HicksBiz Blog

Learning to love Alberta's pipelines: Hicks on Biz originally published in Edmonton Sun, Dec. 1, 2012

Former premier Ed Stelmach used to call it 'the invisible industry." Even excluding urban water/sewer lines and residential gas lines, we have more pipelines running through the extended Greater Edmonton neighbourhood than just about anywhere else in the world. Maps attempting to illustrate all of central and northern Alberta energy pipelines are just about useless. If the colour blue is used to show all the pipelines, that map would be near solid blue from Red Deer to Fort McMurray. All of Alberta – excluding urban services – has about 400,000 kilometres worth of pipeline. Collector lines are everywhere in conventional oil/gas producing areas; from wells to mini-hubs, mini-hubs to bigger hubs, to major pipes heading to rural primary processing plants, to even bigger pipes transporting crude oil or natural gas into local refineries, or to the super-highway pipelines that send raw or processed hydrocarbons out of province. Thanks to the oilsands northeast of Edmonton, and oil an ... Read the rest of entry »

Vicky's Bistro | Wine Bar better than ever: Weekly Dish review originally published in Edmonton Sun, Nov. 28, 2012

Vicky’s Bistro | Wine Bar  Strathcona County Hall 100, 501 Festival Avenue Sherwood Park             780 417 1750       Vickys.ca Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambience: 3.5 of 5 stars Service: 2.5 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $50; fully loaded, $100 The Weekly Dish has witnessed the fading of too many restaurants due to complacency. A restaurateur works his or her proverbial buns off for 10 years to build a good reputation. Then he or she decides the establishment can run itself, and starts spending more time on the golf course than in the dining room. In no time at all, quality slips, the reputation takes a hit and the eatery is a has-been. So three cheers for Vicky’s. After some 30 years it has gone the opposite way. Vicky’s changed location in Sherwood Park, and in the process has been invigorated and re-invented. The “old” Vicky’s w ... Read the rest of entry »

AIMCo: A fabulous Edmonton Success Story: HIcks on Biz, originally published in Edmonton Sun, Nov. 24, 2012

AIMCo is a fabulous Edmonton business success story. We’re not talking about its rate of return on $70 billion worth of assets - a healthy 7.9% return that assures provincial and municipal employees their pensions are secure. We’re talking about what AIMCo has done, in four short years, to create new wealth in Edmonton. Rewind to 2008, when the Ralph Klein government, spurred by indomitable cabinet minister Shirley McClellan, gathered up its piggy-banks – its pension funds, the Alberta Sustainability Fund, the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund and others – to create one arm’s length investment management firm. AIMCo, the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, is a crown corporation with its own board of governors and only one mandate: That it make money. There is no directive that AIMCo must invest (or not invest) in Alberta. In fact when AIMCo did make a multi-million dollar investment in Calgary-based Precision Drilling, there was momentary uproar ... until ... Read the rest of entry »

Mikado no longer tops in Edmonton Japanese cuisine: Weekly Dish Column, Edmonton Sun, Wed. Nov. 21, 2012

Mikado Downtown 10350 – 109 St.             780-425-8096       Mikadorestaurant.com Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $25; fully loaded, $50 I fear the Mikado Japanese Restaurant has gone corporate on us. It was one of Edmonton’s first ethnic restaurants, opening in 1972 on 116 Street in what’s now a tattoo parlour, moving to fancy new digs at 109th Street and 104th Avenue when Railtown signalled the start of the downtown renaissance. The Mikado has since grown, and now encompasses the Mikado Downtown, Mikado South and Mikado West End. No one family or particular personality has been associated with the Mikado. No Quons (Lingnan), Kapurs (New Asian Village) or Nobres (Spago) greet you at the door. It has been without a defining personality from the start. But always the Mikado has been dependable — for its tasty sushi and sashimi, rice rolls, tempura and bento boxes. Nothing’s ... Read the rest of entry »

The Oil Sands are Fine: Hicks on Biz, originally published in the Edmonton Sun Nov. 17, 2012

Doom! Suncor is hauling on the reins, slowing oilsands expansion plans to a walk, if not a crawl. Gloom! With no Keystone XL pipeline to the south and no Northern Gateway pipeline to the west, our bitumen and synthetic crude oil is stranded in Fort McMurray. Toil! North America is awash in oil. There’s more of the stuff thanks to new discoveries and new recovery technology in the USA. Consumption is dropping as the American economy remains stagnant and vehicles use less fuel. The price is dropping. Gasoline is below a buck a litre at the pumps. Great for Martha and Henry's day-to-day budget. Not so great if Henry loses his oil-services job. Trouble! The new, improved Environment Canada watch on Fort McMurray is reporting oilsand residue contamination in lakes 100 kilometres from oilsands activity. Double trouble! The Chinese have conquered us with their money. The Communists are taking over the oilsands. If you were determined to paint a grim picture of ... Read the rest of entry »

