Dietary Notes, November 30

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Riley Aitken is working on a restaurant counter-revolution.

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“Dining out is a detached thing these days,” notes the owner and chef of Smokey Bear, the new restaurant taking the place of Accent European Lounge at 8224 104 St. “You’ve got your plate, that’s only for you’re eating, and half the time you’re on your phone ignoring everyone else’s. That’s not the reason we go out to eat.

For Aitken, who just returned last January after working in Australian gastronomy for four years, dining out is all about conversation, sharing different dishes, getting your hands a little dirty in the process. Hence his first restaurant, featuring a 2.4-meter wood-burning stove that you will feel as you make your way to the restaurant along Gateway Boulevard. His description of Smokey Bear is simple, elegant and immediately appealing: “big chunks of meat, farmer’s market vegetables, all grilled over the fire.” Dishes include endives with blueberries and stilton; asparagus with dried egg yolk and almonds; 21-day dry-aged beef; salted salmon with smoked cheese and dill.

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“There is a dish in the middle of the table; you share it, talk about it, fight someone for the last track. It’s fun and it’s social. We have a chef’s selection, and the menu changes every two weeks depending on what I feel like cooking. We charge $ 80 for this, and you eat until you can’t eat anymore, with a selection of chilled natural wines to go with it.

Smokey Bear chef and owner Riley Aitken makes a dish of Nibble family oyster mushrooms in a yeast sauce.
Smokey Bear chef and owner Riley Aitken makes a dish of Nibble family oyster mushrooms in a yeast sauce. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

Smokey Bear has only been open for about a week, but Aitken and Ashleigh Smith, its general manager and sommelier, are happy with customer responses.

“We’ve had people say, ‘you know, I never thought I’d ordered a dish like that, but it’s delicious. I’m usually just a meat and potato lover. There’s this mindset about food and drink in the culture, where we have tacos on Tuesday, wings on Wednesday. We want to break that mold, do something different, get out of what people expect, but also give them food that will blow their minds.

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Conversation cookbook

“There are a lot of stories to be told around food, and we would love to tell them,” says Juanita Gnanapragasam, who, along with her partner Mishma Mukith, runs Converse and Cook.

The nonprofit offers cooking classes around Edmonton – including classes for University of Alberta students – and grocery buses, as well as food safety and preparation resources. food. The pair are now telling these food-inspired stories in their newly released cookbook, Our Stories, Our Food.

“The cookbook came out of one of the classes,” says Gnanapragasam, a university alumnus. Converse and Cook is set up in a “for community by community” model, where students develop menus, cook meals together and get to know each other. “One student said it would be nice to know what the others are cooking on campus. The idea we came up with was to take a Humans of New York lens, talk about people’s stories as well as print recipes.

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The hard copy of the cookbook, which was released Thursday, contains more than 35 recipes and stories from the community. They will follow more if the first edition is sold out, but sales of the first edition of Our Stories Our Food will also go to various non-profit activities, as well as the maintenance and updating of the digital version, which, according to Gnanapragasam, will be until the new year.

“It’s about connecting people, and food is a way to bring people together,” she observes. “Some of the stories are about friendship, loss and community; these are themes that people connect with.

Our Stories Our Food will be available at the Students Union Building bookstore at the University of Alberta in December; check out the Converse and Cook website for the digital version in the coming year.

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Pair of tourtières

We have two, count them two, items on your favorite Canadian meat dish.

First, the Deep Freeze Festival, which takes place from January 11 to 12, 2020, is calling for homemade tourtières, offering prizes for the top three entries in the competition. You will need to register by January 11 on the Deep Freeze website; the competition takes place Jan. 12 at the Alberta Avenue Community League.

At the High Level Diner, they offer sliced ​​pies from December 1, but also whole pies which are also a mixture of turkey, pork and beef, to eat in and take away. In a new development, they will also be offering vegan and gluten-free versions, whole only, the vegan a mushroom-based pie with local oyster mushrooms from the Gruger family farms.

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