SABOR Restaurant’s 3rd Annual Seafood Festival

Portuguese Surf & Turf

Portuguese Surf & Turf

After writing a profile about SABOR Restaurant for the Local Good, I was invited to attend the launch dinner for their 3rd Annual Seafood Festival. Taking place on Tuesday evening, I had the pleasure of experiencing just some of the offerings on this year’s menu.

Designed in a partnership between Chef Lino Oliveira of SABOR and Chef Jan Hansen of Hotel Arts in Calgary, the menu showcases a variety of dishes crafted using seafood approved by Ocean Wise. Served up family-style, guests sampled a range of plates including sardina escalivada, gambas al ajillo, scallop & limpet ceviche, heirloom tomato & queijo fresco montadito (the only one served without seafood was essentially a bruschetta on toasted bread) and amêijoas á bulhão pato.

The latter is a fancy name for clams steamed in white wine, garlic and cilantro. I usually can’t eat food cooked with cilantro as the herb is not a friend to my taste buds. Yet, somehow, I loved these. Maybe the broth helped to wash away the larger pieces of cilantro leaving me with the white wine and garlic reduction. All I know is that the ingredients were relatively simple, but the flavour truly popped.

The sardina escalivada surprised me. I don’t usually eat sardines as I find them to be too fishy and/or salty, but these were wonderfully seasoned and paired well with a bed of eggplant.

Gambas al Ajillo

Gambas al Ajillo

However, my favourite starter of the night had to be the gambas al ajillo, which are jumbo shrimp complete with shell and head prepared using wine and garlic. We hand peeled them open to reveal delicious meat and, as Lino instructed us, we sucked all of the juice out of those heads. Manners aside, everyone seated at the two long tables took to the scampi with gusto!

Croquetas de Bacalao

Croquetas de Bacalao

Appetizers were followed by Jan’s croquetas de bacalao, a dish of lingcod potato fritters with a spicy hot piri piri aioli. Some thought that the spice was a bit strong, but I quite liked it. I found that the heat started strong to give the dish a kick, yet it dissipated quickly enough so as not to overwhelm my palate.

The stars of the evening were absolutely the two main courses though.

Our first was the caldeirada de peixe, consisting of thick cuts of supple sablefish with seared skin still on and full lobster tails bathed in a savoury saffron-lobster broth. I found that the skin of the sablefish wasn’t crisp enough for me to enjoy the texture, but the mouthfeel of the actual meat was great. It fell apart in perfect pieces and the fish really soaked up the broth. As for the lobster, it’s not often that I get to eat it, so it was a real delight to have some that was so perfectly prepared.

Somehow I plated my Portuguese surf and turf perfectly.

Somehow I plated my Portuguese surf and turf perfectly.

Our last entrée was Jan’s take on Portuguese surf and turf. Chorizo-stuffed Alberta lamb rump was matched with a smoked paprika charred octopus. Both were served over a bed of migas – black kale, pine nuts and white navy beans – that provided a light citrus taste. Personally, I would have preferred the black kale to be less wilted, but I will admit that the more I ate it, the more I enjoyed it. The lamb was so tender that it didn’t need to be cut with a knife, and the curled octopus tentacle was fantastically charred just enough to give it that smoky, spiced flavor without overpowering the meat.

Caramel flan for dessert.

Caramel flan for dessert.

Although SABOR was promoting their Seafood Festival, they did not find a way to incorporate seafood into dessert (is that even a possibility?). Instead, they offered up a light and creamy caramel flan with almonds, walnuts and fresh raspberries, which is quite fitting for a restaurant that is known for working with Iberian, Mediterranean and Portuguese cuisines.

Guests during the preview event were also dazzled by the musical stylings of co-owner Christian Mena, who showed off his strong pipes by serenading us with a couple of songs. Having heard that Christian used to be a member of local band Maracujah and that he once toured with Neil Patrick Harris in the Broadway musical Rent, it wasn’t necessarily a shock to hear how good he was. Rather, it was a real treat for everyone there.

Chef Jan Hansen of Hotel Arts and Chef Lino Oliveira of SABOR.

Chef Jan Hansen of Hotel Arts and Chef Lino Oliveira of SABOR.

