HicksBiz Blog

Craft beer a growing trend: Weekly Dish column originally published in Edmonton Sun Wed. May 29, 2013

Are Albertans becoming choosier in what they eat and what they drink? Are significant numbers of us shopping at farmers’ markets as well as Superstore or Costco? At the big supermarkets, are organic and deli sections thriving? Are independent butcher shops like Acme or specialty cheese shops like the new Cavern on 104th Street becoming more popular? When you go to the shiny new huge-choice liquor stores and confront literally 1,000 brands of red wine, are you adventurous, learning about different grapes … or do you grab the usual Apothic Red? To be blunt, are you willing to pay more, significantly more, for quality? The subject arose at a multi-course dinner presented at Joseph Rustom’s Parkallen Restaurant by Big Rock Brewery last week, celebrating the launch of Big Rock’s Rosmarinus Aromatic Ale. “Craft” beers, loosely defined as beers made by small, independent and traditional breweries, are a classic test of this quality versus quantity idea. ... Read the rest of entry »

Our Oil Sands Are Clean! Hicks on Biz column originally published Edmonton Sun May 25, 2013

Nothing is more irksome than the Keystone XL pipeline protesters calling our oil sands oil the “dirtiest oil on the planet” or Al Gore claiming there’s no such thing as ethical oil, only “dirty and dirtier oil.” For two years, I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about the oil sands, pollution and technology. I have reached quite the opposite conclusion of Mr. Gore. If the technological advances in the oil sands continue at the current pace, if energy producers continue to invest in oil sands’ research at current levels, if provincial and federal regulators continue to raise the bar to ensure world-leading environmental standards, oil-sands oil will be one of the world’s cleanest energy sources. If a proposed new factory or electricity plant put out a call for the best environmentally friendly fuel source – be it wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, natural gas or oil - our oil-sands oil will soon be competitive at a fraction of the c ... Read the rest of entry »

Consistency lacking at Von's Steakhouse: Weekly Dish originally published in Edmonton Sun May 22, 2013

Von's Steakhouse and Oyster Bar Food: 3.5 suns of 5 Ambience: 3.5 of 5 Service: 4 of 5 Dinner for two excluding drinks: Basic, $60. Multi-course, $120. Steakhouses — especially the high-priced ones — tread a fine line. On the one hand, they must stick with the tried and true, the rib eyes and tenderloins covered in molten butter that an older, monied crowd expects. On the other, the next generation(s) has less appetite for acres of red meat, expects dishes with more zest, expects casual elegance and has higher standards. If it’s a $28 chicken plate, it’d better be really good chicken in a really good recipe. The steakhouse chains, hard-wired to convention, only change their menus with the greatest of reluctance. Independents have more room to find that ever-evolving balance. Von’s Steakhouse and Oyster Bar is as independent a restaurant as you’ll find in Edmonton, at its Gateway and 81 Avenue location for some 30 years. Kudo ... Read the rest of entry »

Cool shops for seriously good food in Edmonton and area - as of November, 2013

Suggestions for the best grocery, deli, bakery, butcher and liquor stores in Edmonton and area, or REAL food at REASONABLE pricees!   Latest update, November 22, 2013. Please pass on tips to me at graham.hicks@hicksbiz.com, or on Facebook, or Twitter @hicksonsix. We need more cheese shop and butcher recommendations! Recommendations so far: Groceries/deli:  K and K Foodliner (German) on Whyte Avenue, Sayah Meat + Pie, Saccamanno's, Italian Centre South Side, Little Italy and West End,  H+W Produce (several stores); El-Safadi Market (113A St. and 134 Ave).; Ben's Meat + Deli (Stony Plain Rd.). Fish:  Fin's Seafood in Sherwood Park, Lucky 97 on 97 St. Billingsgate on 104 St. Beer, wine and spirits  - Little Guy Liquor in Sherwood Park, 270 Baseline Rd. near Broadview, Baseline Wine in Sherwood Park, 11 Athabascan Ave. (off Broadmoor, south of Baseline), DeVine Wines downtown, Aligra in West Edmonton Mall, Select on 149 Street near the Whitemud, Sherbrooke Liquor (118 Ave ... Read the rest of entry »

The greening of the oil sands: Presentation by HIcks on Biz columnist Graham HIcks of the Edmonton Sun to the Sunrise Rotary Club of Edmonton, May 17, 2013

May 17, 2013 The greening of the oil sands Presentation to the Sunrise Rotary Club of Edmonton by Graham Hicks Thanks so much for the invitation to speak to your club this morning. Since retiring from the Edmonton Sun as “Hicks on Six” two years ago, I  embarked on a second career, of business journalism. That new focus rapidly read to a new obsession: Studying and reading everything I can get my hands on about the oil sands, pollution and technology. Given the oil sands are the single greatest driver of our economy, the obsession has been a good fit. I think there’s a crying need out there: To have non-partisan, independent, plain-speaking journalists not only defending the oil sands, but extolling its virtues.  In short, I hope to be an evangelist for the GREENING OF THE OIL SANDS. Our detractors, such as the Keystone XL pipeline protesters who call our oil sands bitumen the “dirtiest oil on the planet” or Al Gore claiming there&rsqu ... Read the rest of entry »

