big-ti ... Read the rest of entry »

Parkallen Restaurant a Lebanese delight: Weekly Dish, Edmonton Sun, Oct. 3, 2012

Parkallen Restaurant 7018 109 St. 780-436-8080 www.parkallen.comFood: 4 of 5 starsAmbience: 4 of 5 starsService: 4.5 of 5 starsDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $25; fully loaded, $100If you have a favourite restaurant, dollars to doughnuts you have dishes you return to, time after time.You may not be sure why, but there's just something about how that particular chef prepares that particular dish. It keeps calling your name.I have a problem with the Parkallen Restaurant. It's not just one or two dishes. It's five, six, seven ...It's the quality of the kitchen, for 28 years presided over by Habib and Nahia Rustom, and now their son Joseph Rustom.There are no shortcuts. Everything is from scratch, or custom-made locally to Rustom specifications.To try their "mezza" combinations (a tapas-style collection of up to 12 mini-entrees) is to feast your way through Lebanese cuisine, to be taking mental notes on which dish you will order as a full entr e the next time around.Why do I love thee, ... Read the rest of entry »

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 »

Future bright for natural gas: Hicks Biz in the Edmonton Sun, Sept. 22, 2012

Don’t crack the champagne yet. But if the South African energy giant Sasol goes ahead with its unique GTL (Gas to Liquids) refinery close to Fort Saskatchewan, it’ll be one giant boost to the region. Sasol’s patented technology converts natural gas into diesel fuel. How about $8 billion spent mostly around Edmonton, to get it built? To put that figure in perspective, it’s as much as the entire provincial education budget. How about 5,000 skilled trades workers employed over a three-year build? How about, once operational, 500 permanent skilled jobs? We haven’t seen the possibility of such eye-popping numbers, this close to Edmonton, since the Petro-Can refinery expansion and the final phases of Shell’s Scotford refinery/upgrader. All about the price of gas The caution comes because nothing is a done deal. Sasol’s unique technology depends on the price of natural gas (hereto referred to simply as “gas”) staying down, and the price of oil/diesel sta ... Read the rest of entry »

Let's get the arena deal done: Hicks on Biz, Edmonton Sun, Oct. 6, 2012

So the Katz Group — owner of the Edmonton Oilers NHL hockey team, and operator of the proposed new downtown arena — is back for more. The story, huge headlines three weeks ago, is that our municipally elected councillors were "blindsided" when presented behind closed doors with new, unexpected financial demands from the Katz Group as part of the new arena deal. Daryl Katz last weekend issued a statement in a full-page ad, apologizing for his bull-headedness. Certainly that statement softened down the antagonism. Nobody outside the Katz Group has access to the team's audited financial statements. The club, like all NHL teams, is privately held. Nobody besides Revenue Canada knows how much it does or doesn't make. Daryl Katz will not open his books, even behind closed doors, to city council or its representatives. We are forced to accept, on faith, that the Oilers are a break-even proposition at best. The Forbes business magazine article pegging Oilers profits at $7 million in 2010/11 was nothin ... Read the rest of entry »

Cultural clashes: A review of A Few Good Men, at the Citadel Theatre until Oct. 7, 2012

Review of A Few Good Men Citadel Theatre, Shoctor Stage, Until Oct. 7, 2012 Tickets at www.citadeltheatre.com By Graham Hicks You won’t find a more satisfying evening of theatre than the Citadel’s A Few Good Men. Don’t let the fact it was made into a Hollywood blockbuster film with a troika of stars  (Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore) put you off. The film was based on a most complete theatre script, a classic American courtroom drama. That script has been explored and exploited to its fullest by Citadel director and Artistic Associate James MacDonald, who has his large cast firing on all cylinders. They manoeuver through the technical intricacies of set changes built into the show as effortlessly as fish moving through water. A Few Good Men is loosely based on a real-life story of Marines at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba (pre-Iraq) taking justice into their own hands to discipline a less-than-committed Marine in their midst.  “Hazing” is one o ... Read the rest of entry »

Edmonton's bus service, the good, the great, and the just plain ugly ... with a focus on the airport bus

Don't get me wrong, I am quite pleased, overall, with Edmonton Transit.Service is pretty good on most routes, drivers are for the most part pleasant, patient, friendly and good drivers.The LRT is very efficient. During rush hours, they come every five to six minutes. I can get from my home near the University's South Campus to downtown (one bus) in 25 min. to 30 min. during rush hour, and, best of all, I don't have to battle traffic heading home.But, we have a ways to go.Last weekend, I took the ETS route 747 (cute) bus from the Century Park LRT terminal to the International Airport. This is a great service for any traveller with a minimum of luggage and easy access to the LRT ... way cheaper than parking at or near the airport for a number of days.But ... 1. The actual bus stop at Century Park is impossible to find the first time you use it. It's on 111 Street, not in the main bus station. 2. It costs $5, but the driver doesn't give change!!! Would it be that difficult for the Route 747 driver to carry a few ... Read the rest of entry »

Alberta's economy IS diversifying: Hicks on Biz column originally published in the Edmonton Sun, Sept. 15, 2012

The mantra is repeated every day, everywhere.Alberta must cease being a one-trick pony dependent on the oil and gas industry, government mandarins murmur.Diversify, diversify, successive political party leaders shout out to their constituents.A funny thing has happened on the way to the Coliseum.Led by market forces, out-of-the-box thinking and judicious quasi-government priming, hundreds of new businesses are creating new wealth that will pay the taxes that will one day get our new arena/concert hall built.Here are four northern Alberta companies I have come across, outside the oil patch so creative, so promising, they do nothing but bode well for the future, for your kids' future careers.CLYW (formerly Caribou Lodge Yo Yo Works) (www.cariboublog.com)Edmonton is home to one of the world's top "return top" manufacturers. (The word "yo yo" is trademarked in Canada. "Yo-yoer" or "yo-yoing" is not.)Chris Mikulin's return tops are considered the Ferraris or Lamborghinis of the international yo-yoing world. They s ... Read the rest of entry »

Meals are Naanolicious: Weekly Dish column originally published in Edmonton Sun, Sept. 12, 2012

Why didn't anybody think of this before?East Indian (South Asian) cooking is as deeply engrained into Canadian food habits as Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai, arguably more so if you look at the actual number of Indian restaurants in Edmonton — 59 by the Urbanspoon's website count.So why not create a new Canadian street food, combining the popular tastes of India with the style and price of pizza and fries?Which is precisely what Monica Kapur of the New Asian Village restaurant dynasty has done.Naanolicious, in the heart of Old Strathcona close by the Princess Theatre on Whyte Avenue, has great fun tossing together classic Western and South Asian staples.Naan is the delicious, light, slightly leavened Indian flatbread that one finds more and more outside the traditional East Indian setting.In Naanolicious's case, naan serves as a replacement for traditional pizza crust. You want fusion — try the Hawaiian (pineapple and ham), the pepperoni and mushrooms, or the meat lovers naan. You want traditional — Monica has ... Read the rest of entry »