July 19, 2019
Category: DT Advantage Summer 2019
Taste of Edmonton Review
It’s festival time Downtown and one event that everyone at the Downtown Business Association looks forward to is Taste of Edmonton. We sponsor the event every year, as festivals are important contributors to the economic and cultural vibrancy of Downtown. So what is Taste of Edmonton? It’s 10-day food festival where folks can sample food from more than 50 restaurants across the city. Our team headed out to the grounds yesterday and today, and here’s our faves so far.
With so much food to try, I never know where to start. My tip is to ask my favourite Downtown chefs to tell me their festival faves. Last year, Lasha Gust of Wishbone recommended the butler steak sandwich from Vintage Fork at Rutherford House. This year’s sample did not disappoint. For three tickets, you get a few bites of medium-rare grilled steak on a crispy baguette bathed in demi butter. After the first mouthful, I realized that anything drizzled with butter is a winner.
Next up, the bao bun from Loma House Vegetarian Express. It’s not something I normally would try at Taste of Edmonton but a lady was standing in front of me with the massive bun. It was filled with a big serving of “pork belly” so I thought I’d go for it. The vegan pork belly was made out of wheat gluten. The crispy texture was spot-on but the flavour was a bit too wheaty (if that’s a word) for my liking. Still, I’m quite impressed with this vegan sandwich and I’m now curious about the restaurant too.
For dessert, I headed to Zinc at the Art Gallery, mostly because chef Doreen Prei is heading the kitchen again. There was no way I was going to pass on the banana bread pudding. It was perfectly moist, not too sweet, topped with caramel sauce and a brûléed banana slice. While you’re there, check out the new Zinc menu. New dishes include braised pork belly, seared Alberta beef tenderloin and grilled marinated chicken thighs. I’m looking forward to visiting Zinc and trying out the new menu.
Tracy Hyatt is the marketing and communications manager at the DBA
The first thing I saw while aimlessly wandering the festival was a glass case packed with rows of Spanakopita. The man at the Koutouki booth was trying to use his Mediterranean charm and charisma to get me to try his food. It worked. First bite and it fell apart in my mouth. There were endless layers of thin, crisp dough, filled with creamy spinach. The tzatziki dip added a nice tang to tie the dish together.
As I began to wander again, I passed by Kiwado Japanese Cuisine. I took a quick glance expecting the typical dishes but was pleasantly surprised to see Tonkotsu ramen as an option. Mini bowl in hand, I found a place to sit and I didn’t hesitate to dig in. The pork was tender and the hot broth wasn’t overly rich. It was the perfect warm pick me up on a cool day.
Last, I stopped at the Afghan Foods booth because I have a weak spot for anything dumpling. I tried their Mantu – dumplings filled with beef and onion. The sauce they were served with complimented the seasoning in the beef and gave them moisture since the dumpling wrapper had a bit of a chew to it. The Mantu hit the spot as I was craving something fried, doughy and starchy.
Kayla Shapka is the marketing coordinator at the DBA
While there’s an overwhelming array of options, I started with a familiar face. Hawkeye’s is an establishment I walk by daily, but have never taken the leap to dine there. I tried the lemongrass chicken wrap. As someone who is a snob about texture, I was wary of having noodles in a wrap but was pleasantly surprised at how it all worked together. The chicken had good flavour and was plentiful. The real winner was the sauce. It was a sweet, subtle peanut and lemongrass mix that made this simple dish a home run.
I’m definitely the person who loves to give the vegan options a chance to shine, and the bao bun from Loma House Vegetarian Express was definitely a star. My interest was peaked after hearing the buzz around this new addition to the menu. The bun is soft and chewy with a nice sweetness to compliment the flavours in both the slaw and the protein. In many cases, I’ve found the texture of vegan protein options to be off-putting but the chef found a way to make it crispy and meaty and a pretty good substitute for the traditional fried pork.
On my quest to try some local favourites, I came across The Lingnan, a family-owned Chinese restaurant located just north of Downtown. With a limited number of tickets left and only so much stomach space, I decided on their lighter dessert option, Chinese mini donuts. These regular mini donuts, these are little fried pockets of doughy goodness topped with cinnamon sugar and a sweet sauce. They’re just what you need to warm your heart and soul on a damp (or maybe warm) July day.
Sydney Pshyk is a Downtown Ambassador at the DBA
David S’ picks
I stepped foot into Taste of Edmonton excited to do some taste testing, but as I made my way through the festival, I began to feel overwhelmed by choice. So many good options, but so few tickets. But then, before me, stood The Vintage Fork at Rutherford House – specifically, the London Fog creme brulee. The quintessential start to any good meal, of course, is dessert. It had the perfect thin shell of caramelized sugar one would expect from a creme brulee, which cracked delightfully as I sent my spoon through it. It was delicious, not too sweet as to overwhelm but still certainly enough to satisfy a sugar craving.
Next up was the crispy pan-fried dumplings from Loma House Vegetarian Express. Often, I’m not a big fan of Asian food, and it can be harder to find a vegetarian dish that I like. This certainly wasn’t the case at Loma House. The dumplings were filling and great with the hoisin sauce. The pickled cabbage and carrots on the side were a nice touch.
As I worked my way through my tickets, I was looking for something that cost only two (as opposed to the standard three). I quickly settled on the smoked bison carpaccio from Normand’s Bistro. The bison paired with the Dijon dressing was great, but unfortunately, the salad was underdressed.
David Spak is a Downtown Ambassador at the DBA
David D’s Picks
For me, Taste of Edmonton is more of a lifestyle than a festival. I have not missed a single one since I became old enough to say “Taste of Edmonton” and I tend to attend almost daily when it’s on. One standby that has always hit the spot for me, and has become a tradition, is the Japanese Village beef and rice with sesame sauce. A full plate of rice and beef drowned in their sesame steak sauce (be sure to ask for two scoops) is a food for the soul that brings back memories of every Taste of Edmonton I’ve ever attended before Although new foods come and go every year, this is one consistent hit that you can never go wrong with. This plate is exactly what you need it to be, nothing more, nothing less.
One standout newcomer for me this year was the North Fork’s maple buffalo chicken and waffles -- a tender breaded chicken strip stacked on top of a thick waffle drenched in a sweet-spicy buffalo sauce. This is the kind of sauce that I would drink straight from the bottle if society would let me. It’s a perfect blend of hot buttery buffalo sauce with a hit of sweetness from maple syrup. It was also served beside a bed of coleslaw which wasn’t really anything special but gave me the illusion of being healthy. Although it was good, I feel like it was a little small, another half-waffle and chicken strip would have made this a contender for a close to the top spot in my leader board.
I decided to top my lunch off with a dessert. I was still hungry so I went looking for something with some heft to it without being overly sweet. When the Mac Scone from Fairmont Hotel Macdonald crossed my eyes, I started to believe in love at first sight. Sadly, the relationship didn’t last too long as I ended up devouring it in mere seconds. While it lasted, it was passionate and beautiful, truly the ideal summer afternoon fling. The dense yet still light scone was piled high with berry jam and what I can only assume is the whipped cream of the gods. Each bite left me anticipating the next. By the end I realized I was just eating the bowl it came it, but it was worth it to get one last taste of it.
David Draper is a Downtown Ambassador at the DBA