Browsing: Restaurant Features

Viena Do Castelo

June9

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Even the name of this little food store, bakery and eatery at 105-819 Sargent Ave in the Sargent Park area of the West End: “Viena Do Castelo” sounds foreign, romantic and delicious to me.  I would guess that the name was selected in tribute to a community in northern Portugal and my pre-visit research indicated that they are the purveyors of Portuguese specialty foods.  My husband and I have long dreamed of visiting the Mediterranean country, especially the Azores.  When I arrived to pick up our pre-ordered chicken, a gorgeous vista of the Azores adorned the wall behind the checkout counter.  That part of the country is the home to one half of the married Esteves team that own and operate the store and restaurant.

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The whole roasted chicken and potatoes that I ordered for takeout tasted just as if I had pulled it out of my own oven (without having to scrub a baked-on roasting pan-yippee).  Although the chicken was on the small side (for the price) the meat was firm and moist.  When I had called about picking up our supper, owner Luis cheerfully said “We roast our chickens to order so I’ll put one in the oven for you. Would you like it mild, medium or spicy?” We are “moderates” with our spice level (and just about everything else in our lives) and the seasoning balance was perfect. The spice mixture that permeated the flesh of the chicken, also seasoned the potatoes that had surrounded the chicken in the roasting pan.  My husband especially enjoyed the latter.

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Also tempting were Viena Do Castelo’s cheese buns.  They tasted to us as if parmesan and garlic had been rolled into the dough “cinnamon bun style” with a generous topping of more grated cheddar cheese on top.  I would love to drop in for another half dozen of these for takeout or for a quick snack at one of the sunny tables right in the shop.

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When I asked if the chicken was his Portuguese mamas’ recipe, Luis replied “No-it is something that my wife invented.  She’s always dreaming up new recipes”.  This husband and wife are definitely a committed business team.  They even had what Luis dubbed a “store baby”. Their youngest son was born about three days after the store opened and subsequently was brought to the eatery on a daily basis until the time that he learned how to walk.  Now that’s a family run business! Luis adds that many store customers ask about him to this day.  As Luis was running my tab up, I read the tattoo that graces the inside of his forearm, it simply stated: “Familia”.

Viena do Castelo on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!” ~Albert Einstein

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Love-that is all.

 

 

The Willow on Wascana

May29

We consider Regina and Saskatchewan like a second home.  D (my husband) is here frequently on business and I once made the jaunt from Winnipeg on a regular basis for business too.  When I was very little, I would come for the summer at my grandparents’ farm in the Assiniboia area and can clearly remember the whistling train cars full of wheat to be sent to places all over the world and distant rolls of thunder from promised rains that never came.  Do I bleed green?  Well no, I bleed a gorgeous blue BUT we were on our feet cheering for the Riders when they won the Grey Cup last season!   While here, we had the opportunity to meet up with old and dear friends. They lived for a short time in Winnipeg, we worked together and our children are all the same ages.

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The trees were bursting with lime green leaves and the restaurant was perfectly situated right on the edge of the water.

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We had a beautiful view across the water to the Saskatchewan Legislature.

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We were perched on the extensive outdoor patio space that I understand can be reserved for outdoor weddings.  They were a couple of mosquitoes that could be detected in the sunlight.  On another night this might be considered a nuisance but basking in the setting sun, especially after the harsh winter we have all experienced, it simply meant one thing….summer had arrived on the Canadian prairies!

D acting as host, choose a Cabernet Franc for the table.  We love Cab Francs as they are lighter than Cabernet Sauvignons.  Although I do not recall which winemaker he chose, we are always surprized by the aromas of tabaco, bell pepper and violets of Cab Francs.  Our charming server added some European flair.  She was from the Czech Republic, where my Daddy was born. She was so patient with us when she kept returning to take our order and we could not stop chatting and looking at pictures of each other’s families and filling in the years since we had all been together.  But, to the food….

The food was sensational!  “Farm to Table” dining makes so much sense for so many reasons and whenever we travel, we consciously select restaurants that epitomize this style.  Our favourite Canadian restaurant is the famous Stone Road Grille in Niagara-on-the Lake and The Willow on Wascana rivals our visit there.  Here is an excerpt from The Willow’s website regarding their culinary philosophy.

