Recap: Truck Stop

On Thursday we held the first ever Truck Stop – a smaller, lunchtime version of What the Truck?! inspired by the food truck pods of Portland. The colder weather is coming and that means most of Edmonton’s food trucks will be closed until next year, so we wanted to try to extract the most out of our fall season as possible. Five trucks parked on 102A Avenue in front of City Hall to serve lunch from 11am until 2pm: Bo Thai, Drift, Eva Sweet, Fat Franks, and Smokehouse BBQ.

Truck Stop

Considering it was a cold day, we were quite pleased with the turnout! Lots of people even took advantage of the seating available – next time we’ll try to get the heat lamps and bonfires going! Churchill Square is a gigantic venue so we were happy to be located on the avenue instead, though the square itself did get busier after noon, with the final zumba class of the year. And of course there was a lot of foot traffic, with people walking to and from their offices.

Enjoying Truck Stop
Photo by Brittney

The vendors all did quite well, though Smokehouse BBQ seemed to be the most popular. Normally located in Nisku, they received a warm welcome from Edmontonians, selling more during the three hours of Truck Stop than they would have over four days in their usual spot! Their food was tasty – we had the three rib mac and cheese and the bacon bomb sandwich.

Smokehouse BBQ
The line-up at Smokehouse BBQ

Smokehouse BBQ
Bacon bomb and three rib mac & cheese

We don’t have any more What the Truck?! events planned for 2011, but we are going to be doing some planning for next year in conjunction with the vendors. Clearly the demand is strong! Thanks to everyone who came out to Truck Stop for lunch. Thanks also to the City and the vendors for helping us make it happen on such short notice. We’re looking forward to future food truck extravaganzas!

You can read Sharon’s recap here and you can see the rest of my photos here. Brittney’s photoset is here!

Recap: What the Truck?! 2

On Friday, September 16, hundreds of Edmontonians descended upon 102 Street and Jasper Avenue for the second What the Truck?!, Edmonton’s food truck extravaganza. We had high expectations for the event and were very pleased with the way it turned out!

The biggest change from our first event was that we closed a street. We wanted our second event to be bigger and better, but we didn’t want to be in the gigantic space of Churchill Square. In keeping with our goal of utilizing under-used spaces downtown, 102 Street just seemed ideal. The area is busy with people during the day but quiet at night, and the park is nearly always empty. We were pretty surprised at how expensive it is to close a street, but fortunately Responsible Hospitality Edmonton stepped up to help us (What the Truck?! fit nicely with their mandate to animate Jasper Avenue). I also want to thank the Civic Events Office at the City of Edmonton for sticking with the idea, despite the challenges it presented. More on that in a follow-up post.

What the Truck?! 2

Setup for our first event was a bit of a nightmare thanks to the smaller space and the need to jump the curb. This time, setup was incredibly smooth! With the street closed, it was quite straightforward to get all of the trucks into place. The only hiccup was that we had to make sure the barriers were in place at all times – it’s amazing how many people tried to drive around the barriers. The other part of setup was arranging the picnic tables and garbage cans in the park. We were thankful that Brittney, Sandra, and Walter were able to help us out! Thanks team!

What the Truck?! 2

One of the things Sharon spent quite a bit of time doing in preparation for the event was our siteplan. She figured out where all the trucks would go and which way they’d face, and she took into consideration the expected length of each line and even the noise of their generators. That’s why Filistix and Carnival Cravings were closer to the alley – so we could tuck their generators around the corner. And that’s why Drift and Molly’s faced outward on opposite sides – to allow the lines room to grow. I wasn’t as concerned as Sharon was, but I’m glad she put that effort in because it absolutely made a difference.

What the Truck?! 2

Once again the weather was less than ideal. While it was sunny and warm most of the afternoon, it turned windy and cool as our event got underway. It even rained briefly just after 4pm! Thankfully that passed and the sun even snuck out a few more times throughout the evening. It was certainly windy though, to the point that our wonderful DJ’s remarked they now had experience with “extreme DJ-ing”! The tent nearly blew away a few times, but Thomas and Marc stuck it out and did a wonderful job!

