18 for 18: St. Albert Farmers’ Market

I love the rain. I woke up to buckets of rain falling from the sky and thought about my plans to visit the St. Albert Farmers’ Market with my mom. I immediately thought to bring my lovely umbrella that I do not get to use nearly enough! I packed another umbrella for my mom. I live as far from St. Albert as humanly possible for an Edmontonian. It is a good 40 Minutes from my house. We hopped onto the Henday ring road and made our way north. I had a vague idea where to find the market because google. I learned about the shuttle service from the village transit centre but we decided to take a chance on parking close to the downtown core. I am sure the rain kept the crowds away and we did score a sweet spot across the bridge. It was a perfectly lovely day for a walk.

photo

Everyone who has told me about this market raves about how amazing it is. Truth be told, it is pretty fantastic. Great selection, interesting vendors, and bigger than any market I have been to in Canada. Obernai, France is the biggest one I have ever been to.

photo_8

We tasted nifty things and saw very talented artisans showing their wares. I met some interesting Babas and Guidos, old-school farmers who invent their own tools and sell them or cook for days so you can recreate a Ukrainian feast in your own kitchen. A few garden markets had tomatoes, rhubarb, herbs and berries and two different craft breweries were on hand with samples. But my favourite? There was a birdhouse that was called ‘Train Station’, it reminded me of the front porch where I sat with my grandpa while he told me stories of the wild west and how he was a pioneer (all fabrication of course but that was part of the fun) and I loved that little birdhouse.

photo_3

I spent money on a wired knife gadget that did amazing things if you practice and I bought a new willow wreath for my fence. It is an exact replica of a wreath I bought the year I moved into my house in 2001. I needed a new one because it had disintegrated and just looked like a pile of sticks.

photo_9

My mom bought fresh Arctic Char and we reminisced about eating it when we lived in Yellowknife, she bought craft beer for my dad and she also bought the weird knife gadget from that guido farmer who I thought was a genius. We walked up and down the streets for about two hours, stopping to listen to music or chatting with vendors. I even ran into an old friend who looked fantastic. I loved everything about the morning and was so glad I made the trip. It is too far for me to go to every weekend when there are great farmer markets in closer proximity, City Market comes to mind, but I will go again and perhaps on the next rainy day.

photo_4

If you haven’t visited, think about it. Go early and stay long. Details can be found here.

Freewill Players: Shakespeare in the Park

IMG_0334

Summer nights in July and my first thought goes to warm evenings. So why wouldn’t I want to sit in the middle of Hawrelak Park and watch a play? Can you think of a better way to spend the evening?

It rained for most of the day and I was feeling cold but eager to head to the Heritage Amphitheatre for one of my favourite festivals of the year. We left the house at 6:30 because even when you pre-purchase tickets for a particular night if the place fills up, you risk having to sit on the grass. It sounds fun, but grass isn’t as soft as I remember as a kid. As it turned out, we were able to secure second-row stage left. The gates opened at 7:45 pm and they scanned our phones, technology is cool. My daughter bought tickets for last night’s performance in the car on the way. I found myself telling her an old-person story, “I’m from a time when you didn’t pre-purchase tickets except for Rock Concerts, and then you had to camp out at the box office to have a chance to see anyone decent.” Buying in the car is still amazing to me!

photo

I had the forethought to bring a quilt and a scarf. I regretted not bringing my winter jacket and gloves. It was damp and 16C felt very cold for me. I bundled up and snuggled in with the program while my companions decided to take in the preshow Puppet version of the play. We were seeing Comedy of Errors but Shakespeare isn’t written in a style that makes sense without having studied it and focusing on the cadence of the language. You can get the gist of it by watching the show unfold, but having the background is helpful. The Freewill Players have a short 10 minutes synopsis preshow to help people following along. It makes it a better experience if you understand the show.

IMG_2072

The Hubs and Chatterbox went to the puppet tent and had a great time. They both commented on the way back to the car they commented without the puppet show they wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on. I admitted I had no idea what the prologue was about until the final scene, then it all made sense, but I had no trouble following the storyline. I did study Shakespeare for three years in high school (Julius Ceasar, Macbeth and Hamlet) and in University (A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Romeo and Juliette, Taming of the Shrew, Othello, King Lear and The Merchant of Venice). I felt confident I could follow along.

