Browsing: Restaurant Features

Raw Almond 2015

February4

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Winnipeg is getting quite a name for itself and I am NOT referring to a recent McLean’s article. The Toronto Star and the New York Times cite our fair city as the coolest place to dine.  They are referring to Raw Almond, the pop-up restaurant which appears each year on the frozen river at the Forks.

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We arrived at The Forks just as the sun was setting on the city.

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Our first peak inside.

The diners for the evening accumulated outside and provided us all with an opportunity to view the “pop up”.  If you intend to go next year, as this year’s dinner sittings are completely sold out- check the forecast. The evening we dined, was a balmy one and we were absolutely toasty inside the fascinating architectural “tent”. In fact, one person at our table who was seated right in front of a warm air vent was sleeveless!

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Three communal tables are hosted by three local chefs each evening.  Chef Mitchell of Deseo’s Bistro was the artiste for Table #3 where we sat.

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We began with a Foie Gras torchon which melted in our mouths like the creamiest butter.

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Next up was a mini steamed bun that contained an escalope of fried chicken enhanced by an oyster mayonnaise and caviar.

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Beef tartare was served with cardamom yoghurt and warm Ethiopian injera. Each course provided a whole spectrum of flavours concocted by our brilliant young chef. Fellow diners must have been thinking, how is he going to top this course? And then he would.

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Crispy veal sweetbreads and Albacore tuna in a butter chicken sauce arrived next. We thought it impossible that we were eating fish because no piece required chewing; it simply melted on our tongues.

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The beef short rib was absolutely sensational. Chef Mitchell professed to have Ukrainian roots and the entrée was his homage to both Beef & Barley Soup and Borscht. The exquisite beef came away perfectly with the tongs of a fork so that it could be speared with the barley risotto that it was perched upon and the toasted barley that it had been crowned with. The best part was swirling a forkful around in the divine borscht influenced elements of carrot puree, crème fraiche, fresh dill and jewels of pickled beet.

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We were not done yet. Mitchell also confessed to a sweet tooth and treated us to his slow-cooked chocolate espresso pudding made crunchy with a sprinkling of crispy rice and toasted hazelnuts, made salty by a swirl of salted caramel sauce and made silky by a drizzling of olive oil.

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The food was astonishing in itself and made more so, when you got a glimpse of the three chefs and their teams, together in the make-shift kitchen.

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The other two tables were still finishing off their dessert course as we made our way back through the Forks and home.

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A small group had accumulated for the middle sitting at 7:30.

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Inside one of the warming huts.

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Even if the food had not been top notch, the entire experience is such an adventure, prompting suburbanites like us to enjoy the heart of our city at the Forks. The pop up structure is an architectural delight as were the other warming huts that we had a chance to poke our heads into. Skaters were enjoying the balmy weather and more than once, we wondered what city we were in.

Kath’s quote: The word “enough” does not exist for water, fire and women. –Ukrainian proverb.

snow heartLive simply, laugh often, love deeply.

Chew Revisited

January30

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I constantly read both fiction and non-fiction about life in Italy. I am always fascinated by their love of wild boar. Living on the Canadian prairies I never really thought that I would get an opportunity to taste wild boar. But on this day, while dining at Chew I asked our server which sandwich he recommended. In truth, I was mostly interested in the Parmesan truffle fries option that the sandwiches are offered with. He described their albacore sandwich as light and clean tasting and the wild boar as warm and satisfying. In the midst of winter, “warm and satisfying” is always a good idea, so I made my decision. In spite of really, really wanting to love it, I took one bite and knew that wild boar was not my thing.

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The grainy mustard was so grainy that it made me recall the times I watched my Mom make up a mustard plaster for a sick sibling. All of this is not a criticism of the expertise of the kitchen, just a miscue with my selection.