What the Truck?! 2

You can get a sense of how windy it was in this interview I did with CTV’s Carrie Doll just before the event started:

I think it’s fair to say that all of our vendors sold a lot of food at What the Truck?! 2! A number of trucks sold out, some more quickly than others. Our three newest trucks – Drift, Molly’s, and Nomad – were definitely a draw. Nomad sold out first, and both Drift and Molly’s had long lines all evening long. Determining how much food to prepare in advance based on rough estimates of attendance is more art than science, so I don’t envy the position the trucks found themselves in. It sucks when you’ve waited in line for 30 minutes only to find out that a truck has sold out, but it’s difficult to avoid. Filistix was completely swamped at our first event, but they learned from that and things ran much better for them the second time around (their line moved relatively quickly). I think all of the trucks learned a lot about how to deal with long lines, and we certainly learned that we probably need more trucks for the number of people we had. There’s definitely room for improvement at future events!

What the Truck?! 2

We were happy to see so many families at the event, and to see the park being used! All throughout the evening people sat at the picnic tables, and there were a lot of kids running around on the grass. I bet that park would be used a lot more if the picnic tables were there regularly (just look at the positive change that picnic tables have made for Beaver Hills). Thanks again to Melcor for allowing us to use the space.

Social media once again played a big role in the success of the event. There were 4856 people invited to our Facebook event. A little over half responded, and of those folks 1247 marked attending and 529 marked maybe attending. I’d say it was a fairly good indicator of our attendance!

Lots of people talked about the event that day on Twitter too. Here’s what the tweet distribution looked like on the 16th:

And here’s a word cloud of all the things people were saying (with #whatthetruck, @mastermaq, @sharonyeo, #yeg, and #yegfood removed):

Once again we had some specific success criteria for the event. First and foremost, we wanted the vendors to be successful. All of them were very happy with the result! Secondly, we wanted a strong turnout. Thanks to everyone who came out to experience some of Edmonton’s food trucks! Thirdly, we wanted to prove that smaller-scale revitalization projects like our event can have a positive impact on downtown. We talked with the owners of Tres Carnales and Credo Coffee after the event, and were elated to hear that both experienced one of their busiest nights ever because of spillover from What the Truck?! 2! We also chatted with a number of people at the event who hadn’t been downtown in quite some time, so it was great to hear that What the Truck?! not only got people downtown, it got them exploring downtown businesses as well!

Mack and Sharon
Thanks to Brittney for the photo!

What the Truck?! will likely happen again in the future, so stay tuned to the website and our hashtag for updates. You can see the rest of my photos from What the Truck?! 2 here, and check out Brittney’s photoset here.

What the Truck?! returns on September 16

After the success of our first event back in June, I don’t think there was any question that we’d do another edition of What the Truck?! at some point in the future. Food trucks have started to gather steam here in Edmonton, and we’d like to see that momentum continue to grow! It was important to us that What the Truck?! not be simply an annual event – we’d like to see food trucks getting together all the time. That’s why we’ve organized our second event for September!

What the Truck?! 2 
Friday, September 16, 2011 from 4pm to 8pm
Abbey Lane Park, 102 Street & Jasper Avenue
RSVP on Facebook

What the Truck?! is a celebration of Edmonton’s food trucks, combining street food with pedestrianism and downtown vibrancy. Join us again for eats and beats in the heart of the city.

We hope What the Truck?! 2 will be bigger and better. We’ve got ten food trucks lined up this time – Drift, Nomad, and Molly’s Eats will be joining the original seven. That means we needed more space, so we’ve moved a few blocks down Jasper Avenue to 102 Street (with help from Responsible Hospitality Edmonton). We’ve arranged to close the street for the event, and we’ll also be filling Abbey Lane Park with picnic tables (with help from Melcor). We’re looking forward to utilizing a space that is pretty empty most of the time!