IMG_0317

There were several concession tents, one for food and one for beer and wine. There was also a souvenir tent selling shirts, squirrels and pins. Two different contests were going on, a 50/50 draw (I didn’t win) and a survey that enters you in for a dinner to Chanti’s (I didn’t win that either but the gal behind me did). I did have some popcorn at the intermission because the scullery maid ran across the stage chasing Dromio. She paused and said, “this will take several minutes, so why don’t you go get a beverage and some popcorn?” That sounded like a great idea so I gave $5 to Chatterbox and off she went.

IMG_0327

Not to give too much away, but one of my favourite things about the Freewill Player comedy productions is the Bollywood ending. Its fun and kitschy. Watch for no other reason than to see Jesse Gervais and Hunter Cardinal dance with their partners. They were hilarious.

IMG_0326

Comedy of Errors plays odd dates and Hamlet plays even dates. Pay what you will is Tuesday night and I think I might go see Hamlet or at least catch it on the weekend. I hear it is the best of the two productions and I thoroughly enjoyed Comedy of Errors so Hamlet might be worthwhile for me to head back out.

IMG_0316

 

Tickets and Showtimes available here. Remember to bring a blanket. Shakespeare in the park ends July 15th.

IMG_0333

18 in ’18: Small Town Road Trippin’

Give me an open road and the promise of a Farmer’s Market and I am putty in your hands. I’m a sucker for a road trip. Some of the greatest trips I have taken involve a vehicle, cooler for of snacks, a destination and all the time in the world.

My fondest road trip memory was somewhere around my 12th or 14th birthday, so it was in August. We drove to Montana and stopped at a creek. It had a snag hanging over the water. It was perfect for sitting on and dipping your toes in the water or using it as a jumping point for diving into the icy creek below. I was there with my parents, my siblings and my foster sister. I am pretty sure we rented a caravan, but the details were sketchy – I may have been 16 but that part doesn’t matter. We saw cool things.

Another time I had just started my new life and drove to Prince Rupert. The crab boats had just came in and a couple of fishermen shared their bounty with us. We had a crab boil on the deck of our B & B. We were up early the next morning to catch the ferry to Port Hardy, a 15 hour trip through the inside passage. We saw marine wildlife and took it all in.

My family road tripped in Europe and we stumbled upon Vimy Ridge and saw churches riddled with bullet holes. I drove along the Great Ocean Road in Australia and saw the 12 Apostles and wallabies in strange places. I drove east to Regina taking photos of big things like kubasa, coffee pots, and a giant moose or the time we drove to Washington  DC and saw fire hydrants all painted like Uncle Sam, or patriotic dogs, that was a weird patriotic time in 1976. More recently I drove Big Sur and all its curvy winding road and saw elephant seals and whale pods.

My point is that a road trip allows you to stop and explore and always yields something amazing. Every single time. It is for those who want to live in the moment and look at what is in front of you. Road trips have allowed me to dip my toe into four oceans, 5 seas, 4 Great Lakes, 3 bays, countless lakes, rivers and creeks some fed by glaciers and some saturated with salt. I’ve walked below sea level and walked on mountain summits. I looked at the weird and wacky and stood before history.  If you don’t compare things and accept they are the best version of what they are, you will enjoy everything.

I took a Friday off to visit Lacombe, Alberta because I heard it was charming and there was a great Italian Bakery. A friend of mine told me to eat at the Cilantro and Chai. Except, my hubs hates cilantro and I wanted to go to the Italian Bakery. I have given up carbonated beverages so Blindman’s Brewery was out. This was part of my 18 in 18 adventure: visit 3 small towns around Edmonton. Technically 13,000 people makes Lacombe a city but, it feels like a small town.

We drove directly to McMahon’s Field for the farmer’s market. I love a small town Farmer’s Market! I was at one at Obernai in France and the church bells pealed to welcome everyone to the opening. I also went to a market in Watsonville, California where you could buy bags of avocados for $.99!!! The common thread of all these markets were the interesting people I met.

IMG_0142

Lacombe’s market was filled with people saying good morning and chatting about their wares. I met a man who made rings from coins, but not Canadian coins because that would be criminal activity. I had wanted a ring made from the 1967 Canadian animal collection. But no luck, he won’t break the law no matter how charming you think you are, however, he did showed me some really cool rings made from Australian coins with their animals on it.

