Gin and a Preview

Michael and I received an invitation to the Alberta Hotel Bar + Kitchen to taste some gin.

How long do you think it took me to respond to that invitation dear readers? If you said milliseconds, you are correct. However, to appear to be sophisticated and blasé about such matters, I delayed my response by a respectful two days. Michael and I were squealing with excitement the whole time we were waiting for November 24 to roll around.

The evening was two-fold – it introduced us to the beautiful Alberta Hotel Bar + Kitchen which opened some weeks ago. It is located in the historic Alberta Hotel building at 9802 Jasper Avenue. It also introduced us to the Eau Claire Distillery, which is located RIGHT HERE IN ALBERTA, in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Turner Valley.

The gin was terrific. Although a gin and tonic girl, I managed to find it within me to try two different gins straight up. The first, Gin Rummy! I play gin rummy, but never drank it. I asked what made it rummy. It turns Eau Claire Distillery creates booze from locally sourced sources (Alberta only thank you) and since we don’t grow sugar cane in these here hills, Eau Claire did use what we have, molasses. Hence, gin rummy as opposed to rum.

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Angel Chai-mes!

Second up was the seasonal Christmas gin. Well Merry Christmas to you and you, this gin makes even the non-believer feel they are in touch with their biblical roots. This gin is flavoured with frankincense and myrrh. It is delicious and smooth. If a person imbibed in a few more samples of this seasonal gin, it had the promise of providing the stage to have a conversation with a wee little baby in a manger under a brilliant star surrounded by a bewildered mother, concerned father, three clever men, and some farm animals.

The food service at the Alberta Hotel Bar + Kitchen was spot on. We tried oxtail croquettes. Beef sliders. Another oxtail croquette. Stuff on melted Parmigiano Reggiano cheese crackers. Let’s be honest, yet another oxtail croquette and another beef slider. I really am a crappy food blogger, because I enjoy the food, I don’t ask about the details. There were several other samples, and I was too busy eating them to take pictures or notes.  I can tell you this. The samples were fresh and delicious. As a preview, the Alberta Hotel Bar + Kitchen has proved they can supply delicious food to a noisy crowded room of food bloggers, media and assorted VIPs. If they can do that successfully (which they did), it deserves a second look.

Michael and I look forward to visiting the Alberta Hotel Bar + Kitchen as regular schmos. We are hoping they are as exactly as they describe on their websitehonest, transparent and authentic as Edmonton itself.

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I’m not saying this is correct, and I mean no disrespect if I got it wrong, but I pronounce it Roast-eee-zah-dough. It does mean roast, as in roast chicken, or roast pork, or roast beef. All served with a side of roasted potatoes… wait for it… in pork fat. Oh my god, those very words create a sort of climactic vibe, complete with curled toes, and a deeply satisfied sigh.

Rostizado is a year old, and belongs to the same delicious food geniuses who brought Edmonton Tres Carnarles, which I wrote about in 2011.

The menu at Rostizado will be explained by your server much better than I will, but if you are uncertain about what you see when you visit their beautiful website, here’s the main point:

Spit Roasted Meat
Roasted Potatoes
Authentic Mexican Yumminess

IMG_4644My friends and I opted to each have our own 1/4 lb of roasted pork with roasted potatoes. It was served with hand made flour tortillas and salsa. It’s not Date Night food. To eat this means you dig in, use your fingers, have no fear of pork fat, and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. The serving, for $20, was enormous. I ate the entire plate because there are starving people in the world, but my friends who do not think about the starving people, had left overs.

Rostizado is located in a very cool part of Edmonton, at 10359 – 104 Street. Try not to focus on the construction in the neighbourhood as Edmonton builds the Ice District. Parking is not easy or cheap before 6 pm, but after 6 pm there are a number of free street parking options. For a real treat, plan your dinner after dark, and enjoy the nostalgic Neon Museum (Canada’s first!!!) across the street from Rostizado.

