Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disclaimer- Although the food and drinks were provided at no cost, the opinions stated here are my own.
Knosh Food Truck and Catering
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Smashburger- Now in Sherwood Park
Popular U.S. “better burger” chain Smashburger opens its doors July 3, 2013 in Sherwood Park at #530, 5000 Emerald Drive. This this will be Smashburger’s 3rd location in Alberta to go along with the 2 locations in Calgary.
Smashburger gets its name from the “smash” method of cooking, whereby the burgers are smashed onto the flat-top which created a delicious crust on the outside of the patty. Incidentally, this is my own preferred method of cooking burgers, so that’s a wink and a nudge in Smashbuger’s favour before even the first bite.
Smashburger has a common thread throughout all their locations, and that is their commitment to customizing their menu to reflect each location’s food culture. For example, the menu in South Carolina features the Carolina Chili burger and fried pickles, the New Orleans location features the NOLA burger plus Debris fries* (Debris is a Louisiana specialty of shredded beef and gravy) and Nutterbutter shakes. What a smart way to endear themselves to each local market.
You could waste away an afternoon reading all the different concoctions at various U.S locations (don’t ask me how I know that).
So how is Smashburger going to win you over, Sherwood Park, Edmonton, and area?
How about the Edmonton burger, for starters. Beef or chicken, grilled onions, cheddar, bbq sauce, and a fried egg served on a kaiser roll. Sounds good, right? There are a number of other “Edmonton Specific” tweaks to the menu, such as the availability of Poutine, a Truffle Mushroom Swiss burger, and perhaps the biggest virtual butt-kiss, the Haagen-Dazs Saskatoon Berry shake!
Now that we’ve waded through the hype and propaganda, why don’t we get down to what’s really important here…. the food.
Skipping the build your own burger option, I tried the aforementioned Edmonton Burger, with a side of poutine. The poutine was pretty typical fast food poutine, which is to say it was ok. You’re probably not going to get crazy midnight cravings for the stuff, but for a fast food side it’s pretty good.
On your burger you can get the big patty, or a smaller one. As you might expect, I got the big one. The bun was nice and soft, and the burger looked like a sombrero the way it dwarfed the bun. With all that melted cheese, bbq sauce, and runny egg yolk, this was a glorious, run-down-your-arm kind of burger.
Needless to day, I loved it.
My wife, Robyn, went for the Avocado Club burger with the Smash Fries. This burger is served on a Multigrain bun, and is topped with avocado, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, ranch and mayo. This one wasn’t as big of a hit as mine, mostly due to it’s lack of sauciness. With it having no cheese, and being quite light on the ranch/ mayo, I found it a bit dry and since multigrain buns tend to be a little on the dry side typically as well, it wasn’t helping.
I did talk to someone else who order the chicken version and she seemed to enjoy it, so perhaps Robyn just got a bit short-changed on the sauce for hers.
Robyn’s Smash Fries were a split decision at our table. A couple people thought they were good, and a couple weren’t a fan of the shoestring size. The flavour was good, and I like the addition of a hint of rosemary to spice them up a bit. If you’ve had the fries at Earls and like them, you’ll like these. I found them very similar.
Our pig-out partners for the evening, Owen and Bronwyn, both got the Smash Fries as well, but different burgers. Owen really enjoyed his Spicy Baja, with fresh jalapenos, guacamole, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, onion, and chipotle mayo on a spicy chipotle bun. Bronwyn also really enjoyed her Truffle Mushroom Swiss burger, which is truffle mayo, sauteed baby portobello mushrooms, and aged swiss on an egg bun.
I have to say, this burger was just oozing cheese and sauce, and I was drooling from across the table.
In an effort to provide a full report on Smashburger (and totally not just to be a greedy glutton) I decided to try a couple of the chicken offerings. I was pretty confident I’d be able to solicit some help eating them, and I was not wrong.
We got the BBQ Bacon and Cheddar with Haystack Onion Rings on an egg bun, and the chicken version of the Truffle Mushroom Swiss. The egg bun, by the way, was judged our favourite bun of the night at our table. The chicken was pounded thin, and was noticeably smaller than it’s beefy cousin. The flavours were all there, but unless you have some weird aversion to red meat, I’d stick with the traditional burger. It was just flat out more satisfying.
