Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Give Thanks-Part 1


Thanksgiving is a big deal at our place.  I don’t know if this is because of my husband’s American heritage (we’ve even travelled to the Pilgrim’s Monument in Provincetown, Mass.) or my Mom’s Aboriginal one of celebrating a bountiful harvest.  Perhaps we just like an excuse to gather and eat. 

This weekend 41 people are assembling at the “big” cottage at the lake for dinner.  We call it “big” because it is bigger than the 500 sq feet of ours.  If the weather holds we should be quite comfortable by spilling out onto the back deck and into the screen in porch.  Some years the weather is not in our favour but the day is still sweet and memorable.

This cluster of people does not include everyone in my immediate family.  My definition of “immediate”, are my Mom, my siblings and their families.  One niece is a MRI tech and will have to work this weekend as it is virtually impossible to have 100% attendance.  There are six in my family and all of us still live in Winnipeg and all of nieces and nephews do too.  In fact five families have cottages on the same street at the lake!  We absolutely love being together.  We will have some new “recruits” this year-a boyfriend who has moved from Peterborough and a foreign student from Beijing.  What an amazing blessing.

The menu is pretty standard-turkey, ham and meatballs, plenty of creamed potatoes and yams, veggies, salads, homemade bread and of course vats of gravy, dressing and cranberry sauce. 

I’ve run out of space and time, see tommorrow’s entry for my Pecan Sweet Potao Recipe…

Kath’s quote: “The king and high priest of all the festivals was the autumn Thanksgiving. When the apples were all gathered and the cider was all made, and the yellow pumpkins were rolled in from many a hill in billows of gold, and the corn was husked, and the labors of the season were done, and the warm, late days of Indian Summer came in, dreamy, and calm, and still, with just enough frost to crisp the ground of a morning, but with warm traces of benignant, sunny hours at noon, there came over the community a sort of genial repose of spirit – a sense of something accomplished.”-Harriet Beecher Stowe

Ess-a Bagel NYC


We were delighted to find this landmark on our second trip to New York.  The original location Ess-a Bagelat 1st and 21st  was a lovely destination for an early morning walk from our “home away from home” near Gramercy Park.

The decor has seen better days but was not even noticed by the line up of people ordering their “to go” items.  The couple of older gentlemen that were seated at the tables looked right at home.

On our first visit to what I call carb heaven,  I would have described the service as “curt” as the counter guy had so many people to take care of but on this occasion he was willing to have his photo taken (or maybe it was because I was with my sister-in-law and not my husband on this visit).  He shouts your order to another staff member who obediently counts and bags the confections.

Now bagels from home are pretty good especially with a smack of Winnipeg cream cheese and I’ve even had the wonderful good fortune to sample bagels in Jerusalem, but Ess-a bagels are another species.  They look like over inflated tires!  The are appropriately chewy on the outside requiring a real good tug to assist your teeth in tearing off a bite.  The inside is tender and yeasty-a perfect platform for the piece de resistance, the schmears: savoury cream cheese with herbs, garlic and spices and smoked fish of course.  And sweet offerings with cinnamon, nuts and  an endless array of fruit and berries.

These were our backyard breakfasts for our extra long New York weekend and the memory of them have me searching out seat sales once again.

Ess-a-Bagel on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “the first printed mention of bagels…is to be found in the Community Regulations of Kracow, Poland, for the year 1610 which stated that bagels would be given as a gift to any woman in childbirth.”
‘The Joys of Yiddish’ by Leo Rosten

Inadvertent Quest


For some reason unbeknown to me, I seem to be on a quest for Winnipeg’s best chicken finger. The primary criteria is that it is made with a real chicken tender or breast and that is a given with the list below.  I ‘ve sampled these in the last weeks:

Barney Gargles: see yesterday’s full review, I’m thinking I like fish in beer batter better than chicken

Confusion Corner: a healthy portion, stacked high and attached with a skewer, crunchy and not greasy

The Keg:  the ones we grew up on so we may be impartial.  But the recipe actually seems to have improved of late

Mitzi’s: an interesting breading and juicy lean meat but I missed out on the dipping sauce

My son declares that the ones made at the Bison Grill at U of M are the ones to beat.  They are made according to the 100 mile criteria and the breading is full of oats and other whole grains.

