Hicks weekly dish: Chowin’ down at the Taste of Edmonton BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2017
For once, the Weekly Dish has quasi-scientifically reviewed the food offerings at Taste of Edmonton, the city’s premier food festival in Churchill Square running this year to July 29.
The challenge is to be dispassionate in choice – NOT to automatically return to favourite booths with favourite mini-dishes, not to be swayed by popularity or reputation.
There are 47 food booths, plus 14 food trucks rotating in and out, plus special events, plus, plus, plus.
Every time you turn around, a friend or a vendor urges you to try this, try that.
So here’s the newly developed Weekly Dish Fool-Proof Taste of Edmonton review system:
Every booth is numbered, one to 47. Pick a number at random from one to five. From that number, visit every fifth booth – no matter the food or the vendor.
Our random starting point was booth #3 – the Afghan Chopan Kebab. Then it was every fifth booth after that.
Over all – GOOD FOOD!!!! Very little was overly greasy. Much was imaginative. Portions were decent. Tickets cost $1.50 each, with dishes costing two to four tickets. A tad expensive, but blame it on too many city-imposed regulations. Nobody is getting rich off the not-for-profit Taste of Edmonton.
#3 Afghan Chopan Kebab - 2.5 of 5 Suns: Nope. Four too small and too dry “nantu” dumplings with a faintly minty, otherwise nondescript yoghurt sauce.
#8 ZINC – 5 of 5 Suns: One of my favourite high-end restaurants doesn’t let me down. Once again, ZINC highlighted a refreshing, crunchy cool salad with interesting veggies, dressed in a tasty champagne/lemon/olive oil dressing and cleanly presented in a bamboo paper-wrap cone.
#13 Baba’s Bistro (St. John’s Institute) – 4 of 5 Suns: Yum! Three big, voluptuous cheddar-cheese packed perogies. The classic toppings – oily bacon bits, caramelized onions and sour cream – put the dish over the top. As sinfully calorie-laden as poutine, but better!
#18 The Lingnan – 2.5 of 5 Suns: What happened? For years, the Lingnan’s dry spicy chicken nuggets have been a Taste of Edmonton staple. My first serving was mushy – too many tired, soft nuggets among the crispy. I went back another day for a second try. All were crispy this time, but far too salty. Miles and Amy, what’s going on?
#23 The Melting Pot – 4.5 of 5 Suns: The clean and tasty mini-fondue (fontina cheese, chopped artichoke and spinach stirred/dissolved into a broth base) was ladled into a hollowed-out light, soft bun. The resulting gentle, soft food note helped broaden the Taste of Edmonton food spectrum.
#28 Normand’s – 5 of 5 Suns: This was an every-fifth lucky break. Normand’s beef short ribs and mashed potatoes have, over the years, regularly been named “best of festival”. As scrumptious as ever they were, the strands of braised beef so soft and tender, the unique molasses/BBQ sauce thoroughly worked into the meat, the mashed potatoes dripping with decadent cream and butter
#33, Hoang Long – 4.5 of 5 Suns: An unexpected treat – the beef/lemongrass kebab was extremely generous with some four ounces of lightly seared, tender lemongrass-marinated beef. The big bites of beef were tasty, rich and smooth, with just a little stringiness at the end.
#38, O2 Tap House and Grill - 3 of 5 Suns: O2 is a group of bars better known for beer than food. Its buffalo chicken bombs – four deep-fried, garlic-bulb-shaped wontons — were filled mostly with cheese, not much chicken, not much “buffalo” spice and barely any bacon. But they’d go good with beer.
#43 FanFan Patisserie - 3.5 of 5 Suns: A nice change-up in choice, with the new Old Strathcona pastry bakery/café serving light French pastries filled with chocolate or passion fruit. The fruit was crisply tart, the chocolate smoothly satin. Given that the pastry dough couldn’t be fresh out of the bakery oven, it was a little too cool.
#47 Three Bananas Café - 3.5 of 5 Suns: (Not the fifth next, but at #47, the last of the food booths) On Churchill Square year-round in its own building, Three Bananas offers a chance to sit down, inside or outside, to enjoy its thin-crust pizza – Nice and cheesy and gooey, not particularly remarkable but satisfying.
Kudos all around for this year’s Taste of Edmonton.
The food quality has vastly improved since the grease-o-rama of 2015, with booths from the spectrum of the Edmonton food experience. From high-end to ethnic, from hipster to gastropub and on to gluten-free vegan, the city’s food scene is superbly represented.
The lay-out – facing inward, booths and food trucks circle three of the four sides of the square – works very well. The beer garden with its free entertainment has morphed into “Taste Piazza” with craft beer selections and food themes. The website tasteofedm.ca is user-friendly and gives a complete listing of special events, vendors and their location on the square and their dishes.
The “Taste of New” tent offers a different food theme with wine pairings every evening – Wednesday, July 26, for instance, celebrates First Nations’ dishes.
Well done! Taste of Edmonton is now ready to take its place at the head table of Edmonton summer festivals — joining The Fringe, Heritage Days and the Edmonton Folk Festival as the summer’s best festivities.