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Edmonton

The Best of Edmonton’s Food Scene

Nineteen-Ahi-Tuna-Twists

The Ahi Tuna Twists at Nineteen.

Over the past few years, Edmonton’s food scene has been rejuvenated with new hot spots serving incredible possibilities beyond the usual steak and potatoes: artisan pastries, gourmet and locally sourced dishes, beautiful brunch specialties, craft cocktails, and more. Though these modern and internationally renowned restaurants may astonish (and please) return visitors to the city who were unaware of the city’s burgeoning food scene, it’s no surprise to Vinod Varshney, Program Chair of NAIT’s Culinary Arts, and the culinary teams he’s been coaching and winning international competitions with over the years.

Since 2004, the team has earned dozens of medals at competitions in Erfurt, Dubai, Singapore, and other culinary hubs in the world. “The proof is in the pudding,” quips Varshney, “when [Culinary Team NAIT] can compete against the best in the world and still come back with medals.” At the 2013 Hong Kong International Culinary Classic, Culinary Team NAIT took home 20 medals in total, setting a record for most medals awarded to a team at the competition!

Why have Edmonton and its chefs seen so much success on the world stage? Varshney offers a simple answer that comes down to the qualities required of a great chef: a dedicated practice, good attitude, creativity, and time-management skills. “These students do a lot of practicing,” says Varshney. “When there is a will, there’s a way. These students are hungry and very eager to learn.”

For someone who’s experienced so much recognition for his leadership and tasted cuisines from around the world, Varshney still finds many reasons to admire the chefs and restaurants in Edmonton. Among his recommendations are the contemporary regional dishes of Larry Stewart at Hardware Grill, the Indian delights of Deependra Singh at Guru Fine Indian Cuisine, and the unique and delectable creations of Frank Olson at Canteen.

Champion Chefs
The appeal of Edmonton’s food scene will continue to intrigue travellers from around the world, and you don’t have to follow the teams to competitions to taste some of their appealing dishes. To start your mouth watering, review this list of the award-winning chefs and restaurants in the city receiving national and international acclaim:

Daniel Costa
10th on enRoute’s 2011 list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants | Eat his work at Corso 32

Andrew Fung
Former Culinary Team NAIT member | Eat his work at Nineteen

Eric Hanson
2016 Edmonton Gold Metal Plates Winner | Eat his work at Prairie Noodle Shop

Blair Lebsack
4th on enRoute’s 2014 list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants | Eat his work at RGE RD

Jacob Pelletier
Former Culinary Team NAIT member & medal winner | Eat his work at Duchess Bake Shop

Lindsay Porter
2016 Canadian Food Champion in Steak | Eat her work at Woodwork

Shelley Robinson
Winner on Season One of Food Network’s Chopped Canada | Eat her work at Atlas Steak + Fish

Jan Trittenbach
2015 Edmonton Gold Metal Plates Winner | Eat his work at Solstice Seasonal Cuisine

Ask the Expert: Les Clefs d’Or Corner (January/February 2017)

Nella-Blog

Photo by Jamie Tweedy of Tweedy Studios.

We asked Edmonton expert and Les Clefs d’Or Nella Mirante at The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald for her advice about celebrating the new year and winter in the city!

1. Where do you send guests when they want a healthy meal?
Noorish Conscious Eatery features a menu that includes a variety of organic, local, raw, vegan, and gluten-free options bursting with flavour and nutrition! I highly recommend their handcrafted elixir Matcha Messiah, which is loaded with vitality.

2. Where can we escape the cold?
When I think of escaping the cold, I think of the Confederation Lounge at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. The warmth of the lounge, the panoramic windows with views of our river valley and gardens, and the roaring fire are sure to keep you warm!

3. What is the perfect Edmonton gift for Valentine’s Day?
For Valentine’s Day, your only stop will be Sweet Lollapalooza! They carry perfectly handcrafted artisan chocolates with modern flavours. You will be tempted to sample a few of their creations yourself!

4. Are there any festivals or events that you are excited about?
One of my favourite winter festivals is Ice on Whyte, as there is something new to experience every day! Run, play, slide down the giant ice slide, be amazed by a professional ice carver, learn to create your own ice carving, meet ordinary people from our past, treat your ears to live music, or savour a hot beverage or craft beer.

Les Clefs d’Or Concierges have been opening doors for hotel guests in Canada since 1976, and today there are more than 150 members from coast to coast and more than 3,500 members worldwide! You can find Nella at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald.