So what’s your preference? floured, cornmeal, bread crumbs, panko flakes or beer battered?

Is what’s inside as important as the coating?

Who has the best dipping sauce?

Where’s the biggest portion/best value?

I’ll compile the definitive list when I’ve heard from enough of you.

Kath’s quote:  “Once we sowed wild oats, now we cook them in the microwave.”-anonymous

Barney Gargles


Thanks to a reader, I have now experienced Barney Gargles.  We can easily take an alternate route to the cottage to include a drive through Selkirk.  We arrived at 6 pm and there was a line up out the door.  Now I’ve only seen lines like this at Red Lobster and Olive Garden, so to be frank I was a little skeptical (and impatient).  I had saved my calorie, fat and carb quota for the day to have this dinner and I was good and hungry.  But the crowd at the door was an amicable bunch and anything worth having is worth waiting for.

The bustling servers are all female and very pleasant.  Ours looked looked like a young Goldie Hawn (read: a young Kate Hudson if you are of a younger generation) or so D thought.  The decor is not my cuppa tea but cottage-like and after all, that’s we were heading.  D started with a soup of cream of potato and dill and I had the garliest Cesar salad I had ever tasted.  I love garlic, but this was enough to keep all those new and handsome vampire types at bay.  D also treated himself to a flagon of chocolate milkshake.

We thought that their specialty must be fish and chips because we saw many of the plates zoom by us from the kitchen.  But no, their famous chicken fingers are batter fried like cod and halibut.  I do prefer other versions but D quite liked them and we both agreed on the fresh-cut French fries.

We got a good look at all their desserts since we spent so much time in the lobby: an ABC pie with crumble topping (Apples, Blueberries and Cherries),  Turtle Pie and Nanaimo Bars (as big as a diary) all caught our eye but alas, they’ll have to keep for another calorie accumulation.

Barney Gargles on Urbanspoon

Urbanspoon rocks!

My husband declared that he was so full that he could not possibly get back into the car without a walk around but because the sun had just set, he wanted to walk around indoors.  He was totally setting me up-because my favourite place to bargain shop is in Selkirk and so we “strolled” through Big Dollar before making the rest of the ride north. Boy I love my man!

The sky to the west was still aflame and the silhouette of the trees and geese made it a lovely trek.

Kath’s quote: Do not be afraid to talk about food. Food which is worth eating is worth discussing.”-X. Marcel Boulestin

Feeding Frenzy


We acknowledge that “fondue” means “to melt” by having a traditional goey cheese pot on our table for dinners such as this one.  But our favourite “pots” are actually the hot oil and hot broth pots that produce steaming shrimp such as the one pictured here.

We use a crock pot for cheese and two tradition pots for oil and broth. This year we assembled everybody before bringing out the boiling pots-bad idea.  So this is a snap of the calm before the storm.

We ‘ve learned a few things over the years about our fondue dinners: 1) don’t start this practice when your kids are too young 2) remember that the long fork is for cooking your food, not for putting in your mouth (I had the scar on my face to prove this one) 3) boiling oil is a torture method so be careful when bringing it to your table of assembled loved ones 4) some family members may be concerned about cross contamination so have a raw plate and a one for placing your cooked food on 5) the hours of prep before hand is worth it not just because your dinner will be so pleasant but because you have already done the work for stir fries and soups for the week and finally 6) if you lose an item in the pot you must kiss the person on your right (no changing the rules according to your kissing preferences Jer).

We cut up chicken breasts or thighs, steak or pork (whatever is in your freezer will do).  It is best to marinate the tougher cuts of the latter.  We always have shrimp and then a variety of vegetable for either the hot pots or to dip into the cheese.  The variety of cheese changes-this time it was a gruyere with white wine but when that ran out we used mozarella and white wine and that too was good.  I always bake a couple of fresh loaves of French bread because let’s face it-anything tastes good on freshly baked bread. 

Sometimes for the chocolate fondue dessert, I make a pound cake (or buy an angel food cake which is my preference) but at this dinner because we were celebrating our son’s champagne birthday (23 on the 23rd) we just had pineapple, strawberries and bananas and brought out a cake to sing to him. 

Kath’s quote:  “Bread deals with living things, with giving life, with growth, with the seed, the grain that nurtures.  Its not coincidence that we say bread is the staff of life.”-Lionel Poilne

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