Edmonton Business Review: Made by Marcus

The queue during opening weekend was pretty long.

I’ve been following Made by Marcus on Instagram for at least a couple of years now. Originally based out of Calgary, this beloved local ice cream shop has now made its way north with a back alley store on Whyte Avenue and 104 Street. With infrequent visits south, I never had the opportunity to try Made by Marcus before, so I was happy to learn that the Edmonton location had finally rolled out the welcome mat at the end of June.

The lines were long during their first weekend in business, so I decided to wait a bit before going. Kirk and I actually bought tickets for a Secret Streetcar Show around mid-July, so it made perfect sense to go for a late night ice cream run after the concert. As we turned to enter the alley at 10:00pm in the evening, the bright pink shop at the end of the lane was like a beacon. Although there was a door to the side, no one really used it since the front of the shop was completely open. Surprisingly, it was still busy. The queue didn’t run down the whole alley, but it still snaked through the space and most of the indoor seating was occupied. A few benches were also placed outside to accommodate overflow.

The Made by Marcus menu.

Thankfully, it didn’t take too long before we made it to the counter. With three staff on hand to scoop and another to process payment, there seemed to be a decent rhythm. A kids scoop is $3, a “single” scoop of ice cream is $5 and can be split into two flavours, a “double” scoop is $7 and you can probably choose three flavours, and a flight is four scoops for $9. Waffle cones are an extra dollar each.

Waffle cone makers!

Kirk and I decided to share a flight without any added waffle cones. It took a while for us to pick four out of the dozen plus flavours (I think they usually have even more to choose from), but we eventually got it down to the Lemon Curd Blueberry, Tahini Cookie Dough (Vegan), Moonshine Brown Butter Pecan, and Bananas Foster & Rum Caramel.

The first thing I will say about Made by Marcus ice cream is that the quality is top notch. The flavours are strong and the small batches are extremely creamy and smooth, making for a very rich and decadent dessert. It felt like silk as there was not an ice crystal to be found.

Our ice cream flight includes four flavours for $9.

To be completely honest though, not all of the flavours we chose lived up to my expectations. I was really excited for the Lemon Curd Blueberry, which is a signature flavour. I thought it’d be citrusy, sweet, and refreshing. And, it was a first. The tongue was initially hit with a pop of zest from the lemon curd and sweetness from the cream and blueberry; however, what lingered at the end was an incredibly bitter aftertaste. I truly thought that the Lemon Curd Blueberry would be my favourite, but it ended up dead last.

The Tahini Cookie Dough is a vegan option, so it’s also lactose-intolerant friendly. If you don’t already know what it is, tahini is a spread made from toasted ground sesame seeds. It has a really nutty flavour to it, but it’s not as pronounced as a black sesame ice cream, for example. This was probably one of the more subtle tastes out of the four scoops we got. I didn’t mind the flavour, but I was hoping for more chunks of cookie dough throughout.

Clockwise from the top left: Tahini Cookie Dough, Lemon Curd Blueberry, Bananas Foster & Rum Caramel, and Moonshine Brown Butter Pecan.

Since Made by Marcus is known for their experimental flavours and collaborations with other local businesses, I’m going to assume that the Moonshine Brown Butter Pecan makes use of a moonshine alcohol in some way. If it was supposed to be there, I didn’t find that the flavour of the liquor came through much, but the brown butter did add to the nuttiness and amplified the taste of the pecan pieces.

Our top pick was most definitely the Bananas Foster & Rum Caramel. The flavour was spot on with the banana tasting natural and not artificial. There was a hint of the rum, but nothing overpowering, and the caramel brought in the perfect amount of sweetness. Kirk and I practically fought over this scoop because he kept eating it and touching nothing else.

A late night visit to Made by Marcus.

After trying Made by Marcus for the first time, I certainly understand the hype more than I used to. The standard of their ice cream is ridiculously high and they put a lot of effort into creating the unique flavours that they’ve come to be known for. Not every flavour is going to be a hit for everyone (Dill Pickle & Peanut Butter is an acquired taste, right?), but with the number of choices available, there’s bound to be something you’ll like amongst the signature, seasonal, and vegan options. While Edmontonians are warriors who will eat ice cream even in the dead of winter, make the most of your nice summer and pop into Made by Marcus for a cone or two!

