Gastronomic happenings around town

chef amanda cohen is nait hokanson chef in res 2017

Chef Amanda Cohen rocked NYC when she opened the vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy. Not only is she a rock star chef who does cool things with vegetables, Amanda is a funny, down-to-earth Canadian. The Dirt Candy cookbook is perhaps the first graphic novel/ cookbook combo. It’s outstanding. If you don’t have a copy, go get one, now, so chef Cohen can sign it when she’s here. The Hokanson Chef in Residence Program is made possible due to the generous patronage of John and Susan Hokanson. The public does have an opportunity to buy tix to the lunch, on sale soon,

Alessandro Porcelli, founder of Cook it Raw with Amanda Cohen during Cook it Raw Alberta
Photo courtesy Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance
all in the family

South side pastry lovers need wait no longer, La Boule Patisserie and Bakery is open. Everything we have tasted so far is lovely: the petit pain au chocolate possesses a perfect ratio of chocolate to crisp and buttery dough; the silky-textured passion fruit éclair with its balanced flavours; the exquisite lemon tart.

“We wanted everything to be classic, elegant, yet innovative,” says owner and exec pastry chef Jennifer Stang.

There is an entire room devoted to chocolate, which they expect to be up and running by Valentine’s Day. No bread yet. “We are still learning our ovens,” says Jennifer. “This thing’s a rocketship, it’s a Picard and we have beautiful flour from Anita’s Organic Mill in Vancouver.”

Jennifer’s partner in the biz is her mother (accountant and chief dishwasher) Roseanne Stang-Tarrabain and her partner Serge Belair is helping out until he takes over as exec chef at the Edmonton Convention Centre. La Boule Patisserie and Bakery, 8020 101 Street, 780-760-2253,

Jennifer Stang, Roseanne Stang- Tarrabain and Serge Belair of La Boule Patisserie and Bakery
Photo Boccabella Photography
look out for otto

Ed Donszelmann, an experienced hand in the hospitality biz, (Savoy, Culina Millcreek, Glass Monkey) has just opened a casual neighbourhood eatery in Norwood called Otto. The rustic interior has a variety of seating—comfortable booths, a community table, a few bar stools and a patio planned for summer. They are working out the kinks, always a trial with a new resto; don’t expect perfection yet. Do expect a well- chosen beer list and excellent sausages by Fuge Meats. Love this move back into neighbourhoods; being within walking distance for patrons makes for a more vibrant streetscape. Otto, 11405 95 Street

get the vibe

The Art Gallery of Alberta offers a fun night on the third Friday of every month. Vibe, a pop-up live music showcase features a special menu, cocktails, beer and wine from Zinc, along with art activities and, a treat for art lovers, the chance to view the gallery exhibitions after hours. AGA, 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square, 780-422-6223,

Patrons getting the vibe at AGA
Photo courtesy AGA
big clogs to fill

Executive chef Simon Smotkowicz announced that he was leaving the Shaw Conference Centre late last year. Chef is not retiring exactly but he does want to change the nature of his work. “The great thing about the job was I was able to build skills within the team, bring in more complicated menus;” says chef Smotkowicz, “ and it always allowed me a lot of freedom. I pretty much did what I wanted to do, but I don’t want to work a 60-hour week anymore. I am involved in a lot of non-profit and will continue to do that and I will consult but can’t talk too much about that right now.” What chef can talk about is his tomatoes. “I know a lady in Airdrie who has heirloom seeds. I’m excited to try them this spring.”

Generations of cooks learned to be chefs under chef Smotkowicz’s tutlelege. One in particular, chef Serge Belair, who has worked with Simon for over a decade, becomes the Shaw’s new executive chef on February 1.

Chef Simon Smotkowicz (Shaw Conference Centre)
Photo courtesy Shaw Convention Centre
modern canadian food at bündok

After considerable delay (which seems to be the name of the game for Edmonton restos these days, so annoying and costly for proprietors) Bündok is now open. Early menus feature warming dishes such as mushroom gnocchi, a roasted cauliflower soup with a caper drizzle, a very good sirloin. The space is comfortably contemporary, about 40 seats, not too loud, woodsy, earth tones, with an open kitchen and bar. We like the well-edited wine selection and old-school cocktail list. Bündok, 10228 104 Street, 780-420-0192,

Bündok’s chef/owner Ryan Hotchkiss
Roberto Martinez photo