HicksBiz Blog

Hardware Grill is the king of upscale dining: Weekly Dish review originally published in Edmonton Sun, Wed. Oct. 24, 2012

Hardware Grill 9698 Jasper Avenue 780-423-0969 www.hardwaregrill.comFood: 4.75 of 5 starsAmbience: 4 of 5 starsService: 4 of 5 starsDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $90; fully loaded, $150For 16 years, The Hardware Grill has dominated the city's restaurant landscape. It no longer posts its outstanding reviews, its awards or the local, provincial, national and international restaurant-of-the-year notifications. There are just so many.Others have briefly challenged this king of upscale dining. They have come and gone. Or settled back into a niche a degree or two below the Hardware Grill.Why did it take 18 months for the Weekly Dish to review the Hardware Grill? Partly because I wanted context, to have sampled most of the other aspirants to the Hardware's crown. And partly because the Weekly Dish tries to find the best of the ethnic eateries, the hole-in-the-walls and the best hot dogs, not just the best lobster-truffled this-or-that.But if you're going all-out — our bill was $137 for t ... Read the rest of entry »

How Edmontonians invest their money: Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, Sat. Oct. 20, 2012

Do Edmontonian invest, and if so, what do we invest in?I approached two of the city’s better-known financial advisors, CHED and Global Edmonton analyst Angus Watt of National Bank Financial and Ron Hiebert of Scotia-McLeod, host of CFCW’s weekly Making Money show, to ask these simple questions.(As always, think of “Edmontonians” as shorthand for Edmonton Sun readers, usually living in Alberta between Red Deer and Fort McMurray.)Right off the bat, we’re talking about a minority of you.About 70% of adult Albertans still live paycheque to paycheque, not saving enough to invest in anything besides your house. But 70% of you actually own a home, and, hopefully, are increasing your equity with every mortgage payment.But the time comes when the 30% have a tiny bit left over, after groceries, car and housing costs, the son’s hockey equipment and one holiday a year, to actually start making investments.Usually it’s in tax-deferred RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans — you don’t pay income tax until you make wit ... Read the rest of entry »

Dadeo's offers fabulous Cajun food: Weekly Dish review originally published in Edmonton Sun Wed. Oct. 10, 2012

Dadeo New Orleans Diner & Bar 10548A Whyte Ave. 780-433-0930 www.dadeo.comFood: 3.75 of 5 starsAmbience: 4 of 5 starsService: 3.5 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $30; fully loaded, $70Tucked in next to Avenue Guitars on Whyte Avenue, you've likely driven by Dadeo hundreds of times.Or walked by without noticing. The Cajun cookery is literally a hole in the wall. If you're not looking, you don't find.Which hasn't stopped Dadeo from becoming, by word-of-mouth alone, one of our city's most popular eateries.Word-of-mouth, over 21 years, has created a repeat clientele which sees the 60-seat, long and narrow classic diner full by 6:30 p.m. every evening of the week, except Wednesdays when it's closed.It's not hard to understand the attraction. The Cajun cooking is addictively good, the price is right, the staff are attentive and friendly, the atmosphere is charmingly casual, the decor the most unique in the city.To walk into Dadeo is to step back 50 years in time. This is no just-built fake '60 ... Read the rest of entry »

Grub Med Greek restaurant stuck in a time warp: Weekly Dish restaurant review originally published in the Edmonton Sun Wed. Oct. 17, 2012

Grub Med 17 Fairway Drive 780-436-1988 www.grubmed.caFood: 2.75 of 5 starsAmbience: 2.5 of 5 starsService: 2.5 of 5 starsDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $70; fully loaded, $110You'd think, with the Food Network, Gordon Ramsay, Restaurant Makeover etc. that restaurants getting long in the tooth would know when to reinvent themselves.Grub Med has always been a southwest Edmonton secret, a Greek restaurant in a strip mall off 119 Street south of Whitemud Drive.The locals — from Blue Quill to Riverbend, knew it could provide a pleasant evening in a decent ambience with darned good food.Its word-of-mouth reputation was such that it filled up on Friday and Saturday evenings with diners from across the city, who'd heard of its specialty lamb and fish dishes.But that was years ago. Alas, Grub Med no longer lives up to that reputation.Grub Med had been off the radar — a tell-tale sign — when up popped a Grub Med half-off coupon ($70 worth of food for $35 on a week night), so why not check ou ... Read the rest of entry »

Sondheim on steroids: A review of the musical Next To Normal, at the Citadel Theatre through Nov. 11, 2012

Review of Next to Normal, at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Canada, through November 11, 2013 By Graham Hicks A successful twisting of the dramatic dial always arouses great interest, and, given the intelligence level of the audience it attracts, great expectations. Thematically, the musical Next to Normal, that opened on the Citadel Theatre's Shoctor Stage last Thursday (Oct. 25, 2012) for an 18 day run, is not all that unusual.  The pathos and humour within dysfunctional  contemporary North American families has been a familiar backyard for American playwrights since Tennessee Williams and  Arthur Miller. This time around, the emotional rawness is given believable depth by genuine mental illness on momma’s part. Technically, Next to Normal is darn fascinating – leaving the safety of conventional musical theatre to edge much closer to opera, pushing much closer to Stephen Sondheim than to Rodgers and Hammerstein but delivering the whole show in an over-drive tempo that ... Read the rest of entry »