Abbey Lane Park & 102 Street

Once again there is no admission fee for this event – just bring cash to buy whatever you’d like to eat directly from the trucks! Urban Monks DJ’s Marc and Thomas have agreed to once again share their musical stylings with us. If the first event was any indication, it’ll be a fun time!

We’ll have more details to share over the next few weeks, so stay tuned. In the meantime, please RSVP on Facebook if you can join us, and tell your family, friends, and colleagues! We’re also looking for sponsors, so if you’re interested please let me know. You can see the event on ShareEdmonton here.

Recap: What the Truck?!

Last Friday night we held What the Truck?!, Edmonton’s food truck extravaganza, at Beaver Hills House Park downtown on 105 Street and Jasper Avenue. I think it’s safe to say that the event was a big success! The weather mostly cooperated, hundreds of people were downtown on a Friday evening in a park that is usually empty, and seven of our city’s best food trucks sold lots of food. It was a great feeling to see a relatively simple idea come together to result in a memorable evening.

What The Truck?!
Photo by Devin.

We did the best we could to prepare the food trucks and our volunteers for setup, but it was still a stressful couple of hours. We staggered the arrival times of each truck, but it was still tricky trying to fit them all in the park! We knew the space was small, and we wanted the casual feel that would result, but we didn’t realize how difficult it would be to navigate the poles, trees, and other obstacles in the park. Not to mention the fact that we were on downtown’s busiest street, blocking both cars and pedestrians while we maneuvered the trucks into place! Everyone stayed calm and got the job done, however.

What The Truck?!
Our volunteers – The Fenskes, Thom, and Su.

All of the trucks were situated around the circle with their windows facing inward, except for Funky Pickle. That was not intentional – it was simply a byproduct of the fact that we ran out of space to turn their trailer around! It really highlighted for me that most of our food trucks in Edmonton are actually trailers, which need to be towed by an actual truck or other vehicle. By far the easiest vendor to get setup was The Lingnan – the only one that is a self-contained truck.

What The Truck?! What The Truck?!

When the event officially got underway at 4pm, it was sunny and hot. It wasn’t long though before the sky turned dark and cloudy and the rain threatened. But it didn’t rain very hard or for very long. Not that it would have mattered – it was so neat to see absolutely no one bolt from the lines when it did start raining! Instead, a few umbrellas casually appeared.

What The Truck?!

All of the trucks were popular, but Filistix definitely had the most consistently long line of the evening (due partially to popularity and partially to the fact that they move far fewer units per hour than Funky Pickle does, for example). It was great to read the comments on Twitter after the event. Things like “Filistix was definitely worth the wait” and “Crepes from Fork & Spoon Brigade – Best. Thing. Ever.” It also seemed that long-time fans of Eva Sweet used the event as an opportunity to try a waffle with all the toppings for the first time. That people were feeling adventurous was reinforced by the fact that Carnival Cravings sold far more “OMG! Mini Donuts” than is typical.

What The Truck?!

During our early planning for the event, we briefly considered having live music at the event. We decided against it, to keep things simple and to ensure the focus was on the food trucks. Instead we asked the Urban Monks DJs to provide some music to help liven up the event. They did a great job, and even created a food-inspired playlist!

What The Truck?!

It was great to see so many families at the event, and to see people using the picnic tables and even just sitting on the grass in the park. It’s such a wonderful and generally underutilized space! Mayor Mandel, Councillor Iveson, and Councillor Henderson were among the VIPs that attended, and it was cool to see such a mix of familiar and new faces throughout the evening. One of those new faces was Luca Levesque, who stopped by to shoot a great video of the event:

Sharon and I had some key goals we wanted to achieve before we could call the event a success. At the top of that list was that the vendors were successful. Considering nearly every truck ran out of food before the evening was done, I think we can say we achieved that one! Filistix was so tapped out they couldn’t even make it to the City Market the following morning! The feedback we received from all of the food trucks that participated was really positive.

