HicksBiz Blog

Hicks Weekly Dish: Revisiting some of Edmonton's classic restaurants BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 03, 2017

Isn’t it something when a restaurant remains competitive and vital after 30, 40 or more years of operation? At least 20 dining establishments in Greater Edmonton are 30 year or older and are still well-patronized. Months ago, the Weekly Dish reviewed a few classics – The Flamingo and Billy Budd’s among them. Suggestions then poured in from readers of other “classics” worthy of mention. At 75 years old, The Commodore (10712 Jasper Ave.) leads the longevity pack, although Teddy’s claims to be older. To walk in The Commodore is to step back in time, to plastic plants, brown vinyl counter stools and laminated tabletops. Third-generation owner David Gee describes it as a “proper greasy spoon.” No surprises in the Commodore’s $10.75 (cash only) eggs, sausage and endless-coffee breakfast. The fried potatoes were under-cooked. The coffee, while endless, was watery. Everything went well with ketchup. The High Level Diner (10912-88 Ave.), now 34 years old, ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on biz: Cheers to Alberta's oilsands! BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2017

I once interviewed former Edmonton mayor Steve Mandel, just as he was considering running for mayor. It was a ho-hum interview, not much to remember. But he made one point I will never forget. “Doesn’t matter how much the city’s economy grows,” he said, using his hands to make a widening circle. “If there’s any contraction,” he said, bringing his hands closer together, “no matter what, it’s going to hurt like hell.” No truer words have ever been said. Which is why most of us are mystified by the non-negotiable, end-of-fossil-fuel stance espoused by many in our midst. These environmental “progressives” are willing to risk a major drop in Alberta’s standard of living by ending our major industry … no matter how minimal its contribution to global warming may be. Here we are, celebrating 50 years since the opening of the first commercial oilsands mine in Fort McMurray. The Sun’s excellent six-part series on the oilsan ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Bottega 104 has about as much soul as Joey or Earl’s BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2017

Where’s the soul?   This is not to question the economics of the Crudo family’s latest hospitality venture, Bottega 104. The 60-seat restaurant on 104th Street is just a block south of Rogers Place. The new restaurant was jam-packed on Saturday evening before an Oilers pre-season game. The fancy cocktails, wine and beer were flowing. The pastas and pizzas streamed out from the busy kitchen. Ka-ching, ka-ching! You could hear the cash registers singing! But where was the soul? The two other major restaurants owned by Nick and Cristo Crudo and their dad Giuseppe, Café Amore and the Black Pearl Seafood, overflow with soul and old-world hospitality. Half the staff seem to be related, the smells, the conviviality, the big platters of fabulous fresh food, the checkered table cloths, the bantering, the fabulous soups .... When the Weekly Dish last reviewed Café Amore two years ago, it earned 4.5 of 5 Suns for food, 4 for ambience, 4.5 for service. The Black Pearl, rev ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Is it time for a taxpayer revolt? BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau are learning the hard way. Do not upset the little ol’ ladies. In one of the most remarkable missteps of modern Canadian politics, even the little ol’ ladies are spitting mad at this government’s proposed tax reforms. Ninety-two-year-old Nancy Power, an active (and powerful) federal Liberal party member all her life, has cancelled her party membership in protest. A now-retired independent business woman, Nancy used funds generated from investments within her Canadian professional corporation as her retirement fund. With the proposed tax changes, “they are going to take away 73% of my income,” says Power, “and that’s criminal.” Justin and Bill have been run over by an unforeseen truck. They thought they were simply carrying on with the Liberal election promise of helping the middle-class by more fair taxation of the top 1% of Canadian income-earners. Somebody forgot t ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: La Ronde retro throwback BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2017

La Ronde Restaurant - Retro Thursday menu,  Chateau Lacombe Hotel, 24th floor, 10111 Bellamy Hill 780-428-6611 Chateaulacombe.com Tuesday to Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Closed Mondays (Retro-Thursday menu available Thursdays only.) Three-course Retro-Thursday dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: $132 Food:  4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4.5 of 5 Suns   It’s a fun idea and timely too. For the last few months, Edmonton’s No.1 viewpoint restaurant La Ronde at the top of the Chateau Lacombe Hotel has featured a Retro Thursday three-course menu. On Wednesday, September 27, 2017, the Chateau Lacombe will celebrate its 50th anniversary. When the hotel’s doors opened in 1967, it was considered the best thing in Edmonton since sliced bread. If you’d been a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teenager taken by your family to dine at the swanky revolving La Ronde that first year, you m ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Family looms large in Stagewest's 75-year legacy BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2017