Where's the beef? Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, Oct. 13, 2012

This column began with the thought of reporting on how the closure of the XL Foods meat-packing plant would be whacking northern Alberta’s rural economy. The plant has partially re-opened, but as of Friday was still not allowed to accept live cattle. Our cattlemen, I figured, had to be reeling.Meat-packing is a nice term for slaughter-houses. That industry has become so concentrated that two plants in southern Alberta, XL in Brooks and Cargill in High River, each normally slaughter 3,500 to 4,000 cattle a day.If Alberta’s slaughter capacity is halved (XL processes a third of all Canadian beef) you can’t get most of your cattle to market.The bottleneck should bump its way up the system. The feedlots fattening young cattle can’t ship to the packing plant. Ranchers can’t sell their calves to the feedlots because the feedlots are full. Prices for feedlot-ready young cattle had dropped by 10% in the past two weeks.There had to be pain and suffering happening in the countryside.With apologies to a handful of big-ti ... Read the rest of entry »

Parkallen Restaurant a Lebanese delight: Weekly Dish, Edmonton Sun, Oct. 3, 2012

Parkallen Restaurant 7018 109 St. 780-436-8080 www.parkallen.comFood: 4 of 5 starsAmbience: 4 of 5 starsService: 4.5 of 5 starsDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $25; fully loaded, $100If you have a favourite restaurant, dollars to doughnuts you have dishes you return to, time after time.You may not be sure why, but there's just something about how that particular chef prepares that particular dish. It keeps calling your name.I have a problem with the Parkallen Restaurant. It's not just one or two dishes. It's five, six, seven ...It's the quality of the kitchen, for 28 years presided over by Habib and Nahia Rustom, and now their son Joseph Rustom.There are no shortcuts. Everything is from scratch, or custom-made locally to Rustom specifications.To try their "mezza" combinations (a tapas-style collection of up to 12 mini-entrees) is to feast your way through Lebanese cuisine, to be taking mental notes on which dish you will order as a full entr e the next time around.Why do I love thee, ... Read the rest of entry »

Langano Skies is an Ethiopian surprise - Weekly Dish, Edmonton Sun, Sept. 26, 2012

Langano Skies Ethiopian Restaurant 9920 82 Ave. 780-432-3334 www.langanoskies.comDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $25; fully loaded, $40Ethiopians are comparative newcomers to the city's culinary scene. But in a long-standing tradition of recent ethnic arrivals, Ethiopian entrepreneurs have taken over inexpensive restaurants in the 118 Avenue and 97 Street area to introduce the country's unique foods to the rest of us.The Sumamo family realized Old Strathcona would also be an neighbourhood where ethnic variations are sought after.Their dining room on 82 Avenue near 99 Street is now one of the more established Ethiopian restaurants in town.Ethiopian — think spicy, meaty "wots" or stews, legumes, and, most of all, injera, a honeycombed easily-rolled crepe with a unique sourdough taste.Think of similarities to South Asian (samosas, spice) or Middle Eastern (the mashed fava bean, tomato and feta cheese mix known as foul).Langano Skies — the reference is to Lake Langano in Ethiopia's Grea ... Read the rest of entry »

Wild Game a specialty at Normand's - Weekly Dish, Edmonton Sun, Sept. 19, 2012

Normand's Fine Regional Cuisine 11639A Jasper Ave. 780-482-2600 www.normands.comIt's mainly because of the meat.Normand's Fine Regional Cuisine has become an Edmonton institution — in the same tucked-away, Oliver end of Jasper Avenue location, with the same hands-on owner Normand Campbell, for 23 years. Chef Cui Kouch rivals Normand for longevity.Just about everybody at Normand's is a repeat customer. Restaurants don't flourish for 23 years without being on a plethora of favourite restaurant lists.And they go for the meat. As the late, great judge Ed Wachowich used to say, "I love animals — right beside the mashed potatoes."Other restaurants have dabbled in wild, exotic and unusual meats — bison, venison, elk, duck, pheasant, wild boar, ostrich, kangaroo.Normand's has made such meats an enduring speciality. Campbell knows what to look for in his purchasing, Cui has decades of experience in optimal preparation. Every entree on the wild game side of the menu is a good bet.In most restaurants, bi ... Read the rest of entry »

Future bright for natural gas: Hicks Biz in the Edmonton Sun, Sept. 22, 2012

Don’t crack the champagne yet. But if the South African energy giant Sasol goes ahead with its unique GTL (Gas to Liquids) refinery close to Fort Saskatchewan, it’ll be one giant boost to the region. Sasol’s patented technology converts natural gas into diesel fuel. How about $8 billion spent mostly around Edmonton, to get it built? To put that figure in perspective, it’s as much as the entire provincial education budget. How about 5,000 skilled trades workers employed over a three-year build? How about, once operational, 500 permanent skilled jobs? We haven’t seen the possibility of such eye-popping numbers, this close to Edmonton, since the Petro-Can refinery expansion and the final phases of Shell’s Scotford refinery/upgrader. All about the price of gas The caution comes because nothing is a done deal. Sasol’s unique technology depends on the price of natural gas (hereto referred to simply as “gas”) staying down, and the price of oil/diesel sta ... Read the rest of entry »