Browsing Tag

edmonton

Taste of Edmonton
Food, Reviews

Recap: A Taste of Edmonton 2015

I wasn’t planning on doing a recap of Taste of Edmonton this year. I generally have a good time and few complaints, and the summer festival season is so busy that I tend to miss the opportunity to write it in a timely fashion. This year though, there’s been so much discussion about the event that I did want to put my thoughts out there.

Much of the discussion around the annual summer food festival were responses to Edmonton Sun food columnist Graham Hick’s take on it – which is, that Taste of Edmonton was “awful.” Since the column, I’ve heard from people who completely agree – it’s gone downhill, it’s a fried food mess, this was the worst they’d experience in years. I’ve also heard from people who completely disagree – in fact, it was the best experience they’d had in years!

Taste of Edmonton

Me in a nut shell! A very happy Taste of Edmonton goer.

I am on the best-experience-I’ve-had-in-years boat.

Really and truly, both times I went to Taste of Edmonton this year (last Friday with Mike and again the following Monday with my mom), I had a fantastic time.

Here are some of the reasons why I thought this year’s Taste of Edmonton was better than it has ever been before:

More dishes for less tickets = greater value

Although the cost of tickets has increased over the years ($50 for a sheet of 40 this year), we were delighted that so many dishes were being offered at 3 tickets. That was one of the very first things we remarked – we saw a few 4 ticket items, but the majority were 3 tickets. That is exciting and important for us because it meant we could sample a larger variety of dishes and truly – that’s what “Taste of Edmonton” should be about – getting a chance to ‘taste’ a bunch of different dishes. If you’re concerned about value for your money, I honestly think $25 a person (half of the 40 tickets) was fantastic value for the 10 dishes (plus large lemonade) that we got to sample between the two of us. There were 71 dishes that were 3 tickets and 13 dishes that were 2 tickets, compared to just 11 dishes that were 4 tickets!

Taste of Edmonton

Normand’s Bistro’s Beef Short Ribs and Mash (3 tickets) at Taste of Edmonton.

Good portion sizes

I think when dishes are 4 (or more) tickets, there is this greater expectation that the portion size will be quite substantial and generally that expectation is not met. With most items we found being 3 tickets, we thought the portion sizes were more than reasonable – with some exceeding our expectations and most being right on the money. Something we had heard as a complaint and even complained about ourselves in past years is that with dishes costing too many tickets, or portion sizes being too large, you really don’t get to sample that much – and that goes against the whole idea of having a taste of lots of things! So I thought portion sizes this year were for the most part perfect – with some (like the 3 ticket cauliflower fritto from Parlour) going above and beyond portion expectations, and some (like the 3 ticket single meatball slider from Little Italy Pasta) being a bit disappointing.

Taste of Edmonton

Parlour Edmonton’s Cauliflower Fritto (3 tickets) at Taste of Edmonton.

New restaurants, new dishes, new programming

At Taste of Edmonton, there’s not a whole lot of changes from year to year and you’ll find a lot of the same food vendors who have participated in past years – there will always be that element which is maybe boring, but there’s something to be said about consistency and fan favourites. Still, that’s not to say there isn’t new additions being added with each Taste of Edmonton. This year, there were 54 new menu items, 12 new restaurants and food trucks, and they added a bunch of culinary workshops, adventures, and Sip ‘n Savour pop-ups – plus some programming for kids, and main stage entertainment options. I don’t know how many people are taking advantage of the different culinary extras Taste of Edmonton has added (most people do just go to sample the food), but for those who are interested in something more, there is that option! Take some classes, visit a brewery, go on a farm tour. That’s great that I have the option to do that at Taste of Edmonton if I want to. As well, free nightly concerts in the heart of Edmonton’s downtown? What a lovely way to spend a summer day. There’s not a lot of things overly different from years past, but it’s always nice to see something different each year.

Taste of Edmonton

The Fairmont MacDonald’s Pork Tacos with Kimchi Slaw and Lemon Thyme Aioli (3 tickets) at Taste of Edmonton.

What are your expectations?