When you arrive at Rostizado, you will be greeted by FIRE on either side of the doors. This does help draw attention to your destination, because from the street, it’s not so easy to see. You will face about 10 steps or so to enter the restaurant. Those with limited mobility will have to enter the restaurant from the rear of the building where there is elevator access. Or, opt to stay on the street and admire the Neon Museum and have your food to go (they do offer Take-Out Service).

Rostizado is located in the historic Mercer Building. A beautiful brick, high ceiling, large wood beamed building that has managed to NOT get burned down. This building is a real treasure to Edmonton, and Rostizado has respected the building’s history to a T. And speaking of history, I was absolutely thrilled to see the music for the restaurant was provided by a turntable, with frequent changes of LP. My table mates and I were particularly thrilled when the needle skipped – it brought back memories for us, and placing a penny on the head shell to prevent skipping.

IMG_4640 (1)Music is a big deal to me, and the sound-system and choice of music in Rostizado is perfect. A bit chill, retro, and laid back. There’s no irritating twang or deep bass that stir the intestines.

My friends and I arrived fairly early by most people’s standards, so we had the place to ourselves for quite a while. As our experience was ending, the place began to fill with an assortment of young hipsters that go “sssswwhhaaa ssssshhwaaaa” a thousand times (I am serious, I could not figure out WHAT they were saying or doing – but it did involve some jumping away from the table and standing alone and looking at their belt buckles), happy couples holding hands, and single, middle aged men sitting at the bar-style seat over looking 104th Street. I am most delighted when there is a group of people meeting for dinner, particularly, when the first people arrive and try to strategically place themselves at the table. To the neurotic, such as myself, it is life affirming to know I am not alone in believing seat placement is everything.

IMG_4643The ambiance in Rostizado will suit everyone. It’s relaxed. The service is friendly. There  is not an ounce of pretentiousness here. It is a haven for those who enjoy food that is meticulously prepared to give you flavour, enjoyment, and memories. Go.

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It all started with a solid block of brown sugar.

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Here’s a link to the Kitchn’s site to read the article, A Simple Way to Soften Hard Brown Sugar in a Hurry.

A few spoons of the softened brown sugar were used for our morning bowls of oatmeal. You see, it’s getting chilly outside, and when the weather changes, we have the urge to eat hot, fortifying breakfasts like porridge…. and sweet things….

Which brings us to penuche. With having learned how to soften our old bag of brown sugar, we now had just shy of 2 kg of brown sugar. Friend Darlene mentioned on my post how her family uses up their sugar by making penuche (can’t pronounce it? think Italian, and say pannuchi! Say it loud and joyfully, with open hand gestures, tossing your head to one side).

Armed with Darlene’s family recipe, and a few internet searches gathered around me, I set out to make a batch of penuche. And no better day to make penuche, when it’s blustering outside, and my husband has become linked at a molecular level to the television to watch Ireland beat France (24-9) in the Rugby World Cup 2015.

As Darlene promised, the recipe is easy. The most important thing I learned from Darlene, is that there is no steadfast rule about how to make it. I love recipes like that, because it takes the pressure off. Don’t have vanilla? Don’t put it in. Don’t have cream? Use evaporated milk. Lactose intolerant? Use lactose free 35% cream (yes this exists, and you cannot believe how excited I was to find it – even though I seem to be able tolerate regular cream just fine, why risk it?).

The second most important thing I learned from Darlene is to use a cast iron pan. Honestly! I would have never thought of that, and used it today, and it worked great. Yes, there were moments I had concerns my boiling burbling mass of sugary goo would overflow the pan like lava and burn a hole to the floor below us, but that did not happen!

