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Recap: Taste Alberta’s Prairie on the Plate at Buco Epcor Tower

Every Wednesday, all three Buco Pizzeria & Vino Bar locations (Epcor Tower, St. Albert and Windermere) feature a Date Night three-course chef’s choice meal for just $32.

Last week, chef Spencer Thompson transformed the weekly Date Night menu at the Buco Epcor Tower location into a Taste Alberta Prairie on the Plate menu featuring an assortment of ingredients from across Alberta.

Ricotta and Dandelion Tortellini – chicken sausage, Sylvan Star grizzly gouda, pine nuts, shaved apples

To kick things off, diners were treated to house-made tortellini with ricotta, spinach, and Alberta-grown dandelion greens. The pasta was served alongside chicken sausage, made by their sous-chef Michael who is also a butcher, along with Sylvan Star Grizzly Gouda, pickled pine nut butter, and shaved apples.

Buco Pizzeria + Vino Epcor Tower’s Chef Spencer Thompson

Buco Pizzeria + Vino Epcor Tower’s sous chef Michael

I’m told sous chef Michael spent over 20 hours prepping the Alberta Pork main course. He had to source pork trotters from a number of different Alberta pork farmers, which he braised, and then deboned. Chef Michael then made his own pork sausage using the trotter along with pork belly and shoulder, which he stuffed back into the trotter skin. To help keep the round shape, he wrapped the stuffed trotters in caul fat. The trotters were sous-vide and then pan fried (rendering off the caul fat), and resulting in a crispy stuffed pork trotter that was packed with flavour.

Zampone, an Alberta Pork trotter, stuffed, and served with Blindman Brewing session ale mustard, new potatoes, and green goddess dressing

The dish was complimented with Blindman Brewing session ale (from Lacombe Alberta) mustard, new potatoes, grilled vegetables, and green goddess dressing.

Peas on Earth carrot cake slathered with Fairwinds Farm goat cheese icing, local honey sponge toffee, and chocolate soiles.

For dessert, chef Thompson wanted to make it feel like diners had to dig in the garden to get to their dessert. First, Buco Epcor Tower’s pastry chef Jocelyn baked a carrot cake using Peas on Earth Organic Gardens carrots.

The dessert was delivered in butcher’s paper wrapped jars stamped with the Taste Alberta logo. Once unwrapped, the jars displaced the carrot cake mixed with Fairwinds Farm goat cheese icing, dehydrated chocolate brownies made into soil-looking chocolate crumbs, sponge toffee made with Sturgeon County honey, and toped with edible flowers from Reclaim Urban Farm.

With Shania Twain in town that night, Buco Epcor Tower’s culinary and serving staff had a busy evening between serving up Taste Alberta Prairie on the Plate dinners as well as concert goers. I love a deal – so I was thrilled when chef Thompson agreed to transform their weekly date night dinner into a Prairie on the Plate dinner.

The Date Menu chef’s choice is available every Wednesday for just $32. If you are an adventurous diner who enjoys experiencing the chef’s choice – check it out:

Buco Pizzeria & Vino Bar Epcor Tower
10423 101 St NW Suite #100, Edmonton, AB T5H 0E7
Phone: 780.250.2826
Email: epcortower@bucopizzeria.com

Chef Mridul’s culinary journey dining series at the Harvest Room

Last month, I joined a new dining series aimed at taking diners on a culinary journey around the world. Chef Mridul Bhatt joined the  Fairmont Hotel MacDonald culinary team last summer, and the Indian born and raised chef is eager to bring some international flavour to the Hotel Mac’s Harvest Room.

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Sadly, I missed his first two destinations – India and Spain – but managed to get my culinary passports stamped with his latest Italian dinner over the Easter weekend.

I felt $75 for the dinner was an excellent value for our five-course Italian dinner, and of course the service in the Harvest Room was impeccable. Chef Mridul and this team happily accommodated my gluten-free needs, but I did have a moment of envy while dining with the Spaniard and our friend Jose-Mi. While I did enjoy my gluten-free spaghetti with truffle, sunchoke, egg yolk and pecorino, I know I was missed out on the the hand-made parpadelle from the pasta course the boys raved about.

Antipasto course – olives, focaccia, Parma ham, burrata, and peppers

Piadina – seared ahi tuna, arugula pesto, pistachio, lemon

Piadina – (served gluten free) seared ahi tuna, arugula pesto, pistachio, lemon

my gluten free pasta course served with truffle, sunchoke, egg yolk, and pecorino cheese.

Parpadelle -truffle, sunchoke, egg yolk, pecorino cheese.

Beef tenderloin served perfectly pink with olive oil and parmesan mash, porcini, espresso

Castagnaccio – chocolate, chestnut, fig, and anise gelato

I think the Hotel Mac’s international culinary dining series is a great addition to the Edmonton dining scene and an opportunity to make some tasty #macmemories. The next destination Chef Mridul and his team will be taking diners to is Ukraine on May 25th.