A few thank-yous are definitely in order. Thank you to everyone who came to the event! Thank you to our volunteers for all your help! Thank you to Thomas and Marc for the great music! Thank you to Gabe for the fun logo! Thank you to our sponsors for your support! Thank you to the vendors for taking a chance and sticking with us! And thank you to everyone else who helped us out and made the event a success.

Sharon & Mack
Sharon & I. Photo by Chris.

Are we going to do What The Truck?! again in the future? Based on how well the first edition went, yes, definitely. We hope to do it again sometime in September and have already started some preliminary planning (and have been in touch with some new food trucks too!). Stay tuned to the website for updates. We’ll also be doing some blogging over the summer about the things we learned along the way with regards to parking lots, permits, bylaws, etc.

what the truck?!

Check out Sharon’s recap of the event here. You can see more photos from the evening here.

What the Truck?! Edmonton’s Food Truck Extravaganza

I love street food. When Sharon and I were in San Francisco last year, it was the burrito from the San Buena Taco Truck that I enjoyed most. And we both loved stumbling upon Off the Grid, a food truck festival. When I was in London earlier this year I made a special trip just to visit Daddy Donkey, an extremely popular burrito truck. And back at home here in Edmonton, no trip to the City Market is complete without a stop at one of our food trucks, such as Eva Sweet for a delicious waffle. Food trucks are not only a great source of tasty eats, they also encourage activity on the street. There’s a lot to love about food trucks and carts!

For these reasons and more, Sharon and I began thinking about having a food truck festival here in Edmonton. And today, we’re happy to announce that it’s happening!

What the Truck?!
Friday, June 24, 2011 from 4pm to 8pm
Beaver Hills House Park, 105 Street & Jasper Avenue

What the Truck?! is a celebration of Edmonton’s food trucks, combining street food with pedestrianism and downtown vibrancy. Join us for eats and beats in the heart of the city.

We’re so excited for this event, and we hope that you’ll come out to help make it a success! There is no admission fee – just show up and enjoy some excellent food from our seven vendors. If you’re planning to come, please RSVP on Facebook to give us a better sense of numbers. The event will also feature the musical stylings of the Urban Monks DJs, Marc Carnes and Thomas Scott. Shout out to Gabe Wong for designing an awesome logo for us!

The work we’ve done to make What the Truck?! a reality has been educational, to say the least. One of the reasons I wanted to make this event happen was that I think it’s a good example of a little thing that can help to revitalize downtown. With that in mind, we originally planned to hold it in an empty parking lot (we tried a couple different ones). It turns out that isn’t as simple as you might think (if you go the ask-for-permission route, that is). We’ve also learned quite a bit about the City’s Street Vending Program. Let’s just say there’s room for improvement. I think there’s a lot we could do to help the local food truck scene grow and prosper!

I’ll be writing more over the next couple of weeks about the journey, what we learned along the way, and where we can potentially improve things. In the meantime, I hope you’re as excited as I am for What the Truck?!

See you there!

Love that Menu: Valentine’s Day 2011 in Edmonton

Sharon and I decided to collaborate on this post. Enjoy!

Mack:

Last year, Sharon and I collaborated on a Valentine’s Day post. We decided it would be fun to compare the special and regular menus at a variety of local restaurants in order to find out which one offered the best deal on Valentine’s Day. It was a nice mix of my penchant for stats and Sharon’s knowledge of the local food scene. This year, we wanted to do something different.

Sharon:

Eater nicknames Valentine’s Day “Black Monday” for a reason – restaurants pull out all the stops, hoping to woo diners with their prix fixe menus. Though I’m sure most of them are well intentioned (and Mack and I have certainly indulged in many Hallmark holiday dinners), some seem to be really over the top.

After perusing over a dozen Valentine’s Day menus, we’ve collected some observations. Here are our tongue-in-cheek picks for the best and worst of what the city’s restaurants have to offer this weekend.