I used principles that I learned in a bunch of recipes. I don’t have exact measurements, and encourage you to look at the web yourself. The main ingredients are:

Brown sugar (2 – 3 cups)
Cream (or evaporated milk) (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
Butter (2 – 3 tbsp)
Dash of salt (a dash, to me, is two shakes of the salt shaker)
Little bit of vanilla (less than a 1/4 tsp)

The internet will tell you different things. For instance, add white sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar, nuts, less butter, more butter, less sugar, more sugar, no vanilla, more vanilla…. go with whatever you like.

Where things are the same is when it comes to the method:

Put your butter, cream, sugar and salt in a pot / pan on the stove.




Bring to a boil.

IMG_4593Reduce heat and continue to boil until it reaches the soft ball stage. This potentially is the trickiest part of the process. If you have a candy thermometer, that would be 235F. However, if like me you don’t have a candy thermometer, learn how to tell your sugary mass has reached the soft ball stage by watching this video:

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 11.57.22 AMWhen this occurs, then carefully remove the pan, and pour the molten mass into a heat proof bowl, add your vanilla if you are adding vanilla (or nuts, or whatever) and stir.

IMG_4596Stir some more. Keep stirring….. no a little more, keep going… Stir for about 15 minutes, until the stuff thickens and loses its gloss.

Then pour out into a buttered (or parchment lined pan).

IMG_4599Allow to cool, and then cut into tiny pieces:

IMG_4602As I write this, I have the jitters from sampling so many of those little pieces. :D

Penuche is sweet and delicious. It is also used to ice cakes, but I am of the camp that thinks cake is overrated. Let’s get right to the icing!

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Gin and Tonic

My dear readers, Facebook followers, friends and family know that I have a pretty tight relationship with my gins and tonics, especially through the summer months. They have refreshed me for years, but not once in those years have I ventured far from my usual Schwepps Tonic.

Then one day David Lebovitz appeared in my Facebook feed with this intriguing article, Homemade Tonic Water. Now, although my blog title is Walsh Cooks, it should be subtitled Walsh Likes to Delegate Cooking to Others. So I think to myself, “Who will actually do this?”, and without much hesitation my brain offers me Edmonton foodie Keith Perron’s name. I shared the article with Keith via Facebook, and asked if he ever tried making his own tonic. Keith you see, has one of those adventurous souls who will try anything in the kitchen.

Happily, within a day or so of sharing Lebovitz’s article with Keith, I was tagged in this post:

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Within a few weeks of this, the following pictures appeared in his Google account:

Tonic Goods

Photo: Keith Perron

Cardamon Star Anise

Photo: Keith Perron


Photo: Keith Perron

Bark Stuff

Photo: Keith Perron

Lemon Grass

Photo: Keith Perron


Photo: Keith Perron

In Hot Water

Photo: Keith Perron

For the list of ingredients and the method, I ask that you check out David Lebovitz’s article, Homemade Tonic Water so credit can be given where credit is due.

Keith and I arranged for a Tonic Tasting Day. In addition to the homemade tonic Keith provided, we also had the “control” my loyal Schwepps, as well as a fancy commercial tonic called Fever-Tree Premium Tonic Water. The bottle of club soda was on hand to dilute the homemade tonic.

Here, you can see that Keith created two different tonics. One had  lavender undertones, the other spicy with the star anise and cardamon.


Our first G & T was made with the lavender based tonic. It did not resemble tonic water as I know it, at all. But if not comparing this delicacy to a two litre bottle of Schwepps, on its own it is a beautiful accompaniment to gin. The flowery lavender gives it a delicateness which offset the sweetness of simple syrup. It definitely needed to be diluted with soda, which also provided the necessary fizzy to the drink.

The second G & T of the afternoon was the spicy tonic version. Again the soda is a requirement to give it the necessary fizz and dilution, and it was a level 12 on the 10 level flavour scale.

The third G & T sampled the commercial Fever-Tree. It was like crawling into bed after being away from home for a few days. It was comfortable and felt like home. Closest to Schwepps, but a little more upscale. Upscale in that it costs more, and is delivered in tiny, single serve glass bottles. I did not notice a huge flavour difference from my traditional tonic, but it was an enormous difference from the flavourful homemade tonic Keith made.

