Food Musings

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

Billabong-Part 1


I have only had a chance to visit the popular Billabong (on Osborne Street), once previously and that was before the bistro doubled in size by acquiring the space next door.  The new section where the dining room has expanded, has a simple decor which reminds me of the narrow dining rooms of Manhattan.  A rich colour scheme, uncluttered table tops and soft lighting provided by table lamps meant we were relaxed and at ease as soon as we sat down. 

The evening was our last opportunity to spend extended time together before I headed out to the cottage for a month long stay and so we were determined to take our time and savour the moments. 

We started with a couple of bites of a variety of tastes:

The calamari tossed in corn meal flour had its heat zipped up with chili flakes and jalapenoes.  If the heat was a bit too firey, the tzatziki could cool you down. 

Black bean, shrimp and baramundi meshed together beautifully in their spring rolls with a soya drizzle for seasoning.  We had not tasted baramundi before but liken it to our beloved pickerel.

There was shrimp from the barbie (of course)-so tender and perfectly cooked that we had to inquire as to whether they were fresh.  Of course that was impossible in the middle of the prairies but tasted that good.  A just crushed peanut sauce accompanied these.

Next up were Mrs. Keating’s Old Fashioned sausage rolls (the Keatings being family of the proprietor’s).  Unlike any I had tasted before-they were so meaty and savoury, with a flaky pastry that made a wonderful mess with each bite.

We also sampled the Kangaroo Tacos! The unusual square shape was as a result of Chef David cleverly utilizing a won ton wrapper as his crunchy holder.  The tiny pieces of marsupial were perched a top cole slaw, mango and red Thai chili dressing ensuring that the meat was well appointed. 

I know that it is hard to imagine that we were just getting started but this was exactly the case.  Stay tuned for next courses.

Billabong Bar & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: Once a jolly swag man sat by the billabong (a small lake).

To Market-My Annual Trip to St. Norbert


I stayed in from the lake this weekend (on the hottest weekend of the year) for my annual visit to St. Norbert Market.  Was it worth it?  Well the amazing tomatoes that we have sliced thinly onto clubhouse sandwiches or topped with an old balsamic vinegar and chevre, and the tiny cucumbers that we added with fresh mint to our shrimp rice rolls-say yes it was!

I am reminded once again of my favourite read of this spring: Keeping The Feast by Paula Butturini.  I want to share this partial recounting of her visit to her favourite green market vendor:

“On that sunny August morning, Domenico was selling fat round heads of soft Bibb lettuce and wild-looking heads of curly endive.  He had crates of romaine lettuce, whose elongated heads form the base of many salads, and tight little knobs of red radicchio, to add colour.  He had fistfuls of wild arugula, which the Romans call rughetta and use to add a peppery bite to a meal.  He had foot-long bunches of Swiss chard, tiny new shoots of broccoli rabe, bunches of slim scallions.  He had bouquets of zucchini flowers, which Romans stuff with mozzarella and anchovy, dip in a light flour-and-water batter, then deep fry until golden.

He had flat, green broad beans, the kind Romans stew slowly in garlic, onion and tomato.  He had red and white runner beans, which housewives use to fill out a summer vegetable soup, and regular green beans, tiny,  just picked, perfect for blanching and serving with a dribble of olive oil and lemon juice.  Domenico also had the usual array of tomatoes, each with specific uses: tiny cherry tomatoes, so good halved and turned into a Neapolitan-style sauce; meaty, plum tomatoes used for endless tomato-based pasta sauces; salad tomatoes, always slightly green, as the Romans prefer them.  He had Casilino tomatoes too-small, flat, highly creased, with a sunlit, concentrated flavour, favoured by Roman housewives for raw sauces during summer’s worst heat.  He had gigantic beefsteak tomatoes, too, meat for stuffing and baking with rice, potato wedges, oil, and herbs.

