Food Musings

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

First Christmas Dinner


For our family the Christmas season is launched with a turkey dinner that for 15 years D has planned and catered for 70-80 staff and volunteers of a charity that we support.  There have been various configurations of people who have worked on our team to spoil the guests and thank them for their faithful work.  When D worked at Winnipeg Harvest there were volunteers from Germany and our good friends from Sicily are often in Canada and available to help us out.  But last night was particulary special (for me at least), because it was our family: Sister #3, an Honourary Sister, my Beloved Bro-in-law and my handsome (and hard-working) nephew,  our Son, Daughter (in law) #3, Daughter #2 and The Frenchman.  We are a well-oiled machine thanks in part to our years of participating and D’s organizational skills but also because I think that our family just works well together.  We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we are there to enhance each other: Sister #3 is always D’s right hand in the kitchen, Daughter #2 typically starts the evening off by getting the dish pit organized, etc. etc.

Here was the menu:

Hot Spiced Cider and Cranberry Punch

Salad Noir with Balsamic Dressing and Dark Chocolate Shavings

Harvest Bakery Dinner Rolls

Roasted Turkey and Gravy

Quinoa, Wild & Basmatic Rice Stuffing

D’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Mashed Potatoes

Cumin & Coriander Fingerling Carrots

Sweet Potatoes with Honey & Cinamon

Spiced Ginger Cake with Salty Caramel Sauce

Coffee and Assorted Tea

The hit every single year are the sweet potatoes.  One attendee shared with us that they start talking about the taste of them in their office in August.  D found a gluten-free stuffing made with Quinoa which was appreciated.  We were concerned that the Salad Noir might be too unusual, but everyone loved it!

The rewards of the evening are many: for me, the admiration and appreciation lavished upon my husband is wonderful to see and I’ll admit it-I love the kitchen parade, when everyone pulls themselves away from the task at hand to recieve an ovation.  But the best part is when, to close the evening, tapers are distributed and lit and we are included in the singing of Silent Night.

So as of this morning our kitchen is back to normal and preparations for our own festivities can begin in earnest. 

Kath’s quote: “Bad hair day?  You’re a virgin, you’ve just given birth, and now three kings have shown up — find out the happy ending at a church near you.” -Unknown 

Love-that is all.

The Buy Manitoba List


When I was in Constance Popp‘s store this weekend, she had assembled special gift baskets of Manitoba goodies for purchase as Christmas Gifts.  Making a commitment to buy local is not an offhand decision. If you are price conscious, you will have to change your mindset in order to get on board.  People often ask me in my profession as a Media Planner-is XYZ the “best deal”? Is it the “cheapest”?  My consistent response is that I recommend mediums that are the most cost “effective” and that the investment in representing your brand with a vehicle of quality is the best long term decision you can make.  So too, with Buying Manitoba.

I read with interest the supplement published for the Manitoba Food Producers and ripped out the participant list to load enter into my Blackberry so that I can refer to it when shopping.  Then I concluded that my local readers may have missed this weekend’s reference and may want it as well:

Bakery and Sweets

  • Chocolatier Constance Popp
  • Double D’s Cheesecake
  • Gunn’s Bakery
  • Jeanne’s Bakery
  • Mordens’ of Winnipeg
  • Piccola Cucina



  • Bothwell Cheese
  • Notre Dame Creamery
  • Oak Islands Acres Goat Dairy
  • Organic Meadow

Meat & Fish:

  • Danny’s Whole Hog BBQ
  • Del’s Specialty Meats
  • Freshwater Fish
  • Granny’s Poultry
  • Mariner Neptune Fish & Seafood
  • Pioneer Meat
  • The Carvers Knife
  • Winkler Meats
  • Winnipeg Old Country Sausage


  • Northern Asparagus Farms
  • Peak of the Market
  • Precision Produce



  • Bee Maid Honey
  • Beeproject Apiaries
  • Black Pearl Coffee
  • Buckshots
  • Canadian Gold Beverages
  • Countrysides
  • Delicious Kicks Salsa
  • De Luca’s Specialty Foods
  • DiSanto Foods
  • Ferme Larielle Farm-Golden Flax
  • GORP Clean Energy Bar
  • Green Bean Coffee Imports
  • John Boy Farms Apple Cider
  • John Russell Honey
  • La Cocina Foods
  • Local Meats & Frozen Treats
  • Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods
  • Mountain Top Honey Farm
  • Naosap Harvest-Organic Wild Rice
  • Nature’s Farm
  • Northern Meat Services
  • Perfect Perogies
  • Progressive Foods-Quick Cooking Barley
  • Shoal Lake Wild Rice
  • Solbery
  • Superior Harvest Foods
  • Wild Man Ricing
  • Wendell Estate Honey
  • YOMM Beverages

I have regularly purchased 27 brands from this list.  How did you fare?

