Antlers are gorgeous. I state this not because I’ve spent the better part of 12 years studying caribou, but because they are beautiful paradoxes of delicacy and strength. My own collection of “sheds” (i.e., antlers you find lying on the ground after they’ve been shed) is lined up neatly on my balcony. However, the subjective nature of outdoor-themed décor can rear its ugly and petty head without warning. Case in point: I received a snide letter from my condo board insisting that I remove the “animal parts” from my deck immediately, because “deer horns” were expressly forbidden…and then they quoted some obscure bylaw.
[Cue rubbing of temples here.]
Where do I even begin. “Animal parts” implied that I had a fly-ridden carcass tied to the railing and, furthermore, deer do not have horns! True, antlers as decorative items can quickly devolve into a garish, testosterone-steeped, mountain-man fantasy like Cabela’s. Or, they can be quirky and classy companions to a fine latte, like at The Woodrack Cafe.
The Woodrack Café fills a much needed void in Edmonton’s coffee scene, creating connectivity between Whyte Ave’s caffeine-fueld hoopla and the south side’s Italian Centre Shop and D’Amore’s Mercato. Outwardly, Woodrack finds its home in a shiny professional building, but that quickly gives way to a serene wood-beamed room that reimagines Alberta’s wilderness identity indoors. The owners’ respect for the natural world is apparent and admirable. Driftwood art adorns the wall, painted antlers dangle from the ceiling, and ceramic mugs keep vintage books company on a multiplicity of shelves.
The bounty of Woodrack’s open kitchen appears in a tantalizing glass cooler. Whoopee Pies abound. These were once thought to displace cupcakes as treat du jour, but I am glad that they did not. Such stratospheric popularity invariably breeds an inferior product. Woodrack’s baked goods are anything but. A jalapeno cheddar Whoopee Pie is an ecstatic, edible wake-up call, while a slice of strawberry basil loaf is fragrant, moist, and generously flecked with berries and herbs that sing of long-ago summer. The kitchen’s adventurous streak also appears in the guise of baked hybrids like duffins (a doughnut x muffin creation) and brookies (the love child of a brownie and a cookie). All of these are washed down with a bold yet milky latte that chases away any residual late-autumn chills.
Sitting at The Woodrack Café feels more like nestling into a soft couch at your best friend’s cabin in the woods than experiencing the sensory overload of a pedantic urban coffee shop. Such respite is welcome and reassuring in our urban fray. Lip-smacking baked goods and well-pulled espresso complete the circuit of edible and psychological solace, and the antlers are a bonus. And yes, my antler collection remains defiant on my balcony.