We're up to our final instalment for the Edmonton series and we're finishing off with a bang. Not to spoil the surprise but we're finishing off with one of my favourite dishes, one that uses a most intriguing combination of blue cheese and chocolate sauce on Alberta beef!
Visit the Enjoy Centre for Lunch and Spa
Our next stop is the Enjoy centre which is a huge 4.5 hectare complex dedicated to environmentally minded businesses. All businesses are small, family owned or single location businesses to keep the centre unique. We are having lunch at the Prairie Bistro, a spacious, airy and modern restaurant located in the centre with a pretty patio area.
Apple, Quinoa & Fennel Salad with apple cider honey vinaigrette
The quinoa salad has a delicious oil based dressing and and cranberries, fennel slices and granny smith apple. It's fresh but surprisingly satisfying.
The Caesar salad has a strong garlicky dressing and a pesto spread crouton which is lovely and crunchy and when Mariam doesn't finish her plate I eagerly take up the slack. I always find myself craving salad when I travel with all of the irresistibly rich food on offer.
Irvings Slow Braised Berkshire Pork with sweet potato dumplings, green apple & cabbage
This was a rich pork dish that was perhaps a bit too rich for me for lunch and I think I would have really enjoyed this at dinner time. The sweet potato dumplings which are boiled and then pan fried are delicious-plump and slightly crispy around the edges and sweet from the sweet potato. There is sauteed apple and the only ingredient that doesn't really go are the alfalfa sprouts.
Confit of duck
We take a little walk around the centre and poke our head into some of the shops. I spy some of these adorable ceramic cheese markers which of course I have to buy because I have no resistance to cute retail items. The Enjoy centre supports local farmers to get organic certification which is a costly process and the centre was set up by the Holes family, a philanthropic family of Canada as an homage to their late matriarch Lois Holes. A greenhouse sits on the top level and the roof is also used for gathering rainwater.
Mmm I do love Montreal smoked meat!
Marina shows us around the centre and we get to try some Hungarian poppyseed cake. The baker here is Hungarian and this shows in the lovely range of baked goods all baked using organic flour.
I think the inlaws would love these! ;)
And how to avoid looking like a dehydrated lizard by the end of a trip? Have a facial or two! Downstairs on the lower level of the centre is the Water Garden, a spa and wellness retreat. They're brand spanking new having just installed the lights the day before and we're testing out the spa facilities.
My therapist Rosanna is experienced and puts me at ease. I am having a luxury facial and they have great beds which they can adjust so that your back doesn't get sore from lying prone as it can. She uses Pevonia products which smell wonderful and manages to incorporate quite a bit of massage into the facial which is of course my favourite part. And I must have fallen asleep because it felt like it was over in a jiffy and I was delivered back into the real world in a semi conscious daze...
Explore Old Strathcona
Old Strathcona is a historical district in Edmonton that is now a hub for entertainment and arts. It is also where the Edmonton Fringe Festival is held. The shops are quirky and boutiques and there are a lot of brick buildings as wooden buildings were prohibited due to fires. I only wish we had a bit more time to explore it but window shopping was still fun!
My kind of store...
Don't you just love this face?
Dine at Packrat Louie
In the Old Strathcona District, lies Packrat Louie which is the perfect location to enjoy a "light" dinner before exploring a little of the Edmonton Fringe Festival.
This dish comes out with five prawns wrapped in prosciutto and wood fire grilled on a stick. The prawns are plump and get saltiness from the prosciutto and a creaminess from the tangy roasted red pepper cream.
The ginger alligator is the star of the entrees with the deep fried and floured pieces of alligator in a sweet Asian ginger sauce slightly sticky from the sweet ginger. It sits on a bed of vermicelli noodles. And yes the alligator tastes like chicken ;) This dish was everyone's favourite by a mile.
The Beef Wellington is an individual square of beef Wellington cut in half and has mushrooms, tender beef and buttery golden pastry.
Honey Dijon lobster tail
The honey dijon lobster tail comes as a large, fat tail with the tail meat removed and then tossed in a honey dijon sauce and topped with a panko breadcrumb crust. The lobster pieces are a little chewy and I would have liked some more honey to balance the predominant dijon favour. It is paired with an Israeli couscous and vegetable salad and a cute miniature yellow capsicum and half white and yellow corn cobette.
Moroccan spiced lamb rack, spatzle, vegetable medley, jalapeno mint demi glace
Now we are running late for a performance at the Fringe Festival which is a short walk away so we put down our forks and knives and grab our cameras and walk swiftly but not before letting them know that we'll be back for dessert!
Attend the Fringe Festival
Edmonton is known for being a festival city and the annual fringe festival is the second largest in North America with approximately 90,000 tickets sold. This year, 400 acts submitted applications to be part of the Fringe Festival and the final choices were selected by a lottery system.
The organisers never intervene or dictate content for the artists (as long as it stays within the legal boundaries) and artists get to keep 100% of the ticket sales. They are supported by the government and other sponsors and advertisers, stall holders and they also make money at the beer tents. There is even a green section where rides run on green onion cake oil (they really do love their green onion pancakes!).
