HicksBiz Blog

Top chef puts mark on Murrieta's - Graham Hicks' Weekly Dish review of Murrieta's West Coast Bar + Grill, originally published in the Edmonton Sun, March 14, 2012

Shane Chartrand is newly arrived as the executive chef of Murrieta’s West Coast Bar + Grill on Whyte Avenue. The Fantasyland Hotel’s L2 Grill, under Shane’s direction, was named in  this column  as the city’s top restaurant in 2011. New management at the hotel led to a change in culinary philosophy not compatible with Shane’s talent. Fortunately, the executive chef job at Murrieta’s came vacant. Shane was head-hunted for the position. While Murrieta’s is part of a three-restaurant group – with Murrieta’s in Calgary and Canmore – the owner believes each chef should have full rein over his or her kitchen. The Weekly Dish went to dine at the “new” Murrieta’s last weekend, not realizing Chartrand’s spring menu, his first, was still weeks away. Not to worry, we were offered a “sneak peek” at the menu to come, with pricing comparable to the current offerings. Oh boy … a w ... Read the rest of entry »

Fear of fracking in the oil and gas biz

Here's the best story I've read to date explaining what "fracking" - the new technology that is unlocking heretofore unobtainable oil and gas out of "conventional" oil and gas fields - is all about. From the Globe & Mail, Sat. March 10, 2012 edition,http: "Fear of fracking: How public concerns put an energy reniassance at risk." And it's a considered review of the environmental worries around fracking. Seems to me there is a quite simple solution to immediate fracking concerns, that all the underground explosions are upsetting the natural order of things in the sub-stratas, a fear that contaminates could leak into clean-water underground acquifers. Whether this fear is justified is a whole different story. Most fracking happens hundreds, if not thousands of metres below the water zones that play into the Earth's ecological cycles. Responsible governments should simply impose no-drill precautionary safety zones - at whatever distances the scientists agree upon - around all hamlets, villages, towns and citi ... Read the rest of entry »

Little Turkish Delight: Graham Hicks' Weekly Dish review of Sofra Restaurant originally published in the Edmonton Sun, March 7, 2012

After a string of superlative Edmonton dining spot reviews, of East, Corso 32, Culina Mill Creek and Cafe Amore, the Weekly Dish has run into a major disappointment.Sofra, the much-praised, cute but elegant Turkish restaurant just south of MacEwan University, is not what it is cracked up to be.On a Saturday, before the 50-seat restaurant had filled, service was slow and somewhat shoddy.The food was OK, but by no means lip-smacking. The bill reflected champagne prices ($25 to $30 for the fish/meat entrees) for beer food.I was surprised, given this restaurant’s good reputation, from both word-of-mouth and on the Urban Spoon website.Sofra sits in a storefront unit within one of the city’s first downtown condo complexes, on 106 Street south of 104 Avenue.It’s actually a dull building, but to walk into Sofra is to be transported into a pleasant, lofty, bi-level bistro — with hardwood floors, a burnt apricot colour scheme and a balcony with private dining spaces.In the middle, guarding the stairs to basement washro ... Read the rest of entry »

Still delectable: Graham Hicks' Weekly Dish review of Culina Mill Creek - originally published in the Edmonton Sun on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2012

Are you slightly apprehensive when you return to a restaurant with wonderful memories from a year or two before? Has the restaurant changed hands? Is the chef still on top of his or her game? Does the owner still take pride in the kitchen and service?Over the years, we've had two or three excellent evenings at Culina Mill Creek.But it had been a while. And executive chef/owner Brad Lazarenko has been busy elsewhere, restlessly partnering in other culinary ventures in Edmonton and B.C.Would Culina be forgotten?The good news, the beguilingly great news, is Culina Mill Creek's high standards have not dropped a whit.In fact, Lazarenko has such trust in Culina Mill Creek's chef de cuisine Christine Sandford that the upcoming spring menu, a complete overhaul, will be all hers.I love the look of Culina Mill Creek. It's equal parts rumpus room/taverna, with dated stucco walls and the occasional '70s swag lights piercing the gloom.One enters through a curtain-created vestibule into a compact space Ñ there's only 42 se ... Read the rest of entry »

Oil's well with Alberta Energy - Hicks on Biz column from The Edmonton Sun, originally posted Saturday, March 03, 2012

Oil's well with Alberta energy 6 BY GRAHAM HICKS ,EDMONTON SUNFIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, MARCH 03, 2012 12:29 PM MST | UPDATED: SATURDAY, MARCH 03, 2012 12:39 PM MST 1Change text size for the storyPrint this storyReport an error If you’re going to understand the nature of business in Edmonton, understand just one thing.All roads lead to energy.Oil, natural gas, and that poor kid on the wrong side of the environmental tracks, coal.You likely know the essentials – 300 to 600 million years ago, all things lush and green were deeply buried and eventually decayed into hydrocarbon molecules.Mother Nature did us a big favour, pushing up the Rockies so those hydrocarbons oozed eastward and were concentrated under what happily happened to be Alberta.Generally speaking, natural gas is really deep, conventional oil is deep, and heavy oil close to the surface. Alberta sits on top of one of the world’s 40 major oil basins.Ever since the Leduc #1 oil well hit pay dirt in 1947, we have fretted over oil’s end.Once the big under ... Read the rest of entry »

Recommended oil + gas blog from University of Alberta geologist Murray Gingras

When I took The Fundamentals of Energy, Environment and Sustainabilty at the University of Alberta in 2010, petroleum geologist professor Murray Gingras handled the geological side of the multi-disciplinary course.

