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Monday, 25 June 2012

Three Boars - This Little Boar Went to Market...

I almost end up at the wrong pub. I vaguely recalled seeing a "Three Boars Opening Soon" sign across from the Legislature, right where 9th Street Bistro (an anachronism that actually did a mean fish and chips) used to be. I'm out for a night on the town with Marlow Moo and Adventures of a Saskatchewan Girl when (thank goodness for the heads up from Marlow), Three Boars is not where I think it is.

Off we go south of the river!

I've noticed that the majority of fantastical and delicious places are north of the river right now and it's gratifying to see that Three Boars dares to buck the trend, especially when its chosen neighbourhood, Garneau-Strathcona, has witnessed a loss of locally-owned spots.

Three Boars occupies a vintage building with a decidedly rustic feel. Wooden walls, old windowpanes and the like. It's gorgeous. The menu changes often and is divided into several sections, including bar snacks, "Rabbit Food" (i.e., lighter snacks) and "Sharesies" (i.e., larger things meant for sharing. Sorry, Three Boars, but the word "Sharsies" doesn't mesh with your gorgeous abode and sounds like it was written by a gaggle of eleven year old girls.

Nonetheless, we forge on and nosh on Duck Rillettes with beer mustard and pickles. The rillettes - salted duck cooked in its own fat until spreadable - are unctuously sumptuous and nudged into the realm of heavenly by the tangy mustard and crisp toasts.

We are informed that Beef Cheek Poutine is off-menu and available. Who can resist an archetypical bowl of Canadiana when surrounded by pine planks and beer? It would be unconstitutional. This decidedly non-traditional poutine presents longitudinal slices of purple and golden spuds caressed by voluptuous shreds of beef and morsels of squeaky cheese curds. We only wish there was more cheese...

We segue into Patatas Bravas, which are superficially similar to the poutine in their use of golden and purple potatoes, but present a much simpler dish meant to showcase potatoes and only potatoes. They are tender-crisp and gently anointed with aioli. Beautiful in their simplicity.

The meal winds down with Biscuits and Gravy. We're already feeling quite full of duck fat but it is difficult to resist the flaky biscuit and juicy bits of sausage. The gravy could be kicked up a few notches; to complement the biscuit it needs quite a bit more flavour. Deadly good sausage, though. House-made granola is on deck for dessert, but after such a rich meal, we decide to sneak off to Tutti Frutti for something cool. Final verdict? Satisfying in a way that only upscale comfort food can be, but decadently rich to the point that my arteries would protest if I made this a daily occurrence. I'm sure the menu has changed multiple times over since our visit. I wonder how Three Boars' menu will evolve?

Three Boars Eatery on Urbanspoon

Monday, 18 June 2012

Fresh Cafe & Espresso Bar - Optimal Foraging Theory

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.

Fresh Cafe & Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

L2 Grill - Almost....Almost.....

My predilection for pop cultures sometimes weasels its way into my food writing. I do try (oh I don't) to keep the two reasonably separate, but I couldn't help but recollect a scene from Family Guy.


For a reason that will soon be apparent (in an oblique but not quite direct attention to what the Brit is saying while he does his duty), this scene wandered through my mind as I dined at L2 Grill in West Edmonton Mall.

L2 does its best to be fancy. Decor-wise, it succeeds with a bold palette of black and red. The soundtrack could be switched up a bit; easy-listening jazz only goes so far. We start with fries, escorted by a duet of tomato jam and Swiss cheese fondue. At first bite, the fondue is overly mild, but successive bites and dips prove it to be rather addicting. The tomato jam resembles a chunky, subtly sweet, homemade ketchup. It's difficult not to pick the plate clean and we bemoan our sated appetites.

A Kobe beef burger arrives with a cluster of average Caesar salad. Salad notwithstanding, the burger is a medley of textures that range from tender to delightfully charred. The bun, though fresh, is also woefully average. A melty square of old cheddar is a welcome hit of cheesy fun. Good burger, "meh" sidedish. (Note, though, that true Kobe beef is not found outside of Japan, so its name is a misnomer.)

Chicken tagine is similarly hit and miss. The wickedly tender chicken leg and thigh is supremely juicy but the Moroccan spices are tame. White person tame. On the menu, the dish is purported to come with amaranth, but on my plate sits quinoa. I hope the kitchen knows that these seeds are not interchangeable.

Dessert brings a very attractive chocolate torte adorned by a chocolate ribbon and juicy mandarin slices. It is rich, velvety, and very satisfying. Finally, a dish that hits all the right notes.

L2 strives to be upscale but I left feeling our meal tried but did not clear all the prescribed hurdles.



Not quite.

L2 Grill on Urbanspoon


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