SABOR’s Seafood Festival runs through the month of August, and I’d highly recommend it. This is the ideal place to unwind with friends and/or family. The restaurant has a warm and welcoming atmosphere and the food has always been superb. Plus, be sure to visit from Wednesday to Saturday when they have live music. Perhaps you’ll even catch Christian at the mike. No matter what, if you’re a seafood fan, you won’t be disappointed.

Read more about SABOR in my original review

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Downtown Dining Week, Why Not YEG Restaurant Week?

The Downtown Business Association (DBA) is celebrating the end of, what I suspect was, another successful run of Downtown Dining Week (DTDW) in Edmonton, Alberta. For the eleventh year in a row, they have brought diners out to try menus from 30 different restaurants located in the city’s core. Over a period of ten days, people were able to sample a variety of menus that included $15 lunches as well as $25 or $50 dinners.

An ad for Downtown Dining Week that I pulled from the Edmonton Journal website.

An ad for Downtown Dining Week that I pulled from the Edmonton Journal website.

Being that I work in the area, I took every chance I had to eat at as many places as I could over the 10-day period. It only amounted to five meals for me, but, personally, I couldn’t imagine having such rich meals for both lunch and supper every day in such a short amount of time anyway. I especially savoured the opportunity to visit restaurants that have a reputation for great food, but that I may not typically go to on a whim because of the prices, which meant I ventured over to the Hardware Grill, Madison’s Grill, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Sorrentino’s Downtown and Normand’s Bistro. All of them did an excellent job of helping us to watch our wallets while delivering top-notch food, even when the dish was as simple as a pulled pork sandwich.

Although, in my opinion, a few establishments should have worked a bit harder to entice people; they could have ventured away from their regular dishes to experiment with something new, or refrained from picking the least expensive plates from their usual selection of fare (if it costs the same to dine with them during DTDW as it does on any other night, it means it isn’t really “specialty-priced” as per the description on the DBA site) as part of the attraction of the event is that it provides deals where they aren’t typically found, making it a lot more affordable. Regardless, the majority of the DTDW menus had variety, giving you the choice of more than one item per course that ranged from salads and sandwiches to hearty pork and steak dishes or fish to pastas. Every lunch consisted of two courses and each dinner had at least three (appetizer, entrée and dessert).

The Downtown Dining Week menu at Madison's Grill, along with their regular menu.

The Downtown Dining Week menu at Madison’s Grill, along with their regular menu.

Now, my qualm with DTDW is that it continues to remain the same size. The food festival, if you will, hasn’t really expanded year after year. In fact, it may have even shrunk slightly in terms of the number of restaurants participating. Some of the same restaurants come back annually, others are replaced with new ones (the Confederation Lounge, Tavern 1903, Normand’s Bistro, The Burg, De Dutch (see previous review) and Fionn MacCool’s are the latest additions). I like that there are repeats because, if I didn’t have a chance to go to one the previous year, maybe I’ll be able to visit the next time. However, I would love it if the list of new places partaking got bigger every March.

To me, Edmonton is a city with a burgeoning food scene that deserves to be showcased. More and more chefs and entrepreneurs seem to be taking the leap and succeeding at making Alberta’s capital first-rate in terms of the availability and assortment of quality places to dine out. In my mind, DTDW should be growing, not just sustaining. I picture it being at least as large as Calgary’s The Big Taste, which is citywide and has more than 70 “Revolutioneateries” getting involved over ten days. Ideally, it would become similar to NYC Restaurant Week, lasting about three weeks (sometimes extended) and runs both in the winter and summer seasons.

Of course, this might be wishful thinking on my part. I can only speculate as to the difficulty of putting something like this together. I’m sure the DBA has attempted to increase the number of establishments taking part in DTDW. I asked my friend who works for the urban planning office with the City of Edmonton what streets constitute the downtown area and while she wasn’t able to answer me right away, I did Wikipedia it. According to the information logged on the wiki, downtown Edmonton is bounded by 109 Street, 105 Avenue, 97 Street and 97 Avenue. If that’s the case, the DBA has stuck within the appropriate grid. Yet, some consider surrounding communities like Oliver to the west to also be part of downtown. That would include everything from 109 Street up to 124 Street from Jasper Avenue to 105 Avenue. Can you visualize how amazing DTDW would be for all you foodies out there if that area were included?

More delicious food like this dish from Hardware Grill - Fresh Burrata Mozzarella!

