Food Musings

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

Where to Eat on Canada Day Weekend in Winnipeg

June28

I think that we live in the most amazing country in the world!  Are you feeling patriotic this Canada Day weekend?  We’re heading up to our little beach house but last evening while we were at the Bomber game, I got an email from my friend Derek Taylor.  He and his wife Fiona needed a foodie to come onto CJOB with them during their Friday Foodie Finds segment.  I started brainstorming about places to eat on Canada Day weekend and thought that you, my loyal readers might need some suggestions as well.

The Forks is the perfect place to celebrate the creation of our magnificent country since it is the birthplace of our fair city.  Depending on what time of day you are commencing your personal celebrations, you may want to visit the Original Pancake House.  I personally haven’t been in a long time but J1 and J2 (and soon to be 3!) love to go and share The Big Apple.  There are a bevvy of places in the food stall area of the market itself.  We recently tried Fergie’s Fish ‘n Chips with a two course dinner starting with a hearty clam chowder, and a main course of fantastic fresh cut fries, coleslaw and Manitoba pickerel fillets.  Why anyone would choose cod or halibut over pickerel, I will never know.  If you have the whole family with you, the Old Spaghetti Factory delights the young ones and can also accommodate your senior parents with their easy accessibility and spacious layout.  Our 86 year old Mom loved our recent visit and remembered artifacts on display from their former location.  If you are looking for a romantic spot for fine dining, you will have a tough decision between Sydney’s  or The Current at the Inn at the Forks.  The upscale decor and culinary creations make them two of Winnipeg’s premiere restaurants.

If you are heading to or from the Living Flag event, which is being held on the grounds of the Leg, you will have a plethora of choices in the downtown area.  The closest is likely Cafe 22 right on Broadway.  We’ve taken our entire family there and shared their terrific pizzas and salads, without breaking the bank.

If Osborne Village is your destination then you are in luck. Two of my favourite Winnipeg restaurants are almost next door to each other-Unburger and Segovia.  Both use the very best local ingredients and concoct amazing culinary delights.  I have not yet had a chance to visit Billabong Gastropub since they have revamped but Sister #3 and Daughter #2 both love their Eggs Benedict for weekend brunch. A spot that I have wanted to try for ages is Kawaii Crepe.  The Frenchman says that the offerings are both delicious and affordable.  Although I haven’t visited Fude in quite sometime, my last visit was so memorable that I recall every detail.  The Chef/owner’s ability to deconstruct typical recipes and reconstruct them in a new and unique manner is well worth the climb up the stairs to their second floor location.  A descent to the Spicy Noodle House is a good bet too.  Try their deep fried pork chops for a decadent treat.

If Assiniboine Park is your destination and you are entering through the south gates, stop first at the Tuxedo Village Family Restaurant.  Excellent Greek cuisine can be had as well as many family favourites.  On the north edge is Sargent Sundae one of the city’s best spots for a cone (rivaling the BDI).  The Star Grill is a cozy place for a dinner for two in the evening and at brunch serves up a bacon and egg pizza that was so much fun to try.  We’ve yet to make it to Gus and Tony’s at the Park but it is on our “must try this summer” list.  Of course there is the elegant Terrace in the Park which I recently declared to be Winnipeg’s most romantic restaurant.  You can order seafood from both Canada’s east and west coast-the perfect way to salute the breadth of Canada’s geography.

Last but not least, is a special Canada Day at St. Norbert Market.  The noshing is always great on site or you could put together a Canadian picnic basket for wherever you are headed.

Take a moment this weekend to contemplate and celebrate all that Canada means to you.  We are so very blessed to live in the true north, strong and free!

Kath’s quote: “My food is Louisiana, New Orleans-based, well-seasoned, rustic. I think it’s pretty unique because of my background being influenced by my mom, Portuguese and French Canadian. There’s a lot going on there.” –Emeril Lagasse
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Love-that is all.

Kristina’s on Corydon

June27

Hello Readers.  Do you experience times when things become so familiar to you that you don’t even “see” them anymore?  Living where I do in Winnipeg, I take Corydon Ave. on a continuous basis to pick up Sister #3, or head downtown or just because we love to hang out on Corydon or in the Village.  As a result I have driven past Kristina’s literally thousands of times but never, ever stepped foot inside. But that doesn’t mean that I have not imagined what the interior of the restaurant looked like and when I finally met a lunch date there, I was totally surprised.  The décor is sleek and appears to have recently been refreshed.  The place was bustling with diners as well as staff, even though we arrived after the lunch hour.  We accepted a place under the lattice on their sunny patio.  The lattice provided comforting shade but played havoc with my photos.

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I anticipated that I was being treated to this lunch so I let my hostess decide on an appetizer that we were to share.  She asked if I enjoy chicken livers and the truth is, I have enjoyed them only on a handful of occasions, even though I persevere and I have tried to acquire a taste for them.  For me, it is a texture thing.  I don’t like the way that the meat “feels” in my mouth.  Does this make sense to you?  I do appreciate them when they are thinly sliced, sometimes coated and quickly sautéed.  I will say that the rich sauce that they had been braised in had deep tones of red wine and I was content to slop that up with the delicious bread that accompanied the appetizer.

