Taste of Edmonton 2015 – Not Much to Salivate Over

Approximately 480,000 people are expected to attend Taste of Edmonton (TOE) this year. Billed as the largest food festival in Canada, there is no doubt that this event, now in its 31st season,  is one of Edmonton’s best-attended festivals.

Does it mean people truly get a taste of what Edmonton’s food culture is all about? I hope not because we are more than this. We are better than this. Technically, yes, this is a taste of what some restaurants have to offer to almost half a million people who will pay $2.50 to $5.00 per sample-size portion but please don’t think this represents the finest of Edmonton’s culinary offerings.

(photo cred: cbc.ca)
(photo credit: cbc.ca)

It would make good sense for participating food vendors to offer enticing dishes with the end goal of persuading customers to seek out that restaurant for a meal in the future. It should not make festival-goers pitch the mostly uneaten item in to the garbage and feel the food was a waste of money. Unfortunately, the general consensus is exactly that, and this is not a new revelation; this food discord has been building for years. The quantity of food vendors has risen; sadly, the same can’t be said for the quality of the food.

Edmonton Sun writer, Graham Hicks, didn’t mince any words over how he felt about this year’s food, and, although Graham and I may differ in our opinions when it comes to restaurants, I wholeheartedly side with him on this one.

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About one in three dishes are deep-fried so finding food with fewer calories was a challenge. Here’s what I tried that made me sigh — and not in a good way:

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Chicken Shawarma from Dedo’s Food Truck $5 – Banner on truck says “Best Shawarma in the City”. Not.
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Tequila Lime Chicken Tacos with Mexican Rice from Three Amigos. So bad. So very, very bad. $5
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I expected so much more from the 100 Bar & Kitchen, like, maybe something—anything!—that resembled Reuben sandwich ingredients in this Reuben Fritter. $3
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Rotisserie Roasted Pig from the Freson Bros. This had so much potential. They have a pig roasting right there on the spit…but when this little piggy went to market, something got lost on the way — as in any type of flavour in the meat and the coleslaw at the bottom. $3.75
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Aye carumba, these Chinook Bacon Wrapped Jalapeños from Our Truck is Your Truck were dreadful. Dreadful price too: $5
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Moksha’s Chicken Slider $3.75 – dry, pulverized chicken on a dry white bun.
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I love Jamaican jerk dishes, but oh so disappointed with Irie’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken on Rice. Lots of rice and lots of ingredients in that jerk sauce, but no depth, no flavour. $3.75

 

There are definitely some delectable dishes offered at Taste of Edmonton, but they are few and far between. Here’s some good news:

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Despite the bread being a little dry, this foie gras and peanut butter jelly sandwich by Sandwich & Sons was one of the few memorable dishes of the day. Creativity, quality ingredients, and Alex Sneazwell’s guts to take a chance put this one in my top 3 picks. $3.75
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Another creative dish: Pork and Apple Hand Pie by the Pie Eatery. Savoury with just a bit of sweet in a gorgeous pastry. $5
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Doesn’t look like much, but taste-wise, finally something that said ‘badda-bing!’: grilled lemongrass beef from Hoang Long. $5

More details about the food and more information on my Taste of Edmonton experience can be heard here.  Need a visual? Click here for the CBC web article.

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