Edmonton Event Review: Share the Flair Pin & Patch Show

My Share the Flair haul!

This past Saturday, Edmonton’s first show devoted to pins and patches was held. Called Share the Flair, organizers Julie Morrison of Majesty and Friends, Jenny Chan of Hop & Flop, Emilia Housch of Light of the Moon Pins, and Courtenay McKay of JOJO & GUN put together the one-day event to showcase this revitalized form of miniature art. I remember collecting pins as a child, so this was pretty nostalgic for me.

In essence, each piece of metal or fabric purchased supports the creators’ ideas and allows the buyer to express a bit of their personality. At Acacia Masonic Hall just off of Whyte Avenue and 104 Street, it seemed that locals were more than excited and ready for something like this.

Waiting in line to get through those doors. Even this point, it was another 20 to 30 minutes.

Many, including myself, lined up down the block for well over an hour just to get in the doors. Apparently, some enthusiasts were even waiting outside by 7:30am, two and a half hours before the show was to launch. I arrived just 15 minutes before the ten o’clock start and was impressed at the turn out for an inaugural event. They estimated that 500-600 people would come by, but I’m guessing that they probably surpassed that.

Finally made it close to the entrance!

By the time I got to the table to pay my entrance fee of $4, all of the one hundred swag bags had already been handed out. I’m not entirely sure what was in each of them, but the Instagram posts on the Share the Flair page indicated that there was plenty of fun stuff that had been provided for those early birds. During the wait, volunteers also gave away complimentary cotton candy as a treat.

My bingo card and a volunteer making cotton candy.

On the plus side, everyone who made it through the doors got to earn a little something extra with their ingenious idea of bingo cards. For every purchase made from the twenty or so vendors, a stamp was placed on the card. If you got a full row, column or diagonal line, you got to spin the wheel at a table that was filled with freebies from sponsors and participating merchants.

Freebie pins from the table at the entrance.

There was plenty of creative talent there, all of them based out of Edmonton and surrounding areas. As much as I wanted to buy something from every single one of them, I had to stick to a budget. So, I sadly missed out on the anatomical heart from Majesty and Friends as well as the crows and teacup owl from Sabtastic (I’ll pick those up down the road) and the gorgeous hand-sawn copper pieces from Smithstine (more expensive than the average manufactured pin because of the nature of how they’re made), which were added to Kristine MacDonald’s line specifically for Share the Flair.

Still, with most pieces ranging from $8 to $15 each, I walked away with a treasure trove of new pins from the aforementioned Hop & Flop and JOJO & GUN, my good friend Lea St John who is known as La Petite Watson for her work (and “Experience Explorista” travel blog), Paws the Cat Cafe, and artists Crystal Driedger, Jess from Daymare, and Jacinda Cote from Story Wild Studios. Additionally, I indulged in a couple sweet treats from Caramunchies (they had branded pins for sale).

I’m not sure yet when the second Share the Flair show will be, but give them a follow or like on social media to keep in the loop. My hope for the next event is that they’ll have an expanded venue (with some air conditioning), so that they can accommodate more vendors and a larger capacity of people at once to reduce the overall wait time. It’s not often that I’ll stand in a line for more than an hour and a half. I just really wanted to support my friend and the community on this initial go round.

Congrats to everyone who organized, sponsored and volunteered for Share the Flair. You did a phenomenal job with planning and executing this event. I think it’s going to be a mainstay of the annual Edmonton arts scene going forward!

Edmonton Restaurant Review: Two Sergeants Brewing (Updated)

The entrance to the dining space of Two Sergeants Brewing.

Two Sergeants Brewing (11817 105 Avenue), situated behind the Brewery District, had been on my radar for a little while. But, it wasn’t until Yelp’s “Pursuit of Hoppiness” event, right at the end of April, that I finally visited. Kirk and I decided to attend this gathering as a push to get out to this venue (as well as out of the house), and it ended up being a lot of fun.

At Yelp’s “Pursuit of Hoppiness” event they had pinatas in the dining room.

