Category Archives: Hound around town
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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!
3 New Sunday Farmers Markets
Edmonton seems to be a bit Farmers Market crazy these days, with seemingly every neighbourhood having it’s own market. Though until recently, there were no markets on Sundays that I was aware of.
That all changed in the last few weeks, as 3 brand new markets have opened up for Sunday business. This is good news for me, as my wife and I tend to have more time for browsing and meandering on Sundays than we do on Saturdays.
I decided to check out all 3 of them on the same day, so here’s a brief summary of our market crawl.
Eden Market on 124st.
124 st at 106 avenue. Hours 10am-3pm.
This market is in a small parking lot in a really vibrant area of town. I don’t just say that because it also happens to be my area of town either. 124st already has my second favourite market (124st Market on Thursdays 4-8 pm), and a whole bunch of new upscale restaurants, not to mention the stellar Duchess Bake Shop and Provisions.
When we arrived there was a lively atmosphere, and plenty of foot traffic already swarming the market which contained a fruit stand, beef jerky, and even face painting. There’s even a couple food trucks to keep you satiated.
Check out the pictures below.
The Eden Market is definitely a nice, little market, and a great way to enjoy an hour or 2 on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I’ll be back.
Edmonton Petroleum Club Market
At the Edmonton Petroleum Club (11110 108 st.). Hours 10am-2pm.
Of the 3 markets we visited, this one was the only letdown. The sparse amount of stalls spread over a wide open space made it feel like a ghost town. Of the approximately 10 stalls, one belonged to a health club, one promoting nearby Kingsway mall, and another was basically a pup-tent full of corn.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t go to a farmers market for gym memberships or mall maps.
When I checked the website that morning, there was an interesting list of vendors, but clearly a lot of them were not there there when we went. The vendors that did show up were so spread out that it looked kind of awkward and doesn’t catch your eye from the street. Another issue is that the parking lot is surrounded by busy streets (with little foot traffic) but there is limited access to the lot, itself.
Maybe had the market been packed with people it would have looked better but, as it was, it had none of the vibrancy and energy that a good farmer’s market has. Despite there being a few good vendors there, I don’t think I’ll give this one another shot.
The last of the 3 markets I tried out was…
French Quarter Farmers Market
On the campus of La Cite Francophone, 8621- 91st. Edmonton. Sundays, noon-5pm.
This market in the always interesting neighbourhood of Bonnie Doon is by far my favourite of the 3 Sunday markets. There is so much to love about this market, and it starts for me with it’s commitment to being a food market only.
There are plenty of other markets to go to buy grandma some doilies, or pick up a new walking stick for granddad, but this market has focused exclusively on purveyors of tasty treats. And I couldn’t be happier about that.
There is a good variety of vendors here, and they have live music, a brand new food truck called The Crooked Fork, and without a doubt is the most picturesque market in town.
On top of the vendors selling prepared foods and raw ingredients, Chef Elaine Wilson of Food You Can Cook offers cooking classes at 12:30 and 2:30. The cost? A paltry $20 per person. Reserve a spot online or drop-in after your shopping if there are seats left.
A Little Too Close To Home- A High-Rise Fire on my Block
Drift Food Truck on Eat St.
Did you miss Drift Food Truck’s appearance on hit Food Network Show Eat St.? Don’t fret, you can watch it over and over again with this handy dandy link at the bottom of the page!
Not surprisingly, Nevin and Kara came off like rock stars, and their food was the star of the show. Check them out Tuesdays through Fridays at 107 st and Jasper ave, and at various events around Edmonton.
Eat St. in Edmonton- Molly’s Eats episode
Last summer, hit Food Network show Eat St. was in town filming 3 of our local food trucks. The first of those episodes aired last Monday, and featured Molly’s Eats and the trucks owner, Susan Chin.
If you didn’t catch the episode the first time around, I’ve included the link to that part of the show below. I was lucky enough to get an invite to the taping, so you’re not going to be able to avoid getting a healthy dose of me in the episode. Don’t worry though… my wife Robyn (the “It’s a monster!” girl) is also in it to keep me in line. Mostly.
Warning: you have to wade through a few commercials before you get to the goods. Enjoy!
Eat Street- Molly’s Eats Video
Swine and Dine at Bistro Saisons
The nice thing about a dining event centred around Alberta Pork, is that, well, it’s a dining event centred around Alberta Pork! Duh.
Given that this event, dubbed Swine and Dine, was being held in my neighbourhood at the brand spanking new restaurant Bistro Saisons, it was a prefect time to check it out.
According to our host, Sharman Hnatiuk, Passion for Pork would like to make Swine and Dine a monthly event, held at a different restaurant each month. Based on what we were treated to for a very reasonable $50 price tag, you’d do well to keep your eyes open for the next event and book it early.