I also learned about whipped honey vs clear honey. I bought $7 worth of whipped honey to support bee keepers in Alberta, but honestly, the truth is I love honey and it helps to keep my allergies under control. Bonus reason: it is the choice food of Winnie the Pooh, so it was a staple in our home while my son was growing up.

photo

After the market we ventured to the main street. It is the home to several Edwardian structures that have been restored and loving looked after. At the Denike Block a dispersant sale was on. A couple was selling off all his mother’s items now that she had passed. The mother wanted all her children and grandchildren to keep these things, but they were so worn and not useable any longer and I am sure not the to the taste of the grandchildren. The Daughter-in-Law was determined to take everything to the dump. All I could think of was how things only hold meaning for the owner. I have downsize by truckful and continue to give things away to people who are looking for items. The last thing I want is for someone to have to deal with my suff. I wished the sellers well and continued on my journey.

We found a back alley full of murals that were beautifully painted and it played mind tricks on me. The perspective was well done, it seemed as if there was actual corners and streets in the images.

IMG_0179

We stopped for lunch at the Italian Bakery, Sweet Capone’s . Best known for its cannolis. I have a friend who turned me onto the wonders of mortadella and I saw a sandwich made with that, provolone and aioli. It was fantastic. I paired it with a lavender steamer and salted caramel cannoli. It was a beautiful lunch.

IMG_0158

Sweet Capon’e was rocking with people lined up for cannolis. It was a Friday afternoon and you could tell this was the hot spot. It is definitely a bakery I would drive to again. The samples were huge, so I tried one. It was the best thing I had ever put in my mouth.

IMG_0160

It was easy to decided what flavour, salted caramel was the only choice for me. I briefly considered vanilla because I love vanilla, the most underrated flavour on the planet! My hubs had chocolate. We shared a bit with each other to taste test who had the better flavour. I obviously did, although he disagreed, I don’t love chocolate anything except Cadbury chocolate bars. Perhaps I wasn’t the best judge of the chocolate cannoli.

My lavender steamer or Lavendeto di Assisi translated via google says washing of Assisi. I think it should be Lavender of Assisi and think google is wrong. I suspect it is culinary lavender from the garden and not from Assisi, but it was delicate and lovely no matter what the translation or location.

IMG_0170

After lunch we explored a little further and found a working Black Smith shop, two museums and a park with a ping pong table. Lacombe is worth the drive from Edmonton for a little visit or as a stop for lunch instead of Red Deer’s Gasoline Ally when you are on your way to or from Calgary. It is a charming little city.

18 for ’18: Rockin’ Robyn’s Diner

IMG_0023

My Papa Bear is 19 years older than me and he just had his 70th birthday. It was one of those moments where I realized I think of him as the young guy sitting beside me on Main Street in Disneyland waiting for the Electrical Light Parade. I was six so that would make him twenty five. I think of dad with dark brown hair, tall, fun, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I then see my dad and realize he is 70. it always knocks the air out of me.

My mom appreciates finer cuisine, so its fun to take her to high-end brunch places. We went to Café Linnea for her birthday. My dad however, loves a really great diner. Old school diners that are decked out in vintage items. I had heard great things about Rockin Robyn’s Diner and knew the wait could be long to eat there. If we went early, I didn’t think it would be too bad. I put it on my 18 in ’18 for two reasons:

  • She spells her name correctly with a Y
  • I heard she was an Alice in Wonderland fan. I am a Disney fan so I suspected we were kindred spirits.

We arrived at 9 (not early but whatever…) to a line up at the door. There were 4 parties ahead of us. We were given a pager and decided to wait outside. 20 minutes later, it was out turn.

We were seated at a table beside the large mural and Dad noted, “I have never been to a drive-in that had any of those fancy muscle cars. Never. Where did people think young guys got the money for something like that?” Good point dad. But the art on the walls was interesting. There was a juke box at the other end of the diner and it was playing 80’s rock. This reminded my daughter of a great story about The Salt and Pepper Diner. Give it a listen, I promise you won’t be disappointed. It’s hilarious.

IMG_0037

We looked over at the lunch counter and surmised they make a great milkshake because of the equipment sitting there. The decor was fun too, black and white checked tiles, Alice in Wonderland items, retro ceiling fans and red booths!

IMG_0035

We ordered coffee and checked out the menu, coffee was straight up and good, this isn’t a latte and cappuccino kind of place. The waitress was sassy and hilarious. I am pretty sure she is my spirit animal, or at the very least me in a parallel life. I asked her to marry me after some fantastic zingers she through at my dad. She was his kind of waitress too. Fun, efficient and the right amount of sass you expect at a diner.

There were five of us and we ordered Eggs Benedict, a stack of pancakes with eggs and sausage, waffles , and mom can’t be easy and order a menu item so she went with 3 sides. We waited ten minutes at most before massive portions arrived before us.