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We both chose Greek Salads topped with grilled chicken-my version sans romaine.  She apparently liked hers, but I must admit that I wasn’t really paying attention as our business conversation was so fascinating, I was hanging on her every word.  In addition, I was focused on my own plate of sheer loveliness.

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At first I was disappointed that the feta appeared to be shaved and not cubed or crumbled into big chunky bites like I make myself at home. This is a testament to how much I enjoy the rich, salty taste of feta.  In fact, the cheese was perfect as I was able to spear a bit of chicken, a veggie and just the right amount of feta with every bite.  Eating with gusto, as I am prone to do, I tore pieces of pita off to savour every dollop of the dressing in the bottom of my bowl.

So now that I know what unfolds once you walk through the doors of Kristina’s on Corydon, I am sure to go back again.  Perhaps not for the chicken livers but definitely to enjoy a sunny salad on their cozy terrace.

Kristina's On Corydon on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Triptolemus, one of the principal figures in Greek religion, is said to be the inventor of the plow and of agriculture, and therefore the real father of what we call civilization.”-M.F.K. Fisher

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Love-that is all.

 

 

The Old Spaghetti Factory

June25

When I was asked by Sisters #2 and #3 where I would like to go out for my birthday dinner, would you be surprised when I responded with the Old Spaghetti Factory?  Well readers, here was my train of thought.  Dining decisions aren’t made solely on what you are going to get to eat (I have to remind myself of this, over and over again).  Central location is a consideration and the OSF at The Forks is precisely half way between my locale and Sister #2 and our Mom.  The latter loves to come along for birthday celebration dinners (and she also truly loves picking up the tab)!  Since our Mom is 86, we also have to consider wheelchair accessibility and parking and the Spaghetti Factory does a great job of both.  I had also hoped since it was a glorious night, that our Mom might enjoy a stroll along the paths at The Forks.  This would extend her outing, get her some fresh air and her girls some exercise.

I also predicted that it would be easy to get in without a wait (which it was) and knew that the restaurant is well laid out to maneuver a wheelchair around.  As our hostess escorted us to our table, she indicated that we would be next to huge windows where we could enjoy the fresh greenery of the park and see folks go by on the biking/walking path.  I thought that was a really nice touch and we made a point of taking it in.  The service is so prompt.  I would say a bit too much so, for my dining tastes.  But our Mom loved that there was food in front of us, before we even noticed, starting with their crusty bread that can be slathered with garlic butter.  A small but crisp and tasty salad came next and before we knew it, our spaghetti dinners had come.

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The time has come for me to fess up.  There is one particular dish from the Spaghetti Factory that I crave and that is the Browned Butter and Mizithra cheese.  Although I have seen ownership change and menu items come and go, I am delighted that it has stood the test of time.  I like to offset the sharp saltiness of the cheese with the creamy texture and taste of their clam sauce and the Manager’s Special allows you to chose any two sauces.  These preferences run in the family as Sister #3 thought that our Mom would also enjoy the clam sauce (she prefers cream sauces to tomato based ones), and Sister #2 also ordered the Mizithra.  She requested that hers come with a side of sautéed mushrooms and let me have a taste.  These too were exactly as I recalled-individual pan seared so that they come out plump and juicy and not braised as is the case from some kitchens.  Sister #3 has her long-time preference too-the combination of spicy meat and clam sauce.  I selected a side as well, of sautéed chicken.  By including a number of these side options on their menu, the OSF creates endless taste possibilities and is sure to have something for everyone.  Which is another reason that restaurants like this are often preferred.

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There were a number of large groups in that evening and with the quick service and spacious dining room, they do a really good job with large groups.  Our family has had a number of parties at the restaurant over the years.  In fact, D and I had our wedding cocktail reception at Brandy’s that used to be attached to the restaurant when it was located on Bannatyne.  Can you remember that far back?  Our Mom even recognized some of the décor pieces that have long been displayed.  So for our large family who have spent many wonderful times together, a visit to the restaurant is like a walk down memory lane.

Old Spaghetti Factory on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “What keeps me motivated is not the food itself but all the bonds and memories the food represents.”   Michael Chiarello

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Love-that is all.

Heat by Bill Buford

June24

I am not really sure why  a writer for the New York Times would give up hours upon hours of time with his family, at his own expense and want to volunteer in the kitchen of a number of stressful, hectic kitchens, with no apparent motive except to see if his culinary skills could stand up in a professional kitchen, but that is the premise of Bill Bulford’s “Heat”.  His sub-title states “{An amateur’s adventure as Kitchen slave. Line cook. Pasta-maker and apprentice to a Dante-quoting Butcher in Tuscany}”  The fascinating Mario Batali is a central figure in this recounting.  Perhaps you admire Mario’s accomplishments on Food TV and in the culinary world.  You may not after you read “Heat”, unless you are intrigued by the Chef Gordon Ramsay type and then I say read on.

