Rainy Days or the Ohana Donuterie Day

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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18 for 18: Brunch at Café Linnea

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A few years ago my parents sold everything they owned and became Hobos. They travel the world by housesitting for people in Europe. It’s a fairly cool gig. They are submerged into the culture of other places, they learned how to feed and care for chickens and goats, they have lived on vineyards and champagne (farms? champangeyard?) estates. We skype weekly to keep in touch and I taught them about fun filters and share features on icloud, I sent epub books for Christmas and photos of my adventures. They returned to Canada for the nice non-winter parts when Edmonton shines its brightest and has the best festivals to play in. Both my mom and I think Edmonton is the best summer city in the world. Lots of people are angered by their leaving for long stretches at a time but the best advice my dad ever gave was this: “No one is forcing you to do what you don’t want to do. Say no, do what you want to do and is what right for you.” It only took me 50 years to live by that. My Epic 50th Year is taking me places I could not imagine for myself yet here I am living my best life. My parents are living their best life. This past year I said no to things that would shock you. But I slept better afterwards. I have my parents to thank for that.

They returned last week after a 5-month hiatus that felt like 6. It was an In like a Lion moment for March where the temperatures plummeted and the snow came down all at once. We were blessed with an additional foot of snow. Welcome, Home! No, I don’t want to hear about daisies blooming unless you brought some. But thanks for the bottle of Bordeaux! Now it feels like winter is gone! Okay, I do like hearing about the meadow blossoms and the fields of green. I also like seeing some of the bad-ass stuff my dad does like this fun photo from my sister (she went to visit them in France) That’s my dad, breaking rules like a boss since 1948. Those are the fun things I like about travel.

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Where was I? Right…they came home!

It was Mom’s birthday this week and what do you get the person who doesn’t want to own anything but only likes experiences? Breakfast of course! We needed a long newsy visit to catch up. I like to take my parents to places they have not been before. Not easy to do for these people. But I succeed every time. I decided to cross off one of my 18 for 18 items while I was at it. We drove down 119 street when my dad said, “How have I lived here all my life and have never been on this street?” SCORE! I did it!

I booked the private dining room at Café Linnea and we were the first to arrive at the restaurant.  I was struck by the sunshine in this place. This is the old garment district. The restaurant is converted warehouse space. They did a fantastic job making it feel warm and comfortable.

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I grew up with those chairs and tables. We lived in the 70’s with the teak modern style. What I would GIVE for those chairs today!

The private dining room looks like it would hold 12 people comfortably. I booked it for 6 and we had space to sit and visit. It was perfect for the welcome home birthday brunch!

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I heard the drinks menu was delicious but we stuck with coffee.

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This was a good latté. It is not my favourite in the city but I did enjoy it. (favourite goes to Mandolin Books and Café Bicyclette) That meringue on the side was chocolate flavoured with melted chocolate concealed within and is now my favourite treat of all time. It was perfection!

We lingered over coffee and tea (apparently the Provence tea was a delight!)  We struggled with the menu trying to decide what would be the best choice. Mom ordered strictly sides because it was her birthday and you can do what you want when you are celebrating. Everyone else ordered a main.

 

The bacon, the sourdough bread and pickled mushrooms were exquisite, everything else was just delicious. We thought about dessert because they told us about the feature, bread pudding french toast. Bread pudding is my Dad’s favourite of all time. He claims the best is found in New Orleans. My parents are experts at world travel so I believe him. In the end, we decided to take mom to Doughnut Party because she had never been before and had only read about it here on my blog, it was also conveniently located next door.  We all bought doughnuts to take home for later.

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Just an FYI, the chocolate banana was life-changing.

Was Café Linnea worth it? Absolutely. Would I go again? YES! I want to try a couple more things on the menu. Maybe take my sister there to celebrate a thing we are planning. Her and I will obviously try the drinks menu.

Go. It is located at 119 Street Northwest #10932, visit their website here for menu and info.

