Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Endings & New Beginnings: Prairie Noodle Shop Pop Up #4

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Edmonton first learned of Prairie Noodle Shop in October of 2014, and the demand for a good bowl of ramen has increased ever since then.

This past Saturday Prairie Noodle Shop hosted their fourth and final pop up at Ernest's, the fine dining restaurant at the NAIT campus. Having a bigger space to host the pop up event meant the team had the ability to serve 150 bowls of ramen - the largest number of bowls to date. Tickets to the event sold out in under five minutes, so if that doesn't tell you Edmonton is ready for ramen, I don't know what does.

As guests were seated at their tables for dinner, Arden Tse, one of the co-founders of Prairie Noodle House, let out some exciting news: a brick and mortar space has been secured and could be open as soon as December 2015. Say goodbye to the anxiety-fuelled, often frustrating attempts to secure tickets for ramen, and say hello to long lineups for a guaranteed bowl. Once all the paperwork is approved and construction starts, the first dedicated ramen shop is coming to Edmonton!

As with the previous three ramen bowls, Prairie Noodle shop brought forth yet another an Albertan-inspired bowl of ramen. Alberta's "meat and potatoes" loving diet was the inspiration for a tsukemen style ramen, where thick ramen noodles are dipped into a flavourful, concentrated broth. It's not the usual image that comes to mind when you want to eat ramen, but I love that Prairie Noodle Shop is introducing Edmonton to different ramen culture!

So what exactly was in the bowl? This bowl of tsukemen ramen had three different components. Starting with a solid base of good quality ramen noodles sourced from the "Ancient Chinese Lady", the noodles were sticky and springy in texture, ready to be dipped in broth. Ground beef sourced from D'Arcy's Meats was ground and cooked up tan tan style (or Chinese dan dan style), into a ragu of sorts with black bean paste, carrots, pickled chilies for heat, and cubed potatoes for crunch. The team decided to go with the ground beef as it would allow for meat in every bite and you wouldn't finish one component before another. Lastly comes the soup, which was a tangy and thick potato soup, thick enough to cling to the noodles. And of course we can't forget the famous umeboshi egg! Flavourful, tangy, pink and with an oozing yolk, that egg is a killer component in any bowl. I can't wait for the day that I can have more than one in my ramen!

All the components in this bowl really clicked, making it not only delicious, but a hearty too. The heat from the ragu really built up with each bite, while the tang of the starchy potato soup toned it down. It's another great bowl of ramen, and if you didn't get a chance to try it, it will be on the menu alongside the pork, chicken, and garlic cheese ramen featured at previous pop ups. Being one of the lucky individuals to have tried all four bowls, I'd have to say I'm on team pork, and I can't wait until I can have that bowl of ramen with the crunchy chicharron.

It's been amazing seeing the team at Prairie Noodle Shop follow their passion and develop what is to be Edmonton's first dedicated ramen shop. I can't wait to sit up at the bar and just eat a bowl of umeboshi eggs - yes, that is definitely happening. Congratulations and all the best in the rest of your journey, I'll be sure to be there on opening day!

Monday, June 22, 2015

FIFA Fever: Eat Your Way Through the Women's World Cup

Although Edmonton is a winter city for most of the year, summer is my favorite season because of all the fun events and festivals that happen through June-August. Edmonton has often been regarded as a "festival city" given all the events that really draw a crowd. This year Edmonton has the pleasure of being the official host city of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada, which is just one of the many fantastic events that will be happening this summer.

If watching soccer games doesn't quite capture your interest, there's plenty of other ways to enjoy the World Cup. There's soccer movies being shown at the Edmonton Night Market, and the Kick it Up! event going down in Little Italy, just to name a few. Food never fails to capture my interest, so I was surprised to learn that 13 local hotels/restaurants are featuring soccer inspired dishes on their menus during the World Cup. Whether it be a filling meal or a cocktail, the offerings are pretty fun!

