Redesign Coming Soon!

You may have noticed there hasn’t been a lot of action on baconhound.com for a while now, so I thought I would update you all on what’s going on.

The site is being redesigned to add a whole bunch more organization, and much needed functionality. I’ve been holding off on posting until it’s done, but I can’t wait for everyone to see the new site!

The changes, and a step by step guide to blogging and WordPress, are being done by 2 Edmonton blogging pro’s Karlyn and Mike Johnston at their new website “Two Pros and Their Blogs”. You can check out their page here, and follow along with the progress.

When the new site is up and running, there will more content, plus a more regular schedule for posts, a recipe index, restaurant review index, and more. Stay tuned!

Phil

My Ultimate Holiday Side Dish- Roasted Carrot Souffle

Looking for something a little more interesting than plain old boiled carrots to round out your holiday dinner table? I’ve got just the think for you.

Roasted Carrot Souffle.

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I’m always looking to create a new, delicious spin on vegetable sides, and this one was perfect next to our Thanksgiving ham and mashed potatoes. The beauty of this recipe is in it’s infinite variations. You’re only limited by your own creativity and of course the possible mockery from your friends and family. Give it a go with my recipe first, then next time you can tweak and twist it into your own creation, earning you the respect and admiration of culinary icons worldwide.

Or it’ll just be so good you’ll eat a whole batch in front of the tv while drinking wine straight from the bottle. (more likely)

Roasted Carrot Souffle

1 lb carrots, peeled and diced

1/8 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tbsp butter

1 3″ sprig fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp honey

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 tbsp flour

2 tsp baking soda

pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and melt 1 tbsp butter in oven safe sautee pan. Add carrots and sautee until slightly browned. (2-3 minutes)

Put pan in the oven and roast the carrots until soft. Approximately 45 minutes.

Remove carrots from the oven and add brown sugar and the remaining tbsp of butter. Turn down oven to 375 degrees. Either mash or whip with handheld mixer. Whip in the remaining ingredients, holding back 1 egg white.

Beat the remaining egg white to a stiff peak and fold into the carrot mixture.

Spoon into a greased and floured casserole dish and bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Roasted Carrot Souffle

Roasted Carrot Souffle

I love it the way it is, but if you double the sugar and add a tbsp of vanilla and maple syrup you’ve got a pretty tasty pudding for dessert. Don’t like sweet with savory? Omit the sugar and add in your favourite herbs. Make it lighter by beating both egg whites, or make it more dense by not beating either.

I’m not usually one to say “I told you so”, but I’m pretty sure I already mentioned that you can do just about anything with this recipe depending on what you’re craving at any particular moment. And it turns out that, at this very moment, I’m craving another scoop!

What’s Old is New Again- Tavern 1903

Tavern 1903- 9802 Jasper Ave, Edmonton

The opening of Tavern 1903 on the main floor of the newly rebuilt Alberta Hotel was a long time coming. The space sat vacant for a while after construction was completed while the owner searched for the perfect tenant to operate an establishment befitting such a grand and historic space.

Enter Larry Stewart.

Many Edmontonians will know Larry Stewart as the longtime chef/owner of Hardware Grill, just up the block from Tavern 1903. Hardware Grill has been one of Edmonton’s top fine dining spots since it’s opening in 1996, so hearing Stewart was the person trusted to build a modern restaurant while respecting the old charm and history of the tavern was a big relief. You see, Stewarts Hardware Grill also sits in a historic Jasper Avenue landmark, and he’s done a fantastic job of it there.

Tavern 1903 is like 2 entities in one. The tavern side is largely original to the old Hotel’s tavern. The big mirror, tiles, and the spectacular cash register (seriously, you should go for a drink just to check that out), make the room one of the most visually appealing places to whet your whistle in this town.

The restaurant side picks up on the dark, rich wood theme but is much more modern than the tavern side, yet the two sides blend together very well. Clearly a lot of thought went into designing the whole space, and it looks fantastic.

Rich and classy looking- and that's just Jennie. The room looks great too!

The Rich and classy look- and that’s just Jennie! The room looks great too.

Thanks to The Kitchen Magpie for the picture

When it comes to the food, we were told to expect casual comfort food, inspired by dishes the chefs at Hardware Grill had been creating for staff meals, and the description had our entire table salivating in anticipation.

Stewart and local food blogger Karlynn Johnston put together a group of folks from the local food community to come sample a wide selection from the menu and provide some feedback, and luckily my wife Robyn and I got an invite. The others on the list were Karlynn and her husband Mike, Edmonton YELP community manager Jeannie Marshall and her +1 Jeff, and local mainstream media power couple Kari Skelton (morning host on Up 99.3 radio), and Ryan Jespersen (Host of Breakfast Television on CityTv). Rest assured, that was a fun group to dine with with lots of laughs plenty of conversation.

