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!

Spring/Summer Wardrobe Mix and Match

It’s been a long winter in my city, and while April didn’t exactly bring any showers, I am wishing for May flowers. With spring comes the shedding of winter clothing – no more tights underneath pants, layered sweaters, heavy down or wool coats and shearling lined boots. Bring on the dresses, tank tops, peep-toe shoes and sandals because I’m ready for what’s sure to be too short of a spring/summer season.

Now, I can’t really afford to purchase a brand new wardrobe every few months (perhaps one day I’ll have a closet like Carrie in Sex and the City and lottery winnings to do so). However, I have nonetheless found inspiration for looks that I’d like to try this year. I’ve talked about using H&M’s dressing room feature in a previous post before and I’m going to use it again to show you some of the looks I’ve put together for the next few months.

Look #12

Look #10

Look #35

Look #13

Look #32

Look #23

Look #30

Look #26

Though shops like H&M, Forever 21 and numerous other budget clothing stores gear towards quick trends, I don’t necessarily believe in following them. I think you should wear what looks good on your body and what makes you feel confident. If something grabs your attention, try it on. You might be surprised at how good it looks on you. My one tip: be polished, but don’t forget to have a little fun with some colours and patterns, even if it’s subtle.

I myself am a bit of a hoarder with my clothes. I have items that have lasted me from high school to university and, now, six years and counting from graduating with my bachelor’s degree. What I’ve learned over the years about fashion is that everything is cyclical and almost anything can be reworked down the road. As long as it still fits you well and it’s in good condition and you have the space, keep it. I’m sure with a little digging in my own closet, I’ll be able to piece together similar styles to the ones shown. The different combinations will feel like a completely fresh warm weather wardrobe without having to spend a fortune on anything new.

All that’s left is hoping that the sunshine comes out to play and that the wind eventually dies down, so that we can truly enjoy this time of year that always seems to fly by too quickly for our liking.

Photo sources: All outfit combinations were created by me on H&M.com’s dressing room feature.

Lighten Your Load: Learning to Travel Compactly Through the Seasons

Heys 21″ Peacock Hardcase Luggage

I’ve once again gotten the travel bug. I used to fly away for leisure a few times annually, but in the last few years I’ve been lucky to have the time to take one trip per year. 2012 seems almost an anomaly having been to both Las Vegas and Toronto. Now, I’m anticipating my next holiday, whenever and wherever that may be. What strikes me everytime I’ve traveled with friends or whenever I visit anyone is that they always seem surprised to see how little I pack. I likewise am surprised when I look at their giant suitcases. Why carry such a large piece of luggage when all the things that are necessary can fit into carry-on sized baggage?

The explanations I’ve been given for packing heavy are 1) sometimes you don’t feel like wearing something you’ve packed and options are good, 2) you can never have enough shoes, and 3) you can never be too prepared. My reply is that if you pack properly and think about how you will pair pieces together, 1) it simplifies your days while you’re away from home, 2) you know you’ll look good if you stick to what you brought, and 3) you can pack a small suitcase for a week and still have room to bring a few things home.

In actuality, my obsession with packing compactly started five years ago after I returned home from a six week European bus tour. Being gone for that amount of time I undoubtly took a large suitcase with me. That was proabably a mistake. There is a reason why people go backpacking. Aside from it being a lot less expensive, it guarantees a lighter load. I learned then and there that I never wanted to drag around something so large again. Therefore, no matter where my trips have taken me, my suitcase is now always 21″ or less in size.

It’s come down to a bit of a science. Only the basics for makeup come with me and all other toiletries are travel size. For the days I’ll be on the plane, I wear leggings and a top or a dress with flat sandals or shoes. I avoid wearing metal entirely to help get me through security faster. I usually have a jacket or a sweater in my bag in case it gets cold on the plane or the weather is a bit chilly when I land.

I have a general plan for my outfits before I pack. The pieces I bring can usually be mixed and matched, so I don’t feel like I’m without any choices. Items that are interchangeable, layerable and able to be accessorized are absolutely necessary. Pick clothing that resists wrinkling and is comfortable. Comfort does not mean dressing like you’re heading to the gym though.

The key is to bring a pair of walking shoes – optimally cute ballet flats or strappy sandals that you know won’t hurt your feet – to wear while you tour around during the day and a second pair of dressier heels for nights out on the town. Both should be in a metallic or neutral shade to make it easy to match all of your looks. The second thing is to pick a neutrally colored jacket or coat. Thirdly, choose clothes that can be dressed up or down depending on how you put things together. A great pair of jeans can be worn out to dinner, dancing, a concert or a show when matched with a sequin top. By the same token, a dress that might typically be meant for more formal occassions can be dressed down by wearing a pair of casual flats and a leather jacket. The fourth thing is to color coordinate everything. Your shoes and clothes should be able to be intermixed as if you were at home with your full closet. Bring seven different outfits to give you at minimum seven days worth of clothes. If you are traveling for longer, those pieces should be able to be switched around to create alternate looks.

You can be comfortable without sacrificing style on holiday. Afterall, every city is a new place to show off your personal fashion sense.

With the help of Polyvore I’ve compiled packing blueprints to help you prepare for your next trip. I’ve created each set of suitcase essentials based on the seasons, so that you have a general idea of what to bring depending on the time of year and where you’ll be going. There’s also a special beach/hot weather blueprint for those who are heading to Las Vegas, Hawaii or any other all-inclusive destinations.

Update: My friend has made it known to me that I did not think (I did, but decided to ignore it initially) about the fact that some people have to bring their hair dryers, diffusers, curling irons and hair products with them when they travel. My first thought is that if you’re staying with a friend or at a hotel, check to see if they have those items and if they’ll let you borrow them while you’re there. Those items take up room and increase the weight of your luggage. If it’s not entirely necessary just think twice about it first. If you absolutely must bring those items along, make sure you take a medium sized overnight bag with you as carry-on. I usually stuff my purse into it and pack slippers and a change of clothes and my jacket or sweater, so that I only have to carry the one piece. By putting those items into an extra bag, that frees up space in your main luggage (check-in or not) for more of your hair and product essentials.

Spring

Summer

Fall

Winter

Beach

Do you have any packing tips? I’d love to hear your ideas. Please share in the comments section below.