The last menu item we got to sample was the Veggie Frites. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have ordered them if not for the glowing recommendation they received from our friend Karlynn, the Kitchen Magpie.
Essentially, the veggie frites are raw carrots and green beans, flash fried, and sprinkled with seasonings. They were really quite tasty, and we found ourselves unable to stop snacking on them. I actually enjoyed them more than the normal fries. I did hear one other diner complain of too much salt on his batch, but a little more consistency in the seasoning will probably come with more services under their belts.
Samples of milkshakes were making their rounds and I got to try the Saskatoon berry shake. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. It all comes down to the fact there are big chunks of berry in it, and if it’s served with a straw, I don’t want chunks in it that don’t go through the straw. Also, the sample size was far to small to be able to get a good read on the flavour. I’m definitely going to have to try another flavour of the full sized shake when we go back.
Smashburger seems poised to give Five-Guys a run for their money when it comes to the burger market in Sherwood Park, and with possible Edmonton locations on the horizon, we can all have another option to satisfy our burger cravings.
* Note to self: get to New Orleans, stat. The Debris Fries sound awesome.
Want to try out Smashburger for yourself? I’ve got $20 in gift certificates to give away*** and to be eligible you just have to follow 2 incredibly simple steps.
1- Like “Baconhound” on Facebook. Use this handy link! CLICK HERE
2- “Share” this post from the Baconhound page onto your own facebook page. You must do BOTH to qualify.
Boom! You’re in!
*** Winner will be drawn Friday afternoon, so you can use your new-found loot this weekend! If you already “like” the facebook page, you need only share the post and you’re in.
A Sampling of 3 New Food Trucks
The food truck scene here in Edmonton has really exploded in 2013, with numerous new trucks hitting our streets. This is great news for a comfort food junkie like me, because food truck food tends to be right in my wheelhouse… Simple and tasty, with an affordable price tag.
Will this plethora of new curbside dining options live up to the hype, or will they let us down? Well, the suspense was killing me too, so I checked out 3 of the newest trucks recently.
The newest of the bunch is The Crooked Fork. Not coincidently, this newest truck also had the most kinks to iron out.
I first got to try The Crooked Fork at the French Quarter Market, which you can read about here. They were already sold out of their poutine, and since all they had left were some hand breaded chicken fingers, that’s what I got.
The breading was really nice and crispy, but needed some seasoning. There was salt available, so problem solved. Unfortunately, the real problem with the chicken fingers couldn’t be solved with a simple shake of a salt packet. A couple of the fingers were raw in the middle. Raw chicken is a pretty serious no-no, but when I brought it to the owners attention the response I got was one you don’t see enough in restaurants these days; the right one.
He refunded my money, made me a new order, and apologized profusely. I always say if you’re going to complain about the problems, you’ve got to commend great service when they are fixed. Well done.
A couple weeks later I got the chance to try their poutine, and the result was startling to say the least. The components all tasted ok (although I would prefer crispier fries), but I think the issue will become obvious when you see the picture of my $7.00 order…..
Seriously, there was about 4 mouthfuls of poutine in that container. For $7.00.
This wasn’t just a skimpy portion. It was a total slap in the face. I kept expecting Ashton Kutcher to spring from the bushes and yell ” You’ve been punk’d! That’s a joke portion!” Needless to say, fool me once…..
The second truck I got a chance to check out has been out on the streets a few weeks now. The aptly named The Patty Wagon serves a long list of burgers and “exotic poutines”.
I decided to try the “That’s a Fun- Guy” burger, which is a beef patty (you can choose from beef, chicken, or lamb) covered with “a variety of exotic wild mushrooms, topped with creamy ‘shroom sauce and french gruyere”.
Now maybe someone, somewhere considers button mushrooms exotic, but I do not. Don’t get me wrong, I like button mushrooms just fine, but I just don’t understand the need to make your menu sound more upscale than it is at the expense of accuracy. I’ve seen it more and more at local eateries, and it’s quickly becoming a pet peeve of mine.