Larry Stewart gives us the rundown on the menu.

Larry Stewart gives us the rundown on the menu.

Since Stewart was kindly footing the bill for the evening, we decided to let him feed us as he saw fit. Apparently he saw fit to bust our guts with an avalanche of his favourite items from the menu, starting with an obscene amount of cheese from the mozzarella bar. Did I mention I like that guy?

We started out with the Tasting Plate of 3 Mozzarella, which consisted of Maple Smoked Fior di Latte, Buffalo, and Burrata, served with Pesto, Fennel Marmalade, and Bruschetta. ($34) This was a massive sampling of cheese and outstanding condiments that is recommended for 2 people to share, but in reality we had it a couple weeks earlier and split it 4 ways for an appetizer. I really enjoyed all 3, so it was hard to pick a favourite. When we had this dish on our first visit, I liked the Smoked Fior di Latte best, but the second time I was wowed by the Burrata. If you’re not familiar with Burrata, it’s basically an outer shell of solid mozzarella filled with a looser, creamier mozzarella in the middle.

Tasting Plate of 3 Mozzarella

Tasting Plate of 3 Mozzarella

Also touching down at the table around the same time was a plate of something that, frankly, I don’t usually care for- Devilled Eggs. These eggs however were very good, and I would have had a second one if my table mates hadn’t been so rude and eaten their share. Check out the Smoked Devilled Eggs with Pancetta, and Souffletine.

Smoked Devilled Eggs with Pancetta and Souffletine

Smoked Devilled Eggs with Pancetta and Souffletine

What’s Souffletine you ask?

You’re not the only one…. I had to google it when I got home. Turns out Souffletine are those tiny puffed cereal balls sometimes found on desserts to add a crunchy texture. They did that same job on the devilled eggs to perfection.

Just when we started to make a dent in our sea of cheese, Stewart showed up with some more cheesy goodness in the form of crostini’s. A regular order consists of your choice of 3 crostini’s for $15, but we got to sample all 4 varieties. They were:

  • Smoked Fior di Latte, Fig-Onion Jam, Ham, Pine Nuts
  • Buffalo Mozzarella, Mushrooms, Bacon Jam, Truffle Oil, Spinach
  • Burrata, Confit Tomato, Basil Pesto, Lemon
  • Buffalo Mozzarella, Bacon, Fennel Marmalade, Sea Salt

Crostini's at Tavern 1903

I only got to try the first and last ones, but both were delicious.  Though, in my opinion, $15 for 3 crostinis is a bit steep and I feel like the next dish that hit the table – Burrata with Stone fruit, Peas, Mint, Burnt Honey Vinaigrette, and Mesquite Walnuts – is a much better value. The bit of acidity from the fruit was a welcome addition to the cheese. I could easily see splitting this over drinks at the Tavern bar sometime.

Burrata with Stone Fruit

Burrata with Stone Fruit

As if this wasn’t a sinful amount of cheese already, Stewart said we just had to try the house-made Ricotta with Grapefruit oil. The ricotta was ridiculously creamy, and the grapefruit oil  added such great flavour. Robyn doesn’t typically enjoy ricotta, but this ended up being one of her favourite dishes of the night and Ryan commented that it was right up there with the ricotta at Corso 32. Most of our table would have preferred some thinner crostini with it instead of the thick cut fluffy bread though.

Ricotta with Grapefruit Oil

Ricotta with Grapefruit Oil

So what do you move on to after consuming so many pounds of cheese? Why some deep fried vegetables, of course! The KFC, Korean Fried Cauliflower, was sweet and spicy, with an amazing crunchy coating. This might have been my favourite taste of the night due to the simplicity and creativity of it. I could have eaten the whole plate myself without a doubt.

Korean Fried Cauliflower

Korean Fried Cauliflower

By this time of the evening we were starting to slow down, and it seemed like we could only manage a bite or 2 of everything that was coming to the table. Shameful, I know…. but Tavern 1903 is a classy place, and not the kind of place a guy can just unbutton his pants to continue eating.  I’ll just say its frowned upon and leave it at that. Don’t ask me how I know.

The rest of the meal was quite an eclectic sampling of the menu, beginning with Fire Grilled Prawns Bathed in Garlic Mojo, Fresh Cilantro, Charred Lemon, and grilled bread. I loved the charred lemon, and the sauce was great sopped up with the bread.

Fire Grilled Prawns

Fire Grilled Prawns

We also got a plate of Duck Confit Tacos, Ancho Chilis and sour cherries, which while they tasted ok didn’t really seem to fit with the rest of the meal progression. We followed that up with some outstanding Mozzarella stuffed Pork Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, and a super tender Rib Eye Roll with Chimchurri, and horseradish creme fraiche and seared green onions.

