Edmonton’s Credo a Different Breed of Coffeehouse

Half a dozen types of excellent muffins steadily emerging from the kitchen makes Edmonton's Credo a special coffeehouse

Half a dozen types of excellent muffins steadily emerging from the kitchen makes Edmonton’s Credo a special coffeehouse

Here’s how you make a coffeehouse stand out.

Obviously, you need fine coffee. Edmonton’s Credo nicely meets that standard.

A nice Americano, using Intelligentsia beans

A nice Americano, using Intelligentsia beans

But it’s the house-baked goodies that blow the doors off. Credo smartly keeps things relatively simple, offering just a few treats like cookies, lovely pans of granola bars and muffins.

Muffins, you’re thinking? Big deal. But how many places offer a half dozen varieties at a time? Credo does, every day.

Here’s the real kicker. Most coffee shops bake one batch of muffins early in the morning. Once they’re sold out, they’re gone. And if they’re not all gone by, say, noon, they’re often wrapped in plastic, to keep them “fresh”. But to me, plastic wrap spells “stale”, usually enough to send me running for the exit.

Credo, though, has the ingenious idea of simply baking more batches as the day wears on. Thus the muffins are always fresh and often warm from the oven.

How about a fine cornmeal, cheddar muffin, with a bit of kick?

How about a fine cornmeal, cheddar muffin, with a bit of kick?

Such as the fabulous cornmeal and cheddar muffin I recently devoured. It had a lovely texture, with a bit of crunch from the cornmeal and a wee kick from, I’m guessing, some jalapeño. Did I mention it was just out of the oven and artfully angled, with its brethren, in its baking tin?

I could have ordered a blueberry muffin, a bran or a cranberry cornmeal instead and been just as satisfied. Indeed, it took all my willpower to not down a couple more.

So, by simply deciding to make great muffins, and lots of them, Credo is always going to be a go-to coffee shop among the dozens competing for my attention when I’m in Edmonton.

Credo Cafe
10134 104 Street and 10350 124 Street, Edmonton, Alberta
104 Street location: weekdays 7 am-6 pm, Saturday 8 am-6 pm, Sunday 10 am-6 pm (slightly reduced hours at the second, new location)
Credo Coffee on Urbanspoon

In other Edmonton coffee news, the cleverly named Burrow has opened in the underground concourse of a downtown light-rail transit (LRT) station. With an efficient espresso bar (using Four Barrel beans) and pastries and light breakfasts and lunches to go, it’s aimed at snagging the 20,000 transit users a day who walk by.

It’s part of Nate Box’s expanding city empire of little coffee/food places, joining Elm Cafe and District Coffee. Guess you could call it a box set.

Burrow
Central LRT Station concourse west (Jasper Avenue near 102 Street)
Weekdays 7 am-5 pm. Closed weekends
Burrow on Urbanspoon

An Indian-Food Remedy in Edmonton, Alberta

You have to filter through all the flavourful pistachio bits to get to the heart of this lovely chai at Edmonton's Remedy Cafe

You have to filter through all the flavourful pistachio bits to get to the heart of this lovely chai at Edmonton’s Remedy Cafe

I seldom eat Indian food on a road trip. It’s not that I don’t love the rich, complex dishes typical of this cuisine.

It’s just that it tends to be fairly expensive—often exceeding $15 per plate, lunch or dinner—for my travelling budget. Plus the atmosphere is generally dark and formal.

So it’s delightful to discover Remedy Cafe, Zee Zaidi’s growing little kingdom of Indian food joints in Edmonton, Alberta. The eats and drinks are great, the prices most affordable and the spaces bright and roomy, with a counter-service, fast-food vibe (though the bathrooms in the flagship, 109th Street store require a long hike to the nether reaches of the building).

You can certainly order standards like samosa appetizers and butter chicken, served in a copper bowl, with a side of naan. But the lunchtime highlights are the substantial wraps, featuring traditional Indian and Pakistani dishes like tandoori chicken or chana masala stuffed inside a toasted tortilla, with some dipping sauce to spice things up to your heat tolerance. It’s a unique, tasty, stuff-your-gut meal for about $9.

A filling, spicy chicken wrap with a nice dipping sauce

A filling, spicy chicken wrap with a nice dipping sauce

Wash things down with a range of original-recipe chais, steeped over several days, or coffees produced in little siphon pots or through a pour-over filter. Later in the day, join the university crowd swigging from a roster of 70 types of beer.

Remedy Cafe
8631 109 Street (four other Edmonton locations)
Weekdays 7:30 am-midnight, weekends 8 am-midnight
Remedy on Urbanspoon

A short drive to the east, hole-in-the-wall Boulangerie Bonjour is doing one thing extremely well, and that’s making sourdough breads. I love the tangy taste and slight chewiness of a good sourdough, and Yvan Chartrand and team certainly delivers with its wild yeast culture, or levain. The organic wheat and rye grains are from Alberta farms and milled at the bakery, where the loaves are baked on a stone oven hearth.

A fine roster of sourdough loaves to choose from at Boulangerie Bonjour

A fine roster of sourdough loaves to choose from at Boulangerie Bonjour

The only problem is choosing: A traditional loaf, a rye raisin walnut or a sundried tomato and olive? Best to get a raw-milk cheese to go with it, though it’s hard to beat the simplicity of just toasting a slice, or two or three, with a generous smearing of melted butter.