Every dish came with fresh fruit and eggs were made to order. The food was delicious and I immediately understood why this place was so popular. My dad raved about this place and loved every minute of it. Excellent  value all around!

After breakfast we went to the counter to pay and were given tiny little candies that said “Eat Me”. I was over the moon with the Alice in Wonderland reference. We were told there is a Alice in Wonderland Mother’s Day Tea Party that happens every year too. Mom and I will have to remember to check that out next year.

Now I think I want to give lunch a try or maybe a milkshake. If you haven’t been before, I recommend it. I think it’s the best diner fare in the city.

You can find it in west Edmonton at 16604 B- 109 Ave or give them a call 780-756-5656

 

 

18 for ’18: The Totem Project

fullsizeoutput_238b

One of my photography goals this year was to work on a project that documented totem poles. I didn’t have any reason for this other than I am fascinated with First Nations art and having a project to work on keeps my brain and body active. It encourages me to explore parts of my city or country that I hadn’t been to before.

I had to do some research on where to find them. I knew about two in Edmonton, and one of those was removed from CFRN. So that left one, the totem pole at Government House. fullsizeoutput_21b9I had seen it in passing so I was aware of it. I learned the CRFN Sunwapta pole was restored and will be apart of the new Royal Alberta Museum when it opens (it could be a rumour, but I have a reliable source). I was surprised to learn there was a totem pole on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature. fullsizeoutput_23f5I went there all the time and wasn’t aware of it. Captain and I trudged through the snow to see it. It is 50 years old and is ageing well. I suspect the Province will take it down as it becomes more decrepit rather than let it die a natural death or even restore it. I went to the Stollery children’s hospital to do some research for a piece I am writing and discovered the Totem Pole there!fullsizeoutput_244b It was covered in butterflies and was beautiful. It will live a long and healthy life by being placed indoors. On that same trip, I went to the healing garden in the Mazankowski Hospital. A pole is placed there only it isn’t First Nations, but rather from India. It also was beautiful and not technically what I was looking for, I photographed it because it was beautiful. IMG_9198The last pole I found in Edmonton was the mighty Thunderbird located at the home of the Thunderbird’s, Ross Shepherd High School. I realized I was also aware of this guy but never entered it into my consciousness. fullsizeoutput_268cIt is located next to Coronation Pool and the Telus World of Science, so I often drive by it, but as with so many things, you see things but never notice them. This is why I like working on these projects. I want to notice everything and not just see them in passing.

My travels in the spring took me to the west coast. This part of the country is filled with totem poles. I visited the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and learned why First Nation’s art is so prolific on the west coast. It was logically explained to me. When the ocean tide rolls out, the ground is laid out in a banquet of seafood. More than you could possibly eat in a day. When food is there and not needing to be worked for, there is time and energy to be creative. This is why the art is plentiful. It was a beautiful concept. I learned the history of the poles and why they are rarely restored and often left to die where they stand. It isn’t from neglect, it is because the tree has a spirit and it lends itself to the carving. Out of respect and thanks, it is left to live out its natural life and die when it is ready. fullsizeoutput_2510I imagine some poles have been reclaimed by the land throughout the forests and they lay there becoming homes for plants and small critters. fullsizeoutput_2412We explored the Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia, fullsizeoutput_24f3saw the totems at Brockton Point in Stanley Park, fullsizeoutput_2489stumbled onto one on Granville Island, fullsizeoutput_24ecwent into the Fairmont Pacific Rim to see the three totems in the lobby fullsizeoutput_25c4and looked at Capilano Suspension bridge’s extensive private collection. We drove the Sea to Sky Highway and found more along the way and in Whistler. fullsizeoutput_2591Welcome Poles were placed around the village, and then we found one at the Cultural Centre. fullsizeoutput_264dI decided I have favourites. The ones I am attracted to poles that are without paint. The beauty of the wood on its own was enough for me. As someone who has an irrational fear of birds, the irony of being drawn to Raven is not lost on me. I purchased Raven art and a bookmark to keep him with me.
My entire project can be found here or over on Instagram by searching #totemproject.

fullsizeoutput_24e0

The Halfway Point

2018 is just about halfway completed. I have been reflecting on my goals and actions and wonder if I am putting my best foot forward. For me, I find having goals to reach for important to my motivation. Without them I just plod along allowing life to happen to me rather than me living my life. I have been excited about a few things this year.