Duck Tacos

Duck Tacos

Rib Eye Roll

Rib Eye Roll

Just what you need when you’ve already eaten enough to make world record hot dog eating champion, Joey Chestnut, concede, Stewart brings over a huge plate of pork called the Pig-Nic. The dish comes with a thick slice of Crispy Pork Belly, a couple Hickory Smoked Ribs, and a big piece of Confit Pork Shoulder with a pretzel. Surprisingly, I found the pork shoulder to be the best of the 3, and was just melt in your mouth tender. The pork belly was a little on the dry side, but the ribs were moist and saucy. I prefer a little more spicy kick with bbq ribs, but these will please most people.

The Pig-Nic

The Pig-Nic

The last dish to arrive before dessert was something I wasn’t expecting at a place like Tavern 1903; A Thai Seafood Bowl with vegetables, noodles, mussels, baby lobster, and prawns in a coconut curry broth. Like any soup, it’s the broth that steals the show and this one is no exception. The fishy flavour doesn’t overpower the broth, and compliments it nicely. Like the tacos though, I’m not sure where this fits in with the rest of the meal.

Seafood Bowl

Seafood Bowl

With 4 ladies at the table, you knew dessert was going to have to make an appearance. Stewart diffused a possible estrogen-fuelled revolt by bringing over 1 of each of the 4 desserts, although I just couldn’t manage to find room to try the Jack Daniels Chocolate Layer Cake.

We started with some amazing Maple-Bacon Cider Donuts. This is one of those rare instances where putting bacon in a dessert doesn’t annoy me, and actually works really well. These are some of the best doughnuts (sorry, as a proud Canadian I just can’t call them donuts again) you’ll find anywhere.

Maple Bacon Donuts

The Glenlivet Infused Butterscotch Pudding Jar topped with candied pretzels has a nice strong boozy flavour, and such a creamy texture. You might want to have a designated driver if you’re having that one.

Glenlivet Butterscotch Pudding

Glenlivet Butterscotch Pudding

We finished up with Robyn’s favourite, the Short Bread Cheesecake Parfait with Buckwheat Honey-Fruit Compote. She loved the tang of the cheesecake sauce, and the contrast of textures with the crunchy shortbread.

Shortbread Cheesecake Parfait

Shortbread Cheesecake Parfait

I had a couple other general observations from my couple visits, and one of them is a pet peeve of mine- the $1 surcharge for “Q” water, sparkling or still. I know it’s only a dollar, but I don’t want to pay for water when I’m already paying the city to provide us top quality drinking water straight from the tap.

My other small issue is the menu itself. It’s a bit confusing. It  was better when the boss was there to explain everything, but on our first visit our waitress clearly was not comfortable with the menu details and had trouble articulating the ins and outs of the Mozzarella Bar options. We ended up just pointing to something and hoping for the best, not sure what exactly we would be getting. After 2 visits it makes more sense to me now, but first timers may struggle to sort it all out.

Without a doubt this restaurant is off to a solid start, but the thing I would go back to Tavern 1903 for is definitely the Mozzarella Bar. Nowhere in Edmonton that I know of can you sample such an interesting range of mozzarella dishes, and that uniqueness will bring people in droves.

And despite the inevitable lactose-intolerant after-effects, I know we will be back.

Tavern 1903 on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer- Although the food and drinks were provided at no cost, the opinions stated here are my own. 

Guest Post from Salt and Straw, Portland, OR

With so many blog posts yet to write from our trip to Portland, I figured I’d enlist some help from my dessert loving wife Robyn and have her tell you all about our many visits to iconic Portland Ice Cream Shop, Salt & Straw. You can find her blog at Joyful Follies, when she has time to write again.

