Three years ago I overheard someone at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market welcoming a friend back to Edmonton, asking him how he enjoyed France. As I stood in front of the Peas on Earth kiosk, the conversation turned to something of particular interest to me. It appeared the man who had just returned from France was thinking of opening a restaurant in Edmonton, and being that I had just started reviewing restaurants for CBC, my ears immediately pricked up at what I surely thought would be an inside scoop. Aha! But my hopes were soon dashed…the fellow said although he was looking for a space, he hadn’t found anything yet and he was going to take his sweet time looking. Drat.
I had no idea at the time that I was eavesdropping on Blair Lebsack.
I came to sample this chef’s cuisine at various food events in Edmonton over the ensuing years and though I never admitted to him about accidentally hearing that conversation at the Farmers’ Market, I quickly realized that whatever this man cooked was pretty damn good. So, earlier this year when I heard that Mr. Lebsack had secured the space at 10643 – 123 Street (formerly home to The Blue Pear), and that he was finally getting ready to feed Edmontonians at a nailed-down location, I got pretty excited.
Jessie and Darcy Radies, owners of The Blue Pear, were trailblazers when it came to supporting local producers and delivering honest, locally sourced, seasonal food. The only good thing about Jessie and Darcy closing The Blue Pear was that Blair Lebsack was going to set up in its space. Sad to see The Blue Pear go, but thankful that someone like Lebsack was giving the property a new life while carrying on a similar ideology of what good food is all about.
Thus began Rge Rd, “At the Intersection of Farm, Food, and Friends” – a place devoted to “untamed cuisine”.
How it got its name: For three years, Blair has spearheaded the Range Road 135 dinners at Shannon and Danny Ruzicka’s farm (Nature’s Green Acres) near Viking, Alberta. If you haven’t yet gone to one of these true Farm to Fork dinners, put it on your Alberta bucket list. Click here to watch Kevin Kossowan’s video of last year’s dinner. Blair and his team work with the Ruzicka’s to host a spectacular feast in a sun-setting meadow with food grown on the Ruzicka’s farm, or supplied by local producers. It’s not just a meal, it’s an education on how good food should be raised, eaten and appreciated. This year a few more venues were added. What does that mean? People are getting it. People want this kind of food.
The reason why that preamble is important is because this is the way Lebsack cooks in his restaurant. Blair Lebsack and Caitlin Fulton (partners in life and business) are committed to providing people with honest food; food that is conscientiously raised by hardworking farmers who believe that raising and producing good food – real food – takes an inordinate amount of blood, sweat and tears. But still, they do it because it’s important – to the land, to people, to the very future of food.
At Rge Rd, the items on the menu will change depending on the availability of products. The whole animal is used, be it fish, fowl, or four-legged beast. What cut of meat is available one week, might not be available the next, but rest assured whatever Lebsack and his culinary staff whip up, it’ll be delectable and beautifully presented. The condiments? Home made. The charcuterie? Made in-house. The salad greens came from a staff member’s garden. The pork is from Viking, the bison from Bentley, the pheasant from Ardrossan. You get the idea. Oh, and the décor? If the interior of Rge Rd doesn’t inspire a thousand hipsters to emulate and redecorate, I don’t know what will.
My Edmonton AM review of Rge Rd can be heard here. Check out the photos below and then call the restaurant at 780-447-4577 for reservations