It's been a little more than six years since I relocated to Edmonton from Ontario. How vividly I recall my first perceptions of the city's culinary landscape. I've moved to hell, I thought. Franchises everywhere. I have absolutely nothing against places like Earl's or BP and their ilk, but I hungered - how I hungered - for authenticity and creativity.
Something changed about three years ago. A shift. New, smaller, innovative places like Credo, Elm Cafe, Corso 32, Niche, Tres Carnales and very recently, Three Boars (note that this list is not exhaustive and is not meant to be exclusive), appeared and reminded Edmontonians to eschew their go-to franchises and favour real food. The revolution is underway.
And so, allow my train of thought to take a sharp turn into Optimal Foraging Theory. A simple explanation of said theory is that you (or a bird or an animal or anything that is out looking for food) wants to obtain the most nutrition for the least expended effort. I happened to drive by Fresh Cafe & Espresso Bar and thought, holy cow, an urbanesque espresso bar directly in my path. Excellent coffee and snacks within reach, within the path of least resistance.
Their menu is short and sweet. One may indulge in baked goods or gelato, or even get a "brown bag" lunch to go that includes a sandwich, fruit and veg, plus something sweet. Brilliant idea. Coffee prevails, of course, and for those that desire both java and sweets, I enthusiastically recommend a caffe affogato, i.e., a scoop of velvety gelato surrounded by a moat of vivacious espresso. I dive into an affogato with skrock (I had to get it based on its name alone), which is chocolate-macadamia nut gelato. It's a riot of nutty-chocolatey goodness that swims in synchrony with bold and smooth espresso. It is a perfect fit for Fresh's understated, urbane decor of pendant lights, photographs and weathered walls.
And so, Fresh Cafe & Espresso Bar joins the ranks of original Edmonton eateries and cafes and contributes an essential step into the city's collective Optimal Foraging Theory. It is becoming easier to suss out good food without traveling too far afoot. Finally.