I’ve had a lot of food made to order. Which is the way, for the most part, it should be.
But never doughnuts. Not that I ever eat them; their doughy sweetness sends my blood sugars soaring.
Still, when we walked into Edmonton’s Ohana Donuterie and saw that the doughnuts are not fried until you order them, we figured we had to give it a shot; two bites in my case.
These are not your conventional doughnuts. They are called malasadas, a Portugese-derived yeast doughnut, rolled in sugar, that’s also popular in Hawaii. At Ohana’s, you can get them filled—in our case, with a simple vanilla cream.
And really, you don’t want to complicate things. You want to concentrate fully on these puffy, soft, yummy bombs.
While some folks were ordering them to go, they are best consumed at a table, warm from the fryer and perhaps chased with an espresso. They are also pretty substantial; a single doughnut is a fair-sized snack, costing $2.75 if filled.
Ohana is a year-old partnership of two guys, Adam and Kevin, who started with a food truck and added a fixed, hole-in-the-doughnut location in Edmonton’s Strathcona district. It’s a good thing I live in Calgary.
10347 80 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Monday to Thursday 8 am-9 pm, Friday 8 am-10 pm, Saturday 9 am-10 pm, Sunday 10 am-9 pm
There’s a good case for making Edmonton the number two coffee hot spot in western Canada, behind Vancouver. Of course, Edmontonians aren’t as precious about how they roast and prepare their coffee as the wet coasters.
Still, there are always new coffee shops popping up in Alberta’s capital. After profiling half a dozen places a couple of years ago, I figured it was time for a fresh visit up north.
The first stop was The Colombian Coffee & Roastery, next door to the venerable Vi’s for Pies in the city’s leafy Glenora neighbourhood; the roasting happens at the back of the long, narrow space. It seemed like an odd, generic name, until I learned co-owner Santiago Lopez was from Colombia and that some of the roastery’s beans come from a family farm there. Talk about farm to cup.
The place was hopping on a dreary Saturday morning, with lots of folks ordering avocado toast to go with steaming mugs of java. Good stuff, evidence that if you build a good coffee shop in a nice district, the neighbours will come.
Somewhat harder to find is ACE Coffee Roasters, on a little side street south of Whyte Avenue in Edmonton’s Strathcona district. It’s a lovely, spacious place with high ceilings, exposed ductwork and a gleaming marble coffee bar.
My Americano was one of the better ones I’ve had in Edmonton. The coffee is nicely chased with donuts baked at partner Café Leva in Garneau.
In the attached space, separated by a glass wall, is the company’s Caffe Tech, where you can drop a few grand on high-end home and commercial espresso machines. Think I’ll just let the expert barrista pull the shots for me.
The Columbian Coffee & Roastery
1, 10340 134 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Weekdays 7 am-6 pm, Saturday 8 am-6 pm, Sunday 9 am-3 pm
ACE Coffee Roasters
10055 80 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Wednesday to Sunday 8 am-4 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday
Thank God for persistence. Or pig headedness.
Last summer, we drove 1,000 kilometres from Calgary to near Tumbler Ridge, in northeast B.C., for a backpack. Just past Grande Prairie, Alberta, we stopped at a recommended lunch spot, called Soups, in Beaverlodge. Closed for the week. Strike one.
The bad luck continued when at the very trailhead, after a long gravel-road drive, was a hand-made sign: trail closed because of wildfire. On our way back through smoky Beaverlodge, a week later, we stopped again at Soups. Still closed. Strike two.
Because we’re dim-witted creatures accustomed to suffering, three of us headed back this summer for another crack at said backpack. Of course, we stopped at Soups for a mid-morning break. Closed for a staff break. Strike three.
The smoke in the mountains was still rather thick, but the Monkman Pass trail was open and we persevered through a wonderful week of waterfalls and alpine lakes. So things were looking up when we stopped at Soups, on the way home. What do you know, it was open.
Packed to the rafters, in fact, at mid-week lunch. Who knew so many people lived in little Beaverlodge? Or made it their favourite place for a bite out?
We grabbed the last free table and watched the bustling staff deliver house-made soups and hefty sandwiches to the expectant diners. Many of the sandwich meats are made in house, as is the thick, soft bread; customers are, charmingly, asked if they want their sandwiches on “white or brown.”
What we wanted, after a week of hiking and dehydrated meals, was big, fresh and tasty. And Soups delivered on all counts, serving up honking sandwiches of roast beef and bayou chicken. Chased with a fresh-baked cinnamon bun.
And then into the line at the till, where long-time owner Luvie Castro chatted with all the customers, at least the ones paying the bill.
Who knows if I’ll ever go through Beaverlodge again. But if I do, it’s definitely worth a stop to see if Soups is open.
908 2 Avenue, Beaverlodge, Alberta
Weekdays 7 am-3 pm. Closed weekends
Over the years, I’ve eaten a lot of cinnamon buns; that’s cinnamon rolls if you’re American. Indeed, I have recipes for two classic Edmonton cinnamon buns—the Tuck Shop’s and Mayfair Golf Club’s—which perfected the mix of gooey goodness, without being overly bready, and without any of that nasty icing.
But en route to a recent backpack in northern Canada, I twice encountered something I hadn’t seen before: toasted cinnamon buns. These were both offered at hotel restaurants, one in Beaverlodge, Alberta and the other in Tumbler Ridge, B.C.
I can see how toasting could improve a cinnamon bun that was a day old or a little doughy. And it’s one way of reheating them without resorting to a microwave. I didn’t see how these ones were prepared, though I assume they were sliced horizontally and toasted in some kind of oven.
We got them to go, which may not have been the friendliest thing for the planet. They emerged from the kitchen each in large white plastic bags containing a cinnamon bun in a Styrofoam box, four packets of butter and, in one case, several packets of cream cheese. They were then attacked with plastic knives and forks, as well as fingers.
I’m not sure how many calories were consumed in this starch-sugar-fat feeding frenzy. It’s a good thing seven hours of hiking ensued.
Grande Prairie’s El Norteno is certainly the best taco shop in northern Alberta, if not a much wider area. I mean, how can you beat corn tortillas that are rolled out and grilled after you place your order? All the fillings are excellent, especially the fish, enhanced by house-made toppings.
But owner James Nelson certainly upped the ante when he suggested we try a plate of tater tots, or as he called them Mexican poutine. Yes, it was deep-fried tater tots, loaded with slaw, cilantro and house-made salsa and guacamole and aioli sauce.
The result was surprisingly fresh tasting and fantastic. We hoovered down a plate, alongside a couple of tacos each.
It was so good we made a point of returning on our way back through Grande Prairie. The plate of tots disappeared in about a minute.
Note: Grande Prairie’s food scene continues to get more interesting. In the stall next to El Norteno, at the downtown Farmers’ Market, is Off the Wheaten Path, a gluten-free, vegan kitchen offering bowls, wraps, root veggies, and plant-based pizzas. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open when we passed through. Next time.
10032 101 Avenue, Grande Prairie, Alberta
Monday 11 am-3 pm, Tuesday to Friday 11 am-8 pm, Saturday 11 am-8 pm. Closed Sunday
Off the Wheaten Path
10032 101 Avenue, Grande Prairie, Alberta
Wednesday-Thursday 8 am-4 pm, Friday 8 am-8 pm, Saturday 10 am-3 pm. Closed Sunday to Tuesday