That day Domenico was also selling carrots, celery, cucumbers, lemons.  He had skinny frying peppers and fat bell-peppers-red, yellow, and green-which the Romans love to roast and serve with garlic and oil.  He had yellow-and red-skinned potatoes and the tough cow corn that Europeans seem to think people as well as cows can eat.  He hat fat, glossy, black-skinned eggplants, and long narrow white ones with bright markings near the stem.  He had hot red pepperoncini, tiny peppers still on the stalk ready for drying, and several types of zucchini, some a deep dark green, others light and striated, none of them much bigger than an American hot dog, all sweet and free of seeds because of their tiny size. 

He was selling round yellow onions, sweet red onions, and flat white onions.  He had garlic and fennel bulbs, their feathery dark tips a dark, cool green,  He also had eggs, brown-shelled, as the Romans favour them, their shells never quite as clean as a shopper would hope.” 

Kath’s quote: “Farmers are the only indispensable people on the face of the earth.”-Li Zhaoxing


Two Wifesavers-Politically Incorrect Breakfasts


I tried to go back and reference the first time I heard the term “wife-saver”.  It was from my much-loved “Best of Bridge” cookbook series.  And I say tried because these cook books have been used so thoroughly over the years, that the front cover of this one (which would have included the date of publishing) is long gone.  Suffice it to say, that it was when my kids were babies and my oldest just turned 26. 

So we can safely establish that roles have changed.  But in this particular case the adage is an accurate one.  Sister #2 holds down one of those all-consuming jobs that makes weekends at the cottage particularly precious.  A time when she can sleep in, walk with the dogs, read, nap and rejuvenate for the weekdays ahead.  And so it is, that on weekends (especially long weekends), when she is assigned to the preparation of breakfasts for a gang, she dips into her “wife-saving” repertoire.

Don’t know what this was called, but it was satisfying and delicious.  Some of our gang took left over squares that they could eat on the run without reheating.

8 hash brown patties

2 cups of shaved ham (or chunks of leftover baked ham)

1 c milk

1/2 t dry mustard

4 c grated cheddar

7 eggs

1/2 t salt

Assemble a double layer of hash brown patties in appropriately sized pan.  Place ham on top.  Mix all other ingredients together and pour over top.  Cover and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees.  Uncover and bake 15 minutes more.

Prepare for a sweet fix with this dish.  Don’t know the official name for it either but describe it as a “Pecan Carmel French Toast”.

1 c brown sugar

1/2 c butter

2 T corn syrup

1 c pecans, loosely chopped

12 slices of multi-grain bread

6 eggs

1 1/2 c milk

1 t vanilla

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t salt

Caramel sauce

1/2 c brown sugar

1/4 c butter

1 T corn syrup

To make this decadent dish even more so-we browned up split pork sausages to serve alongside

Combine sugar, butter, syrup.  Cook on med heat until sugar dissolves and it thickens.  Pour 1/2 sauce into 9 x 13 baking dish.  Place 6 slices of bread on top and then pecans.  Repeat.  Mix eggs, milk, spices.  Pour over bread.  Cover and refidgerate,  Bake 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees.  Make caramel sauce and pour over at table or when serving. 

Kath’s quote: “Often has the affectionate wife caused her husband a sleepless night and severe distress, which, had an enemy inflicted, she would scarcely have forgiven — because she has prepared for him food which did not agree with his constitution or habits.”-Sarah Josepha Hale, ‘The Good Housekeeper’

Cafe Carlo


When Daughter #1 was just weeks old, we took her out for her first dining experience.  We plunked her car seat in the middle of of a table at the St. James Keg (when it was located further west on Portage Ave.) and we told our server to bring out all of our food, all at once and we would determine as we went along, how long we could linger over individual courses.  Well it turned out to be a leaisurely evening for two reasons: D was the General Manager of that Keg location at that time and all the staff were so accommodating and would have walked the floor with Daughter #1 had she needed attention.  But the fact of the matter was that she did not make a peep and slept the evening away.  Everybody was kind of disappointed because they did not get to see her open her beautiful big blue eyes.