  1. 18 in 2018
  2.  Scrivener Software
  3.  Totem Project

18 in 2018 is primarily a to-do list. But I have outlined it as a series of goals and achievements that assist me with the fundamental purpose of living life. I have two lists. A personal list and an Edmonton Tourist list. I have discovered my personal list to be much more fun for me. Somethings are so mundane you might think I am dead boring. For example, one thing on my list was a series of declutter projects, my closet, the kitchen drawers, my personal hygiene space in the bathroom, my bedside drawer and the cupboard under the stairs. The last one was looked upon with dread. I did not want to face that at all. One morning I enlisted help from my hubs and we got to work. The most shocking thing happened. Apparently, we had completed this task last year, and the cupboard was fantastic. That was an easy item to cross off the list. I was surprised and how light I felt after the decluttering process. My drawers and baskets all still look fresh and clean, my closet has copious amounts of empty hangers but need some rearranging because my summer wardrobe is not easily accessible. Basically, I need to thank my mom for forcing me to endure the process as a child. I never felt as good as she claimed cleaning would make me feel, but now that I am older, simplifying my life is energizing.

I have a brunch jar, a mason jar that holds bottle return money saved for brunches! We used the cash from the jar to explore restaurants in Edmonton. Our criteria are simple, we have had to either heard great things about these places or learn of new places that we are curious about. Then we visit the restaurant. So far we have ventured off the beaten path. My next brunch place I wan to visit is Pip in Old Strathcona. My jar is ready for me to empty it! I jest need to find the time.

I have only read 14 books so far this year. I say only because my goal is 40 and in six months, I am off my target of by one book. I am currently reading Eleanor Oilphant is completely fine, and I am enjoying her quirkiness. I have read some great books this year! I started following the Hello Sunshine book club (Reese Whitherspoon), she showcases women authors and mixed genres. My favourite so far is You think it, I’ll say it by Curtis Sittenfeld. I loved the compelling characters in this book and wished I could get to know them in a novel. Hopefully one of them will pop up in a novel for my reading pleasure. I don’t usually think of myself as someone who reads short stories, but Elizabeth Strout and Maeve Binchy are stellar short story authors who I have read and thoroughly have enjoyed their offerings. So maybe I do enjoy short stories? I remember reading O. Henry in grade five (Thanks Mrs. Malone!) and his stories stuck with me. I found them compelling and riveting. All those authors have inspired me to try my hand at the short story genre. Which lead me to my second thing I have been excited about this year.

IMG_0343_800x

Scrivener software and Office Lense have inspired me uncreative ways I didn’t think possible from software! I usually write in my notebook at cafes or parks because Judy Blume does. (Taking her Master Writing Class was a big deal for me, and I learned so much!) Often, I write using Word on my desktop because it is 2018. I was watching an author video on Hello Sunshine Book Club page with Jill Santopolo, author of The Light We Lost, and she mentioned using Scrivener, so I looked it up and downloaded the one-month free option. This rocked my world and cured me of wanting a smartboard in my office. I combine it with Office Lense, an app a colleague encouraged me to try, and I can convert my notes to documents and move sections around Scrivener. Its keeps notes in an easy to find section or on the bulletin board beside my main document. The simplicity of this and the usability of this has rocked my world. Uploading handwritten notes to make them useful is something I dreamed about since 1988, when I was in University for the first time. Clearly, I was ahead of my time. Now if I could combine it with software from recorded notes (maybe Dragon Speech?) my life will be complete.

Photography and visual arts is a big part of my life. I love to document my adventures through digital photography. Every now and then I like to have a purpose to my photo adventures or I find I continue to capture the same things endlessly. Trees, nature paths, architecture and my dog are my favourite things to capture. I like choosing a specific subject to photograph and create a project around it. IMG_E7974Last year I focused on the Red Chair project. A series of red Muskoka chairs were captured. The purpose was to explore the offerings of Parks Canada during the Canada 150 free entry into national parks. These chairs are off the beaten path or in well-traveled places. Finding them became a fun pursuit for me. I sat in every chair I photographed to experience the view and take in the purpose of the chair. Some of the captures can be found on Instagram by using #redchairproject or by scrolling through my feed @edmonton_tourist I am considering putting the entire collection on my Edmonton Tourist Facebook page. I enjoyed the red chair project so much, I decided to photograph totem poles. It began because as a kid I remembered poles around Edmonton and was fascinated with them, I loved the Sunwapta Pole at CRFN Television station, and the poles in Jasper. fullsizeoutput_238bI even remember having a tiny one that I bought in Banff as a child. This project became much more involved than I expected and deserves its own post, so watch for that one next Sunday.