The burger was topped with a generous amount of cheese and mushrooms, and the patty was fairly moist. For my tastes, the meat could use a little more seasoning, as it was a bit bland. That’s an easy remedy. I think there is a lot of positive signs here going forward, but they did trip up on my one non-negotiable issue.
I don’t care how much I’m enjoying a burger… if I get a bite of gristle, I’m done with it. That doesn’t mean I’ll never give them another try, just that I was done with that burger. I’ll head back sometime and maybe try the chicken burger.
The “crispy french fries tossed in secret seasoning” were pretty good, though I’m not sure what comprises the secret seasoning which seemed to be mainly parmesan cheese. They were indeed crispy, and unlike the burger, I finished them all.
Check out The Patty Wagon’s website for all their info.
The last new truck I had a chance to try was The Local Omnivore. This truck has been serving for a couple months now, and not surprisingly was more polished in their execution.
Local Omnivore specializes in house smoked bacon and fried egg sandwiches. A couple things I really like about this truck is that they have some less expensive items, and a little smaller portion size than most of the other trucks. I love the option to have a smaller portion, and these guys aren’t messing up a good thing by overthinking it. Good bread, eggs, cheese, bacon, put together. I can’t find a flaw with that. I really enjoyed the sandwich I had at the Oliver Community League breakfast on Canada Day, and I’ll definitely check them out again.
All in all my experiences at these 3 trucks were a bit hit-and-miss but, given they are all relatively new, a few missteps should be expected.
Check their twitter pages to find out where they’ll be serving, or check out the What the Truck website for info on the next food truck mega-event.
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.
Creole Envie- Edmonton
I fell in love with New Orleans a couple years ago. I love the energy, the people, the music, and of course, the food. So with the new Creole restaurant open in the Highlands area, we had to go check it out.
We first met the chef/ owner, Danielle, over twitter. She was searching for a location to open Creole Envie, and was home delivering small catering orders to get her name out there. We ordered from her a couple times, and experienced some pretty mixed results, so we were interested to see how things would be with a real restaurant.
Creole Envie’s original location opened in a nasty, west-end strip overrun with pawn shops, massage parlours, and sex shops… not exactly a prime location for a legitimate restaurant, unless the special is po-boys with a rub and tug. Thankfully, that location was short lived, and Danielle took over a beautiful little spot on 112 ave at 65th st. that previously housed Highlands Kitchen.
Having attended the grand opening a while back, I found that some of the offerings were not well suited to the buffet style serving of the night. I was much more anxious to try the regular dinner menu with our group of 4, so we ordered big.
Plenty of time for dieting in the new year.
We started out with a drink, because drinking and New Orleans go together like Lindsay Lohan and police reports. Robyn and her aunt got the requisite Hurricanes, which were delicious, and her uncle and I got some beer. Now if this really was New Orleans, our night would start out nice and tame, but soon everything would look like this…
We barely resisted the urge to get stupid drunk and throw beads at the other diners. I must be getting old.
Soon afterwards, a complimentary bowl of crawfish arrived for us to try. 3 of us chickened out, so Robyn’s uncle had them all to himself.
For an entree, Robyn went with the Southern Fried Chicken. First off, the portion is very generous. 2 large pieces of fried chicken, plus a wing. Robyn opted for pecan green beans as her side. The chicken hit the table and my first thought was that it was very dark, and probably overcooked. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The chicken was very juicy, and the breading though mildly seasoned, added a welcome crunch. Gotta say, it was pretty darn good.
The green beans on the side, however, were a bit of a disappointment. They were undercooked, but not crunchy. More like spongey. I’m putting this down to the unavailability of really fresh green beans this time of year here. I also ran into a friend at another table, and her comment was exactly the same about the beans. Perhaps the beans would be better as a seasonal side.
Robyn’s uncle ordered the Crawfish Etouffee. Now, I am not a seafood guy for the most part, so I can’t break this one down for you other than to tell you the dish was spotless when he was done, and he said it was the best Etouffee he’s had since Louisiana. That’s pretty high praise.