My adorable dining partners for the Italian Dinner at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald – Jose Mi and The Spaniard

Confections Cake Co. dessert bar now open in St. Albert

If you have a sweet tooth there is a new dessert bar in the Edmonton area to add to your baked-goods hit list. Confections Cake Co., tucked between Jack’s Burger Shack  and Cerdo Tacos + Tequilla on Perron street in St. Albert, quietly opened on Tuesday last week, offering up an assortment of sweets late into the evening seven days a week.

I spotted a tweet on Friday from my massage therapist about the newly opened dessert bar, which caught my eye as she mentioned gluten-free options. I happened to be in St. Albert on Sunday evening and was excited to learn they were open until 10 p.m. Actually, they are open every night until 10 pm!

Confections Cake Co. owners Brittany and Jarrett opened their bake shop and cafe on Perron Street in St. Albert on April 10, 2018.

At present, Confections Cake Co. is run entirely by life and business partners Brittany and Jarrett.

Brittany, who hales from Vancouver Island, took three years of cooking school before studying pastry arts. She first moved to Edmonton to gain work experience at Duchess Bake Shop, before spending five years with Over the Top Cakes in St. Albert.

The current menu features three cakes – each priced at $8 a slice.

The Vanilla Berry features vanilla cake with vanilla butter cream with fresh berries.

The Salted Caramel has layers of vanilla cake with caramel butter cream, salted caramel, and caramel popcorn on the top.

The sky-high Triple Chocolate chocolate cake is layered with whipped chocolate ganache, white chocolate ganache, chocolate buttercream, dripped in chocolate ganache and topped with macarons.

Brittany is also serving up a New York style cheesecake, a chocolate mousse with a raspberry caramel on top, and a baked Canadian – a piece of chocolate cake with salted caramel and maple walnut ice cream that is wrapped in meringue, torched, and topped with candied bacon. Both the Baked Canadian and the chocolate cake can also be served gluten free.

I was impressed by the price of her French macarons, just $1.25, as well as the bold flavour of the blueberry cheesecake and the root beer float that I tried. Brittany plans to carry 10 flavours including: bubblegum, strawberry, coconut, lemon poppy seed, root beer float, salted caramel, pistachio, chocolate cherry, chocolate raspberry. The delicate cookie sandwiches are also available in six or nine pre-packed takeaway boxes.


An official grand opening is tentatively planned for Saturday, April 28 to coincide with their anticipated liquor license. The bake shop currently has a full menu of coffee items, but craft beer and cocktails paired with flights of dessert are in the near future.

Based on their first five days of business Brittany told me it was a mix of customers ordering in and taking away, but she expects the custom orders for cakes and wedding cakes to increase.


Brittany will also be offering a mix of sweet and savoury cooking classes at the bake shop and cafe – two dates for upcoming french macaron classes are ready for baking enthusiasts to register. Call (587) 873-6502 for more details on dates and times.

The young entrepreneurs have filled the dessert bar with local art and hope to add more seating in time for the grand opening. When we arrived on Sunday night the place was busy; it appears a dessert bar is going to be in demand in St. Albert. I expect by the time the St. Albert Farmer’s Market opens on June 9th, Brittany and Jarrett will have a line up out the door.

Confections Cake Co.
140, 15 Perron St, St. Albert, AB T8N 1E5
(587) 873-6502

Tuesday – Sunday – 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Monday – 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.

 

 

Recap: Taste Alberta Prairie on the Plate at Chartier

Chartier is a rustic, Quebec French style restaurant in the heart of Beaumont, Alberta. For those who have dined at Chartier, named one of the top 30 new restaurants in Canada by EnRoute Magazine last year, you can feel the warmth and love in every dish that chef Steve Brochu and his culinary team plate on the restaurant’s collection of vintage plates.

Last week, Chartier played host to the latest Taste Alberta dinner in the Prairie on the Plate dining series. Chef Brochu’s four-course meal for $75 highlighting some of Taste Alberta’s commodity partners: Alberta CanolaEgg Farmers of AlbertaAlberta MilkAlberta Pulse GrowersAlberta Turkey Producers, and Alberta Pork.

Guests were greeted by the Chartier team with welcome drink – an Alberta Premium Rye Saskatoon berry shrub lavender syrup and soda.

Alberta Premium Rye, Saskatoon berry shrub lavender syrup & soda.

With the clanging of a pot to grab our attention, chef Brochu welcomed us all and explained our first dish of the night. In advance of the event, Debra with Alberta Pulse Producers had dropped off some products from Alberta farmers to inspire chef Brochu. 