I looked at my list and I have completed 8 items. Not bad for six months! I have 10 more to attempt. Now it is summer, I can safely explore some of the ravines with my pal Captain. The small town exploration begins next Friday, I have the day off (Thanks Flex Time!) and intend to visit Lacombe and the Farmer’s Market. Calmar and Vegerville are also on that list. It is nice to have things to look forward to. So how do you organize your goals and plan your time?

The Macaron Challenge

il_570xN.565726904_4e4u

When my daughter was 15, she visited Paris for the second time in her life. It was experienced by her best friends from, all of whom were in French Class. Their guide recommended they visit Ladurée because it was known for making the best macarons in the world. Up until that moment, she had never had one. After tasting one, she knew it was the best thing she had ever tasted and had always searched for a similar experience here in Canada. She brought home a small box and would not let any of us try it. They were hers. She has since learned, macarons need to be eaten fresh, the same day they are made or they lose their delightful texture and taste.

I have raised a macaron connoisseur purely by accident.

For her birthday adventure, we wanted to try different macarons available at bakeries or pâtisseries in Edmonton. We were curious to know who had the best ones. We decided on 3 different places.

  1. Bon Ton Bakery because it is my favourite bread and cookie bakery
  2. Dutchess Bake Shop because it is a classic French pâtisserie.
  3. Fan Fan Pâtisserie because it is also a classic pâtisserie.

We began our day in west Edmonton at Bon Ton and worked our way east.

IMG_9969

We had to take a number. I like this, you can then browse and not have to queue up.

IMG_9968

It was busier than it looked, I just waited a long while for an empty shot.

IMG_9966

We chose classic vanilla because we figured that would be the most common flavour. Vanilla is my favourite, it is complex yet fairly neutral.

We bought two and a loaf of cinnamon bread because it is my favourite bread bakery. Their carrot current nut is my favourite but I wasn’t early enough today to procure a loaf.

Macarons $2.25 ea

Total cost: $11.23

Next stop, Dutchess Bake Shop.

IMG_9972

This bakery once was listed at the top 23 bakeries to visit in the world and for good reason. But since that day the Buzz feed article was released, the line-ups have been out the door.

IMG_9973

We arrived at 10:15 am. 15 minutes after opening. By the time we left, the line was around the shop, out the door and down the street.

IMG_9975

Again we selected two classic vanilla macarons, Tart Amelie, L’Amour croissant, Brioche Pepin and two raspberry rose lemonades.

Macarons $2.00 ea

Total cost $28.88

Nest stop Fan Fan Pâtisserie.

IMG_9976

The shop was tiny but smelled like a bakery and the chef came out to greet us. She was friendly and patient because we could not decide on a flavour. Why you ask? She didn’t have the classic vanilla. So we decided on a classic French flavour and chose honey lavender. We purchased two.

IMG_9977

Macarons $2.25 each.

We took our purchases home and set up a taste testing booth.

 

IMG_9980

This package was from Bon Ton, a cute little white paper bag.

IMG_9979

This package was from Dutchess Bake Shop, a non-descript white bag. Other items were packaged in a Dutchess box with a gold and white Dutchess label.

IMG_9978

A lovely branded clear bag with a sticker from Fan Fan Pâtisserie.

IMG_9981

From left to right: Bon Ton, Dutchess, and Fan Fan.

The Bon Ton had vanilla beans on the macaron. First, we smelled the macaron, it was a non-descript cracker type smell. We both bit into it and it was a crunchy texture. The flavour was mild, could barely tell it was vanilla.

We smelled the Dutchess, it was an intense vanilla flavour. Our first bite was surprising. Light and soft with an incredible vanilla taste. If you ever had a vanilla bean vs vanilla extract, you know the difference. The Dutchess had a vanilla bean essence. This macaron was creamy.

We knew the Fan Fan was going to be a different flavour, so we were judging it based on smell and texture. It also had a non-descript smell but the texture was soft and light. It was not as creamy as the Dutchess but it was fantastic. The flavour was bolder than expected for lavender, but it was lovely.

Our favourite was Dutchess. My daughter claims it is not as good as Ladurée but it is a close second. The price is better too. $2 vs 3 euros but Laurée has nicer packaging and they sell them at the airport in France if you are just catching a connection or didn’t make it to central Paris.

26172fd74f367ac42f359a35a8eff57ec411717c_image-8991-1

The gal at the Strathcona Farmers market needs to get honourable mention. Her’s are flavourful but not as soft. We didn’t visit her today but have in the past. Her macarons are $1 ea. Easily the best price.

