Last week Avenue Edmonton launched its list of Edmonton’s best restaurants for 2014. With 21 different categories, a first place, runner-up, and honorable mention , that’s a whole lot of good eats. Thankfully, seven of those featured restaurants were showcasing their food at Avenue Edmonton’s launch of their annual issue at Ernest’s at NAIT. Myself and a handful of assorted friends and their companions got a peek at what Edmonton’s best had to offer last night, and let me say, for $10 a ticket and proceeds going to Edmonton’s Food Bank, this could be the event of the year! (The year is early, I know.) Complimentary coat check at the door, two free drink tickets (!), and food! Restaurants in attendance: Culina Muttart, Bon Ton Bakery, RGE RD, Cibo Bistro, The Burg, Sailin’ On, and Tres Carnales.
Ernest’s tables were removed and bar tables were available for event goers to unite and mingle. NAIT’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts Program started the night off with hors d’oevre, the best being the duck confit! Super moist and with a sweet sauce on the bottom. Could have used a couple more spoonfuls of that!
We were informed shortly after the 5pm start that the kitchens were now open for tasting. We were guided towards one direction but by the end of our tour, there were people going in all sorts of direction! First station was Culina Muttart, serving up their house salad with Mighty Trio Organics canola oil (local). The dish called for mixed greens (although this wasn’t the most prominent ingredient), feta, dried fruit (cranberries), pepitas (candied pumpkin seeds), and quinoa with house dressing. Delicious! As winner of the “Best Brunch” category, Culina Muttart is no stranger to me. Known for their eggs benny, I would never turn down brunch at Culina! One group of my friends thought it was a weak feature, especially compared to the rest of the stations, but I would disagree. It’s not feasible to poach eggs on the spot for guests! The (quinoa) salad was a delight, and an excellent start.
Next was Bon Ton Bakery, honorable mention in the “Best Desserts” category. Before Duchess Bakery (2014 winner) came to town, Bon Ton Bakery was mine (and my parent’s) go-to bakery! Actually, they still are for their croissants, which are the closest we can get to Parisian croissants in Edmonton. They also have a fantastic assortment of breads. For some reason, I have never tried their cakes and pastries! Offering not one, not two, not three, but FOUR of their desserts to sample, Bon Ton Bakery impressed plenty that night, I’m sure.
Highlights for myself: the Apple Dream, a cream puff filled with apples and caramelized pears; and tarte citron, hand squeezed fresh lemon juice at it’s finest. Comments for the night from friends: Bon Ton Bakery is very much comparable to Duchess Bakery. Fantastic!
I was looking forward to RGE RD the most, as it was the only restaurant featured that night that I have yet to try. Blasphemy, I know. I just haven’t gotten around to it! Offering two plates, a country style terrine with smoked milk aioli and a pork liver mousse, there’s with good reason why RGE RD won both the categories of “Best Restaurant” and “Best New”, and honorable mention for “Best Steak”. Front cover of this month’s magazine, Chef Blair Lebsack plated right in front, open to all eyes. Eep! It’s like being with celebrities here!
My favorite was the house made terrine, flavorful, and deliciously fatty. Avenue Edmonton’s menu for the night indicated a spaghetti squash with brown butter, pea shoots, and Cheesiry peccorino, but this dish clearly did not make it out. Shame, I was looking forward to it. Now I have to go to RGE RD!
For me, RGE RD’s terrine was one of the evening’s best highlights, so I was in a daze for the rest of the stations. Cibo Bistro was runner-up to Corso 32 for “Best Italian” and featured a “bruschetta” with goat ricotta and walnuts and a bite sized braised beef cheek on a croquette. Bruschetta, by definition, is a grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, even though most people picture the popular basil, fresh tomato, garlic mixture. I can never get that picture out of my head so when I see Cibo use the term “bruschetta” it’s always a surprise even though I’ve tried their trio dish before! The croquette was coming out nice and hot by the time we arrived – amazing! Was tempting to take the whole plate and run. Nobody knows who I am, tehehehehe!
The Burg, winner of “Best Burger” was a surprising feature when I read Avenue Edmonton’s list. I had previously reviewed them when they first opened, which definitely wasn’t enough time for them to work out the kinks. It appears that they have and I’ve heard plenty of positive reviews on their burgers. Tonight, there were no burgers, but instead a deep fried mac and cheese ball with jalapeno cheese sauce. Awesome! How do you go wrong with that description? I witnessed a young boy try the ball without the sauce and thought to myself, “And… there goes KD. Poor kid will never have the same mac and cheese again.” A great appetizer and precursor to one of their burgers.
Sailin’ On came second to Drift for “Best Food Truck”. I am so happy for their success, my first memories of them being positive when they first launched. No wraps were at their station though, just samples of their now infamous coconut bacon. Raw coconut, baked and marinated in smoked maple. Truly if anybody wanted to become vegan, this needs to be on the top of their first grocery list. It was sliced thinner than Noorish‘s coconut bacon, which was preferable from my perspective; gave it a lighter texture. Really wished they had a complete dish though as their food is so much more than just the coconut bacon!
Last, and most definitely not the least in my eyes, Tres Carnales! All hail the first place winner of “Best Latin” category, and one of my favorite places to eat. Their tostadas was absolutely killer! And if you couldn’t handle your heat, then that phrase means something else to you. Spiiiiiiicy! Beautiful dish and the best way to end the night.
And by end the night, I really meant exit the kitchen to find out there’s more food! NAIT’s Culinary Arts Program had their own section in the dining room to feature the students’ fresh creations including: sous vide lentils; assortments of bread; fresh cheese, a comparison of brie made in February and last November; and a charcuterie of mixed meats and sausages. All handmade! Yums!
By the end of the night, I was stuffed. My eating companions for the night left me early, which left me to other groups of friends to discuss their experiences. A majority of who I talked to voted for The Burg’s deep fried mac and cheese ball as the best dish of the night. Runner up in votes was Tres Carnales’ tostadas. I personally loved RGE RD’s terrine, but given a chance to eat only one more dish, I would have chosen the tostadas. I can’t say no to some heat! So grateful for Avenue Edmonton for publishing excellent articles on food, for NAIT and their Hospitality and Culinary Arts Program for hosting. Two of NAIT’s chefs recognized Jody and I from past NAIT cooking courses, which was a surprise! Didn’t know we stood out that much! It was great to talk to them again. I got a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, and caught a peek at some other Edmonton food bloggers! Thanks to Kelvin, my marketing-genius of a friend who told me about the event first! I didn’t get an email from Avenue until the next day! Loved the event, and count me in for next year. To see what other events I (most likely) will attend, follow LET’S OM NOM on Facebook!