You won’t find them smashing pinatas on the regular here, but you will find a very open space with large communal tables, and plenty of colourfully painted chairs. It’s perfect for large groups to hang out over more than decent pub-style grub and a beer or two.

Daily Specials including $5 flights on Thursdays.

A flight of four quarter pints of any of Two Sergeants Brewing beers is just $8 regularly, and, if you head over there on a Thursday, you’ll get the same for just $5. The four glasses are presented in an adorable miniature picnic table server. Personally, I didn’t mind their Chinook Oatmeal Stout; however, my fave from the sampling we received was the Passion d’Ale Belgian Wit for it’s crisp, clean, smooth drinking citrus flavour without the lingering bitterness. Kirk preferred the 17 Pounder IPA, ordering a full pint to go with dinner. It has a lower IBU, but it was still too strong of a finish for my liking.

To eat, we both opted to try their Homestyle Chicken Sandwich — recently increased to $14 — with hand cut fries (or house salad). The locally sourced chicken is soaked in buttermilk and fried to order, so it comes out fresh and crispy. Either available as classic or spicy, it’s then stacked with double smoked cheddar, coleslaw, and house made pickles on a sourdough bun. Both of us chose the spicy version, enjoying the mild heat from the chicken.

Homestyle Chicken Sandwich with Hand Cut Fries

What took the sandwich over the top was the house made pickles. Now, I asked for mine to be made without them because I’m not a fan of standard pickles. Yet, they still gave them to me, just laid on the side of my plate. The server explained that they were pickled jalapenos, so they thought I might still want to try them. Honestly, I did. I love jalapeno peppers, so I went to town putting those back into my sandwich. For the most part, all was well. I handled the spice from the chicken and the peppers like a champ…at least until I found a slice of jalapeno that still held more of the pith and rib of the pepper. My face lit up like a beet, probably, and I needed a few sips of Kirk’s beer to tone it down. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t get too far on Hot Ones.

The fries were quite good. Appearing in a small frying basket, the portion size was okay. They seemed to have been blanched to get that perfectly cooked center and that crisp golden brown exterior. Overall, they were a nice finish to the meal.

Art inside their venue is perfect for photo ops.

The owners of Two Sergeants Brewing have definitely put a lot of love into this place. The thought and detail that went into this location when they decided to move from Fort Saskatchewan to Edmonton is apparent. Hopefully, it’s the right thing for them in the long run. I know that it’s a great addition to the Westmount, Oliver and Queen Mary Park areas. More and more businesses are choosing to be present there and it’s community like that that is so important in this city. We’re definitely looking forward to returning this summer for good brews and food.

 

UPDATE August 3, 2019:

Last weekend, Kirk and I met with friends at Two Sergeants Brewing for a proper dinner. Since our dining companions were able to find a babysitter for earlier in the evening, we met at around 5:30pm to catch up. I did make a reservation ahead of time using the OpenTable app, but there were still a number of spots available, giving us plenty of choices on where to sit. We snagged seats towards the far side of the restaurant next to the cordoned off private room.

The server came over with some food menus and pointed out that the beer selection was listed on the screen. It seemed like they had less of their own brews on tap than previously, but they had a handful of others from different local breweries, too. There was a good mix to appease any preferences. I was able to find a sour from Blindman, while everyone else stuck to the hoppier beers created by Two Sergeants ($8 to $9 per pint).

This time, we had the full menu at our disposal (previously, we were there for a special event and the options were limited). Kirk and I shared the Fries and Gravy ($7), Bison Carpaccio ($13), and Corn Fritters ($8). Our friends ordered the Wings ($12) with their choice of Beer BBQ Sauce.

Fries and Gravy

I was really surprised at how good the Fries and Gravy were. We’re pretty sure their house cut fries are blanched and then fried to give the potato fingers a nicely cooked middle and crunchy exterior. They were then doused in a beef and mushroom gravy and sprinkled with green onions. Where it excelled and set itself apart from anything like it was the gravy. I’ve never had something like that on fries before, and it was so delicious. It reminded me of a rich mushroom soup and it totally worked. Even with the soggier potatoes at the bottom of the basket and no utensils, I made sure not to leave a fry behind.