With a black box of pulses, Chef Brochu used green pea flour to make a house-made sourdough. He topped the bread with a fibre-packed serving of marinated black, red, northern grey, pinto beans and pine nuts, alongside parsnip chips. 

Green pea flour sourdough topped with marinated black, red, northern grey, and pinto beans, toasted pine nuts, and parsnip chips.

For our next course, chef Brochu showed Alberta Turkey Producers some love by creating a smoked turkey mortadella.

Smoked turkey mortadella topped with flourless blue cheese cake, gremolata and roasted pink oyster mushrooms from Gruger Family Fungi.

Morinville Colony turkeys were transformed into a mortadella (I’m sure Chartier could sell by the slice at their bread window), topped with a flourless blue cheese cake, gremolata and roasted pink oyster mushrooms from Gruger Family Fungi.

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For our main course, chef Brochu showed that pork belly can be the star of the show, and not just reserved for appetizers.

Chef Brochu shared a roasted Bear and the Flower Farm pork belly served with a pine nut risotto, parsley puree, parmesan crisps, and Brussels sprout leaves. For all you pork belly fans out there – this was a crispy skinned and flavourful winner.

For dessert, chef Brochu found inspiration in an olive oil cake popular in both Spain and Italy. But, for a true taste of Alberta, chef created a roasted lemon cold-pressed canola cake topped with Revolution Ice Cream Co. lavender ice cream and dried strawberries. (Obviously, my boyfriend The Spaniard approved).

One of the things I love about dining at Charter, particularly for brunch, is the variety of gluten-free options for celiacs like myself. Chef Brochu spent the evening accommodating diners with allergies from gluten to nuts, so I knew I would have something special coming for dessert.

Knowing that I am a bit of  crème brûlée fan, chef Brochu served me a double chocolate crème brûlée. Served on a vintage sauce, it was almost too cute to eat. Almost. (I cleaned that ramekin right out).

After we had a chance to thank chef Brochu, the entire culinary team, and all the lovely front of house ladies, a few of us took advantage of the restaurant props to snap a few Game of Thrones inspired photos.

A huge thanks to chef Brochu and the entire Chartier team for hosting Prairie on the Plate, and for highlighting just how amazing Alberta ingredients are. I’m doing my best to introduce more pulses into my cooking – I would be far more likely to eat my beans if I had chef Brochu at my disposal to plate as beautifully as he did that evening.

Looking forward to my next journey to Chartier (which I am sure will include their legendary poutine). Be sure to pay them a visit:

Chartier Restaurant
5012 50 St #102
Beaumont, AB T4X 1E6

A weekend on Vancouver Island

Conveniently, my birthday falls around the family day weekend. The last few years we’ve celebrated by going out of town for the three-day weekend. This year, we decided to take advantage of the direct Westjet flight from Edmonton to Comox and visit my friend Christopher and spend the weekend on Vancouver Island.

Christopher was very excited to show us around. We kicked our weekend off with a hike along the shore of Comox Lake before we joined the locals for a roast-beef-dinner at the Waverley Hotel in Cumberland. We also picked up some locally brewed Raven’s Moon craft cider (and bootleg BC wine) before heading home to binge watch the winter Olympics.

Saturday morning we were ready to kick it to west coast of Vancouver Island.

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Christopher suggested picking up some seafood before we set off, so we stopped in at Fanny Bay Oysters for oysters and crab, and we also grabbed some clams from Mac’s Oysters, where I was blown away by the massive piles of shucked oyster shells.

We arrived in Tofino to a torrential downpour, so we decided to wait out the storm with an incredible view from the restaurant in the Wickaninnish InnEventually the sun came out so we had a chance to walk the shore as the tide was going out.

We were hungry, so we stopped in for a bite at the famous Tacofino van parked out back behind a surf shop.

While waiting for tacos I always recommend deep lunges.

Tacofino Time!

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Christopher & The Spaniard trying to hide from the wind at Long Beach.

We strolled around Tofino taking in some of the sights like the Roy Henry Vickers art gallery. Eventually we made our way back south towards Ucluelet, stopping in for a windy sunset at Long Beach. 

Christopher had stayed at Fortune Cove in Ucluelet in the past and we were so glad to have the recommendation! The Cypress Cabin was adorable and the perfect home for a night to enjoy our home-cooked (and shucked) seafood feast.

Huge thanks to Christopher for shucking three dozen oysters for us to enjoy as well as cleaning the crabs!

Before the sun went down our hosts recommended we check out the lighthouse in Ucluelet.

Christopher convinced us to brave the winds by the lighthouse, but it was too intense. I thought we were going to get blown away.

The next morning I wasn’t feeling great, but after willing myself to feel better – we decided to take a walk along the Wild Pacific Trail.

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Silliness ensued and The Spaniard and I got into an intense game of push your loved one off the log.

