25 Best Things To Eat – 2010

Avenue’s coveted list of the 25 best dishes, ingredients and desserts the Capital Region has to offer.

It’s our second annual 25 Best Things to Eat in Edmonton and we’ve been busy searching markets, restaurants and bakeries for the most noteworthy eats our city has to offer. Foodie Gail Hall visited new and long-standing businesses that were not awarded last year and uncovered a cross-section of fabulous food and drinks. Whether gourmet, casual or classic, for dining in or taking out, these are our 25 favourite finds for this year, and we hope they will become yours, too.

Pear and cambozola triangles from The Dish Bistro

Shared as an appetizer or eaten as a light entre, this crispy oven-baked flatbread is topped with sweet caramelized red onions, sauted sliced fresh pears accompanied with thyme and melted cambozola cheese. It comes paired with a refreshing honey green salad that makes any meal a picnic. (12717 Stony Plain Rd., 780-488-6641)

Yellow curry whitefish chowder from Soul Soup (closed)

Carla Alexander’s soup still earns its classification as chowder, although it’s updated with chunks of basa whitefish, russet potatoes, corn, coconut cream, yellow curry and pured, roasted red peppers. Oh, and there is bit of chili heat thrown in for good measure. Made in classic New England style, the chowder also comes frozen in ready-to-buy one-litre containers. (140, 10020 101A Ave., 780-409-8272)

Finca Vista Hermosa-La Vega coffee beans from Transcend Coffee

If you’re serious about your java, a trip to Transcend is a requirement, and a purchase of Finca Vista Hermosa-La Vega beans is a decision you won’t regret. This coffee, with its delightful scent of vanilla, clementine and milk chocolate, is traded directly from its Guatemalan growers. Enjoy it brewed or espresso-style, knowing that these beans are produced by a socially and ecologically responsible family plantation. Transcend carefully roasts the beans at its south side coffee bar. Pick up a bag from there or from its soon-to-be second location inside the newly renovated Garneau Theatre. (Various locations)

Deli sandwich from Italian Centre

This legendary hoagie began in 1957, when the late Frank Spinelli decided to sell sandwiches as good as an Italian mama makes them. Made on site, the Italian Centre’s sandwich is big – 12-inches big. The fresh Italian baguette is coated with Gloria (a vegetable spread of roasted eggplants, red peppers and spices) and layered with slices of capicollo, mortadella, Genoa salami and provolone cheese. Get it spicy, or mild if you can’t handle the sting. (10878 95 St., 780-424-4869, and 5028 104A St., 780-989-4869)

Warm cherry cake from Lazia

If you love warm desserts, this one is for you. Lots of chopped cherries (amarena, maraschino and sour cherry) are baked into a buttery and dense cake. The dessert plate is rounded out by raspberry coulis, bing cherry compote and a dollop of lemon mascarpone cream, which perfectly balances the other three elements. (13503 St. Albert Tr., 780-488-3823, and City Centre West, 10200 102 Ave., 780-990-0188)

Cannelloni from PiccoLino Bistro

This is one filling pasta dish. The seasoned ground veal is combined with lots of shredded mozzarella cheese, then rolled into two freshly baked tubes of cannelloni. It’s smothered in a fresh tomato and mushroom cream sauce, and comes sizzling to the table like a casserole. (9112 142 St., 780-443-2110)

Pecan caramel cheesecake from Capitals Restaurant

For those of us who need a hit of creamy, honest-to-goodness cheesecake, the real deal is found at Capitals inside The Sutton Place Hotel. Enjoy a variety of baked cheesecakes by the slice, or pre-order your own 25-centimetre cheesecake customized to meet your cravings (minimum two days’ notice required). The pecan caramel is my personal favourite. It’s a classic vanilla New York cheesecake with caramel sauce and pecan toppings. It’s a reasonable amount of decadence that doesn’t guilt you into holding back. (10235 101 St., 780-441-3031)

Macarons from Duchess Bake Shop

Duchess, an artisanal bakery that popped up in the last year, is piquing interest with its use of pure and special ingredients, such as New Zealand butter. The bakery’s French macarons (not to be confused with “macaroons”) are the ultimate sandwich cookies. The craftspeople at Duchess wedge creamy icing between two very delicate almond meringue cookies. Available in various flavours, such as pistachio, coconut and dark chocolate, it’s simply melt-in-your-mouth delicious. (10720 124 St., 780-488-4999)

Freshly baked nine-grain bread from Prairie Mill Bread Co.

