Posts tagged ‘Edmonton’

Remedy Café

Palak Chana WrapMmmm! Remedy is one of my favourite places for a quick lunch or dinner accompanied by long conversation with friends. Located near the university on 109 Street and 87 Avenue, Remedy is a cozy café with a variety of overstuffed chairs and comfy couches. It’s a happening place, though, so you may sometimes have to share your couch space, or even (gasp!) sit at a table.

Café first and restaurant second, Remedy has a long drink list including teas, coffees, beers and my favourite chai – the Kashmire Chai, which is bright green and topped with crushed pistachios. Cleverly named dips (Slayer Dip for 5-Layer Dip) and desserts (“Desserts is Stressed Spelled Backwards” Cake, “Does This Cake Make Me Look Fat?”) are sold alongside smaller treats like biscotti and “Time and Date Squares”. Not having much of a sweet tooth, though, I have never tried the Remedy desserts although they look fantastic and I have been told that they are.

Instead, I am all about Remedy’s curries. There are 2 vegan options – chana masala (chickpea curry) and sabji masala (mixed veggie curry with falafel pieces) – and an additional vegetarian option – palak paneer (spinach with homemade cheese cubes). At lunch, the curries come in wraps ($7.50) with a delicious tamarind-cinnamon dipping sauce, and at dinner, the curries come in bowls ($9) with pita pieces. All of the curries are delicious – well spiced with good ingredients – but my favorites are the chana masala and the palak paneer. Luckily, you can get them together as “Palak Chana” and then I am in heaven.

There is only one caveat about the Remedy Café – it truly is a café first and restaurant second, and so while the food itself is always good, the food service varies. I have usually gotten my food within 10 minutes of ordering it, but I have also often been forgotten during a rush and received my food much, much later. Still, it’s a great place to sit and read or catch up with friends, accompanied by a delicious curry.


August 2, 2008 at 8:30 am Leave a comment

Oodle Noodle Box

The Oodle Noodle Box (10803 Whyte Avenue and 170 Street & 100 Avenue) is not yet as ubiquitous as the Wok Box, but it is well worth going out of your way. Not only are the boxes at Oodle Noodle cheaper, they are also more delicately flavoured and ultimately more tasty in my experience. If you go to the original location on Whyte, you will often see owner Sonny dancing along to the music as he cooks up your dish in the restaurant’s open kitchen.

But what is an Oodle Noodle Box? It’s a dish consisting of of noodles or rice, vegetables (carrots, celery, beansprouts, onion, broccoli), and your choice of meat/tofu and sauce in a cute take-out box. The tofu here is not the big cubes of bland medium-firm that you get at some places; instead it is what is commonly known as “deep fried bean curd” – tofu that is thinly sliced and fried to make it airy and light. Basically, it’s perfectly designed to soak up the sauce for a flavour explosion in your mouth.

If you choose tofu (and I hope you will after that description!), your box will cost a mere $6.99 for a generous portion – but vegetarians beware: only 2 of the many sauces are actually vegetarian friendly. Everything except the Kung Pao and Tokyo Glaze have meat broth or fish sauce lurking in their depths. This isn’t posted anywhere, so it’s good to know before you go.

The Kung Pao is extraordinarily delicious, especially if you ask for added coconut cream (which is free of dairy products). It’s a mellow-tart sauce with a touch of spice that’s typically served over very thin noodles (you can also order other noodles or rice). The Tokyo Glaze is a homemade teriyaki sauce that’s dark and sweet, with subtle flavours that absorb well into the thicker noodles with which it’s served. The special fried rice is also a vegetarian option, and vegan if you ask for no egg.

The Ooodle Noodle Box is fast food at its best: it’s fast, filling, cheap, delicious and not too bad for you. And it’s locally owned. What more could you ask?

July 10, 2008 at 8:20 am 6 comments

Last Call for Asparagus!

Tomorrow is your last chance to score some locally grown asparagus from Edgar Farms at Edmonton’s Strathcona and Downtown Farmers’ Markets. Check out Edgar Farms’ website for a neat video about how the asparagus is grown and harvested, as well as some asparagus trivia – did you know that it’s a member of the lily family? Rad!

There will be some yummy asparagus recipes in the coming week, but not before two much anticipated recipes for vegan desserts. (Come back tomorrow and Monday for those).

July 4, 2008 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

Nachos Around Town

Nachos from Julio\'s Barrio

Nachos are one of my favourite guilty pleasures, right up there with What Not to Wear marathons and really bad jokes. I know that nachos go against everything I stand for; they aren’t healthy, the ingredients are rarely organic or locally sourced, they can’t easily be successfully veganized, and the list goes on. However, I am also in favour of occasional hedonism, so my partner and I went on a quest last year to find the best nachos in Edmonton. We based our judging on a number of factors: quality of ingredients, price, serving size, variety of toppings, sturdiness of chips, and atmosphere of the joint being top on the list.