I just want to tear into this sourdough baguette

I just want to tear into this sourdough baguette

Boulangerie Bonjour
8608 99 Street, Edmonton
Tuesday to Friday 8 am-5:30 pm, Saturday 7 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
Boulangerie BONJOUR on Urbanspoon

Big as a Lion’s Head Soup in Davis, California

Burger-sized meatballs in this boat of a clay-pot soup at Shanghai Town Restaurant in Davis, California

Burger-sized meatballs in this boat of a clay-pot soup at Shanghai Town Restaurant in Davis, California

Why am I in Davis, California, a university town northeast of San Francisco that would normally register as no more than a passing freeway sign? I’m here on a flyer, after a seatmate at a Sacramento sandwich spot suggests I visit Shanghai Town Restaurant, a nondescript plaza eatery with formica tables and a lunch combination plate featuring the usual Chinese food suspects.

Specifically, I’m here to try just one thing: a Shanghai specialty known as Lion’s Head clay-pot soup, featuring pork meatballs. After ordering, I’m thinking $10.45 is a bit steep for soup in a Chinese hole-in-the-wall. But then this veritable cauldron is plunked down on the table, still bubbling.

“Gee, maybe I should have order a medium,” I say to the older, co-owner. “One size,” he replies before leaving me to do battle. In I dive, slurping the delicious broth and chewing delicate cabbage and soft, fist-sized meatballs; the rice noodles are lurking somewhere in the depths.

After 15 minutes of yeoman work, I’ve scarcely made a dent in the still smouldering pot, despite having sweated through a couple of napkins. I leave with a carton of untouched meatballs and a litre of broth, content my $10 has bought me two more bowls of a delightful discovery.

Shanghai Town Restaurant
1260 Lake Boulevard, Suite 111
Tuesday to Sunday 11:30 am-9:30 pm. Closed Monday
Shanghai Town on Urbanspoon

Fantastic Lunches at Magpie Cafe in Sacramento, California

Magpie Cafe, in Sacramento California, serves the perfect BLT, with simple, sensational ingredients

Magpie Cafe, in Sacramento California, serves the perfect BLT, with simple, sensational ingredients

Usually, I know what I want to order within seconds of scanning a menu. But at *Magpie Cafe, on the edge of downtown Sacramento, California, I’m at a complete loss. My first instinct is to go with the duck confit salad. But then I see an absolutely loaded, pulled-pork sandwich slide past on a server’s arm. Hmmm. The grilled Diestel natural turkey sandwich, with sage cheddar, also looks enticing. And I’m only halfway through a lunch menu of sandwiches and salads. Aaargh!

Hard to resist this duck confit salad

Hard to resist this duck confit salad

I finally settle on a boring, summer BLT (a steal at $9.25), if you can call bursting-with-flavour orange heirloom tomatoes, thick-cut bacon, cress and caper aioli on a fresh baguette boring. Even the scoop of potato salad seems to contain heirloom, blue potatoes. In all, it’s simple but simply outstanding ingredients, creative details and great execution by owners Ed Roehr and Janel Inoyue and their attentive staff. Sandwich makers of the world, take note.

I’m so focused on the food, I scarcely look at the inviting surroundings—scrubbed, old brick walls and exposed ductwork running along the high ceiling. But I do notice the line of salivating customers forming behind me in late morning. They’re no doubt waiting for me to make up my damn mind.

People lining up for fabulous sandwiches and salads at lovely Magpie Cafe

People lining up for fabulous sandwiches and salads at lovely Magpie Cafe

Magpie Cafe
1409 R Street, Sacramento, California
Monday to Wednesday 10:30 am-9 pm, Thursday-Friday 10:30 am-10 pm, Saturday 8 am-10 pm, Sunday 8 am-2 pm
Magpie Cafe on Urbanspoon

I finish my midtown Sacramento afternoon with an exacting pour-over at elegant, spare Temple Coffee, arguably the best California roaster not located on the coast.

Temple Coffee might be the best California roaster not on the west coast

Temple Coffee might be the best California roaster not on the west coast

Temple Coffee Roasters
1010 9 Street (two other Sacramento locations)
Daily 6 am-11 pm
Temple Coffee on Urbanspoon

6 Ways to Eat Out Three Times a Day, Without Becoming Fat

Do you really need all that toast at breakfast?

Do you really need all that toast at breakfast?

“How do you stay so slim eating all those road-trip restaurant meals?” people often ask me. The answer? Wearing loose clothes to hide the little tire that gets pumped up by about five pounds after a month of steady grazing on volumes of fatty, starchy foods I certainly wouldn’t inflict on my body back home. It all tastes great at the time, but I know there’s a starvation diet in my near future. Still, it could easily be worse, say 10 or more pounds worse. But I’ve learned a few tricks to keep the ballooning at bay.

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Great Saturday Market in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Ring of tostadas at Las Cazuelas del Don at the weekly market in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Ring of tostadas at Las Cazuelas del Don at the weekly market in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

The organic market in San Jose del Cabo is held on Saturdays, in an open field, down a rough dirt road northeast of downtown (it’s not far from the Mexican resort of Cabo san Lucas). It attracts a mix of locals and laid-back tourists, who casually peruse produce, hand-crafted jewelry, lotions and clothing. You know, something to fill the stalls between the important stuff: the fresh meals.

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