Enjoy!

~~~~~~~

My husband may be the resident expert on all things pork-related but, when it comes to sweets, I reign supreme. This is probably why he has tasked me to write this blog on Portland ice cream maker, extraordinaire – Salt & Straw.

a rare, quiet moment at in ice cream heaven

a rare, quiet moment at in ice cream heaven

On our first night in Portland, OR, we were wandering the streets around our hotel, when we noticed a large group of people congregating around one of the businesses.

As we got a bit closer, the congregation showed itself to be a line.

A few steps more and we discovered it was a line for ice cream!

I LOVE ICE CREAM!!!!

I looked up at Phil with a huge smile and eyes full of desire. He just shrugged his shoulders, looked at the line and kept walking. He, obviously, does not love ice cream nearly as much as I.

anticipation

a hip queue

He’s right, I told myself. It was almost 10:30pm on a Sunday night, there was a huge line, we had already had a big dinner and big scoop of, surely, decadently rich ice cream would have kept me up sick for most of the night. I reminded myself that we would be there for a few more days and I would have plenty of time to try the cool, creamy goodness so I, too, walked on by.

But when we were finished our exploring and started making our way back to the hotel, we kept passing people with these overflowing cones of delicious-looking ice cream. My resolve held firm until we neared the open doorway of the ice cream shop again, and the smell of fresh-made waffle cones knocked me off my feet.

I planted myself at the end of that line, looked up at Phil and shrugged, “Sorry, Babe, I just gotta do it...”

And it proved to be the best decision of the entire trip (Until the net day when I decided to have it again. And the next day…and the day after that…).

There were several flavour options up for grabs and they were all unique in some way. By the end of our trip we had sampled every sigh-inducing one of them.

The last day of our trip, we saw some limited edition flavours change to : TKTK and mint w/sea urchin merengue

Decisions, decisions…

It never mattered how much I had already eaten that day, I always made sure to save room for another flavour from Salt & Straw… And though I always told myself I would save calories and money and just get my scoop in a cup, as soon as I was enveloped by the scent of warm waffle cones, I knew I had to have one.

hot off the press

hot off the press

the perfect vessels await

the perfect vessels await

The Strawberry Honey Balsamic w/ Black Pepper was an early favourite, as was the surefire hit of Stumptown Coffee & Burnside Bourbon. The Cinnamon Snickerdoodle tasted just like (and also included chewy bits of) my favourite cookie, the Sea Salt w/Caramel was an obvious taste sensation and the Freckled Woodblock Chocolate was a luscious twist on an old standby.

mmm...late night, ice creamy goodness

mmm…late night, ice creamy goodness

But after several samplings, my overall favourite was the Almond Brittle w/Salted Ganache. There were many, large pieces of crunchy brittle and soft, gooey chunks of perfectly salted chocolate ganache throughout every cone I ordered. It was…divine.

And then, on our last day in Portland, those sneaky confectioners went and changed up the menu! The limited editions now included Hawaiian PB&J, Coconut Milk w/Cashew Brittle and Pandan, and something so surprising (and surprisingly yummy!) that I had to get it as my last cone of the trip…Mint w/Sea Urchin Merengue.

So my last day in Portland, I was eating a cone full of minty sea urchin roe and loving every lick!

How very hipster of me.

OK, so maybe not all that hipster of me at all

OK, so maybe not all that hipster of me at all

Salt & Straw on Urbanspoon

Screen Door- Portland, Oregon

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Before heading out to Portland I solicited suggestions from some locals as to where a comfort food favouring fellow such as myself might grab a plate of delicious, down home goodness in their town. I got a number of responses suggesting Screen Door, and after a quick menu search I was sold.

When we were deciding on what area of Portland to stay, we picked our hotel based on its proximity to many different restaurants and pubs but sadly, the Screen Door was not one of those.  So this is one of those instances where having a rental car comes in much more handy than relying on public transportation or taxis. We could have made it there on the bus, but having travelled from Edmonton that day already and checking into the hotel…. well let’s just say I wouldn’t have been up for a 30-35 minute bus ride plus even longer coming back. Laziness would have won the day and I wouldn’t have gone.

Seeing as it was a scant 12 minute drive in air conditioned comfort, off we went to sample some of Screen Door’s southern offerings.

We arrived a mere 10 minutes after the restaurant opened, and it was easy to spot as we drove by because it was the only restaurant we had seen with a line-up snaking around the corner and down the street. That’s a good sign, but a little discouraging at the same time. Thankfully the line moved quickly as the restaurant hurried to get people seated in a manner that wouldn’t overwhelm the kitchen and the wait only ended up being 10 or 15 minutes.