The fourth G & T was our “control” G & T, and truth is, we never got to it. Three G & Ts in short succession was enough. Scientists we are not.

Am I a convert? No. My regular old G & T’s will do just fine.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of trying homemade tonic.  I send my grateful thanks to Keith for taking on this challenge, and David Lebovitz for posting his experience and inspiration. It made for a fun afternoon.

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Little Brick Cafe

I’ve been aching to try out Little Brick Cafe, tucked in among the pretty homes in the beautiful community of Riverdale, an almost secret community tucked in the bend of the North Saskatchewan river.

Today, we were heading downtown for the street party on 104th street, by got bamboozled off our trail by marathon festivities blocking our way. We turned the car around and were heading towards a Starbucks in Capilano as a consolation prize, when, as we were descending Rowland Road, I remembered at the last possible second about Little Brick Cafe, and did a speedy, but rather impressive right turn down 92 Street.

After a few, “go this way, no that way, no not there, down here’s”, we found it. There is plenty of street parking, and was pleased to see that Little Brick is aware of their impact to the neighbourhood and have put up signs asking people to keep some parking space clear for residents. This impresses me down to my toes.


Entering the gate I was immediately smitten with the large garden, with tables and chairs set up on the lawn. Reminded me of proper English pubs you see on Masterpiece Theatre where people take their pints outside and sit at tables on lawns, under trees.


The shop itself was nice and tidy. Our order was taken and we took our number and found ourselves a sunny table for two. Shortly thereafter our coffees, and a tomato ricotta tartine arrived.


The coffee was delicious, Michael’s cappuccino done in the perfect classical way, and the tartine was fresh and delicious. Our bill was $16.54.

As we always do, the question was, “would you come here again?”.  Michael wasn’t as smitten as me. He didn’t think he’d make it a destination place, but thought if he were wandering in the valley and came upon it, he certainly would. I on the other hand think its the perfect destination place! I can see meeting friends here for coffee regularly, and think how lucky the neighbourhood is to have such a delightful place right on their doorstep. I was also delighted to see people purchasing beer and wine, which gave it another impressive nod from me.

Other_Random_Stuff_Hippie_Parking_Only_Street_SignAfter coffee, we took a stroll through the neighbourhood. I fell in love with the community. We had some fun guessing the price of the homes, and after a MLS search, most of the homes are a bit out of our league. However, we did fall upon the Riverdale Cooperative Housing, and between the woman walking her cat on a leash, the Hippie Parking Only, All Others Will Be Stoned sign, abundant vegetation and the overall homey feel, we thought this might be a viable option for us.

Highly recommend Little Brick Cafe. It’s a treasure.

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Huma Mexican Food


Found on the northeast corner of 99th Street and Argyle (63rd Avenue), Huma is located on the north end of this busy little strip mall, also home of Tienda Latina, Edmonton’s favourite Mexican grocery store.

The restaurant is spacious, colourful, and welcoming. Service was immediate (after a 30 minute wait to get a table), and the food took no time to reach us.


We started with ceviches for $9 – think salsa with a bit of white fish, along with tortillas. Fresh and delicious, it was a great start to our meal.


Next up came the chicken tacos dorados for $14. They were good, but needed some spicy oomph from the salsas provided at the table.


Last of the meal was pork quesadillas for $14. These were generous and porkie, but again, needed the assistance of the salsa to spice things up.

Dessert was a torte with caramel sauce for $4.50. I’m indifferent about desserts, but Michael seemed to like it enough.

Prices seemed reasonable at the beginning of the meal, but when we paid the bill, just shy of $100, we felt it a bit much for what we ordered. Mind you, with margaritas at $10 each, it adds up quickly.

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A Weekend Visit to Calgary

On impulse, last weekend Michael and I took off to Calgary for a fix of family, mountains, and nostalgia.