So, without further ado, and in order from worst to best:

7. Chili’s provided (not surprisingly) the worst nachos we tried. We actually sent them back and left. (Why did we even go there? I couldn’t tell you). The chips were store-bought and some of the saltiest I’d ever tasted. We had to order it without the (very meaty) chili, which turned out to be the only topping that the nachos really had. We got a pile of chips with cheese (but only on one side), tomatoes, and a scoop (still in scoop shape) of sour cream. There wasn’t even any salsa, which was pretty disappointing given that the place has in its kitchen not only salsa, but guacamole, jalapenos, fajita vegetables and beans. The atmosphere was doubly depressing, it being pretty clear that the plastic cactus staring me down was the same plastic cactus in the same place in every Chili’s restaurant across North America.

6.Teddy’s (11361 Jasper Avenue) rated high for atmosphere (it’s nearly 60 years old and used to be the place to propose to your lady friend in Edmonton; now its stained-glass windows and overstuffed mahogany chairs are juxtaposed against the VLT room to your right), but their cheese seemed to be Velveeta or something similar so we simply couldn’t consider poor old Teddy’s as a finalist.

5. Cafe Mosaics (10844 Whyte Avenue) is one of the only places that serves beans with their nachos, which is a welcome addition. However, the other toppings are sparse and the salsa is from a bottle. Besides which, there are so many better things on their menu that the nachos rarely tempt me.

4. Martini’s Bar and Grill (9910 – 109 Street) has nachos at a decent price ($7.95), but the portion size is small for nachos (just a regular dinner plate) and the chips and salsa are store-bought. The toppings (tomatoes, green onions, olives and jalapenos) are generously portioned, but the nachos rarely provide serious competition with the free popcorn for me. That being said, the bar is one of my favourites (a cute neighborhood pub that really is just that – everyone from barflies to hipsters to business people frequent the place) and the dinner menu goes beyond pub food to some really decent fare.

3.The Sherlock Holmes (10012 – 101A Avenue, and Capilano and “The Mall”) has a decent dark pub atmosphere and a long beer list. Their salsa is the best that we sampled; definitely homemade and with a refreshing hint of cucumber. Their nachos ($10.95), though, are only mediocre. The toppings (tomatoes, onions, jalapeno) are minimal, and tend to get overpowered by cheese and chips. The chips are straight out of a bag, but the portion size is good (enough for 2 people to treat as “lunch”).

2. Julio’s Barrio (10450 Whyte Ave, and the West End, and Calgary) tries a bit too hard for “authentic” Mexican atmosphere and ends up coming up a bit tacky, but their nachos ($13.50, pictured above) are the penultimate in Edmonton snacky cuisine. The chips are the sturdiest that we sampled, and both chips and salsa are certainly homemade. The toppings (olives, tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers and onions) are varied and plentiful. If that’s not enough for you, you can also order veggie ground round ($4) or a side of refried beans ($2.50). Their beer menu is not extensive, but does have some good choices and they have margaritas. The portion size is a bit smaller than our winner, Original Joe’s, but there is certainly still enough food. The only complaints? The price with added beans is a bit steep ($15.00) and the ratio of toppings to chips is so high that you almost need a fork, and you certainly need about half a dozen napkins, to finish these things.

And the winner?

1. Original Joe’s (10520 – 102 Avenue, and all over Alberta, apparently) is our favourite nachos place. The atmosphere is nothing special, but the patio is gorgeous (complete with enclosed deck and water feature) and the beer list is long, with a focus on microbreweries. The nachos, though, are obviously the main event. They offer two sizes: 1. “big enough for two people to eat as their sole dinner” ($10) and 2. “too big for four people to eat as a late-night snack” ($15, pictured below). It was the value for our dollar that first attracted us. The toppings (red and green onion, tomatoes, jalapenos and olives) are the most varied of any nachos we tried. The tri-colour chips are homemade, flavourful and sturdy, and everything is well-proportioned. There are enough toppings to last until the finish but not so many that the chips get soggy. The only disadvantages? The salsa is store-bought and the guacamole ($2.49 extra) tastes like it’s been frozen.

So, enjoy!

Nachos at Original Joe\'s

June 27, 2008 at 9:30 am 1 comment

Blue Plate Diner

My oh my! We’ve been eating out quite a lot lately, so it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t put “Recipes” anywhere in the title of this blog! I’ll be back in the kitchen soon, I promise, but in the meantime, here is a review for one of the best (in my estimation) restaurants in Edmonton.

The Blue Plate Diner (10145 – 104 Street) is a favourite for lunch, dinner, snacks and weekend brunch – so you know it’s good. A member of the Original Fare association of independent restaurants, the Blue Plate Diner places an emphasis on local sourcing and partners with the independently owned deVine Wines for its wine, beer (generally small breweries), and spirits (1950’s style cocktails, anyone?).