More delicious food like this dish from Hardware Grill – Fresh Burrata Mozzarella!

Dishcrawl, an online community of culinary enthusiasts, with a branch in Edmonton has organized events focused around various parts of the city, 124th Street being one of them. I attended a crawl where we walked door-to-door between eight establishments tasting samples and drinks, but not full-out meals. I think that those restaurants, having participated in Dishcrawl’s Neighbourfood event, would be highly interested in adding their names to a dining week list (I could be wrong; I don’t know how it ultimately affects the costs and revenues for the restaurants, but the publicity that may lead to repeat business is a big positive for them, I would think).

Would that mean the DBA would still be the sole host of Dining Week in that type of incarnation? Maybe not. It would likely mean several separate dining weeks spread out throughout the year, or more hands in the pot with a joint event put on by the DBA and the 124 Street Business Association (really, any number of other groups that are willing to take part) to make this something that brings the Edmonton restaurant community and food lovers together.

It’s all about providing extra exposure to those that participate, no matter where they are located, and expanding the dining week (or month!) theme so that Edmontonians can truly appreciate the diversity of amazing food that exists in this city while, hopefully, finding some new favourites. That’s the goal I see!

10 Things I Learned At E-Town Festival

The masters program that I just completed has lured me into many things. Blogging, tweeting, an addiction to TED Talks to name a few. This September, it opened my eyes to one more thing: E-Town Festival.

This was the inaugural year of the event and, unbeknownst to me, the intention of the festival was to bring together entrepreneurs and allow them to exchange ideas on a larger scale. I was lucky to attend on a student rate and one look at the list of speakers was all the convincing I needed to go. The event was put together within a six month period and I have to say that they really went above and beyond.

Keynote speakers for the first year of what I hope will continue to be an annual occurrence for a long time to come included Bruce Croxon, David Usher, Chris Hadfield, John Herdman, Guy Kawasaki and Tiffany Shlain. All six of these guests were engaging, interesting, inspiring people who, most of all, seemed very down-to-earth.

What I would like to share here are 10 things I learned as an attendee of E-Town Festival. There were many more, but I could probably fill a book.

#1 – Chris Hadfield – Take care of your body, learn all the time and set a goal. In this YouTube video he addresses an attendee’s 10-year-old son.

These three pieces of advice from Colonel Chris Hadfield are things we are all likely aware of already. However, when a bonafide astronaut tells you that these are the things you need to do to succeed in life, you listen harder.

It’s true that if you don’t have a healthy body, you probably won’t live long enough to fulfill all your dreams. I want to experience a long life well lived where I will be able to achieve my goals. So, now I’m reminding myself to take care of my body and I’ll pass this on to you as well.

The second piece of advice was to learn all the time. Chris Hadfield said that if someone is willing to teach you something for free, learn it. He also said that everyone you meet knows something you don’t, even a three-year-old. Be open to reading a book, watching a documentary, going to a lecture, viewing art at the gallery; whatever you’re interested in, aim to learn all you can about it.

The third piece of advice is important, but personally I’ve always found it to be a difficult task to set a goal, especially long term ones. I feel like it is very hard for me to define what it is I’m aiming for. I think it is because I don’t really know what I want yet. Mainly that applies to my career. I’ve worked in advertising as a coordinator, researcher, sales planner and online administrator over the last six years. It has provided me with a lot of experience. Coupled with the Masters of Arts in Communications and Technology degree I’ve just finished, I’m looking to change my path. But where do I want to go? I enjoy blogging and the more I learn about and use various social media I’m inclined to look for something that fits in there.

#2 – Guy Kawasaki – Say what you need to in 10 points – people know how long it’s going to take. Hence the title of this post.

Guy Kawasaki once worked for Steve Jobs as chief evangelist at Apple. He could have run Yahoo!. And he is now the special advisor to the Motorola unit of Google. He is also a bestselling author. Needless to say, he has accomplished many things in his life.

Unlike Guy, the fact that I’m using 10 points in this post does not guarantee that I will be very succinct. However, as he stated, if you have 10 points and it’s interesting and entertaining, it’s okay. If you have 10 points, but it’s boring, it’s not okay. Hopefully I fall within the former category.

#3 – Tiffany Shlain – Being online all the time isn’t good for you, so take a break from the Internet and electronics once a week.

