Owner brings new menu and, after its closure, the old chef from Solstice to The Almanac
In the wake of Solstice Seasonal Cuisine’s closure earlier this year, those running it are eying a way of consolidating their strength. As part of this, Jan Trittenbach—former chef of the now defunct restaurant and top prize winner for 2011 and 2015 of Edmonton’s Gold Medal Plates competition—will be moving over to The Almanac, the Whyte Avenue-based purveyor of innovative grub.
The move will also see new items rolled out onto The Almanac’s menu.
“We’re just kind of doing it gradually just so we don’t run the whole place over and waste any product or anything like that, but we have a few new dishes already,” says Jon Elson, the restaurant’s managing partner.
Stylistically, Elson says, the new menu will kind of “bridge the gap” between the fine dining found at Solstice and the kind of hearty comfort food characteristic of The Almanac. This means more braised meats and a Swiss-German (the region from which Trittenbach hails) kind of lamb shank. According to Elson, there’s a distinct European element to the chef’s cooking.
“We want to bring it to a casual audience where they can kind of experience it without fawning over the small details. That’s what you pay for in fine dining. We want to bring something to the Old Strathcona market that would reflect the neighbourhood a bit,” Elson says.
According to Trittenbach, the shift will be something “to get used to,” and he’s working with The Almanac to help add some extra flare to its menu.
“It’s a different kitchen, so of course there’s some getting used to as well … I’m not really familiar with what to expect from the summer time there, but it’s definitely a fast-paced environment, so the menu needs to reflect that as well,” Trittenbach, who worked at Solstice for four years, says.
While the Almanac will adopt a few seasonal dishes, it won’t be as regimented as Solstice was. The now late eatery on 124th Street cycled its offerings every three months, Elson says.
“Most chefs want to work with, obviously, the freshest product that’s in the best shape, and that’s where seasonality really comes to the fore, but [The Almanac] won’t be on such a rigorous schedule,” he says.
Solstice was a popular and lauded restaurant, and its closure brought sad news to Edmonton’s culinary world. Money was one aspect of it.
“You make a lot of sacrifices in the culinary world. It’s not something that many people are going to get wealthy from. We had a pretty solid following, but in tough economic times one of the first things to go is a nice dinner out,” Elson says.
Both Solstice and Almanac opened within a year of each other, but it was never really a question of which location was going to close, Elson says. The show-runners at the restaurants are, despite Solstice’s dedication to fine cuisine, pretty “casual people” and they wanted to work towards something that reflected this personality quirk.
The move also means that the team has an opportunity to put more effort into The Almanac, Elson says. In the future, the restaurant plans on hosting some event-based dining efforts, like seasonal Solstice pop-ups—especially considering it has an event space built in that could be used more effectively, he adds.
Currently, Elson plans on streamlining things at The Almanac and has no hard plans on expanding to another location.
“Heading into the summer on Whyte Avenue, that’s the busy season, and we want to maximize that,” he says.
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