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Jan 18, 2008 06:45 AM

Fork Fest - Edmonton Chowhounds

Not sure if you are all aware of an upcoming event happening a local/indie restos in Edmonton. A bunch of restos (incl Blue Pear & Red Ox Inn) are having their Fork Fest where they offer 3 or 5 course meals for $25 or $35/pp for Sun-Thurs. Great deal! Some of the menus are posted on the Original Fare website.

See you all out there!

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  1. Thanks for posting this; I took advantage of the deal to try Red Ox for the first time. I originally had a reservation for Sunday, but got snowed out and managed to re-book for last night.

    The $35 special started with a spinach salad with bacon, dried cranberries, and almond slivers with a raspberry vinagrette and topped with a crusted and fried medallion of goat cheese. Entre was morrocan marinated pork rack chop and dessert was bread pudding.

    Overall, a more than satisfying experience. The salad...not much to say; spinach was fresh and crisp, goat cheese perfectly done, vinagrette a bit overpowering but not too much. Pork chop was topped with a tropical fruit salsa, atop a bed of delicious mashed potatos and braised red cabbage (side by side, not mixed), broccolini, carrots and green beans. Beautiful, colorful presentation, and the flavours were exquisite. The desert, however, was the kicker! The waiter said that it is their most popular item and I can see why. White chocolate, maple, and blueberries, with a blackberry compote on wife proclaimed it the best thing she has eaten in several months (and given that she has eaten at some of the finest places in Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago, and Philadelphia over the past few months that is high praise).

    Service was impeccable, and the place was full. I don't think I saw one plate go by that wasn't the special!

    I wasn't sure what to expect, but was very pleased with it. My criticism of many of the local restaurants is that they serve what I (a transplant from Ontario) deem to be big Alberta meat. This was defintely that, but not in a bad way. Everything was fairly simple, but perfectly seasoned and prepared. While I often prefer several smaller courses, the entree at Red Ox was large but with the salsa, the veggies, the cabbage etc, there were enough distinct flavours that I never felt as though I had had enough of that dish. In fact, it was so good that we both (as well as others in the place) were nibbling the last bit of meat off the bone, not because we felt we needed more food but because it was just so darn delicious!

    We already had Red Ox booked for Feb 13, so I'm looking forward to digging into the full menu. I can see this place becoming a new regular.

    My only regret is that I only had time to go to one of the Original Fare places offering this $35 deal. With more time, I would definitely taken advantage of the special at the Blue Pear and probably given Jacks another try.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dan G

      The promotion ends today though so if you're just heard about it today, you're out of luck until next year (if they do it again).

      I went to Jack's on Tuesday and overall it was a nice experience but the entree (my friend and I both had the pork) was just okay. I've definitely had better. I had the bread pudding which was very good. I'm going to Red Ox tonight and am curious to see if they have a better bread pudding. I have a feeling their pork will be better than Jack's (hopefully).

    2. Has started up again this year during the 19th - 22nd and 26th - 29th. Anyone going?
      I tried getting a reservation at the Blue Pear, but the times available don't fit in my schedule and will be going to the Red Ox Inn instead.

      11 Replies
      1. re: anonymoose

        I haven't seen the menus yet, but have reservations at Red Ox already (made weeks ago, before I even knew it was FF).
        My wife is out of town for almost all of those 2 weeks, so I probably won't be trying any others this year.

        1. re: Dan G

          Have to admit when I went (Jacks & red ox) I was not overly impressed. Also felt that the service when downhill, they were so busy, and the waiters were giving off an air of "God, do I have to deal with all these cheap people". Which is funny, b/c I bet a lot of people who go, are the ones who frequent the places anyway.

          would love to hear other view points on it tho!

          1. re: cleopatra999

            As my post from last year says, I really liked Red Ox's FF offerings last winter. I also went there for the summer version, and it was just as good. Hopefully they change the menu this time though - it was same in winter and summer except, I think, the soup. Salmon and pork chop, from what I remember. And the bread pudding, which I don't tire of so hope it is still there.

            Also went to Jack's in the summer FF this year, and...well, lets just say even an offer of a free meal at Jacks wouldn't get me back there. I've been several times, and always leave wondering where it got the reputation. I've had OK meals there (FF and regular), never great, but last time was absolutely horrible food and service.

            1. re: Dan G

              For the summer FF I hit up Red Ox, Jack's and the Dish, and all were very good. I had a different dessert than Dan G, the chocolate lava cake, and it was unreal (I still dream of it to this day....).

              The price points this year are $20 and $35. There isn't much info on menus yet, and I actually was calling around yesterday and most places hadn't firmed it up yet (only two on the web site now).

              I'm going to Red Ox anyway because I love it, and will probably try one of the more cafe type places this time. I would do more, but I am away for the second week, and very few independent places are open on Mondays.