He was one of the better teachers I've ever had, able to present his material in a way that was interesting, fascinating and somehow stuck in your mind!

Murray has been writing an oil and gas blog that's covering some important aspects of Alberta's oil and gas, i.e. the pros and cons of fracking and other social issues surrounding oil and gas extraction.

He's good, because A) he knows his stuff inside out, B) he's not writing from any pre-determined ideological viewpoint and C) he writes clearly, in a style most of us can read.

Good bookmark for anybody who follows the sociological issues around Alberta's #1 industry and the source of most of our wealth.

Genetics' role in over-eating far more powerful than previously known: Dr. David Macklin at the X-Weighted Connection

I learned a very important lesson at X-Weighted Connection, the all-day health/weight management workshop on Sunday, March 4, 2012 at Edmonton's Fantasyland Hotel, put together by Anaid Productions' Margaret Mardirossian.(After producing five seasons of the popular Gemini award-winning X-Weighted reality show, after having a front-row seat on the enormous challenges some people face in losing weight, Margaret saw the dire public need to put together such workshops for those looking for answers and seeking a healthy lifestyle. Despite the show no longer being aired in Canada, Margaret put together the workshop, for Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg this year, as a public service.)I'd always assumed obesity is far more about 'nurture' than 'nature', that extraordinary weight gain was simply the result of lack of discipline and bad eating habits. That you, dear chubby one, had just as much choice as the rest of us on your overweight condition, but you always chose to have that extra bag, or two, or three, of Dorito ... Read the rest of entry »

A chat with Earl's/Joey/Cactus Club patriarch Bus Fuller

While in Vancouver last weekend, soaking up the rain, my dear friends Sam & Sally Yehia took me to an Academy Awards party, a fund-raiser for the Vancouver children's hospital, at the Beach House Restaurant in West Vancouver."I've just met Bus Fuller," Sally said. "You're kidding!" I said. "He's one of my heroes!" The legendary restauranteur founded three of Western Canada's leading corporate-with-character restaurant chains, Earls, Joey Tomato and the Cactus Club, and it all started in Edmonton.The family continues to have majority control of all three, with son Stan the CEO of the 60-plus Earls, son Jeff head of the 20-or-so Joeys, an associate running the family-controlled Cactus Clubs, and son Stewart Fuller running his own restaurant brands.The latest figures on the privately held companies, from about two years ago, cite 100 restaurants in total, gross annual revenues of $450 million and 13,000 employees.So I had to go over and say hello.First off, Bus is the youngest looking 82-year-old you'll ever ... Read the rest of entry »

Reaction to my first Hicks On Biz column in the Edmonton Sun

Now I know why Edmonton has to fight to change its own perception of itself. My first business column for the Edmonton Sun, published on Sat. Feb. 25, was about Edmonton's need to blow its own horn, to recognize that we are so darn lucky compared to just about every other mid-sized city in the world, for wages, employment, value housing, educational opportunities and so on. You would not have believed some of the negativity expressed in the "comments" section of the online story! Edmonton-deadmonton; a dark, depressing, boring, crime-ridden city; nothing to be proud of; a general population of delusional, angry, sociopathic, aggressive, antagonistic, self centered, disillusioned people; boring as hell; homelessness; price-gouging; high rents; high cost of power .... What is with these people? How have they allowed themselves to enter into such a downward spiral of negativity about the city they live in? Why, as some other readers asked, do they continue to live here? I'll tell you what. It's about them, not t ... Read the rest of entry »

Edmonton isn't getting the credit it deserves - Hicks on Biz column from The Edmonton Sun, originally posted Friday, Feb. 24, 2012

By Graham Hicks ,Edmonton Sun First posted: Friday, February 24, 2012 05:10 PM MST | Updated: Friday, February 24, 2012 05:13 PM MST I’m sick and tired of Edmonton being Canada’s forgotten city. Every time, on every national newscast, it’s about Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. Where’s Edmonton in the national consciousness? Where’s our hustle and bustle? Welcome to Hicks on Biz, the new weekly Edmonton Sun business column with one overriding objective — to let you, and the rest of the world, know that Edmonton is the most dynamic, fastest growing, best-quality-of-life, best-positioned-for-the-future city in Canada. And, if any of our cylinders aren’t firing as they should, constructive commentary will be offered to stay on course. We’ll do this mainly through looking at Edmonton’s economy in cold, hard numbers. Numbers can be manipulated, but they don’t lie. Nothing makes the case for prosperity like the number of jobs, amount ... Read the rest of entry »