Edmonton Tourist: Market Day

Summer officially starts in Edmonton after the May Long weekend. This usually means the chance of snow is almost over. I say almost because I have seen snow in May, June and August. The outdoor farmer’s markets often start the May long weekend as well. I had family obligations for most of the month of May, but yesterday my Mama Bear and I decided to spend the morning exploring the markets and enjoying the beautiful weather Edmonton had to offer. First stop was the City Market Downtown.

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The Market is located on 104 Street between Jasper and 103rd Avenues. I haven’t been to all the Farmer’s markets in Edmonton, but I rank this as my favourite amongst the ones I have visited.

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We parked on 104th Street by the Neon Museum and walked the short half block south. The city closed the roads for vendors and this just adds to the atmosphere. There is something decadent and forbidden about strolling on the road. There isn’t the same feeling when this happens in a park or town square. It reminded me of the market I visited in Obernai France, the only thing missing would be the church bells that singled Market opening in France.

The Market is open Saturdays between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm. I like to go early so there is still lots of choices and varieties.

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The streetmosphere just adds to the flavour, Mama Bear and I like to stroll at a leisurely pace to explore the details of each booth.

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We left the market about 10:30 having purchased Moonshine donuts and Irish Moss. I have deep regret over not buying rhubarb. I will make note to get some next weekend when I explore other markets.

We left downtown and drove straight to the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market. I like this market in the winter because it is inside, in the summer, I prefer the outdoor markets. I did learn that many vendors had stalls here and the City Market. So now I can rest easy that my favourites are located downtown. Moonshine and Jack Horner, I am looking at you.

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The Strathcona Market also have great atmosphere with the musical stylings of these people, the Straw Flowers. Thanks for smiling Mandolin man.

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A notable difference between the two markets is there are artisans actually working on their craft in the old Bus Barns, that was fun to see.

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This sewing machine belonged to her Mama Bear.

We explored all the aisles and came away with pesto and pasta, so there was dinner taken care of. I just added chicken breasts and fresh veg. It was delicious. Enough sundries tomato pesto to add to my potatoes tonight!

Around 11 am we decided to head to the French Quarter to see the farmer’s market there. I had never been to that one in the summer, only during the Flying Canoe Festival.

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When we arrived, we learned Market day is Sunday. I heard a giant Wa Wa… in my head because I was severely disappointed. But this is the site of my favourite cafe so we decided to have lunch here. There is a rumour the best poutine is served here sand Mama Bear disclosed she had never tried poutine before. I looked shockingly at her and called her the worst Canadian ever.

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I am going to agree, Cafe Bicyclette does serve the best poutine I have ever had in Edmonton and perhaps the best I have tried anywhere. Please note that I have never had it in Quebec, I should think it might be better there but being served by French Canadians in the French Quarter of Edmonton is amazlingly  delicious. Pair it with one of the best lattes in the city and you have yourself a decadent meal.

Next week I will visit the French Market, so stay tuned.

 

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Under the Big Wheel

Winter is still going strong here in Edmonton. I am not going to lie, it is bringing me down. Six months of winter is more than enough. Thanks Old Man Winter, you can stop now. Happily I haven’t removed my winter tires.

As far as second winters goes, this one isn’t all that cold but I still find myself wanting hot coffee. Today I had a date with a great University chum who tells it like it is and asks the great questions that make me think about things from a different perspective. Today we chatted about friendship problems we both have, parallel to the point that loyalty is an issue for both of us. We are loyal and hope for a reciprocal arrangement. It didn’t happen for either of us and then she said, “What did you want to happen?”

That simple question knocked my socks off because I  have been looking at it from the perspective of ‘This happened and I need to do this because I am loyal and the friendship is important to me so I need to forgive.’

Her question made me pause and think. I love that quality in this friend, she makes me think.  Then the server came and asked what we wanted to order.

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Right…breakfast! We decided to go to Old Strathcona and have brunch at Under the Big Wheel. A farm fresh organic kind of place with a really large Penny Farthing bicycle hanging on the wall. I am assuming that was the big wheel, not the red plastic kind of my sister’s childhood.