Later on we stumbled upon the perfect tree which I am sure has idiots like Christopher and I playing on it all day taking photos.

Eventually we made our way back into town for lunch and to say goodbye to the funky octopus.

From there – things went a bit downhill for me. Either I had food poisoning or I picked up some stomach bug. I’m not sure – I can just tell you the 2.5 hour curvy drive back across the island was challenging. Once we were back at Christopher’s place – things went from sick to sicker. While I look back at the photos with positive memories, the last 24 hours of our trip was a memory I would like to erase.

I guess that means we’ll just have to head back to the Comox Valley and visit Christopher for another dose of Vancouver Island fun. Christopher – thank you so much for the hospitality and we hope to put your shucking skills to good use again soon!

 

Win 2 Tickets to the #ABFoodFight Feb 12, 2018 with Taste Alberta

On Monday, Feb 12, 2018 the oven mitts (or as The Spaniard likes to call them – kitchen mittens) are coming off!

The Alberta Diabetes Foundation and Taste Alberta are joining forces to show how locally sourced ingredients can be used to create healthy and nutritious dishes.

Home economist, writer, comedian, cookbook author and host of My Left Frying Pan youtube cooking show Mairlyn Smith will go head-to-head against local ingredient lover and executive chef of Chartier restaurant Chef Steve Brochu.

The event, which includes lunch at the Westin, is sure to have your healthy ingredient packed belly shaking with laughter. I’ve had the pleasure of learning nutrition tips from Mairlyn as I laughed my ass off on two different occasions when she was presenting at Christmas In November at the Jasper Park Lodge. Thanks to Mairlyn I learned the correct lyrics to a song from my childhood: beans beans the musical fruit, the more you eat, the less you toot.

Chef Brochu is sure to give Mairlyn a run for her fibre facts. Plus, he has the local advantage of know how to make ingredients from Taste Alberta’s seven commodity partners (Alberta CanolaEgg Farmers of AlbertaAlberta MilkAlberta Pulse GrowersAlberta Chicken ProducersAlberta Turkey Producers, and Alberta Pork) shine.

I’m so excited to help Taste Alberta give two tickets to the upcoming #ABFoodFight at the Westin Edmonton away!

There are two ways to enter for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the Alberta Diabetes Foundation & Taste Alberta’s #ABFoodFight Culinary Combat and Luncheon on Monday, February 12 at the Westin Edmonton (valued at $120):

  1. Visit Taste Albert’s Facebook page and leave a comment explaining why you love Alberta farmers.
  2. Tag @tastealberta on twitter and share why you love Alberta Farmers.

Taste Alberta will randomly select a winner on Friday, Feb 9, 2018.

If you want to guarantee your seat to this culinary showdown, you can still buy tickets to the #ABFoodFight Culinary Combat Luncheon in support of the Alberta Diabetes Foundation

 

Recap: Prairie Noodle Shop Taste Alberta Dinner

On Sunday, January 21, Chef Eric Hanson and his culinary team at Prairie Noodle Shop broke away from their ramen mould and plated a noodle-free Taste Alberta family-style meal inspired by flavours, ingredients, and products from across the province.

The challenge to the kitchen with every Taste Alberta Prairie on the Plate dinner is to showcase the seven commodities groups within Taste Alberta: Alberta Canola, Egg Farmers of Alberta, Alberta Milk, Alberta Pulse Growers, Alberta Chicken Producers, Alberta Turkey Producers, and Alberta Pork.

Well, chef Hanson and his team started off the 2018 Taste Alberta dining series with a bang! The menu represented the many unique voices from the kitchen, with the team sharing a flurry of bites which incorporated each of the commodities groups, and a whole lot more from the bounty of Alberta.

Upon arrival, guests were welcomed with a mint raspberry cocktail featuring spirits from two Alberta distilleries:  Strathcona Spirits Gin and Eau Claire Distillery Prickly Pear Equinox.

Potatoes in a sweet chili by self-taught cook Jamie Tokuda

I had a chance to savour my drink along with the first bite of the night – a bowl of baby potatoes in a sweet chili created by Jamie Tokuda. It was the calm before the storm as bite after bite arrived at our table, each one from different members of the kitchen.

The Spaniard helps himself to Bison tataki with pink lady batons & an apple ponzu sauce

One of the most interesting flavours on the night for me was an antipasto dish finished by Rob Freisen. The bite featured crab apples, picked and brined by Eric Hanson and Ben Staley in 2015 from the Edmonton River Valley, which had been stuffed with jam and wrapped in Alberta pork that Kevin had sourced from a local butcher.

I found the crab apples to have an initial flavour of olives, but finished with a distinct sour crab apple flavour. Wrap anything in Alberta pork and you always have my attention.

