Food Musings

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

Jessie’s Kitchen Ukrainian Restaurant and Deli

March24
 jessie1The residents of the apartment tower at 60 Whellams Lane are very fortunate indeed, especially throughout this past winter.  They didn’t even have to put on their winter boots to dine at one of the tastiest restaurant and delis in the Kildonans.  If you have never been to Jessie’s Kitchen before, you will need to pay close attention.  The restaurant is located in the lower level of an apartment block and you are required to buzz in and then follow a maze of hallways to  obtain a prized visit.

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We were immediately greeted by a vivacious woman who I assumed was Jessie.  When we inquired, we were told that Jessie had moved out East but that we were still in good hands.  Jessie left her scrumptious recipes and the restaurant in the care of married couple Bruce and Margaret.  Not only had both worked at Jessie’s over the years but their daughter is married to Jessie’s son, so they are “kooms” (as such relationships are referred to in Ukrainian).

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My lunch date appropriately started with a bowl of borscht.  The beet soup was only one of three offerings that day.  In fact, Margaret shared that in any given week they go through 30 L of soup “to go” on top of what is served up in the bright and pleasant surroundings. 

 

This was followed up with a Ukrainian Reuben (at my urging so that I could taste a bite).  Winnipeg Old Country Kolbassa is grilled on rye bread with mozzarella cheese, an unusual sauerkraut including carrot strips and a lively dressing.  The resulting sandwich is juicy and delectable.

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I opted for another spin on an old favourite and chose the Potato Pancake Pizza.  The enormous pancake was scrumptious enough but made even more so when topped with kolbassa, sautéed onions and a cheese blend.  The tomato sauce made it closer to an authentic pizza, but I loved the other tastes so well, that I could have happily done without it.  Margaret noticed that I hadn’t used the accompanying sour cream.  I sheepishly responded that I was trying to reduce my calories and fat.  What a crazy notion, at a Ukrainian Kitchen!  Ukrainians have faced hard work and adversity throughout history and they needed this kind of sustenance to weather their hardships.

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My companion ordered an enormous slice of strawberry/blueberry pie to go.  Margaret divulged that they had picked the strawberries themselves and kept them in the deep freeze.  She and Bruce utilize fresh local produce wherever possible and the sparkling tastes from their kitchen are confirmation of their philosophy.

Jessie's Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Kath’s quote: “You cannot fight fire with fire, so what makes you think you can overcome hatred with anything but love.”-Unknown

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Love-that is all.

Isla Mujeres-2014 Day 3, Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

March20

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Table set under the palapa so we could dine el fresco.

I slept in on this morning.  I state this with disappointment because sunrise is my favourite time on Isla.  I had stayed up later than my 10 pm bedtime the night before, watching over the Wee One and D was exhausted from his day in Chichen Itza.

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He actually does not recommend picking up the tour package on Isla.  They had to be on a 6:30 am ferry ride to Cancun and then after waiting at rendezvous points and collecting other tour members at their hotels it was 1 in the afternoon before they began their journey to the ancient site.  The reverse was true as well, they were the last to be dropped off at the port after all the hotel guests had been escorted home.  I do not know their exact arrival time back on the island but they were absolutely pooped by the heat and long and tedious day.

After a good night sleep, I was gung ho to get to Chedrui to start planning for the Frenchman’s (the Newbie’s) birthday.  I researched my recipes and made my grocery list, just like home, but got kind of stumped on a couple of items.  Lucky for me, I ran into Ziggy from Monchi’s and asked him for his assistance.  Turns out that baking soda is not available in the grocery aisles but in the pharmacy.  Even the staff members that tried to help me, did not know this.

After buying shrimp for Ceviche, chicken breasts for Coconut Chicken, fruit and chocolate sauce for fondue dessert and a selection of wine, beer and juices for cocktails, I spent about the same amount that I would have at home.  This surprised me.  I thought that because avocadoes, tomatoes and limes were so inexpensive that my over-all bill would be smaller.  You never know, until you live like a local.

Ziggy’s advice was opportune once again when I tried to figure out where to purchase a piñata.  He described the location perfectly-on the corner of the street that the restaurant supply store was located on (the name of the company escapes me right now).  I would never have known that they sold piñatas at this store, in fact, I didn’t even know that it was a store!