Our show for tonight was the 20 minute "Freak show" which certainly traversed the fringe. I shan't spoil the surprise but needless to say that it was nothing like we expected! Which is really probably the point of the Fringe Festival ;) As we are leaving a man in the neighbouring tent is spruiking his "foreskin show" but we decline. We are after dessert and so we head back to Packrat Louie.
Lemon lime meringue
The lemon lime meringue is always a matter of balance and this one is excellent and is the favourite dessert. There is just enough sweet meringue and the sweetness level of the lemon and lime filling is just right. We also like the thin crumb crust.
Sticky toffee pudding
The sticky toffee pudding is served warm and is soft, spongey and caramelly and moist inside with an almost gooey centre.
The tiramisu is a pretty square of sponge fingers soaked in liqueur. However there isn't much of a coffee flavour and I can taste a little lemon which is quite odd!
Have a drink at Bibo and try the Blue Cheese & Chocolate Beef at Culina
"Look at the back-there are baby's legs holding up the bags!" Lori says to me. I walk past the miniature men attached to the ceiling doing somersaults, antique frames, the Xray screen showing images and the eclectic decor to find the coat rack. Sure enough there are half a dozen plump baby's arms protruding out of the wall.
Oh yes Edmonton does share my decorating taste and I want a coat rack like that (I ask and apparently the arms are strong hooks being piled high with coats during winter!). We are at BiBo bar, a tiny bar that seats about a dozen people inside and is run by a sommelier Diane. Here wines are dispensed in 3oz (85ml) or full sized glasses and they have a variety of wines from all over the world including the Okanagan area in Canada.
Next door is Culina Mill Creek which is where we had some of my favourite dishes of the trip. Part of the Culina family of restaurants it is owned by the same people that own Bibo next door. Their menu is full of fresh, delicious dishes with some quirky twists.
Olives and feta
The black olives and feta are a salty kick start to the appetite. We've eaten so much over the last week that I'm surprised we can eat more but of course we do when it is this good.
Spicy fried chickpeas
These little chickpeas are like nothing I'd expect. With a crunchy edge as if they've been deep fried they are packed with flavour and quite addictive. I can imagine snacking on these in front of the television.
Romaine with sweet mustard dressing, edam, almonds and chopped egg $11
What can I say but I was crazy about this crunchy, creamy salad. It was simple enough sounding and perhaps I wouldn't have ordered it if I had read the description but I loved the crunch of the cos or romaine lettuce with a sweet mustard dressing, grated edam cheese, sliced and toasted almonds and chopped egg.
Quinoa salad with quinoa, dried cherries, feta, almonds, chickpeas and an apple-cider vinaigrette $ 13
The quinoa salad was also a lovely salad although I preferred the pure savouryness of the romaine salad. This quinoa salad had some delicous whole dried cherries which were sweet with a slightly tart edge, pieces of marinated feta, almonds, chickpeas and a tangy apple cide vinaigrette.
Line caught wild salmon with goat cheese almond sauce and cucumber tomato salsa on orzo pasta $31
The salmon came as fillets of wild salmon with a goat's cheese almond sauce and a cucumber tomato salsa. I didn't mind this but I preferred the other mains as the sauce was quite rich for the salmon. The cheesy orzo however was salty but moreish and I could have eaten the whole serve myself.
Alberta beef with blue cheese and chocolate sauce on dirty mashed potatoes $29
Now stay with me. I know chocolate and blue cheese aren't your usual accompaniments to a steak but they work absolutely perfectly together with just the right amount of heady creaminess to the bittersweet chocolate sweetness. There's no point trying to convince you, you will just have to try it for yourself ;) I promise you you will love it if you love steak. And it has to be noted that every time we've had steak here in Edmonton, it has been cooked perfectly medium rare.
Pork with spicy chimmichurri sauce $27
The pork was very soft and spicy with a smokey aspect to it but I keep going back to the beef. Who knew chocolate, blue cheese and beef would go so well together?
French Bread pudding
I had no room for this so I cut off a sliver and popped it in my mouth. This is what I've know it is as French bread pudding, sold in thick wedges. This is served warm with cream poured over it and berries. The pudding itself isn't very sweet and I have to admit that this isn't my favourite dessert which is probably a good thing as I am very full.
So Dear Reader, that was the end of an epic few days in Edmonton, Canada. We ate, we shopped, we spa'd and we ate again. Which is just how I like a trip to be!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you gravitate towards or stay away from unusual food combinations? And have you ever tried chocolate in a savoury dish?
NQN travelled and explored Canada as a guest of Tourism Edmonton, Tourism Jasper and Travel Alberta
101 Riel Drive, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada
Tel: + 1 (780) 419 6800
10335 83 Avenue Northwest Edmonton, AB T6E 5C3, Canada
Tel: + 1 (780) 433-0123
Edmonton Fringe Festival
10330 84 Avenue Northwest Edmonton, AB T6E 4E9, Canada
Tel: + 1 (780) 448-9000
August 16-26 2012
9919 89 Avenue Northwest Edmonton, AB T6E 2S5, Canada
Tel: + 1 (780) 437-5588
Culina Mill Creek
9914 89 Avenue Northwes/t Edmonton, AB T6E 2S5, Canada
Tel: + 1 (780) 437-5588