Food Musings

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

Crystal Bay Chinese Restaurant

December2

At 1100 Waverley St., Chrystal Bay Chinese Restaurant is right smack in the middle of a bustling business/industrial zone. There are very few options in this particular area of Waverley and McGillivray. With winter driving conditions upon us, it is handy to know where you can purchase an affordable lunch without having to traverse too far.

Once dubbed the Crystal Bay Steakhouse, I understand that they served half steakhouse fare and half Chinese cuisine. As their Chinese menu became increasingly popular they did away with the steakhouse options.

On the day that we visited for lunch, the place was full of hungry lunchers with some solo guests sitting all at one long communal table. Whenever a restaurant is offering the choice to order off of the menu or a buffet, it is a good idea to look around and check out what other diners are doing. In this case, everyone was going up to the buffet so we followed suit.

The busier a buffet restaurant is, the better, as it means that food has to be continuously prepared and put into the holding table, ensuring the freshness of the product. An unusual feature of this buffet is that you could choose to have it “to go”, with a proviso that you limited the inclusion of their tasty chicken wings to 10, which is very generous because the entire buffet only costs $8.95.

Also included at the buffet table was a law horn vegetarian dish, Cantonese lo mein, dry fried mushrooms, black pepper with pork, salt and pepper pork chop, dry breaded veal, fried rice, stir fried broccoli, spring rolls AND a choice of soup.

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No wonder everyone goes for the buffet! I personally favour a greater variety of stir-fried items than deep-fried ones, but the tables sitting around us had their plates heaped with the sizzled items. I stuck to the tasty law horn vegetables and the Cantonese lo mein and certainly got my monies’ worth.

Crystal Bay Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kath’s quote: “To the ruler, the people are heaven; to the people, food is heaven.”-(ancient Chinese proverb)

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Love-that is all.

Brisas Grill Isla Mujeres

December1

In spite of the fact that I have been to Brisas Grill many, many times over the years and absolutely love the food, I can never get its corrrect name into my head. Case in point: we were assembling there for sunset and a fresh seafood feed before friends returned to Canada the next morning. Brother #3 and my sis-in-law hailed a cab and headed to what once was Brisas Caribe in Colonias because of my confusion. It makes sense to me that since “Brisas” is right in the sand at the water’s edge, it would make reference to the Caribean Sea. In addition to the fact that I have never seen a “grill” at the restaurant. But I was just plain old wrong and had to apologize profusely to my sibling for my error.

Unfortunately they missed the beautiful sunset because of me. I had hoped that their dinner would make up for it.

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And it did-commencing with Brisas’ lovely grilled flat bread, a basket of which is delivered to every dining table.

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Brother #3 ordered the shrimp pasta

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and my sis-in-law fettucine carbonara. Both were well pleased.

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Don chose the fresh grouper

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and Victoria something that I cannot recall the name of. They too were very happy with their selections.

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D and I have tasted frutti di mare pizza and linquine on a couple of sojourns to Italy and we often declare that Brisas Grill’s version is up there with the best of them. When we order the frutti di mare linquine, we choose their white version which is concocted of white wine, butter and a white stock. Often the stock is chicken and sometimes it is too salty but this is a comment catagorized as a wee complaint. We often order both the pizza and linquine and split them between us and as is often the case, we have plenty to take home for a left over lunch the next day.

Kath’s quote: “I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.” – W.C. Fields

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Live simly, laugh often, love deeply.

 

 

Brunch at the Hotel Fort Garry

November26

As our busy family was growing up, D and I took regular time away which we called our “marriage” time. Sometimes it would be for a week away to somewhere warm, other times a weekend in Toronto or Minneapolis but more often than not, it was for an overnight at a Winnipeg hotel. I think that this is a great way to do two things: strengthen your marriage (at 31 years, ours is stronger than ever) AND get a chance to see your home-town with the eyes of a visitor.

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D was recently asked to be the master of ceremonies for his company’s holiday event which took place at the Winnipeg landmark Hotel Fort Garry.