I couldn’t pick just one favourite from the Prairie Noodle Shop Taste Alberta dinner, but one of my top five bites of the evening was a venison tartare with beets and charred onion created by Mai Nguyen. The colours were beautiful and I was left wishing I had another one. 

Venison Tartare with beets and charred onion by Mai Nguyen

So often people think that turkey is for holiday menus, but I loved chef Hanson’s smoked turkey bombs wrapped in Napa cabbage. I’m told the sauce was turkey & chicken broth reduced down before having a smoked chicken fat emulsified in. The dish was an ode to chef Stephen Baidacoff, who showed Hanson the turkey parcel when they opened North 53; Baidacoff was also one of chefs to the create Prairie Noodle’s first four bowls and turn the concept into a series of pop-ups, into reality.Rob Friesen wanted to represent the sun and earth on a prairie road for his beet bite, and to taste our golden fields in a rural area with his dessert.

Sadly this gluten-free girl couldn’t have Friesen’s golden beet semifreddo with rye soil and mini beet chips; however, I thought the colour on the beet chips was lovely and my table mates gave the savoury semi-frozen dessert an approving mmm.

Chef Hanson’s grilled lamb and celeriac.

Another favourite on the night for me was the potato mochi with Sylvan Star Gouda by Kanako Stockdale.

I am happy to report that Chef Hanson says these delightful little cheese dumplings will be launching on the new spring menu. If you missed out on the Taste Alberta dinner and want to give them a try, he said these potato mochi will be featured on Feb 13th for Fat Tuesday.

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In advance of the event, Debra with Alberta Pulse Growers dropped off some product for chef Hanson and his team to experiment with. Kevin Ostapek used the green pea flour to create an onion bajji with spiced yogurt dip and B.C. Merlot dust. As a Celiac, I rarely get to indulge in fried items, so I was thrilled to try this gluten-free dish of Kevin’s that brought back memories of my backpacking trip to India. My sharing tablemates Debra and Simone were kind enough to let me finish off the plate.

With the flurry of bites complete, we moved on to the family-style portion of our evening. Our menu included another dish from Kevin highlighting Alberta pulse producers. The smoked pork loin was served atop a red lentil purée and topped with an Alberta Canola mole (a sauce that was one of chef Hanson’s favourite elements on the evening).

The pork was fork tender and packed with flavour, and since we were past the by-the-bite portion of the evening, I was able to plate myself a second helping.

Chef Hanson’s other favourite of the night was Jamie’s Umeboshi plums he grew and canned over the summer, which he then turned into a sauce with Albertan mustard that he brushed over chicken thighs on the grill. I grew up eating chicken thighs, in contrast to most of my friends who grew up on lean white chicken breasts, so I loved the tender flavour from Jamie’s hand-picked plum chicken dish.

Roasted Red Kuri Squash glazed brown butter and birch syrup created by Jamie Tokuda

Grilled AB chicken thigh brushed with Alberta mustard & Umeboshi plums gown in his backyard, by Jamie Tokuda

Cast iron Brussels sprouts tossed in Alberta honey, birch syrup, lemon and salt by Kevin Ostapek

The culinary team at Prairie Noodle Shop finished off the Taste Alberta menu with three sweet components. 

Mai Nguyen presented a malt cake brushed with brown butter drizzled with Alberta honey. I thought the cake looked reminiscint of a dense pound cake, but my tablemates said it was delightfully light and airy.

 

Rob Friesen got creative with Albert Canola by plating a sweet corn ice cream marbled with crunchy toasted canola, served with almond crumble, honey butter and corn ash.

And for a special treat, we got to cheers the innovative menu with a taste of Evan’s Cherry Liqueur by chef Eric Hanson.

I first met chef Eric Hanson when he was in the kitchen at Niche, so I’ve known for years how talented and passionate the guy is about the food he creates. At Prairie Noodle Shop I am so used to Eric fulfilling my gluten-free ramen cravings that I had forgotten how truly talented he is.

Hanson and the entire team at Prairie Noodle Shop have been so busy as of late it was challenging hammering down a date for a Taste Alberta – Prairie on the Plate dinner. I am so glad that we made it happen – it was one of the most memorable meals I have had in Edmonton in some time.

Eric said yes to the challenge of a Taste Alberta dinner because:

“I hope the experience opened not only our guests eyes but the Prairie Noodle Shop team’s as well that there are many delicious things coming from our own backyard, and even in January, we can enjoy the rewards.”

I consider myself lucky to have scored a seat at the sold-out Prairie Noodle Shop table that night. I’d like to thank chef Eric Hanson and the owners of Prairie Noodle House for hosting us, and to the entire team at Prairie Noodle for sharing your passion and your vision for the prairies on the plate.

I’m already looking forward to another bite of those Sylvan Star Gouda potato mochis when they land on your spring menu!

