Food Musings

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

Dining Spurt

Pizzeria Gusto

Pizzeria Gusto

Pizzeria Gusto

Pizzeria Gusto

Dining out happens in spurts for me. At this moment the last three out of four meals that I’ve consumed have been outside the home. Yesterday I had a breakfast meeting at Stella’s on Grant Ave., then I met my husband for ribs at the Garry St. Keg and at lunch today I had another lunch meeting at Pizzeria Gusto on Academy Road. The only meal that I ate at home was a bowl of brown rice (likely as a guilt cleanser). Both Stella’s and the Pizzeria Gusto are within walking distance of our River Heights home. We have many favourites in the neighbourhood including Saucer’s on Academy, Mona Lisa’s and the Bonfire Bistro. We used to be able to walk to the Falafel House another of our favs but they’ve since moved further east on Corydon.

I had only been to Pizzeria Gusto once before but watch with interest as people line up outside their doors before their 5:30 opening. Today I was a client and being treated by a business associate. We shared an appetizer of grilled shrimp in pesto and pistachio nuts-delicious but I would have loved a piece of bread to have mopped up the beautiful bright green sauce. I choose a pizza made with an her olive oil, finely chopped sweet potatoes (with the skin on), pine nuts, pecorino cheese, toasted sage and brown butter.

OMGoodness-who could imagine potato pizza could be so good! It reminded how surprisingly good my potato pasta was when we were in Italy this fall.

Potato Pesto Pasta in Riomaggiore, Italy

Potato Pesto Pasta in Riomaggiore, Italy

I loved the combination of sweetness from the sweet potato, saltiness from the cheese and brown butter and a little bitterness from the char on the wood fried pizza crust. My associate had a pizza jammed with “drunk” mushrooms, a micro-arugula and white truffle oil. This was also so delicious, that I’ve decided that I have to eat my way through their pizza menu.
Pizzeria Gusto on Urbanspoon
We were too full for dessert but had a café Americano to finish up. The presentation of this and all items was crisp and clean, matching the decor of the entire dining room. Unfortunately, I drove my car because I had another errand to run but the walk home would have been heavenly to wear off the carbs.

What is your favourite River Heights restaurant? Have you tried Pizzeria Gusto? What is your favourite pizza?

Football Food


Football and food go hand in hand in our family. There is a gang assembled to watch NFL every Sunday. At the cottage in the summer we watch the CFL at “the big cottage” which is owned by my brother and Mom. At the latter there is an open invitation and you bring along a munchie and your chosen beverage. If my niece is there for the weekend it means Miss Vicky’s chips and some exotic beer or cocktail as well.

On this night we were invited to another brother’s home to watch the CFL final-the Grey Cup. It was an exciting and close game and so there was less interest in noshing than usual. I took along a dip for pre-supper nibbling. I had found some spreadable chevre at 50% off this week and so I’ve plopped it onto a plate and roughed up the surface. I then mixed a balsamic glaze with some honey and poured that over top. Toasted almonds go onto of that. When we arrived, I cut up a green and a red apple and put the slices all around the cheese. It was a big hit. Sister #2 took her famous hot mushroom dip. ml1204_sip_fd08_bacondip_xlThis is truly addictive and very rich for the old digestive system but remains one of my all time favourites: cook ½ lb. of bacon until crisp. Drain and reserve 2 T of drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon and set aside. Add ½ lb. of sliced fresh mushrooms, 1 finely chopped onion and 1 clove of minced garlic and cook over medium heat until tender and most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated (about 6-8 minutes). Mix in 2 T flour and a dash of pepper. Reduce heat and add 4 oz. of cream cheese (cut into smallish pieces) and ½ c cottage cheese. Also add 2 t Worcestershire sauce and 2 t Soya sauce. Stir in ½ c of sour cream and the bacon. Serve with a solid cracker as this dip is heavy with good things.images

Another football favourite is La Cocina’s Hot Hamburger Dip. La Cocina is a Manitoba company that makes the best tortilla chip that I’ve ever tasted. It is airy light and salty. The chip is more fragile for dipping but this keeps me from going over board (will power would also do the trick). We also like to scatter the chips over a Mexican dish or salad (a good use for the last ¼ of the bag). I digress…the Hot Hamburger Dip recipe is: Brown 2 lbs. of ground beef and 1 chopped onion. Add ½ lb. of cheese (processed like Velveeta is best but we rarely have it in the house). Then add 1 can tomato soup and 1 can of mushroom soup as well as ½ a chopped red pepper and another ½ chopped green pepper. This is where you can experiment by adding other peppers, celery, carrots, etc. Finish with 2 t chili powder and ½ t garlic salt. Simmer 20-30 minutes and serve in small bowls or in a crock pot.

Poutine, etc.


My son is a great cook.  I think it is because he has always seen his Dad move with ease in the kitchen.  He makes killer omelets and breakfast potatoes. He also does strange things like put a layer of potato chips in his sandwiches.  He’s all about texture and crunch he proclaims!  Today he made me poutine for lunch.  His were very good if not authentic.  Because it was all that we had in the house, he used beef gravy where I prefer a peppery chicken or turkey gravy and he topped them with grated mozzarella, whereas everyone knows that fresh cheese curds are the way to go.poutine

The first time I had ever tasted a cheese curd was in the food barn (more like an arena) at the Minnesota State Fair.  They were served at room temperature to be soft, slightly oily, slightly salty and oh so delicious.  That was also the first time I had ever had a corn dog (not my cup of tea) and the first time that I saw Kenny Loggins in concert (but now I’m aging myself).

