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Culinary Crusader's Profile

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MRKT more show than substance

Lunch at MRKT, the new cafe opened by Carla Alexander of Soul Soup, was a little disappointing. The place looks great and has a great vibe, but the food is a little one dimensional and lacks any layering of flavours. The food is not bad by any means, but there is no "yum" factor. The sandwiches at the Elm Cafe are soooo much better.

The soups are familiar to anyone who has taken out from Soul Soup. Not bad but an excessive use of celery as filler that dominates everything else.

Really too bad about MRKT's wine selections. The typical boring, generic, uninspired wines you see at so many places in the city. Quite a disconnect from what they are holding themselves out to be. Really...Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc as a feature??? Can we get more generic and commercial? How about supporting some small independent wineries instead?

And what's with the ripple chips with the sandwiches. I love ripple chips as much as the next person, but isn't "MRKT" supposed to portray some degree of freshness and healthiness. Wouldn't making your own beet chips or assorted veggie chips be more consistent with the message. For a place that is claiming to be "fresh", seems like it is more packaging than substance...much like Carla's mentor Brad Lazarenko.

Wine & Food Tour of SF/Napa

Wow! What a great looking wine and food tour to Napa. Dinner at Michael Mina's (is the restaurant as great as everyone says it is?), Ad Hoc, etoile and lots of great winery visits.

I would be interested if anyone has been to the places listed on the tour and if people think it is as good as it looks.

The link is

Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

Edmonton - Where can I find a good bottle of sake?

Check out Vinomania on Jasper Avenue. They usually have a pretty good selection of things that the average store doesn't carry.

Edmonton: where to buy high quality olive oil for a low price?

You have to be very careful when buying olive oil as it must be fresh. Always look for the expiry date on the bottle. Really good quality olive oil is difficult to find in Edmonton. The Italian Centre does on occasion have some, but the best olive oil is imported by one of the wine importing companies. They represent a number of Italy's top wine estates and they often will bring in the olive oil produced at these estates. The oil is amazing. At various times of the year, they may have some from Tuscany, Sicily, and Marche. They only bring in small quantities at a time so it is always fresh. A few of the chefs in town use their oils and swear that they are the best. It's not cheap, but it's worth every penny. The company is called WineQuest,

Chicken & Waffles in SF

We will be in San Francisco this month and would love to find a great place for chicken and waffles. Any suggestions?

Lunch at Hardware Grill

I agree that the dinner portion sizes have been excessively large and I really haven't had a lot of great dinner experiences there. I haven't been for dinner in a while (for those very reasons), but was quite impressed with lunch. Was curious if the direction at lunch had also changed for the better.

Lunch at Hardware Grill

The Hardware Grill is open for lunch again after being closed for a few years. I've gone a couple of times now and it is great. In fact, I think lunch now is even better than before. They've really put together a great looking and tasting menu.

Over the couple of visits I've tried a number of things and they have all been very good. The lamb shank was tender and flavourful with a nice side of cassoulet. The crab cakes were very tasty and seasoned well. The French onion soup was a little traditional, but good.

The country pate and charcuterie plate were wonderful. More restaurants should have a charcuterie plate on their menu (many in other cities do). Also great were the smoked salmon and duck confit. I can't wait to go back and try the pork schnitzel, liver & bacon, and truffled mac & cheese.

The Glenlivet-Butterscotch pudding was also amazing.

Nice to see that Hardware is again open for lunch and doing such a nice job. It was a little difficult eating lunch there in the past as the portions were so big, it was hard going back to work and staying awake. I wonder if they've updated their dinner menu as well?

They've also installed a couple of automatic wine dispensing systems. I believe that they are similar to the ones that the Vinomania wine store put in about a year ago. Great idea!

Interesting to hear from others who have been for both lunch and dinner recently.

Zinc at the Art Gallery of Alberta - a huge disappointment

The new Art Gallery of Alberta opened recently. It is a stunning building and is a significant addition to Edmonton's downtown. The building also has a new restaurant called Zinc. We were very excited to try it out as the word was that they intended to take the city's fine dining to another level. Boy were we disappointed.

When we arrived, there was no one at the door to greet guests. We waited several minutes and a number of staff walked by, but no one even acknowledged that we were there. The restaurant was not busy. Finally we were seated. The room is modern, but a little cold and the room dividers have a bit of a cubicle feel.

The server was nice, but obviously not comfortable in a fine dining atmosphere. The food was extremely bad and over-priced. Appetizers - Many of the "roasted" beets in the beet salad were raw. The foie gras with anise ice cream was horrible. The anise completely overpowered the foie gras. The flavours were not well balanced.

The main courses were not much better. The bison was dry and over cooked. The pickeral was cooked fine, but quite bland with some gluey potato thing on top. The only main that was decent was the duck. It was prepared very well, but was served with mushy, flavourless chickpeas.

The desserts were unremarkable. The frozen chocolate cake was fine, but the mango mousse tasted like styrofoam.

Not only was the food average to very bad, the prices are very expensive, particularly for the quality. Dinner for 4 with one bottle of wine (the wine prices are very high compared to most fine dining restaurants in the city) was over $125 per person.

The food lacks elegance, subtly and finesse. This is not honest food. The chef obviously lacks the understanding and the ability to combine flavours.

We really wanted this restaurant to be good. Unfortunately, if they do not get better quickly, I don't think that many people who dine at the restaurant would go back a second time. We felt ripped off. Hopefully they will get better, but I honestly do not think they will.