There were a number of paper mache characters and animals that could have been used for girl’s parties but I thought that I only had one choice for a male.  So, a Zebra accompanied me home in a cab.  Luckily I found a taxi that would take me to the shop and wait while I ran in to make my purchase.  Who knew that piñatas came without the treats inside?  Lucky for me Sister #3 was able to find exactly what we required in Centro.

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This poor guy ended up getting his head knocked off later that evening.

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I am struck over and over again by the beauty of this part of the island.  While I prepared my left over Fredy’s pork chop torta for lunch, I was able to gaze at the bay of Cancun through our living room window.  I was on my own for lunch because D and the gang had gone on a snorkelling tour with mixed reviews.  The boat ride was extremely rough and they were all a bit queasy from the journey (and the fun that was had the evening before).  Let me just put it this way: there was some extra fish food deposited over the edge of the boat on the trip to the snorkelling site. On a positive note, their included lunch was at Brisas Caribe and everyone agreed that the abundant fried fish was sensational!

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Since I missed out on sunrise, I made a point of taking extra time to savour the sunset that evening.  In addition, it was one of the only times that I actually was not walking into Centro at sunset.

Back to our party plans: Sister #3 came through again by contributing her authentic guacamole.  She is also a whiz with pico de gallo and D poached the shrimp in a broth and mire proix.  We simply combined the two and enjoyed a fabulous ceviche.  Not authentically made, but very, very good.

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No one else was staying at the hotel the evening of our party so we spread out and used the cement terrace for appetizers.

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J1 set up the bar and manned the blender!

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I thought that I was so resourceful by putting out the pink glass tea cups that were in the kitchens of Luna d’Miel.  This way guests could take a couple of scoops of both the quac and ceviche, throw in a couple of chips and they wouldn’t have to sit next to the appetizers the entire duration of Happy Hour.  The pink glass plates also made the dining table look lovely with the assistance of additional props from the kitchen of La Brisas.  The electric fry pan from the casa was also put to good use for the chicken that evening.

So the party had begun.  Does it look as if we had any fun?

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Daughter #1 & 2 and the Wee One.

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J1 and J2.

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The Birthday Boy aka The Newbie, aka The Frenchman, aka our future Son-in-Law!

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All the beauties of our family including our Niece, aka Legs.

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So the table was awaiting us.  We supped on freshly baked baguette, rice pilaf, cauliflower topped with aioli and queso fresca, coconut chicken and mango salsa.

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We improvised a little bit when we ran out of coconut.  Sister #3 held the tongs with the chicken and substituted with broken tortilla chips.  Both choices were absolutely fabulous.

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You may think: “You were on vacation and surrounded with a bevy of amazing restaurants.  Why did you prepare all day for a supper when you could have just gone out to a restaurant?”  The answer: It was absolutely our pleasure (D, Sister #3 and I) because food=love and we LOVE The Frenchman and wanted him to know so.

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Are you wondering about that piñata?  The warrior ensured that it lost his head and the treats came crashing down.

Kath’s quote: “Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.”-Craig Claiborne

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isla Mujeres 2014-Day Two-A Lazy One

March18

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We were up early as D and the Newbie were off to Chichen Itza for the day.  This left me to savour the new day all by myself.

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That is until I was visited by two of our babies: our youngest daughter and our first grandbaby.

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The Wee One loved watching the scooter, golf carts and red taxis whiz by.

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J1, J2 and I decided to take the opportunity to go visit our dear friend Hortenzia at her shop, before the day became too warm.  It turned out the she wasn’t there that day but a couple of her family members were.  They were delighted with meeting the Wee One and wanted to hold her in her new little Mexican dress.  Hortenzia’s son described the baby as being like a sweet piece of candy.

J1 and J2 headed off to Café Cito and I had some errands to take care of in town.  When hunger struck, I was right in front of a place that I have walked by a zillion times but had never had the chance to try.

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In Homage to Sister #3, I ordered lunch to go at La Susanita Home Cooking.  I sat all by myself for a very long time waiting for my lunch to be prepared.  Seemed as if they had to run out for groceries a couple of times to complete my order.  I was on Isla time so it was no biggie but I can see why this place is not very busy.