We had heard that the fried chicken was a must-have so, naturally, that’s what I got. Served with collards, mashed potatoes, and tasso ham gravy, this was some pretty outstanding fried chicken. Going against tradition and serving only *gasp* boneless breast and thigh is a risk, but it payed off. The breast was perfectly crunchy and salty on the outside, and juicy inside. Top 5 fried chicken i’ve had. Unfortunately, the last 2 or 3 forkfuls of thigh were on the edge of being underdone, but I was so full by that time I couldn’t have eaten it anyway. Both the sides were good, and the tasso gravy was great. So salty and and porky with plenty of zing.

Screen Door Fried Chicken

Screen Door Fried Chicken

Robyn got the Screen Door Plate, which allows you to pick 3 sides, or “local organics”, plus cornbread. The list of local organics rotates, but on this night it consisted of an assortment of about 8 different salads.

Robyn decided on the Mac and Cheese, along with 2 local organics;  the Peach Salad with mixed greens, blueberries, shallots, mint, shaved ricotta salata, toasted hazelnuts, and wildflower honey vinaigrette was the first. The second was Marinated Beet Salad with arugula, avocado, goat cheese, toasted pistachios, and creamy lemon vinaigrette.  Though the choice of salads at a southern food restaurant may seem odd, both were very fresh and tasty, and added some much needed acidity to cut the rich fattiness of the Mac and Cheese and Fried Chicken.

The cornbread, however was very dry and even dredging it through the mac and cheese couldn’t help save it.

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Speaking of Mac and Cheese, this version had a crunchy, cheesy crust on top, and an extra creamy sauce underneath. It had great flavour, and would hit the spot all on it’s own. Not surprisingly, almost every table had an order of their own. Plus, with all that salad on the plate we didn’t have to feel guilty about eating a big bowl of melted cheese!

I have to say, southern comfort food wasn’t something that came to mind when I thought of the Northwest United States but, thanks to the Screen Door, it probably will be now. And it should be for you too!

Screen Door on Urbanspoon

Knosh Food Truck and Catering

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New food trucks are popping up like groundhogs these days, but at Knosh Catering at least the truck is a veteran of the Edmonton curb dining scene.  Hardcore food truck fans will recognize the truck, outfitted with a new logo, as the former Nomad truck.

Though the container may be mostly the same, the food and owners are all new.

Knosh is serving up British favourites like Yorkshire puddings stuffed with braised beef, rosemary gravy, and slaw. They call it “The Joint”, but this joint is totally legal. It’s a good thing too, because this thing is huge and would make out-running the po-po nearly impossible. Tender beef, rich gravy, and a soft yorkshire pudding. Delicious. There was probably a bit too much slaw on there though and it didn’t really add anything for me, but didn’t take away either.  So overall, this dish is a winner.

Yorkshire w/ braised beef. Trust me, the beef is under there somewhere

Yorkshire w/ braised beef. Trust me, the beef is under there somewhere

They also have a pulled pork sandwich with stout and onion, greens, white cheddar sauce and crumbled hard boiled egg. This one should be served with a full-body bib, as it’s a wet and sloppy menace to clean clothes everywhere. The bottom of the sandwich was soggy like a french dip, which isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s tasty, which certain bites of this sandwich definitely were; I found the taste was entirely dependent on whether you get some egg in your bite. Without it, I found the sandwich pretty bland, but when you get a bite of egg with the pork it was so much better. I never would have guessed it, but that boiled egg just brings it all together.

The Ploughman

The Ploughman

They also had a Brit Burger with bacon, tomato and mushroom chutney, and an over easy egg. I wanted to try that instead of the pulled pork, but they were sold out. I’m not sure if this is a regular occurrence, but given that it was before noon I’d assume something out of the ordinary happened that day.

Hopefully when the fall comes Knosh will break out some more English comfort food like Shepherds Pie and Steak pie, but for now if this is the British Invasion part II, I’ll take my Union Jack tee-shirt in size XL please.

Knosh on Urbanspoon

Black Bull Grill Food Truck

With a rare opportunity to get out for lunch, I took advantage and dropped in on one of Edmonton’s newest trucks, Black Bull Grill.

Black Bull Grill

Black Bull Grill specializes in authentic Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches, plus a few of their own variations of the famous sandwich. The classic Philly cheesesteak is simple and delicious, but so few places here in Edmonton make a good one.

Thankfully Black Bull Grill has changed that.

The issue of authenticity is often one I despise, as I really don’t care about how authentic something is as long as it tastes good. However, if you claim something to be authentic then you damn well better be right. When it comes to the iconic Philly Cheesesteak, I think a lot of people in these parts would be surprised to learn that in fact topping it with Cheez Whiz is as authentic Philly as you can get. Sure, even in Philly they have a couple acceptable variations such as American cheese and Provolone, but the real deal is “Steak with Whiz”.

Trust me, you don’t want to mess with Philly…. this is a town that boos Santa Claus.

When I got my cheesesteak from Black Bull Grill I was struck at how closely it matched the dozen or so cheesesteaks I ate when I was in Philly. Tender beef seared quickly on the flattop with grilled onions and green peppers, and doused with cheez whiz. It’s so simple, but oh-so- tasty.

