Browsing: Restaurant Features

Lola Valentina-Isla Mujeres 2019

March11

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We have enjoyed the offerings of Lola Valentina’s for many years. From the rehearsal party of our niece (see link here), to a family breakfast with the Wee Ones (see that link here) and other delicious meals (see another one here), Lola Valentina’s is always on our “must try again list”.

On the evening of this most recent visit, we were joined by my SIL and her Sis, as well as Boo and the Frenchman. Server Abel took care of us and when I say “took care”, I actually mean that he went out of his way to fulfill our every whim. “Would you care for a cocktail?” “Why yes, what would you recommend?” “Well do you like citrus or fruity, would you prefer sweet or tart, would you like a tall or a short drink, on the rocks or blended?”

Abel was from Argentina. We have met hospitality servers from around the world including Israel, Italy and Sardinia. When I teach food and beverage service back home I always tell my students that they will be equipped to work anywhere in the world as long as they keep on top of a couple of essential world languages.

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On this evening, I finally settled upon a mojito with both pineapple and orange juice which was the perfect solution to the questions above and

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the gentlemen in our party ordered Moscow Mules. The latter were served in hammered copper cups with scoops of shaved ice. It was not just our entourage who enjoyed them. Another evening at another restaurant, a man that started a drink conversation with D, recommended them too.

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With our drinks we savoured  a trio platter of Hibiscus Flower Empanadas, Bacon Wrapped Poblano Chilies and a Chorizo Bomba-all crispy and mouthwatering!

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This a close up of one of the forkfuls-fabulous ingredients, well prepared and oh so delectable.

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I also took a photo of our neighbour’s supper which was the gorgeous Grouper in Poblano sauce on mashed potatoes. He declared that it was simply amazing. And later when I had a taste of Boo and the Frenchman’s dinner, I can say-he was right!

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Others at our table enjoyed Fish Tacos and I loved my bite especially when I dipped it into the chimichurri sauce that came with my entree. Abel told us a fascinating tale about an Irish man named  Jimmy McCurry who in the 19th century was traveling with indigenous troupes to fight for the independence of Argentina. Jimmy was alleged to have invented the sauce but Argentinians couldn’t properly pronounce his name and it became chimichurri!

Essentially chimichurri is an uncooked sauce used for grilled meat.  It comes in a green version (chimichurri verde) and a red version (chimichurri rojo). The authentic sauce is made of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano and red wine vinegar.

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There were also oohhss and aawwss over the Coconut Shrimp.

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My dinner was marinated baby octopuss (they did not refer to them as squid) with avocado risotto, greens and fresh edible flowers! Marinated in both wine and beer, they were very tender and bursting with flavour.

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D selected a tantalizing fresh fish special.

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Dessert was another trio platter including Apple Chimichangas, Chocolate Empanadas and Peanut Butter and Jam Empanadas. The desserts besides being luscious were so inventive. The peanut butter and jam concoction was pure genius!

Lola Valentina’s is one of Isla’s well established restaurants but they have not rested on their laurels. They continue to be influenced by their guests wants and needs in addition to expert mixology and adventurous cooking.

Kath’s quote: “I’d like to be under the sea in an octopus’s garden in the shade.”-Richard Starkey

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

University Eats

January28

I graduated from the University of Winnipeg (in the 70s!) with my degree in Dramatic Studies. Since that time I believe it has been renamed the Theatre and Film Program. This meant that in addition to regular class time, we were “encouraged” to participate in theatre productions put on by the department and other community theatrical organizations. This meant for very long days. Thank the Lord that my sweet dad would drive from EK to pick me up if it was after dark or particularly cold.

Although I was a thrifty student and consistently took my lunch to school, there was no refrigeration offered to us (or insulated bags or freezer packs for that matter), so even though I would trust the holding temperature of my lunch for a couple of hours until, I would definitely not do so until supper.

Often times the entire cast and/or production team would head out together looking for somewhere we could eat affordably. I remember one spot in particular-it was an Asian family restaurant run by a new Canadian named Hu. You may remember him from his restaurant called the Mandarin on Sargent or the River Mandarin on River. We would empty our pockets and Hu would count our couple of bills but mostly change, and declare that he could come up with something quite nourishing for us. It would often be a fried rice divided among many mouths. We were quite sure that the value of the dish far outweighed the money that we chipped in. But that was a reflection of Hu’s kind heart.

I recently visited a new Vietnamese place just opposite the University of Winnipeg on Portage Ave for lunch: Banh Mi King and it was full of students. I returned this past weekend for the same meal –their delectable Charbroiled Pork Noodle Salad Bowl. On Saturday at 6 pm it was packed again, but not with students. This time it was bursting with “Skip the Dishes” couriers. Oh my, how the world has changed! In a good way….I think. D and I had seen a Matinee including popcorn and we didn’t want a big supper just something that would fit into a single bowl.

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I remembered the Banh Mi King with their gluten friendly bowl served with charbroiled pork and vermicelli noodles over a bed of greens with herbs, bean sprouts, pickled daikon and carrots, shredded cabbage and topped with peanuts, cooked green onions, and crispy onions! We immediately tucked in and were surprised when we slowed down with still half a bowl remaining. The tastes were so varied and fresh and clean. We continued slurping up the noodles from our raised bowls with chopsticks. So good!

D calculated that 2 fast food burgers and add ons would have cost more than these wholesome and nutritional bowls.

