The ramping-up of festive overindulgence has already commenced for some of us, certainly for those of us that are me. In the midst of the obligatory consumption of ambient foods at the office, the booze-fuelled appetizer face-stuffing at the homes of friends and one big hangover breakfast, I did a surprising amount of dining out last week, mostly in new-ish venues, that I may share tidings of the eating season with you.
A friend in the know led me into Woodwork (10132 – 100 St, woodworkyeg.com), bricks and mortar home of the talents behind the Nomad mobile feast and the Volstead Act, for a soft-launch luncheon. The bright, spacious dining room instantly makes you wish more historic downtown storefronts were converted into modern eating/drinking establishments. I had a beautiful wedge of pork pie in buttery crust with a fancy not-quite-pico de gallo, not-really-relish made from Gull Valley tomatoes, and a just-as-beautiful kale salad with charred cauliflower and farm cheese that made the plate feel like a meal. All the lunch platters were $15 that day, and the house treated us to insane pecan shortcake and smoked dark chocolate truffles for dessert. I look forward to more of Woodwork’s small plates, expertly smoked meats and fancy tipples in 2014 and beyond.
In a 180-degree turn, my next lunch was at Hawkeye’s Too (10048 – 102 St), a downtown fixture since I can’t remember when. At first I was resistant to the idea, but I’m glad I went, as my presiding impression of the place was as that dive bar near the Starlite Room where you can sing karaoke and get sozzled on cheap draft. I wouldn’t say that ambiance has been effaced completely, but the restaurant side seems to have been spiffed up some and was doing brisk lunch trade. I was completely satisfied with my standard issue clubhouse sandwich and fries ($7.95, I think), but my co-diners all had pizzas and were pleased with the quality. They also serve a serious wor wonton soup, teeming with dumplings and veggies and meat and shrimp and noodles—the guy at my table who had it vouched for its medicinal properties. Ask for hot sauce, he added.
I had been looking forward to trying a Bannock Burger (10704 – 124 St, bannockburger.com) since I noticed the sign go up a few months ago. While the perennially up-and-coming 124 Street has perhaps more than its share of notable places to eat, it’s still a bit short on convenient places to eat when you just want to grab a quick bite. A burger joint would go well—it’s just that Bannock Burger still seems to be finding its feet. The novelty of applying the eponymous frybread to burgers, tacos and hot dogs may get people through the door, but some imagination and attention to detail is required to bring them back, especially if a standard burger-side-beverage combo is going to run them in the $15 range. Hopefully innovation will come with time. As it was, the rather plain bison bannock burger with cheese ($9) and iceberg lettuce salad with bannock ($4) didn’t induce any unique new cravings. And they didn’t have any pepper.
Finally, a weekend of festive debauchery necessitated a restorative meal of salad rolls, some beef with vegetables and curried tiger prawns at Hà Phuoương’s Vietnamese Restaurant (9656 – 107 Ave), straight north of the Lucky 97 parking lot. Although painted completely pink inside, including the ceiling tiles, it’s no more nor less fancy than your average noodle house and on par price-wise with other Vietnamese joints I’m prone to frequent. I’ll have to subject it to a Sunday brunch visit for pho before I can give it my unqualified endorsement, but the salad rolls were fat, tasty and cheap ($4.95), the beef—tender and still just the slightest bit rare—and crisp veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, carrots, peppers and onions) were yummy but salty, and the plump prawns were smothered in a creamy, spicy curry sauce that begged to be mopped up with rice after all the prawns and pepper and onion spears were gone. Not a bad way to spend $30, and certainly appealing enough to trigger a return visit. Apparently they do vegan dishes as well, though by the time you read this, you’ll have missed your chance to try their vegan Christmas feast slated for December 17. Find them on Facebook to get wise to upcoming events of that ilk.
While we’re on the subject of yuletide indulgence, I hope we can all take time to remember the Edmontonians who face challenges meeting their nutritional needs and try to devote some portion of our seasonal giving to charities like the Edmonton Christmas Bureau and the Edmonton Food Bank. I’m sure the birthday boy at the centre of our festive frenzy would want it that way.