Prairie Noodle Shop
10350 124 st #4
Edmonton AB T5N 3V9
(780) 705-1777

Hours:
Monday: 11am – 2:30 pm
Tues – Sat: 11 am – 2:30 pm & 4:30 pm – 10 pm

Five Reasons to Brunch at Dogwood Cafe at Victoria

It is no secret that I like to brunch at the Dogwood Cafe located in the clubhouse of the Victoria Golf Course. My friend Linda (@lindork) teases me that ‘I love that place’ every time I rave about it – but I think she is just jealous she doesn’t have a neighbour gem like Dogwood so close to her house.  As a resident in Oliver, I absolutely love being able to walk down the hill, or when the weather agrees, get in a quick cross-country ski loop or two on the Victoria Golf Course, before enjoying a relaxing brunch at the Dogwood Cafe.

During the winter season, anytime someone asks me for a recommendation for brunch in the downtown area I always list Dogwood Cafe in my top three options. Here are five reasons you should brunch at The Dogwood Cafe.

1.  À la carte Saturdays or buffet brunch on Sunday

This winter season, chef Brad Lazarenko decided to switch things up by offering an à la carte brunch from 9am-2pm on Saturdays and Sunday brunch buffet from 10am-2pm.

While the Eggs Benedict is always a winner, in previous years I have regularly opted for the special of the day which often features a speciality Fuge sausage. From the Ukrainian platter, to the Swedish potato pancakes, huevos rancheros, french toast to the vegetarian breakfast sandwich, I feel there is something on the menu to satisfy any brunch appetite.

Dogwood Cafe eggs Benedict with ham & potato hash

Are you someone who has trouble committing to one dish? The Sunday brunch buffet offers up an assortment of hot and cold menu items along with an array of baked goods to satisfy any sweet tooth.

The Spaniard is a big fan of the dessert bar at Dogwood Cafe’s Sunday brunch buffet

Dogwood Cafe proudly supports a number of local farmers, producers and vendors like The Jam Lady which are showcased throughout the buffet.

 

2. Homemade baked goods

Whether you hit up Dogwood Cafe on a Saturday or Sunday, there is bound to be an assortment of house-made baked goods, as well as treats from local patisseries like FanFan Patisserie.


3. Casual dining with a fabulous view of Edmonton’s river valley

Dogwood Cafe has a fast-casual vibe for brunch. Upon arrival you order and pay at the counter and then select your table from the two upstairs dining rooms. Staff deliver the à la carte dishes and will top up the bottomless coffee, but then you are on your own. It may not be for everyone, I don’t mind filling my own water or grabbing items from the shared condiments areas because the vibe is completely relaxed. I have been to Dogwood on days when it is busy, but I’ve never felt rushed to leave because no one is dropping a bill off at the table. You’ve already paid! So you can stay as long as you like to enjoy the winter wonderland river valley view of the Victoria Golf Course.

 

4. Price is right

Items on the Saturday brunch menu vary from $7 for the breakfast vegetarian sandwich and top up at the $16 Ukrainian platter – a hearty portion of FUGE kielbasa, potato-cheddar pierogi, fried eggs and toast. Lattes are a reasonable $3.50.

I was shocked to learn the Sunday buffet was $21. Not ideal for anyone lacking portion control – I think the Sunday buffet is a great value. Our hot-menu options includes Fuge sausages, bacon, french toast, fried eggs and some kick-ass potatoes. Cold menu-dishes included a feature salmon frittata, a granola-fruit-yogurt bar, prawns served with a dill sour cream. And don’t forget the assortment of baked goods, which includes Brad’s freshly made raspberry muffins, cream scones, mini gluten-free cheesecakes, and a warm ginger bread pudding.

 

5. Brad Lazarenko and the Culina Family serve up a hit list of sweet & savoury bites

First off, no Ukrainian chef is going to let you go home hungry, so you know you are going to have a good fill when you eat at the Dogwood Cafe. I mentioned it before, but the variety of dishes is what keeps me coming back. Chef Lazarenko and his team serve up simple dishes packed with flavour. Every time I leave I am already thinking about what I am going to order next time.

Fuge ‘F-Bomb’ spicy italian pork sausage with mushroom-cheese frittata and marinara salsa.

* Ok – not in the top five for everyone, but a bonus reason for me is that Dogwood Cafe serves up an abundance of gluten free options.

My first trip to the Sunday brunch buffet included a gluten free plate filled with the salmon frittata, fuge sausages, potato has, eggs and prawns.

So, if you happen to have a high maintenance Celiac like me in your life – take them to Dogwood where they can order eggs Benedict, Swedish pancakes, and eat copious amounts of Fuge sausages.