The sandwich had a rich, beefy flavour and a whole lot of creaminess from the Whiz. My only gripe is that the beef was sliced a bit thicker than would be ideal. Though, had the beef not been so tender this would have been a bigger deal than it turned out to be.

Interestingly, any of Black Bull’s sandwiches can be made with Alberta Bison to add a local twist. There are also other not-so-Philly variations available such as the Mexican, Italian, Western BBQ, and others.

The Classic Philly

The Classic Philly

image-35

When we were in Philadelphia a few years ago (great town by the way… I recommend a trip), we stumbled upon the annual Cheesesteak competition by Independence Hall and got to sample a lot of different cheesesteaks in one shot. The cheesesteak at Black Bull Grill would not have been out of place.

The trucks regular location is a bit odd, as they set up shop in the parking lot of Gear Jammers truck wash on 99 st at 57 ave. If you find yourself anywhere near their location,  check them out – its as close to Philly as you can get in Edmonton.

Black Bull Grill on Urbanspoon

The Canadian Food Experience- Regional Hero

This months Canadian Food Experience post is supposed to highlight a regional food hero, but to be honest with you I just can’t stand the term hero. The term hero should be reserved for people who pull kids from burning buildings, donate their organs to save lives, or smack people who install the toilet roll backwards. ( Really? The underhand feed? C’mon now.)

I decided that since most of the accolades in any food community are heavily directed at chefs, restauranteurs, and product suppliers, I would focus on those un-sung heroes of any good food community…. the volunteers.

And hey, since I’m going to bend the rules a little bit here anyways, why not bust them into smithereens and highlight not 1, but 3 superstar Edmonton volunteers?

Anyone who knows these 3 women know they would surely bristle at the suggestion of calling themselves heroes, or frankly toot their own horns in any way. Therefore, it’s up to us to recognize their selfless acts and take a moment to say thanks for all they do.

My first unsung hero is Joveena Holmes.

Joveena Holmes

@milzofsmilz indeed!

Joveena is an active supporter of all things local, and has been a big contributor to Food Security Alberta, which works to ensure a safe, accessible supply of food for Albertans. In addition to that, Joveena has helped organize a national food conference, volunteered for the Slow Food National Conference here in Edmonton last May, and also helps out at the enormously successful What the Truck events.

As you can see, Joveena has had her hands in most everything that matters in the Edmonton food scene, and though she has a long list of causes she’s volunteered for, I know her best from volunteering together at the annual Eat Alberta conferences.

Eat Alberta is a one day conference held every March, and combines a whole day of hands-on and demonstration workshops complete with meals and informational seminars. The entire event is volunteer driven, from the organization to the presenters. What’s truly fantastic about Eat Alberta is that the conference is all about sharing knowledge and skills for the betterment of the food community as a whole. It’s been a highlight for me the last 2 years I’ve been involved.

Talking about Eat Alberta is a great segue to introduce my 2rd unsung hero, Suzanne Dennis.

Suzanne Dennis

the very aptly named @supersu

Sue’s volunteer resume reads as long as War and Peace, but thankfully its more interesting. Sue has been on the Organizing Committee for Eat Alberta for the last 3 years, and the past 2 years she has served as volunteer coordinator, which is no small job. Having been one of the volunteers she has had to coordinate the last 2 years, I gained a substantial amount of respect for Sue and all the hard work she does to make Eat Alberta such a success.

Sue is what I would call a serial volunteer, as she rarely says no to a plea for help. Some of the organizations that have been benefactors of Sue’s generosity have been Slow Food Canada and Slow Food Edmonton, Gold Forest Grains, Mojojo Pickles, Molly’s Eats Food Truck, Operation Fruit Rescue, and the list goes on and on and on.

It’s really quite shocking that one person can accomplish so much with their free time, whereas most of us (me) can’t even get a simple blog post done on time (this one is 4 days late).

My third unsung hero, Cynthia Strawson.

Cynthia Strawson

Cynthia Strawson

Cynthia is always up for a food related get-together of any kind, and recently completed a term as President of Slow Food Edmonton. There are a lot of great reasons to applaud Cynthia, but I want to focus on one specific initiative that she began in December of 2012.

Cynthia was a Nutrition MSc student at the University of Alberta at the time, and was spending a lot of time volunteering at the LaSalle shelter for Women conducting hands-on cooking classes with other volunteers from Slow Food Edmonton for the women at the shelter . The grand finale of the classes was to be cooking an entire turkey dinner.

Since a lot of these women left their destructive home situations behind with little more than the clothes on their backs and their children, Cynthia decided that it would be a great idea to be able to present  each of these women with a care package of all the kitchen essentials they would need to continue preparing healthy, home cooked meals at home when they left the shelter.