We pride ourselves on the amazing and quite surprising bounty this great province has to offer. From every grain under the sun to the most flavorful vegetables you have ever tasted. We even have fresh fruit growing in the valley. The willow has worked very hard with countless families and individuals skilled in the art form known as farming. From our major meat supplier, Pine View Farms in Osler supplying us with an array of all farm animals. Our wild boar family Schneider Farm just 15 minutes outside of Regina. Local eggs, local flour and now even a local cheese artist. Our amazing produce from Heliotrope Farm in Craven, you name it chances are they grow it. All these great things we enjoy so much and transform into our own culinary masterpieces, and just picked fresh right out of the backyard. From Farm to Table, let’s face it, that’s the way it should be.

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We began with an Amuse Bouche that definitely “amused our mouths” as the moniker promises. It was a trout mousse on focaccia bread crostini with a cilantro leaf and a scattering of sesame seeds. Steelhead Trout is related to the salmon family and is similar to a rainbow trout.  The fish are farmed in Lake Diefenbaker in southern Saskatchewan named for Canada’s thirteenth Prime Minister who I happened to meet when I was a teenager but not while he still held the position (now you know how old I am).  The subtle fleshed fish is so succulent that D ordered it for dinner AND when we went out for lunch the next day, we ordered it again!

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We shared Salt Spring Island Mussels that had been poached in a creamy blue cheese broth.  They were not quite as stellar as the bowl titled “Cozze Pepate” that I had enjoyed just the day before at Colesseo Ristorante in Winnipeg, but they were meaty and tender.

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I was really intrigued by the name of our other shared appetizer: Bagna Cauda.  Take the time to click the link and read the story of the birth of this ancient dish.  Fascinating.  In The Willow’s case the fish was pan-seared pickerel cheeks, Pickerel (Walleye) being both Saskatchewan and Manitoba’s provincial fish. The nuggets of flesh found on the face of the fish (hence: cheeks) were tossed in a spicy anchovy sauce and then perched upon pickled radish and rainbow carrot salad, so that it was a delight to the taste buds and the eyes.

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The trout which is listed as the “Catch of the Day” on the menu was brushed with a lemon preserve and then placed upon a bed of mixed lentil pilaf.

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Chef Tim’s ode to the classic Korean dish Bibimbap was one of the selections that our friends made.  The Korean short ribs were accompanied by coconut lime wild rice, a crunchy slaw and crowned with a soft boiled egg.

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Her spouse (a pork lover like me) chose maple glazed pork tenderloin which was perfectly cooked with just the hint of pink inside to ensure moistness and subtle texture and placed atop grilled vegetable selections including my favourite of Pitty Pat (sometimes called Patty Pan) squash.

D lovingly calls me his “Potato-loving Polish Princess” and with consistency my eye went directly to the Gnocchi.  It wasn’t the roasted organic mushrooms, chopped herbs and balsamic glaze that had me tempted but the truffle cream sauce.  I am a goner for a short list of foods: potatoes, artichokes, eggplant and truffles!  Now, I didn’t know this at the time but I was to get a special treat the next day when we tasted a heritage truffle cheese at Crave Kitchen + Bar.  What clinched my decision was when I shared my two options with our helpful server and she deduced that I would love the Italian Stallion (tee hee).

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This dish hit it out of the ballpark for me: Sicilian (we’ve traveled to Sicily and love the region’s simple food) braised aubergine (eggplant) stew on pan fried cheese and herb polenta with toasted almonds and enormous shards of padano cheese.  The stew was dense (in  good way) with pungent flavours of the meaty, stewed aubergine, capers and olives.  I cut the veggie chunks into smaller pieces so that I could make the ingestion of the dish, take a very long time.

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By this time the sun was kissing the horizon and we were off for a nightcap at the home of our friends.  For so many reasons, this was an evening that we will long remember and cherish.

The Willow on Wascana on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “The best fertilizer is the footprint of the farmer.” anonymous

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Love-that is all.

Can you see the heart image?

 

 

 

 

Oakwood Cafe

May22

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In my humble opinion, my husband cooks up the best ribs that I have ever tasted.  He stands the pork racks on their side and adds whole onions, carrots and celery and just a wee bit of water in a shallow roasting pan.  Then they are cooked over a low heat for hours on end, after which, the ribs must cool and “set” in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.   Just before serving, he slathers them in barbeque sauce and places them on the grill so that the sugars in the sauce begin to caramelize.  We recently visited the Oakwood Café, at 660 Osborne St. in the lovely Riverview neighbourhood of Fort Rouge, specifically so that he could sample their all-you-can-eat ribs.  The verdict?  He was very impressed!

