12 Days of Local Food Love

December 13, 2018

The holidays are my favourite time of year. The season is cheerful, bright, and there's a real sense of giving - in the form of gifts, or giving back to the community - in the air.

I have more fun giving than receiving, so in the spirit of the season I've partnered with 12 local businesses and restaurants to bring you the 12 Days of Local Food Love! I'm sharing these 12 businesses that I frequent and support - I truly love what they are doing in the Edmonton food scene. It's so important to support the community by shopping and dining locally, so I hope you'll love and share these businesses that I'll be featuring. Over the next 12 days I hope you either discover a new business or learn something new about them!

Each day I'll be posting across my social media platforms (Instagram/Facebook/Twitter) about a different business, and lucky for my readers each business has generously provided items to give away. Entrants must be from Edmonton & surrounding area only. Entries for each giveaway will be accepted up until midnight on December 24th, and the winner for each giveaway will be chosen at random on the 25th from across my three platforms! 12 winners will be contacted on Christmas day - Merry Christmas!

I'll be updating this post daily with links to each giveaway, so check back frequently and enter often! As always, thank you for the love and support. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Local Food Love Day 1: Jacek Chocolate

Enter to win a Sipping Chocolate + Jackie Bar

Jacek Chocolate was born in 2009 out of a love for fashion & chocolate by owner Jacqueline Jacek. As a self proclaimed ‘Cocoanista’ she combines her two passions in creating artisan chocolate bars, seasonal chocolates, and even a bean-to-bar collection. I love the beautiful designs and flavour combinations, but what I always look forward to in the summer is the weekly collaborations made with City Market Downtown vendors. Jacek is so innovative and I truly admire their commitment to giving back to the community through various fundraising projects. What’s not to love?

Congratulations to @avaoxia on Instagram!

Local Food Love Day 2: XIX Nineteen

Enter to win Sunday Brunch for Four People

Headed by Chef Andrew Fung, the kitchen at XIX Nineteen cooks up a delicious range of dishes using locally sourced ingredients at their two locations - Terwillegar & St. Albert. Nineteen is truly a great spot to celebrate any occasion, and I’ve celebrated two of my birthdays there with their famous Ahi tuna twists! The restaurant recently launched their new brunch menu and it’s worth checking out, as XIX is a solid choice for the weekend’s finest. The Five Spice Bao Benny is unique and I highly recommend the house-made cookie top cinnamon buns! Add a pear-jito and you’re set!

Congratulations to @jasonwoods780 on Instagram!

Local Food Love Day 3: Apollo Donuts

Enter to win an Apollo 13 (Baker's Dozen of Donuts!)

Some people like their donuts cakey, others like them light and fluffy. Apollo Donuts likes them handmade in small batches with a light brioche-style dough. Made for preorders only, Apollo creates unique flavour combinations that pack a punch in each bite. Production occurs in the early hours of the morning with fresh ingredients, and the donuts are free of preservatives and artificial flavourings. Blackberry yuzu and passionfruit glaze are my two favourites, but the lime mango and Uncommon Cider Co. apple fritter are top contenders too. Flavours change weekly, but the production days are always Friday + Saturday with order pickup at Ritchie Market's Transcend Coffee or The Colombian Coffee & Roastery. These guys donut mess around.

Congratulations to @pika.bao on Instagram!

Local Food Love Day 4: Meuwly's & Secret Meat Club

Enter to win a 3 Month Subscription to Secret Meat Club ($120 Value)

Meuwly's is an artisan marketplace in the heart of the 124 Street area known for their house-made charcuterie, sausages, pickles and preserves. All their products are made and cured on site, and a wide variety of their offerings can be found on menus of restaurants in and around Edmonton. Prior to opening, owners Will & Peter created Secret Meat Club – the city’s first monthly artisan food box subscription delivering sausages, charcuterie and condiments straight to your door. What started as a project to test products and gather feedback has become one of the best ways to sample local charcuterie in the city!

Congratulations to Kelty Coburn on Facebook!

