Without even considering that June is also Pork Month, it’s a pretty damn good time of year in Edmonton. Average temperatures run 18°C to 22°C, the river valley is packed full of energetic people, and you have amazing events like Pride and the Jazz Festival. The key to all these amazing events, is that you’ll likely be out on a patio filling up your belly on good food…and unless you don’t eat pork, it’s a fantastic time to dine out!
17 restaurants in Edmonton are participating in June is Pork Month, including Canteen, Hardware Grill, Ampersand 27, Hart’s Table & Bar, Red Ox, Zinc, Packrat Louie, Lux Restaurat, North 53, Tzin, Hotel MacDonald, Share at The Westin, Rostizado, RGD RD, The Marc, Solstice, and Sunterra. That’s an awesome showing if you ask me, and you have options all over the city…OK, mostly central core but there are some in the burbs. Maybe the coolest part is that 13 of the 17 (not Solstice, Hotel Mac, Share, or Sunterra) have recipe cards that diners can receive when they order the dish at the restaurant this month. Dishes feature all parts of the pig (from pork belly to pork face schnitzel at Harts).
With Sharman from Passion for Pork directing the adventure, I met up with Linda and Andrea for what we called #yegPorkCrawl. Meeting downtown, and carpooling for our adventure we headed straight from our secret meet up place to North 53. Here we sat down and enjoyed Josh’s version of a classic family comfort food inspired by his mother, Alberta Pork Buns. The ground filling was seasoned well and reminded me of a warm shepards pie filling. Combined with the pillowy soft, sweet bun, it was an enjoyable start to our meal. At $4/bun, I think it might be a great appetizer to share with friends or accompaniment to a delicious pint of beer at the bar.
With our appetites warmed up and kicking into second gear, we jumped back in the pork wagon and headed east to our next stop, Tzin. Here we sat on the tiny patio and took in a few moments enjoying the sun on 104st.
Tzin does a lot out of a very tiny kitchen, including a very pork centric menu offering simply called Bacon –Maple Balsamic Apple Compote, Apple Mayonnaise, Crostini, Calvados Gastrique. This isn’t a part of Pork Month, but seemed like another great dish to include on our evening. You can order this dish as a plate of 3 or 4. You’ll want to share. This dish is tender, crunchy, sweet and fatty. It reminds me of breakfast and it’s fantastic.
For Pork Month, Chef Corey McGuire has created a dish with North African flavours, Moorish Pork Skewers. Two skewers of pork on a dirty rice, make this a nice change from the Pork Month offerings which tend to err on the side of fattier cuts (belly, shoulder etc..). Unlike the praise for bacon, this dish, with it’s regional spices, will likely be enjoyed by many and passed on by others. Of all the dishes on this evening, it was the most polarizing. I for one, like the dish and commend Corey for putting it on the menu to compete with such a crowd pleaser as his Bacon dish above.
With our hungry bodies starting to feel the deliciousness of pork, we left Tzin and continued east to the Fairmont MacDonald.
Easily one of, if not the best, patios in our city. The Fairmont MacDonald combines the flair of days gone by, with a million dollar view, and a very passionate Executive Chef in Serge Jost. Serving up more than one dish (Harvest Room, Confederation Lounge), Chef Jost pushed both our travel time lines and our waist lines. So much for in and out!
The first dish to arrive was Chef Jost’s award winning Pork Stew with Cornbread and a glass of beer. This dish is built to celebrate 100 year anniversary of the hotel. As such, its price point is fantastic at $19.15. That’s right, stew, cornbread and beer for less than $20. The stew was tender with rich notes of chocolate, the cornbread was sweet with a nice char and the beer..well, it’s whatever beer you want I think. The second dish to arrive was the seemingly bánh mì inspired Pork Belly Sandwich and Wedge Fries. The belly was divine and worked well with some sort of sweet onion jelly mixture. I do wish there was a bit more pickled vegetable in the sandwich as the contrast is needed in such a heavy dish. This ones on the lunch menu at Confederation Lounge, but don’t be surprised if you pass out at your desk after consuming it on a work day.
The Harvest Rooms’ nod to Pork Month is a Duo of Pork dish. A unctuous chunk of pork belly arrives on top of bitter greens, while the pork tenderloin rests on a potato pave. Along with some roasted vegetables, the entire dish sits on a cilantro yogurt. There was nothing but praise for this dish. It’s refined, balanced, and the individual flavours shine by themselves as well as in combination. Not many plates can shine with so much finesse. Well done Serge, well done. Just as we were standing up, Serge brought us a palate cleanser of strawberry and basil sorbet with a balsamic glaze. It tasted like summer.
With a need to walk, we slowly stumbled across the street for our next visit which was Share at The Westin Edmonton. Here, gold medal winning, Chef Ryan O`Flynn has created a dish of Pork Belly and Arancini. At this point, I think I was in pork belly overload but combined with the deep fried arancini it made for a easily digestible dish. The recipe card shows some big pieces of morel mushroom, something I’d hope we were going to be treated to. Sadly, we were not.
One of the best items of the night, was a side dish served to Sharman who has a true gluten intolerance. Because of this, she was treated to a side dish of pork belly, scallop and beet raviloi with smoked salmon filling. Everything else considered, the beet ravioli was unreal. This is something I’m going to attempt at home!
Slowing down considerable, we entered the 4th hour of our pork crawl and headed south. You’ll notice, we still had smiles on as we entered Packrat Louie. Chef Andrew Cowan has made a Pork and Foie Gras Bratwurst dish. Served alongside a cold potato salad, this isn’t your standard backyard sausage. With a beautiful snap, this rich tube of meat welcomed the bite and contrast of both the pickle and the sauerkraut.
After finishing off the bratwurst, we called the evening over. This was likely a good thing as 5 hours had passed since our first dish and we were starting to sweat pork juice. Thankfully, there are many more evenings in June to enjoy Pork Month…and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a second #yegPorkCrawl.