Our favourite was the Dutchess but I don’t always feel like driving that far nor do I think waiting in line is super fun, but I would make the effort to visit Fan Fan Pâtisserie. It is closer, small and located in Old Strathcona. But I would consider taking a class at Dutchess to learn how to make them and they sell the mix for the shells for $20 at their provisions shop. I suspect it is 10% ingredients and 90% technique to make the perfect macaron.

So tell me, where is your favourite macaron?

 

Rainy Days or the Ohana Donuterie Day

rain

I love a rainy day. Curling up by the window with a cosy quilt and a great book, I am lost in the coolness of the day. Or give me an umbrella and I am ready to walk and explore my neighbourhoods to see what people are up to when they are not outside enjoying the sunshine. Both are good rainy days.

Yesterday was a rainy day. This was an especially nice alternative to the snowy day we had one week prior. I was sitting on the love seat in my room, gazing outside through the rain splattered window and had the urge to go exploring. I bought an umbrella in Vancouver two years ago and love to use it every chance I get. This may seem odd, but it doesn’t seem to rain enough to use it here in Edmonton. We get rain, often at night with accompanying thundershowers, short downpours that last 10 minutes at most. A long slow rain is my favourite and it calls to me.

I had finished reading and decided to go try a doughnut place in Old Strathcona that I heard about but had not yet explored. I called to my daughter, she was game and then asked the hubs if he wanted to join. I didn’t feel like driving and he is often game. I told him the name and let him look it up on the map. I also didn’t feel like navigating.

Chatter Box and I grabbed our umbrellas and hopped into the car. Soon we were navigating the streets of Old Strathcona when I asked, “Do you know where it is?”

He said, “It seems to be in a back alley, which is odd but I might be wrong.”

He wasn’t wrong. Ohana Donuterie is indeed in a back alley – sort of. 10347-80 Ave, Edmonton, AB. Lots of parking out front. You will understand when you arrive, its an alley but it’s not. It’s the kind of place I would take friends from out of town. It’s warm and welcoming, unusual and delicious.

IMG_9345

Walking into the space, I immediately like the bike rack, it obviously understands the clientele.

IMG_9346

I looked around the room and decided it felt like a ‘new’ Hawaiian shop. It is a new distressed shop. I loved the palet, I loved the decor and I loved the smell of coffee and sugar when I walked in.

IMG_9347

I had heard this place made doughnuts to order while you waited. That meant they would be warm when they arrived on your plate. On a rainy day, warm doughnuts are the perfect snack, pair it with coffee and I am a willing participant!

img_9350.jpg

Chatterbox ordered: Vanilla Dip with Coconut Cream and a Chai latté with coconut milk and cinnamon. The Hubs ordered Vanilla Dip with Chocolate Cream and a latté. I ordered a Vanilla Dip with Chocolate Custard and a latté. For my son, we ordered a Chocolate Dip to go.

We wandered over to the window to watch them make our doughnuts.

IMG_9358

IMG_9351

I have many friends who have visited Honolulu and RAVE about Hawaiian Donuts. They were originally Portuguese malasadas. Long story short, when you go to Hawaii you are asked if you had a donut. If you haven’t, people moan and are sad for you because apparently, they are life changing. I wouldn’t say that, but they are delicious!

These are just as delicious.

But it isn’t fast food. You cannot come here hoping to order a dozen and be on your way – that place is called Tim Hortons and it comes with a drive-thru. Ohana’s is slow food. Just like Hawaii. Things are slow and worth the wait. Except my coffee came after my donut. I like my coffee WITH my donut. I could have waited but there is a very good reason I didn’t.

IMG_9355

The doughnuts come warm. Fresh from the fryer. Yes, warm doughnuts are better. I had a chocolate custard and it was cold. It tasted like Laura Secord Pudding (does anyone remember what that tasted like? I was instantly transported!) I wanted to eat it while it was warm. My coffee came way later and it was just okay. It doesn’t make my top ten coffee list. BUT, its a really decent cup of coffee. Way better than typical donut shop coffee.

I wanted to try the other fillings because they had cream. No one would let me stick my finger in their cream filling. Probably a good call on their part.

I suspect they use a granulated sugar for this confectionary because of the gritty texture. It isn’t smooth like liquid sugar. It made it taste homemade – which it kind of was.

