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Thursday, 4 August 2011

Taste of Edmonton

Confession time: up until this past Sunday, I had not attended Taste of Edmonton. Not ever. It wasn't for lack of interest either. Capricious weather, out-of-province travels and/or other time grabbers kept me from this beehive of outdoor, sample-sized dining. I knew I was missing out, but the stars refused to align.

Languishing shadows, silent skyscrapers and an indigo summer's night

We arrived as the sun lazily settled near the western horizon, the tall office buildings casting gangly shadows over the colourful booths and throngs of diners. I studied T.O.E.'s field guide prior to our arrival, but hoped to be guided by impulse as much as by prior research.

Lit Italian Wine Bar's bright crimson booth beckons. We've heard much about Lit's basil-stuffed bocconcini with proscuitto wrap. Here, a trio of buttery bocconcini are cozily wrapped in paper-thin proscuitto, grilled to coax out additional flavour, and served with a summery basil pesto. Tasty, whets the appetite, but leaves room for further indulgence. Onward.

New Asian Village is next. This well-established Indian eatery presents a weighty plate of chicken tikka with garlic naan. Without cutlery, the dish is a bit awkward to eat, but naan makes a handy - and fantastically edible - cutlery substitute. It's a tender and warmly spicy combination of protein and carbohydrates.

We've barely made it to the end of the first row before I am smitten with a pupusa from El Rancho. Pupusas are cornmeal-based flatbreads stuffed with cheese and topped with shredded cabbage and assertive tomato salsa. Each morsel is a flash of heat, both in temperature and spice level, that leaves me with visions of Mesoamerica.

We move, in the non-literal sense, from the New World to the Old World and sample strawberries with Grand Marnier and vanilla whipped cream from the venerable Bistro Praha. Heady, boozy, summery sweetness that whispers of a moonlit walk in a garden.

The day's last light is a recent memory now. Diffuse light spills from the judiciously decorated booth of Numchok Wilai. We spend our final tickets on a deceptively filling plate of pad thai; I wish that we'd eaten it first, for noodles are a lot to manage after a graze-fest. Nonetheless, I savour each tangle of noodles, tofu and veg, satiated and satisfied that I've finally tasted Taste of Edmonton.


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