Feel the Beat at STOMP

Stomp-Photo-by-Steve-McNicholas

Photo by Steve McNicholas

You know you are in for an explosive, electrifying show when the eight members of STOMP hit the stage! This international sensation creates music, rhythm, and humour with commonplace items you would use every day, like lighters, brooms, garbage cans, inner tubes, and hubcaps. Since it was created in England in 1991, the show has garnered multiple awards, rave reviews, and has appeared on numerous television shows worldwide! Buy your tickets here. —Lindsay Shapka

STOMP | January 10 & 11
Jubilee Auditorium | 11455-87 Ave. | 1-866-540-7469

WHERE Edmonton’s 2016 Best New Restaurant: Uccellino

Uccellino_Photo-by-Jamie-Tweedy

Photo by Jamie Tweedy of Tweedy Studios.

Local Chef Daniel Costa’s third restaurant, this modern trattoria and stand-up bar is located next to its sister restaurants, Corso 32 and Bar Bricco, on Jasper Avenue. It is a contemporary, yet cozy, space that serves up classic, simple Italian food. Every dish is thoughtfully constructed, from the quality ingredients to the plating, and there is a fantastic wine list featuring some hard-to-find Italian wines that perfectly complement the food.

According to Costa, each of his restaurants represents the food served in the different, and diverse, regions of Italy. “Each region is kind of like its own little country,” says Costa. Uccellino spotlights the lighter, everyday fare of southern and central Italy.

The menu is divided into Fritti (fried), Crostini and Antipasti (appetizers), Primi (first course, pasta), Secondi (second course, divided into meats and vegetables), Formaggi (cheese), and Dolci (dessert). Try the mouth-watering Beef Carpaccio topped with arugula, lemon, and Parmesan cheese, before digging into the Polpette, tomato-braised pork meatballs with pangrattato (Italian breadcrumbs) and basil. You will also want to try the unique and decadent Olive Oil Cake with Olive Oil Gelato for dessert!

While the restaurant does take reservations, they also keep half of their tables and the stand-up bar unreserved. —Lindsay Shapka

Uccellino | 10349 Jasper Ave. | 780-426-0346
Sun to Thu 5 pm – 10 pm; Fri – Sat 5 pm – 11 pm

Chef Spotlight: Shelley Robinson

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Photo courtesy Gateway Casinos.

The new regional executive chef for the Grand Villa Casino, Shelley Robinson — and first-season Chopped Canada winner — admits the heavy influence of her grandmother led her to a passionate career in cooking. “My grandparents had a farm in the Okanagan,” she retells, “so I grew up around that: the food, cooking, and sharing around a big table and people laughing. I really got to know, love, and understand that as a young person.” This philosophy has guided her in her career, and now brings her from Vancouver to Edmonton for the new Atlas Steak + Fish and Match restaurants.

In creating her dishes, Robinson’s inspired by the quality of the ingredients. “[It’s] the driving force in any menu,” she says, “I always want to ensure that I know where the product comes from.” In the brand new space, Robinson’s also been inspired by Atlas’s Josper oven, which is a combined grill and oven. “The larger cuts of meat — the cowboy steaks and our Tomahawk — really benefit from that long, slow cooking over the mesquite charcoal,” she explains. And though Atlas may appear to be an upscale restaurant, Robinson stresses it’s still very approachable. “It’s a beautiful, lush room to sit in,” she says, “but we have people come here before the hockey game in their Oilers jerseys, and that’s perfectly okay.” She’s excited about being connected to Rogers Place and the captive and continuous audience she has to create dishes for. “It’s very fast-paced, very high energy,” she explains. “I’ve never worked in a casino, so it’s a whole new feeling. I feel like I’m on vacation in Las Vegas every day when I come into work.”

As to her reason for moving to the city, Robinson offers, “I see Edmonton as a very emerging food scene… I think there’s been a little bit of a lack of profile for Edmonton, so hopefully I can help bring a bit of awareness for the destination traveller that we have some great restaurants here.” Robinson is also motivated to continue to collaborate with other Edmonton chefs and educate and provide opportunities for young cooks. And when she’s not working hard and testing new tools in the kitchen? “I’m really interested in learning more about the trails,” she says. “I know there’s going to be a lot of great cross-country skiing here in the winter.”

Toruk: The First Flight

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Photo by Errisson Lawrence; Costumes by Kym Barrett

Inspired by James Cameron’s movie Avatar, Cirque du Soleil has created a brand new, breathtaking performance that transports you to the visually stunning world of Pandora. Toruk — The First Flight is an immersive experience that fuses puppetry and incredible costumes with a cinematic score and a cutting-edge set. This mythical tale takes place thousands of years before the movie, and before humans ever set foot in Pandora. When the Tree of Souls is threatened, two young boys set out on a quest to find Toruk, a mighty predator who is the only one who can help them save the Na’vi from a terrible fate. —Lindsay Shapka

Toruk: The First Flight | December 22 – 26
Rogers Place | 102 St. & 104 Ave. | 1-855-985-5000

Artist Spotlight: Alexandra Gusse

Alexandra-Gusse-Photo-By-Daria-Nordell-

Photo by Daria Nordell.