Tiffany Shlain is an inspiring cloud filmmaker and it was very interesting to hear her speak about what was important to her. Every week she takes one full day off from all things digital.

I think we are starting to see the tide turn and people are more inclined to step back from the world of the virtual and the screen. We’re too invested in this vast expanse of code that is emitted through our LCD or LED monitors and it’s starting to take its toll on us. Our eyes and brains literally hurt from staring at computers, phones and TVs constantly. It’s not healthy. This thought also ties back to Chris Hadfield’s advice. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to rediscover the world around us. Whether you play a board game, go for a walk outside, read a book, work on a DIY project or meet with friends, everyone needs to separate themselves from technology once in a while.

#4 – David Usher – Everyone is creative, but in different ways. Creative vision is important, but execution will deliver you.

I’ve been a David Usher fan for a long time. In fact, since I was in elementary school and he was still in the band Moist (they’ve reunited for a tour and perhaps new music!). His presentation blew me away because not only is he a musician, but he runs a company called CloudID Creativity Labs that pulls collaborators together to develop new ideas and projects. Additionally, David sits on the Institute for the Public Life of Art and Ideas advisory board at McGill University and is a co-founder of the Connexion Creativity Conference. From time-to-time the Huffington Post also utilizes his writing skills for a column on innovation. This tells me that David Usher follows what he says because, in order to do all of this, he must have excellent execution when it comes to his work.

His creativity was impressive. He and his guitarist John demonstrated their new musical experiment at the festival. They took a heart monitor and hooked it up to an audience member’s finger. Her heartbeat acted as percussion for their music. It was incredible. They showed us that our bodies truly can be used as instruments.

While I’m not a musically creative person, I’ve been an artist of sorts since I was a little girl. I loved to draw, paint, design and sew. I still enjoy those activities, but the time I spend on those things is few and far between, so I feel like I have to rediscover that passion in the arts again. At the end of August I exclaimed on Facebook that I was graduating from my Masters program and I asked my friends what I should do with my new found free time. My cousin suggested I help him write a screenplay. About what I do not know, but I’m inclined to say yes. Maybe that will be where my creativity lies.

#5 – John Herdman – Passion will take you places. Also, the lines of the Canadian National anthem are a great way to live your life by.

John Herdman is the coach that took the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  Under his leadership the team rose to the occasion, representing Canada very well by showcasing an unbeatable spirit that took the country by storm. His passion is what pulled the players from the negativity that they had wallowed in prior to him taking over as their coach. He iterated that our national anthem was their model for success. “The True North strong and free” meant knowing what your true north is and letting it guide you in the right direction. Whether that be literal or figurative, it’s important to recognize where you’re heading. “We stand on guard for thee” for the team was their promise to our nation. On a personal level this should be a promise to yourself to live life by your values and morals.

#6 – Bruce Croxon – Success comes from organizational development, values and vision. Don’t compromise on your core values and don’t get stuck in the day-to-day muck because you’ll lose the overall vision.

Working for a company that has seen many ups and downs over the last several years, I can certainly see why Bruce Croxon, co-founder of Lavalife and current dragon on CBC’s The Dragons’ Den, thinks that organizational development is so important. Just because the company is experiencing hardships, it should not mean that the development of employees and the organization, as a whole, should be forgotten. Employers need to demonstrate that there is a reason why the employees they have are still here and show them that their skills are important to where the organization is intending to go. When a company doesn’t provide a nurturing culture that is when staff get stuck in the day-to-day muck that Bruce Croxon talks about and that’s when everyone loses the overall vision and they start to jump ship. People have a tendency to focus on the negatives in life, but we have to look past the little nuisances and keep the positive picture of the future in view.

#7 – Bruce Croxon – Don’t work with arrogant people. You need someone who’s willing to accept other people’s ideas and sometimes admit that their idea might not be the best one.

We’ve all met arrogant people at some point in our lives. They’re usually the loudest ones in the room, which often means their ideas are the ones used, but it might not be because they’re the best or right, it’s simply because no one wants to deal with listening to them anymore. So, if you can avoid them, do yourself a favour and choose not to surround yourself with those kinds of people. This is similar advice to something else Guy Kawasaki said about avoiding bozos.

#8 – I’m not an entrepreneur, but I felt like I learned so much going to this festival. It was inspiring and thought provoking. I’m glad I took a chance. Attendees were welcoming and ready to meet, mingle and discuss.

