Edmonton Restaurant Review: Ampersand 27

A portion of the & 27 menu.

A portion of the & 27 menu.

Ampersand 27 (@ampersand27yeg), one of Whyte Avenue’s newest culinary adventures, opened at the end of 2014 under the watchful eye of Chef Nathin Bye. His work with restaurants such as Wildflower Grill already raised the bar for food in this city, so it was only natural that we come to expect even more from his own venture.

Taking over the spot previously occupied by Murrieta’s, the space has been transformed into something more open, inviting and adventurous. Filled with curved lines, warm colours and the bask of glow from hundreds of twinkling lights, the eatery looks beautifully modern and high class while maintaining a casual sense of atmosphere.

Having made a reservation through OpenTable, we were guided to our table right after we were greeted at the door. Seated in a quiet corner of the dining room I was able to observe the rest of the room. Two long tables sandwiched by bench seating (not really the most comfortable) were surrounded by numerous tables for four, which are perfect for reconfiguring for additional large groups. Next to our table there were doors, which I assume lead into a more private space for special occasions. I’m unsure as to why I felt this way, but there’s something that seems special about this place.

As I took it all in, I started to work my way through the menu. Drinks first, I noticed that they have a well-rounded list of cocktails, beers and wine. In fact, the number of beverages available likely surpasses the food choices. But, I’m okay with that. I often find that restaurants that have more focused menus tend to do a better job with their dishes.

The majority of the food items available for dinner are meant to be split with your dining companions. Broken down into share plates, build-your-own charcuterie boards, larger provisions and flatbreads, many of the options sound tasty. It comes across as a natural decision to divide the dishes amongst the group rather than hoard something to yourself because doing so means getting to sample a variety of things, which is what I often prefer to do since it allows for better and truer reviews.

On this particular evening, we chose three dishes: seared albacore tuna, maple butter pork belly and the forest floor flatbread.

Seared Albacore Tuna

Seared Albacore Tuna

I usually find it hard to pass up seared fresh tuna and I’m glad that we didn’t here. The fish was cooked perfectly with just the outer edges having been seared and the middle still a gorgeous pink colour. The dish was pleasantly light and healthy by plating the tuna with pickled hearts of palm, citrus, seaweed and cashew puree. The hearts of palm reminded me of artichoke with a bit more crunch, the citrus created a refreshing balance, the seaweed provided additional texture and salt, and the cashew puree gave it an subtly nutty quality. Essentially, this was the perfect start to our meal, one that would leave room for what was to come.

Maple Butter Pork Belly

Maple Butter Pork Belly

Personally, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with pork belly. The gummy mouthfeel of the thick layer of fat that so often accompanies this meat has always put me off, but I do enjoy a well made pork dish, so I was willing to chance it. Thankfully, the maple butter pork belly was excellent. Arriving at the table like a work of art, the maple glazed pork belly was just right. Sitting atop a bed of southwestern mesquite corn, baked beans, green peas and fritters like a crown, the fat from the meat acted like butter, simply melting away when eaten.

The Forest Floor Flatbread

The Forest Floor Flatbread

Our last selection for the base of our meal was the forest floor flatbread, which is essentially a thin crust pizza. While the dough was too crisp for my taste, the foraged mushrooms, house made ricotta, truffle and arugula combined to make a delightfully earthy dish that is vegetarian friendly. I particularly loved the cheese.

It appears that no dinner outing is complete without dessert and because they have their own pastry chef (Tim Androschuk), we each opted for our own (sampling the other, of course). My friend’s doughnut was decidedly smaller than expected, but it was quite dense and rich, so it seemed like enough to satisfy the dessert craving. A cocoa orange cake doughnut with Grand Marnier glaze topped with walnuts and served with a side jar of cranberry preserve, it had many layers of flavour. I went for the red velvet. Deconstructed and artfully plated to include pieces of red velvet sponge cake (much airier), strawberry textures (meringues, strawberry pieces, fruit leather), rhubarb rose puree and whipped cream cheese, this was like my idea of dessert heaven. There were so many different things happening, but I could see that it was one cohesive dish where everything was fantastic on its own, but also came together in a wonderful marriage.

Other than the stellar food, one of my favourite things about the restaurant was the professional and knowledgeable service. The staff all seemed to know their stuff when it came to the menu. They were attentive throughout the night, and often times the chef or management would do a round to make sure every guest had their needs met.

It’s that attention to detail in all that they do that will continue to make Ampersand 27 feel like a special place to dine.

For a more in-depth look at this establishment’s involvement in the local community and its efforts towards sustainability visit The Local Good to read my profile of Ampersand 27.