Kath’s quote:  “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”-Thomas Jefferson

Love-that is all.


Chocolatier Constance Popp


In my life, food and friendship are very intimately connected.  I love to celebrate my friendships with food but another characteristic is also true: my fascination with food has brought people into my life, whom I might not have encountered otherwise.  One such person is Constance Popp.  We met and have had occasion to reconnect through our mutual friendship with the Manitoba Canola Growers

I am absolutely fascinated by Constance’s story, the places she has travelled and the people she has met though her passion for chocolate.  She is a prolific story teller and I am not sure if it is my fascination with her craft or the samples of chocolate that she continually gifts me with, that continually draw me to her.

The first time that I spent time with Constance I tasted her newly invented Chocolate Birch Bar which was a luscious combination of white and milk chocolate that had been kissed with Manitoba birch syrup.  Some artisans pay lip service to utilizing the highest quality, local ingredients-Constance is the real deal, folks.  That same weekend when we made smores at a campfire, she added homemade marshmallows as her contribution.

More recently she brought along her luscious cream cheese frosted cupcakes to an event

and then just this week a little plate of macaroons, another cupcake and a spicy dark chocolate were set in front of me.  I have tasted macaroons at the world famous Laduree on the Champs Elysee in Paris and these raspberry and caramel confections were far, far superior!  In every single morsel I can taste the love and integrity that she puts into her art.

I have heard that her chocolate drink (Constance’s answer to hot chocolate) is worth the drive to her Portage Ave. (1853-at Ferry Rd.) shop and the little inauspicious cup did not disappoint.  Au contrare-with one sip, my eyes automatically closed so I could shut off the outside world and just concentrate on the taste on my tongue. 

The drink is not gussied up with whipped cream and syrups or shavings, as the elixir is exquisite on its own and any enhancement would be an insult to the pure and at the same time, exotic taste.   I placed the lid back on the cup and immediately drove home so that I could share the last sips with D.  Not surprizingly, Constance slipped a couple of little treats into a bag for me to also take home to him.

I would have pressed Constance for her secret but she didn’t require any coaxing.  She told another customer at the till, “if you like these (cocolate peanut butter cups) , shoot me an email and I will send you the recipe.”  My impression is that Constance so loves the world of chocolate that she wishes that as many people as possible can share in its pleasure.  Her chocolate drink recipe is one part almond milk to three parts regular milk combined with one part milk chocolate and three parts dark chocolate straight from her enrobing machne, for this drink could never be duplicated at home.  You would have to be a chocolatier, like my friend to make it.

Kath’s qute:“Carefully prepared chocolate is as healthful a food as it is pleasant; that it is nourishing and easily digested; that it does not cause the same harmful effects to feminine beauty which are blamed on coffee, but is on the contrary a remedy for them.”-Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin

Love-that is all.

Earl’s St. Vital


Have you experienced when a restaurant just falls off of your radar?  In the advertising business this is known as “erosion of top of mind awareness”.  There was a time when Earl’s was one of the highest restaurants on my hit list.  D, Daughter #1 and I liked to stop in for Margarita Mondays.  I loved the patio on Main to catch some rays at lunch time and the St. Vital Earl’s was the first place I ever tasted a Bento Box.  We used to meet clients at the very first Earl’s at Polo Park (on St. James where Tony Roma’s is now) and I would always order the Californian Shrimp Pesto Pizza.  In those days it seemed as if Earl’s had the corner on fresh, premium ingredients and a light-handed cooking style.

So did we just outgrow Earls or did something change?

For us, it was this:  My birthday is at the end of May and often heralds the beginning of those surprizingly hot summer days.  About Easter, I start thinking about how I would like to celebrate with my family and what patio we will assemble at for dinner.  For one of my special birthdays (where the right hand digit is a “0”) the weather in Winnipeg was awful-constant rain and the longest stretch without seeing the sun.  But because we are a resourceful bunch we said amongst ourselves, “let’s just find a covered patio and ignore the weather outside”.  And so it was that we found ourselves at the Polo Earl’s in the hopes of getting onto the patio (that has always reminded me of a circus tent).  As some of my readers know, our family is a bit tricky to accommodate because Daughter #1 gets around in a motorized wheelchair.   We often research ahead of time, which places have stairs or tricky washrooms to maneuver into.  We were eager for the afternoon that we were going to spend on the patio with lots of drinks and an never-ending stream of food.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at the patio, we saw that none of the available tables were the traditional height so we asked if they might possibly move a lower dining room one onto the patio for us.  When the answer was an unaccommodating “no” we left and I will admit that I was in tears (kind of like the lyrics to the old song: “You would cry too if it happened to you!”)  It seemed to us like a little thing for Earl’s to do but would have made all the difference in the world to us.