  • This Dish Gets Around
    • Aside from fondue, which is a Valentine’s Day staple, Chicken Supreme was the most common dish on the menus we examined. It is featured at Homefire Grill, Vic’s Steakhouse, Sorrentino’s Downtown, and even Hardware Grill. Those chickens really get around, don’t they?
  • Most Appealing Menu
    • Last year we picked Hardware Grill as the tastiest-sounding menu, but this year the honor goes to Madison’s Grill. Five courses with two choices each (plus a dessert course) means there’s a good chance both you and your date will find something to enjoy. Pan seared scallops, pulled pork crepe, and grilled Spring Creek Ranch beef tenderloin are just a few of the delicious sounding options!
  • Best Bang for Your Buck
    • At $45 per person, The Manor might not be the cheapest option, but with three courses (which include a choice of three entrees, with nary a chicken supreme in sight), we’re confident that between the food and their cozy rooms, couples will be well taken care of, and for a price less than a third of the most expensive meal in the city.
  • Big Spender
    • That brings us to the five course prix fixe at Red Ox Inn. If you’re on a budget, this one isn’t for you – it will set you back $160 a person (which includes food, gratuity and tax). Each course is paired with a wine though, and given the meal has been at the same price point at least two years in a row, it has likely continued for a good reason.
  • Best Dish Name
    • With images of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in our heads, Zinc’s “Cheek to Cheek” entrée is hard to beat. Comprised of a Spring Creek Rank beef cheek and a butter-poached halibut cheek, it also probably tastes as good as it sounds. We used Zinc’s photo above.
  • Worst Dish Name
    • Maybe we need to get out of the city more, but there’s nothing particularly romantic to us about two slabs of meat. That’s what you’ll get at Teddy’s with “Lovers’ Steaks” – an 8oz New York and a 6oz Fillet Mignon. The dish comes with prawns, Caesar salad, and three cheese mashed potatoes for $49.
  • Say Cheese
    • We really thought restaurants would be more forthcoming with the extras they would shower on you and your date, but no dice. So almost by default, The Melting Pot wins this category. You have the option of “enhancing” your meal with different feature packages, such as “The Cupid’s Arrow”, which includes one dozen roses in a vase, rose petals on your table, a bottle of sparkling wine, two champagne flutes to keep, and a framed photo of you and your Valentine. The price tag? $225, which also covers a four course dinner for two.
  • What’s the Point Prix Fixe
    • With a Valentine’s Day menu that is so similar to the regular menu, we have to wonder why Chop even bothered! All of the entrees and most of the appetizer platter can be found on the regular menu. Only the dessert, Dark Chocolate Pecan Banana Cake, is new. If you’re superstitious you might like this option, however – the three course meal is priced at $88 per couple.
  • No Date Required
    • Who says you need a table for two on February 14? Take a look at the menu from Bistro La Persaud and tell us you’re not seduced (braised boar bacon? poached lobster?). Best of all, it’s priced per person! Ooh la laa!

Mack:

However you choose to spend Valentine’s Day, we hope it is filled with love!

Heritage, Innovation & the Livable City: A Heritage of Local Food

The final session at the Edmonton Heritage Council’s symposium was on the heritage of local food. I thought it was a great idea to include a topic like food, something we don’t always associate with heritage, though obviously it makes sense to do so. The session was moderated by Liane Faulder, and panelists included Kathryn Chase Merrett, Jessie Radies, and Patricia Myers.

How might the history of local food production and marketing in Edmonton relate to people’s contemporary interest in local food? This session will discuss how this history connects to current concerns and developments on sustainable food systems.