Dogwood Cafe at Victoria

12130 River Valley Road,
Edmonton, AB T5N 0E0 

780 442 1636

Saturday brunch from 9am-2pm
Sunday Brunch Buffet from 10am-2pm
Open for Dinner Wednesdays to Saturdays from 5pm-10pm

Recap: A Taste Alberta Autumn Feast at Canteen

Autumn is a lovely time in Alberta; the leaves are changing and the harvest season presents a bounty from farms and greenhouses across the province.

Last week, 124th street’s Canteen hosted the latest in the Taste Alberta – Prairie on the Plate dining series with a $55 four-course autumn feast designed by chef Ryan O’Connor.

When we arrived, our table was excited to learn that Canteen had their happy hour prices on for the event which included three Alberta craft beers on for $5: Bench Creek Brewing Cloudbreak Hopfenweizen, Yellowhead Brewing Company Lager, and Alley Kat Brewing Company Buena Vista Brown Ale.

Canteen also had three glasses of white and red wine on for $5, but the drink that I found most enticing, as did my table, was the Eau Claire Distillery (from Turner Valley, Alberta) Gin with Porter’s Grapefruit Tonic for $5.

For our introductory course, chef Ryan O’Connor explained that Alberta Pulse Growers had donated the pulses for his yellow pea falafel.  Cooked in canola oil and served with a side of herbed creme fraiche, the dish also represented two other Taste Alberta commodity partners – Alberta Milk and  Alberta Canola.

I snuck into the kitchen as the second course of the evening was being prepared, which gave me an opportunity to catch chef Ryan O’Connor and his brother Sean O’Connor, executive chef of Canteen’s sister restaurant the Red Ox Inn, stirring things up.

I think I learned the secret to the brother’s Spätzle – it is tossed in a generous serving of butter (something that I am sure will make the dairy farmers of Alberta happy). 

Heading into the kitchen between courses can be dangerous. I was seriously tempted to steal a portion of pork belly once it came out of the oven.

 

Once the dish was plated and served, Chef O’Connor explained that we would be enjoying confit Irvings Farm Alberta Pork belly with dill Spätzle and braised purple cabbage. Chef O’Connor sourced all the vegetable for his autumn harvest dinner from Reclaim Urban Farm.

Confit Irvings Farm Alberta Pork Belly with Dill Spätzle and Braised Cabbage

Sadly I missed out on the Spätzle, but I did get to enjoy my Irvings Farm pork belly with a gluten-free modification featuring Brussels sprouts. 

Our main course was a comforting dose of meat and potatoes. Chef O’Connor braised Four Whistle Farms beef short ribs which were served up with charred onions and a potato pave. The dish was accented with a green peppercorn aioli  – a sauce I certainly would have bought had they offered us the option to take home.

Four Whistle Farms Beef Short Rib with Charred Onion, Potato Pave and Green Peppercorn Aioli

The dessert was my favourite dish of the evening. I’m not a die-hard chocolate fan – I prefer fruity or creamy desserts, so chef O’Connors pumpkin spiced pot de creme (which featured Egg Farmers of Alberta and Alberta Milk) was the perfect way to finish my autumn feast.

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I was so pleased when co-owners Andrea and Frank Olsen wanted to host a Taste Alberta – Prairie on the Plate dinner at Canteen. For me, the 124th street restaurant is home to one of the best brunches in Edmonton – and I forget to think of Canteen as an evening option. Chef Ryan O’Connor’s autumn feast was a good reminder –  I need to come in for dinner more often.

Nothing but brotherly love in the kitchen at Canteen.

Thank you all of the Canteen family for hosting a delightful meal on a crisp Wednesday night in October. I also learned that Canteen is offering a happy hour menu from 5 – 6 pm everyday! Check it out – I’d be happy to meet you at the bar.

Canteen
10522 124 St
Edmonton, AB T5N 1R9
(780) 485-6125

Why I love Adult Summer Camp

The leaves are turning, the air is getting cooler, and I know that a blanket of snow across Edmonton is on the horizon. Summer is over, and I realised, I forgot to recap this year’s weekend at Camp Wanna Getawae.

Last week I got together with Jon, one of the faithful camp directors and organisers of a local grown-up summer camp held at Camp Yowocas just west of Edmonton. Jon told me the sad news that he and co-organiser Sarah have decided Adult Summer Camp will be taking a hiatus in 2018, and will hopefully make a return in 2019.

I can’t imagine the efforts that went into organising 100 grown ups to take part in a weekend of adult-friendly camp fun – but I hear it was akin to the stress and work of planning a wedding. I am so grateful that Adult Summer Camp – 2.0 happened. Personally, I think it was better than the first year, and i’m not just saying that because I was team captain of the WINNING TEAM!!!

Going through photos brought back so many great memories. Here are 10 things I love about Adult Summer Camp.

1. Camp gear is all about costumes, outfit changes, and retro style

 

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At adult summer camp, the shorter the short shorts… the better! I saw men and women rocking some killer shorts all weekend. I think my favourite was on my teammate Mark – who rocked some tight-ass jean cut-offs all weekend long. 