She set out to raise the $2500 she figured it would take to get everything on the list for the 9 women, and called it the “9 of Everything” project. Well the story caught the imagination of kind hearted people nation-wide, and within a few days she had collected well over the $2500 she was looking for. Cynthia enlisted the help of a few friends to tackle the shopping trip, subsequent packaging, and delivery of the care packages.

What I love about this whole story is that there are no ulterior motives here. It’s just a story of a thoughtful, kind woman focusing the generosity of Canadians and channeling the proceeds directly to a very worthy end goal. This is just one of the reasons I’m very proud to call Cynthia my friend.

Read Cynthias blog post on the project here.

Having the pleasure of getting to know these 3 amazing women has really opened my eyes to how much value one good-hearted and generous person can add to their community. Though they don’t seek any accolades or receive any financial benefit for the great work they do, they are every bit as important to this food community as any chef or producer.

These three women truly epitomize what I consider to be heroes.

Win tickets to a Sneak Peek Tasting Night at Plow and Harvest

Dear friends of Baconhound,

Have you ever wanted to be one of those people who gets invited to restaurants to check out the food before anyone else? Have you wanted to schmooze with other like-minded folks and sample everything a restaurant has to offer, all while every dime of your hard earned money stays in your pocket?

Well here’s your chance to party like a V.I.P. I’ve got 4 pairs of tickets to give away to the tasting preview of the soon-to-open Plow and Harvest restaurant on the west end of Edmonton. I can’t say I know much about the place as of yet, other than the following brief description included in an email I received.

The first restaurant of its kind, Plow & Harvest redefines the art of comfort food by combining a fresh-casual approach with a unique chef-crafted menu. With a focus on sourcing and promoting local ingredients, Plow & Harvest supports local and regional producers by serving delicious, enticing, one-of-a-kind menu offerings built on handcrafted techniques and artisanal products. From the signature BBQ Bison Meatloaf Plate, to the Mac-N-Cheese with Bacon Breadcrumbs to the Heritage Roast Turkey Club, the menu offers timeless favourites updated with modern flair and served a casual, friendly environment.
 
With easy access for shoppers, area businesses, and commuters on the way home mat the end of the workday, Plow & Harvest promises to offer a truly unique concept in dining, including locally-sourced comfort foods, craft beer and wines. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are also available.

So how do you win these sweet tickets? Well, unfortunately I’m going to make you jump through some hoops to get in on the action. There’s 2 ways to win a pair of tickets.

Plow and Harvest Tasting Event

10041 170 st. Edmonton

Tuesday August 13th, 5-8pm.

FACEBOOK CONTEST- Simply like my Facebook page AND comment on the giveaway post on that page and you’re in. I’d love for you to post your favourite Baconhound blog post on your own wall, but since I have no way of verifying that I’ll just hope some of you do it. I will give away 2 pairs of tickets on Facebook. Here is the LINK to my page to make it super easy for you.

TWITTER CONTEST- Follow me on twitter AND share a link to your favourite Baconhound post in a tweet that also tags me, so I can track all the entries. 2 pairs of tickets available here too. Here is the LINK.

If you already “like” the facebook page or follow me on twitter, you don’t have to do it again.  You still need to do the second part though, so don’t forget. 

The draws will be made on the evening of Wednesday August 7th, so you better hurry!

Tasting Tour of Central Alberta

Sometimes it seems as if we don’t consider a getaway a getaway unless we’re going far from home. Well recently, Robyn and I were offered a promotional vehicle for a weekend, a 2013 Ford Explorer, and set out to explore central Alberta, instead of the usual Calgary, Banff, Jasper trifecta.

We started off on our way for breakfast, but got a bit sidetracked at the sight of a Ferris Wheel on a country estate on hwy 14, just south-east of Edmonton. Who the hell has a Ferris Wheel in their yard? And damn, that’s the biggest house I’ve ever seen to boot.

ABS

When we finally made it to breakfast at The Footloose Caboose near Tofield, we were instantly were reminded of how cool this place is. When it comes to niche dining, this place has it all. There’s 2 dining cars, old railway artifacts, and even 2 cabooses that are tricked out for bed and breakfast accommodations! And don’t expect some country motel style rooms – Robyn and I stayed here many years ago and were surprised at how tasteful the caboose was.

A Caboose at The Footloose Caboose

A Caboose at The Footloose Caboose

The Footloose Caboose Dining car

The Footloose Caboose Dining car

Breakfast isn’t your standard diner fare either. I’d say it’s more of a country breakfast, with a bit of a European influence. By European, I don’t mean the places finances are in shambles, but rather some of the dishes have some cross-ocean style. One of those dishes happens to be the pancakes, which Robyn ordered with Saskatoon Berry sauce.

Footloose Caboose Pancakes

Footloose Caboose Pancakes

The pancakes were a cross between an crepe, and a traditional North American style pancake, and were eggy and delicious. I couldn’t get enough of the crispy edges, and Robyn had to keep stabbing me with her fork to keep me away. They would have been the tastiest thing on the table, if not for my Hobo omelette.