Here are my notes:

  • In addition to moderating, Liane was also a panelist. She started by sharing some recent local food stories. She talked about three local producers: Donna & Bohdan Borody (The Jam Lady), May Ellen & Andreas Grueneberg (Greens, Eggs & Ham), and Gordon Visser (Norbest Farms). She also mentioned the Culina family of restaurants.
  • Liane noted the recent desire that many people have to reconnect with their food producers. She also talked about the importance and popularity of farmers’ markets, saying “the farmers market is the new church”.
  • Kathryn, who has literally written the book on the history of the Edmonton City Market, talked a lot about her view that food is a big part of what makes a city livable.
  • It might be hard to visualize but from 1900 until 1965, market square was where the current Stanley Milner library sits.
  • She said the market has not always been seen as a positive thing in Edmonton, at least not by those in power. Old city councils viewed it negatively, and tried a number of times to displace it. Nothing has ever really worked though, because citizens and food producers have always loved the market.
  • Kathryn also touched on foods which used to be plentiful in Edmonton, such as strawberries. She read a passage from an 1894 Edmonton Bulletin article that described the “crimson trail” left behind as you walked, because there were so many strawberries.
  • To Kathryn, a livable city is one that can feed all of its people, but which also takes the time to enjoy and to share.
  • Jessie recounted her experiences of growing up on the farm, describing the various skills she learned, such as canning. It was a great story.
  • She also talked about her recent work with Original Fare and Live Local. She said that both the local and global food systems are necessary, and must be strong.
  • Patricia collects antique cookbooks and shared some of the reasons behind her hobby.
  • She said she doesn’t care so much about having particular editions, but she loves acquiring different books to see what she can learn from them.
  • Patricia said she views the cookbook as a repository of women’s history. Typically cookbooks are dismissed as historical works, and Patricia is trying to change that.
  • She said you can learn about the technology and cultural norms through the cookbooks. For example, she said books that contain lots of sandwich filling recipes were likely from a time when picnics, fundraisers, and other activities were quite common.

I was really intrigued by Patricia’s idea that you can trace technology through the cookbooks. It made me wonder what else is out there that we don’t typically think of as being important heritage pieces.

Recap: Food for all Seasons Spring Gala presented by Edmonton’s Food Bank

Tonight I was fortunate enough to be a last minute guest addition (thanks Tamara) for the Food for All Seasons Spring Gala, an annual fundraising event presented by Edmonton’s Food Bank. Held at the Sutton Place Hotel and hosted by CTV’s Erin Isfeld, the event was an opportunity to show support for the food bank while meeting some really interesting people.

While networking and great conversation was the focus, we did learn a little about what Edmonton’s Food Bank accomplished in 2009:

  • A total of 81,572 kilograms of food was provided to groups on a one time or special request basis
  • Over 190 agencies, churches, and food depots worked with the food bank
  • More than 15,000 people were served by the hamper program each month

Accomplishments, yes, but also a reflection of the need that Edmonton’s Food Bank serves. Each year, the warehouse distributes more than 3.3 million kilograms of food. We were reminded of just how important the organization is to our city – one in six Edmontonians under the age of 18 will go to bed hungry tonight.

Food for all Seasons Spring GalaFood for all Seasons Spring Gala

The theme for the event this year was “A Taste of the Orient” and the menu reflected that with wonton dumpling and spring golden chive soup, spicy thai chicken spring rolls, baked black sesame crusted salmon, and lychee creme caramel for dessert. Very tasty!

Food for all Seasons Spring GalaFood for all Seasons Spring Gala

Cary Williams, co-chair of Edmonton Next Gen and one of Avenue Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2009, was the guest speaker tonight. I thought he did a great job combining food and his passion for Edmonton. Cary said that “food is universal” and that “it’s the glue that unites families and communities together.” He stressed that the city is a stronger community because of the work that Edmonton’s Food Bank does. Cary chose to live in Edmonton because of the people that live here and care about the city. His call to action was to be mindful of the importance of the food bank, and to share it with others.

Cary WilliamsFood for all Seasons Spring Gala

The gala also featured a silent auction with a wide array of items (everything from opera tickets to a bluetooth headset) and the chance at winning 1/4 karat yellow and white gold ladies’ diamond solitaire ring, courtesy of All-Lock Rescue. It looked like there were lots of bids on the silent auction items!

The Spring Gala is just one of the many events organized by Edmonton’s Food Bank each year. I really enjoyed the evening, but I understand the event will be re-imagined for next year, so stay tuned for something new!

