HicksBiz Blog

Hicks on Biz: Mega-batteries are changing energy economics by GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, December 8, 2017

Is it possible that the biggest challenge to the economics of wind and solar renewable energy is about to be overcome? Missing from the equation, up until this point, have been dependable, last-lasting, environmentally acceptable mega-batteries. Wind farms are great in theory – harnessing the wind, no carbon emissions, etc. etc. But the costs go crazy when the wind doesn’t blow. Mother Nature doesn’t care about when mankind needs that power – like on the coldest and hottest days of the years. But if there were mega-batteries alongside those wind farms, storing wind energy when it was plentiful, supplying it to the grid when the wind died down … now we’re talking. It’s been a pipe dream, until now. Maybe it’s just Elon Musk’s great big mouth, but his electric car/renewable energy/battery company Tesla may have done the economically impossible. Tesla has just installed the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery (actually banks and banks of battery ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Sorrentino’s Staff Lunch by GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, December 5, 2017

A wonderful tradition, entirely unknown outside the restaurant kitchen … and probably not much practiced in North America in any case, is the impromptu staff lunch. After the noon rush at Sorrentino’s Downtown,  executive chef Alberto Alboreggia gathers up food in the kitchen that is  surplus to the customers’ needs: Fish skeletons from which the filets have been cut, what’s left of a primal beef detached of its sirloins and prime rib, vegetable peelings and so on. Every day, Alberto converts them into a delicious, quick staff lunch.   A 22 pound, never-frozen fresh salmon has already been stripped of its salmon steaks and filets.  But left over is the head, the fins, all the meat buried alongside the spine. There are pounds of edible fish here, but it’s of little interest to the front-of-house guest. A few pieces of chicken might be left from the night before. Roasted potatoes – quartered, peeled, sprinkled with olive oil and herbs – remain i ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: How to Love Our Tourists by GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, December 1, 2017

While my wife Maria is on a volunteer mission in Africa, before our Rome rendezvous,  I am spending five days hiking in Italy on the famous Amalfi Coast, in the mountains that cascade down to the Mediterranean Sea just south of Naples. I am a pure tourist – I don’t speak the language and I’m not a shopper, but I’m pumping money into the local economy by staying at a bed ‘n’ breakfast, eating out, using local transportation, drinking the local wines … Tourism is something our Edmonton economic developers constantly talk about. In the years to come, especially if the Indigenous People’s Experience being created at Fort Edmonton Park lives up to its potential as a destination tourist attraction, we  might see more tourists  than the trickle of visiting relatives and friends who drop in on our summer festivals while camping in the guest bedroom. What can be learned from this part of Italy, where tourism utterly dominates the local economy an ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Holy Roller One Visual Treat By GRAHAM HICKS; first published Edmonton Sun, November 28, 2017

Holy Roller 8222 Gateway Blvd 780-540-4659 theholyroller.ca Mon. to Wed. 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thurs. to Sat. 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sun. 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $16; loaded, $50 Food:  4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Old Strathcona’s newest restaurant Holy Roller is way too cool, full of Harry Potter twists and turns. The “lobby” (and cafe)  is all London men’s club – the library, a quiet bar. One half expects Winston Churchill slouched in one of the overstuffed easy chairs, puffing on a cigar. But then the hostess leads you through a secondary entrance to the interior. Suddenly a crystal palace greets you, a crystal palace, a restaurant all a-bustle with restless energy, an enormous ceiling, chandeliers, a bar/ open kitchen all down one side, comfy and trendy tables marching down the others. Keep going, to the third space at the back, an entirely new world – modern white ta ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Making public transit work in Edmonton by GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun: November 23, 2017

Good on Edmonton Coun. Andrew Knack for sticking to his guns, and to the new city council for coming to its senses. Last July, in a vote that made no sense, the pre-election city council defeated a relatively innocent motion from Knack: That the city look at new ways of improving public transit … including private-public partnerships, ride-sharing, driverless cars and Light Road Transit – trains on tires that could run on dedicated roadways.  The notion – just to do some research, just to have a look around — was defeated in a tie vote, with dissenting councillors bowing to union pressure, or their own ideological beliefs. Thanks to you, dear voters in October’s municipal election, our new city council is a more practical bunch. Knack brought his idea back after the election. This time it passed by a healthy nine to four vote. City employees (or consultants) will check out best practices around the world to see if we can improve on the abysmal fact that only 13% ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: No more white elephants, Edmonton! by GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, November 17, 2017

