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Friday, 31 January 2014

Winefest Giveaway - CLOSED

Thanks to all who entered! The tickets have been claimed. Congratulations, Peggy!

Hello oenophiles...

Winefest is coming up on February 14 and 15. I had the opportunity to attend last year and had an absolute hoot. So many varieties under one roof that it truly boggles the mind.

Though I cannot attend this year, I have a pair of tickets to give away for the Saturday afternoon session.

To win, please answer this skill-testing question: what is the name of the grape varietal used to make prosecco?

Please email or tweet me...the first correct answer wins the tickets.

Friday, 17 January 2014

A Phork in the Road

Jinxed locations seem to be a recurring theme as of late. The Copper Pot's former haunt, for example, overlooks both the river valley and the Legislature. An unparalleled and enviable vista. The Copper Pot, however, packed it in several years ago, and was quickly replaced by Antonio's By Nello's. The superlative view could not sustain Antonio's - we hardly knew ye, son of Nello's. The Phork appeared in this spot just before Christmas, propelled by the same folk that ran the now-defunct Tesoro in Oliver Square.

The Phork's view is nothing short of breathtaking. The frozen river glitters under a combination of natural and anthropogenic light, and the Leg - though the dome is under renovation - sits stolidly in repose. Pop art from The Godfather adorns one wall, though a TV near the entrance would not be missed, should it meet with an untimely fate.

Supper begins with strength: Ambrosia Apple and Anjou Pear Slaw sings of sunny citrus and heady maple, with the occasional pungent interjection of Canadian Oka cheese. A melange of greenery undernearth plays "best supporting actor" with pride.

Tenderloin-Stuffed Tortellini, however, are a hot mess in both the visual and gustatory sense. The tortellini were removed from their boiling bath too soon and their toughness masks the sweet beef within. Shavings of parmigiano seem clunky and the spinach is superfluous. Gratings of cheese and an abundance of mushrooms would have better adorned this dish.

Pan-Fried Walleye (though the menu incorrectly lists it as "pickerel" - these are not the same species) restores faith. Moist and tender fillets loll over spicy chickpea ragu that roars with layers of spice. Spinach, again, seems out of place, but piquant and salty capers are happy companions.

Chocolate Beignets are a sweet coda. These teeny spheres are piping hot and sighing with cocoa. They are not too big and not too small, but are just right. The Phork, though still finding its feet, has indisputable potential to do justice by its panoramic river view, and stick to the road for the long haul.

The Phork on Urbanspoon

Monday, 13 January 2014

Culinary Carpentry at Woodwork

Culinary trends are as capricious and ephemeral as those in fashion, film, and God knows what else. Food trucks are the thing right now, but for how long?  This trend is at a stage where restaurateurs with brick-and-mortar eateries are slapping on a pair of wheels, but Chef Mike Scorgie hung up his truck keys in favour of a hip new spot downtown. Here at Woodwork, on a wintery Saturday night, the tables are packed with epicurious patrons snacking and imbibing upon the co-creations of Mike Scorgie and Andrew Borley.

Beef Steak Tartare compels a reexamination of raw beef. A quirk of North American society dictates that consumption of raw fish, in the form of sushi, is perfectly acceptable, but spasms of squeamishness often emerge at the prospect of consuming raw beef. Woodwork's interpretation of the classic tartare intermingles with elfin shreds of pickled beet and a solar orb of yolk. The summation of these ingredients is both sweet and rich, and perfectly beefy. The sidecar of potato crisps, however, is too delicate to scoop up the enviable beef unaided.

An orb of Pork Shoulder Confit sports a ruby onion crown and lounges upon a bed of lentils. A fork's nudge reveals supple shreds of fragrant meat that loll in bliss within a light gribiche sauce - miniature rectangles of egg white (long lost partner to the tartare's yolk, perhaps?), parsley and pickles.

Saskatchewan Yellow Grits harken to the deep south, rather than our sister province, but evoke the same feelings of comfort and satiety embodied by my birthplace. (Having spent the better part of my life in the Rectangular Province, I've never seen a comparable dish, but no matter) Creamy yellow  grits are kissed by a seductive whisper of brown gravy and it is difficult not to lick the plate afterward.

Chowder St. Jacques follows a similar vein of creamy comfort food, though this dish necessitates a spoon. A noteworthy biscuit hides a marshmallowy scallop, but not for long. Little hints of parsley and onion seal the deal.

Mac & Cheese, however, veers from the path sent by the preceding dishes. The cheese within is far too understated and borders upon aridity. I am told that the infamous Crack N Cheese on Scorgie's former food truck, Nomad, was far creamier.