One complaint about Taste of Edmonton food offerings is that it’s like K-Days / the midway = greasy, deep-fried things on sticks kind of food. I disagree. Of course, you’ll find your fair share of battered, deep-fried items, and probably it will be difficult for you to find totally wholesome, healthy dishes, but I also don’t go to Taste of Edmonton with the expectation that I’m going to find some fantastic salads and things that are low-calorie that would be suitable for a diet or a cleanse. I just don’t.

Taste of Edmonton

The Lingnan’s Dry Spicy Chicken (4 tickets) and Khazana’s Butter Chicken on Rice (4 tickets) at Taste of Edmonton.

Another complaint I had heard about Taste of Edmonton is that you’d rather spend the $25 (or more) dollars for a nice, sit-down dinner at a restaurant somewhere. Again, what are your expectations for an outdoor summer food festival promising to show you samplings from various restaurants in the city? It’s certainly not my expectation to get a sit-down restaurant dining experience.

Taste of Edmonton

The Sirloin Beef on Rice with Sesame Sauce (4 tickets) at Taste of Edmonton.

Borrowing this line from my friend Diane: “I think it’s unfair to expect people not to trade off some degree of uber high quality for convenience, etc., because these people are cooking in a hot tent and customers want their food instantaneously.”

Taste of Edmonton

IRIE Foods Carribean Cuisine’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken on Rice with Jerk Sauce (3 tickets) at Taste of Edmonton.

I’m not going to Taste of Edmonton to get the kind of high quality dining cuisine that I would (hopefully) get in a sit-down restaurant. I’m going to Taste of Edmonton to sample a bunch of food in a bustling, festive, outdoor environment, where I can people watch and enjoy a beautiful summer day in Edmonton. It’s a bonus if the food is delicious, but am I expecting each dish to knock my socks off? No. It’ll be good (some will be amazing, some will be just okay), and it’ll show me a little bit of what a restaurant/vendor has to offer.

Taste of Edmonton

Little Italy Pasta’s All Beef Meatball Slider (3 tickets) at Taste of Edmonton.

It’s also (and this is why many vendors sign up for Taste of Edmonton) a great way to get some name/logo/face recognition to a restaurant/chef. I think for most food vendors, Taste of Edmonton is not about making a profit – it’s about marketing/exposure, and being involved in Canada’s largest food festival and a long-standing Edmonton summer tradition.

Taste of Edmonton

Food offerings in the Sip ‘n Savour tent.

If I found anything disappointing about Taste of Edmonton, it would be the food and questionable value of the Sip ‘n Savour pop-up restaurant. I stopped in the first night as a guest with Taste Alberta (thank you Taste Alberta!) but I didn’t think the food we had in there was great and while Mike enjoyed the drinks, and the patio furniture and view of the stage was nice, if I had paid even the $10 to get in, it wouldn’t have been very satisfying.

Anyone could get into the tent for $10, which would get you patio seating with a good view of the main entertainment stage, one free drink, and a keepsake wine glass. You can get additional food inside the tent with your Taste of Edmonton tickets. Or you could also spring for the $40 ticket option available for groups of 10 or more. This would get you access to the tent, reserved patio seating, three free drinks, the keepsake wine glass, and unlimited access to the food inside the tent). Doing the tent plus regular Taste of Edmonton food offerings would quickly escalate costs.

Still, this year I did appreciate that the tent’s location had been moved to a more central location, and I do like that they’re trying to offer a variety of different food-themed activities (the classes/workshops, culinary tours, even the food fight) to add that extra entertainment element to the festival.

Taste of Edmonton

Nello’s Italian Meat with Gravy (3 tickets) + Penne (1 ticket) at Taste of Edmonton.

Overall, I had just a lovely time (both trips) to this year’s Taste of Edmonton. My favourite dishes were Normand’s Beef Short Ribs & Mash (just the most tender ribs ever!) and Parlour’s (yes deep fried) Cauliflower Fritto. Mike’s favourite will always be Japanese Village’s steak with sesame sauce and The Lingnan’s Dry Spicy Chicken (4 tickets).

Taste of Edmonton

My mom having the best time at Taste of Edmonton.