Kath’s quote: “There is a unique freshness when eating buckwheat noodles cold with plenty of herbs and citrus acidity. I can’t think of any better use of chopsticks on a hot and sweaty evening”. -Yotam Ottolenghi (my newest culinary crush).

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Love never fails.

Little Goat Food & Drink, Winnipeg

November28

A group of wonderful women who do the same vocational training work that I do have also become my good friends. We didn’t want to leave our Christmas lunch until December when we are all so busy with festivities and have a tendency (or at least I do) to get “lunched” out. That is why a recent get together was just the thing. I was appointed to pick a spot and I have been wanting an excuse to visit the Little Goat on west Portage Ave.

Our server Milaine with her gorgeous green eyes and delightful demeanor made us feel right at home. When I couldn’t determine what I was going to order, she helped me out by suggesting her favourites-a small dish of Mac & Cheese with a Verger salad.

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Tucking into the roasted pears, candied pecans and crumbled goat cheese (Milaine’s suggestion when she heard that I didn’t love Blue Cheese), I would trust her advice at any time.

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My lunch mates all started with cups of the soup of the day- a yellow squash and wild rice concoction that was divine.

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I had been tempted by the French Fried Chicken and was so relieved when someone at the table ordered it so that I could taste and photograph it. The dish was petite but rich and satisfying and the little drizzle of balsamic vinegar added just a dash of acid so that every subtle ingredient was enhanced.

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Restaurant owner and Chef Alex puts out a new Tartine (open faced sandwich) each and every day. On this day it started with wild rice topped with a mixture of garlicky kale and quinoa, a beautifully poached egg and a lemon sauce on top of it all. The portion was enormous and not a surprise when more than half of it was boxed up for later.

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Another friend loved her French salad and I was more than content with my French Onion Soup bowl full of Mac & Cheese. The luxurious sauce of gruyere and mozzarella, crowned with grated old cheddar and toasted bread crumbs was scrumptious and just my cuppa tea.

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I had decided to order Melaine’s favourite dessert-bundt cake with apple slices, caramel, nuts and whipped cream.

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I thought that I could share it with my lunch mates but they ordered their own desserts. An enormous bowl came with not one but two wedges of bundt cake and we truly could have shared it four ways. Even though my mates obliged me with bites I was left to devour the rest on my own. And I did, savouring each and every gooey bite.

Kath’s quote: “There will always be ladies who lunch. Always. And apparently they live a long time”.-Elaine Stritch

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Love never fails.

Clementine, Winnipeg 2018

October15

Down the stairs of a former Princess St. warehouse sits one of Winnipeg’s shining stars. Clementine is open for breakfast and lunch and for every one of the numerous times I have visited, it has been packed. On weekends you have to be particularly patient. It has always been well worth the wait. The morning I was at Clementine recently, two owners of other successful Winnipeg restaurants were noshing there as well.

I was accompanied by a friend from Toronto. He had a bit of a tough time deciding on his order as he thought everything looked amazing. When he indicated that he was torn between the Turkish Eggs and the Fried Chicken on Toast, I jumped in and suggested that we get both to share.

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One of the perfectly cooked poached eggs of the Turkish dish was topped with a glistening tablespoon of zhoug. The Middle Eastern sauce was made from green chilies, garlic and cilantro resembling a pesto. Both eggs were cradled by a silky hummus and served with a side of sour dough toast. The dish was spicy perfection.

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If you enjoy crispy but greaseless fried chicken, you will love Clementine’s version. The chicken crackles as you cut into it and was perfectly offset by the chipotle crema, pickled red onions and spicy sambal syrup.

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My lunch mate didn’t entirely eat his half of the chicken. I was tempted to do so as well as finish off the Baby Red Potatoes with honey and lemon aioli. In fact I could eat an order of those potatoes myself with nothing else!  I love Clementine’s potatoes.

The dishes were a little tricky to divide up but when you are sharing with a good friend, it really doesn’t matter, does it?

Kath’s quote: “I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.”-Nora Ephron

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Love never fails.

 

 

Sushi Ya, Winnipeg 2018

October11

Recently a friend texted me suggesting that we meet up for sushi at a restaurant on Corydon that she had forgotten the name of. When I responded “Sushi Ya”, she thought that I was exuberant about her food choice but in fact I was telling her the name of the restaurant! Kind of like the “who’s on first” routine by Abbot and Costello…

Our family have long been fans of this cheap and cheerful sushi spot. Typically when noshing on sushi we each order a roll or two to share all around. Our favourites have been the Winnipeg Dream Roll and any other roll that comes with “crunch”, that is toasted panko flakes. Their Vegetable Tempura Platter was another hit with us. One of my lunch mates was a regular customer and the owner kept sending complimentary treats over to our table.

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On this day, three of us chose our own lunch boxes. These are often called Bento Boxes. The selection included a sushi or tempura box as well as a number of teriyaki choices. The latter struck my fancy and I enjoyed teriyaki shrimp with California roll, gyoza (dumplings), salad and rice. The $12.95 price was great value and I didn’t feel like I had to have a nap after lunch. My lunch mates enjoyed their teriyaki boxes as well.

Kath’s quote: “I’ve sat in sushi bars, really fine ones, and I know how hard this guy worked, how proud he is. I know you don’t need sauce. I know he doesn’t even want you to pour sauce. And I’ve seen customers come in and do that, and I’ve seen him, as stoic as he tries to remain, I’ve seen him die a little inside”-Anthony Bourdain

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Love never fails.

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