By the time I walked all the way back up the airport strip, my lunch did not look terribly appetizing so I did not capture it with a photo but boy or boy, did it taste good.  The Pescado Empanizado included rice, bean sauce, cole slaw, tomato, mayo and a stack of tortillas.  There was so much delicious fried fish that it could have fed a family.

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I spent the afternoon plunked in this chair doing a whole lotta nothin.  I read a bit, wrote a bit, gazed a bit and thought a bit-exactly what I love doing a vacation.

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Come happy hour, I headed over to La Brisas to be with the gang and we commenced our parade into town for supper at FREDY’S!

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We once again enjoyed the beautiful sunset on our walk.

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You may be getting weary of all my photos of the Wee One but to us she is the cutest creature in the whole wide world!  She looked like such a big girl sitting in her own dining chair with her arms crossed at Fredy’s.

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Either Daughter #2 or J2 and their Auntie (Sister #3) loved Fredy’s Mexican Plate (the latter orders it every single time).  I’m confused as my notes actually indicate that Daughter #2 ordered the Mexican Plate AND Fredy’s Shrimp.

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Dona and I both ordered Fredy’s pork chop (we order it every single time too).  We turned “Legs” onto the double boned chop too.  My portion was so huge that I had enough meat to make a delicious torte the next day for lunch.

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Either J1 and J2 or both tucked into Fredy’s Shrimp.

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Daughter #1 chose the Grouper.  We all loved our meals, Fredy’s knock out margaritas and his special brand of hospitality.

After dinner I volunteered to put the Wee One to bed while J1 and J2 enjoyed checking out 2 for 1s with the rest of the gang.  They included Bally Hoo on their pub crawl and ran into D and the Newbie who had just gotten off the ferry from their day trip adventure.  I spent the evening reading the house Journal’s of La Brisas-a fascinating story of the history of the home and the family that owns it.

A perfectly lazy day and I loved every sweet moment of it.

Kath’s quote:  “Ambition is a poor excuse for not having sense enough to be lazy.”-Milan Kundera

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Love-that is all.

 

Babysat Belle while the gang did 2 for 1s

 

 

 

 

 

posted under Isla Mujeres | 1 Comment »

St. Patrick’s Day at 529 Wellington

March17

I have said it before, I live a blessed life.  I have been teaching up in Thompson MB and fly back there tomorrow which means I have been hard to pin down for a lunch date. There were to be three and perhaps four of us for a midday meal celebrating the success of the Sochi Olympics for CBC Winnipeg.  I thought when I arrived home from a week of teaching up north late on Friday night that I was especially tired but this morning I put two and two together and realized that with my daily headaches, body aches and overwhelming fatigue, I must have the flu.  I pulled myself off of the visiting schedule to see my Mom.  The last thing that her geriatric ward at the Misrecordia Hospital needs would be me, spreading my germs around.  I also cancelled a supper date with D, instead we’ll enjoy some soup and homemade bread and watch the Jets game together.  But I didn’t feel that I could/should renege on my lunch date.  Besides the rendezvous was at 529 Wellington!

I made the correct choice because when I got there, she was sitting all alone.  Life is unpredictable and sure enough, I was the only one from the group who could accept her invite.  My host is animated enough to keep the conversation going single-handedly (not in a bad way, but a warm and gregarious one).

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She knew what she was having without even opening her menu.  She declared that she always has a steak when she is at 529-Beefsteak that is.  She is hooked on the Beefsteak Tomato Salad and I can see why.  The enormous, meaty slices of tomato were smothered in thin rings of red onions and blue cheese dressing with morsels of blue cheese, crumbled on top.

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She consistently couples the salad with 529’s French Onion soup.  She enthusiastically lapped up the broth, sautéed onions and cheese and managed to leave the bread floating in the bowl. Just before she broke through the bubbly cheese crust, our server came by and poured a glistening of sherry over it.

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As I have been yearning for spring, I have also been longing once again for a taste of Manitoba pickerel.  529’s is typically battered and deep fried but the chef was coaxed into sautéing it for me.  The result was sublime, especially with a squeeze of the provided lemon.