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We both ordered coffee, she had a mocha and I had a latte because I am on a quest for the best one in the city – side bar: It was good, really good but I place it third on my list.

It was served in a very unconventional way – as was the entire experience – Unconventional.

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It came in a tall highball glass or something you would have cold chocolate milk in. It was hot on the hands but felt nice on my cold fingers after walking here in the wet snow. Because it was in glass, the coffee didn’t stay hot for long. That would be the biggest reason it is only third on my list. I like coffee hot and to stay hot. But it was good enough to have two. I rarely do that.

So where was I? Right! What did I want to happen? I wanted my friend to stick up for me, not be neutral. She agreed. Her friend was neutral too. We both would have been okay with “What you did was really crappy and I don’t like it.” but still be their friend…because it isn’t high school. Or if you thought I was being crappy – say so! I respect that!  She also agreed that would have been a better solution for her as well. So meanwhile here we are sharing similar experiences and our Server comes back – can I just say, our server’s lipstick was on point? It was the perfect shade of red for her alabaster skin. I digress… Our Server comes back and asks if we had decided. Of course not, we were catching up! We quickly glance down at the menu and she says, ” have you been here before?” Nope, first time. “My personal favourite is the waffle, our Belgium waffles are amazing” There was a gal behind us at a different table shouting out, “OMG THE WAFFLES ARE AMAZING” I enjoy that kind of enthusiasm and recommendation, so I had the eggs benny on a waffle – it was called The Savoury Waffle. I had a choice of smoked salmon, sausage bacon or cooked spinach (who wants to eat that? Cooked greens just taste like Chlorophyll to me. Too green. I prefer my greens uncooked with the exception of Beet Leaf (not Cabbage) Rolls and baby bok choy in soup. I picked bacon because, well, bacon. My friend chose the Traditional Breakfast, it was very conventional.

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Both were tasty. The hollandaise sauce was not the usual and I couldn’t put my finger on it, what made it taste different? It was good, but different than the norm. The waffles were light and fluffy, the gal behind me did not lie.

Where were we? Right…. loyalty. I also disclosed that I was thinking about words that had been said to me and playing them over in my mind. She agreed that she does the too. Only I don’t think about where the person was coming from when they said them, it was more of a how those words affected me and caused me to behave in certain way or do things maybe I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been so hurt and how could I have reacted better?. These were traumatic experiences I kept reliving and then looking at how I could have done things better/different. We agreed this wasn’t helpful to moving forward. But yet we still did it. I suspect most people do this.  Some people can just let it go easier than others.

We also talked about how awesome our dogs are. Hers are new to her family an mine is celebrating his 3rd adoption day with us on the 27th. I call it his birthday because he didn’t have to be a wild dog any more and hunt for his food. He found out very quickly he prefers being retired and living a spoiled life.

The best part of this breakfast was the server let us visit and chat as long as we needed. She kept coming back to see if we needed something more – just salt for the eggs and another latte, but it was really restful. I really did enjoy this spot for brunch, the food was great.

I have visited a few other spots around town to test out their coffee. I went to Anvil, a new spot in Ottwell. Decent but over priced. It tasted fine but didn’t wow me.

I also visited Wild Earth Bakery, cookies were good coffee was fine, also didn’t wow me.

If you decide to come to Edmonton for coffee and want to meet, let me know, I would love to experience coffee with you!

My list of favourites so far in order:

  1. Mandolin
  2. Cafe Bicyclette
  3. Under the Big Wheel
  4. Little Brick
  5. Anvil
  6. Wild Earth

Where do you like to go for your favourite coffee?

Edmonton Tourist: Mandolin Books and Coffee Company

The sun was out and spring felt like it was here. After being in a stadium for 5 days with 7000 kids, I was happy to get out in the fresh air and explore a little of my city. Plus, I wanted a coffee, a really great cup of coffee. To me great coffee comes in the form of a Café Latte. Hot, creamy with a strong coffee flavour. My favourites in the city are Café Bicyclette, Block 1912, Transcend, and now Mandolin.