Local Food Love Day 5: Rostizado

Enter to win a $80 Gift Card to Rostizado

Mexican food isn't just tacos and burritos, and Rostizado is a testament to that. Taking inspiration from the rosticerias in Mexico, Rostizado puts a modern twist on dishes made with old-world cooking techniques. Located in the heart of the Ice District, Rostizado is a great spot for lunch downtown, dinner prior to the game, or any sort of celebration. The atmosphere is fun and the food is delicious. The Rosti Burger and Mission-style burritos are my favourites off the lunch menu, but if you're heading there for dinner round out your meal with the charred carrots or roasted cauliflower, which are not to be missed. And don't forget to save room for churros!

Congratulations to @swooned on Instagram!

Local Food Love Day 6: Syphay Restaurant

Enter to win a $75 Gift Card to Syphay Restaurant

When I have a hankering for Thai food Syphay Restaurant is one of my go-tos. Opened in 2004 by Sye and Phay Sayaphet, this family-owned restaurant truly is a local gem when it comes to Thai and Lao food. The restaurant has since been passed down to the Sayaphet's eldest daughter Katherine, but the dishes have remained as delicious as always at both the south and downtown locations. The dishes are authentic, the flavours are bold, and you can taste the fragrant herbs in every bite. You might be drawn to ordering pad thai, but I highly recommend the Pad Lao! Add a big bowl of Tohm Yum and you’re set.

Congratulations to on Instagram!

Local Food Love Day 7: Caramunchies

Enter to win a Caramunchies Gift Pack! ($58 Value)

Buttery rich caramels are a decadent treat, but they’re even better when they don’t stick to your teeth! Meet Alysia Lok, the maker behind Edmonton’s tastiest caramel treats at Caramunchies. A blend of crispy cornflakes and salted caramel come together to make a sweet snack that hits all the right notes. They’re salty, sweet, crunchy and chewy! Another delightful treat are her individually wrapped caramels - they are buttery morsels that won’t stick to your teeth. You can pick up your Caramunchies on weekends at City Market Downtown, but if you run out (trust me, they’re addictive!) you can get your fix at Brown Butter Cafe, Golomein, Milk & Cookies Bakeshop, and Williams Sonoma (WEM) throughout the week.

Congratulations to @shevonlam on Instagram!

Local Food Love Day 8: Gruger Family Fungi

Enter to win a gift from Gruger! ($58 Value)

My Saturday mornings are usually dedicated to visiting my favourite vendors at City Market Downtown, including Gruger Family Fungi! When I learned that a local Edmonton business was growing pink and blue oyster mushrooms I had to see them with my own eyes and let me tell you, these mushrooms are stunning! Sure, they’re beautiful to look at, but one taste and you’ll discover that they also have unique flavour profiles and lots of nutritional benefits as well. This small family farm grows a variety of mushrooms ethically and organically for purchase at farmers markets and you can also find their mushrooms on various menus throughout the city. My favourite variety is the pink oyster mushroom for it’s texture and smoky bacon flavour, but the meaty king oyster mushrooms are a close second!

Congratulations to @jessfc3 on Twitter!

Local Food Love Day 9: Yelo'd

Enter to win a platter of Yelostix! ($45 Value)

One of my favourite places for ice cream in Edmonton is Yelo’d for their perfectly swirled soft serve and charcoal waffle cones. The Filipino-inspired ice cream at Yelo'd is unique and taste true to their flavours. Their secret? Using real, fresh ingredients in their soft serve ice cream base - there’s nothing artificial here. The ice cream is incredibly smooth and creamy, just the way it should be. Better yet? They hand-make their waffle cookie cones in house, stuffing marshmallow in the bottom to prevent drips. Genius, if you ask me!

Congratulations to @wwnaut on Instagram!

Local Food Love Day 10: Ono Poke Co.

Enter to win two $20 Gift Cards!