Edmonton artist Alexandra Gusse is in the final year of her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Alberta with a focus on painting. “Painting has always been a part of my life,” says Gusse, “I took private lessons when I was younger and fell in love with Van Gogh. He’s really influenced my work, especially his use of colours.”
Though a fairly young artist, Gusse has had work featured in multiple shows, including a solo show at the Sugarbowl recently. She also regularly does commissions of both human and animal subjects. “I do a lot of commissioned work, especially for weddings. Usually couples in romantic settings. I also have done pet memorial paintings. People choose subjects that are close to their heart.”
Her favourite subject matter is people, and she has gotten inspiration for her portraits in some interesting ways. “I usually base my paintings off of cell phone photos… Most of the paintings that were on display at the Sugarbowl were based on photos taken by my family, of my family. But, I also made a Kijiji ad asking strangers to send me photos and got a lot of interesting images that way.”
Alexandra-Gusse-PaintingHer work conveys a lot of emotion, something that she tries to use colour to accentuate. “People’s faces and the small differences within a face can affect the comfort of a piece so much. You can tell if they’re comfortable, or having a good time — what their emotions are. I can play with colour and manipulate colour to accentuate these emotions. I like to think about the intimacies between people and how to represent those best. “
You can purchase or commission the artist’s work through her website.

Our Local Gift Guide as Seen on Global Edmonton

Searching for that perfect gift for a special someone? Browse the list below for some of our unique finds from local retailers, which we showcased on Global Edmonton on December 2, 2016!

Gift-Guide-Photo-1

Photo by Lindsay Shapka.

Dragonfly NecklaceScottish Imports — $35
Outlander Tartan ShawlScottish Imports — $230
Stephanie Simpson Art PrintTIX on the Square — $20
Royal Canadian Mint Holiday Gift SetWest Edmonton Coin and Stamp — $22
Fenix PD35 FlashlightSupply Sergeant — $106.95 (Those in military and police service can receive 10% off)
Olive and Piper Necklace, Bracelet & EarringsMiss Boss — $79, $65, $48
Garlic VodkaBig Rig Distillery — $47.62
The Short Story Advent Calendar (This year’s edition is sold out, but watch for it to come back next year in October!)
Children’s Aviator JacketAlberta Aviation Museum — $52–$57
Watering Can/Water PitcherBling — $60

Gift-Guide-Photo-2

Photo by Lindsay Shapka.

Kobe E2 Hover BoardGateway Power Sports – $499
Scale Model of The Barris CoachDiecast Depot — $150
Rug Hooked Cushion by Edmonton artist Diane KrysAlberta Craft Council — $350
Wetterlings mini hatchet (Handmade at the oldest operating axe forge in Sweden) — Kent of Inglewood — $146
LVJ Haberdasher tweed bowtieKent of Inglewood — $95
Bird House (Made by local artist Monica Heutinck) — One Man’s Treasure (Shops of Stony Plain) — $40
TagineOil & Vinegar — $65.95
Tagine SpicesOil & Vinegar — $9.95
Tagine Sauce Spicy LemonOil & Vinegar — $14.95
Czech & Speake Vetiver CologneKent of Inglewood — $197
Yukiwa Chrome Shaker (Available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and finishes) — Kent of Inglewood — $46
Porters Cardamom and Rose Tonic Syrup (Alberta made!) — Kent of Inglewood — $26
Kent badger shaving brush, Edwin Jagger safety razor, Parker stand for razor and brushKent of Inglewood — $120, $60, $46
—Lindsay Shapka

Be the Bird at Angry Birds Universe

Angry-Birds---Meet-the-BirdsThe global phenomenon of Angry Birds — which has many kids and adults alike flicking fingers across smartphone screens for many hours of the day — is now an interactive science exhibit at TELUS World of Science—Edmonton! At Angry Birds Universe, you’ll begin by meeting the poor birds of Pig Island who had their eggs stolen by cruel pigs and discovering the flight dynamics of real birds that influenced their design. In other hands-on activities, you’ll learn the scientific principles behind the architecture of the game by building your own structures to knock down with a slingshot or creating your own animated cartoon. The most fun part? You can “be the bird” and propel down a zip line to knock over enormous foam blocks! —Matthew Stepanic