I was impressed by Bulford’s ability to take a complicated recipe from a professional kitchen and describe the process with directions and imagery that I could clearly understand.  In this first excerpt, he does just that:

My advice: ignore the Babbo cookbook and begin roasting small pinches of garlic and chili flakes and medium pinches of the onion and pancetta in a hot pan with olive oil.  Hot oil accelerates the cooking process and the moment that everything gets soft you pour it away (holding back the contents with your tongs) and add a slap of butter and a splash of white wine, which stops the cooking.  This is Stage One-and you are left with the familiar buttery mush-but you’ve already added two things you’d never see in Italy: butter (seafood with butter-or any other dairy ingredient-verges on culinary blaspheme), and pancetta, because, according to Mario, pork and shellfish are an eternal combination found in many other places: in Portugal, in ameijoas na cataplana (clams and ham) or in Spain, in paella (chorizo and scallops); or in the United States, in the Italian American clams casino, even though none of these places happen to be in Italy.  (“Italians,” Mario says won’t mess with their fish. There are restaurants who won’t use lemon because they think it’s excessive.)

In Stage Two, you drop the pasta in boiling water and take your messy pan and fill it with big handfuls of clams and put it on the highest flame possible.  The objective is to cook them fast-they’ll start opening after three or four minutes, when you give the pan a swirl, mixing the shellfish juice with the buttery porky white wine emulsion.  At six minutes and thirty seconds, use your tongs to pull your noodles out and drop them into your pan-all that starchy pasta water slopping in with them is still a good thing; give  the pan another swirl; flip it; swirl again to ensure the pasta is evenly covered by the sauce.  If it looks dry, add another splash of pasta water; if too wet, pour off some it.  You then let the thing cook for another half minute or so, swirling, swirling, until the sauce streaks across the bottom of the pan, splash it with olive oil and sprinkle it with parsley: dinner.

Earlier, he describes the nugget that I am always on the search for: the mysterious connection between food and love.

Making food seemed to be something that everybody needed to do: not for the restaurant, but for the kitchen.  Here was the family meal, of course-bountifully served around four in the afternoon-but the food was almost always being made by someone at some time all day long.  The practice seemed to illustrate a principle I was always hearing referred to as “cooking with love.” A dish was a failure because it hadn’t been cooked with love. A dish was a success because the love was so obvious.  If you’re cooking with love, every plate is a unique event-you never allow yourself to forget that a person is waiting to eat it: your food, made with your hands, arranged with your fingers, tasted with your tongue.

If this is also a fascination of yours, you will enjoy “Heat”, but make sure that you read it after your dinner or you will be scouring your pantry for a can of clams and and pulling out your saute pans.

Kath’s quote: “Spaghetti is love.” Mario Batali

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Love-that is all.

Excerpts from Heat, Bill Buford, Doubleday Canada, ISBN-13: 978-0-385-66256-7

Mona Lisa Revisited

June21

Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano at 1697 Corydon Ave., first opened its doors in 1983 (and we have been frequent visitors for 19 years), but continues to reinvent itself on a continual basis, adding to its size in both directions and renewing and refreshing its concept in unique and inventive ways.  I watched with interest as the latest facelift occurred and was waiting for the perfect opportunity to visit again.  When a business associate of mine suggested that we celebrate our mutual birthdays with a lunch, I knew that the time had come.

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The new decor is upscale and elegant with crisp white linens and the outdoor patio which has always been one of my favourites, follows suit.  We whetted our appetites with slices of hot-from-the-oven bread which we dipped into a quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  The menu at lunch is quite compact and this I believe is a good thing, preferring when a few items are prepared with particular expertise, rather than many offerings being done with mediocrity.  I did find it somewhat surprising that the only pasta offering was the pasta of the day: a penne with tomato sauce.  But, priced so affordably at $5 with an Italian salad adding another $5, my lunch date thought that it to be a satisfying lunch, especially for $10.  She also commented that the simple sauce was very tasty and well-balanced.

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I was not so easy to please.  I read over the menu many times and just could not make up my mind.  So I decided to take a risk and ask our personable server to simply order whatever he thought that I would like the best.  After he inquired if I was partial to veal, he immediately suggested that I try their version with an accompaniment of Bocconcini and Tomato salad.  The escalopes were quickly turned with sautéed onions and accompanied by grilled eggplant, zucchini and red peppers in a simple, rustic presentation.  The addition of skinny slices of red onion was a nice twist on the classic Bocconcini salad rcipe, but required a wee bit of salt to enhance the flavour of the abundant tomato wedges.

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Proprietor Joe Grande was enjoying his own lunch at a neighbouring table.  In all the years that I have been enjoying Mona Lisa’s fare, he is a constant figure.  On my last visit, he insisted that I tour the kitchen, to my delight.  The fresh pasta was being lovingly prepared and was drying on massive wooden racks.  The ancient process, still fascinates me every time I witness it.

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Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quotes:  “Also, since art is a vehicle for the transmission of ideas through form, the reproduction of the form only reinforces the concept. It is the idea that is being reproduced. Anyone who understands the work of art owns it. We all own the Mona Lisa. ” -Sol LeWitt

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Love-that is all.

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