When I’m craving something healthy, fresh and filling, the poke bowls at Ono Poke Co. always come to mind. Chef Lawrence Hui is behind the menu, pulling inspiration from trips to Ka’anapali, Maui to bring an authentic taste of poke to the prairies. The chef-driven signature bowls are delicious (the Ono is my go-to!), but I also love having the option of building your own bowl. You can even turn your poke bowl into a burrito to eat on the go! The fish is fresh and well seasoned, and flavours are balanced. It’s the closest you’ll get to Hawaii without hopping on a plane, but when the poke is this good you can save yourself the trip.

Congratulations to @teegzmum & @cbuyze on Instagram!

Local Food Love Day 11: Revolution Ice Cream

Enter to win three pints of ice cream!

Revolution Ice Cream Co. came about when owners Jess & John wanted to bring the ice cream flavours they fell in love with abroad back home to Edmonton. Their ice cream is handmade in small batches with local ingredients, then packed into pints and cups for purchase at various farmers markets around the city (like the City Market Downtown + 124 Street Grand Market) or delivered to your home via SPUD. The ice creams are creamy without being overly rich and some of their flavours also cater to dairy free and vegan diets. My favourite flavours are the Lavender Lemon, Key Lime Pie, and Vanilla + Tonka Bean, but their ice cream sandwiches (featuring Milk And Cookie Bakeshop cookies) are one of my bigger weaknesses.

Congratulations to @vandamadventures on Instagram!

Local Food Love Day 12: Canova Pasticceria

Enter to win a Chocolate Panettone & Caffe Umbria Coffee Beans!

For the final day of the 12 Days of Local Food Love I’m sharing with you one of my favourite holiday treats. Panettone (literally translated to 'big bread' in Italian) is a traditional holiday sweet bread made with candied oranges, raisins, and citrus zest, and the one produced by Canova Pasticceria is the best I’ve ever tasted. Owners Carla and Kris produce their panettone using old world methods with a sweet dough starter. This is no easy feat, as the dough requires multiple feedings, additions, and time to rise. It takes 36 hours to produce a batch of Panettone, and the results show that the time commitment is well worth it. My favourite panettone is the chocolate variation, which is also amazing as French toast! Brew up a fresh cup of coffee to pair with it and it’s the perfect holiday treat.

Congratulations to Violet Poon on Facebook!

First Look

Our Okanagan Wedding: First Look, Ceremony & Reception

November 18, 2018

As our tea ceremony came to an end we had a quick moment to breathe before continuing on with our day. In sharing this second part of our wedding day I also wanted to share some insight to the destination wedding planning process and share some reviews of our amazing vendors for future Okanagan brides!

The Dress. When it came to dress shopping I didn't know where to start. After hours of combing through Pinterest boards and Instagram hashtags, I was determined to find an A-line wedding dress with flowy layers and a low back. Having an August wedding in the Okanagan meant I needed a dress that wouldn't trap heat and had breathable material. I had great experiences shopping at Delica Bridal and Novelle Bridal Shop, but I ended up falling in love with this beautiful Mikaella dress (style #2158) I eyed at The Bridal Boutique. The lace was unlike any other, the straps crossed beautifully into a low back, and the horsehair trim on the gown was a nicely added touch. Better yet, this beautiful dress had pockets (for snacks!) and I was happy to support a Canadian designer!

Little Details. I do believe every bride needs a little sparkle so I was so glad to have discovered Davie and Chiyo, a Vancouver-based designer (select styles available through Delica). I loved that there were so many delicate bridal accessories that came in gold, silver, and rose gold, and I ended up adding a bit of flair to my dress with the Cleo belt. I kept jewelry to a minimum so as not to take away from the lace bodice of my dress, and found the perfect crystal earrings from LottieDa Designs in rose gold to tie in with my wedding band.

The First Look. There's nothing like seeing the groom's reaction when he sees his bride for the first time when she walks down the aisle. I've always considered myself pretty traditional when it comes to weddings, so having a first look prior to the ceremony never even crossed my mind. However, we didn't want to rush through photos of us and our wedding party and also had to consider what our guests could occupy themselves with if we were to take photos between the wedding ceremony and reception.