It was the perfect snack for a cool rainy day. It would also be a great late night snack and a snowy day snack. There is also a food truck so, probably a really great festival snack too. It can’t be compared to Doughnut Party because they are different. equally great, but VERY different. While eating this all I could think of was my mom and her love of the Bismark. Do you remember those? Essentially a jelly doughnut covered in icing sugar. They came from the bakery at a time before donut shops in Sherwood Park. The warm would appeal to her too.

IMG_9349

18 for 18: Workshop Eatery

It seems like all I do is go out for breakfast. Not true…well sort of true. I do have a brunch date in April with my pal Karen and I did go out with Rena yesterday but in my defence, it’s fairly icy at the parks around town so my 18 in 18 list is currently being checked off by visiting indoor type activities.

By participating in the challenge I learned something about myself, I like outdoor stuff. I like picnics in the parks, I like explore outdoor places with my pal Captain, I like photographing unusual things. I have two 18 lists. One for The Edmonton Tourist and one for private me. Private me has crossed a few things off the list too. I am even cool with sharing the not-so-private things. I completed the Master Writing Class with Judy Blume. She was the JK Rowling of my generation. Early 70’s I read everything she published, twice. I wrote her a thank you note at the end of the class AND SHE WROTE ME BACK! I cried and squealed and my friend Krista had me print the letter and frame it. I have a copy at work and one on my desk at home. She signed it, Love Judy. LOVE JUDY!!! She knows who I am and now I want to go to her non-profit bookstore in the Florida Keys because JUDY BLUME!!!

I also started a photo series called the Totem Pole Project. You can find that project on instagram #totempoleproject. I have completed private things that are weird cleaning projects but de-cluttering makes me happy. Thanks Mom. I still have over 10 things on that list and 14 on my Edmonton Tourist List but I am finding this project to be strangely fulfilling. It is satisfying to cross stuff off the list.

That brings me to #4, have Brunch at Workshop Eatery. ( South Edmonton is definitely on the prairies) They have their own gardens out front. I love that in a restaurant!

IMG_9218

My pal Warren told me this was a place I would enjoy. He has never steered me wrong, so I made a reservation for a Saturday morning not knowing who would come with me. I left that for the Universe to decide. As luck would have it, my University friend Rena said, “Hey, want to do brunch?” I said, “ABSOLUTELY and I have a reservation!”

I arrived 5 minutes late and she was waiting in the lobby with these beautiful treats! We brought our own eggs to brunch. The staff found that funny.

IMG_9225

She has chickens in her yard. Part of me is jealous and part of me remembers how terrified of chickens I am. I do love eggs and these are my breakfast. I will boil some for Easter because they are already decorated, thanks Mother Nature! I also think they will become meringues with lemon curd nested on top or I will attempt to recreate the meringues from Café Linnea.

IMG_9220

We had the first reservation of the day, the place filled up fast and with good reason. They post on the website “Our menu is small and our food takes time. This is intentional. We would rather do few things and do them well. Be patient, good things come to those who wait!” I have to agree, although I didn’t think I had to wait longer than anywhere else for food, but it was delicious. I can’t always say that at restaurants where the wait is long.

I had a latté (obviously – hello? Do you even know me?), my companion had Alberta peppermint tea.

Coffee was fine, not in my top 10 but better than Starbucks so it was good in my books! ( I like Starbucks) The tea infuser was cool, and pepperment tea is always nice.

I ordered off the menu.

IMG_9219

Huevos Benedicto and the cornbread made this meal perfection.

IMG_9224

Rena had something…something Benedict (I want to say pastrami hash) It was on the specials chalk board.

IMG_9223

Bread comes from Bon Ton, best Jewish bakery in the city and my personal favourite bakery of all time. She also ordered a side of Mimosa. Apparently it was delicious. I am not sure why I didn’t. Mostly because I thought she just ordered juice, it didn’t occur to me to order drinks. Strange but true.

We dined for about an hour and a half in front of the big window. I am surprised great food is located this for south in the burbs of Summerside because usually its just chain restaurants. This is one of the top resturants in the city and I would likely take out-of-town visitors here to wow them. I would definitely eat here again, likely several times. I want to try dinner and come here for my birthday breakfast, but honestly, I swear I do not eat out that often. Maybe once a month, it just seems like more.

Put this on your list and make reservations. Go check out their menu. I was inspired to buy furniture after breakfast, so proceed with caution.

2003 91 St SW, Edmonton.

I recommend going with Rena, she is always inspirational and makes me think. I like that in a friend. She is one of my people. On second thought, find your own Rena. I am sure you have people you would love to dine with.