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Edmonton

Talent Spotlight: Sheldon Elter

Photo by Kevin Clark Studios

Actor, writer, comedian, musician, Canadian Idol contestant—Sheldon Elter has worn many hats over the course of his career. His true love, though, is the stage. “That’s where my heart and soul are at,” explains Elter. “Your art lives and dies in one performance. It feels more magical to me to be a part of that.”

One of Elter’s upcoming shows, Métis Mutt, began as a classroom project in 2001 and has been workshopped and performed across the country. The multi-layered theatrical version of Elter’s life story discusses his family and racial issues. “I’ve learned that the more you try to tell the truth, the more human you become,” he says. “[The play] transcends race and gender and just becomes a human experience.”

Writing such works is particularly important to Elter, and he’s thankful for the supportive and welcoming artistic community in Edmonton. “It’s really cool to be a part of contemporary Canadian work. I’ve been very lucky to have my own work produced, and patrons will actually go and see independent work,” he says. Elter avidly recommends that visitors venture out of their comfort zone and watch a play from the numerous independent companies in the city. “There’s always a chance to see a great show.”

If you can’t see him live, watch out for the fourth season of CAUTION: May Contain Nuts. The award-winning sketch-comedy series is due back on Canadian airwaves in the spring after being cancelled for several years. “When the network asked to bring it back, it was a bit of a shock,” says Elter, who both writes and stars in the show. “What’s so cool is that you’re working with your pals, and it’s all shot here so it’s all local talent. I think it’s some of our best writing.”

RAAS Market

Photo courtesy Publicity Room

If you’re looking for a new local shopping experience, you may be surprised to find it in a mall as large and internationally recognized as West Edmonton Mall. But thanks to the new RAAS Market, Edmonton-based retailers have a unique way of sharing their products with a new audience. RAAS offers turnkey retail space for local makers who want a low-risk opportunity to sell in a larger mall space but can’t afford the larger leases.

Mark Ghermezian, who helped develop the concept, says, “The mall has done a great job of bringing in retailers from around the world that normally wouldn’t come to Edmonton, and we have the latest attractions and everything here.” But the desire was there to support the local makers, as he explains, “We noticed there was so much great entrepreneurship and a community [in the city], and if we can unleash them in some way, it’d be a great thing to do.”

The feel of the space is different from the rest of the mall. Each retailer has their own white rectangle, cube, or triangle, which they can customize with their products, and RAAS provides them with a branded sign and all other shelving and sales equipment they need. Ghermezian says some shoppers feel that entering RAAS is like stepping outside of the mall and perhaps into a European alleyway.

Popular retailers who’ve tried out the experiment and expanded their business into the mall include Pura Botanicals, which sells natural skincare and beauty products; Adesso, a men’s accessories line; and Apollo Originals, stylish streetwear fashions. Shoppers will certainly be surprised by the incredible range of products made right here in Edmonton. “We’re trying to create a place where we can unleash this creative community of locals in a really exciting way,” says Ghermezian. “It’s a unique shopping experience to meet the founders and the makers of these products.”

Visit their website to learn more about the RAAS shopping experience.

Undaunted at the AGA

Photo by Laura Muntz Lyall, “Mother and Child,” c. 1895.

Many of the greatest artists of the 19th century were women and they still lack their much-deserved recognition, especially as they had to overcome incredible barriers to share their work. This new exhibition, Undaunted: Canadian Women Painters of the 19th Century, turns the spotlight onto some of the lesser-known female artists from this period. Viewers can experience work from Charlotte Schreiber, the first woman to be elected into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts; Mary Ella Dignam, the founder of the Women’s Art Association of Canada; and Laura Muntz Lyall (pictured), who was the first female artist to receive recognition outside of Canada.

Undaunted: Canadian Women Painters of the 19th Century | Through March 25
Art Gallery of Alberta | 2 Sir Winston Churchill Sq. | 99 St. & 102A Ave. | 780-422-6223

Ice on Whyte Festival

Photo courtesy Ice on Whyte

Visit one of winter’s hottest events and discover a giant ice slide, interactive activities, live entertainment, and the International Ice Carving Competition at the Ice on Whyte Festival! The competition has attracted artists from as far away as Russia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Mexico, and the winners compete in the Canada Cup of Ice Carving—which in 2019 will be held in Edmonton! Participate in a drop-in ice-carving lesson in an inflatable igloo, or chill out with friends in the Ice Bar with locally crafted beers and spirits. Tickets available at the gate or visit the website for more information.