D had to be at the hotel for a dress rehearsal and so we were able to check in early. While he was busy, I ordered a pot of freshly brewed coffee from room-service. The hotel doesn’t provide the typical little coffee pots in the room and so the solution for coffee lovers is to provide a complimentary pot delivered to your door. On the tray were a couple of individually wrapped biscotti. A lovely treat.

I also grabbed my camera and walked through the hotel. It may sound strange, but it is just what a tourist might do and remember I was a tourist, if only for a day.

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I love the little mezzanines in the hotel that give you a birds-eye view of the rooms below.

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On the seventh floor, is this exquisite salon where I cozied in to have a little read.

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That evening, the hotel put on an amazing dinner for all of the corporate guests. They carved turkey, beef and pork loin which were hot, moist and tender but the real highlight were the vegetables and accompaniments: wild rice, roasted potatoes, whole roasted carrots, brussel sprouts, green beans and spaghetti squash in a mornay sauce. One person seated at our table went up for more of the latter while everyone else moved onto to dessert.

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When I made arrangements for that early check in, there was a prompt on the hotel’s answering machine for Brunch reservations. We had heard that the famous brunch that the hotel prepared every Sunday was no longer, but for a moment we held onto the hope that it had not been retired. Sure enough, the sweeping and grand buffet was no longer available but we were offered a special price on the abbreviated Brunch that they served each morning in their breakfast room.

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We were shown a table by a lovely deep-silled window and made our way to the omelette station.

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Mine was chock full of seafood, asparagus, kale and cheese and I could not have been more content. When the server sees you sit down with your plate she orders up hot toast made from their on-premise artisan bakery. Truth is, we didn’t miss a single item that was once served from their enormous grand buffet costing considerably more than their modestly priced brunch.

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Now that’s how you offer up fruit preserves with a breakfast!

The hotel does this and so many little things so cleverly: providing high end shampoo etc. in large dispensers affixed to the walls of the bath and shower, the coffee mentioned above and a trio of gourmet jams and marmalade. Not only does this save the hotel money, it reduces packaging and trash and the highest quality products are provided to the guest. And I wouldn’t have known any of this, had I not been a tourist in my own city.

Kath’s quote: “A simple enough pleasure, surely, to have breakfast alone with one’s husband, but how seldom married people in the midst of life achieve it.”-
Anne Spencer Morrow Lindbergh

TSR Watermark - 5606

Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

 

 

 

 

Flip-Regina

November24

I batted two for two on my recent trip to Regina; sitting down both evenings with the creators of the food that I had the pleasure of sampling. At his restaurant Flip, Chef Dave Straub (recent silver medal winner in the gold plate competition), pulled up a chair with his beer to discuss the details of his winning creation and share his passion for prairie food.

Chef Dave is the real deal. Farm to table is not just a passing movement, but Dave’s life. A farm boy from Pense, SK just west of Regina, he was baptised in the hospitality business by washing dishes at Danbury’s. Ironically the building just across the street that once housed Danbury’s is now home to Crave and the Chef that squeezed Dave out of his gold plate was none other than Crave’s Jonathan Thauberger.

In between, he attended culinary school and did his own research at a number of iconic restaurants including Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park in NYC, rated the fifth best restaurant in the world! Hearing him recount that visit, his face took on the appearance of a fan that had caught the puck that was shot by his favourite player to win the Stanley Cup.

But, to the food….

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Our attentive server did such a delicious job of describing the evening’s special that it was ordered before we could blink: a nibble of silky pasta topped with shrimp and pancetta, luxuriating in a tomato butter sauce and crowned with a gently poached egg and fennel pollen . What a fabulous start.

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I was ready to go exotic but when I spied perogies and sausage on the “Comfort” section of the menu, I could not resist. Flip’s premise made sausage had a little bit a heat and worked beautifully with potato & aged cheddar packets. Caraway beets and mustard chive creme fraiche, sealed the deal.