Now having been in the business ourselves, we know that there are fire codes, and rules and protocol and I don’t blame Earl’s for turning us away but somehow from this moment on, we did not consider ourselves part of the Earl’s family any longer.  We just felt like we were not young enough or important enough or attractive enough.  Do you understand how we were feeling?  I go to the trouble of writing this so that hospitality employees might see how their actions can effect a guests’ special day and even the years to follow.  That is how very important the role of a person in the hospitality business is.  In fact, I teach Food and Beverage Service and Front Desk Management for the Manitoba Tourism Education Council and I use this example (without mentioning Earl’s) as well as hilarious examples from U-Tube clips of Fawlty Towers of how not to conduct yourself and what the consequences might be.

Now it is not because we have held a grudge against Earl’s, it is just that as I indicated earlier, they just kind of fell off of our radar.  That was until the perseverant Cate Simpson of Earl’s found me on line.  Over the last couple of years she has invited me to special events at Earls that I have not been able to fit into my schedule.  So too, when I saw that the re-opening of their St. Vital Earl’s restaurant fell into an unbelievably hectic week, I thought that I would have to decline once more.  Happily, I was able to attend.

Sister #3 and I were immediately welcomed by Earl’s Big Cheese and we settled into a comfy little booth to get our bearings.  The facelift creates a light filled room that is sure to please.

We got a chance to order from their featured cocktails and loved the taste and presentations of both.

And then the food started coming out and we focused on tasting some for our first time.

And then the Californian Shrimp Pesto Pizza arived.  The first tastes were like reuniting with a dear old friend!

Sister #3 had never tasted the recipe before but will be back for more, I am sure.

The evening ended with hot ginger bread-the perfect way to kick off the holiday season.  The snow had started coming down heavily by this time and we had to venture back out into the night but something had changed for me:

Earl’s is back on my radar!

Earls Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.” ― Charlotte Brontë

Love-that is all.

Smoke’s Poutinerie Revisited


I try very hard to eat food for the “right” reasons, that is to supply my body with the appropriate fuel that it requires for optimum health BUT I am human and sometimes slip into old habits. I’ll be frank, I  eat when I am stressed or to reward myself for (what I perceive is) a job well done.  Case in point, I have recently had a long stretch of teaching and speaking engagements along with a couple of food styling gigs.  I am such a  “pleaser” that I put myself under a lot of pressure to think of every single little detail for the chef and publicists that I am contracted to.  When the time comes that I am able to pack up and head home, I am relieved and looking for a way to celebrate.

My last commitment today was at the not yet opened Paterson GlobalFoods Institute at the Exchange campus of Red River College.  Lo and behold, I was parked right in front of Smoke’s Poutinerie and I hadn’t indulge with a treat from there since the summer that they opened.   Even though the menu was intriguing with chicken, pork, beef and vegetarian offerings, I am a purist and ordered the Traditional.  I enjoyed my first couple of piping hot bites but I had to get on with the rest of my day and so packed the majority up to finish at home.  By the time I unloaded all of the gear from my car, the dish had cooled off and I found that I enjoyed the tastes even more!  The gravy was rich and not overly salty and the authentic cheese curds had firmed up and retained their squeakiness once more. 

I have just finished a work entitled “My Canada includes Foie Gras” where the author Jacob Richler, Maclean’s food columnist, proclaims that “Poutine” maybe Canada’s only authentic food: “Our culinary identity abroad is more often rooted in unexciting single ingredients than actual dishes- things like maple syrup and “Canadian bacon” ( a minor stylistic rethink of a very common food).  And with the exception of poutine, a genuine Quebec original, most of our Canadian cuisine has far too much in common with its European antecedents to appear to others as something new.”

So there you have it-I rewarded myself and substantiated culinary research all at the same time (as if I needed a second excuse)!

Smoke's Poutinerie on Urbanspoon 

Kath’s quote:  “The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite.”-A. J. Liebling

Love-that is all.

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