My mom really enjoyed the Italian Bakery’s Canolli (3 tickets) and the Fairmont Mac’s Berry Compote Scone (3 tickets) (she’s a dessert gal) and I am kicking myself for not getting Zinc’s Banana Bread Pudding (3 tickets) – it was a favourite of mine last year but there were so many things to choose from that I opted to try some other items.

Taste of Edmonton

Curry ‘N’ Hurry’s Chicken Bhoona with Basmati Rice (3 tickets) at Taste of Edmonton.

We also thought line-ups were minimal – both times we went. I did stand in line for a bit to get tickets the night I went with my mom, but after that – other than Pampa’s crazy long line-up for their bacon-wrapped chicken, all other tents we stopped at were either 1-2 people in front of us, or the rare 5 maybe 6 people in front of us. (Recommended: purchase your tickets in advance so it’s 20% off to avoid ticket line-ups and get even more bang for your buck). I also found there was lots of space/tables to sit down!

BONUS: On the Friday night, we saw Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler! He was in town before heading to Fort McMurray for a concert – and looked like he was having a blast at the event. I think he did several loops around and Mike ran into him in the bathroom! lol!

Will I be back to Taste of Edmonton next year? Yes! Did I think this year’s was the best yet? Yes! I went into Taste of Edmonton with certain expectations. That I would:

  • Try a bunch of different food from a bunch of different places
  • Feel like I got bang for my buck
  • Leave full
  • People watch
  • Take part in a lovely outdoor Edmonton summer tradition (and get some awesome summer vibes)

And you know what? I left extremely satisfied on all fronts!

I certainly also don’t mean for this post as any kind of attack on Graham or his opinions – everyone is entitled to their opinions (and it’s his job to publish his). Actually, although I completely disagree with his on Taste of Edmonton, I think it was great to start a discussion on what makes the festival great (or not so great).

Check out Sharon’s recap of her Taste of Edmonton experience. You can also read what CBC Edmonton / Twyla thought of it. Please let me know what you thought of this year’s event in the comments below (or social media :)) As a side note: I am SO looking forward to Heritage Festival this year!

Sign me up for all of the summer food festivals, please!

Linda

Follow lindork on Instagram

The Lion King Edmonton Musical Broadway Across Canada Touring
Life, Reviews

Recap: The Lion King Musical in Edmonton!

This week Mike and I went to see the world’s #1 musical!!

The Lion King is in Edmonton July 14-August 9 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium and if you don’t have tickets yet – please, go get some. No really. What an amazing show!!

Watching The Lion King was a rollercoaster of nostalgic emotion. Growing up, my dad would buy VHSs for all Disney movies. The Lion King was a staple in our living room.

I remember regularly crawling around our apartment on all fours, pretending I was a lion, roaring at nothing, reenacting the movie – including belting out all of the songs (I was a one-girl show) lol. I would proceed to do the same for subsequent movies in the Lion King series. It was one of the most memorable Disney movies I grew up with – same with Mike. He says he’s probably watched The Lion King “more than a million times” growing up, lol.

Needless to say, we were pretty pumped to go (and to make up for missing it when it was in Edmonton last – back in 2009).

Re-enacting The Lion King with Loki before the show!

Re-enacting The Lion King with Loki before the show!

We hit up the “Grub Club” at the Jubilee Auditorium before the show – which was just a simple but clever and fun themed snack and slushie stand.

Got myself a Jungle Juice (with worm included) at the Grub Club before The Lion King!

Got myself a Jungle Juice (with worm included) at the Grub Club before The Lion King!

I wasn’t sure how the animals were going to be presented on stage but had high expectations – which were completely met. Endless props (lol pun) to the costume designer (Julie Taymer), mask and puppet designer (Julie Taymer and Michael Curry), hair and make-up designer (Michael Ward), scenic designer (Richard Hudson), choreographers (Garth Fagan and Marey Griffith), and actors! (Really just everyone involved in the show!)