Implications of Edmonton's Downtown Arena Deal: Hicks on Biz, originally published Edmonton Sun, May 18, 2013

There was more relief than joy on Wednesday, when city council, by a 10-3 vote, approved the deal for the new $480 million arena, as if, by some miracle, the mega-project comes in on budget and on time for the Oilers’ opening game of the 2016/17 season. It was more reminiscent of a triple-overtime Stanley Cup playoff game, the winners lacking the energy to even touch foreheads with their goalie. Thank God this debate is over. Serious design and construction plans can begin, with shovels in the ground by next year. Mayor Stephen Mandel is right. The investment in the city-owned, Katz Group-leased arena is ultimately the right thing to do, part of a greater vision: Creating a lively, vibrant, wealthy city that our children and grandchildren will be proud to call home, creating a quality-of-life that, despite our long winters, attracts much-needed professionals to our city. As for the deal itself, the mayor nailed it: Not the best, not the worst. The Katz Group, as owners of lead t ... Read the rest of entry »

Duchess Bake Shop and Cafe Tiramisu: Weekly Dish originally published Edmonton Sun May 15, 2013

The Duchess Bake Shop 10718 124 St. 780-488-4999 Duchessbakeshop.com Sandwiches $8 Food: 4.5 of 5 Ambiance: 4.5 of 5 Service: 3.5 of 5 Café Tiramisu 10750 124 St. 780-452-3393 Cafetiramisu.ca Pastas (loaded) - $14 Food: 4 of 5 Ambiance: 3.5 of 5 Service: 3.5 of 5 ——— The Duchess Bake Shop has a most wonderful and deserved reputation as a top Canadian patisserie (pastries and sweets) bake shop. In that department, it wins in all counts. From the outside of the shop on the ever-transforming 124 Street, one wonders what the fuss is all about. Inside, the answer is clear. The sight, smells and general ambiance suggest something special. The interior is tea-shop exquisite, as clean as a whistle, larger than one would expect with 14 or 15 antique or marble topped tables. Patrons, having waited patiently in line to purchase those exquisite treats, sit down to snack with real chinaware and real cutlery. My visit ... Read the rest of entry »

Doin' it right: The Sale of Allwest Furnishings: Hicks on Biz originally published Edmonton Sun, May 11, 2013

The cycle is depressing, and usually inevitable. A local entrepreneur starts a company. Defying the odds, the founder builds it to a decent size with excellent employees and service, plus competitive pricing. The founder decides to sell. A national or international chain has the best offer. The founder rides off into the sunset. Said national chain moves in, re-brands and strips the once-local company down to nothing more than a sales force, inventory and a weekly flyer. Edmonton loses creative energy, brainpower and wealth. Profits don’t stay in town. The sale of Edmonton’s Allwest Commercial Furnishings Ltd. has been the polar opposite of that norm. Founder George Smith built his company from nothing, treating customers and staff with dignity and respect. When it came time for him to sell, he insisted on waiting for the right buyer to build on, not destroy, the Allwest legacy. On entering the Allwest showroom near the TELUS World of Science, something is different. It&rs ... Read the rest of entry »

Why Allwest Commercial Funishings is a very successful local company

In the Saturday, May 11, Edmonton Sun Hicks on Biz Column, the subject of passing the torch from one owner to another was explored through the sale of Edmonton’s Allwest Commercial Furnishings from George Smith to the like-minded Colin Eicher. The story earned its keep, given how difficult it is these days for any company to change hands and yet retain its legacy and business culture. This story has a happy ending. New owner Eicher is cut from the same entrepreneurial cloth as Smith, recognized the qualities and corporate culture that made Allwest so distinct and successful, and is soon to embark, with Smith staying on as his CEO and Lorne Wight as President, on a business expansion. The secondary question I had was what made Allwest such an successful company in the first place? How did it thrive and grow in a world where, more often than not, established local stores are bought up and integrated into national chains. How did George Smith find the cash to renovate Allwest’s showroom and ... Read the rest of entry »

The Soul Collector: Catalyst Theatre is back in all its beautiful, macabre glory. Review by Graham Hicks

The Soul Collector Directed, written and scored by Jonathan Christenson Design by Bretta Gerecke A Catalyst Theatre production, ATB Financial ArtsBarns, to May 12, 2013 matinees Saturday and Sunday, May 11 and 12. Tickets $17 to $42, online at Tix on the Square Review by Graham Hicks,  Hicksbiz.com blog For Jonathan Christenson fans, there’s an irresistible pull every time the brilliant writer, composer and director teams up with designer Bretta Gerecke for another Catalyst Theatre world premiere. The Soul Collector, at the ATB Financial Arts Barns through May 12, 2013, is truly a world premiere, as are all Christenson and Gerecke (CG for short) Catalyst productions. Catalyst has rock-band-like legions of international fans. Its shows tour for years, across North America, Europe and Australia. As far as made-in-Edmonton cultural exports go, Catalyst is up there with Tommy Banks, kd lang and Corb Lund. The pull, the must-attend factor, is the unique style of any C/G production. For wan ... Read the rest of entry »