Ice on Whyte | $4–$7 | Located near Whyte Ave. & Gateway Blvd.
January 25 to 28 & February 1 to 4
(Thursdays & Fridays: 2 pm – 10 pm; Saturdays & Sundays: 10 am – 10 pm)

 

Artist Spotlight: Kyle Schneider

What made you want to be an artist?
I’ve always been a creative person, so finding myself in a non-traditional, illustration-based career has been a natural fit—if not an occasionally stressful one. The first time I knew I wanted to draw was in Grade 3 when a fellow student started drawing these tough guy/superhero comics and I was instantly smitten with the idea of taking pictures from my mind and putting them on paper!

What themes or issues do you explore in your art?
My illustration style has, at times, been the only uniting factor in the work I put out! I make low-brow art, a style I’ve been describing to people as the “opposite of fine art.” I find myself mostly drawing characters in situations that, although may be pretty far-fetched, feel relatable to lots of people. You’ll find hints of skateboard culture, Dungeons and Dragons references, occult-inspired imagery, dark humour, and sexuality all mixed in together.

What artists or works inspire your own?
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this lately. I would say the television cartoon series Adventure Time, the absurdist illustrated works of Chad VanGaalen and Mike Fudge, and recently—as I’ve gotten into animation—the sloppy style of Don Hertzfeldt.

Photos courtesy Kyle Schneider

What do you hope people take away from your art?
All of the work I make has its meaning in the specific content of the piece being viewed. It’s all right there in front of you—just don’t overthink it! The pleasure is in the humour of a piece, its lifework and colouring, and that it relates to your imagination in some way that is endearing. The feeling I hope people take from my work is just straight up giggles, warmth, and curiosity. I just love it when people’s eyes widen and they say, “OMG, THAT’S ME!!”

Where can readers view and/or purchase your work?
My ever-evolving portfolio is online, and my latest work can always be found on Instagram and my online shop.

Hot Dining: Italian & Creole Faves

Photo courtesy Vaticano Cucina

NEW: Vaticano Cucina
The new southside eatery Vaticano Cucina offers pizza, pasta, and other Italian favourites. Its specialty is wood-fired pizzas—cooked in an Italian oven and with quality ingredients, both imported from Italy and sourced locally. Although you may want to engage in a bit of sinful gluttony looking at the menu, you’ll still feel like a saint beneath a replica of the painted Sistine Chapel ceiling. Try the St. Teresa Pizza with prosciutto, fontina, lemon, and anchovy vinaigrette, and save room for the firm and sweet Pistachio Panna Cotta.
10310-45 Ave. | 780-250-1110

TRIED & TRUE: Packrat Louie
Since 1993, Packrat Louie has been a staple in Old Strathcona—and with recent renovations and a revamped menu, they’re planning on staying that way! There’s still the throwback to its old warehouse days—with its exposed brick and big windows—but with refreshed warmth. Indulge in the new and delicious with an order of savoury Chicken Masala Perogies. Or if you’re looking to reminisce, try the original menu’s classic Lemon Pizza with garlic oil.
10335-83 Ave. | 780-433-0123

HOT DISH: BLVD Bar & Kitchen‘s Jam-Packed-Balaya
The Creole-inspired menu at BLVD Bar & Kitchen boasts many options, but a cold winter night begs for a bowl of something hot and hearty. Settle in for the gluten-free Jambalaya, which has a tantalizing mix of chorizo sausage, Creole chicken, shrimp, mussels, spiced rice, and a tasty mango pineapple salsa!
10765 Jasper Ave. | 780-934-2583

Ask the Expert: Les Clefs d’Or Corner (January/February 2018)

Nella-Blog

Photo by Jamie Tweedy of Tweedy Studios.

We asked Edmonton expert and Les Clefs d’Or Nella Mirante at The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald for her advice about winter festivals and Valentine’s Day in the city!

1. What restaurant would you recommend to someone looking for some hearty comfort food?
My go-to for comfort food is my local fave, Blue Plate Diner. Their tasty Mac’N’Cheese and Real Shepherd’s Pie are some of Edmonton’s most comforting dishes!

