St. Albert’s 12 Acres Restaurant had their media preview and soft opening last week and a grand opening on the beautiful Friday. I have a soft spot for St. Albert (can you tell?) seeing that I work there and all. I had planned to give them a week to work out opening kinks but my friend Sharon seemed just as excited as I was for a farm-to-table restaurant so close to her home. Throwing our cautions to the wind, we made reservations that evening to check out the new space.Farm-to-fork or farm-to-table is not a new concept to Edmonton and area, and with a number of restaurants now supporting local produce and local farms, to have another one open, 12 Acres Restaurant is keeping up with the trend. It’s a trend that I support, a healthier and better alternative to know where your food came from and better yet, supporting a sustainable food system. The “red house” had long been The River House, and after a change of ownership three years ago to bring us The River House Grill, owners Nathan and Courtney Henry had a change in their food philosophy. Food documentaries like Food, Inc. and Food For Thought were not the only things that changed Nathan’s 20-year food experience, the hot lunch program at his son’s school the main impact for change. Hot dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets, and fries. The family started changing their lifestyle and menus at home, at school, and now, it’s time to change the restaurant. Re-emerging as 12 Acres Restaurant and pairing up with City Life Farms (or 12 Acres Farm), the two have merged identities and becoming one of both a farm and a restaurant. Their goal? To become fully sustainable within the next two years, exclusively sourcing their meats and produce from only the farm. Currently, only meats are available as their greenhouses are still in the works. Greens are currently from Peas on Earth, a certified organic and local farm. Their flour is from Anita’s Organic Mill in Chilliwack, BC, and Nathan boasted that their outstanding celiac baker could make any gluten-free nay-sayer a run for their money. As if in-house baking isn’t enough, an assortment of charcuterie and sausages are also a focus for 12 Acres Restaurant. The only thing they haven’t fully latched on to yet? Cheese. But they’ll get there. The space is grand, accommodating a hundred guests between both their lounge and dining area. The patio extends around the building, with a fantastic view of the Sturgeon River. The kitchen space and bar is open now to the diners, emphasizing on the contemporary comfort feel. For grand opening night, only half the space was opened for better control of first-day mishaps. A smart move, and definitely not their first rodeo.
Menus are on iPads. Yeah, that’s right. Categories of “Appetizers”, “Entrées”, “Cocktails”, etc, complete with pictures was quite unique! Apparently the cost of printing menus, especially changing seasonal menus, gets pretty expensive! Both diners and staff seem to love the iPads, a user-friendly option for all.With over a dozen cocktails to choose from, it took me and Sharon a while to settle in. Sharon’s Black Lavender Soda (vodka, lemon juice, blackberry honey, blackberries, and lavender bitters) was a winner in both our books, and my Blueberry Mint (vodka, mint, blueberries, lime juice, and simple syrup) was a refreshing start to dinner. To start, we had the Tartare & Chips. Described as “some of the most tender and tasty animal bits”, I had an inkling that it incorporated some offals and off-cuts! Rib-eye bits ended up being the cut of choice, a comfort to those who are squeamish to thyroids and the like. The texture was outstanding and the flavours on point. The raw onions were a bit overpowering for both our tastes but forgivable when eaten with large wedges of fried Kennebecs. We finished the entire dish! A Warmed Beet & Root Vegetable Salad has my name on it when I return. My Sous-Vide 12 ACRES Pork T-Bone ($26) was surprisingly well made for such a large portion. I’m deathly afraid of overcooked pork. Served with a carrot risotto (holy delicious!), a Saskatoon berry jam, saved asparagus and pancetta crisps, my dish was one that I could reorder every single time. Really well executed and a great balance in flavours and textures. Sharon ordered the Chicken a la Buttermilk ($25), fried chicken pieces with a spiced kale, rhubarb compote. Crisp, tender, and well-seasoned, the chicken was delicious! Definitely a favourite amongst diners and will be a staple on the menu. Other entrées that piqued our interest: the Feature Fish, a ling cod in ramen broth; and Gnocchi & Tomatoes, hand-rolled gnocchi with house-ground tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and Parmesan Reggiano. All menu items were under $26, making 12 Acres Restaurant quite affordable! If 12 Acres Restaurant was a date, then I had purposefully left “my jacket at the house” to guarantee a second date. We left without dessert. Talking to our server, David, who was equally passionate about the restaurant’s concept and food, and to Nathan and Courtney left both of us forgetful of the Flourless Chocolate Torte and the Rhubarb (?) Pie. I will definitely be returning for my second date! Service had some hiccups, (a lost reservation, a confused server due to new tabletop numbers and layout, a mis-delivery of orders) but that was expected for opening night. Everything was very well handled, not only at our table but our neighbouring tables as well. A less than ideal steak was offered to go back to the kitchen, with a replacement steak out to the table within minutes. With some fine tuning, I have no doubt that service can reach top notch. Staff were very friendly, very enthusiastic, and having a ton of fun with diners – a great atmosphere for everybody. Definitely a must-visit when you’re in St. Albert and worth the drive for Edmontonians. Bonus, they’re even open for lunch and brunch!
Tip: Trails alongside the Sturgeon River make a beautiful pre-dinner or post-dinner walk!12 Acres Restaurant
8 Mission Ave, St. Albert