Lifelong Sabor duo builds YEG restaurant empire

Crystal Carwin Lee (@crystalcarwin) loves food, so she is working her way through the best places to eat or drink in Edmonton. Profiles will be posted on TLG, and you can find her review of SABOR Restaurant on her own blog.

Co-owners Chef Lino Oliveira and Christian Mena at Sabor. <em>Photo: Jamie Tweedy.</em>

Co-owners Chef Lino Oliveira and Christian Mena at Sabor. Photo courtesy Jamie Tweedy

When SABOR Restaurant opened its doors in 2008, I had been working downtown for about a year. For the life of me, I cannot recall what previously stood in its place on the boardwalk of 103 Street and 102 Avenue. SABOR has ingrained itself so strongly within the community that it feels like it has existed in that space for a much longer period of time. 

That, to me, is a sign that co-owners Christian Mena and chef Lino Oliveira have done their due diligence and really carved out their niche in this city. The duo has created a memorable fusion of Portuguese, Iberian and Mediterranean flavours with a focus on seafood made right. Marry the food with the intimate atmosphere and live music (occasionally at the courtesy of Christian) every Wednesday to Sunday, and SABOR becomes a top destination to relax and unwind with friends and loved ones for an evening.

After going to the restaurant as a patron for a number of years, I finally had a chance to learn more about the pair who make SABOR run smoothly day-to-day. From our conversation, Christian’s and Lino’s passionate answers clearly convey nothing but love for what they do.

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Storify: the #31DaysOfYEG Challenge 2016

Our annual #31DaysOfYEG challenge provides you with new ways to explore Edmonton. Photo illustration: Ally Whittaker & Arielle Demchuk.

Our annual #31DaysOfYEG challenge provides you with new ways to explore Edmonton. Photo illustration: Ally Whittaker & Arielle Demchuk.

Have you joined our #31DaysofYEG Challenge for 2016? If not, there’s still lots of time to join the fun!

If you’re looking for more inspiration to help you explore Edmonton and find its hidden gems, look no further. We’ve used Storify to create a summary of how other participants have been completing the challenges, and we’ll be updating it daily until the end of the month.

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Going beyond Sunshine Organic Farm’s market stall

In my home, we go through a lot of eggs.  Search “breakfast sandwich capital of Canada” online and the address to our downtown Edmonton apartment may be the suggested link. In our kitchen, good eggs are a necessity, not a luxury, which is how I first came to know one of the staple vendors of City Market Downtown, Sunshine Organic Farm.

Sunshine organic Farm in Alsike, AB. Photo: Elyse Williams

Sunshine Organic Farm are found weekly, year-round at the downtown farmers’ market. Photo: Elyse Williams

Open year-round, Ed and Sherry Horvath sell their organic, family-farm-raised beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs and sausages at the downtown farmers’ market. This winter, I contacted Sherry  to learn what it’s like to be a vendor at a winter market, hear some of the history of their farm, and get to know the family behind it all (you can read what I learned in this post!) During our incredibly lovely chat, Sherry generously invited me to visit them at Sunshine Organic Farm in Alsike that spring.
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The #31DaysOfYEG Challenge 2016

Are you looking for new ways to explore Edmonton and discover all the best things about this city? Take on the Local Good’s annual #31DaysofYEG Challenge for the month of July!

Our challenge?  Take some time this summer to go out of your way to engage in the city in new and different ways, and find some new favourite hidden gems. We have provided a list of 31 different ways — one for each day — for you to do just that.

You can do one challenge per day, or all 31 in one day, in numerical order or at random. The full list is posted below so you can complete the challenge in a way that works for you.

Share your experiences with us and with others on Twitter and/or Instagram using the hashtag #31DaysofYEG, or by posting to our Facebook community forum. Remember to reference the number of the challenge you completed to help inspire other participants.

The #31DaysOfYEG challenge is back for another year! Photo: Ally Whittaker. Overlay: Arielle Demchuk.

The #31DaysOfYEG challenge is back for another year! Photo illustration: Ally Whittaker & Arielle Demchuk. 

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Sexy Men of YEG Calendar: Catching the Drift

This is part of a series profiling the businesses involved in the Sexy Men of YEG Food calendars, which feature photos of local coffee roasters, and food truck and restaurant owners. The proceeds from the calendar, now in its second year, benefit the Edmonton Food Bank.

It’s a beautiful, sunny afternoon in Churchill Square, and the food trucks are lined up on 99 Street. I’m here to profile another of the businesses featured in the Sexy Men of YEG Calendar — this time it’s Drift Food Truck, featured in the 2015 calendar. Even though it’s past the lunchtime rush, there’s still a brisk business happening at the truck, and it will be a few minutes before I can speak to Kara Fenske, who, along with Nevin Fenske (a.k.a. Mr. June) owns and operates Drift. While I’m waiting, it’s time to eat!

Drift takes its place in Food Truck Alley, Churchill Square.  Photo: Erin Wallace

Drift takes its place in Food Truck Alley, Churchill Square. Photo: Cam Wallace

My trusty photographer-slash-husband and I decide to share the first item on the menu: the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich and, of course, a side of fries. The sandwich, topped with coleslaw and house pickles, looks good and tastes even better. The seasoning of the chicken is reminiscent of a pakora, and the flavour is balanced but not overwhelmed by the slaw and pickles. In my opinion, a food truck is defined by its fries, and Drift’s do not disappoint. They’re hand cut, nice and crispy, and disappear way too fast. And of course we have to try Drift’s own homemade ketchup, seasoned with ginger and cardamom.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Home Cut Fries.  Photo: Erin Wallace

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Home Cut Fries. Photo: Cam Wallace

After we eat, I am able to catch a few minutes with Kara. She and Nevin are starting to wind down from the lunch rush, but are still cheerful, friendly and energetic. With over 30 years of experience in the food industry between them, Kara and Nevin (both graduates of NAIT) have been operating Drift since they were inspired by the Portland, Ore., food truck industry back in 2011. They shop local whenever possible, and use environmentally friendly packaging. While Nevin got to represent Drift in the Sexy Men of YEG Calendar, both proprietors agree it was a good experience. Not only is the calendar supporting a worthwhile cause (the Edmonton Food Bank), “it’s great cross promotion,” says Nevin, as it brings attention to both the food bank and unique local businesses. Read more »

Collaborative spaces: Where to look for co-work space in Edmonton

Edmonton co-work space

The Mosaic Centre provides a welcoming environment to its co-work renters. Photo by David Dodge for Green Energy Futures.