Prairie Mill’s handmade nine-grain bread is milled from 100-per-cent organic prairie wheat and has a hint of honey. Each slice is filling and substantial, bringing back childhood memories of eating wholesome Hovis bread right out of the bag without any spreads. (14253 23 Ave., 780-436-0920)

Frozen yogurt from Kiwi Kiss

Booster Juice founder Dale Wishewan has created another winner. Kiwi Kiss features a first for local fro-yo. With a tart tanginess that’s high in probiotics, the dessert is prepared and served in a European style – meaning the fruit toppings are fresh, not frozen. There are four flavours and countless toppings to select from, so at your whim, each combination tastes special. And, if that’s not enough to entice you, a small size is just 110 calories (minus the fruit). (City Centre East, 10205 101 St., 780-497-7229)

Fatouch salad from Parkallen Restaurant

This Middle Eastern salad is a signature dish at Parkallen. A medley of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, red onions, radishes, parsley and baked pita chips is tossed in oil, and has just the right balance of citrus and Lebanese spices. It’s the perfect salad: refreshing, filling and absolutely healthy! (7018 109 St., 780-436-8080)

Shish taouk from Swiss Donair

It’s Swiss’s donair that most of their costumers come for on late nights, but the shish taouk is what they do best and is delicious at any time of the day. This grilled pita holds a hefty mixture of marinated chicken breast, secret garlic sauce and shredded cabbage. It’s rolled together with French fries and wild cucumber pickles. Try the sweet and spicy sauce that’s used on the beef donair – it makes a great dipping sauce. Oh, and ask for lots of napkins, too. You’ll need them. (8308 144 Ave., 780-377-7777)

Szechwan beef from Happy Garden Restaurant

This is one version of Szechwan beef that has stood the test of time. For over 30 years, this Chinese diner has maintained the beef’s crispiness, sweetness and sourness. It’s really more like candy than a meal. Enjoy it with their mu shoo pork (rice crepes with a stir fry filling) and steamed rice for a complete meal. Just remember, go to the Happy Garden for the food, not the dcor. (6525 111 St., 780-435-7622)

Spanakopita from Hellas Foods

Hellas does one fine job of making this Greek classic. The large rectangular pastry is filled with spinach, dill, onions and feta – all wrapped in a delicate phyllo and baked to a golden brown. The Greek market’s spanakopita, and their similarly made tyropita (a phyllo with a savoury cheese filling), are worth leaving the house for in any weather. (12407 109 Ave., 780-455-8168)

Vegetarian samosa from Punjabi Sweets & Restaurant

These samosas are handmade, sized to satisfy and available in chicken, beef or vegetarian. The latter is the most popular choice. It’s packed with cooked potatoes and green peas lightly scented with black cardamom. Make sure you ask for extra chutney to adequately garnish the many bites. (9393 34 Ave., 780-434-7373)

Veggie burger from Upper Crust Cafe

Juicy, flavourful and filling – this burger patty is made from sauted onions and celery mixed with lentils, barley and brown rice. Served on a toasted whole wheat hamburger bun with classic fixings (tomato, lettuce, dill pickle and red sauce), the veggie burger also comes with a side of the Upper Crust’s famous potato salad. (10909 86 Ave., 780-433-2695)

Sylvan Star grilled cheese sandwich from Madison’s Grill

Chef Blair Lebsack’s passion for local suppliers shines in the menu selections at Madison’s Grill inside the Union Bank Inn. Take, for example, his “adult” grilled cheese sandwich. It’s a blend of Dutch cheeses from Sylvan Star, a local award-winning company from Sylvan Lake, matched with a house-made tomato preserve of Gull Valley’s oven-roasted tomatoes. The mixture of local ingredients creates outstanding flavours. (10053 Jasper Ave., 780-401-2222)