From start to finish, I though the staff did a fantastic job of not only showcasing the delicious Alberta Pork, but themselves also. If this was your first experience at Bistro Saisons, you’d certainly be back to try more. It made me even more sad that we had to cancel our first planned visit here with our friends Twyla and Steve, but lucky for you Twyla is herself a blogger and restaurant reviewer for CBC radio, so you can read all about her experience at Bistro Saisons here.
On the table to start, sat a basket of french bread, with whipped butter. The table chatter immediately turned to gushing over this butter. Salty, garlicy, and so delicious. It’s no wonder everyone liked it so much, as it was laced with truffle and one of my favourite new ingredients, black garlic. Even as we were elbows deep in entrees, more bread and butter was requested at both ends of our table.
Course 1 of the 3 course dinner was kind of a 2 for 1 starter. Heritage greens salad, with lardons, duck eggs, and tomatoes, with an apple- dijon vinaigrette. This was quickly followed by a white bean cassoulet, with braised pork shoulder and crispy pork belly. The salad added a nice acidic contrast to the rich pork and beans, but the greens weren’t exactly bite sized. Hardly worth complaining about, but what the heck… they didn’t give me anything else to nitpick. The Pork Cassoulet was very well done, with the rich fattiness of the Pork seeping into the beans. I’d order that on the regular menu if it were there.
Course 2 consisted of Pork Loin, wrapped in Bacon, topped with a cognac apricot sauce. That was paired with Black Lentils, with caramelized apples and onions, and Honey Lavender Roasted Vegetables. The thing that struck me when this course hit the table, is that the chef actually thought about the meal as a whole, and what will work together. Heavier proteins such as pork really need to be balanced with some acidity to cut the richness of the meal, and the chef did a great job of that. I wish more Edmonton chefs would take the cue, as it seems like many just think that making great food just means adding more fat.
The pork was moist, tasty, and had a great crust on the outside, but for me the star of the show was the Cognac Apricot Sauce. Again, the acidity was there to cut the richness, and it worked perfectly. I would have eaten that sauce with a spoon. The vegetables were roasted until soft, and had just a touch of sweetness from the honey. The black lentils weren’t something I’d had before, but I really enjoyed them. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one, since our large family style bowl (the whole meal was served family style) was empty when I went looking for seconds. I think it was the texture most of all for me that sent me looking for more. With a lot of other soft-textured components on the table, the firmness of the lentils was a welcome contrast.
At this point, I was already full, but of course the women at the table were a different kind of full. You know, the kind of full that means they’re full enough of dinner, now bring me a 1 pound chunk of decadent chocolate cake please.
So they did.
Seriously, this thing was like the Stonehenge of Chocolate Cake. Usually I’m not a fan of dense chocolate cake, and even less a fan of adding bacon to desserts in general, but this one had such a delicious, crunchy outer coating and mild bacon flavour that I found it quite enjoyable. It was a great, albeit heavy, end to a pretty fantastic meal.
The next Swine and Dine hasn’t been announced yet, but follow along on twitter here, or Sharman’s account here, and you’ll be in the know.
Sorrentinos Annual Garlic Festival
Sorrentinos 22nd Annual Garlic Festival begins April 8th and runs through the 11th. The fundraiser for Sorrentinos Compassion House combines a special garlic themed menu at Sorrentinos restaurants (and Bistecca), with garlic themed events. The flagship event is the Garlic Stomp, which is a night of food, dancing, and fundraising for Compassion House. Check out http://www.sorrentinos.com for tickets.
One of the events was held last week – a garlic cook-off – where home cooks were invited to submit their best garlic-themed recipes. Out of all the submissions, 5 finalists were chosen to prepare their dish for a panel of judges for a chance to win a trip to Gilroy, California to their huge garlic festival. Pretty sweet prize.
Oddly enough, the good folks at Sorrentinos invited me to be one of the judges of the 5 finalists in the garlic cook-off and, shockingly, I jumped at the chance.
The event was being featured on Global Televisions Morning news, so Lorraine Mansbridge was busy interviewing contestants and judges. No pressure, people… it’s just a T.V. camera in your face watching your every move (and bite).
The panel of judges weren’t any less intimidating than the cameras. Edmonton Journal columnists Liane Faulder and Nick Lees, Sorrentinos executive chef Sonny Sung, Mary Bailey from Tomato Food and Drink and, somehow, yours truly.
The dishes included a Garlicy Butternut Squash soup by Jodie Bakker, Garlic Infused Chicken Balls by Laura Connor, A Roasted Garlic Goat’s Cheese & Rosemary Tart from Heidi Noble, and a Roasted Pork Belly with Roasted Garlic Polenta from Sharman Hnatiuk. All those dishes has some high points, but they couldn’t defeat Dino Esposito’s Garlic Eggplant Ravioli, with 3 different sauces. The Garlic Prosecco Cream, Garlic Pesto, and Marinara sauces were a nod to the white, green and red in the Italian flag. Enjoy Gilroy, Dino.
Here’s a few iPhone pictures of the event and food I snapped in between mouthfuls.