According to Wikipedia poutine was invented in 1957 in rural Quebec, when a customer ordered fries while waiting for his cheese curds from the cheese factory in Kingsey Falls.  The owner is said to have exclaimed ça va faire une maudite poutine (“it will make a damn mess”), hence the name. The sauce was allegedly added later, to keep the fries warm longer.

I don’t know of a restaurant in Winnipeg that makes their poutine with fresh cheese curds.  I do know of many that have perfected the French fry.  My recent indulgence was at George’s on Henderson Hwy. this weekend.  Served in a bag, crunchy on the outside and soft and potatoey on the inside with malt vinegar and lots of salts-yum.

Where is your favourite fry place?  Do you know who makes poutine with fresh cheese curds?  Where do you buy cheese curds for home cooking?

Caramel Pecan Squares


I wrote recently about the annual Christmas baking exchange that my sister co-ordinates every year.  Well today is my baking day-I say day because I don’t plan on doing anything else because something can always (and often does) go astray.  One year when I had this brilliant idea to make Dream cookies (otherwise known as Imperial or Diplomat cookies) I got a migraine and spent the day in bed instead.Caramel nut squares

I’ve decided on Caramel Pecan Squares.  I’ve never made them so I warn you that this is an untested recipe but if you’re interested here goes: Combine 1 c flour, 1 c finely chopped pecans, ¾ c rolled outs, 2/3 c brown sugar, ½ t salt and ½ t salt together in large bowl.  Then cut a ½ c butter into mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Add one beaten egg and stir well.  Press evenly into a a greased 9 x 13” pan and bake at 350 degrees for 10 mins.  Sprinkle 3 cups of white mini marshmallows (Julie Child would roll over in her grave).  Drizzle 2/3 c of caramel ice cream topping over marshmallows.  Sprinkle with another 1 1/3 c of chopped pecans.  Bake again for 20 mins. until golden brown.  Let stand on wire rack until cooled completely.  Cut with hot/wet knife to prevent sticking.  Cuts into 54 squares so I’ll be making 2+ batches: for the exchange, extra to take to a class that I’m enrolled in and some to share with my grown up kids for their entertaining.

The recipe is from Jean Pare’s Company’s Coming Special Occasion Series entitled “Baking, Simple to Sensational”.  I kind of evolved as a cook as Jean Pare evolved as a cookbook writer.  In one of her first cookbooks (entitled Salads) there was a recipe for Caesar salad which was (I’m paraphrasing but only slightly): cut up a head of romaine lettuce and toss it with Kraft Caesar dressing, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  I am NOT kidding.  Having said this, my family’s favourite Banana Muffins come from another of her early books-circa 1985.  Sometimes I don’t feel like preparing the muffin tins and try to make a banana loaf instead and my family won’t have it!  When my son went on a car trip of western Canada this spring he requested a dozen muffins for the road but couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t be consumed by Headingley.  (If you are from the Winnipeg area, you would know that Headingley was once considered the first town on a western trip but today is more like a suburb of Winnipeg.

Any other closet Jean Pare fans out there?

Lunch Out


I have a lunch meeting today and I was this close….to having a clubhouse sandwich at Rae and Jerry’s.  The location has been changed.  Typically when you order Winnipeg’s famous Clubhouse you are compelled to share or take half home for dinner.  Besides Rae and Jerry’s, my favourite is at a little downtown lunch bar called to Wagon Wheel.  At the latter turkeys are roasted through the night to assemble the freshest tasting Club you can imagine.  Of course the tomatoes have to be at their prime as well.  I prefer really meaty and less salty bacon and the mayo has to be liberally slathered on.  There was a time in Winnipeg one another triple decker sandwich was at the top of my list.  It was served at Harman’s Drugstore lunch counter at the corner of Portage Ave. and Sherbrooke St.  The ingredients were a stack of back bacon, asparagus spears and melted cheese.

There are other good lunch selections at R&J’s like their prime rib sandwich.  They slow roast a log up in the morning and then slice it very thinly so that the fat cap is evenly distributed through the sandwich.  Oh my.  This institution is also has liver and onions on it as one of the daily specials.  A tradition that has carried on for years and years.  I always loved the aroma of the same dish when I was growing up at home but I never could bring myself to have more than a taste-the texture not feeling right in my mouth.

In truth R&J kinda weirds me out.  It is so unchanged that you feel stuck in a time machine.  The red fortrel clad waitress actually call you doll and hon.  And they still serve tomato juice as a first course!
Rae & Jerry's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Prime_rib_roastIt has been a family tradition in year’s past that my extended family serves prime rib on Christmas Eve.  It is very strange for me to think of meatless menus for Christmas Eve when ours has roast beef, kubasa and cabbage rolls stuffed with more beef.  The beef goes into the oven early in the day and is carved right before serving.  The next day a slice of left over roast on a fresh bun is a treat for anyone who couldn’t make the night before.

Do you remember Harman’s Drugstore?  Where is your favourite place for prime rib or clubhouse sandwiches?  Do you attempt Prime Rib at home?

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