Pampa introduces Brazilian wine to Edmonton

Why, one asks after yet another fine bottle of Brazilian red has been sampled at a media gathering in the Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse, has there been so little Brazilian wine available in Canada before? After all, it wasn't that difficult, after Pampa proprietor Oscar Lopez and his wine guy Nelson Gomes of FineVine Imports decided to focus on Brazilian wines in a restaurant specializing in Brazilian-style spit-cooked meat shop, to get the stuff.   They made a trip or two to Brazil's wine country to its south, met the growers and vintners, and simply fired up a not-too-difficult process of importing wine by the case from vintner to restaurant ... with a few bottles left over for FineVine to distribute through its retail network. It appears that Brazil has not gone after the export market for its wines, which, in price and quality, can easily compete with the much better known Chilean and Argentinian brands from South America. So the perceptive Mr. Lopez not only has a unique style of cooking and presen ... Read the rest of entry »

Hole in one: XIX fine addition to upscale-casual dining scene: Weekly Dish originally published in Edmonton Sun, Wed. Nov. 14, 2012

XIX (Nineteen) 5940 Mullen Way (Rabbit Hill Road, north of Henday Drive) 780-395-1119       Dinenineteen.com Food: 4.5 of 5 stars Ambiance: 3.5 of 5 stars Service: 3.5 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $60; fully loaded, $100 —— It’s an inside joke, folks, and a bit of clever marketing. What kind of restaurant calls itself XIX, or, in the vernacular, Nineteen? Lucky 19? Oriental numerology? A winning blackjack hand? Is there a casino in the ‘hood? The 19th hole. Of course! It’s a casual golf reference to the gathering of friends for food and beverage after 18 holes of golf. XIX is inextricably linked to the Blackhawk Golf Course. Chef Andrew Fung ran Blackhawk’s dining room since it opened. His partner in XIX, Al Prokop, built Blackhawk, and remains majority owner of the members-only course located between Devon and the city’s southwest boundary. Some se ... Read the rest of entry »

Advice on a frugal lifestyle: Hicks on Biz originally published in Edmonton Sun, Sat. Nov. 10, 2012

Welcome to the Hicks on Biz Guide to Living Frugally. Canadians are now carrying record levels of household debt, owing $1.64 for every $1 in income. I’m sure Edmontonians are more sensible than most of our fellow citizens. But if you can’t even pay a fifth of your credit card debt this month (at 20% annual interest in the unpaid balance), get your act together, impose a little financial discipline and STOP SPENDING! You may have champagne tastes. But, buddy, you only have a beer budget. Apart from moving into cheaper apartment, turning in the BMW for a used Cavalier and cancelling that Club Med holiday, here are a few small cutback tips that add up to thousands of dollars not spent annually. Coffee: Drip versus cartridge versus Starbucks These new coffee cartridge machines are all the rage. Excuse me. Coffee cartridges cost 50 cents each. Home-drip coffee, even premium brands, rings in at under two cents a cup. A 737 gram tin of Safeway Edwards coffee (darned ... Read the rest of entry »

Sweet, but too Sweet! Viphalay Thai Restaurant, Weekly Dish originally published in Edmonton Sun, Wed. Nov. 7, 2012

Viphalay Laos and Thai Restaurant 10523-99 Ave. 780-756-8188       www.viphalay.com Food: 3 of 5 stars Ambience: 3.5 of 5 stars Service: 3 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $30; fully loaded, $50 —— Sweet. Everything about Viphalay Laos and Thai Restaurant was sweet. The Tom Yum soup – the classic Thai spicy sweet ‘n’ sour soup – was not particularly sour, but very sweet and ultra-spicy. The Laph diced chicken salad was defined by its chopped sweet onion. The “Puht Kieh Mow MaMa,” or drunken noodles, was too darned sweet. The “Chu Chi Bah”- red seafood curry, far and away the best dish of the evening – still, was very sweet. Sweet, here and there, is just fine. But in every dish as the dominating taste? It’s just too much, and severely detracted from the other attributes of Viphalay’s cuisine. It’s tough to e ... Read the rest of entry »

Talking about Edmonton Trash: Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, Nov. 2, 2012

It’s one of the most intriguing, and unusual, business propositions ever to come out of this city.  Waste RE-Solutions Edmonton, a new city-owned business, has the same challenges and doubts as surround any other brand-new company … except for the six extra zeros in its start-up costs. Over the last 25 years, as much by circumstance as by design, Edmonton has emerged with one of the most advanced and sophisticated waste management systems in the world. At the Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC), everything possible is recycled or composted in multiple public and private partnerships. We recycle everything in our blue bags, deconstruct ancient TVs and computers, have the world’s biggest composter, recycle construction and demolition waste, and, in 2013, will open the world’s first industrial scale municipal-waste-to-biofuel project. The $80 million Enerkem plant will somehow convert garbage that can’t be composted or recycled into methanol fuel. Soon to come at the E ... Read the rest of entry »