Bison Carpaccio

 

The Bison Carpaccio was described on the menu as seared with fennel, garnished with house pickled red onion, mushrooms, double smoked cheddar, malted barley, and arugula, and then dressed with strawberry white balsamic vinaigrette. Admittedly, I didn’t find that the smokiness came through with the grated cheese, and I couldn’t really taste the vinaigrette as noted. But, the arugula is always a good balance of bitter against the acidity from the pickled red onions and the earthy mushrooms. The malted barley provided added texture to the dish, while the black licorice flavour from the fennel crust was the first to hit the tongue. The thinly sliced bison was beautifully red and so tender, too. Usually, I do place the carpaccio onto the supplied pieces of crostini; however, although toasted, the bread that came with the meat was really thick, and honestly, the carpaccio stood on its own.

Corn Fritters

Having recently been somewhat disappointed by a corn fritter I had elsewhere, I took a chance on them at Two Sergeants. I think there were four or five in the basket and they were hefty in size. It would have been great if they had been slightly more moist, but at least they weren’t doughy on the inside. They definitely had the corn bread texture that I expected and there were full corn kernels to be found when pulled apart. With super crispy outer shells and two delicious dips (I asked for both) — a beer berry coulis and savoury cheese sauce — that were good separately or paired together, these were a real treat.

Wings with Beer BBQ Sauce

I didn’t personally try the wings, but they looked fantastic. Truly full wings (with the drumette and flat still attached), they looked to be perfectly fried. They had three choices for dips with theirs being the Beer BBQ Sauce. Yet, Frank’s Red Hot or a dill buttermilk ranch were available as well.

Homestyle Chicken Sandwich with Fries

Because Kirk is a creature of habit, he stuck to the same thing as our first visit, going with the Homestyle Chicken Sandwich ($15). In fact, our two friends followed suit. Everyone enjoyed their meals, although Kirk told me later that he thought it wasn’t as good as before. He found his chicken to be a little too dry, which could have just been the particular cut of meat he got. If it was thinner than in the other sandwiches, it would be easy to overcook it. The sandwiches that our friends got looked as though they had pretty thick pieces of breaded and fried chicken in them.

Pulled Pork Pappardelle

I really wanted to try something new on this occasion, so I went for the Pulled Pork Pappardelle ($18). You could tell that the house made pasta was fresh. It did sort of clump together a bit and I had some trouble pulling it apart without breaking the strands, but I liked the al dente texture, which was soft with a little bite to it. It was hearty in flavour while still sort of light as a dish. The slow roasted pork shoulder was succulent and, at times, crisp where it had charred. The sweet tangy BBQ sauce was certainly a change when it came to pasta sauce. Married with tomatoes, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and baby spinach, I was a happy camper both that night and when I finished my leftovers the next day.

Overall, I’m quite impressed with the Two Sergeants kitchen. They’re making somewhat standard pub fare, but with more adventurous flavours, tweaks, and twists. If they keep it up, I know that this is going to be a favourite for a long time.

Coping in the Modern Workplace: Takeaways from Liz Fosslien’s & Mollie West Duffy’s No Hard Feelings

My uncorrected proof of No Hard Feelings.

Since the beginning of 2019, one of my resolutions for the year has been to read at least one new book every month. Honestly, that’s not a lot. When I was a child, I devoured books like candy. Over the summer, you would find me at the library getting my hands on as many novels as they’d allow me to have at one time. But, nowadays, I’m finding that this past love has been put on the back burner.

I can say with pride that, since January, I’ve been very diligent about sticking to this particular decision. In fact, it’s probably been the easiest of my multiple resolutions to abide by. Yet, unlike the first few months of the year, in April, I shifted from fiction over to a book about business culture. Written by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy, No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work, is something I wish I had read when I initially came into contact with the uncorrected proof that I own. Instead, it sat untouched for almost six months.

While it might be beneficial to give my readers a full recap of the book, I won’t do that. I urge those who might be grappling with difficulties at the office or in their careers to borrow or purchase a copy and read it all the way through. It’s written incredibly well with charming images and anecdotes as well as real-world examples that help you understand how the issues the authors discuss might play a role in your day-to-day workplace situations. Personally, I found it to be an easy, relatable and insightful read.