Not the most relaxing of our adventures, we found ourselves lost on the southside trying to find Highway 22x from Deerfoot Trail. Once we found it, and breathed a sigh of relief at the familiarity of our favourite route to Kananaskis, we came head-to-head with 1,741 people on bikes in support of the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Ride to Conquer Cancer. They had a beautiful day to ride, and although I white knuckled that part of the drive because oncoming cars were pushed into our lane, it was worth it for the 7.8 million dollars that were raised to find a cure for cancer.


Visions of chilling out and sitting next to the tranquil Forgetmenot Pond at the end of Highway 60 were shattered, first by the impossible task of finding a parking spot, and second by the sheer volume (referring to both the number of people and the sound level) that surrounded our former favourite hideaway spot. Church groups. Family groups. Hiking groups. Groups of children shrieking their heads off. One group of ducks in the middle of the lake looking as pissed off as we were. What happened? Once we settled into our new reality, we managed to fight for a spot on a bench, catch our breath, and take in the transparent blue-green of the pond. We even warmed to the crowds and managed to smile at a few of them. Things got even better when we found our way to the ever shrinking Elbow River and took off our shoes and stepped in to its refreshing coolness.

This was a quick trip, so we didn’t come out with our usual picnic accoutrements. We had one bottle of water between us. What made the visit interesting (other than the mountains, the water, the wildflowers, the river, the rocks, the trees) was seeing what everyone had for lunch. Because of the fire ban, there wasn’t the usual roasting of wieners over an open fire, but there was a plethora of portable BBQs, and we saw people enjoying everything from sausages to big pots of noodles.

When it was time to head back to Calgary, we opted for Highway 8 west of the City. Thankfully this hasn’t change all that much. However, it was back to white knuckles when on Glenmore Trail had to find our way North on Elbow Drive, which this driver fondly remembers being a simple left-hand turn. Now it’s one of those deals where you have to merge off of Glenmore Trail into people merging on to Glenmore Trail. And there’s a lot of people wanting to do this very same task at the very same time. At speed. I’ll leave out the bits of shouting and expletives, because, really, we got through it in the end.

At the calming speed of 50 km/h we meandered north on Elbow Drive to Britannia Plaza where the neighbourhood Starbucks lured us in for a coffee. We noted Browns Socialhouse located where a Petro-Canada once stood, on Elbow Drive and 51st Avenue. It was a warm day, and the East wall of the restaurant opened right up to the sidewalk. It was inviting and looked like a place we’d like to try.


After an afternoon with Michael’s Mum, we popped back to Browns Socialhouse for supper. As if we called in advance, a table right along the open window was available for us. We ordered our drinks and looked over the menu, which compares in many ways to Earl’s. Which isn’t a bad thing.


We started with a Dynamite Roll, followed by a Roast Beef French Dip for Michael, and the Lime Pepper Grilled Halibut taco for yours truly. Michael’s beef had it’s tough bits, which is unfortunate. My tacos were super-delicious. I would order them again. Michael would pass on the beef dip.


If we were back in Calgary, we would definitely go again to Browns Socialhouse. Edmonton has two locations, one in Windermere and the other on the West Henday, lucky for those of you who live in suburbia, not so great a location for those of us in the centre of the city.

After supper, we went for a drive south along Elbow to see if our old high school, Henry Wisewood was still standing (it was). We went further south to make sure the masses that visited our golf club, Canyon Meadows, hadn’t trampled it down to a pulp of green goo after a day of the Shaw Charity Classic. We were also hoping to catch a sighting of Fred Couples, Stephen Ames, or Colin Montgomerie. We didn’t. Perhaps they got tangled up in a merge on Glenmore Trail.