Sweet redemption arrives in the guise of a Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Raspberry Thang. This sweet, young thang is Reese's Pieces all grown up and ready for a trip to the Video Music Awards. Smooth, smooth peanut butter meets a velvety chocolate base laced with tart raspberries. More, please.

A Pear and Goat Cheese Galette sees out the evening with a roar, rather than a whimper. Decidedly unmusky chevre elevates humble pears to a a striking coda, all cuddled within the confines of perfectly flaky pastry. The truck scene's loss is the rest of Edmonton's gain, for these dishes comprise culinary carpentry most refined.

Woodwork on Urbanspoon

Monday, 6 January 2014

Kamiyo - Breaking the Curse

A certain spot on Whyte Avenue, between 108 and 109 street, seems to be jinxed. I am reasonably sure - and correct me if I'm wrong - than seven or eight years ago, it was a Celtic gift shop (which has since moved to 124 street). Following that, it was an espresso and sandwich bar. Was it called "The Press Cafe" or something along those lines? Ousia came next. Here was svelte and seductive Mediterranean little place that would have been just as at home in any major city as it was on our own Whyte Avenue. The short-lived Sharp Cafe-Bar came next, and just last week, I saw that in the blink of an eye, Kamiyo had set up shop.

Kamiyo joins an expanding cohort that is stealthily rewriting our city's expectations of sushu - right up there with Kenko, Izakaya Tomo, and Japonais Bistro. A serene, understated room is undeservedly empty on a Friday night. A Maneki Neko banner adorns one wall, and a discrete curtain shelters the hallway leading to the restrooms. Music-wise, I expected a koto but instead received Adele.

Kamiyo's menu, unlike many sushi institutions, is brief and divided into a judicious assortment of rolls, salads and tempura. Red Tiger Roll (pictured in front) sports russet stripes of spicy sauce. Petals of tuna and red snapper lightly envelope a cucumber and avocado core; calm flavours are jolted awake by spice. Four Seasons Roll (pictured at rear) incorporates a chlorophyll-rich bundle of salad greens - surely this is "spring." Summery yellow egg, cool and sweet crab, and autumn-orange eel complete this scrumptious calendar year.

Diablo Roll delivers a torch of heat in the guise of chili-rubbed salmon crowned with black roe. Tempura crumbs underneath impart texture, while pearls of rice do their best to tame the fire.

Tempura Fruit guides the meal to a sweet finish (and I must confess that I've never before tried tempura fruit). Grapes, apples, bananas and cantaloupe have emerged from the fryer sweeter - but not cloying - and texturized from their rapid-fire oil bath, and pop with juices.

Kamiyo, I sincerely hope, will break the curse that plagues this location.

Kamiyo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

It Was A Very Good Year

Happy new year to all. I've just hung up the new calendar and flipped through its blank pages. I love looking at a brand new calendar or day planner - history that is yet to be written.

The last year rushed by in the manner in which it typically does. Too fast, of course, but frequently punctuated by meals most exquisite. What will 2014 bring in our culinary landscape?

Looking Back


          - The fabulous openings of (in no particular order) Rge Rd, Woodwork, Parlour, Square One Wye Road, Enzo's on 76, Belgravia Hub, Japonais Bistro, Tavern 1903, Cafe Bicyclette, Izakaya Tomo. I could go on and go. Apologies for any unintentional oversights.

          - The City of Edmonton's overdue relaxing of outdoor patio guidelines (e.g., Tres Carnales)

          - The happy proliferation of farmers' markets


          - The sad closings of Ousia, The Makk on 124, Bistro Saisons, and Roast.

          - The well-deserved closing of Plow & Harvest. That was just grim.

Predictions for 2014

          - Established restaurateurs pursuing new ventures (e.g., Corso 32's Daniel Costa developing new restaurants downtown, Credo's 124 street location, plus another well-known assemblage of culinary friends that will soon reveal their plans, plus an upstart Italian expanding his amazing pasta to a neighbouring town...stay tuned.)

          - A plateau in the exponential growth of food trucks. Last year I wished for more. We need something up and beyond...sea cans anyone? (think Victoria's Red Fish Blue Fish)

          - A trendy dessert. Not sure yet what it will be. The mid-2000s had cupcakes. Last year was owned by frozen yogurt. Whoopie Pies, anyone?

A special thank-you

Marlow Moo accompanied me on the majority of dining excursions over the past two years, but remained largely uncredited for providing incisive wit and insight. Here's to many more.

Until then, eat well, my friends.

Just a little snack. Fresh bread with balsamic and olive oil, proscuitto, and shaved asiago.


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