And so it was, that our Cafe Carlo celebration was the long-awaited birth of the son of dear friends of ours.  The evening was made that much better by the inclusion of Grandma and Grandpa from Pennsylvania, whom we have waited a very long time to meet.  But the guest of honour was the newborn baby himself, who also slept blissfully throughout the entire evening.

This particular couple live in the Corydon area and often visit Cafe Carlo, ordering and sharing their favourite dishes.  They let us have tastes.  We were duly impressed with the chunks of chicken in the from-scratch gravy and authentic cheese curds in their version of Poutine, served as a “Small Plate.”  The cheese-makers at Bothwell call their curds “squeakers” because a well-formed curd, squeaks when you bite into them.

We also got to sample another “Small Plate” the portobello mushrooms sauteed with beef tenderloin tips. 

Then the new parents split a dish of ravioli and appreciated that the kitchen split the order for them to enjoy.

You will all be shocked to learn that I did not order the Spag Boo containing my fav artichokes and spicy eggplant (only because that is the dish that I always have when I go).  I opted instead for the Fett Chile.  Silky fettuccine topped with chicken, chorizo for heat, cashews for crunch and a chili cream sauce for slurp.  I dove right in to mine so that I could have my turn holding the baby.

D had the same dish as one of four courses entitled the Fantasy, including spring rolls, a salad and creme brulee. 

The Cafe was packed with neighbourhood folk out for a stroll on a glorious summer evening in Winnipeg.  We celebrated old friends, new friends and the miracle of creation.  Life is good. 

Cafe Carlo on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “So where did these cravings come from? I concluded it’s the baby ordering in. Prenatal takeout. Even without ever being in a restaurant, fetuses develop remarkably discerning palates, and they are not shy about demanding what they want. If they get a hankering, they just pick up the umbilical cord and call. ‘You know what would taste good right now? A cheeseburger, large fries, and a vanilla shake. And if you could, hurry it up, because I’m supposed to grow a lung in a half hour.’” –Paul Reiser

T,C & L-love you guys!

U Pick Strawberries-By Guest Blogger Shirley


Shirley was one of the students in my blog writing class this spring.  She has written this beautiful piece.  Looks like one of those cases where the student could teach the teacher a thing or two…..

“Anyone who loves strawberries knows the sweet, juicy flavour of fresh-picked strawberries is second to none.  Not only are these delights of nature beautiful to look at with their crisp red appeal, they absolutely tantalize the taste buds.  Maybe part of the intense flavour explosion stems from picking them ourselves.

Just a few minutes outside Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba, there are various U-Pick Strawberry farms.  Many are operated as family businesses providing reliable quality and service.  I remember going strawberry picking with my Mom and Dad when I was a little girl.  It was so much fun to hear my Dad tell stories of how I would focus on the task at hand and pick strawberries right along with my parents.

I was taught how to respect the tender plants and pick cleanly, not eat while picking, and simply select the beautiful red berries.  Okay, don’t tell:  my Dad would let me try a berry or two near the end, and oh, the sweetest taste filled my mouth!  I still remember how wonderful those delightful excursions to the strawberry fields were.  Somehow it never seemed like work.

Today I still find the whole process from picking to eating the strawberries, in whatever form they end up, to be enjoyable.  Food is love.  Strawberries are love.

I froze these on cookie sheets before bagging them so that they do not go mushy.

After hulling and washing these delectable jewels bursting with flavour and nutritional goodness, they can be eaten fresh out of hand, added to cereal, and made into various delicious desserts such as strawberry trifle or strawberry shortcake.  They can also be frozen for use out of season when we yearn for the sweet taste of summer berries.

What memories do the smell of strawberries bring to you?”

Grandma Jean’s Strawberry Pie-Just picked, made and delivered to the cottage

Kath’s quote:   “The strawberry: “Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.”-Dr William Butler

Thank you Shirley!

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