Edmonton Restaurant Review: Upper Crust Cafe

Upper Crust Cafe opened in 1986, just a year after I was born, and has lived up to their initial goal of becoming a popular yet unpretentious place to enjoy a good meal. After 28 years, they are now well-known for their desserts and catering services. However, it’s their knack for making sandwiches using freshly baked in-house molasses or oat bread (other types are available; however, they are not housemade) that made me a fan several years ago.

The interior of Upper Crust Cafe.

The interior of Upper Crust Cafe.

I was dragged there by a friend the very first time I visited. She couldn’t stop telling me about the fantastic sandwiches and potato salad. Never having been much of potato salad lover, I was skeptical. But, upon sitting down at one of their distinctive green-topped tables and biting into a deliciously thick roast beef sandwich that was layered with alfalfa sprouts, tomato, lettuce, cheese, cucumber and house mustard, I was a convert. Not only were the sandwiches filled to the brim with healthy yet tasty ingredients, the included side salad was there to ensure that your stomach would be completely satisfied. I took my friend’s advice and tried the potato salad and, to this day, I find myself getting a hankering for it at times. I think what I love about the salad is that it isn’t overly creamy or eggy, which I tend to find off-putting with other variations. It’s actually been a long while since I’ve eaten an actual meal there and I hope to do so in the near future.

Bringing this back to the present though, my most recent experience there was after a hearty brunch at the Sugarbowl (@sugarbowlcafe) about three months ago. My friends and I wanted to keep chatting and decided that we would walk over to Upper Crust for dessert. Since they had made The Tomato‘s second annual list of best eats and drinks in the city, coming in at No. 78 this year, this presented a good opportunity to hit up another top 100 location.

A slice of the carrot cake.

A slice of the carrot cake.

Walking into the establishment, you are met with the dessert display where every cake, pie and square looks rich and decadent. The three of us perused the choices for probably fifteen minutes, asking what each iced cake was before making our decisions. After we ordered, we made our way to a table by the window. It was rather quiet in there that afternoon, with maybe a handful of tables occupied.

My friends had carrot cake and chocolate cake with raspberry filling, both of which looked delicious. The carrot cake was without raisins, pineapple and nuts as my friend prefers. I didn’t try their slices, so all I am going off of is the appearance of the cakes. They seemed to be quite moist and fairly dense with the perfect amount of icing to go with each piece.

I went with the coconut cupcake. It was touted as the best cupcake in the city by Edmonton Journal (@edmontonjournal) writer Liane Faulder (@EatMyWordsBlog) a few years back when cupcakes were all the rage. Being someone who certainly appreciates the humble dessert, I was intrigued at the time. Despite that, I never did make my way to Upper Crust on a Saturday (the only day they are available) to eat one. That is until now. I have to say that I did like the flavour of the cake and that the icing was topped with shredded coconut; however, I was a little disappointed with the overall texture. I’m not sure if it was just this particular batch, so I can’t be definitive about this, but the cake seemed too solid to the point of being slightly dry and the icing wasn’t as creamy and smooth as I would have liked.

Regardless, we popped in for a quick dessert and ended up staying for around a couple hours because we had so much to discuss. The server was attentive and, though his shift was over before we were ready to go, we never felt rushed. This relaxed atmosphere makes this restaurant a wonderful place – nice and quiet – for an afternoon or evening out with with family or friends.

Writing this review, I now find myself salivating and wanting, very badly, to eat some of their potato salad and a sandwich. I’ll be back soon to quell that craving!

#26ActsofKindness and Beyond

On Dec. 14, a tragedy took place in Newtown, Connecticut at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. A shooter, for reasons unknown, decided to take the life of his mother and then the lives of twenty children and six of their teachers in a rampage that is too hard to fathom. In honour and remembrance of those lost too soon, Ann Curry from NBC News took to twitter on Dec. 16 to ask if others would commit to twenty acts of kindness, one for every child taken. That snowballed into 26 (#26Acts or #26ActsofKindness), 27 and even 28 from those who wanted to take part.

This request came at a time of year when people are often feeling generous, loving and kind towards one another, usually more so than the rest of the year. And, though this holiday season is coming near an end for another year, the goodwill that is so abundant doesn’t need to stop.

I don’t believe what Ann Curry (@AnnCurry) came up with is anything new, but, regardless, the point of her idea is to spread joy in this world rather than hate or hurt, and I think that this is important for all of humanity to adhere to. If each of us can bring just an iota of happiness to one person, maybe that would be the key to preventing such horrible occurrences in the future. This can be a better world if we take the steps to make it so.

In an effort to get you started on your acts of kindness (random or not), which I hope will continue past twenty six, here are a number of small and big things that you can do.

1) Hold the door open for someone.

A simple gesture that is usually appreciated.

2) Donate toys and clothes that are no longer being used to a shelter.

3) Donate non-perishable food items to the food bank.

4) Babysit your friend’s kids, so he/she can have a night off.

It might not be your idea of a great night, but your friend will love you for giving up your day or evening so they can have a bit of a break.

It might not be your idea of a great night, but your friend will love you for giving up your day or evening so they can have a bit of a break.

5) All too often, what others do goes unnoticed. Recognize and acknowledge someone else’s hard work.

6) Donate a bus ride. Edmonton Transit System has a program. Maybe your city does as well.

7) Bake cookies for your co-workers.

My favourite kind of cookies!

My favourite kind of cookies!

8) If you have long hair, consider donating some of it towards wigs for cancer patients.