Broken down across seven chapters — Health, Motivation, Decision Making, Teams, Communication, Culture, and Leadership — that dictate the new rules for work, these were my favourite takeaways:

1) Health: Stop feeling bad about feeling bad.

I’m so guilty of this. Lately I’ve been overwhelmed with the workload at my office. I feel bad about not being able to get through more and I feel bad about leaving things behind every day. But, I really shouldn’t be put in that position. It’s not my fault that we don’t have the resources needed to accomplish everything that the organization expects of us within the time frame that they have dictated. I’m simply one person who can only do so many things at a time. Rather than feeling bad about what I’m not able to get to, I should feel good about what I am able to achieve on a daily basis.

2) Motivation: To increase your autonomy, make small changes to your schedule.

I love the idea of this notion, but it is easier said than done. I believe that the amount of autonomy you have with your schedule is very dependent upon the flexibility of your workplace. Despite providing valid arguments to management about working different hours or from home, my organization usually isn’t willing to negotiate. Yet, if they’d budge just a little bit, it could make a world of difference to my overall health and happiness.

3) Decision Making: Keep integral emotions (those related to the decision you’re facing) and toss incidental emotions (those unrelated to the decision you’re facing).

People have a tendency to bring outside feelings into the decision making process at work and in their personal lives. It reminds me of a scene from How I Met Your Mother in which they discuss the cycle (or circle) of screaming. For example: perhaps we ran into issues on the way to work, which have already put us in a bad mood. Someone has a great idea, but we don’t want to listen right at that moment, so we brush it off because we’re preoccupied with what occurred before and it clouds our judgement. It’s important at those times to compartmentalize those emotions as they don’t actually have anything to do with the other. All too often, we let negative forces take control when they should be ignored instead.

 

4) Teams: Get rid of (or if you can’t, contain) bad apples to preserve psychological safety on your team.

I’m not a manager, so I don’t have much say over what ultimately happens when it comes to hiring or firing someone. But, I’ve had my fair share of issues that I’ve had to bring up to my boss. Unfortunately, most have gone unresolved. A good manager would do their best to rid of or contain the bad apples on the team, so that the rest of the members can excel without worrying about picking up the slack or being overwhelmed by the demands of other co-workers. If you’re on a team that has bad apples, don’t let it slide. Make it known to higher ups because, if they’re any good, they should want their staff to feel safe and valued.

5) Communication: Feelings aren’t facts. Make criticism specific and actionable.

Your personal feelings about someone should not come into play when judging them on how well they can do their job. You may have many things in common with a colleague; therefore, you get along better with them. But, just because you’re friends, it doesn’t mean that they might be the best at handling their responsibilities. Vice versa for those who you may not be buddy-buddy with. They might be amazing at their job, but they never get the recognition because you’re not as close. It’s important to look at the facts as they are presented without bringing other outside factors to the table.

6) Culture: Create a culture of belonging through microactions.

I have to say that I’ve shied away over the past few years from getting to know a lot of my co-workers better. Aside from those that I work directly with (most of us are good friends), I have a business relationship with the rest and that’s about it. However, I don’t think that my company has done a great job of integrating people together either. I’ve found it especially true when it comes to new hires. The last handful of staff who have started with the organization were announced by email with no other attempt by management to introduce them. The least they could have done was brought them around to each department to say “Hi,” but it never happened. When higher ups don’t care enough to create a welcoming culture, it’s certainly not going to trickle down to the rest of the staff as something that is important.

7) Leadership: Become a student of the people you manage.

As the book says, avoid telling people what to feel, listen carefully, and manage individually. I’ve noticed in my office that management doesn’t like to approach staff directly with issues that arise. Instead, it’s either avoided entirely, or a mass email is sent giving notes on how something should be done when usually it’s only one or two who are the culprits of incorrect processes, etc. I believe that addressing problems in that way makes those who are doing things properly wonder what else they might have done wrong when, in fact, they haven’t made a misstep at all, and it downplays the issues for those who actually screwed up.

