Tasting Notes: Coterie, Little Wolf and Hansen Distillery

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No matter how much Trystan Fung tries to get out of the food and beverage industry, he always gets drawn back in.

“It’s actually comical how this all happened,” says Fung over the phone from Coterie, the new wine bar that he and his fiancee Ainsley Lamash are opening on Friday at 10330 80 Ave. “I was walking down the street on the phone with Ainsley and I said, ‘Josh (Meacham) and Dominique (Moquin) from Boxer have always kind of wanted to work with us.’ I was passing by the alley beside Boxer and Josh appeared with the Boxer sign. At that exact moment.”

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The fates had indeed spoken. They agreed to have a chat, and when all four parties sat down a few weeks later they discussed the up-and-coming venture by Meacham and Moquin, a small space tucked in along 80 Avenue. The original plan was to make it a cocktail bar, but as they discussed things it began to come into focus as a wine bar. The French word Coterie was selected as the name because it perfectly suited the atmosphere four envisioned the space as having.

“It means ‘a gathering of like minds,’ and that’s what we want people to think of it,” says Fung. “It’s a loving, warm and welcoming space and if you’ve had a hard week we’re there to give you a hug.”

Fung and Lamash have had plenty of experience running wine bars and restaurants throughout their careers. Most recently they worked at Bodega Highlands, but after Fung started his Masters in Counselling Psychology they realized they couldn’t dedicate themselves to a larger space. Coterie was the perfect opportunity for the two to realize their dream of running a wine bar that wasn’t quite as overwhelming.

“Dominique and Josh have really let us take the reins,” Fung says. “We’re both very passionate about wine, and the biggest thing for wine with us is we want it to be approachable, fun, and not pretentious. We want it to be something that every person can appreciate, and maybe we can help expand their world as well,”

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Fung credits Lamash with Coterie’s wine selections, which run from natural to more conventional, calling her “the palate master.” With co-chefs Jordan Marzano and Ryan Pauls they’ve also put together a small menu that includes such small plate dishes as beef bourguignon, wild mushroom pâté, baked brie, prawns and a charcuterie board. Fung also hints at such comfort foods as shepherd’s pie and tourtière showing up on the menu down the road, albeit in a more elevated form.

“We’ve started with a bit of a French basis because of the name, but the idea of the venue has become very Canadiana,” Fung explains. “We’ll be expanding the repertoire and always changing the premise on season. But the focus is on the wine and the snacks that help with the experience. Also, of course, we’re committed to bringing the best experience possible to whoever comes in.”

Little Wolf

Food options were few and far between for Shaun Hicks when he left his restaurant late at night after a shift.

“If I didn’t want McDonald’s or a donair there was really nowhere to go get a bite, and even less places to just sit down,” says Hicks, chef and proprietor of Little Wolf at 8424 109 St. Opened in mid-September, the restaurant occupies the same spot as Three Boars, which closed down during the pandemic and morphed into High Dough. It also took on a few attributes of the much-missed eatery, including late hours (Thursday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 1 p.m.) and a rotating menu.

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“I loved Three Boars for that,” says Hicks, who worked at Three Boars and more recently La Petite Iza. “Small plates, cocktails and beer, and basically space for people to hang out and have a good time together. The sort of place where you drop by late and maybe you see some friends coming in as well.”

Little Wolf’s menu will be changing seasonally, so the Japanese curry poutine or garlic scapes you enjoyed last week may or may not be available this week.

“That’s the glory of it,” chuckles Hicks. “I started working with one farmer, and she came last week with something like 50 or 60 pounds of Swiss chard and a hundred pounds of beets. There’s no packaging and not so many hands between us so I can pass on the savings. Those things all add up. If she drops off a hundred pounds of beets to me I can turn that around into something for the next couple of months here. Pickle some, do something else with the rest, and it ends up being half the price I would pay anywhere else for it.”

Constantly changing the menu might seem like a lot of work, but Hicks enjoys it. While he derived some satisfaction from overseeing classic dishes while in the kitchen at La Petite Iza, creativity is where his heart lies. That includes working on basic kitchen ingredients on his own time.

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“At home, I would be sitting around making different types of miso for six months in my basement,” he says. “Usually larger batches than most home cooks, just because I haven’t been able to scale down after being in this industry. So my counters would be full of homemade apple cider vinegar and things like that. Being able to bring them to a space and show them off in a way that can highlight them is something that’s special, and it also lowers my costs on buying boutique items. That’s a fun thing as well because now I can clean my house out and keep my girlfriend happy.”

Shayna Hansen, co-owner, and Kris Sustrik, distiller and co-owner, of Hansen Distillery seen in a 2020 file photo. Photo by Shaughn Butts / Postmedia

Hansen Distillery

Family takes precedent.

Which is why, seven years after opening their distillery with Grandpa’s old moonshine car in the foyer, Kris Sustrik and Shayna Hansen of Hansen Distillery are now selling the business, which made history in 2020 as Edmonton’s first whisky producer. On their Instagram, Hansen and Sustrik wrote “We can no longer devote the same time and energy to our business that it deserves, without compromising our values and our time with our family.”

There’s no word yet on whether there’s a buyer, but the distillery will be continuing on in the interim. Make sure to drop by before the holiday season and stock up on some of their goodies, including their brand-new mint chocolate cream liqueur.

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