I stopped by two of the participating restaurants last week, The Dish Bistro and the Harvest Room at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald, to see what they were offering. Right along the vibrant 124 Street, The Dish has a Soccer Saskatoon Lamb Burger on their menu for the month of June. A juicy lamb patty is presented on a soft pretzel bun with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, carrots, Saskatoon aioli, and a generous helping of herbed goat cheese. It's the perfect combination of savoury and sweet, and is an outstanding burger you need to eat this summer! Served with your choice of a honey green salad or the soup of the day, enjoy your burger out on The Dish's secret patio (it's a hidden gem!).

Without a doubt, The Fairmont Hotel MacDonald has the most beautiful patio in the city. During the World Cup you can enjoy the spectacular view and the Sinclair 12 cocktail, inspired by none other than Canada's own Christine Sinclair. The combination of Canadian Club, maple syrup and lime juice over ice are reminiscent of the flavours found in a classic Old Fashioned, but this drink has some Canadian flair.

At the Harvest Room Chef Serge Jost has put Midfield Lamb on the menu. Lamb is cooked to your preference and served on a bed of creamy blue cheese polenta. Fava bean succotash, stone fruit and raisin chutney, baby squash, seasonal vegetables and a mint pesto also sit on the plate in perfect harmony with the lamb. I'm honestly not usually a fan of blue cheese or polenta, but that component was my favourite on the dish aside from the lamb itself.

So where else can you find some FIFA inspired eats? Here's a quick guide:

Cocktails

  • Hundred Bar & Kitchen is serving the Canadian Cucumber Cooler cocktail made with real Canadian gin distilled in Victoria, BC
  • Red Square Vodka House has three signature cocktails - the Canadian Red Header, the Red Corner Kick, and the Heartbreaker
  • Nova Hotels has a Smokey Maple Old Fashioned cocktail and Candied Maple Bacon Popcorn
  • Chateau Lacombe is serving The Sinclair and The Penalty Kick as cocktails in the Bellamy Lounge where you can view all the games

Food

  • Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut is selling large chocolate soccer balls
  • Sherlock Holmes on Rice Howard Way and The Rose & Crown Pub are serving The Canadian Burger. The burger is coated with maple BBQ sauce, crispy maple bacon, and cheddar cheese, and served with ketchup chips and pints of red Canadian beer. Maple, ketchup chips, and red beer. A great Canadian combination!
  • The Pint (Whyte/Downtown) are offering the Team Canada Poutine Dog. It's an oversized all beef hot dog, topped with Pint fries, cheese curds, beef gravy, maple infused bacon bits and crumbled ketchup chips. You can even have a Team Canada Caesar, loaded with peppered bacon, maple pancakes, and a dash of maple syrup
  • Tiramisu Bistro is serving The Golden Goal cocktail and The Dream Pasta Chicken, where baked chicken breast is wrapped in bacon and spicy Havarti, served with spaghetti in rose sauce
  • The Ramada Edmonton is serving Canadian Soccer Beef Balls: BBQ glazed meatballs stuffed with Canadian cheddar cheese and a Strawberry Freckled Vodka Lemonade cocktail
  • Fat Franks on Whyte Avenue is serving the Mondo Soccer Dog complete with guacamole, chopped tomatoes and grilled onions
  • Zocalo in Little Italy is serving up a fresh salad assembled into a Canada flag and topped with a red edible begonia bloom
With so many options to choose from, where will you go? I'm thinking I definitely need to take on the oversized poutine dog at The Pint. Anyone want to challenge me? The FIFA Women's World Cup continues until July 4th, so if you aren't taking in a game, grab something to eat in honour of Team Canada! For more information on events around the city, see this guide put together by Edmonton Tourism

Disclosure: I was invited by Edmonton Tourism to try out FIFA inspired dishes and share my thoughts through social media. Views expressed in this post are solely mine, and as always, my priority is to you, the reader, to present an unbiased, thorough review.