After every visit to Calgary, I agonize if we shouldn’t move back. For Michael it’s easy. If the decision was made, he’d be packed and in the car before I could blink an eye. For me, it’s not so simple. My family roots run deep up here in Edmonton. I’ve made some great friends. I have a job I enjoy. Then again, it’s only a three hour drive… we’ll have to see.

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A Taste of the Real YEG

For those who don’t know, YEG originally, and is still, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) code for the Edmonton International Airport (EIA). Back in the day when I was in Travel Agent School, I had to memorize all the airport codes in the world, which served me well in my 10 years with Time Air, Canadian Regional and Canadian Airlines. After I left, I would only show-off my IATA airport code skills when travelling or writing in short hand, but now it has found a whole new use in Twitter. You are probably very familiar with #YEG after all. The fine people at EIA invited a bunch of us food bloggers out for a Taste of EIA, give us a sample of what’s available, and give us some interesting facts about the EIA to share with our readers. I pause here to make special mention of the pen we all got at the bottom of our swag bags. It is a pen of q-u-a-l-i-t-y… it has a real weight behind it, and came in a fancy velvet-like pouch. No, you may not borrow my pen. IMG_3992 Anyways, now that I’ve identified that I can be easily bought with a promo pen (quality promo pens, mind you), let’s get on with food experience! Come this way….

First stop – Chili’s: We were greeted with a table full of Very Large Alcoholic Drinks (they knew I was coming).    I selected the Coronita Beer Caesar, which is a new offering at Chili’s. You’ve seen the margarita’s with inverted beers, yes? Well, this is the same thing, but in Caesar form. It was delicious. IMG_3962 I also tried a wee bit of a Platinum Presidente Margarita – a big sized traditional margarita that is hand-shaken and served over ice. IMG_3969 For food, we were provided plates of delicious deep-fried goodness – onion rings, southwestern eggrolls, chicken wings, dry ribs, tostada chips, and the show stopper…. White Spinach Queso – which is white queso (cheese) and chopped spinach topped with shredded Monterey Jack, house-made pico de gallo (salsa), fresh guacamole, queso fresca (more cheese) and chopped cilantro, and wait for it….. served warm. This oooey gooey splodge was crazy delicious. Lactose intolerance be damned. I ate it anyway. IMG_3971 Second stop – Heineken: If you want to try something that is unique to Canada, try the Heineken lounge. It is the only one in Canada! And they serve more than beer. The menu offered some delicious food options, and around the table we had a generous serving of good old Mac ‘n Cheese (not the Mack Male and Graham Hicks kind either, but they would have been welcome), beside this was a decidedly smaller serving of cheese on a cheese board… but who wants to load up on cheese before a flight anyway? Also spotted was a chicken satay, waffle fries, a salad, a burger and my dish, the chicken curry served with pillowy soft naan, basmati rice and a mango/apple chutney. It was good, filling food.


Last stop – Caffe Sorrentino’s: Now Caffe Sorrentino’s is interesting. As you pass by it, you might think they just serve coffee, gelato and a few beers. You would be wrong. They serve DELICIOUS coffee and gelato, yes, but they also serve grilled pannini, soup, salad, pasta, breakfast and desserts. By this time though, all I wanted was a decaf Americano, which was one of the best decaf/caffeinated Americano’s I ever had. So much so, I have decided to switch to Sorrentino’s downtown at Edmonton Centre East instead of Starbucks for my coffee fix. Arrivederci Starbucks (but I’ll still see you at Omega). IMG_3986 My blood orange sorbetto was a perfect sweet end to the evening. Was this it? No! Despite being full to bursting, who could say no when we were presented with an assortment of delicious desserts… I scored a dark chocolate layer cake which had to come home with me because at the table I poo-poo’d the idea of eating more that evening (but naturally the moment I got home and tea was poured, split the cake with Michael and finished it off in less than 30 seconds). I am not a fan of dense chocolate cakes, and although this LOOKED dense, it was quite light and not too sweet. It was perfect. I have become a new fan of Caffe Sorrentino’s. I look forward to my next visit. IMG_3989 Although I can’t speak for all Edmontonians, I suspect most of us race to the airport, race through security, race to the gate, and then sit and wait and fiddle with our phones for 45 minutes or more until our flight is ready to board. Next time, I will try to arrive a few minutes earlier and relax over a coffee and enjoy a nice meal before boarding. EIA has made the departure lounge a thing of beauty. Although they still have an abundance of the ubiquitous airport seating, they have also brought in comfortable seating where you can sit by yourself, NOT next to someone who carries all their luggage plus a cello plus a cat in a carrier and tries to read the free National Post while talking on their phone and eating a bagel. There is also cafe-style seating for those who want a table without having to buy a meal. Best of all, is the indoor vertical garden. It’s a 1,400 square foot Living Wall with 8,000 different plants which helps purify the airport’s air. You will find this right next to the Heineken Lounge, the Belgian Beer Cafe and Sorrentino’s. My thanks to EIA’s delightful Jacquie and Gillian for the invitation, as well as to fellow bloggers, Edible Woman, Marlow Moo and The Tiffin Box for the great company.