I had heard about this place from some people at work. They knew I am a hard core book lover and was serious about my coffee so they thought the combination would be right up my ally. I headed to highlands on 112 Avenue. I used to live in this neighbourhood about 25 years ago and all that was here a a restaurant and wool shop. The 2 block street has undergone some heritage sprucing up, new lamp posts, some cool signage to let you know what used to be in that spot and a mural. This little trip had all the things a nice exploration includes:

  • Points of interest
  • nifty shops
  • pretty neighbourhood
  • coffee

It felt like an afternoon vacation.

My Companion and I walked along the south side of the street first, in search of the coffee, I was charmed by the signage.

I bet that was a great Hardware store! I love old timey hardware shops, Steveston BC and Entwistle AB have some of the best I have ever been to. Highland Hardware is now the Apple Box, a crafty paint shop that has milk paint, I need to remember to head back there when I pain my bench – I want it to be a rusty red.

Continuing along the street we found La Boheme. I always wanted to sign and dance on the tables there like in Rent, but have only eaten there and went to the wine cellar for a tour before I even knew anything about wine. Man, I wish I could go back in time and appreciate it more.

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Then came Mandolin Books and Coffee Company.

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The place had a great selection of used books and antiquarian. I found a Rudyard Kipling book of poems dated 1922. On the front cover was a swastika – pre-nazi Germany swastika meaning ‘lucky’ or ‘auspicious’. This was what it symbolized for 11,000 and now its an ugly symbol of hate. This book was in perfect condition as were so many of the books in this place. But first, COFFEE!.

The coffee here is Catfish Coffee, and I have to say, it is now my favourite coffee in the city. I really enjoy the flavour.

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We went to the counter and ordered 2 lattes, a lemon square and a blondie because this was a vacation and we needed sustenance.

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The baked goods tasted homemade (WIN!) but the coffee was smooth, creamy and strong – everything I look for in my favourite cup.

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It had been a long time since I enjoyed a coffee this much.

We poked around this shop and found some other great finds, like blind dates,

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we found a guy playing scrabble in the back and a mama reading to her offspring.

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There is also a patio out back.

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Once we found books we had to buy, it is a book store after all and I buy books because that is who I am, I ventured back outside and explored the other side of the street.

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We went into this great little candy shop and found vintage candy and poked around the antique store.

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It was the perfect afternoon in a great neighbourhood of Edmonton.

Edmonton Tourist: Doughnut Party

I belong to a karma group. It is a group of friends and friends of friends who give stuff away to each other. For example, I had a tiny oak table and gave it to one person on there and I have received art and a spirograph, I like obscure things – Don’t Judge. Since belonging to this group I haven’t needed to buy a thing and I have given away so much usable things. It is a lovely way to trade.

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Today I was heading to heritage neighbourhoods to pick up items I have claimed. One in Eastwood – way on the Northside for me and then Laurier Heights, farther west but sort of central. The quickest way between both points was to stop at Doughnut Party.

Doughnut Party is a tiny little shop that has been open for maybe a month or so. It is located in the old garment district at 10938-119 Street, Edmonton AB. Their web page says:

Tues-Fri: 8am-1:30pm; Sat: 9am-2pm

Open until sold out – come early! 🙂

Now, I grew up with the Sherwood Park Bakery making the classic old Fashion Doughnut. Mom would come home with a few for a treat. I loved doughnuts hardcore as a kid. Then Tim Horton’s came along and was a game changer in the doughnut (not donut) game. It fast-food-ized doughnuts here. When they were a bakery, creating doughnuts in store fresh, letting the dough rise and then frying them in the vat with the baker using chopsticks to flip them, they were amazing. When Timmy’s became a fast-food chain and needed to have more control over baking so they send frozen donuts to be baked, the doughnuts became donuts. and my love wained. I no longer cared for one. Not worth the calories. Every now and then I would find a bakery that really knew what they were doing and was happy to have a doughnut.