The decor fits in with the Diner’s insistence that it’s “in the heart of Edmonton’s Warehouse District,” although I didn’t really know that we had one. The bare brick walls are covered with a rotating selection of locally produced art for sale, and my partner is a huge fan of the kitschy retro lamps that have been fitted with various coloured light bulbs. The mismatched dishes come straight to you from 1952, a fact that’s celebrated in a mural sized painting of the assorted coffee cups of the Blue Plate Diner.

My partner and I went to the Blue Plate last night with all four of our collective parents, which gave us an opportunity to sample a fair portion of the menu. We started with the Indian Platter ($16), which includes Cauliflower Pakoras, Samosas, Rice Fritters, Papadams, Spicy Roasted Chickpeas and two chutneys. It requires at least four people to finish it, unless you aren’t planning on a second course. The Rice Fritters are my personal favourite because of the textural balance between the crispy outside and the wonderfully fluffy rice inside. My partner prefers the tiny samosas, which are packed with delicate potatoes and good curry flavour, while my mom loves the crispy, flavourful papadams. In any case, the platter made everyone happy.

On to our main courses, we ordered 3 vegetarian dishes between us: Curried Chickpeas, Lentil & Nut Loaf and Blue Waldorf Salad. The Curried Chickpeas ($12, Vegan, Gluten Free) are a perennial favourite, in a surprisingly authentic tandoori sauce and served over savoury saffron rice. It comes with a side of grilled veggies, including carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and zucchini. The Lentil & Nut Loaf ($14, Vegan) is moist and bursting with flavour. Both of our omnivorous mothers agreed that it is as good as, if not better than, the New England Meatloaf ($14), which our table also ordered. The lentil loaf comes with intensely delicious mashed potatoes (not vegan) and the Blue Plate’s ubiquitous grilled veggies. The Blue Waldorf Salad ($4.50/$8.50, Gluten Free) was excellent, although the small turned out to be slightly too small as a main course, even sandwiched between an appetizer and dessert. The ingredients were all very fresh and flavourful and the different crunchy textures of the apples, celery and pecans worked well together. The blue cheese was mixed into the dressing, pleasantly infusing its flavour through the whole salad.

And, finally, dessert! My favourite is the Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake ($8). Oh, and the Chocolate Pecan Pie ($8)! And the Beet Cake ($7)! Yum! Luckily, the table agreed with my top choices (with very little prodding) and I got to sample them all. The Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake is a rich dark (Callebaut) chocolate torte, infused with and drizzled with fresh raspberry sauce. The Chocolate Pecan Pie is a crazy confection of caramel, chocolate and pecan halves in a flaky and unobtrusive crust. It’s honestly almost too rich, but worth every ounce of potential adult onset diabetes. But wait! Did you say “Beet Cake”?! Why, yes I did! The Beet Cake is a clever take on a classic carrot cake, which apparently developed when the Diner got a monster shipment of beets and didn’t know what else to do with them. It is especially delicious, with sweet, tangy, spicy and vegetably flavours competing in what is ultimately a complex and flavourful dessert.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the service at the Blue Plate is always impeccable. The Blue Plate, in short, exemplifies everything that I like about eating at small, locally owned restaurants: comfortable and original atmosphere, good servers who seem to like their jobs, and, above all, excellent food and drink. Put this at the top of your to-do list if you haven’t already.

June 21, 2008 at 9:16 am 4 comments

Bacon Is A Restaurant

Bacon is a restaurant that opened last year in Edmonton’s underplayed east side (6509 – 112 Avenue). Their menu is small and I was at first unsure about their vegetarian options, but my a friend insisted that we go there for my birthday a few months ago and I am indebted to her forever. I’ve been back many times since and have put Bacon near the top of my list of favourite restaurants. I actually had to look up synonyms for “delicious” in order to write this review.

Like its menu, Bacon itself is a small place. Boasting less than 10 tables, the atmosphere is cozy “Ukrainian Chic” with enlarged pictures of Ukrainian fabrics on the silver walls and red lace curtains over the giant front window. The washrooms are in themselves worth a trip; they are painted gold with vintage purses in the women’s room and cigar boxes in the men’s room.

The philosophy of Bacon also appeals to my own food philosophies. With an emphasis on local sourcing, Bacon has a weekly (Saturday) special based on taking whatever farmers need to get rid of most. Although not a vegetarian restaurant per say, Bacon caters to vegetarians and does it well. Just under half of its menu is vegetarian, and every Wednesday the special is vegan. Bacon also sells locally produced jams, chocolates and other delectables for you to take home. The onion chutney is not to be missed.