Ahhh, the Hobo Omelette. 3 eggs, stuffed with smoked sausage and potatoes, weighing in at a tidy bazillion pounds. This thing is huge! When it arrived at the table it was so eye popping that it caught the attention of another diner and I commented to him that it would take 2 hobos to finish it. As full as I was halfway through, I still managed to put away about 3/4 of it, and just picked the sausage out of the rest.

Hobo Omelette at The Footloose Caboose

Hobo Omelette at The Footloose Caboose

After breakfast we hit the road again, destined to see what the town of Tofield had to offer. Before we could make the town limits, we came across a familiar logo, and had to stop in to see the world headquarters of Beary Berry Honey.

A tour of the facility could be had if you schedule it in advance, but since we’re slackers we’d have to settle for a browse through the retail space. I had no idea Beary Berry had so many different products, from chutneys, to flavoured honey, to glazes and dipping sauces. We picked up a few things to take home and headed back on the road.

Beary Berry Honey

Beary Berry Honey

When we were speaking to a woman at Beary Berry, she gave us a tip to check out Moms Ice Cream Corral in Tofield. The words were barely out of her mouth before Robyn’s eyes lit up and all of a sudden she wasn’t quite so full from breakfast anymore.

The sign on Moms was out for repair, but luckily the metropolis of Tofield is not so confusing and congested with gridlock that we couldn’t find the place. Just look for a bunch of people standing around eating ice cream, genius…. it’s not that complicated.

Moms Ice Cream Corral- Tofield, Alberta

Moms Ice Cream Corral- Tofield, Alberta

Talk about your old-school ice cream shop. Sliding order window, lots of handwritten specials plastered on the glass, and a ton of delicious sounding flavours of ice cream is exactly what you’d expect to find from a small town cone-monger, and that’s what you get. I had a soft-serve chai tea milkshake, and Robyn had a Kahlua chocolate fudge cone. We had a seat in the sun and enjoyed watching the constant stream of people treating themselves to a little decadence. That was a nice little stop.

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Super stuffed full of dairy calories, we got back into the car and headed north in search of the next spot that looked stop-worthy. We happened upon a pretty amazing looking church, and had to get out to have a closer look. Well, to be honest it wasn’t really the church that caught our eye as much as it was the outdoor worship space. It might be a little creepy to have, say, a wedding here, what with the attached graveyard and all, but what a beautiful set-up all the same.

church

Our next stop was the town of Smokey Lake, which since I had never been there before I was surprised to learn isn’t on a lake at all. Come to think of it, it wasn’t smokey either, so why didn’t they just call it Dusty Field? (I’ll be here all week. Try the veal, and don’t forget to tip your servers)

Did you know that Smokey Lake is the pumpkin capital of Alberta, complete with a real small town pumpkin festival? You do now.

Hmmm, does that stem look like it's coming from the front, or back?

Insert your own joke here…..

I had asked on twitter and facebook for suggestions on favourite small town burger stands or diners. A couple people suggested Betsy’s Burger Shack in Smokey Lake, and it sounded fantastic to me. It was exactly as advertised, which is to say it’s a funky little burger shack with loads of personality and kick-ass burgers.

Betsy's Burger Bar- Smokey Lake, Alberta

Betsy’s Burger Bar- Smokey Lake, Alberta

I got the Double Bacon Cheeseburger, as if there was any suspense there. Tipping the tills at a paltry $5.45, if you can find a better burger value in Alberta I’d like to hear about it. You’d expect to get an old fashioned, homestyle burger from a small town burger stand, and that’s exactly what I got. If they could add in some sassy middle-aged waitresses on roller-skates, this would be like stepping into a burger shop time machine!

Bacon Cheeseburger at Betsy's

Bacon Cheeseburger at Betsy’s

Robyn got a single Mushroom burger. This saucy beauty looked and tasted a lot like a Burger Baron burger, and that’s a pretty good thing. While we both agreed it wasn’t quite as good as the bacon cheeseburger, it was still plenty worthy of your $3.95. Yes, you read that right. $3.95. Remember when you could get a good burger in Edmonton for under 4 bucks?

Me neither.

The Mushroom Burger at Betsy's Burger Bar

The Mushroom Burger at Betsy’s Burger Bar

There’s nothing fancy or “gourmet” about a burger at Betsy’s, and that’s just how I like it. I’m sure you will too.

We got a couple of sides to go with the burgers, and though the onion rings were pretty typical, we both really enjoyed the Corn Fritters. I loved the texture which was kind of a cross between the usual fritter and a doughnut. I’d get those again. In fact, i’d probably take these over an actual doughnut anytime.

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After devouring our dinner like pigs at a trough, we decided to make our way back home to Edmonton. There were more stops we could have made on the way home, such as the Jurassic Forest near Gibbons, but we were as tired as a new mom so decided to save it for our next tour of Central Alberta.

Next time you’re looking for a little getaway, consider exploring what’s going on right here in our own back yard, and maybe you’ll find a hidden gem or 2 you can share with me!

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