Angry Birds Universe | Through April 17, 2017
TELUS World of Science—Edmonton | 11211-142 St. | 780-451-3344

Talent Spotlight: Tom Wood

Tom-Wood-3

Photo courtesy Citadel Theatre

Playwright and actor Tom Wood went through his own Scrooge-like transformation when he was first approached to adapt A Christmas Carol for the Citadel Theatre. His husband and then Artistic Director (now emeritus) Bob Baker asked him to write a script for Charles Dickens’ holiday tale, but Wood wasn’t interested. “I thought it was campy,” he says, “and nobody takes it seriously. It’s just a Christmas treat.” However, Baker convinced him to read the novella, and Wood, who was turning 50, felt it spoke to him at that pivotal age. “I didn’t realize that Dickens had written such a great, dark story,” he explains. “It’s about hope: how can people change once they’ve gotten older and stuck in their ways?”

Wood played the humbug-uttering Ebenezer Scrooge for the first 10 years, and is excited to return to the challenge of the role this year. “You have to go on every night and calcify all of your feelings and have them chipped away throughout the course of the play.” Though the story occurs at Christmas, the heart of it can appeal to anyone. “Dickens really found a great way to express a real human story,” says Wood. “It’s the death of the old year and the beginning of the new year.”

A Christmas Carol is now going into its 17th consecutive season. “A couple of years ago we thought, I guess it’s going to wind down,” Wood says, “but last year was the best box office yet… It’s a great gift.” If you’ve been on the fence about catching this magical production, Wood recommends you dive in. “It’s a wonderful way to initiate yourself because it has all the best things about theatre: it’s completely accessible, it’s funny, and it’s uplifting. It’s a great family experience.” —Matthew Stepanic

A Christmas Carol | November 26 – December 23 
A favourite holiday tradition, this Dickens’ classic is sure to delight audiences young and old. Now on its 17th consecutive year of performance and with the return of its first Scrooge, Tom Wood, this show provides exceptional entertainment with its unforgettable story, rich characters, and dazzling special effects.
Citadel Theatre | 9828-101A Ave. | 780-425-1820

7 Gift-Worthy Reads from Edmonton Authors

1. For the Surprise Lover
Unwrap a new short story from some of North America’s best writers every day in this beautiful advent calendar curated by writer Michael Hingston and designed by Natalie Olsen. Order a copy off the website.
2016AdventCalendar_1

2. For the Epicure
Tour the best tastes in the Okanagan with connoisseur Jennifer Cockrall-King, who profiles the chefs, bakers, orchardists, coffee roasters, cheesemakers, and more behind the edible delights in her essential guidebook.
FoodArtisansOkanagan_cover

3. For the Activist
Editor Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail has gathered together 15 essays from Indigenous and non-Indigenous journalists, academics, visual artists, and lawyers who lead readers into a healing conversation about reconciliation.
InThisTogether

4. For the Amateur Sleuth
Journalist Pamela Roth explores some of the more disturbing homicide cases — both solved and cold — of Edmonton, which earned the nickname “Canada’s murder capital” in 2011.
Deadmonton--cover-BIG-WEB

5. For Kids
Young Anya learns to accept her unique differences when she wakes up with a striped tail on the first day of school in this quirky picture book from beloved author-illustrator Mike Boldt.
A-Tiger-Taile_Mike-Boldt

6. For Those Who Like to Laugh
Chuckle over comic Chad Huculak’s classic in-jokes about the colourful characters and moments from Alberta’s capital city.
EndoftheEarth

7. For Young Adults
Teenager Isabelle is ready to break under the stress of caring for her siblings and alcoholic mother while also working at the mini-mart, but after a violent incident at school, she begins to find relief in a group writing project.
A-Tiger-Taile_Mike-Boldt

Find a copy of these local books at Audreys Books. —Matthew Stepanic

Get Outfitted for Your Warm-Weather Escape at Bikini Village!

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Are you shopping for someone going on a warm-weather trip this Christmas? Do you need to get a new bathing suit of your own for an overseas adventure? Or, do you need a new suit to wear to your daily workout at the local pool?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to check out one the newest stores added to West Edmonton Mall — Bikini Village!

Bathing suit shopping can often be daunting, but this shop is bright and full of lots of variety in sizes, bright colours, and trendy patterns for both men and women. The staff is helpful, and the best part is that the fitting rooms have huge mirrors and great lighting. (Both very important factors when trying on bathing suits.)

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The shop also sells coverups and shoes, as well as other fun beach accessories.

For more great gift ideas for travellers, check out our Holiday Gift Guide in the November/December issue of WHERE Edmonton Magazine.

Happy shopping!

—Lindsay Shapka