And the food! My personal favorites are the Quinoa Salad ($10) with currants and vegetables and a delicous home-made vinaigrette, and the Vancouver Rice Bowl ($15, pictured here) with crispy tofu, julienned vegetables, sesame gravy, and wasabi dill sauce. Unlike most rice bowls, you have to dig in this one to find the rice under all of the other ingredients, and that’s a good thing in my books. The two sauces are very different, but complement each other fabulously. As for the salad, it is a delectable mixture of sweet and tangy flavours, balanced by the fluffy, perfectly cooked couscous. I could it eat every day. Now, don’t get me wrong; these are two separate meals. Not only would it be a mite expensive to order one as an appetizer for the other, but you would then have no room left for dessert, and oh! the dessert.

The dessert menu has been a little different each time that I’ve gone to Bacon, but it has always included half a dozen choices ($7 each), with one or two of those being vegan. The last time I was there, our table ordered the Rhubarb Cake (above) and Vegan Chocolate Brownie (below). Both were unbelievably tasty and both were as different from each other as could be. The Rhubarb Cake was light, moist and subtle, with pieces of rhubarb throughout and a crisp struesel topping under a mound of vanilla ice cream. The Vegan Chocolate Brownie was dense and rich and saturated with chocolate flavour, with a hard chocolate icing under vanilla soy ice cream. Both desserts made me immensely happy.

To top everything off, the service at Bacon has always been great. I’ve had a handful of different servers and each one has demonstrated knowledge and passion about the menu and the wines, on top of just being genuinely friendly. Go to Bacon. Make reservations.

June 18, 2008 at 9:32 am Leave a comment

Lunch at Famosa

The other day, my parents and I had lunch at a new pizza place in Edmonton called Famosa Neopolitan Pizzeria (11750 Jasper Avenue). My parents had already been there and swore that they had experienced authentic Italian food (my parents also went to Italy last summer and also fell in love with the simple and delicious cuisine). After eating there with them, I am inclined to agree.

The menu is simple: 6 salads, 3 appetizers (all flatbread based), 15 pizzas and 2 sandwiches. They have both pizzas rossas (with tomato sauce) and pizzas biancas (without tomato sauce). This is not a good place for celiacs, although our gluten-free friends could still take part in the many flavours of gelato offered at the restaurant. There are only three vegetarian main dishes on the menu (two pizzas and one salad), but there are many items that could be made deliciously vegetarian by simply omitting an item or two. Vegans: they have veganrella soy cheese!

The atmosphere of the place speaks quietly of a chain restaurant, with posters made specifically for Famosa and subtly over-stylized decor. Nonetheless, the small restaurant is cute and the service was good. And the food. Oh, the food!

The three of us shared the Primavera Pizza ($13.50) and the Gorgonzola Walnut Salad ($9). (My parents also shared a non-veg pizza, and this was more than enough food for us three).

The salad (pictured at the top of this post) was a simple version of a classic nut and blue cheese salad: romaine lettuce, dried cranberries, gorgonzola cheese and chopped walnuts in a light dressing. The freshness and quality of the ingredients combined with an adept execution to make this simple salad quite delicious. The dressing tasted homemade and did not overpower the other ingredients, and the dried cranberries were plump and tasty. My only complaint is that the gorgonzola was too soft to crumble properly, which made it difficult to take small bites and combine it with the other ingredients. Famosa would be better off using a drier blue cheese (like a Stilton), but maybe it’s worth it to get to say “Gorgonzola”. As it was, we spread the cheese on the provided slices of flatbread, and found that to be a delicious alternative.

The Primavera Pizza (pictured at the bottom of this post) left me with no complaints at all. Topped with roasted red pepper, mushrooms, olives, caramelized onions and artichoke hearts, this pizza was not overpowered by the fresh mozzarella and smoked gouda that were melted through the other ingredients. The mushrooms and onions were both sauteed to bring out their complex flavours and the olives were of high quality (no canned olives or mushrooms here!). The homemade crust was fresh and thin, but not too crispy like some thin crusts. Instead, it had the chewy texture of fresh bread.

This was a pizza bianca, meaning that the crust was seasoned with olive oil, herbs and garlic rather than the tomato sauce that we are more used to in North America. I was skeptical at first, but I did not miss the tomato sauce at all once the pizza arrived and I got to enjoy the subtle ways in which the flavours of veggies, cheese and herbs combined.

In conclusion, Famosa is highly recommended. My specific recommendation? Go with a friend and order a salad and a pizza and split both. Do it now.

June 8, 2008 at 4:43 am 3 comments



*All entries tagged "vegan" and "gluten free" meet those dietary requirements to the best of my knowledge as long as the vegan or gluten free instructions are followed (where applicable). It is always wise to double-check ingredients (especially when dealing with packaged foods) and to confirm ingredients and preparation methods at restaurants.