My advice for entrepreneurs as written on the button I created.

My advice for entrepreneurs as written on the button I created.

#9 – No idea is too silly or stupid.

I lean towards creative thinkers, so more people like David Usher or Tiffany Shlain would be great to see at future events. Chris Hadfield as the man of the moment was such a fantastic get. To me, the theme I think I saw running through the E-Town Festival this year was “dreamers.” Entrepreneurs have to be dreamers because they have to picture what their vision is and bring it to life. And you cannot be a dreamer by putting down ideas that others may deem to be silly or stupid. Sometimes those ideas are actually brilliant.

#10 – There’s probably someone out there who is wondering or thinking the same thing as you.

All of the sponsors were given a chance to pose one question each to the attendees of the festival. The questions were posted and we were tasked with providing answers. I always tried to answer first and then read what others said and, surprisingly enough, many people came up with similar responses. It’s not to say that we didn’t have original thoughts because what we added may be something the sponsor never considered before, but it was interesting to see how many others could see the same potential.

Various answers to a question posed by the City of Edmonton.

Various answers to a question posed by the City of Edmonton.

All-in-all, I had a fantastic time at E-Town Festival this year. Kudos to everyone who played a part in putting this wonderful event together. I think this wrap up video sums it up well (yours truly at the 15 second mark).

I look forward to next year. The bar was set very high in 2013, so bring on the speakers, networking, music and food trucks again!

If you are interested in participating or volunteering, E-Town Festival will take place from September 11-13, 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta.

http://www.e-town.ca/

Be a Friend of the Arts

Poster for the 31st Annual Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival

It’s summer in Edmonton and with that comes what seems to be an endless array of festivals, but my favourite one of the year is the upcoming Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, which runs every August. The inaugural year having taken place in 1982, 2012 marks the 31st anniversary and the biggest one to date. With 1800 performances and 215 shows in 52 venues, this remains the largest theatre festival in North America.

Over the last few years I’ve really grown to love the Fringe. So much so that I have managed to break my record of shows attended each year with a total of 29 in 10 days in 2011. Every week and a half of the festival is a whirlwind of performances. I always forgo reading reviews beforehand, taking a chance on what I see, and I truly have never been disappointed by a show.

These are my favourites from the last two seasons.

2010

The Pumpkin Pie Show – Commencement

A heartwrenching show about the aftermath of a school shooting, the families of the victims and the shooter and the only friend the shooter didn’t even know he had.

 

Wanderlust

A captivating story of a man’s travels through West Africa.

 

Death: LIVE!

Death recalls his top 10 most successful deaths of all-time.

 

2011

6 Guitars

A brilliant solo performance spanning characters, decades and musical genres.

UPDATE: 6 Guitars is back again for the 2012 festival with the “full version” coming in at 90 minutes instead of the 60 minutes of last year’s perfomance. It is showing daily at the Stanley A. Milner Library in downtown Edmonton. Click here to see all the available showtimes.

 

Zack Adams: Love Songs for Future Girl

Dumped by his girlfriend, Zack Adams looks back on his past relationships to see what went wrong and to determine whether or not he’s missed out on his soulmate. Charming and hilarious. This is the only video I could find.

 

Men Telling Stories

Two guys telling us what it’s like to be average men in this world. They say they’re going to be your best friends for 45 minutes and I honestly walked out wishing they really were.

 

I’m not sure if your city has a Fringe Theatre Festival. If they do, I urge you to support the arts and attend a couple shows. These performers put everything they have into entertaining you. Whether it’s funny, sad, heartwarming or haunting, I guarantee that whatever you see will get you thinking, generate conversation and maybe even make a lifetime Fringer out of you. If you don’t have a local Fringe or Theatre Festival, but you love the arts, think about making a trip to the one nearest you in the next year or two or three. And, barring any of that, just visit your local theatre and see what’s being offered. Live theatre is often more creative and original than any movie you would spend your $10-$15 on. It can take you places you’ve never dreamed of and more than likely you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Have you been to a Fringe Festival this year or in the past? What shows have stuck with you? As always, I’d love to hear from you, so please share in the comments below. Shows travel, so you never know. Maybe I’ll have a chance to see what you’ve suggested.

Photo source: CKUA.com