HicksBiz Blog

Three Boars Eatery is for those who seek the unusual: Weekly Dish restaurant review, originally published in the Edmonton Sun Feb. 6, 2013

Three Boars Eatery  8424 109 St.             780-757-2600       www.threeboars.ca Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambience: 4 of 5 stars Service: 4 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $30; Multi-course, $60 If you’re looking for a full-blown European dining experience, it’s here at the Three Boars … in a truly Canadian kind of way. It might take imagination, shrinking 109th Street down to an alley for starters, but the Three Boars Eatery could be a hole-in-the-wall in London’s Soho district or the Montparnasse in Paris. It’s tiny — 26 seats upstairs, a 13 stool bar on the main floor — full of quirky personality in an old townhouse a few blocks north of 82nd Avenue in the Bridge District. The décor is wood-plank rustic, contemporary in fixtures and chairs, European in its sense of space (i.e. not much). Where the Canadian comes crashing through is in Ch ... Read the rest of entry »

Alberta's Industrial Heartland is getting there: Hicks on Biz in the Edmonton Sun, Feb. 2, 2013

We take so much for granted. Most urban regions would kill to have an industrial “park” like Alberta’s Industrial Heartland. Canada’s largest petro-chemical and hydrocarbon (oil and natural gas) processing region embraces 582 square kilometres of land covering five municipalities around Fort Saskatchewan, including the still-virgin Edmonton Energy and Technology Park within Edmonton’s northeastern boundaries. Some 40 companies produce products made from oilsand and natural gas feed stocks. It’s all about keeping the jobs and the knowledge and the downstream wealth creation from the raw bitumen, crude oil and natural gas of northern Alberta in Alberta, for Albertans. At least half those companies work at global levels with an estimated $30 billion of investment as of 2012, 7,000 knowledge-based jobs and $77 million a year in municipal taxes alone. Intermunicipal squabbling is usually a quicksand in which regional economic development plans are swallo ... Read the rest of entry »

Royal Pizza, still making it right: Weekly Dish restaurant review originally published in the Edmonton Sun, Jan. 30, 2013

Royal Pizza  10433 80 Ave. (and other locations)             780-432-7720       www.royalpizza.ca  Food: 3.5 of 5 stars Ambience: 3 of 5 stars Service: 3.5 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $20; Multi-course, $40  Graham Hicks             780.707.6379       graham.hicks@hicksbiz.com www.hicksbiz.com @hicksbiz There’s nothing like a familiar advertising jingle to settle the nerves. You’ve heard the Royal Pizza “brand” song a few thousand times on the radio — Royal Pizza, still making it right!! Believe it or not, Royal still … does make it right. This is a restaurant originally opened in Old Strathcona in 1969. It was bought by Mike and Cynthia Hanley in 1995, and since has been carefully franchised with six more locations in Greater Edmonton, each following the letter of ... Read the rest of entry »

Oilsands oil versus the world: Hicks on Biz, originally published Edmonton Sun Jan. 26, 2013

So what about this "differential" or $50 gap difference between the price of crude in the Excited States, and the price of our heavy oil?It’s quite simple. Most of our “Canadian Select Crude” is exported to heavy-oil refineries in the American mid-west or all the way to the Louisiana coast.Number one, the pipelines to Louisiana, where huge refineries pay $100 a barrel for Mexican heavy oil that arrives by boat, are so full that heavy oil is backing up through the system. The storage “tank farms” east of Edmonton are just about full.Everybody knew a pipeline capacity crunch was coming, especially with delayed construction of the mighty Keystone XL pipeline from here to Louisiana. But the crunch has happened much earlier and with more ferocity than was expected.Number two, the mid-west refineries are running at full capacity.Number three, our oil now competes for mid-west refinery and pipeline space with new American crude oil from North Dakota.Which means, since early December, the price of our ultra-heavy oil ... Read the rest of entry »

Canteen's food is both fun and fine: Weekly Dish review originally published in Edmonton Sun, Jan. 23, 2013

Canteen 10522 124 St. (780) 485 6125 www.canteenyeg.caFood: 4 of 5 starsAmbience: 3.5 of 5 starsService: 3.5 of 5 starsFull dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $60; fully loaded, $!00“It’s not about ‘fine food’ anymore,” says Canteen executive chef and owner Frank Olson. “It’s about ‘fun food’.”With all due respect, Frank, I beg to differ.The food at your new Canteen restaurant on 124 Street is both “fun” and “fine”.The Moroccan style lamb chops are the best lamb chops ever brought to an Edmonton restaurant table … with generous portions to boot.The almond-crusted Arctic char, with a dab of sweetened orange/butter sauce and a wee bit of pork belly (AKA fancy bacon) on the fork as well, is the work of a master chef who knows exactly how every flavour adds to the total experience.Remember, Frank has been at the helm of the consistently top-rated Red Ox Inn for 17 years with his wife Andrea as maître d’. Canteen is their second restaurant project.The “fun” and “fine” dance together in three variation ... Read the rest of entry »

How Alberta's Ski Resorts fuel winter vacation towns: Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, Jan. 19, 2013

