HicksBiz Blog

Hicks on Biz: To tip or not to tip BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JUNE 09, 2017

It’s that moment of restaurant reckoning. Dessert is over. Your small group, be it friends, family or colleagues are ready to go home. The server brings you the bill. You discreetly look it over, trying not to raise your eyebrows. With cocktails, starters, bottled water, the asparagus upgrade and those two bottles of wine, it’s twice as much as you expected. The remote credit card machine is insistent. The tip, it says — percentage or amount? Tipping has become awkward. Not just in restaurants, but in taxis, hotels, coffee counters, home delivery and hot-food delicatessens. Everybody wants a tip. Coffee shops have tip jars. Some restaurants now want payment upon ordering, before food is delivered to the table. But there’s still an expectation of a tip. My wife and I recently travelled through rural Portugal and Spain. Tipping is not part of those cultures. What a relief: No guilt, no raised eyebrows, no confusion. You paid the bill’s tally for food a ... Read the rest of entry »

Weekly Dish: Lux, a range of refreshing, interesting options BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JUNE 06, 2017

Lux Steakhouse + Bar 94 10150-101 St. (Commerce Place, main floor) 780-424-0400 centuryhospitality.com Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight Closed Sunday Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $60; loaded, $120 Food:  4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns When the Lachance family first opened LUX Steakhouse — then known as Chance — in Commerce Place, it was big news indeed. Millennials won’t remember, but the downtown was as dead as a door nail 17 years ago. Many thought opening a new high-end restaurant downtown was an invitation to failure. In fact, the timing was good. Within a few years, the downtown revival took shape. Other business district steakhouses followed – Chop, Ruth’s Chris, Pampa – but the re-named Lux was first-to-market, and it also had Bar 94, a terrific, fancy, long-counter bar named after the number of Lux shareholder and beloved ex-Oiler Ryan Smyth. Bar 94 still fill ... Read the rest of entry »

Weekly Dish: Two different dining experiences at Little Village and Alder Room BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2017

Between Ben Staley’s Alder Room and Theo Psalios’ Little Village, two more different dining experiences cannot be imagined. But isn’t that what dining out is all about? How diverse and excellent the city’s culinary offerings have become. It would be near impossible, on a weekly basis, to visit every quality dining room in one year. At Staley’s recently-opened Alder Room, you pay in advance via an online ticketing system for one of the 12 spots at 7 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday. In return for your $140 (expensive, yes, unique and top-quality, yes) Chef Staley orchestrates a 12-to-20 dish food evening, lasting 2.5 hours. There is no set menu. As a diner, you put your faith in Staley, the young self-taught chef who captured the imagination of adventuresome eaters as the first chef of North 53. Staley left that restaurant to create his own, all-original food experience at the Alder Room and its adjoining cold-tapas sister restaurant Alta, recently reviewed in this colum ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: The case for phase II of the Sturgeon Refinery BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JUNE 02, 2017

It’s an odd situation. But we live in odd economic circumstances. Immediately firing up Phase II of the soon-to-open Sturgeon Refinery outside Fort Saskatchewan will require a massive provincial government commitment. This in a province that since Ralph Klein days has liked the notion of government staying out of business. But this commitment, in the long run, makes sense. And despite Ralph’s proclamation, previous Conservative governments have already substantially invested in Phase I of the new refinery. Now the New Democrat government is being asked to do the same for Phase II. The downside is minimal: In a worst-case scenario, the government could lose money for periods of time. The upside is substantial: In the long run, the province is highly likely to make good profits (see below). Major construction jobs - 5,000 to 8,000 of them – could be created over the next four years when little else is happening; Fabrication shops and other sub-contractors would be kept bus ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Future is now for Edmonton innovators BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017

Everybody moans and groans about Alberta’s economy being too dependent on oil, coal and gas. Everybody keeps talking as if “diversification” and “innovation” are things of the future. But there are names they should know: Ceapro. Radiant. Localize and Forge Hydrocarbons and Magnet Tx and Alberta Craft Malting, and on and on and on. The list of Metropolitan Edmonton companies keeps growing. Mayor Don Iveson gave his state-of-the-city speech at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday. It was – as befits a mayor still in his 30s – a rousing speech about Edmonton’s spirit of invention and culture of innovation. But always as if it’s around the corner, still to be grabbed, not here yet. They are here! They are today! Economic development people, without realizing it, tend to describe a bleak present but paint a rosy future, providing, of course that their agencies are funded and that they are paid. Business Link, Startup Edmonton, TEC E ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Privada offers intriguing cuisine, and best dessert around BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017