              1. re: CourtJ

                I just noticed that Tesoro is on here. if you guys have not tried it yet, this might be a good opportunity. they are very casual cafe style, but their pizza and pasta are great, I am betting that they will be a $25 FF.

                1. re: CourtJ

                  I'm pretty sure that the bread pudding will be on it again - it is their most popular menu item (and rightly so...maybe the best item on any menu in this city, and that's coming from someone who's not big on desserts)

                  1. re: Dan G

                    A bunch more menu's are up. Bread pudding is on the menu.

                    1. re: rob1234

                      Went to the Red Ox Inn last night and I have to say that bread pudding is freaking fantastic.

                2. re: Dan G

                  Also was at Red Ox last night, and you are right, the bread pudding is delish! The chocolate cake is still a great choice for me too though, I just love love love chocolate. The whole meal was great, those of you heading over later this week or next will not be disappointed.

                  1. re: CourtJ

                    Great. We have Red Ox booked tues, Jack's mon and Blue Pear on thurs. The wild tangerine menu looks interesting, beef jerky rice pudding or something for dessert.

                    1. re: rob1234

                      Husband and I are trying out Sabor Divino this weekend and Jack’s Grill next week. Trying to persuade him to add Blue Pear to our list as well.

                      Would love to hear more reviews in addition to Red Ox (which is our go-to resto already)!

          2. Seeing as the thread is rehashed, figure I'd include the current info from Original Fare.
            Fork Fest is:

            * A 10-day festival of fabulous food celebrating Original Fare’s independent restaurants in Edmonton. Not in one location, but all participating Original Fare locations – Fork Fest happens simultaneously at each member restaurant.

            * A culinary treat! Each Original Fare member restaurant is offering a multi-course meal for $25 or $45 —a great opportunity for newbies to surrender their taste buds to the difference an independent restaurant has to offer. An affordable way for people to try many of Edmonton’s most flavourful places to eat. There’s no guessing what the bill might be, you’re assured there will be a menu of either $25 or $45 (some restaurants will offer both).

            * When: January 17-21, and 24 - 28, 2010

            Below is a list of participating members.

            Please note, not all Original Fare members participate in Fork Fest.

            Accent Restaurant and Lounge
            The Blue Pear
            Blue Plate Diner
            Culina - Millcreek
            The Dish
            The Glens Grill at Montgomery Glen Golf & Country Club
            Jack's Grill
            The Pipestone Food Co. Ltd.
            Red Ox Inn
            Sabor Divino Restaurant and Lounge
            Upper Crust Cafe
            Von's Steakhouse & Oyster Bar
            Wild Tangerine

            1. Intersting that the price went from $35 to $45 - big jump. Still a good deal, but not enough to really make it a no-miss event (Red Ox, for instance, depending on what you order it is a $4 - $7 saving).

              So far, I'm booked into Red Ox (taking friends who have never been there) and The Dish, which I have never tried and was suggested by a friend. Don't know what they are doing special-wise. Not sure if I have time to do any others.

              Re: Dish, any comments? Who's tried it?

              12 Replies
              1. re: Dan G

                I have been to the dish a couple of times, I like it. nothing fancy, but good home comfort style food.

                that is a big jump in the price. too bad, it used to be such a great deal...all good things come to the end I guess. it might be interesting to try the $25 restos.

                1. re: Dan G

                  Went to The Dish last summer during the Fork Fest event. The selection is really good for mains and desserts from what I can remember. I had soup (sorry cant remember what kind), Clam Linguine and dessert (cant remember that either). I remember really really enjoying the soup, the pasta was good and a very large portion from what I can remember. Since it was summer we sat on thier hidden patio and it was really nice and private in there. I was definatly thinking of returning for a meal during FF this year.

                  I was very surprised in the price jump for this edition of FF. I was hoping for a couple nice dinners at the higher end restaurants but may have to rethink that a bit.

                  1. re: Bellavino

                    Just came back from an enjoyable dinner at The Dish. It's $25 for dinner for a glass of wine (included), Cream of Button & Portobello 'shroom soup or salad, choice of 5 entrees (I had the pulled pork flatbread, wife had the gnocchi), and your choice of desserts. The alternative to the glass of wine is any non-alcoholic beverage.

                  2. re: Dan G

                    We were chatting with one of the staff at one of the "nicer" restaurants of the participants and he mentioned that the price change was debated pretty heavily among the various members. The thing is, there is a fairly wide range of normal price points out of the participants. So for the more expensive places, the $35 deal was almost like giving away a free appetizer AND a free dessert and was starting to be a bit much.

                    I know that Winterlicious/Summerlicious in Toronto had this going on as well where you could get an amazing amazing deal from some of the top restaurants in the city but at some of the more casual places it was like a $3 savings. (Special was $35 when I was going.)

                    He also said that during this special promotion there are apparently quite a few tables who come in order the special with everybody at the table ordering water, no coffee or tea with dessert, all business, just give me the deal and I'll eat and go home.

