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!

Valentine’s Day in Edmonton: Deal or No Deal?

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

Sharon:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a holiday where consuming chocolate is the national norm, and for an occasion that is marked with an indulgent feast. And though I realize that Valentine’s Day has been escalating in its commercial nature over the past two decades (and one that that Mack and I embraced wholeheartedly last year), a gander at one too many pre-fixe restaurant menus sent me over the edge this time around.

Of course, restaurants shouldn’t be blamed for feeding a consumer-driven hunger for extravagance, excess, and unbridled expense on February 14. No doubt, some meals, and the ultimate experience of spending time with your sweetheart could be worth every penny. Also, some restaurants do offer embellishments – providing a rose to the lady, employing a musician to set the ambiance, offering a treat at meal’s end – but could it really be worth the heightened price tag? How much more are patrons charged on Valentine’s Day, compared with any other day? With Mack’s penchant for statistics and graphs, we set to find out.

Mack:

Coming up with the data was harder than we thought! Finding the set price of the Valentine’s Day menu was easy, but finding something to compare it to was not. We decided to generate a comparable figure using the closest dishes we could find on the regular menu. Definitely not scientific, but fairly representative.

We started by finding as many restaurants with Valentine’s Day menus as we could, and then narrowed it down to those which also had regular menus online. We ended up with 12 restaurants:

The average Valentine’s Day menu price was $71.08 per person, with prices ranging from $35 per person at The Dish to $160 per person at Red Ox Inn. The average regular menu price was surprisingly similar at $69.65 per person. On average, Valentine’s Day menus featured 4 courses.

So what’s the best deal? By far, Madison’s Grill. Their 6 course Valentine’s Day menu is just $85 per person – the regular menu would cost roughly $116 per person. Of course, we’re not sure about portion sizes, but based on our recent Farmers’ Market Dinner experience, we expect they will not be small. The worst deal? Hardware Grill – you pay $31 more for the Valentine’s Day menu than you would on a regular day.

I wouldn’t cite any of this data in an academic paper, and the numbers don’t take into account ambiance, food quality, freedom of choice and service, but it was fun to generate just the same. I was surprised to discover that the Valentine’s Day menus aren’t that much more expensive after all!

Sharon:

So numbers aside, after scrutinizing more than a dozen pre-fixe menus, I can tell you that considering the menu options only, both Mack and I agree that Hardware Grill wins, hands down. We were salivating as we read through each course (butternut squash-mascarpone tortelloni with truffle butter cream sauce and fresh chanterelles? Porcini crusted sea bass, lobster-truffled potato crêpes, white corn-arugula & gulf prawns? Where do we sign up?).

While I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend any one restaurant (personal choice being that last intangible), based on our experience, Madison’s Grill and The Dish would top our list. If you’re looking for innovative, creative food that celebrates local producers, there would be no better choice than Blair Lebsack’s dining room in the Union Bank Inn. However, if you desire something more casual and comforting, The Dish is a great choice with its consistent kitchen and friendly service.

Mack:

You could, of course, avoid restaurants altogether and cook that special someone a tasty meal at home! Because as Sharon pointed out, Valentine’s Day is about spending time with your sweetheart, not spending lots of money. If you do go the restaurant route, keep in mind that there are more to choose from than the dozen we mentioned here.

We hope you enjoyed this light-hearted look at “Black Sunday” (a la Eater) in Edmonton, and we wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine's Day with a text message

heart phone Holidays are always a good time for interesting statistics. How many phone calls were made? How many packages delivered? Or perhaps more interesting to my generation, how many text messages were sent? According to AT&T, Valentine’s Day is the most popular holiday for text messaging. Evidently there’s a 33% spike in texting traffic! That’s a lot of text messages.

I wonder what people are sending? A simple “I love you” or something more complicated, like FTBOMH IWALU (which translates to “from the bottom of my heart I will always love you”). Gizmodo has a handy list of these crazy combinations if you’re so inclined. Seems like more trouble than it’s worth to be honest, especially with the T9 functionality that all phones have.

I thought New Year’s Eve was the most popular holiday for text messaging, but maybe “drewheyman” has the right explanation in his comment on the Gizmodo post:

sending ‘happy new years’ = 1 message per friend. send txts to sig other for the sex = as many messages as it takes.

What will you be texting tomorrow?!

Happy Valentine’s Day 🙂

Read: Gizmodo