Incredible puppetry / costumes / set at The Lion King! (Photo credit: The Lion King Facebook Page)

Incredible puppetry / costumes / set at The Lion King! (Photo credit: The Lion King Musical Facebook Page)

Actors wore elaborate / intricate costumes featuring the many African animals featured in the movie. I don’t know if the actors were an extension of the animals or the other way around it was so seamless. There was one particular “lioness” and actress who were just so in sync with each other. A head nod or slight movement of the actress’ head would get the exact same movement from the lioness that extended out from her. Mufasa and Scar’s lion masks either impressively sat atop the actors’ heads or with the gentlest nudge would come down in front of their face (usually for the action scenes). Birds would fly from long poles spun rapidly from the actors. Pumba was larger than life. There were fully grown elephants and baby elephants (so cute!), beautiful dancing antelope and an incredible altered bicycle with antelope attached to its top, galloping as the bicycle moved across the stage. The vivid colours, costume detail – and the amount of things my eyes kept going to, amount of animals on stage – would’ve been enough to take in even without the rest of show.

Young Simba and Scar in The Lion King. Photo Credit: The Lion King Musical Facebook Page

Young Simba and Scar in The Lion King. Photo Credit: The Lion King Musical Facebook Page

Another thing that delighted me was how close to the movie the musical was – not only with the lines but with the voices and inflections of the actors. The three hyenas (Tiffany Denise Hobbs, Keith Bennett, Robbie Swift) sounded identical to the movie’s actors (kudos to the actor who played Ed – Robbie Swift – laughing maniacally on stage cant be understated). Mufasa, Scar and Zazu’s actors (played by Gerald Ramsey, Patrick R. Brown, and Drew Hirschfield) also sounded so similar to the movie. (That nostalgia!)

I also have a big crush on Mufasa lol.

Prancing gazelle at The Lion King. Photo Credit: The Lion King Musical Facebook Page.

Prancing gazelle at The Lion King. Photo Credit: The Lion King Musical Facebook Page.

The musical follows the movie’s plot almost exactly. There were a few lines and a few songs/scenes that weren’t in the original. Personally, I didn’t like the additional songs/scenes. (Lion King purist?) There’s a dance break during Scar’s Be Prepared that just felt a bit weird – with some ab-revealing hyenas doing what felt like a very Magic Mike kind of dance.

The Lion King in Edmonton. Photo Credit: Broadway Across Canada (http://edmonton.broadway.com)

The Lion King in Edmonton. Photo Credit: Broadway Across Canada (http://edmonton.broadway.com)

Adult Simba (Aaron Nelson) also had a brand new song he performed before making the realization that he needs to return to Pride Rock and I could not have cared less about it.

There were also a few pop culture / location references that were new that I’m not sure worked completely. (A Canadian Tire joke, a caged Zazu singing Let it Go from Frozen, and a different hyena-distracting jingle from Pumba and Timone).

I cried during Mufasa’s death scene but was upset during Scar’s reveal that he killed Mufasa (there was no slow build up: “I….. Killed….. Mufasa!” It was a very quick “I Killed Mufasa” which was jarring for me especially given how closely they stuck with tone/pace/inflection for the rest of the show.

The way they show Mufasa coming back to speak to Simba is incredible. (I uttered “wow” in my seat). The Circle of Life was a feast for the eyes/senses. Rafiki (played by Mukelisiwe Goba) was larger than life!

Lionesses at The Lion King. Photo Credit: The Lion King Musical Facebook Page.

Lionesses at The Lion King. Photo Credit: The Lion King Musical Facebook Page.

Overall, it was a truly incredible show. I’ve seen a few in the last couple of years – Les Mis, Wicked, Book of Mormon, Beauty and the Beast, and this quickly shoots up to near-top (I’ve been lucky with having only really seen musicals I would totally recommend!) The pace of the Lion King felt much better / quicker than some of the others I’ve seen. It was about 2.5 hours (7:30 p.m. start, out of there around 10:10) and didn’t feel long. The first act was much longer than second but you never thought “when is intermission?” during the first act.

It was so wonderful I’m going to bring my mom to see it before it leaves Edmonton August 9! Since The Lion King was a Disney staple in our home growing up, when I mentioned we saw the live show to my mom, even her face lit up. “The Lion King?” she said, probably a rollercoaster of nostalgic emotion flooding over her too.