Very functional mosquito net pants

Throughout the weekend we watched as our tie-dye shirts got snipped and restyled into crop tops, layers of fringe, and in some cases – just a vest. Costume changes were abundant; I heard Sarah’s friend say ‘that was two outfits ago.’

Oh… and Des and I busted out some amazing mullets.

2. Icebreaker games

the classic string on a spoon relay race

Adrenaline was running high when we all arrived for a weekend of camp. After getting assigned to a room and getting our shirts – we knew what was coming up next – Icebreakers! Just check out the intensity in this video:

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Watching a room full of grown-ups give it their all at balloon popping, pass the spoon on a string down your shirt, and my personal favourite – hungry hungry hippo on skateboards – was hilarious! I think I have watched this video 100 times:

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3. Grown-up Dance Party

DJ Quake made a repeat appearance at this year’s adult summer camp, revving things ups shortly after the ice breakers were done. Thankfully the bartenders were set up in the same room as the dance floor – the tunes he was spinning were so good I didn’t want to even leave for a bathroom break for fear I’d miss a sweet beat. The Spaniard taped Des and I singing/screeching the lyrics to Whitney Houston’s Dance with Somebody – I’m not quite sure how we had voices the rest of the weekend. Must send props to the Barbie girls – I was seriously jealous of those body suits. 

4. Team Beauty Parlour

This year, Des mixed business with pleasure and brought her staff from The Beauty Parlour. At first glance these ladies (and of course Dean) did not look like they would take the athletic events, but they fooled us all. They rocked the dance floor, held in there during the flip cup competition, and showed up for all camp events. They also created a braid chain – which inspired countless hairstyle changes.

5. Polar Bear Dip

Team Spirit Champion Gavin was the first to make the polar bear dip.

While Lake Wabamun served up some picturesque views – the lake is not exactly out of a Hollywood camp movie. The lake is shallow near the shore, so the polar bear dip (which counted for spirit points), is more of a crotch-level wade. Once again, I was surprised by how many hungover campers showed up.

My teammate Melissa was thinking ahead with the water props.

6. Camp activities

This year we got in the zip line, high ropes course, archery as well as canoeing. My favourite had to be lounging out on the lake in a canoe – although I’m pretty sure if The Spaniard and I ever signed up for any canoe activity that involved paddling for more than an hour we would break up. I don’t care what he thinks – if you can’t do a basic J stroke you shouldn’t get to sit in the back and steer the canoe!

* not an official option on the camp activity sign up list

7. Team Competition time

Jon & Sarah – thank you for reminding us that tossing a water balloon, participating in a potato sack race, and tug-of-war is not just for kids. This year’s competition was intense – and the final leg of the relay race saw some serious leap-frog wipe-outs.

As a non beer-drinker, I was happy to skip out on the beer mile (which saw a few people barfing in the trees during the race).

I refereed this year’s flip-cup competition. The event saw one team eliminated each round – which led to a lot of beer being consumed over 10 rounds. Thankfully, adult naps are fully supported at grown-up summer camp.

Special thanks to Ralph for adding some live music to the flip cup competition.

8 Campfire Sing-Along
This year’s campfire was awesome! There were some truly talented people this year who sang and strummed the night away. Long after the S’mores and hot dog station were cleaned up – Nils started dropping some rhymes – busting out the lyrics to all your favourite 80’s and early 90’s rap songs. Nils – you are amazing!

9. Winning Camp Wanna Getawae!

That’s right – the Cutie Pies wearing the baby blue tie-dye t-shirts took home the trophy, or in our case we each got a bottle of booze, for points we amassed towards spirit points, winning competitions, and for having the last people on the dance floor at Friday Night DJ Quake dance party.10. A memorable weekend with The Spaniard and friends

The Spaniard and I love all things summer camp – and this year was another amazing weekend. This summer, we brought Adult Summer Camp rookies Angela and Gavin, who ended up being a couple of ringer additions for Team Cutie Pies. This video of Gavin absolutely destroying his girlfriend Angela in a zorb ball still makes me laugh. (If you listen hard you can hear her squeak, and then The Spaniard busts a gut laughing).

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Add in Des and the Beauty Parlour gang, all of Jon’s friends I have gotten to know, our new teammates, and super fun and friendly people that Sarah brought to the mix – the weekend was packed with amazing people.

So to Jon and Sarah – thank you so much for organising one of my most memorable weekends of 2017. I laughed my ass off, squealed like a piglet as I ripped down the zip line, and enjoyed gluten-free S’mores as I sat among new friends listening to some very talented people entertain us at a campfire.

Whenever you decide to host another Adult Summer Camp – The Spaniard and I will be the first to sign up!