2. What’s an essential Edmonton experience to enjoy in these colder months?
Taking a short drive to one of Edmonton’s best ski resorts, Rabbit Hill Snow Resort, where you’ll have a blast skiing and snowboarding!

3. Where can you find a unique gift for a partner for Valentine’s Day?
Spoil your fave with the “Gift of Gold” at Fairmont Hotel Macdonald—nothing is quite as romantic as a stay on the Fairmont Gold Floor!

4. What’s your favourite winter festival to catch in January and February?
My favourite is the Silver Skate Festival, where you can visit the Ice Castle—a Narnia-like castle built of icicles!

5. Where would you send someone whose New Year’s resolution is to treat themselves to a spa day?
If you want a real spa experience, then indulge at NVE Institute. Relax and rejuvenate your skin with a soothing facial!

Les Clefs d’Or Concierges have been opening doors for hotel guests in Canada since 1976, and today there are more than 150 members from coast to coast and more than 3,500 members worldwide! You can find Nella at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald.

Les Clefs d’Or 2017 Silver Service Award

Photo by Jennifer Linford

Les Clefs d’Or Canada and WHERE Edmonton Magazine would like to congratulate the Edmonton winner of the 2017 Silver Service Award, Rostizado! Clefs d’Or Nella Mirante of the Fairmont Macdonald chose this Mexican hotspot as she’s had only the best experiences there and all of the guests she’s sent return raving about their excellent service. “They really take care of you,” says Mirante. “Whether you’re a new or old guest, they welcome you and express well what’s on the menu and what it’s about.” Mirante recommends the restaurant to anyone looking for a fun atmosphere that feels like an escape from the city—plus mouthwatering food.

Though the restaurant does not do reservations, you can put your name down using the NoWait app when you arrive so that you’ll be notified as soon as your table’s available. Many of the dishes here are enjoyed best when shared, including the platter of roasted meats—with juicy rotisserie chicken and Cuban-style pork shoulder—and the Queso Fundido: Mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheese, chorizo sausage, and potatoes served in house-made tortillas. Mirante also highly recommends saving room for the fried Churros coated in sugar and cinnamon, which you dip in a creamy salted pasilla milk chocolate.

Rostizado | #102, 10359-104 St. | 780-761-0911

The prestigious Clefs d’Or Silver Service Award is given to a local restaurant that has displayed excellent service and outstanding food.

2017 Best New Restaurants in Edmonton

Every year, the editorial team at WHERE Edmonton Magazine reviews the new restaurants that have opened in Edmonton and awards their pick for the Best New Restaurant. Here’s a look at their choices in 2017 for the overall best new restaurant! (Check out our January/February 2018 issue for more great spots, including our winners for best new casual, bakery, and menu.)

Photo by Jamie Tweedy of Tweedy Studios

1st: Biera
When one imagines a brewpub, usually a basic burger and fries with the hockey game on in the background comes to mind. But Christine Sandford—head chef at Biera, which is attached to Blind Enthusiasm Brewing—has elevated the menu to fine-dining heights. And with a beautiful open space featuring the brewery tank visible behind a glass wall, the restaurant offers a unique and memorable dining experience. Sandford has worked in the industry for over a dozen years, spending some time interning with Belgian chef Kobe Desramaults, and has put that training to use in crafting this upscale brewpub’s menu. Her menu made it a clear winner for our Best New Restaurant Award, as she uses innovative cooking techniques to expertly pair each beautifully plated dish with the brewery’s craft beer.

Diners here need to start with the soft, house-made sourdough bread that you can savour with a salted lard spread. The tender, charcoal-grilled ACME Pork Shoulder is almost upstaged by the accompanying beets, which have been dehydrated, rehydrated, and glazed to give them a pleasant fig-like texture. Finish off your meal with the Sourdough Ice Cream, which will hit that sweet spot.

2nd: The Butternut Tree
Chef Scott Downey’s return to Edmonton has led to a welcomed fine-dining establishment, which focuses on often underused and underappreciated Canadian ingredients. For several years Downey trained at Michelin-starred restaurants in New York and Denmark that have influenced the unique ways he showcases his food.