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The short rib plate was selected by one of our guests, but we all had tastes. You know that you are with good friends, when no one is shy about passing their plate around to share the bounty. The ribs were first braised and then slowly roasted to create a fall-off-the-bone taste sensation. Perfect for a meat and potato lover, it came with cheddar mashed potatoes and an arugula salad.

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A brick-roasted chicken looks pretty pedestrian in this shot. Believe me, it was anything but! We had just returned from Tuscany the week prior and Italian families, especially in Tuscany, have been cooking what they call “pollo al mattone” for centuries. From my own research, there are a couple of secrets to this cooking style: 1) you have to ensure that the half chicken is lying as flat as possible in the bottom of your skillet 2) the best fry pan to use is a well-seasoned cast iron one 3) wrap a couple of heavy terra-cotta bricks in aluminum foil and place directly on the chicken. The trick here is weighting the chicken so that the skin makes contact with the hot pan and it cooks evenly. Perfectly executed.

I would drive to Regina just for another taste of this dish!
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D LOVES seared scallops and orders them every chance he gets. As soon as I spied them on the menu, I knew immediately that they would be his choice. The crispy pork belly and lapsha noodles in a vanilla saffron sauce was the delicious icing on the “cake”.
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I have no recall of the name of this chocolate feature but it was an ode to campfire s’mores and we made short work of it.

I feel very badly that even though we moved our dishes under the best lighting in the café, my photos are so lacking compared to the real experience. My niece once shared that a dish was “groan worthy” and that is the only descriptive that adequately describes Chef Dave’s dishes: groan worthy and we did, groan that is.

Flip Eatery & Drink Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kath’s quote: “Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress.” –Charles Pierre Monselet, French author (1825-1888)

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

 

 

Fenix Isla Mujeres

November23

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Fenix is a place on Isla Mujeres that I had watched with interest on message boards when it opened and then garnered its fair share of fans. Until this past spring, I had never visited. In fact, I didn’t even know where it was. When we met friends from Puerto Moreles who came over by ferry to spend an afternon with us, we walked along Playa Sol and then rounded the corner to Play Norte. When I thought that we were almost out of beach (and a place to share some lunch), there it was. We immediately ordered a round of cold ones and a couple of small plates to share. Since there were four of us and only three of these tempura shrimp with curry dip, we ordered a second plate and each had 1 1/2 skews. Delish.

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The goat cheese stuffed chilies on crostini hit the spot especially with the pesto drizzle that circled the plate.

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These were not the best Patata Bravas I had ever tasted (that honour goes to Segovia in Winnipeg) but they were tasty enough.

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The ceviche of the day was this lovely green one; the result of tossing the veggies and seafood in pesto.

Service was fairly prompt and the banos clean and well stocked, even though they were quite a distance from where we were seated. We could have done without the afternoon’s entertainment of live music as we were trying to get to know our guests a bit better but the music did add to the atmosphere.

Overall a very pleasant experience.

Kath’s quote: “It is a curious thing, but as one travels the world getting older and older, it appears that happiness is easier to get used to than despair. The second time you have a root beer float, for instance, your happiness at sipping the delicious concoction may not be quite as enormous as when you first had a root beer float, and the twelfth time your happiness may be still less enormous, until root beer floats begin to offer you very little happiness at all, because you have become used to the taste of vanilla ice cream and root beer mixed together. However, the second time you find a thumbtack in your root beer float, your despair is much greater than the first time, when you dismissed the thumbtack as a freak accident rather than part of the scheme of a soda jerk, a phrase which here means “ice cream shop employee who is trying to injure your tongue,” and by the twelfth time you find a thumbtack, your despair is even greater still, until you can hardly utter the phrase “root beer float” without bursting into tears. It is almost as if happiness is an acquired taste, like coconut cordial or ceviche, to which you can eventually become accustomed, but despair is something surprising each time you encounter it.” ― Lemony Snicket

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

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