9) Smile and say good morning to a stranger, co-worker or friend.

10) Help carry someone’s bags.

Kids always want to help. We should emulate them.

Kids always want to help. We should emulate them.

11) Truly listen to people when they’re talking to you. You never know what you’ll learn or how you might be able to help if you don’t take the time to absorb what they’re saying.

12) When a co-worker is swamped with work and you’re not, offer to help them out.

13) #FF (Follow Friday) your Twitter friends.

If you think someone is worth following on Twitter, don't hog them to yourself. Share with others!

If you think someone is worth following on Twitter, don’t hog them to yourself. Share with others! But, make sure to give reasons why they should do so.

14) Clear away shopping carts that are blocking parking spots.

15) Surprise a friend by paying for their lunch, too.

16) Buy coffee for the next person in line.

They'll be glad for the free morning pick-me-up!

They’ll be glad for the free morning pick-me-up!

17) Volunteer at a non-profit agency.

18) Help your parents by picking up their groceries, cleaning their house, doing their yard, etc. Whatever they need and you’re able to do, even if it’s small, will be appreciated.

19) If you’re buying a cart full of groceries and the person behind you only has a few items, let them go first. They’ll be thankful they don’t have to wait so long and it will only keep you for a few more minutes.

Shopping cart

Those with a few items will appreciate your willingness to let them butt in front of you.

20) If you’re done with you shopping cart at the grocery store and someone else needs one, let them have it and your quarter.

21) If a friend is moving, offer to help them pack up their stuff or transport their things.

22) Drop off a care package and some homemade chicken noodle soup for a friend who’s feeling under the weather.

Chicken soup for the soul is always comforting.

Chicken soup for the soul is always comforting.

23) Support local artists by buying, viewing or listening to their work.

24) Give away a gift card you received to someone who needs it more.

25) Sometimes we take people for granted. Thank someone if they do something for you.

We often don't say this enough.

We often don’t say this enough.

26) Leave positive notes in random places for people to find.

27) Donate a party dress for upcoming graduates who may not be able to afford something on their own. There are various projects in many cities. Google to find one near you.

28) Adopt a pet from the local animal shelter.

Improve your emotional well being and provide a home.

Improve your emotional well being and provide a home.

29) Be a snow angel and shovel a neighbours walkway and driveway or clear off their car.

30) Donate blood.

31) Tell someone special how much you care about them.

This is something a lot of people forget to do. Don't leave it until it's too late.

This is something a lot of people forget to do. Don’t leave it until it’s too late.

32) On the road, let someone merge into your lane if they need to.

33) Help someone bag their groceries at self-checkout.

34) Hug a friend.

Getting a hug always makes me feel special and brightens my day!

Getting a hug always makes me feel special and brightens my day!

35) Set aside $1 a day for a year and once you’ve collected the $365 donate it to the charity or agency of your choice.

36) Send a care package to a friend or family member who is far away from home.

37) Light candles in honour of those who have passed.

Each flame is representative of the soul of someone meaningful to you.

Each flame is representative of the soul of someone meaningful to you.

38) If your parking ticket hasn’t expired, pass it onto someone who can still use it.

39) Be a mentor.

40) Help someone wrap gifts, decorate for a party or bake a birthday cake. Or bake a cake for your best friend just because.

I love coconut anything.

I love coconut anything.

41) Be kind to yourself. Sometimes we worry so much about others that we forget to take care of ourselves.

This list is by no means comprehensive. However, I included whatever I was able to think of over the last few days. I tried to come up with a variety of things – some might require a bit of money, but most can be done without. It’s all about the gestures and paying it forward.

If you have other ideas to add, please share them in the comments section below.

Peace and Love,

Crystal

Marrying the Themes of This Blog

Film, meet Fashion. Fashion, meet Food. Food, meet Photography. Photography, meet Film. Let’s all get married. I now pronounce you Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola.

For my first post , I was looking for a way to start off with something that encompassed all four of my main interests. The 2006 film, Marie Antoinette, seems able to fulfill all the aspects I am looking for.

I remember this movie quite distinctly. When it was released in theatres, my friends and I went as a group. As we exited after the show, my friends were initially quiet, eventually stating they found it slow and a little hard to sit through. Overall, it wasn’t what they expected.

While I agreed it was a slow story, I didn’t mind. I appreciated that the film’s slowness probably mirrored what life was like for a privileged aristocrat. Not only did they live a life that was pretty repetitive, but the boredom that Marie Antoinette felt in her marriage comes through in Sofia Coppola’s purposeful directorial style. My appreciation of the overall story was further enhanced by the costumes and imagery throughout the movie. The clothes were detailed and beautiful, and, in my mind, immediately worthy of an Oscar, or at least an Academy Award nomination for costume design. Coppola made sure that the film had such a sumptuous feel to it. Filming the movie at the Palace of Versailles, creating a set filled with feasts for the eyes as well as the stomach (food plays a big role in many scenes) and ensuring extras were decked out in regalia as fine as those worn by the main cast made it special.

In addition, the music used as the soundtrack brought a modern element to the movie. The fact that it was a period piece did not deter Coppola from including new wave and post-punk artists to help bring her vision to an audience. That’s what made the whole production seem fresh and new.

Stills and Photos from Marie Antoinette:

As per the quote, “let them have cake,” often attributed to Marie Antoinette, I leave you with a recipe:

I hope that you enjoyed this post. Please remember, feedback is always welcome!