A television hangs over the bar, but instead of blaring play-off hockey, scenic nature photographs quietly rotate.   In one corner of Privada Wine and Tapas in St. Albert, big jars of kitchen-made preserves jostle for room with the restaurant’s fine wine collection. Bunches of garlic dangle above. It may sound eccentric, but Privada is anything but. It’s actually a pleasing mixture of the personalities and talents of its hands-on owners – the husband/wife team of Kaylen and Kaylan Como and Chef Tony Krause, plus the community Privada serves. The menu of $12 to $18 dishes is familiar, comforting, yet different. It changes by the week. Krause is a restless, passionate chef. There were reasons for visiting Privada. My wife and I had just returned from a walking holiday in Portugal and Spain. Tapas dishes were still dancing in our memories. Privada has been a St. Albert gem for some five years; it’s been contentedly low-key, at least until Krause was invited to compe ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Pot has been popular for a while BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2017

Marijuana is rushing out of the closet, what with the federal government’s plan to legalize marijuana use across Canada as of July 2018. Which is somewhat ironic: Pot has been almost as common as booze, smoked by a sizeable minority of Canadians since getting high became popular 50 years ago. The fact it’s been illegal just made users more secretive. In British Columbia, pot might as well be legal now. Dozens upon dozens of “medical” marijuana dispensaries are in Vancouver, with no common definition of what medical means. If you have a headache, you can buy pot. I’d argue Albertans still prefer alcohol over pot for recreational highs. Pot smokers here keep it quiet. Outside of certain crowds, joints aren’t passed around parties. Rarely do you smell pot, outside of Borden Park love-ins. But many Vancouver friends treat the stuff as an aperitif before dinner. They are used to a THC level – the stuff that creates the high – that would have induced a ... Read the rest of entry »


Alta 10328 Jasper Ave 780-244-3635 altayeg.ca   Food: 4.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 Suns 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Closed Sundays and Mondays Dinner for two, excluding drinks– Basic $40, loaded $80. (Alta is a no-tipping establishment) At long last, Chef Ben Staley is back on the scene. In 2014, Chef Staley created a stir during his 10 month stint as chef at North 53 restaurant.  His was a menu like no other, going far beyond the obligatory “local” and “sustainable” to new dishes using local ingredients in utterly unforeseen ways.   “Every dish at North 53 is unique, a creation unto itself,” I wrote in this column at the time, “tastes, textures, food combinations and presentations  leave you with unabashed admiration for this kitchen.” Staley left North 53 in the fall of 2014 to open his own restaurant. Thirty months later, that dream has finally been realized. Alta opened its doors la ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Growth in electric cars will come, but only with heavy government intervention BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 2017

Electric cars are coming. In this part of the world, with our cold weather, three hours driving time to the next big city and inexpensive gasoline, electric vehicles will come later. We’ll be many years behind California, where, thanks to government subsidies and incentives, every major auto-maker now has a fully electric car on the market.  The biggest barrier to electric cars is about to come crashing down. Industry buzz says the next generation of electric cars – specifically the Chevy Bolt EV (Electric Vehicle) and the Tesla Model 3 will represent price breakthroughs to the $30,000 US range, with batteries that will double the current 160 to 200 kilometre range of electric vehicles. (One current EV, the Tesla Model S, has a 320 to 530 kilometre range.) Which sounds like the era of fossil fuels is drawing to a close. Prepare ye the end of the Alberta economy as we know it. HOWEVER … there are multiple reasons why Edmonton car dealerships only sell, if they’re l ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Sorrentino's annual garlic festival BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, APRIL 11, 2017

Sorrentino’s 26th Annual Garlic Festival April 2 to April 30, 2017 Downtown – 10162-100 St. – 780 424 7500 South – 4208 Calgary Trail – 780 434 7607 West – 6867 170 St. – 780 444 0524 Little Italy – 10844 95 St. – 780 425 0960 Stony Plain – 108 Genesis Drive – 780-591-2121 Bistecca Italian Steakhouse – 2345 111 St. – 780 439 7335 Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambience: 4 of 5 stars Service: 4 of 5 stars   At least 15 years ago, at the lively reception that always kicks off the Sorrentino’s Garlic Festival, Sorrentino’s Carmelo Rago and I retreated to a corner to enjoy our wine. “This festival has sure worked out,” I said to Carmelo. “But how long can you keep this garlic theme going?” “I’m thinking the same thing,” said the always restless Carmelo. “What’s next?” There was no next! So many good things – a puppy licking your cheek, ... Read the rest of entry »