We ended up opting for a first look at a location in the Upper Mission, and in hindsight it was one of the best decisions we made. The first look gave us the privacy to enjoy the intimacy of that moment, shed a few tears (one of us cried, and it wasn't me!), and helped shake off some of the wedding nerves. It was such a beautiful moment we shared together and it didn't take away from the ceremony.

Floral Design. Since our wedding was far away from home the last thing we wanted to do was travel to and from with decor and centerpieces. As a result we chose to use lots of florals and greenery as the main focus for our decor. Our wedding planner Kaitlyn Ellis had experience with florals and offered to double as our florist. Not only was it convenient, but it just made sense since she was involved in the wedding design process. I had given her a general idea of what I wanted, along with a colour palette, and she ran with it. Her passion really showed through in the expertly crafted arrangements and we got so many compliments on our flowers. I may be biased, but my bouquet was absolutely stunning and so much more than I had dreamed!

Bridesmaid Dresses. From the moment we got engaged I knew that navy blue and blush pink would be the two colours used in our wedding. Pink for the girls and blue for the boys, a classic pairing for a summer wedding. I didn't have a specific dress in mind for my bridesmaids and maid of honor because my main concern was for them to be comfortable in the Okanagan heat. After searching multiple online vendors and perusing local boutiques we ended up purchasing dresses at David's Bridal. given that there were so many silhouettes available in the shade of pink I wanted. We had a great experience with the stylist assigned to our group, and the ordering and pickup process was a breeze for the girls.

Groom & Groomsmen Outfits. I had given the task of dressing the guys to Gordon but I somehow still ended up shopping for suits and ties for them. For their suits we went with RW & Co. given their extended sizing options (slim, tailored, athletic), and we found a great assortment of affordable skinny ties in almost every colour at Le Chateau.

Wedding photographer. After securing our venue came the search for our photographer. After some discussion Gordon and I felt it would be best to find an Okanagan-based photographer that was familiar with the area and our venues. We are so happy we found Joelsview Photography and couldn't imagine having anyone else capture our day. Joel is so passionate about his work and the excitement he has while shooting photos is just such a joy to witness. Every image carries so much emotion and he captured every moment perfectly. Reviewing our collection of photographs brought us right back to our big day and we will be cherishing these photographs for the rest of our lives. Joel was an absolute pleasure to work with. We can't say enough good things!

Wedding videographer. Hiring a videographer never crossed our minds, and I feel it is a vendor that is often overlooked. In talking with our friends one of their biggest regrets was not hiring a videographer. I was convinced we needed someone additional to capture the emotions of our day and after enough asking, Gordon caved and said yes. We reviewed some Kelowna-based videographers and fell in love with the work done by Nick of Fresh Finish Media - I can't tell you how many of his videos brought me to tears. Nick was professional and so fun to work with. We can't wait to see our finished video and to watch it every year on our anniversary!

The Venue. The Hotel Eldorado is one of our favourite places to visit in Kelowna. The hotel is situated on Lake Okanagan and has beautiful views as far as the eye can see. Although the smoke didn't allow us to see much that day, we love the vintage charm of the building and the history behind it.

The rooftop ceremony space is stunning (especially with blue skies) and you almost don't need to decorate when the views are that beautiful. Planning a wedding with their events team was a breeze and the entire crew made our day amazing.

Wedding Rings. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I had a really tough time deciding on my wedding band. I was torn between the white gold to match my engagement ring, or rose gold to switch things up a bit. I'm happy to say I went with my gut and chose a rose gold band and I absolutely love the pairing.

Reception Design. One of the difficulties in planning a destination wedding is in sourcing decor, setting it up, and tearing it all down at the end of the night. As we couldn't be in Kelowna for all major decision-making moments, we were happy to seek the help of a wedding planner to bring our wedding to life. There are many different planning services out there - from full planning services, to decor only, or month/day of coordination - and given my Type-A personality I needed to find someone to guide me in the right direction but allow me to feel in control.