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Yokozuna Japanese Restaurant – Edmonton


Gyoza. More please.

Yokozuna Japanese Restaurant is a lot like the Tardis from Dr. Who. From the outside, it is part of an average looking strip mall, blending in with the scenery. Once you open the door though, it opens into a simple and tastefully designed space that seems far bigger inside than it does from outside.

We arrived on a Saturday around 7 pm, and had called ahead for a table. At the time we were told there would only be bar seats available, which we had no problem with. However, as it happened a table did open and we were sat immediately.

Yokozuna does have bar seating, open tables with chairs, enclosed tables with chairs, and the quaint zashiki style seating for those that can bend and flex.

Service was quick and efficient. We barely had time to review the sake menu when asked what we wanted for drinks. You will not find hot Gekkeikan on the menu here, instead you will find an overwhelming list of cold sake. We asked for a sampler and received, for $9.00 (each) three samples of their newest choices.

Michael and I are most used to hot sake, and dabbled just a few times before in cold sake. As time passes, we are enjoying the cold sake more and more. The differences in sweetness, alcohol, colour and taste, is amazing. There’s lot yet to learn here.

For food, we were disappointed to learn they were out of toro and hamachi, but only disappointed in that it derailed our usual pattern of what we ordered. Instead, we replaced the usual negitoro cone with California rolls, and the hamachi with unagi. These opportunities are great to try something new.


California rolls with sesame seed option.


Unagi and salmon

The food was delivered promptly. The gyoza were simply delicious and we both had to talk ourselves out of ordering a second order. The remainder of the sushi was fresh and delicious. The tuna sashimi was some of the best I’ve ever had.


Tuna sashimi. More please.

If you are looking for a great Japanese food experience, I highly recommending finding your way to Yokozuna Japanese Restaurant. It is located at 4121 – 106 St NW, Edmonton, AB. Call 780-431-1508.

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Elk Island National Park – A Birthday Picnic

It’s 30C and smoky today. Environment Canada advises the air quality is poor and to lock ourselves into our homes with doors and windows closed. We could do that. But today is Michael’s birthday and burning eyes and scratchy throat be damned, we are going out into the environment and celebrating.


Trail head at Amisk Wuche Trail 5

With some help from Facebook friends, came up with a simple picnic and headed 30 minutes east of Edmonton on Highway 16 to the beautiful Elk Island National Park. I made a pathetic attempt at researching Elk Island National Park’s history to dazzle you with information, but their website buries it in a dark corner, I couldn’t find it in less than 5 seconds. So I moved on. I will let you know what I know about this place.


Fragrant Yarrow with Bug

What I know About Elk Island National Park

1) It’s a National Park. Buy a pass. It’s worth it. Sing O Canada.

2) There’s an island.

3) Bison are visible. Elk are not.