The Lion King Musical was amazing!

The Lion King Musical was amazing!

Tickets (that are left, that I’ve found), range between $27 (nosebleeds) to $104 (floor).

Broadway Across Canada’s The Lion King runs in Edmonton until August 9. You must go!

If you have seen The Lion King musical – please tell me in the comments below, what your favourite parts were!

And what are your favourite Lion King songs? I loved the drive home – I kept playing the songs on my phone and even days later, am still humming/singing to the songs!

Linda

Edmonton Hudsons Canadian Pub
Food, Giveaways, Reviews

Recap + Giveaway: Hudsons Canada’s Pub’s New Menu + Enter to a Win a $50 Gift Card!

Last weekend, Mike and I headed down to Hudsons Canada’s Pub (Bourbon Street) to check out their new menu. Hudson’s has gone through a re-brand recently – including changing their name + look/colours (I only just realized when I was googling their website for this blog post, that they’re officially no longer Hudsons Canadian Taphouse!) and doing a fairly large overhaul to their menu.

Hudsons’ menu is meant to be very “Canadian” – with inspirations and flavours taken from coast to coast. I think over the past few years, with the rise of other pub/restaurant chains like Original Joe’s, State and Main, and now Brown’s Social House, Hudsons has probably suffered a bit. I know personally, if I’m in the mood for pub food – I’d lean towards the first three places over Hudsons. I’m sure that’s a part of why they rebranded (took out the ‘taphouse’ in their name) and is putting a bigger emphasis on the food.

Obviously the change is a welcome one! :)

Read on for a recap of what we tried and enter for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Hudsons so you can try their new menu too!

Edmonton Hudsons Canadian Pub

Campfire Poutine – fries, cheese curds, house gravy, ground beef, bacon, tomatoes, sour cream, green onions, and hot sauce ($13.25) at Hudsons Canadian Pub.

We started off the night with the Campfire Poutine – fries, cheese curds, house gravy, ground beef, bacon, tomatoes, sour cream, green onions, and hot sauce ($13.25). This was – amazing. One of our new favourite poutines for sure. What does it for us is the hot sauce mixed with gravy. It adds such a nice kick to each bite. We couldn’t stop eating this poutine.

Edmonton Hudsons Canadian Pub

Loaded French Onion & Bacon Dip served with thin cut kettle (cactus cut-style) chips ($11) at Hudsons Canadian Pub.

Our other appetizer was the Loaded French Onion & Bacon Dip served with thin cut kettle (cactus cut-style) chips ($11). You get a huge portion of chips with this dish and as readers would know, sign me up for anything chips-related. One of my must-orders if we are ever at Boston Pizza are their Cactus Cut Potatoes with their spicy dip. Hudsons’ dish certainly rivals that. The French onion & bacon dip itself is super tasty (anything bacon, #amiright?) and the chips (all but maybe one or two) were just the right amount of crispy.

Edmonton Hudsons Canadian Pub

All-Canadian Burger featuring Alberta beef, oka cheese, Canadian cheddar, back bacon, lettuce, tomato, Lumberjack Lager-braised onions, and Hudsons’ Maple BBQ mayonnaise served with a side Caesar Salad with deep fried capers instead of croutons ($15.50) at Hudsons Canadian Pub.

For our mains, Mike went with the All-Canadian Burger featuring Alberta beef, oka cheese, Canadian cheddar, back bacon, lettuce, tomato, Lumberjack Lager-braised onions, and Hudsons’ Maple BBQ mayonnaise served with a side Caesar Salad with deep fried capers instead of croutons ($15.50). He really liked this burger. The patty was super juicy and the Lumberjack Lager made for very memorable onions (in fact I asked him a few days later what he liked about the burger and he said, ‘I really liked how they did the onions’). He wasn’t a fan of the capers over croutons on the Caesar but I LOVE capers and thought it was an awesome (and kind of unexpected/sophisticated) substitution. Mike is mostly not a fan of capers because they are so salty but if you’re a salt girl like me, you’ll dig this.