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In the mean time, the perfectly prepared shoe-string fries were absolutely heavenly, peppered with shards of Parmesan and drizzled with a glistening of truffle oil. I ate them with my fingers as you would enjoy potato chips and I really could have cared less about not having the sandwich. My lunch date on the other hand, a self-professed “picky”eater, was obviously enjoying his grilled cheese sandwich. If you know the amazing offerings at Chew, you will know that it was not just any grilled cheese.  Three different cheese varieties were grilled with slices of sweet figs, peppery arugula and a basting of balsamic dressing. He had finished half and was going to start to nosh through his stack of fries. I was hinting for a taste,when he generously offered me half, saying that he was saving himself for the treat of those fries. Oh my gosh, likely the best grilled cheese that I had ever tasted!

I recognized the friendly rapport of our server from the moment I arrived. He had taken our reservation the day before and made a definite impression, even over the phone. He is obviously passionate about the dishes he serves and the skills of the chef-owners. He has a way of making every guest feel as if they were the only table dining in the cozy restaurant.

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I was admiring their exquisite dining tables that had been added since my first visit. Our server proudly indicated that they had been hand crafted by one of the restaurant managers.

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Next door was another adjunct-the opening of their bread and pastry shop.

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I was too full from my lunch to consider purchasing anything but I just loved snooping around at the wonderful things for sale including some lovely cookware.

Chew on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Mecaenas: ‘Eight wild-boars roasted whole at a breakfast, and but twelve persons there; is this true?’
Enobarbus: ‘This was but as a fly by an eagle: we had much more monstrous matter of feast, which worthily deserved noting.’”-William Shakespeare

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

Fresh and New Tastes at The Garry St. Keg Steakhouse + Bar

January20

Now that D and I are empty-nesters, we love to spontaneously drop in somewhere for dinner before we head home for the night. On this evening, we knew that a televised Jets game was being pvr’d at home. We both wanted something light, not just because it was a mid-week, “no real reason to go out” kind of night but also because of our post-holiday resolutions. You might think that The Keg Steakhouse + Bar would be a poor choice under these circumstances, but you would be wrong.  The Keg has always been very customer focused (D and I are former employees) and it is no surprise that their executive chefs have put lighter items on the menu to ensure that all their guests get exactly what they desire.

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New to the menu (as of late November) is Baked Sea Bass. Sea Bass is a meaty, salt-water fish. We are fond of Sea Bass, especially the giant ones called Grouper that we often dine on while vacationing in the Caribbean. Do you see the definition of the fish in this photo? The meat can be easily separated with your fork and the result is as if you were eating a glistening scallop.  The cucumber salsa crowning the fish added crunch and additional clean tastes.  We were really impressed by the Keg’s take on quinoa. A tri-colour variety of the grain is combined with garlic, chives, jalapenos, cherry tomatoes, red onions, black beans and charred corn; taking one super-food and elevating it with others.

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Speaking of super-foods: pistachios, salmon and brussel sprouts make appearances in the second dish that we shared. I’ve know pistachios to be paired with chicken and sausages, but never before with fish. They added a satisfying crunch, additional protein and flavour to the already succulent salmon. The sprouts had been sautéed with apple-wood smoked bacon increasing the depth of the dish with pungent tones. The drizzling of maple butter and the bed of decadent garlic-mashed potatoes, cinched our love of the dish.

We ordered a heavier red wine before we selected our entrees, but the next time we select these two dishes, we would be inclined towards one of the couple of Sangioves on extensive wine menu. Typically white wines are chosen with fish, but a lighter red like this or a Gamay can also be enjoyed.

We chose to decline the dessert menu when our helpful server offered it, to help us with those resolutions but also because we had lingered over our wine and were anticipating getting home for the game.

The Keg Steakhouse + Bar on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:“Pistachio nuts, the red ones, cure any problem.”-Paula Danziger

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

Charlee’s Restaurant and Lounge

January15

I grew up in East Kildonan.  Most of my family have homes in the neighbourhood and our Mom lives in a personal care home there.  As a result, I make the drive to EK many times in a month.  I have a certain route that I take which I consider a short cut.  My path takes me down Stadacona Ave. and I have never made note of Charlee’s Restaurant and Lounge location before.  But my Brother D, who I was meeting for lunch had been there and recommended it.