Little Details. I was so happy to find Kaitlyn Ellis Events because her philosophy and aesthetic were aligned with mine. She loves gorgeous flowers, clean lines, and strives to design a wedding reflective of her couples. After a year of chatting and getting to know us, she helped us design a beautiful wedding that really spoke to us. She took into account little details we had mentioned about ourselves, and pulled together a team of local vendors to bring our dream to reality. We could not have pulled off one of the biggest days in our lives without her and are truly grateful for all the help she gave us. We highly recommend Kaitlyn to all Okanagan brides-to-be!

Popcorn Bar. When Gordon and I have some down time, we love watching our favourite shows on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn! So we couldn't imagine our wedding day without our favourite snack on board. We made sure to have some of our favourite flavours available (hello cheesy dill!) as well as some classics for our guests to enjoy.

Donut Bar. As much as I enjoy desserts, cakes really aren't my jam. I wasn't keen on ordering a wedding cake, especially because I've attended too many weddings where guests don't even touch the cake because they're so full from dinner. Rather than spending lots of money on something no one would enjoy, we chose to have a donut bar that doubled as a wedding favour for our guests. The donuts were a hit, thanks to Sugar Sweet Cake Company! The flavours were incredible: Mango Coconut, Blackberry Lime, Bourbon Peach Fritter, Salted Caramel and Strawberry Shortcake.

The Food. Planning our menu was the most stressful thing on the list for me. So many of our guests told me they couldn't wait to see what we planned for our dinner since I clearly have a love affair with good food. The pressure was on. The Hotel Eldorado didn't offer menu tastings, so I had to trust in knowing I've never had a bad meal at the El. We planned our a four course plated meal consisting of a panzanella salad to start, followed by a pink champagne sorbet palate cleanser before the main course of beef tenderloin. The meal was rounded out with a beautiful chocolate marquise that everyone enjoyed. Let's just say this - people are still raving about our dinner to this very day.

Wedding DJ. Searching for a DJ was another one of Gordon's tasks for the wedding and he made a fantastic decision hiring DJ Almighty, who works with DJ Haymaker. DJ Almighty and his team were so great at helping us plan the wedding ceremony and reception, especially when it came to playing a few games to keep the room entertained. You could tell he genuinely loves keeping people in the room on their feet and dancing! We had so much fun on the dance floor and our wedding guests couldn't stop talking about how much fun they had with all the hits he was playing!

August 18th was truly the best day of our lives and we wouldn't change a single thing, except maybe the smoke (haha). It was incredible sharing our love surrounded by our closest family and friends, and we couldn't have pulled it off without our amazing team of vendors. If there's one piece of advice I can pass on to future brides, it's to let go of the small stuff. During the wedding planning process things will pop up and will be incredibly frustrating, even infuriating at times, but try not to let it get to you and remember to enjoy the process.

Thank you for letting me share our wedding with you, and thank you to everyone for the kind messages and congratulations! It means so much to us.

Previous wedding related posts: our Chinese tea ceremony

Photographs in this post thanks to Joelsview Photography

Door Games

Our Okanagan Wedding: Door Games & Tea Ceremony

September 18, 2018

It has been quiet around the blog lately, but for a very good reason. Today's post is a very personal one - the first of two posts about our dreamy (read: very smoky) wedding day in the Okanagan. Gordon and I met on our very first day of nursing school back in 2012, and after 5.5 years of dating we chose to tie the knot in Kelowna, a city we find ourselves returning to year after year. A majority of each of our family members live outside of Edmonton, so most of our guests would have to travel to celebrate with us. Seeing as we love the scenery, weather, and cuisine in Kelowna, it seemed like the right place to bring everyone together to celebrate the start of the next chapter in our lives.

The day started bright and early for myself and my bridesmaids, with hair and makeup kicking off at 5:00 AM. We were all quite tired that morning but in good spirits given the excitement of the big day. I had planned for everyone to be ready for 10:00 and I thought that 5 hours to get ready was excessive. Boy, was I wrong! Luckily with the expertise of Kris and her team at Inspirado Designs, all the girls looked absolutely stunning and I was only slightly stressed being behind schedule when I finished getting dressed at 10:45.