Edmonton Bakers Make Life Brighter

Joint Photo

Left: Tiramisu cupcakes from Beyond The Bowl Baking
Right: Lemon cupcakes from Cupcakes by Courtney

I’ve been fighting a cold these last seven days. And it’s starting to take its toll, especially because it’s a week before I leave for a trip to see The Rolling Stones. I don’t want to be sick during my holiday, so I’m doing my best to get rid of it, but without the help of meds. I’m drinking plenty of fluids and rinsing with Listerine. However, it’s persisting and maybe it’s because my busy schedule isn’t really allowing me the rest or sleep I should be striving for. Sometimes settling down for a bit and having a nap is a good thing for us. While I know this probably won’t happen today, I wish I could sit on the couch and just veg out with a plate of cupcakes and some movies or a book. That, for me, would be a day of heaven.

Cupcakes really help to brighten my day and I’m certain that others feel the same way. I count myself as a connoisseur of the delightful treats, and in my home city of Edmonton, Alberta I have tried the majority of the cupcake shops in town (thank you Groupon and all the other deal sites for contributing to any weight I may or may not have gained over the last few years). Some of the shops I’ve bought from have been great and others could certainly use improvements.

Yet I’m currently counting myself lucky because I now not only know just one, but two bakers who have ventured into the world of cupcake creations over the last year! I share them with you in the hopes that you will find the perfect dessert for your upcoming celebrations or your own personal indulgences.

Both ladies bake part-time outside of their full-time jobs, so if you would like to order anything from them, a few days notice would be great.

Cupcakes by Courtney is the first.

Courtney

Courtney of Cupcakes by Courtney

Courtney really started baking for others last fall with a few trusty recipes including Red Velvet and Irish Car Bombs and has been experimenting with new flavours ever since. She is a fellow bridesmaid in our friend’s wedding this coming August and will be providing peacock themed cupcakes for the reception in place of a traditional cake. We did a tasting one evening and the chocolate cake with whisky chocolate ganache filling and white chocolate cream cheese icing was the winner! Other delicious sounding flavours include:

Cinnamon-Sugar

Cinnamon sugar cupcakes

Coconut cupcakes

Coconut cupcakes

Grapefruit Chiffon with Grapefruit Cream Cheese Icing

Grapefruit cupcakes with grapefruit cream cheese icing

Triple Chocolate with Jack Daniel's Whiskey Ganache Filling and White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

Triple chocolate cupcakes with JD’s whiskey ganache filling and white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream icing

Red Velvet and Lemon Cake Pops

Mix of red velvet and lemom cake pops

Courtney also makes beautiful cake pops for those who prefer a sweet in a bite-sized package. I believe she can also do some cakes sugar or butter free. Please inquire with her for specifics.

Additional information can be found on her Facebook page by clicking the link above her image. You may also contact Courtney by e-mail at courtneys355@hotmail.com or phone her at 780-288-5249.

The second is Beyond the Bowl Baking.

Bev

Bev of Beyond the Bowl Baking

I’ve worked with Bev for a few years now. She heads the United Way committee at our office and as a group we’ve been holding bake sales annually in which Bev’s cakes are the undisputed star. They get snapped up within minutes of the table opening, so it just makes sense for Bev to bring her baking prowess to the masses. She’s worked hard to expand her recipes for her launch this April and I have been lucky to be one of her few product taste testers. I will tell you that, without a doubt, you will not be disappointed.

A new flavour seems to come out every week or so (like the fairy godmother of baked goods I probably gain a pound just smelling one, but it’s worth it – just eat healthy the rest of the week!) and each one becomes my new favourite.

Bev’s uniquely filled cupcakes are moist, deliciously flavourful and topped with the perfect amount of frosting. Here are some samples of what she’s got on her order form right now (the list is growing!):

Chocolate Raspberry

Chocolate cupcake with raspberry cream cheese frosting

Peaches Supreme

Peaches Supreme cupcake

Root Beer

Root Beer cupcakes – these are amazing if you love this soft drink

Cinnamon Bun Cupcake

Cinnamon bun cupcake

Mango Coconut topped with Mango-Coconut Rum Frosting and Dried Mango

Mango coconut cupcakes topped with mango coconut rum frosting and dried mango

Chocolate Infused with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting topped with Chocolate Shards and Bubble Sugar

Chocolate infused cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting topped with chocolate and bubble sugar shards

Bev also makes some slab cakes. I would highly recommend her pumpkin cake (my personal favourite) and her Guiness gingerbread ones.

Her order form includes pricing: BtBB 2013. If you would like to place an order, please fill it out and e-mail to Bev at beyondthebowlbaking@gmail.com. You may also click on the link above her photo to view her Facebook page.

I hope that these cupcakes bring happiness to your best days and perhaps even your worst. People always ask me why I love these single serving desserts (I was probably obsessed with trying every one I could get my hands on for a time) and I think it’s because they bring a little sunshine into my life. And, I believe that’s something that the world can use more of.

Photo sources: Cupcakes by Courtney images were all borrowed from her Facebook page and taken by her husband, Pat. Solo cupcakes from Beyond the Bowl Baking were snapped by me. All other images of cupcakes from Beyond the Bowl Baking came from Bev’s Facebook page.