Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Date with Dishcrawl - 104 Street Promenade

Sliders at The Burg
If you’ve never been on a Dishcrawl event, you should give it a whirl, as it is a unique dining experience. Dishcrawl is designed to explore restaurants in a particular neighbourhood, allowing diners to try several items at a restaurant without committing to eating full sized dishes or a whole meal there. You spend only 45 minutes at each restaurant before walking to the next. When you buy a ticket to Dishcrawl, you will only know what neighbourhood you are visiting, not the specific restaurants. They will only reveal the names of the restaurants you are going to visit as you go on your Dishcrawl journey on the day. Or if you attend an Encore Dishcrawl event, you can find out what restaurants were visited from the initial event by checking out Tweets posted by those who attend the previous night. Dishcrawl will email you a few days in advance to let you know which restaurant you will be starting from, as well as to remind you to bring cash to buy drinks, and to dress for the weather, but menu items you will be tasting at each restaurant will remain a secret until you arrive at the event.

Shepard's Pie, Chicken Drumstick and Smoked
Salmon Roll at Blue Plate Diner
Note that drinks, both alcoholic and non alcoholic are not included in the ticket price, and although most restaurants had wireless credit and debit card readers, cash speeds up the process or paying and heading out for the next location. Their events happen regardless of rain, shine or snow, so remember to be prepared for whatever weather might hit and wear walking shoes, as some events can involve quite a distance, which was the case on our Taste of Westmount event. Thankfully the 104 St Promenade event involved three very short walks, with the longest being about two blocks long, and at a leisurely pace.

Shepard's Pie at Blue Plate Diner
The 104 St Promenade Dishcrawl began at The Burg, a burger restaurant that opened this summer. I’d visited shortly after it opened and wasn’t very impressed. I had hoped this visit would be different, however it seemed the only thing that had improved was service as the burgers came out swiftly, my water glass was constantly full, and servers quickly removed plates as diners finished.

Chicken Drumstick and Smoked
Salmon Roll at Blue Plate Diner
They served us a trio of sliders, including a turkey slider that was dry and overly seasoned with pepper. The pulled pork slider was also dry and the pork was bland, lastly the humans found the feeb slider also bland, salty and so dry that it was difficult to swallow, with the cheese adding no additional flavour to the slider. The four condiments provided – chipotle mayo, ketchup, peppercorn ranch and garlic aioli did little to help overcome the dryness, saltiness or blandness of the burgers. Meanwhile the house made salt and vinegar chips had a nice amount of salt on them, but were overly acidic to the point that my mouth puckered after eating just a few. It was disappointing that this particular visit was no better than our first. Although I could foresee it being difficult to cook burger patties that were significantly smaller than their usual size resulting in overcooking, it was obvious they still hadn’t resolved the seasoning issue with their patty. Considering they said their feeb burger was the core of their business, I had hoped that they would have perfected the taste and cook of this particular patty, yet on this visit the humans found the feeb patty the hardest of the three to eat. It’s not likely I would return to The Burg since their signature item, the burger, has disappointed the humans and I twice now. If they’re going to build a business around burgers, it is the one item that needs to shine brightly and instead of falling flat.

The Burg
10190 104 Street
Edmonton, AB  T5J 1A7
Twitter: @TheBurg4St

The Burg on Urbanspoon

Mercer Tavern
Our second stop of the night was Blue Plate Diner, which has been on 104 Street for 9 years. A funky venue, they served us a smoked salmon spring roll, Shepard’s pie and a chicken drumstick. They smoke their salmon in house and smoked salmon was definitely the dominant taste in the spring roll. Their Shepard’s pie had an over abundance of whole grain Dijon mustard in the mashed potatoes. Although the female human thought the feeb underneath was very flavorful, there wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy, as there seemed to be a four to one ratio of mashed potato to feeb. The chicken drumstick was my favourite item at Blue Plate Diner as it was mildly sweet, very plump and super juicy. I can foresee returning to Blue Plate Diner to try out their menu items, particularly since they serve brunch, one of my favourite times to dine.

Blue Plate Diner
10145 104 Street NW
Edmonton, AB  T5J 1A7
Twitter: @blueplatediner

Blue Plate Diner on Urbanspoon

Quinoa Salad, Fish Taco and Korean
Style Short Ribs at Mercer Tavern
Our third stop of the night was Mercer Tavern, located in the restored Mercer Warehouse. Their offering included a fish taco with blackened sole, shrimp, and a fresh local corn tortilla. Although I found their fish flavourful and spicy, it was almost overly spicy as I downed half a glass of water to recuperate the spiciness. The quinoa salad tasted bright and had slightly sweet bits of apricot and cranberries throughout, a refreshing contrast from the tacos and the Korean style short ribs. The short ribs were the female humans favourite dish of the night as they were tender, had a mildly sweet marinade on them and a distinctively charred undertone. Mercer Tavern was the male humans favourite stop of the night and we will have to return to try out their other menu items since we liked what they gave us so much.