Being born and raised in a Chinese family I wanted to pay homage to my heritage and incorporate wedding traditions that made sense for Gordon and me. We chose to host a Chinese Tea Ceremony on the morning of the wedding to honour our families, but not before the Gordon and his groomsmen made it through some challenging door games.

In Chinese tradition the bride is hidden away from the groom on the morning of the wedding and protected by the bridesmaids. Together with his entourage, the groom must arrive where the bride is staying and bribe, pay, or negotiate his way to get through the bridesmaids and claim his bride. In conjunction with paying off the bridesmaids, the groom and groomsmen are challenged with games that have the goal of embarrassing them. It's a fun and lighthearted tradition that we couldn't leave out of our wedding day.

Gordon and his groomsmen attempted to pay their way through with red pockets, but according to my bridesmaids they were so stingy and claimed they had no more money. But in their defence, they did pick out some very thoughtful gifts for each of the bridesmaids, so the girls let it slide.

I didn't have a chance to see a majority of the door games as I was busy getting my final touch ups, but from the sounds and photos my bridesmaids did a fantastic job challenging the boys.

The first task faced by the boys was a game testing their boundaries and personal space - passing a sheet of roasted seaweed from one another using only their lips.

A total of five sheets - one for each of them - were passed down, and they passed pretty quickly! But I was pretty grossed out when I learned that Gordon ate every single sheet of seaweed because he "didn't want them to go to waste."

It is said that a marriage can go through four flavours: sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy. So next up was a game to test their stomachs and taste buds that was all based on whether Gordon could answer questions about my family correctly.

Unfortunately he got them all wrong as they were meant to be quite difficult, so the boys all took shots of each flavour made with honey, lemon, bitter melon, and wasabi.

Anyone who knows Gordon knows that he lives and breathes hockey. I often joke that he loves hockey more than me as he spends many nights a week after work inside an arena coaching hockey while I'm at home spending time on my own. So, my bridesmaids put him and his groomsmen's slapshot skills to the test!

The final task the boys faced was to sing me a sweet serenade. At this point I was just about ready and listening from the window at the front of the house. The first attempt looked pretty promising, as shown in their draft above, but it wasn't good enough to win their way into the house.

The second attempt, however, was a winner. Sang to the tune of T-Pain's 'Buy You a Drank', I was in hysterics as Gordon rapped and his groomsmen snapped their fingers to the beat. I can't recall all the words, but I definitely remember Gordon referring to himself as "G-Pain." The serenade was impressive, and Gordon was granted entrance into the house to find me.

As the door games came to an end most of our guests had arrived for the tea ceremony. In Chinese tradition the tea ceremony is a way to present the bride to the groom's family, but the intention of our ceremony was for us to show our respect to our elders on both sides of the family.

In a traditional tea ceremony the bride wears a two piece dress known as a 'kwa.' The dress is red in colour and embroidered with phoenixes and dragons, which symbolize harmony in a marriage according to traditional feng shui. My dress was a beautiful family heirloom, stunning with its hand embroidered gold and silver threads. It was originally worn by my grandmother and passed through my father's sisters, then worn by my mother. It was so special for me to be able to wear it on my wedding day.

During the ceremony, the bride and groom kneel or bend down to present cups of tea to their grandparents, followed by their parents, then to the remaining family members in order of seniority. The elders sip the tea, share blessings and provide gifts of red pockets filled with money or jewelry to the married couple.

It was quite an emotional moment for me to serve tea to my 91 year old grandmother, as she travelled all the way from Hong Kong to take part in our wedding. And don`t get me started about my parents! But it's special moments like these that I will cherish from our wedding day. It meant a lot to Gordon and me to be able to incorporate such important Chinese traditions into our big day, and I wouldn't change a thing.

Photographs in this post: Joelsview PhotographyHair & Makeup: Inspirado Designs
Groom & Groomsmen Suits: RW & Co. | Groomsmen Ties: Le ChateauBridesmaids Dresses: David's Bridal


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