An afternoon with Top Chef Masters Champion Chris Cosentino
Nait recently offered a media availability with this years Chef in Residence, recent Top Chef Masters Champion Chris Cosentino. Nait generously included food bloggers in it’s description of media, so I instantly texted my friend Maki, whose own write-up of the event you can find here, and made plans to attend.
The day started with about an hour of observing Chef Cosentino teaching a very lucky class of Nait’s Culinary Arts students. What a fantastic opportunity for these kids to spend a few days learning from one of the best in the business!
The instruction was fast paced, and to the point. I overheard quite a few instances where Cosentino would stop a student in the middle of the task, and ask if they understood why they were doing what they were doing. If they seemed unsure, they were bluntly yet respectfully given instruction, and asked to continue. Although Cosentino mentioned to us later on that he doesn’t really teach students back home, I couldn’t help but think that his style of instruction and strong personality are very well suited to the classroom. Oh well, the students loss is a diner’s gain, I guess.
Some of the students were clearly a little intimidated working so closely with the well known celebrity chef, but they all seemed very eager to soak up every last drop of knowledge they could before Cosentino’s time at NAIT was through.
Of course fans will already know that chef Cosentino is very well known for his affinity for cooking offal. Although it was finished when we came in, I could overhear that one of the dishes they prepared that day was beef heart tartare. The chef stressed on more than one occasion how important it is to use the things that others waste. Cosentino considers it a chefs responsibility to do this, and you have to admire his conviction and respect for the animal that is obviously a foundation of his cooking style.
After class, there was a brief opportunity to ask a few questions. I didn’t want to ask the obligatory questions about the 2 feet of snow we got during his stay, or about T.V. shows. Instead, I focused on food. Specifically, where he ate while he was in good ol’ Edmonton.
He mentioned 3 spots that left an impression in particular.
First off he mentioned Tres Carnales. He commented that he was really impressed with their legit, authentic Mexican street food. High praise, considering the vast selection of quality Mexican food on his doorstep at home in San Francisco.
Secondly, highly acclaimed Corso 32 elicited some high praise from the celebrated chef. Apparently the crew at Corso 32 stuffed their guest full of darn near everything on the menu!
The other restaurant to garner some accolades was Three Boars. No surprise there, given their well publicized use of off cuts.
I was intrigued about where he got his dining suggestions, since those would have been the same 3 spots I would have recommended for him, personally. Does a world famous celebrity chef sit at home on his couch the night before a trip, munching cheetos and surfing Urbanspoon reviews? Or does he just take the advice of locals in the know when he arrives?
It turns out that there is indeed a pattern to how he selects the spots to try out when in a new city. He always seeks out a good Italian restaurant for starters. His own food is heavily Italian influenced, and so he likes to keep abreast of what other Italian restaurants are doing. Hence his dinner at Corso 32. He also likes to seek out restaurants that are using offal, so that explains his appearance at Three Boars. And as it happens, Tres Carnales was just around the corner from the hotel. Lucked out on that one!
My final question revolved around what he sees as the next big food destination. I suggested that to me, Philadelphia is a very underrated food destination. A sly grin swept across Cosentino’s face as he said that Philly has been cranking out fantastic food for a long time, but the difference is that they don’t tell anybody. He says that his prediction is an explosion of southern cuisine, and mentioned particularly relatively unknown dining destinations Nashville and Charleston. I can’t wait to find out if he’s right about that.
Keep scrolling to check out a few more pictures of the day.
Chris Cosentino is Chef/ Owner of San Francisco restaurant Incanto, and Salted Meat Merchant Boccalone.
Downtown Dining Week
The culinary world seems full to the brim nowadays with $75, &100, and even $125 per person special events or dinners. That’s why I like events like Downtown Dining Week 2013, which begins on Friday, March 15 and runs for 10 days, ending on the 24th. 30 downtown restaurants are enticing you to give them a try by offering special 2 course lunches for $15.00, and 3 course dinners at $25, or $50. Great deal.
Last night I had the opportunity to go to the Launch Party at the Art Gallery of Alberta, where of course there was plenty of samples to be had from a few of the participating restaurants. There were some interesting dishes to try, but I had 2 definite favourites.
My favourite of the night was from Zinc, the gallery’s own restuarant, who was offering Pan Seared Pork Medallion, served atop Yam Macaire, with a cinnamon maple demi glace and shaved black truffle. If you like sweet and savory together, and I do, you’ll love this. This dish is part of the 3 course dinner they’re offering for $50.
My second favourite was the Corn Fritters, with bacon butter and peach jam. On the $50, 3 course special at Hundred Bar and Kitchen, this will be served as an accompaniment with chicken. Crispy and salty, we all went back to grab another before we left. So good.
If you want to see some pictures from the event check out a couple friends of mine, Maki and Andrea, who showed me up by bringing their fancy cameras….
But that’s fine by me; they may have gotten more pictures, but I drank more champagne.
Also, you can check out all the menus at the Downtown Business Associations website, here.