Additionally, I think managers often sit on a pedestal and think they know best when it comes to the day-to-day for their staff. A lot of the time, managers fail to listen to their employees or walk in their shoes before making big decisions that ultimately affect everyone else. Taking the opportunity to learn the actual responsibilities of their team members is a huge step in the right direction when you want to lead properly.

Edmonton Bakery Review: GLAZE Dessert Bar

GLAZE Dessert Bar’s logo stamped on the pizza box.

Keeping with my recent theme of discoveries on social media, the business I want to talk about today is GLAZE Dessert Bar. I had observed that they were showcased as a caterer for a couple of events that happened in Edmonton lately, and I was intrigued. I linked my way to their Instagram page. After looking around, I discovered that they were running a January deal. By liking their Facebook page, I’d be able to get an extra five pastries, if I ordered a minimum of 25 pieces.

So, what does GLAZE Dessert Bar make? They lovingly craft Polish pastries called “faworki,” otherwise known as angel wings. Upon reviewing their website and the flavours available, I was sold. With my mom’s birthday coming up, I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to support this local company. I sent an email off with all of the details: date the order was required (they ask for a minimum two week window, but they can possibly accommodate shorter time frames, if you ask), pick up or delivery, number of pastries, and the flavours.

Twisted ribbons of dough form the basis of the “faworki.”

Within a couple of days, I received a confirmation back as well as an invoice. Pre-orders of 100 angel wings is $95, 36 is $35, and 25 is $25. Anything over the 100 piece threshold would be $0.85 each. I had selected a smaller order of 25 plus the 5 bonus pastries. The total was an even $25, which I could either pay by cash upon pick up or through e-Transfer in advance. I opted for the latter.

In my case, the owner, Sabina, put everything together with just over a week’s notice. On the Sunday morning I needed them, Kirk and I drove to the Crystallina area in the far north end of the city to grab the order. It is a home business that runs out of a townhouse. I rang the bell and Sabina came to the door with a giant pizza box. The transaction was very quick and we were back on the road within minutes.

My giant pizza box full of angel wings!

When we returned to our condo, I whipped open the box to snap some photos. Kirk walked by me and he exclaimed that there were so many angel wings! I stopped for a second to take a closer look. Sure enough, there was an extra 50 per cent added to the package. At first, I thought that I may have been given the wrong order. But, upon inspection, all of the flavours were what I had selected. I quickly messaged Sabina to thank her for the generosity. She explained that, since the pastries are all handmade, they’re not always even in size, so to make up for any discrepancies, they toss more in. I certainly wasn’t going to complain about that logic.

Packed a box of these treats for my mom’s birthday.

I packed a box of about twenty for my mom’s dinner get together that evening, and I took some to the office the next day to share with my co-workers. Still, Kirk and I had over a dozen left to snack on at home.

When I initially tried one of the angel wings, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what they reminded me of. Kirk said they were like a churro, and I agreed. However, the more I ate them, the more I decided that they’re probably closer to a beaver tail or an elephant ear, typically found at street festivals. The Classic 5-inch fresh fried ribbons of dough sprinkled with icing sugar were most reminiscent of those treats. The others, all glazed with different flavours — maple, matcha, vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate — were like a mix between those fried dough goodies and a doughnut.

In all honesty though, the GLAZE Dessert Bar angel wings were a little inconsistent between pieces. Some were perfect in texture and easy to bite apart. The glazes were sweet, but not too sugary, and the toppings were fun. On the other hand, a few were a little too thin and, therefore, crispy. A batch of them were also quite chewy, giving our jaws quite the workout. I’m assuming that, with the chewier ones, they were likely fried a little too long. I’m not entirely sure though. Either way, it was a bit of a Russian roulette even though we ended up devouring each and every one in the long run. If you do choose to order any of these pastries, I highly recommend that they all be eaten within three days. They can hold up longer (we refrigerated ours), but they’re best when consumed earlier.

Despite our mixed reviews with the “faworki,” I am glad that I took a chance on GLAZE Dessert Bar. I really do want to be a cheerleader for Edmonton entrepreneurs because starting a business isn’t an easy thing. Sabina is really following her heart and her dream. GLAZE Dessert Bar is super new (introduced to markets maybe around the end of October 2018), so I think that things can only go up from here, especially if they listen to any and all feedback.