I sat around the lunch table one day and the team was talking about Doughnut Party because they had all tried the Moonshine doughnuts from the Farmer’s Market in Old Strathcona. I had not. I feel like I was late to the party. I am no longer on top of food experiences in Edmonton because I have been busy exploring parks, burning calories rather than consuming them. Everyone said, “You have to try them! But go early because they are lined up out the door and close when they sell out.”

Okay, challenge accepted. I knew I was out on Saturday morning and could swing by.

When I arrived, the line was not out the door but the parking lot was jammed with people trying to find a spot. My advice is do not park in the lot, drive to 120 street and park along the road. You will get in before they sell out with the added bonus of burning 15 calories walking to the door.

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There is a bar-like counter in the centre of the room with a ramp on the left to manage line-ups. I waited maybe 5 minutes and took in the atmosphere. Brick walls and simple signs Party for 1, Party for 6 etc. There is a rule of 1 dozen per person, but they don’t offer a dozen, you would buy 2 boxes of 6. I hope you can do the math.

These doughnuts are not the cheap Tim Horton donuts. $3 for 1 and worth it.

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I had the Vanilla because it is my most favourite flavour ever. But I did buy one of each. From everything I have seen on instagram, they never have the same flavours out, they rotate. Flavours were Lychee and Raspberry, Vanilla, Birthday Cake with crumbed, Apple fritter, some pink coconut confection thing and a pink sugared doughnut. The names were written in red marker on the glass but I didn’t pay that much attention, no point when there were only 6 choices. Each donut is made with fresh, local ingredients. The one I bought was HUGE. I could not get a proper bite because it was high and actually fluffy. Delicate is the word that comes to mind. It melted in my mouth. Hands down the best doughnut I ever had.  It was worth the trip. Happily it is far enough away from me it needs to be a planned trip.

Go early, go often.

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Edmonton Tourist: Woodrack Café

img_5994I have been driving by this café since they broke ground a couple of years ago. I figured with a name like Woodcock, it was a steak place. Today after a race package pickup in the neighbourhood, I decided to stop in and see if I could grab a nice lunch. It was a total score, there was awesome coffee AND amazing soup on the menu.  This is what caught my eye:

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Coconut Curry Soup with rice. That is one of my favourite flavour combinations so I decided I was staying for lunch.

First impressions was this was a charming café. Rustic and whimsical with a touch of grandma. I looked over in the corner and there was a sofa I remember from my childhood. My Grandma had bought a similar one at Campbell’s Furniture way back in the day. I loved that sofa! So seeing it here brought back great memories, already a win for me.

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I looked at the menu board to see if something else caught my eye.

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Nope, I still really wanted the Coconut Curry Soup and ordered it with a roll. I checked out the sweet counter and decided I wanted a kids cookie because who doesn’t love a great sugar cookie? I also took the last Chocolate Chip cookie to see how it compared to mine, while it was good, mine are still better. My lunch companion had the Whoopie Pie because as the sign says it is a specialty! I ordered a cafe latte because the point of this year is to visit new coffee places and delicious coffee that is created inside.

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The coffee was rich and creamy. While delicious, I found there was more foam than I prefer. Next time, and there will be lots of next times, I will order light foam.

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The cookies were good but not something I would order again. To eat cookie calories, the calories must taste better than my cookies and these did not. However, they were really delicious.(clearly mine are spectacular)

But the highlight of my culinary day had to be the soup. It is not often I make yummy noises while I eat. I am pretty sure people were staring but I was too engrossed in my soup. So flavourful and just the right amount of spice. I hope it is a regular menu item, but if their other soups are this good, then this is a must eat place for soup lovers!

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After we finished and licked the bowl clean, (I didn’t really but now wish I had…) We walked the perimeter of the café. I was pleasantly surprised to see an outdoor patio, it may not look like much to you, but for those of us who only get summer weather for about 3 months, outside time is a premium and we like to maximize it by dining outside.

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This place has been added to my list of great lunch stops or afternoon coffee breaks. I think you will be pleasantly surprise.