Upon entering I was struck by the sleek interior (“sleek” that is for a strip mall in a somewhat industrial neighbourhood).  There were black and white photos of Elmwood streets adorning the wall and sunlight streaming in through a bank of floor to ceiling windows, creating a comfortable neighbourhood atmosphere.

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The day was a chilly one so we warmed up by sharing a bowl of Chicken Pot Pie Soup.  Huge chunks of chicken, potato and carrot had been simmered in a creamy broth with crouton- like-squares of pastry floating on top.   I was hesitant upon seeing the unusual twist on the special’s board but Charlie Villapando who is the owner and executive chef, completely pulled it off!

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We selected two lunches to share (being brother and sister we have eaten off each other’s plates all our lives).  Firstly, a Bacon and Peppercorn burger where a tender juicy patty was topped with so much crispy bacon that it fell out of the bun every time we took a bite.  The savoury peppercorn sauce was fairly subtle but absolutely perfect.

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We read on the menu that Charlee’s Chicken Tenders were the real deal.  Having been on the restaurant scene since the early 1990s when chicken fingers made their first appearance. This came about as a result of processors and restaurants needing a use for the “tenderloin” that remains when a chicken breast is attractively trimmed.   Ironically, the finger food became so popular that tenderloins are sometimes more expensive than the breast itself and as a result, chicken fingers have been pulled from many menus. They are still featured on Charlee’s menu and are as good as the “old school” appetizer that I remember.

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Both the cole slaw and Caesar salad were quite good as well.  I am somewhat baffled by the choice of frozen French fries when so many items are made from scratch but I am sure that Owner/Exec Chef Charlie has a very sound reason. I spied many excuses to make a return visit including perogies and kielbasa at dinner and Filipino breakfast.

Charlee's Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Yes, I’ll have a non-fat, decaf latte, please. Oh, what the hell? Look, make it a full-fat mocha with extra whipped cream. What the hell, put a slice of bacon on it!”-Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer

snow heartsLive simply, laugh often, love deeply.

Bistro Dansk

January13

Bistro Dansk has been on my “must visit again” list ever since I saw them featured on the Canadian TV show “You Gotta Eat Here”.  On this evening, I picked up Boo who lives in the neighbourhood and we nestled into to this cozy little spot.  Seafood chowder was on special, so we decided to share a large bowl and then split an entrée.

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Oh my, the chowder was silky and full of tender potatoes as well as succulent seafood.  There was a lovely herb that I could not identify.  When I asked our server what the secret ingredient was, she replied: “love”.  The chowder was delivered with two spoons so we met in the middle of an almost empty bowl and then lapped up the remainder with a piece of freshly baked baguette.

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Our server, cleared our table for two with the caution: “are you ready for a whole lot more food, because your Chicken Schnitzel is on its way?”  We answered enthusiastically and then were amazed by the size of the platter of food that was set down in front of us.  There were four pieces of schnitzel and a huge mound of sweet and sour cabbage and “O’Brien” potatoes.  One filet of chicken was enough for each of us as we enjoyed each bite with the unusual cabbage and the delectable potatoes.  Perhaps “love” was an ingredient in these too, but our server also disclosed that “O’Brien Potatoes” are prepared with onions, mushrooms and red peppers.  After eating our fill, I still had enough to bring home in a takeout container for both D and I to have for our lunch the next day.  Now that’s a hefty portion!

Boo encouraged me to return for lunch really soon and try the Palachinkas which are homemade crepes characteristic of Eastern Europe.  I understand that the Vocadlo’s who own the Bistro are not Danish, but Czech.  I recognize Chef Paul’s style as my sweet Daddy was also from the Czech Republic.

Bistro Dansk on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “After eating, an epicure gives a thin smile of satisfaction; a gastronome, burping into his napkin, praises the food in a magazine; a gourmet, repressing his burp, criticizes the food in the same magazine; a gourmand belches happily and tells everybody where he ate; …”-William Safire

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Thanks for the image of love Jackie….

Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

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