There’s a sinking feeling in the city’s development community, worry that the mighty “aspirational” Blatchford Lands – the City of Edmonton’s 540-acre redevelopment of the now-closed Municipal Airport – will be yet another white elephant. A white elephant: When a big project starts with the best of intentions and an optimistic budget, but ends up taking twice as long, costing twice as much, and delivering a fraction of what was promised. Blatchford started off as a city council dream. So much open land, so close to downtown, could be used to show the world how eco-sensitive Edmonton was. Blatchford is being marketed as a 30,000-resident neighbourhood with the very latest in environmental technologies, renewable energy, lovely lakes and paddle boats, no cars, lots of bikes – so attractive that thousands of families will pay premium prices to purchase brand-new eco-homes in this super-eco-neighbourhood that’s far away from the river valley but very close ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: The Butternut Tree's young chef offers near-perfection By GRAHAM HICKS, FIRST PUBLISHED EDMONTON SUN, November 21, 2017

The Butternut Tree 9707 110 Street, #101 (Ledgeview Business Centre, ground floor, complimentary indoor parking) 780-760-2271 Thebutternuttree.ca Tues. to Sun. 5 p.m. to midnight Closed Mondays Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $80; loaded, $125 Food:  4.75 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4.75 of 5 Suns So close to a perfect five out of five for food. If not marred by over-salted jus (gravy) for its duck breast entree, the new Butternut Tree Restaurant would have earned an extraordinary Weekly Dish five-out-of-five Sun rating for its food, and equally close to a five out of five for service. From where did this lovely restaurant, comparable already to the Hardware Grill in quality and meticulousness, come from? When chef/owner Scott Downey, an incredibly young 27, opened Butternut Tree in August, nobody knew who he was.  Years ago he had left the family home in St. Albert to wander the world and ended up apprenticing in top restaurants (Noma in Copenhagen) and ... Read the rest of entry »

Hadestown at the Citadel Theatre: All that is good and right ... with a few problems: Review by GRAHAM HICKS, Hicksbiz.com

Hadestown Citadel Theatre Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Nov. 11 to Dec. 3, 2017 Tickets start at $30. Review by Graham Hicks, Hicksbiz.com Hadestown is a beautiful, rich mix of all that is good and right in American performance art. That said, it has its problems. No report on Hadestown can take place without considering the current context.  The acclaimed musical,  close to a modern-day opera, is getting its final polish here at the Citadel Theatre before its producers and financial backers move the show to Broadway. The production,  based on a concept album by the talented and distinctive American songwriter/singer Anais Mitchell, contemporizes and universalizes the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.   Hadestown was a major off-Broadway hit in New York City. But it had to be adapted from an intimate theatre space to the big spaces of Broadway theatres.  Enter the Citadel’s 681-seat Shoctor Stage. So The Hadestown we are watching in Edmonton is not yet a final product. ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Parkallen Restaurant retools for the next 35 years By GRAHAM HICKS, FIRST PUBLISHED EDMONTON SUN, November 15, 2017

Parkallen Restaurant 7018-109 St. Parkallen.com 587-520-6401 Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. to midnight Closed Sunday Dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: basic, $45; loaded, $90 FOOD: 4 OF 5 SUNS AMBIENCE: 4 OF 5 SUNS SERVICE: 4 OF 5 SUNS All the successful “classic” restaurants of Edmonton – i.e. those 30 years or older still providing excellent dining experiences – share a common trait. They evolve – adding new dishes here and there, quietly dropping the dated stuff  but ensuring customer favourites stay on the menu. Above all, they’re willing to change … which is why they thrive. The Parkallen Restaurant was a favourite pizza joint of the inner southwest when Habib and Nahia Rustom opened in 1982, all by itself at that time on 109 Street in the stretch between Whyte and 61 Avenues. Son Joseph grew up in the business. As a young adult full of ideas, he set the Parkallen on a course that served it well for de ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Is Edmonton headed for an economic rebound? By GRAHAM HICKS, FIRST PUBLISHED EDMONTON SUN November 10, 2017

One really shouldn’t be so foolish as to predict Edmonton’s economy. It’s like predicting how the Oilers will do. Who, six months ago, would have predicted our hockey team’s current dire straits? This column has been all gloom and doom on the future of Edmonton and Alberta’s economy. I’ve been arguing that the now-three-year crash in oil and gas prices shows no sign of let-up, that construction is slowing, that “carbon restraint” is clamping down on global demand for our oil and gas and at the same time raising Alberta’s electricity costs: That sky-rocketing provincial debt and a perceived anti-business bias from the current provincial government has scared off investment in Alberta. Not a pretty picture. But in the past few weeks a flurry of economic forecasts are painting a more optimistic future – at least for 2018 and 2019. The basic theory seems to be that things have been so bad — a 3% drop in Alberta’s economic output ... Read the rest of entry »