4) It’s beautiful. Those of you who have thrown out your:  Paper coffee cups, Coke cans, cigarette butts….. I sit here and silently scold you. Yes, my hand is on my hip and I’m wagging my finger at you.


A Cattail in the marshy bits

We arrived and stopped in at the interpretive centre at the entrance. It’s always nice to speak with an interpreter and learn something new. What did we learn today? A bison’s head ALONE can weigh 600 lbs. In total, they can weigh over a ton!! Thankfully they are docile creatures and won’t eat us. But we sure like eating them!!! Nothing like a bison burger! Hm. Maybe not appropriate to discuss here while describing a National Park dedicated to educating and protecting these beautiful beasts, so let’s move on.


Michael. Pointing. Because that’s what he does.

After leaving the interpretive centre we, and about six other vehicles headed north. We lost one or two on the Bison Loop, a side road which affords excellent bison spotting opportunities. It is a thing of wonder to see were these creatures roam, but no deer or antelope play.


Here we see where the green stuff that “health nuts” pay money for to make them mighty comes from*. Notice the trail the water fowl leave behind. (Disclaimer: Do NOT drink this. It is NOT healthy).

Further along, we lost the remainder of our fellow travellers at the turn for Astotin Lake. Michael and I originally planned to join the multitudes here. Astotin Lake is beautiful. Meandering pathways, lots of picnic tables and shelters, nice washrooms, a beach, a playground… it has everything for the active family. Instead though, we headed further north to the Amisk Wuche Trail 5 picnic/hiking trail site.


Looks easy enough to cross in a picture. But understand, I’m wobbly on concrete. I felt enormously smug once I got across. Mighty. But within seconds realized we were in an area jumping with baby frogs. I got the heebie jeebies, and any Might was replaced by suppressed shrieking and requests to “KEEP MOVING” lest one of the frogs decided to jump on my face.

We had this part of the park to ourselves. One clean washroom, one picnic table, and one 2.9 km pathway through beautiful trees, shrubs, wetlands, meadows, floating walkways, tricky walkways that made us feel tough and rugged, all surrounded by beautiful yarrow, young raspberries, cattails, purple vetch, the sweetest song of the White Throated Sparrow singing Oh Canada Canada Canada to us, while baby frogs jumped out of our way and little orange butterflies led us through the pathway taking our mind off the constant buzz of mosquitos and busy bees buzzing near our ears.


Nice graffiti found in the wilderness.

At the end of our hike, we still had the place to ourselves. The heat and the mosquitoes prevented us from doing anything naughty that might bare a bum (not us! never! we’re old now!), so we unpacked our little picnic and had a feast of cheese, salami, crackers, olives, iced tea, sparkly water, and sweets. The idea of packing a bottle of an icy cold white was attractive, but per the previous sentence, we’ve gained some common-sense in old age and didn’t want to risk a ticket for open alcohol or bare bums in a National Park.


The Italian Centre Shop proved to be a one-stop picnic provisioner. The cherries are amazing. Go and buy some if you haven’t yet.

Michael was delighted with the walk and the picnic, and particularly tickled with the many birthday wishes he received through Facebook via my page (he’s steadfast in his Luddite ways, and Facebook is something he continues to ignore).


The bag you see there was Michael’s gift from a staff Christmas party. Called the 6-pack, it is intended for those who drink protein drinks and take supplements, and eat de-skinned chicken breasts, and edamame beans (for fun). I cleverly used the supplement container for sugary sweets found at Bulk Barn. As you can see, it made Michael happy.

He’s now settled in front of the TV watching Fawlty Towers, eating his birthday cupcake, whilst I sit here and drink the wine meant for the picnic and write this post, listening to iTunes radio marvelling at music I’ve never heard before.


Added this picture only because the candy looks so pretty.

Happy birthday Michael Declan. Thank you Margaret and Stanley Walsh for creating this beautiful man.

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