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This meant that I could justify (in my own mind at least) the inclusion of 529’s fabulous fries.  Fries are my weakness and with the exception of Mexico, I have not had a fry since New Year’s when I made my resolutions.  529’s fries are definitely worth the indulgence.

Our perfect lunch was made even more so by running into old friends: Jim Armstrong and Doug Stephen, the gallant owner/operators of Wow Hospitality Concepts (with Janet Cunningham, another long time friend).  After such an engaging lunch and lovely chats with all, I felt as if I had successfully shaken off my ill effects-amazing how friends can lift your spirits in an instant.

529 Wellington on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “It takes a long time, to grow an old friend.”-Unknown

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isla 2014-Full Day 1, Hit the Beach

March14

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Our first full day begins with a quiet time together, just before dawn.

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J1 and the Newbie getting their bearings before heading into town with D for coffee and juice.

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With Daughter #2’s assistance, I hung the hammock that we lugged from home.  I wasn’t going to go anywhere for a while…..

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Hours later (it was maybe 10 am), D and our entourage strolled to North Beach to be with the Wee One when she swam in the ocean for her very first time.

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En route, Daughter #1 opted to treat herself to a pedicure in Centro.

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All suited up, she took to it like,

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well… like a fish to water.

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We split into two groups at lunch time: half headed to the Loncherias and D, Daughter #1, Legs and I to Son Cochos for mix and match fajitas ($6 for three).  We each ordered a different variety: fish, shrimp, pork and chicken and then we traded them around to each have a taste. But even better than the tasty lunch were the ice cold Sols that we slugged back.  The walking and the beach certainly created a thirst.

Sister #3 and Dona were arriving that afternoon so D and I hung out to meet four ferries before admitting defeat and heading home for Happy Hour.  I whipped up some pico de gallo and the battle for best blended cocktail between J1 and his cousin “Legs” commenced. Each of the gang bought a bottle for the bar which proved to be economical and practical when the Wee One was put to bed for the night. I loved both the Mexicoladas (like a Pina Coolada with the addition of tequila) and Kahlualadas with a pureed banana, but in the end I was well pleased with the selection of affordable vino tintos on the island.  Carmeneres, Cab Sauvs and Merlots from Chile and Argentian Malbecs, all for under $10.

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Wee One got into the swing of things too…she was researching imported beer varieties for her Daddy.

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Here’s a far more flattering photo of the two of them.

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We have been accustomed to sitting on our duffs to watch sunset but with the Wee One going to bed early and our efforts to all have dinner together, we found that we enjoyed sunset just as much while mobile- strolling down the airport strip.

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We found out later that Sister #3 and Dona had experienced many issues getting to the island.  Turns out that they arrived about 4 and we had just missed them at the ferry.  Here they are having their inaugural cocktail before we met them for dinner at Angelo`s.  They look none the worse for wear, if you ask me.

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Beautiful cousins.

When you are getting settled in at Angelo’s they come by with a big puffy disc of dough that has just come out of their wood-fired oven.  We tore it into pieces and dragged it through their exceptional olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Dona and I both ordered black olive, artichoke and ham pizza.  She took most of hers home and she and Sister #3 had it with a salad the next day for lunch.  D ordered frutti de mare pasta and we shared both (there was nothing left for OUR lunch the next day).

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J1 selected the Quattro pizza, unfortunately, I didn’t get a shot of it.  Above is the Newbie’s Mexican pizza.

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“Legs” and Daughter #1 split the “Isla Mujeres” a.k.a. futti de mare pizza.  This has been my go to choice for years and years and I wish that I had ordered it again that night.  I LOVE this dish.

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Daughter #2 remembered the carbonara from years previously and savoured it once again.  J2  remembered the dish she ordered a couple of years prior as well, and ordered the asparagus, white wine and bow ties.

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D and Sister #3 both chose the frutti de mare pasta.  The latter did a taste comparison later in the week and declared Angelo’s served a superior version to Brisas Caribe.  Dinner was a delight in every way.

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We topped off our evening with another stroll up Hidalgo where we met our Islander friend Jose who sells treats from out of the back of a truck for a couple of bakeries in Colonias.  We ordered the pineapple pie to cap off another perfect day.

Kath’s quote: “He is the very pineapple of politeness!”-Richard Brinsley Sheridan

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

 

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