Family-owned-and-operated companies can be happy, healthy places moving nimbly around the feet of staid, mega-sized publicly-traded corporations. For 75 years and three generations, the Pechet family’s Stagewest Hospitality has played and prospered in Alberta. From hotels to restaurants, dinner theatres, casinos, land development, First Nation partnerships, travel agents and now a British Columbia winery, Stagewest has happily danced from hospitality opportunity to opportunity, buying at the bottom, selling at the top. No Pechets, however, currently live in Edmonton. Stagewest Hospitality’s third-generation CEO and President Jason Pechet is based in Calgary. Second-generation Howard Pechet, now semi-retired, has lived in San Diego but done business in Alberta since 1989. He moved his family to that city after Stagewest Hospitality’s flagship Mayfield Inn was sold to Alberta lumber baron Al Owen. Stagewest owns the Violino Gastronomia Italiana restaurant here, plus Mayfield Travel ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Sorrentino's Mushroom Harvest Festival BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 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: 3.5 of 5 stars   Festival dinner for two without tip or beverages, $60 basic, $90 loaded. September may mean back-to-school, frosty nights, shorter days and the (sigh) end of summer. But for so many Edmonton families, there’s still joy is Mudville thanks to the traditional, September-long Sorrentino’s Mushroom Harvest festival. A tradition? Of course! The special one-month-only mushroom menu at all six Sorrentino’s area restaurants plus Bistecca, has been around for 23 years. Many a dining group – be they relatives, friends or associates – never ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: A Little of This, a Little of That BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 08, 2017

A few small business/money related stories, each capable of being much bigger... OILSANDS RE-TOOLING Operating and capital costs in the oilsands have been reduced by a most impressive 30% since the Great Oil Price Crash of 2014, thanks to full-press utilization of cleaner, greener, safer, faster, cheaper technologies, plus more productivity per worker and wages coming back down to earth. How ironic that low oil prices have spurred these innovations, as beneficial to the environment as they are to the economy. Innovation was slow as molasses during the oilsands’ pre-2014 glory years – why look for efficiencies when there was so money to be made? The current slow recovery of the Alberta economy is likely more about the retooling within the non-renewable energy sector (and the re-building of Fort McMurray after last year’s fire) than any other business. But more bad news for oilsands labour is coming. As is happening in mining operations the world over, within two to three years, ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Patisseries just popping up BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 05, 2017

It’s a truly remarkable, and most welcome, phenomenon. In the past 18 months, at least 10 new patisseries have sprung up in the city. The French, who lead the world in creating these delightful baker’s confectionaries, have two different words for bake shops. A patisserie is about pastries and cakes. A boulangerie is about bread. Edmonton has always had independent bread-based bakeries – Italian, Handy, Popular, Bon Ton, Artistic, Boulangerie Bonjour, Italian Centre, Hazeldean, Portuguese Canadian, Cobs and more. But this patisserie thing — small boutique bakeries with sit-down tables, making hand-crafted and individually-sized pastries and cakes — is something new. What’s surprising is the overall quality. In my patisserie rounds, every single shop was impressive. Not one failed in freshness, quality, price or ambience. This is due to several possible reasons. The reigning queen of Edmonton’s patisseries has set high the bar: Duchess Bake Shop, o ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Northlands empire has fallen BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 01, 2017

It is the way of the world. Seasons come and seasons go. Empires rise and fall. Northlands had a good run — 138 years. But now its empire, sitting on city-owned land, has all blown up. The aging Coliseum sits empty other than the occasional C-circuit concert and the Canadian Finals Rodeo this fall and in 2018. Horse racing will be gone by this time next year. The Edmonton Expo Centre, a questionable expenditure 33 years ago, was originally financed with a $75 million city-guaranteed loan. Northlands still owes $47 million and is unable to pay the mortgage, so the Expo Centre is being taken over by the city. A visioning experiment caused much interest last year — but none of the alternative roles envisioned for Northlands has panned out, especially with tight government purse strings in this oil-depressed economy. Today, Northlands is de facto bankrupt. The city is turning the Expo Centre over to the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, which has long run the Shaw Conf ... Read the rest of entry »