Robyn’s aunt and I both ordered the Andouille Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Pork Chops, naturally. The Irvings chops were juicy, and delicious. If you’re a fan of crispy bacon, juicy pork loin chops, and a meat to veggie ratio that would make your doctor cringe, this is the dish for you! If you’re a stickler for details, the menu makes it sound like you’re getting a double cut chop, but in fact you get 2 pork loin chops. This didn’t matter to me since it tasted good.
We got a couple sides too- I told you we were channeling our inner Paula Deen.
I had heard that the sweet potato fries were some of the best in the city, and I would agree. Especially when dipped in the creole aioli. Definitely in my top 3.
The Grits on Fire, with jalapeno cheese and parmesan was very creamy, and very cheesy. Delicious. I really enjoyed the grits, however we were all left searching for the aforementioned “on fire” aspect of the dish. Again, the dish was very good, but maybe the description is a bit misleading as none of us found it at all spicy.
For dessert we really wanted the Bourbon Bundt Cake that we tried at the grand opening, but it was no longer on the menu. We settled for some Bourbon Pecan Pie, and Bananas Foster Bread Pudding. Both desserts were ok, but nothing to write home about and were both lacking the boozy punch promised in their names/descriptions. I’d sooner save the calories for a second helping of cheesy grits.
You’re not going to mistake the Highlands area for Bourbon Street, but if you’re craving a little taste of New Orleans, Creole Envie will do in a pinch.
Breakfast at DeDutch
DeDutch- 10030 Jasper ave
A new breakfast place opening up in Edmonton creates excitement and anticipation rivalled only by the release of a new Apple product. With Vancouver based DeDutch recently opened on Jasper ave, Robyn and I went to check it out.
DeDutch is known mainly for their giant Dutch pancakes called Pannekoeken, though they do also have a sizeable menu of non-breakfast items such as burgers, sandwiches and another Dutch speciality called Toasties. We both had a hankering for some steering wheel sized pancakes this morning, so that’s exactly what we ordered.
I went with the Abby Perogy Pannekoeken, which was filled with hash browns, DeBakon, onion, and topped with cheddar cheese and sour cream. I know what you’re thinking…. “What the heck is DeBakon?” I assumed it was just a play on words and was actually bacon. Turns out, it’s basically deli ham. Kind of a disappointment when you’re expecting, well…bacon. Apparently it does have a note at the bottom of the menu explaining what DeBakon is, but I missed it.
The pancake itself was good, and with the hashbrown mixed in was a lot like a straight up potato pancake. Although there was
DeBakon ham and onion in it as well, they were kind of sparse, and didn’t add any noticeable flavour. Same goes for the very light sprinkle of cheddar on top. As a potato pancake it works really well, but billing this one as “Perogy” was maybe a bit of a stretch for me.
Robyn ordered the Trail Mix Pannekoeken, which obviously was filled with trail mix. It was served with a dish of hot cinnamon apples and warm honey. The trail mix (which included peanuts, sunflower seeds and dried fruit) added a nice bit of texture to the pancake, and the warm honey and apples pulled it all together. We both preferred this one to the perogy.
We also got a side of sausage patties to share. The 5 little discs of breakfast sausage were tasty, and a solid addition.
A couple of notes from our experience….
- We sat at a window seat. Being that there are no double entry doors, the seats at the front of the restaurant were subjected to quite a pronounced icy breeze whenever the door opened. Another table also commented on it while we were there, as did even our waitress. I’d avoid the front when it’s cold out.
- The coffee was a little weak, and only lukewarm. The refills were the same.
- The Pannekoeken range in price from $11 for the basic, and top out at $17. The more price-conscious among us may cringe at $11 and up for a pancake, but it is quite unique in Edmonton, and you’re not going to leave hungry.
- Being that the pannekoeken took up the entire plate, any side item dishes were placed right on top of the pancake itself, this seemed like an odd choice as some diners (me included) may not like the bottom of dishes sitting on top of their food. The dishes may be perfectly clean, but there’s just something off-putting about it.
I may not be changing my handle to DeBakonhound anytime soon, but if you’re looking for something a little different for breakfast downtown, give DeDutch a try.