HicksBiz Blog

Remembering Edmonton's hot downtown clubs/restaurants of the early '80s

Back a few weeks ago, in Hicks on Biz, I wrote about the Downtown Hospitality Explosion, the renaissance of clubs and restaurants in downtown Edmonton, in part jockeying for position when the new arena comes on stream in 2016. Which got a few pals reminiscing about the last great wave of good clubs and restaurants downtown, surprisingly extending a few years beyond the great recession of 1982. Places we remembered in the downtown: Crackerjacks.  Scandals in the basement of the Howard Johnson's - now a Holiday Inn - a disco joint where Motley Crue was once booed off the stage. Darlings in the 4 Seasons, with the legendary maitre d's remark as he didn't allow one of The Eagles into the disco. "I don't care what kind of bird you are, you can't come into Darling's in jeans!" Flashback - Hottest club in town for many, many years! The Rose & Crown Pub in 4 Seasons - which has survived multiple ownership changes of the hotel. The Mansion in Le Marchand Mansion Jesters in the Boardwalk Walden's in ... Read the rest of entry »

Weekly Dish: Il Forno shouldn't change a thing - originally published Edmonton Sun, Nov. 13, 2013

Il Forno 14981 Stony Plain Road (southeast corner, Jasper Gates shopping centre) 780 455 0443 www.ilforno.ca Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Dinner for two (excluding drinks and tip): Basic, $40; Loaded, $70 I declare my bias up front. Anna Muze is a delightful, friendly and big-hearted restaurateur. To not like her and her restaurant, Il Forno in the west end, would be impossible. And everybody in the hospitality biz — those in the kitchens and dining rooms, those who love to eat out — would be in agreement. Most know Anna from her years as maitre d’ at Peter Johner’s Packrat Louie and, before that, at Sorrentino’s. After Peter sold Packrat (he now makes fine chocolates at his rustic chalet near Devon), Anna made good on a long-standing desire to open her own restaurant. She bought Il Forno from another formerly well-known restaurateur, Frank Maio (also of Sceppa’s fame). There are far too few restauran ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Air Canada is 'archaic' - originally published Edmonton Sun, Nov. 9, 2013

Air Canada, you have missed your cross-border Edmonton flight. While Edmonton International Airport has grown and grown, while Edmonton/Northern Alberta is acknowledged as one of the world’s fastest growing regional economies, Air Canada is not capitalizing on the international and trans-border (i.e. USA) flight potential of our market. Mr. Air Canada Chief Executive Officer Calin Rovinescu, I can tell you why. Air Canada is basing its international service on an archaic marketing model – that the vast majority of its international and American flights should originate out of four “hub” airports – Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. That was a progressive, forward-thinking corporate strategy, Mr. Rovinescu … 20 years ago. But today, there are FIVE aviation hubs in this country, the fifth – and fastest-growing of the bunch – being Edmonton. The evidence is as clear as the nose on your face, Mr. Air Canada Board Chair David Richardson. ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: NAIT a great culinary secret - originally published Edmonton Sun, Nov. 6, 2013

NAIT’s Culinary School outlets Ernest’s Dining Room, Fresh Express, Retail Meat Market Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Ernest’s 11762-106 St. 780 471-8676 www.nait.ca/54678.htm There’s a culinary secret in this town. The secret has been revealed time after time. Yet a secret it continues to be. At NAIT, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, one can eat like a king at peasant prices, have champagne tastes on a beer budget. A three-course “table d’hote” dinner in Ernest’s fine-dining room costs $35 per person and comes with an additional “amuse bouche” (a mini-appetizer unto itself) and a between-course sorbet to “cleanse the palate.” At Fresh Express, a fragrant, light, made-from-scratch fish ‘n’ chips rings in at $6.75. At the NAIT Retail Meat Store, beautiful cuts of fresh meat, from rib roast to rouladen, can be had at two-thirds the cost elsewher ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Farewell to the family farm - originally published in Edmonton Sun, Nov. 2, 2013

Farming is the Rodney Dangerfield of Alberta business. Can’t get no respect! Add up crops and livestock gross sales, and you’re at 3.6% of the provincial economy. Toss in food-related manufacturing, it jumps to 7.9%, or 22 billion dollars. But unless there’s a crisis as at XL Foods — one year ago — agriculture stays under the media radar. Which, considering the ritual whipping of the oil/gas industry every day at high noon, might be a good thing. Over the next 10 days, however, agriculture is spotlighted in the weakening late-autumn sun. There’s the cattle-centric Farmfair International (Nov. 3 to 10) here at Northlands, the farm implement-focused Agri-Trade show in Red Deer Nov. 6 to 9, and, of course, that rural playground known as the Canadian Finals Rodeo at Rexall Place Nov. 6 to 10. So welcome to the Hicks on Biz annual Agricultural Review. Here’re the mega-trends happening out on the flat, fertile prairie. I’m much obliged to ag ... Read the rest of entry »

Edmonton restaurants come up big for charity: Weekly Dish originally published in Edmonton Sun, Oct. 30, 2013

Just how much is food and dining out a part of our lives? Consider: Of the 240 packages in The Edmonton Sun/ATCO Christmas Charity Auction, running until 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, at least a third of them involve food. Here’s the Weekly Dish’s food guide to hundreds of Edmonton restaurants who have donated to the Charity Auction. The number in brackets refers to the auction package number in the auction listings in today’s Sun print edition or at www.christmascharityauction.ca. Steaks: Three of the city’s finest steakhouses – LUX (10), Ruth’s Chris (12) and Von’s (15) – are in the first 15 packages. LUX executive chef and Sun columnist Paul Shufelt is giving his guests cooking lessons, Ruth’s Chris is famous for its corn-fed steaks, Von’s kitchen is now supervised by extraordinarily creative chef Shane Chartrand. Don’t forget the Outback Steakhouse (107), hosting dinner with CHED’s Dan Tencer & Andrew Grose. Fine dining: Thes ... Read the rest of entry »

Graham Hicks' review of 2 Pianos 4 Hands, playing at the Citadel Theatre, Edmonton, to Nov. 17, 2013

A Graham Hicks theatrical review: 2 Pianos 4 Hands (2P 4H) Citadel Theatre, Shoctor Stage, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada October 26 to November 17, 2013 Citadel Theatre Box Office Every parent and every kid with talent has been through this. Rebellion against endless practice.  Worry that the kid is obsessed with his or her sport or instrument. The slightly cuckoo, but really good, teacher. The fear of not being good enough. The little league politics, the musical competition politics. The crushing realization that a professional career is not in the cards. But who knew that such obsession could be the stuff of musical comedy? A musical comedy of such enduring affection that the two-actor show has been performed 4,000 times over 17 years, in 200 theatres in front of two million people? Probably not quintuple-threat artists (actors, pianists, comedians, playwrights, directors) Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt when they hatched the idea of a show about t ... Read the rest of entry »