You can see the rest of my photos from the event here. If you’d like to make a donation or get involved with Edmonton’s Food Bank, you can learn more here. You may know that they are running the Expressions of Hunger photo and literary contest right now – you can vote for your favorite entries here!

Edmonton’s Municipal Development Plan passes second reading

City Council passed the Municipal Development Plan in second reading tonight. Titled “The Way We Grow,” the document is Edmonton’s strategic growth and development plan, meant to shape urban form and guide future land use. It must now be approved by the Capital Region Board, after which it’ll return to Council for third reading (expected in the May-June timeframe). Here are a few notes on the evening:

  • Councillors Henderson and Krushell pounced on the removal of the words “winter city” from the plan. Councillor Henderson’s proposed amendment was passed unanimously, changing the wording to something like the following: “That all urban design reflects that Edmonton is a winter city, allowing citizens to enjoy it in all seasons.”
  • Councillor Iveson pushed for stronger language around intensification targets, arguing that we need to move beyond simple aspiration to achieving meaningful outcomes. His amendment was passed unanimously.
  • Mayor Mandel said that Councillor Iveson’s amendment was a clear statement that Council wants more aggressive intensification, something the Mayor has supported. He again urged creative solutions to cost difficulties for infill development.
  • There was quite a bit of discussion on the topic of gravel mines in the river valley. I suspect we’ll hear more about that in the future.

The Greater Edmonton Alliance has played a key role in the evolution of the MDP, through it’s campaign to “create a vibrant and sustainable food economy.” Hundreds of Edmontonians once again filled City Hall this evening to show their support. Here are a few photos:

MDP Second Reading

MDP Second Reading

MDP Second ReadingMDP Second Reading

If you’d like to be notified about future GEA events and initiatives, consider joining their mailing list.

GEA has had great success with the campaign, perhaps most memorably with The Great Potato Giveaway. It’ll be interesting to see which issue GEA turns its attention to next.

You can see a few more photos from the evening here.

UPDATE: Don posted his thoughts here.

Christmas Charity Auction Dinner at Ric’s Grill

When Graham Hicks asked if I wanted to be involved in the Edmonton Sun’s annual Christmas Charity Auction back in October, I was flattered. And to honest, a little worried. I would host one of the “media dinners” – local media personalities paired up with a restaurant. With well-known local celebs like Global TV’s Gord Steinke and Lynda Steele (who went for $2255), who would bid on me, I wondered? What if no one bid on me?! Still, I relished the opportunity to represent Edmonton’s social media community, not to mention partake in two of my favorite things: meeting new people, and food.

It turns out there were 16 bids on my media dinner, with the final bid going for $140. Not bad! The auction supports the Edmonton Christmas Bureau, Sign of Hope, Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, and the United Way. A total of $240,000 was raised last year, down from the $350,000 raised in 2008 but still quite good. Since 2003, the charity auction has raised an impressive $1.3 million!

Last Wednesday, Sharon and I were joined by winning bidder Terri Lynn and her friends Kelly, Sue, and Ginette, at Ric’s Grill downtown. The foursome had participated in the auction in years past, winning a very enjoyable dinner with CBC’s Ron Wilson and Peter Brown (with Gurvinder Bhatia at Bistecca). An evening with those guys is pretty hard to top, but I thought our dinner went really well!

After introductions (and thanks to Terri Lynn for bidding on me) our conversation shifted to food and local restaurants, given that all of us are such fans. Terri Lynn shared that she reads Sharon’s blog every morning, something that I think an increasing number of Edmontonians do! We talked a little about memorable blogging moments, given that the Alberta budget website thing had just happened, and of course about how Sharon and I got into blogging.

Dinner was great too – I especially enjoyed the almond goat cheese crostini starter. Sharon wrote more about the dinner here.

Thanks again to Terri Lynn, Kelly, Sue, and Ginette, as well as Ric’s Grill, for a great evening, and congratulations to Graham Hicks and the Edmonton Sun for another successful auction!