Edmonton Hudsons Canadian Pub

Homestead Chicken Sausages – Spolumbo’s apple maple chicken sausages with cheddar mash potatoes and onion demi-glace ($15.50) at Hudsons Canadian Pub.

I wanted to be different, and try something I thought wasn’t a typical “pub food” dish – so I ordered the Homestead Chicken Sausages – Spolumbo’s apple maple chicken sausages with cheddar mash potatoes and onion demi-glace ($15.50). I have to say I was kind of disappointed. There was a taste (tangy taste?) of the sauce that I didn’t really like, and I felt like it permeated throughout everything else on the plate. I was also terribly full by the time we got to this (from the appetizers, but honestly I’d also just finished a 5 course meal out in the country a couple hours earlier). So that could also explain my mostly just ‘meh’ about this dish (and that’s on me). But it’s supposed to be comfort food and in theory it is, but in execution I don’t think it worked. *edit* Hudson’s actually reached out to me after I wrote this and said there was horseradish in the mashed potatoes that seemed to overwhelm most people and did not work with the onion demi-glace so they’ll be tweaking that particular dish, so when you try it it might be tastier!

Edmonton Hudsons Canadian Pub

My date to Hudsons Canadian Pub!

Overall though, the service was great and our dishes (except the sausages) would definitely be worth coming back for. Mike had two beers – including Hudsons’ famed Scuttlebutt Hefeweizen, which I guess was once a very popular beer but it hadn’t been on the Hudsons menu for a few years now. (It’s only back for a limited time now – by popular demand!)

We also tried their Maple Bacon Mini Donuts ($7.50) which are – exactly what they sound like. A little taste of K-Days at your local pub. Sweet + bacon goodness. I’m not into maple or donuts so I didn’t like them but Mike – who is a fan of maple, bacon, and donuts – was extremely satisfied.

Edmonton Hudsons Canadian Pub

Maple Bacon Mini Donuts ($7.50) at Hudsons Canadian Pub.

I also wanted to mention that I actually visited Hudsons’ Whyte Avenue location not too long ago and tried their Gruyere Mushroom burger (which is also new on the menu) and thought it was fantastic. (Also, lighting is so much better on a patio, but we know this. lol)

Edmonton Hudsons Canadian Pub

The Gruyere Mushroom burger at Hudsons Canadian Pub!

I know I’ll be craving the Campfire Poutine and the French Onion Bacon Dip with Kettle Chips so we’ll definitely be back to Hudsons – sooner than later. Cheap wing Wednesdays is always a good excuse to head to the pub too. It’ll also definitely be higher up for dining considerations when we’re in the pub mood (though admittedly, Browns and Original Joes are closer in proxmity).

I have to commend them for revamping their look and feel (the in-restaurant look and feel doesn’t reflect their online look and feel yet though) and putting a renewed emphasis on their food! There’s no reason why pub food can’t be unique, exciting, or super flavourful.

Thanks to Hudsons for inviting us out to try their new menu and for generously offering this $50 gift card giveaway! Enter below!

** GIVEAWAY **

ENTER TO WIN A $50 GIFT CARD TO HUDSONS CANADA’S PUB

I’ve got 1 gift card to Hudsons (valued at $50) to give away!

Edmonton Hudsons Canadian Pub

Hudsons Canadian Pub

Log into Rafflecopter below for different ways to enter – leaving a comment on this blog post telling me which menu item on Hudson’s new menu (click here to see the menu) would you like to most try?

Leaving a comment is mandatory in order to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s not an option through Rafflecopter but if you also share this blog post on Facebook (tagging my Facebook Page Lindork – Linda Hoang) that will also get you an extra entry! Let me know you’ve done this in the comments too.

This contest closes on Friday, July 24, 2015.

I’ll randomly select one winner from all eligible entries.

Note: Comments are moderated so don’t be concerned if your comment doesn’t appear right away!

Good luck!

And even if you don’t win – hope you stop at Hudsons at some point soon to try their new offerings! (That damn good Campfire Poutine!)

Linda

Follow lindork on Instagram

Click to add a blog post for Hudsons Canada's Pub on Zomato