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Rarely can restaurants be successful by being all things to all people, but somehow the Oakwood is pulling it off.  The website indicates that the establishment is a Bistro/Restaurant/Café.  Not only do they offer the rib special on Friday and Saturday evenings but they are also known for an endless variety of Eggs Benedict at brunch.  They have an extensive breakfast menu, lunch menu, vegan menu, kids menu, 55+ menu and provide outside catering and private parties. Based on their business on the evening that we visited (I recommend that you make reservations), they are successfully managing to keep all these balls in the air.  

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I teased our server and asked her if I had to show her my identification to order off of the 55+ Plus Menu.  It turns out that I must have not looked my age, because she inadvertently served me a full order of Mediterranean pasta instead of the 55+ version.  I happily started with a Bacon & Blue Salad of bacon, blue cheese and crunchy pecans as my husband enjoyed a cup of one of the soups of the day-a delicious borscht with an enormous dollop of sour cream.  My entrée included roasted red peppers, zucchini, kalamata olives and feta in a hearty marinara sauce.  I topped it with slices of chicken breast for a mere $2 more.  There are plenty of affordable options like this one on the extensive menu. 

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The ribs were plated with perfectly prepared veggies, sweet potato fries and a chipotle mayo which provided a lovely zing.

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The owners Alix Loiselle and Peter Paley and their staff work as a well coached team with everyone chipping in on all tasks.  One of the owners personally delivers arm loads of hot dishes out to the guests.  Empty dishes are whisked away immediately and the restaurant always looks sleek and uncluttered in spite of the bustling atmosphere.

The Oakwood Bistro - Restaurant - Cafe on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “I like a cook who smiles out loud when he tastes his own work. Let God worry about your modesty; I want to see your enthusiasm.”-Robert Farrar Capon

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Love-that is all.

 

Just Eat Winnipeg

May21

There are days when even “foodies” don’t want to cook OR eat out.  Today was one of those days.  D was out of town, Daughter #3 was at an evening class and our renter was not home for supper.  I have been at my computer all day, stopping just long enough to walk the dog.  When the time came to think about supper, my mind was a complete blank.  When I looked into the freezer, all I could spy were the casseroles and plastic food containers that I have been stowing away for our renter while I am out at our beach house for the long weekend.

Then I remembered Just-Eat!

Just-Eat is Canada’s fastest growing on-line and food ordering service.  I have checked out their website a number of times and each time I go on it, there are new restaurants that have been added to the restaurant roster.  I understand that there is also a mobile app for Android and Iphones.  I had a yearning for Chinese food so all I did was enter my postal code at www.just-eat.ca to find out which of our favourite Asian restaurants had delivery available.  Perhaps Chinese seems rather obvious; it just happened that I was craving a good curry vermicelli.  There is also American, Canadian, Ethiopian, Filipino, Greek, Indian, Italian, Jamaican, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Pizza, Thai or Vietnamese cuisine available.  Even one of my favourite fine dining restaurants is participating-Mise Restaurant.

In just a few clicks, dinner was on its way to my doorstep and I could get back to work.  If I didn’t work at home, I could imagine using the mobile app on my way home on the bus.  Dinner could arrive at just about the same time that I walked in the door.  Best of all-no dishes!

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I ordered from Hi-Ball restaurant in our vicinity because we like to support our neighbourhood restaurants as often as we can.  I indulged in deluxe special egg foo yung, pan-fried shrimp and a delicious won ton soup, in addition to curry vermicelli. All were delivered piping hot and in less than the promised time.

Kath’s quote: “Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; –Alice May Brock (of Alice’s Restaurant fame)

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Love-that is all.

 

Winnipeg Show & Save Book of Savings

May14

I sometimes get a call from one of my sister-in-laws asking me about  particular restaurant because they have a coupon that they are thinking of using.  If you have to trek across town and the restaurant is not clean or in an unsafe neighbourhood, even a good deal is not a good deal.  So when D purchased a Show & Save Book to support the fund-raising efforts of one of our nephews, I thought that I would thumb through it and share the reviews that I have of the restaurants listed.

So here goes:

Bellisimo Restaurant & Lounge

Bernstein’s Delicatessen

Beaujena’s French Table

Casa Grande

Clay Oven

Dim Sum Garden

Eat On Samosa

Los Chicos Restaurant Y Cantina

Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano

Papa Murphy’s

Oakwood Café-coming soon

Southdale Village Family Restaurant

Vientiane Thai Restaurant

Wok Box

Kath’s quote: “Contrary to popular notion, truck drivers know nothing about good restaurants.  If you want a reliable tip, drive into a town, go to the nearest appliance store and seek out the dishwasher repair man. He spends a lot of time in restaurant kitchens and usually has strong opinions about them”.-Bryan Miller (NY Times Restaurant Critic)

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Love-that is all.

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