Millcreek Culina, Edmonton, Alberta

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a serving of fried calamari with a sweet coconut curry sauceShort story made long, because that's what I am good at.

The adult Magpie's had a babysitter booked for a Thursday night.

Mike was going out to a movie preview with my brother, the lucky duck had won tickets to see the Change-Up, starring my second husband, Ryan Reynolds.

I did indeed at one time have a date planned for that Thursday with my friend Blackbird – yes, I hear the har-de-har's already, Magpie & Blackbird- but we were far too impatient and went early to see the last Harry Potter on Sunday, 4 nights ahead of schedule.

Faced with a booked babysitter yet no husband to go out on a hot date with, I soon realized I better get out with a friend quickly  before someone realized that this just should not be.  Wait a second, Mrs Magpie, where do you think YOU are going on a Thursday night?? Decadent babysitter booked and nothing but time. Just can't be right.

So Blackbird and I tossed around ideas of places to hit up for eats, because if there is one thing we love, it's going out for a great meal. I have meant to make it to one of the Culina's for basically as long as I have lived here in Edmonton and thanks to the wonder of Open Table (online table booking service) I quickly made a reservation for us and the date was set.

If there is one thing you can be certain of,  if you are heading to a member of the Culina family to eat, you are in for a treat. Their reputation around Edmonton is sterling and from my experience last Thursday, it is well deserved.

The picture above was my appetizer. Once I had viewed it online, I could not get that dish out of my head.

Fried calamari with a sweet coconut curry sauce. Two of my very favorite words in one sentence. Curry. Calamari.

It was utterly delectable. Calamari can be horrid when cooked too long and this was cooked perfectly. Not a hint of rubber to be found and the sweet curry sauce beat any tzatziki or traditional sauce it is usually served with.

This squid crunched on the outside delightfully while yielding to what really is my favorite seafood inside, perfectly cooked, with the sweet curry zinging  your tastebuds to make this some of the best Calamari I have had.

It even intrigued Blackbird enough to try a bite, even though seafood is very low on her list of loves. Her final consensus was that the curry sauce was excellent but she didn't like the slight fishy squid aftertaste, which us seafood lovers don't mind at all. Heck, it's half the fun! However, considering that was the first time that she tried squid, that should tell you something about how tempting it was!

Her appetizer was the Potatas Bravas with chili aioli which she enjoyed and I foolishly forgot to taste.

I was too busy plowing through my Calamari.


white plate with Potatas Bravas with chili aioli

I would like to take a moment to apologize for my photography.

I am still learning my camera and these are not the shots I really wanted to end up with. Even though Culina was SO amazing and gave me a table right beside the window -hurray for great customer service!- last Thursday was some of the darkest thunderstorms I have ever encountered at 7 at night.

When you look at Blackbirds meal below, the phyllo wrapped kofta- if my memory serves me correctly,it's not on the online menu for reference- this was shot in the dark.

No. Really. Ask Blackbird.

The flippin' dark. I could barely see the food. I shot the two photos above in decent, but not ideal light, however when the entrees arrived, the storm had crashed it's way in. If I had been thinking, I should have taken a picture on auto, to show how amazing a job my Canon can do.

So I had to just blow out the exposure on these pictures.

Blackbirds meal - phyllo wrapped koft in a white plate

So every time I blog about places I like to eat, which by the way my darlings, is a new section on my site, I am always talking about the dish I would return for.

And I really think that is the basis of what a good review or write up should be.  If there isn't something you will go back for, or rave about to your friends, then the restaurant has failed, in my opinion. You don't want someone to eat once, think it was good, then never come back again. If someone doesn't leave with a hankering to come back and enjoy that dish again, the establishment hasn't done their job.

So without further adieu, something I will be using in all my posts now:

The Dish I Would Return For.

Brome Lake duck breast on roasted local potatoes in a white balsamic and cherry reduction.

When I had to do a soundbite for CBC with Liane Faulder while judging the chili contest last year, I was asked what I looked for in a winner. I replied -in a terrified tone I am sure- that I was looking for that first bite of bliss, something that has my eyes rolling back in my head.

That's what makes the dish I would go back for. And I think I have discovered I am an emotional eater, in the deeper sense of the word.

That food I search for will make my eyes tear up with bliss.

It will have me shake my head and close my eyes to savour that first amazing bite.

My shoulders will relax and I will slouch back in my seat for a moment.

True story. Have dinner with me one time, you'll see. Hopefully, because it takes an amazing dish to do that.

Millcreek Culina's  duck breast is that dish.

Crispy, slightly salty skin slowly gives way to the delicious fat below, with the breast meat so tender you could cut it with a spoon, paired with a sweet cherry sauce that matches the salty taste so perfectly one could weep.

You had me at sweet and salty, my love.

For an even better bite of heaven, slice a piece of cherry, place it on top of a bite of duck breast, swirl it around your plate in that amazing reduction, then try.

Tears will prick the back of your eyelids.


Millcreek Culina's  duck breast paired with a sweet cherry sauce


I did not have a stitch of room for dessert. I am ashamed to admit I ate my way through that calamari all by my lonesome, then after the duck breast I was sated beyond saving. I must go back to try their desserts, a new appetizer and that duck breast again. Oh yes, my sweet and salty perfection, we will met again.

I have plans to head back again fairly soon, the location of Culina Mill Creek makes for a lovely walk with girlfriends in the summer evening after, a perfect ending. I think we will head back with the intent of a photography stroll afterwards, cameras a' clickin' as we explore the ravine for some lovely shots.

All in all, a very pleasant experience and one that I cannot wait to repeat!


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Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

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  1. Lael says

    I love that you experience food like that. I do too, although I could never describe it as beautifully as you have.
    Happy Eating!

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