This is a city where creativity and community go hand in hand. In this series, I’m exploring the local businesses and spaces whose collaborative natures make them more than the sum of their parts.

 So far in this series, I’ve explored spaces all over the city that emphasize collaboration and community. Most involve a variety of industries and influencers coming together under one roof, and nothing embodies this concept more than co-work spaces.

Geared towards freelancers, entrepreneurs and anyone else without a designated office space, co-work spaces have become a fixture in Edmonton since Startup Edmonton paved the way in 2009. Tenants love the flexibility, the connections with other workers and having a good reason to get out of the house. I asked the folks behind two popular co-work spaces about the unique value that they bring to the city. Read more »

Second Edmonton Resilience Festival strengthens community

When we talk about resilience, we are referring to the ability to adapt to change in a healthy and collective way. The second annual Edmonton Resilience Festival (April 29  – May 1, 2016) was a success, thanks to the Edmontonians who generously contributed a wealth of knowledge and skill sharing at Boyle Street Plaza.

The response we received to the skill-sharing workshops, conversation cafes, film screenings and a Community Connections Fair was overwhelmingly positive, and we increased both attendance numbers and ticket sales over 2015.

The goals of the Edmonton Resilience Festival are to foster a more resilient community, to inspire participants with creative ideas for relocalizing our economy and building self-sufficiency, and to share skills needed to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle. We don’t know what the future will bring, but we do know we have a strong community of people who care deeply for others, for our city and for a healthy future.

If you attended Edmonton Resilience Festival, please complete this short questionnaire before June 15th to help organizers learn from this year’s event and identify any issues we need to work on:

If you missed the festival or want to revisit it, check out our archived blog posts featuring some of the workshops, and our Storify:

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Collector at heart contributes to artistic festival

We’ve all got one — that collection of something we love. Whether it’s books or baseball cards, caps or comic books, it seems to be part of human nature to find and gather things that make us happy. Local artist Marlena Wyman is exploring the relationship of people to their collections in her latest exhibit, “The Effect of Collected Memory on the Adorned Body,” on display in association with the Heart of the City Festival, at Mile Zero Dance studio from June 4 until July 31.

The work consists of two Styrofoam human torsos, one male and one female, adorned with hundreds of collected items such as pins, buttons and costume jewelry. Most of the items, which cover every inch of the figures, have been donated by others. Many of the donors have inherited costume jewelry from loved ones, and haven’t known exactly what to do with it. These are items which are low in monetary value, but high in emotional content, the collected items that were dear to those who were dear to us. Read more »

Kombucha and water kefir — cultures that create community

Gillian Kerr has been keen on natural medicine and healthy eating for a long time. However, kombucha and water kefir (the non-dairy version of milk kefir) have become a big part of her life over the last couple of years. Gillian’s introduction to fermentation and canning was through her good friend Angie Evans, who trained Gillian and a handful of others when she moved from Regina to Edmonton a few years ago.

Mature kombucha

Mature kombucha. Photo courtesy Michael Garten

Kombucha, when purchased in-store, can be quite expensive. On average, one bottle costs around five dollars, so for those who really enjoy fermented drinks, there is a huge cost savings to making batches at home. 

Over the course of a morning, Angie taught Gillian and her friends how to can, and into the afternoon, they tackled fermentation. Although they left armed with the knowledge to make a variety of items, Gillian has specifically continued to make kombucha and water kefir. Of the 10 people who participated in that day’s workshop, Gillian is the only one who continues to make the beverages on a regular basis. It’s not due to difficulty, or for a lack of trying or want on the others’ part — the fermentation process requires a bit of babying. Lengthy periods away from home can get in the way of the process, and if not cared for, the cultures used to make the drinks die off, so they have to be nurtured like a pet.

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ERF workshop to co-create a Happy City

Hosting the Happy City Edmonton Resilience Festival

The space for the “Happy City” discussion in October 2015. Photo courtesy Wesley Andreas

The hosts of a Resilience Festival workshop on April 30 about Edmonton as a “Happy City” are counting on participants’ ideas to make it a great event.

Two Edmontonians, Wesley Andreas and Jill Robertson, will be showcasing a facilitation technique called the “Art of Hosting” around the topic of building social connections in the community.  

“That’s where the term hosting comes in. There’s a reason it’s called ‘Hosting’ the Happy City as opposed to ‘Facilitating’ the Happy City,” explains Andreas, an urban planner.

The pair is expanding on a project they partnered on last fall as the content for the discussion, however format is as important as substance for this conversation. It’s “talking about how we talk about things,” as Andreas puts it.

“It’s hard to teach this kind of work, in an authentic and meaningful way without doing,” he says. “You can stand up with a poster board and say, ‘This is what you do’ … but it’s much more useful to actually do it.”

For Robertson, a landscape architect, that authenticity is the most important outcome for participants to learn over the morning.   Read more »