Duchess Bake Shop – Cookbook Launch

One does not attend the beautiful surroundings of Duchess Bake Shop (especially when a string quartet is playing) when one has a red, raw, drippy nose, wads of damp Kleenex up sleeves, in pockets, in hand) and a cough that sounds like a sea lion arf arf arfing for a fishie at Sea World. No indeed. One stays at home and employs two drinking buddies (albeit social media junkies and food lovers) to go in their stead.

@habanerogal (Laurel) and @super_su (Suzanne) seemed keen, so off they went. Their mission? To be the first to see the Duchess Bake Shop’s new cookbook, sip champagne, and getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the Duchess kitchen.

While at home in my ugliest pajamas, a corner of tissue rolled to a point and stuffed up one nostril, I kept an eye on the Twitter feed to see what I was missing. I wanted to weep. The pictures, as you can see, are amazing. And I wanted to weep not only because I was missing the event, but because I was so proud that Edmonton has such an elegant, tasteful shop within its heart. And Duchess just isn’t pretty to look at. The products it produces are beautifully created and, the best part, taste absolutely sublime.

I’ve been going to Duchess since it opened and have always been partial to their lemon tart, key lime pie and pretty little macarons. At the last Earl’s menu launch, fellow food appreciator Gail Hall and ladies washroom partner (you know what I mean…. we ladies go in pairs) of Seasoned Solutions was explaining that Duchess has The Best almond croissants. Tell me this…. how can you hear the words, “Best Almond Croissants” and not rise to the challenge? How? I know some (perhaps a lot) of you can, and that’s why you are at a reasonable body weight. But when I hear “best of” I think impossible! How? Let me be the judge!

Early the next morning I was in the car zooming off to Duchess to be there at opening to see/taste for myself. Did I buy one? Heavens no. When judging, you must buy two, just to make sure the quality is consistent! And it was. My toes curl as I type… the kind of curl toes do when the body is in rapture.

Anyone who goes into Duchess will feel special and will reach for their heads to make sure their crowns and tiaras are in place. The service and attention you receive at the counter is consistently polite, efficient and eager to please. You will feel part of the beauty of Duchess.

Lucky for us, Duchess has captured their recipes in their new cookbook. I have not seen it myself, but have seen some of the recipes they are sharing, like one of life’s pretty treasures, Vanilla Madeleines. Other than having a special Madeleine baking tray (you more than likely have a friend with one that has it buried in the back of the cupboard and if you ask nicely would lend it to you), these are super simple to create in your very own kitchen.

So friends….if you are in Edmonton and haven’t been to Duchess yet, please go. It is perfect when you want a place to have coffee with a friend, when you want to gain friends and influence people by sharing a Tarte Montreal at work, or when you want to take home almond croissants to have with coffee in your pajamas in front of the TV.

Here’s some great photos @habanerogal took from the event. Kudo’s to both @super_su and @habanerogal for doing an awesome job of taking in the ambiance, sampling the food and drink, and giving me the swag bag (you two are real pals. If it were me, I would have kept it run off to Mexico) and reporting back! Good work, both of you!

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Spring has Sprung at Earl’s

The patio furniture is out, the sun is shining, and Earl’s has it’s new Spring menu!

Nothing says spring (especially for those of us without barbecues at home) quite like a 16 oz bone-in Certified Angus rib eye steak, rubbed with olive oil, gluten free soya sauce, minced garlic cloves, fresh lemon juice, fresh basil, fresh rosemary, fresh parsley, dried ground porcini, and cayenne).

Earls Certified Angus Beef Rib Eye SteakThat’s Earl’s picture. I don’t take pictures that nice.

Michael and I were invited (and jumped up and down with excitement when we did) to a Wine Maker’s Dinner at the downtown Edmonton Earl’s. We were introduced to CedarCreek Estates Winery, the people that make Earl’s house red and white wines.

Hang on, I was given photo of that too, let me find it…

Professional photo (and exactly how I figure I look when tasting wine – with a sophisticated air, carefully swirling, sniffing, swishing….):

cedar creek rascal 1My reality (filler ‘er up! right to the brim please!):IMG_1469As always, Earl’s knows how to show a person a good time. But it’s not all about the show, it about the food, and the people, and Earl’s gets it right. Every time.