Orange Marmalade from Strathcona Country Kitchens

On their days off, you’ll find Grant and Vanessa Lloyd selling their “jellicious” jars at farmers’ markets in Edmonton and Sherwood Park. Strathcona Country Kitchens’ orange marmalade is a must at any breakfast table. Made thickly with peel from Seville oranges, it’s cooked to a gorgeous caramel colour. As a garnish to pured vegetable soups or cooked vegetables – or just spread on toast – this marmalade is better than anything like it around. (Available at various farmers’ markets, or call 780-417-2632 to order directly.)

Buttercrunch candy from Sweet Lollapalooza Confections

The rich, buttery, chocolatey goodness of Sweet Lollapalooza’s buttercrunch candy was a must-stop at the downtown farmers’ market. Now it’s available year-round at chocolatier Brett Roy’s new outlet in Commerce Place. Bite into the delicate band of caramel, sandwiched between two thin layers of French chocolate, lightly dusted with toasted ground almonds and hazelnuts, and then let it melt in your mouth. (Commerce Place, 10155 102 St., 780-436-3190)

Spicy salmon rolls from Maki Maki

This roll of rice, nori and fresh sockeye salmon is a refreshing and light meal. Hot chili flakes and fresh chili paste, made from imported Japanese ingredients, are worked into the fresh salmon to give this dish its flavour and subtle spiciness. Made fresh to order, the eight rolls are garnished with salmon roe. (8109 101 St., 780-438-8298)

Saganaki from Koutouki

Sounds Japanese, but it’s not. It’s a popular Greek meze made simply by frying kefalotyri cheese – a salty and firm cheese made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Sliced, lightly coated in flour and egg, quickly seared in olive oil and then baked, the oozing dish comes sizzling to your table. Squeeze on some fresh lemon and dig into this delicious, tangy appetizer. (10310 Gateway Blvd., 780-432-3660, and two other locations)

Godfather’s Choice pizza from Ragazzi Bistro Italiano

The signature feature of Ragazzi Bistro is its thin, crispy, delicate-crust pizza, which somehow manages to hold the weight of its toppings. The Godfather’s Choice is the pizzeria’s most popular pie. And after one mouthful, it’s easy to see why. Bocconcini cheese, capicollo, prosciutto and marinated tomato sauce are layered together for a sweet, salty, spicy supper. This is one pizza where all of the crust will get eaten!
(8110 Whyte Ave., 780-414-0500)

Eggs Benedict from Fairmont Hotel Macdonald

Tradition rules when it comes to eggs Benedict, and thank goodness the Hotel Mac knows tradition. A toasted English muffin cradles two perfectly poached eggs perched on a choice of back bacon, smoked salmon or sauted spinach, and then topped with homemade hollandaise sauce. Eggs Bennie are available for Sunday brunch in the hotel ballroom and for breakfast any day of the week in the Harvest Room. (10065 100 St., 780-429-6424)

Bacon cheeseburger perogies from Hundred Bar + Kitchen

While these may look like your Oma’s creations, they’ve been modernized, American-style. Each order comes with six doughy pockets stuffed with lean beef, potato and bacon. It’s topped with onions caramelized with red wine and brown sugar, sour cream, crispy double-smoked boar bacon and freshly cracked black pepper. It would seem not all perogies are created equal. (10009 101A Ave., 780-425-0100)

Smoked tuna from Ocean Odyssey Inland

If you like smoked salmon, you’re going to love smoked tuna. Like all the fish products at Ocean Odyssey Inland, the tuna is wild and sustainably caught. Best of all, it is really smoked, not just treated with “liquid smoke” marinade like most smoked fish products sold at retail counters. The natural fatty goodness and smoky flavour make this pre-packaged fish an excellent choice to top your bagel, accompany your seafood platter or curl around your sticky rice. (10027 167 St., 780-930-1901)

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