Things I’ll (Eventually) Miss about Edmonton

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Well, to be fair, that’s not exactly true. I’ve left cities before, and I’ve missed aspects of them a lot. So now, wisened, I get to enjoy things as they happen.

When Helene and I moved to Edmonton, I didn’t expect to like it very much. I figured it would pretty much suck, so I’m surprised it’s growing on me as much as it does. Does it mean I’m gonna settle here? Hell no. But I do get to spend my time here and enjoy a few things that are unique about Edmonton. Things like:

The Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market

I can’t get enough of the Farmer’s Market. Yes, there are markets in Montreal, but they don’t approach this one, I’m sorry to say. The Old Stathcona Farmer’s Market is filled with local producers, and whether you’re buying a homemade pie or choosing your fresh-picked vegetables, you get to chat with the people who prepared your food for you. The quality is insanely high, and the people there are just nice. I’ve been there often enough that they wave at me as I walk by the stands.

The Kindness of Strangers

I’ve been to a few places around the world, and I’ve met many nice people, whether it’s the Chinese, the Macedonians or the Scotish. But there’s something just so damn nice about Edmontonians. They smile at you on the street and say hello. They smile at you when you pass them by. And even in the nicest restaurants, the staff is kind and genuinely interested in your well-being. To be frank, I think Edmontonians are the nicest strangers I know.

The Food

This one’s a big surprise. I expected to find good steak, sure, but that’s pretty much it. Instead, I found restaurants obsessed with freshness and local produce, and whether it’s the steak at Von’s, the delicious breakfast at Highlevel Diner, or the mind-boggling beef carpaccio at Packrat Louie, I’m amazed by the quality of the food here.

BioWare

BioWare is often cited as one of the best employers in Canada, and there’s a reason for that. It feels very much like a Western Canada company, founded on hard work, integrity, and honesty. That would already be awesome if they didn’t also produce the best games in the industry.

Blue Skies

Oh, we get blue skies in Montreal, although I did miss them in Shanghai. The sky there is most often gray, sometimes pearly yellow, and when it’s blue, it makes the news. But the skies in Edmonton… My goodness. They’re impossible blue. I’m often stunned by the perfect blue of the sky in the afternoon, and I’m caught staring at it for long minutes. The sunsets are pretty awesome, too.

About Daniel Roy

Daniel is a writer, backpack foodie, slow traveler, and endurance runner. He is the author of the upcoming book, "The Way of Slow Travel: A Hands-On Guide to the Best Travel of Your Life."

4 comments

  1. Food????

    Man, you haven’t been in Montreal for too long it seems!!! 😉

    While what you describe is actually very good, they’re pretty much one of a kind…

    And I just can’t agree with you regarding the market. The producer rip you off with sky high prices and very average quality produce, not to mention the rather slim choice of producers. It’s certainly nothing compared to Jean-Talon or Atwater markets in Montreal or the Pike Place market in Seattle (which are also open 7 days a week).

    But BioWare and the skies are indeed incredible… And the Mountains rather close! 🙂

  2. Well, Montreal certainly has the advantage on Edmonton for food… I guess what I meant is that there *is* great food to be had here, and that’s making me rather happy. And to be fair, I miss the food in Shanghai a lot more than the one in Montreal. 😉

    For the Market, your opinion surprises me… Sure, some of the produce are more expensive, but the quality? I’ve had nothing but spectacular results at the market… And whereas Montreal’s Jean-Talon and Atwater markets are big business, those at the Farmer’s Market here are small-time producers that support biodiversity and usually go way beyond the ‘organic’ standard. Chatting with the people at the OSFM is a lesson in traditional farming… I never saw anything close to that at the hypercommercial Jean-Talon. Jean-Talon is more of an open-air supermarket that imports left and right, than a traditional farmer’s market where local producers come to sell their wares.

    I’m not saying Jean-Talon is bad… I like going when I’m in Montreal, and I find the quality of the meat is very high. I also like the Eastern European shop in the center, and the cheese (Fromagerie Hamel), to name those. The produce, however, are just WAY better at OSFM. I think part of the reason is that the sellers at Jean-Talon are not necessarily farmers; some of them are importers (which explains how you get, say, mango in January.)

    All in all, I tend to treat myself to the Jean-Talon market from time to time, but that’s just not where I get my fruit, my bread (Première Moisson sucks IMO), nor my meat (I actually go to Le Roi du Rôti, which has game meat, a thing I miss here in Ed.) And I miss Fromagerie Hamel… That’s the one place I always go to when I go by Jean-Talon.

    But if the OSFM was available as-is in Montreal… I’d be there every week. Then a quick trip to Fromagerie Hamel for cheese, Monsieur Pain Chaud for some home-style bread, wine at SAQ and I’d be set.

  3. I thought that you’d prefer Shanghai over all the rest! I was surprised you did not mentioned it before 🙂

    BTW, I would just like to bring nuance some of your saying about Jean-Talon not having small producers. As someone who makes his own tomato canning, his own jams, his own pickles, I can tell you that even though you get some big wholesalers / importer (Sami Fruits comes to mind), you also have several local farmers selling their fresh and excellent goods. And at a reasonable price too.

    As meat goes, if you’re into pork, you can’t hardly beat Porc Meilleur, and if you’re ready to just go across the street, Joe & Basil is an excellent butcher, and at a much better price than the Plateau-priced Maison du Roti.

    Then there are the herbs (Olive & Epices, la Dépense), and all the little things you find nowhere else (like seal salami), all coming from either small producers or small locally owned shops…

    And as for “local” farmers in OSFM, I can tell you that most of the fruits are no more local to Edmonton than they were in Montreal. Plums, cherries, peaches and blueberries you get at the market all come from B.C.

    In any case, I guess that it all comes down to a question of taste, and all I can say is that I’m surprised that your satisfied with OSFM.

    To stay on the subject, I’d like to share with you that we discovered Sunterra market today (the one on 111 St), where they also sell produce from local farmers, 7 days a week, and at a very descent price too. It’s more of a supermarket than a Farmer’s market, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Oh… And they sell veal too! 🙂

  4. Hmm, I think I would be a fool to say Jean-Talon is not a good place… It definitely is. But yeah, I’m satisfied with OSFM, and I’m surprised you’d be surprised at that. Haha.

    I’ll have to check Sunterra… Sounds interesting! It’d be good to have a place open all week for local stuff.

    And now, because of you, I’m missing the Jean-Talon market. Damn you. 😀

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