                    1. re: egon61

                      Maybe a better bet would have been to have another price category, say 25, 35, 45. But then again, outside of Blue Pear I can't think of many who would need the $45. For them, it is the baby BP menu, normally $59 on sale for $45 - a good deal. But I was at Red Ox on Sunday and the $45 really only amounted to a $4 saving for what I had.

                      1. re: Dan G

                        The price change to $45 doesn't fit with what I thought was the Fork Fest concept. A $4 savings isn't enough to draw me to a restaurant. I was also at the Red Ox on Sunday, and chose not to have the Fork Fest menu. Fork Fest used to be a highlight for us, particularly in January - a chance to enjoy a great dinner at a great price in a bleak month after spending too much over the holidays! We've also made reservations at The Dish, and we'll likely stick to the $25 menus in the future. Otherwise, why not just pay the $4 more and go on any night (including Friday or Saturday), any time you choose?

                      2. re: egon61

                        egon 61:

                        That is a familiar refrain from servers and owners alike with these type of promotions the rationale for which Silverwing described below/above [ I can never be sure where a reply post will appear}.

                        Is it a fine dinner? A "reward" for valued customers? An enticement to people who have been pounded by over-spending and over-eating over the holidays who have sworn no more big meals, credit card charges, booze, etc. to come out? An incentive to people who are "intimidated" by restaurants and prices to come out and try something?

                        I look at these affairs as about a combination of all of the avove. Too bad for the server who has to deal with the water and lemon crowd or as they call them in Vancouver the "tunnel and bridge" crowd. Yes, his/her final tab and likely tip will be less, but if they did not have the inducement would he/she have even fewer patrons and more restaurants might close as the "regular spenders" take a my case well required!

                        The concept like most in these trying economic times has morphed from an inducement to encourage customers to come, try and spend when they might otherwise not be interested and "hopefully" come back and pay "full freight" later to something like "Taste of Edmonton" which is just another way for a restauant to make dollars.

                        Nothing wrong with that. That is why they are in the business but servers like him/her shoud not be condescending as that is why he/she is employed.

                        1. re: Bob Mac

                          I was thinking about responding along the same idea Bob, but you've done a nice job!

                          I agree. Whether you are selling your product (or service) to a teenager, school teacher, or retired couple, they are a patron in your establishment and "That is why they are in the business but servers like him/her should not be condescending as that is why he/she is employed."

                          1. re: Bob Mac

                            Exactly what I was thinking too Bob.

                            I use events like this to try restaurants that I either had on my "try later when I can" list or places that I hadn't thought about going to. I was actually planning on going to the Red Ox Inn for theirs but with the price change I decided that it wasn't worth it.

                            And as for the water and lemon crowd - I freely admit that I am one of them. I don't drink alcohol (generally), and I only order tea if 1. I feel like it and 2. if I want caffeine. This is the case regardless if there is a dinner promotion or not. I do however eat. And I tell other people about what and where I eat, both online and verbally. If they want their tips to continue they really should be more worried about getting people INTO the restaurant, especially during economic times like this.

                            1. re: anonymoose

                              All good points. For the record I did not think the conversation was condascending at all. I can't remember but maybe the guy was responding to a direct question of ours about tables who don't order any extras or why the pricing changed.

                              In fact I thought that whole conversation actually represented good service, as the server took the time to stop and linger and chat with us briefly (which we were open to...wasn't an intrusion).

                              I don't believe it was his intention to criticize any other customers.

                              1. re: egon61

                                That is good to hear. Maybe I'm being too defensive. I can tell sometimes when wait staff think I'm cheap just because I'm ordering water. :)

                            2. re: Bob Mac

                              Too many restos forget that the purpose of these promotions IMHO is to attract new patrons or compel the old patrons to return. I stopped going to Taste of Edmonton years ago because a) it was expensive for the crap they served and b) they served crap. The restos seemed to think Taste was about revenue rather than advertising. Instead of putting out their best at give away prices to entice big spenders like me into their restos, they tended to eliminate any chance I would ever come to their home base. Penny wise, dollar stupid.

                              Promotions that morph into a cash grab do more to sour my views of a resto than does a full price bad meal at that resto. If you treat me like a fool, I will not support you.

                              Every person who comes to your resto is a reviewer. They may not post on Chowhound or write for the Journal, but they will tell people about their experience. If you treat the "water and lemon" crowd with disdain (I love that title) or try to oblige them to pay more, they will likely scare away others.

                              A server treating a penny pincher uncharitably will cost themselves and their owners in the long term. One liquor store owner in town treated my teen son (I witnessed the situation from afar) with disrespect a couple of years ago and I have never been back. His moment of poor judgment cost him, just from me, thousands of dollars a year. The story has been well circulated amongst my associates and no doubt the loss over time is much more. We treat the place as if it were diseased. Restos need to be careful as news travels fast and widely these days - for good and bad.