Mercer Tavern
10363 104 Street NW
Edmonton, AB  T5J 5G5
Twitter: @MercerTavern

Mercer Tavern on Urbanspoon

Matt Hall, owner of Roast Coffeehouse + Wine Bar
The last stop of the night was Roast Coffeehouse + Wine Bar for dessert and coffee. Owner Matt Hall is an acquaintance of mine, as he used to be the District Manager of Starbucks for the downtown region and oversaw Starbucks Omega, the store at which I’m the unofficial Mooscot. Roast Coffeehouse buys their coffee from a third party distributor who has a direct relationship with small coffee farms. Matt meets with their distributor every 6-8 weeks in order to taste coffees and decide what lots of coffee to buy. This enables them to buy the best coffees and the ones to suit their tastes. Since they only purchase a small amount of coffee, Roast can even buy micro lots from particular farms, which means they can choose the specific parcel of land their coffee is grown on. They treated us to a taste of their Sumatra coffee, a single origin coffee that was both organic and Fairtrade Certified.

Cupcakes at Roast Coffeehouse + Wine Bar
Allow me to geek out for a moment, as I was and am retraining to be a Coffee Mooster (aka. Master) at Starbucks, and love to share my coffee knowledge. If you don’t know what Fairtrade Certified is, it’s a way of doing business that promotes fairness and decency. It means that coffee farmers get a fair wage for their product, but they must also meet a variety of criteria including sustainable farming, labour standards and democratic participation. An independent certification body does regular audits to ensure they continue to meet Fairtrade standards. For a coffee to be certified organic, they must also meet a variety of strict criteria that includes eliminating the use of pesticides, protecting water sources and other environmentally friendly practices. It can take years and a huge financial investment in order to convert a coffee farm to be able to meet organic certification standards, so not many smaller farms are able to actually achieve certification without sacrificing profitability along the way.

Similar to wine tasting, coffee tasting also has steps to allow the taster to identify the complexities in the coffee. First you smell the coffee, which can range in smells from earthy – similar to the smell of mushrooms or dirt - to citrusy – which can smell like lemons or oranges. Some coffees can smell nutty or even floral! Next you slurp the coffee while breathing through your nose. Slurping the coffee allows it to hit all parts of your mouth, the tongue, the roof of your mouth, cheeks, and the back of your mouth. This allows you to identify a coffees’ body or mouthfeel – does it feel sort of watery in your mouth? Which would mean it has a light body. A heavier body coffee would feel like it was coating your mouth. What does it taste like? Can you taste chocolate, nutty, or smoky undertones? Lastly, how does it finish? The finish is whether or not the taste lingers after you have swallowed it. Many Latin American coffees tend to have an acidic finish that lingers in your mouth long after you’ve drunk your cup of coffee. While other coffees such as those from Africa finish clean, meaning that there is no aftertaste.
Vanilla Cupcake at Roast Coffeehouse + Wine Bar

This particular Sumatra smelled and tasted earthy, and finished much smoother than its Starbucks counterpart that I’m used to drinking. Meanwhile their House French coffee, a Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, smelled smoky, but didn’t taste smoky like its Starbucks counterpart - which I often find tastes ashy, like drinking cigarettes - and this coffee had a mildly acidic finish but not overly so. They also served a variety of cupcakes including chocolate, vanilla and red velvet. The cupcakes themselves were moist and flavourful, however the icing was cloyingly sweet and the cupcakes tasted better on their own without the icing. I’ve been to Roast Coffeehouse + Wine Bar many times for drinks and will likely to continue to visit as they serve very different types of coffees and lattes than other coffeehouses, such as a Maple Bacon Latte.

Roast Coffeehouse + Wine Bar
10359 104 Street NW
Edmonton, AB  T5J 5G5
Twitter: @RoastCoffee_Co

UPDATED (December 14, 2013): CLOSED

Roast Coffeehouse + Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

It seemed this time around, the attendees of Dischcrawl which much more socialable than our last, with a mix of younger and older attendees. Everyone introduced himself or herself, chatted, and there was a generally jovial atmosphere. Gemma Huber was an impressive host, floating from table to table, ensuring she visited each table at least once at each of the restaurants we stopped at. She also kept on top of informing the serving staff when there was 10 minutes left before we would be leaving so they had enough time to deal with any drink purchases and settle bills. Compared to my previous Dishcrawl experience, I felt as though this Dishcrawl event was much more organized, timely, and coordinated.

If you want to buy your tickets to Dishcrawl, make sure to keep your eye on their Twitter account or FaceBook page. Once they announce an event they tend to sell out quickly, so don’t hesitate too long before you buy! Check out their website to find out and buy tickets for upcoming events.

More photos at PhotoBucket!

Dishcrawl Edmonton
Twitter: @DishcrawlYEG

(Note: There was no financial compensation from Dishcrawl or any of the restaurants visited for this blog post, although they did provide two free tickets to their 104 St Promenade event. Any review provided by me will completely reflect my thoughts and opinions – good or bad, and will not be swayed by having free tickets provided.)

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