How does a ski resort make any money?Marmot Basin in Jasper is weather dependent, yet the bills have to be paid no matter how many skiers are on the hill.It's labour intensive.Capital re-investment is a must, if only to meet customer expectations. New ski lifts can cost up to $8 million a pop.Other than holidays, it's about weekends, for five months of the year.Ninety per cent of Marmot Basin's skiers (including snowboarders) come from Edmonton and northern Alberta. If it's -20C with slippery roads, only the diehards will show up. Jasper's best day ever was 5,007 skiers. Its every-day average would be an estimated 1,500 skiers.Being in a national park, Marmot has stringent environmental standards. There are no on-site chalet real-estate plays as Parks Canada owns the land. Marmot is not allowed to open in summer.A day's lift pass costs $80. But discounts abound, i.e. Jasper-in-January festival ski packages, running until Jan. 27. The average lift ticket price works out to $45 to $50.Marmot Basin is a private ... Read the rest of entry »

Jasper's Cassios is a real treat: Weekly Dish - originally published Edmonton Sun, Jan. 16, 2013

Cassios Italian Restaurant, 602 Connaught Drive, Jasper (Whistler’s Inn) (780) 852-4070 www.cassios.ca —— Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambiance: 4 of 5 stars Service: 4 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $60; fully loaded, $90 —— As January locks its icy fingers around our souls, there is but one antidote. Jasper in January. The two-week winter festival in Edmonton’s favourite holiday town runs until January 27. Jasper in January is all about skiing by day, eating by night. Cassios Italian Restaurant is in the heart of Jasper, in Whistler’s Inn. It’s seven years old, opened by Michael and Anna Cassios shortly after Michael retired as the general manager of Jasper’s Sawridge Hotel. Assisted by head chef Kevin St. Louis, Cassios has built a reputation for friendly, professional service and excellent Italian food. One does enter Cassios in a fine mood, with the pleasant afterglow that comes after a day of skiing, ... Read the rest of entry »

Alberta is a fool's paradise: Hicks on Biz, originally published in Edmonton Sun, Jan. 12, 2013

There are many popular myths out there about fat-cat Alberta.They are all true.We do pay less income and consumption taxes than any other large Canadian province.Our government does spend more (per-capita) than any other large province, besides debt-riddled Quebec.Our doctors, nurses and teachers are the best paid in the country, especially considering taxes, expenses and living costs.We are hopelessly addicted to non-renewable royalties, so addicted that it wouldn’t matter how damning the environmental consequences, oilsands expansion must continue.The consequences: We are living in a fool’s paradise. We have squandered our oil/gas/coal royalty wealth by living for today, not saving for tomorrow. Despite an income gusher that no other province has, our provincial government is still about to plunge into debt.Increased provincial income or consumption taxes, along with reining in public sector, health care and education labour costs, is the only prudent, fiscally sound path to a solid future for our kids.But ... Read the rest of entry »

The financial case for Albertans to pay more taxes - providing the Redford government shows some guts in controlling the public sector labour costs

In the Saturday January 12 (online late Friday evening, Jan. 11) edition of the Edmonton Sun, my Hicks on Biz column tried to look at over-all, generally accepted statistics that clearly prove the government of Alberta does spend more per capita than any other big province besides Quebec with its staggering debt load. And that our nurses, doctors, teachers and civil servants, thanks to association and union agreements that go back to the flush years between 2004 and 2008, are the best-paid of the Big Four provinces.Here's some of the references I used to arrive at this conclusion.The Canadian Institute for Health Information's National Physician Database for 2009/10 is a good snapshot of the Alberta docs' income compared to other provinces, especially the eye-opening Table A.5.1 Average Gross Fees for Physicians earning $60,000 or more, broken out by province. Sorry, I'm not sure if this document can be tracked down online, or if it's one of those things that has to be purchased from the website.RBC ... Read the rest of entry »

Rice Paper Vietnamese Fine Cuisine really is fine: Weekly Dish column, originally published in Edmonton Sun, Jan. 9, 2013

Rice Paper Vietnamese Fine Cuisine10080 178 St. (780) 483 8198 ——Food: 4 of 5 starsAmbience: 3.5 of 5 starsService: 3.5 of 5 stars——The first impression is how clean the restaurant is.Rice Paper, out in the west end among the cluster of hotels supplying West Edmonton Mall with tourists, is spotless.It helps that Van Phan’s eatery is in a stand-alone building that’s only a few years old. Still, somebody is shining the door knobs every day.If Van Phan’s name looks familiar, it is. With his sister’s family, he opened and ran the city’s best known Vietnamese restaurant, Thanh Thanh on 101 Street, for some 16 years. Tiring of the trade, he sold his share to his sister, and took a well-earned sabbatical.But when son Christopher’s interest in the restaurant business wouldn’t go away, Van plunged back in.Already it’s been two years since Van, Christopher and the rest of the immediate family opened Rice Bowl.I’m not going to say it’s better than Thanh Thanh — I have no interest in provoking family disp ... Read the rest of entry »