Even when Michael and I are aren’t at an “event”, the food at Earl’s is consistent, and delicious. The Earl’s girls always seem to be enjoying themselves and enjoy the work they do. Chef and his crew provide delicious food and a consistent menu for those of you stuck on Dynamite rolls as well as new things like a scrumptious Rocket Salad.  This salad was toe curling delicious – citrus dressed arugula, beets, pears, goat cheese coulis, and candied pecans.

This definitely is my own picture. It’s the quality of picture you’ve come to endure:IMG_1465It was a terrific night, and cheek kissy-kissy to Earl’s Cate Simpson, Gareth Smith and Chef Rui Carvalho for hosting such a fun, tasty event.

A shout out to table-mates:  Brian Allen of Vintage West and his vast knowledge of wine and his engaging personality.  To beautiful, spirited Nisa of Focus Communications. To the colourful, one of a kind Edmonton foodie extraordinaire Gail Hall.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I finally had the opportunity to meet Edmonton’s delightful uber foodie, Liane Faulder!

Let’s do this again sometime. All of you! Invite to watch the Canada Day fireworks is still open.

Earls Kitchen + Bar

Amendment:  JOSHUA! I FOUND YOUR CARD!

On December 8 Michael and I were invited to Earls Kitchen + Bar (formerly known as Earls Tin Palace). It was a celebration for Earls 30th Anniversary (yes, you ARE that old), and the new fresh look it is offering its new and old guests.

We were greeted as if movie stars. Doors open, coats taken, met immediately by a visiting manager Joshua from Toronto (I found your card!!!) given a personable and personal tour of the kitchen, dining room, bars and even the washrooms.

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There was the paparazzi wall to our photo taken properly like.  There were the cooking crew looking smart in their whites in the kitchen. There were the pretty Earls girls doling out food to us like the fat Ukrainian baba’s they don’t look like. Trays of mini-burgers (I reject the term “slider” from my vocabulary), pretzels to make Philadelphia jealous, wood fired pizza, tuna nachos to name a few, and an open bar.

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An open bar. Not only was I feeling nostalgia for years gone by and some experiences I’ve had at Earls, but here it was an open bar! I was in heaven (and before you frowny face me about alcohol and driving, let me say that Earls own Cate Simpson was very proactive in encouraging us to take cabs or leave our cars in a secure lot and cab it home), and despite the fact I wanted to drink every cocktail on their menu, we both behaved ourselves (even though it required great resolve as Earls has the BEST and most DELICIOUS raspberry martinis in the land).

The new interior is warm and inviting. Good old, oldie-worldie incandescent bulbs illuminate the place like candle light. They have cleverly designed beaters from mixers as lights fixtures, sexy curved booths that will remind you of old 1950 style Rat Pack movies, space to move, and places to be intimate. So intimate in fact, that you can have your own private washroom to do what you will. Of course you wouldn’t. But I’m just saying, it is that private (and affords more space than an airplane washroom in case you have experienced the same cramp-inducing maneuvers any mile-high club member has done). *cough*

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As we were taken through the kitchen on our tour, I was anxious about being in the way. Things behind the scenes are timed with precision, and I did feel like bull in a china shop. People were whipping around to and fro, and any image I ever had of me working in a restaurant kitchen were dissolved. You need the agility and speed of a gazelle to keep up. I’ll keep myself safely placed in the proverbial Serengeti.  And like any lioness, sun bathe on a warm rock and wait until supper time when I’ll go out (to Safeway) and buy supper and cook in a kitchen were no one would dare tread while I’m in there creating.

The food was very good. The new design was warm, welcoming. But what impressed me most? The staff. Our first host (from Toronto), started as a dishwasher and was groomed to work his way through the ranks to be a manager. I marveled at this, and he pointed at many others in attendance with the same story. I was gobsmacked. In an industry that has people come and go, here was a place that offered its staff a career.

I expressed this sentiment to Bus (Earl) Fuller when I had the chance to meet him. You could see he was very proud of this, and explained how he supports this and how it has made Earls what it is.

The evening hit its apex with the auctioning of one of those famous parrots, with the proceeds going to the Zebra Child Protection Centre. Who won the bid? None other than Bus himself. Whatta guy.

If you haven’t been to Earls in a while, please go. You will be impressed. You will feel comfortable. You will like the food. There is a promise. Your experience should always be the same. You should be greeted in a certain amount of seconds. Your order will be placed, cooked and served with precision timing. But the promise is, the experience is yours. Whether you are in for a quickie lunch, or wanting to linger with cool drinks while sitting in the open window on a hot summer’s night along Jasper Avenue, you will be made to feel at home.