The highly seasonal and concise menu is frequently shifting, but you’re guaranteed an incredible dish no matter what you order. An early stand-out is the broccoli, which is served on cereal grains with chunks of succulent boar belly and a soft-boiled duck egg. With large, wall-length windows, the restaurant offers a gorgeous view of the Alberta Legislature and river valley. From the plating to the view, the Butternut Tree will impress any diner or client you bring with you to experience it.

3rd: Bündok
Derived from the word “boondocks,” meaning off the beaten path, this restaurant is another honourable mention that focuses on the flavours and foods of the region. Chef Ryan Hotchkiss’ small 38-seater features a focused menu with sharing plates such as the tender Gnocchi Parisienne—with Brussels sprouts, kabocha squash, and breadcrumbs—and Beef Tartare, which gives a flavourful kick with pickled celery, mustard aioli, and horseradish.

Located in the central downtown area near Ice District, Bündok also serves up a delightful lunch. Must-tries (especially for the wintertime) include the soul-pleasing Parmigiano Soup with peas and bacon, and the crisp Fried Chicken Skin, seasoned with honey mustard and thyme.

Chef Spotlight: Scott Downey

The chef and owner of the newly opened Butternut Tree, Scott Downey, had always planned to return to Edmonton to open his own restaurant—but he wanted to ensure he had something to return with. “I realized if this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I wanted to get the right training and the right base to be able to support that,” says Downey. “If I was going to be showing someone how to do something, it needed to be the correct way.”

While in business school, Downey started as a dishwasher in a Vancouver restaurant and fell in love with the atmosphere, and he soon followed that love to New York to train at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. His repertoire now includes positions at Michelin-starred restaurants Daniel (New York City) and Noma (Denmark), both of which Downey credits in helping to shape The Butternut Tree: “I found that balance between the two—the warm and approachability of French food, but still utilizing and showcasing some of the products here in unique ways that I’ve pulled from Noma.”

In particular, both restaurants work with the availability of the land to help plan and execute their dishes, and Downey worked with their experienced foragers—sometimes scoping forests, fields, and beaches for 12 hours a day. “It was such a cool thing that all these things we were eating came from the wilderness,” says Downey. When he returned to Canada, he was surprised to discover similar plants and herbs, and the concept clicked: “I started asking, ‘Why aren’t these being utilized here? Why can’t we explore our ecosystem more in depth?’” The menu at The Butternut Tree thus seeks to reflect the Canadian landscape and to show guests what’s available all around them.

Downey’s excited to rediscover his own backyard and to witness the changing seasons in Alberta. “It’s different from the environments that I’ve been foraging in before,” he says. “I’m still learning about the Alberta products.” But as a life-long learner, Downey is eager to share his discoveries and grow with his community.

An important part of this education is checking out and supporting local restaurants. Among Downey’s countless recommendations are Wishbone and Baijiu.

Jay-Z’s 4:44 Tour

Photo by Chris Baldwin

Considered by many as a response to his wife Beyoncé’s album Lemonade, Jay-Z’s 13th studio album 4:44 touches on a variety of issues from hip hop culture and racism to his own family life and personal issues. On his 4:44 Tour in support of the album, you can expect a raw evening of music and emotion as the American rapper bares his complicated life on stage. The iconic artist will be joined by special guest Vic Mensa, who’s collaborated with heavyweights such as Kanye West and Pharrell.

Jay-Z | December 9 | $39–$396
Rogers Place | 1-855-985-5000

Winter Wine & Vodka

WINTER WINE
Nothing’s more comforting on a cold and snowy morning than a warm cup of mulled wine! Silk Road Spice Merchant’s Mulling Spices are a simple way to turn any bottle of red wine into a soothing cup of sweetness. With Indonesian cinnamon pieces, allspice berries, mace, cardamom pods, and dried orange peel, you’ll add this mulled wine to your list of winter-time traditions after only one sip!

PLEASANT WAKE-UP CALL
Add a unique kick to your Irish coffee this holiday season with Park Distillery’s Espresso Vodka. With a rich coffee flavour and hints of dark chocolate, this bold spirit is distilled from 100% Alberta triticale grain and steeped for 18 days with a Banff Roasting Co. espresso blend. Buy a bottle at Color de Vino.