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Wine Dinner at The Garry St. Keg Cohosted by Penfolds



From the moment I met Natasha from Treasury Wine Estate, I knew that she was the real deal.  Not only is she drop dead gorgeous with the most beautiful complexion I have seen in a very long time, but she looked fit and healthy in her “Penfold’s red” dress.


She was also upbeat and happy about her work and representing the iconic Australian winery Penfolds.  When you think about it, who wouldn’t want to travel the world, sip exquisite wines, taste fantastic food and then talk about it?  The key for me and my “liking” her is that wine aficionados can be pretentious and stand-offish and Natasha is anything but that.  She uses real language to describe her Penfolds wine passion-words like “pencil shavings”, marshmallow” and “lacy”.  As I pondered what made this woman so appealing, I just came out and asked her where she was from.  The answer? Regina-where the humblest and modest people in the world come from (second to Winnipeg, of course).



As mini tuna tacos and shrimp cocktail were presented by efficient Keg servers, we sipped on a Bin 51 2012 Riesling.  I do love a lusciously sweet Riesling and this was dryer than my taste but I will admit that the hints of lemon and apple were a perfect complement to the seafood appetizers.  The first course was a delectable Lobster & Shrimp salad.  The Keg’s recipe including avocado, cremini mushrooms, black beans and corn is just my cuppa tea.  These distinct flavours were enhanced by the Thomas Hyland Chardonnay.  I especially liked the biscuity notes (another of Natasha’s down to earth descriptors).


I was surprised, but more than appreciative when a Bin 2 Shiraz Mouvedre 2009 was served with the second course of the Keg’s Creole Chicken.  I skipped the chicken (trying to pace myself) but loved the shrimp and scallops with the spicy and earthy shiraz.  Natasha thought of it as an alluring “lady” wine with tastes of rosemary, thyme, lavender and cinnamon.


My favourite food taste of the evening was the perfectly prepared Mustard Salmon served with another 2009 wine, this time Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was when Natasha’s description of pencil shavings came in and she was exactly correct.  The suggestions of blackberry and back cherry were another surprise with how well they magnified the mustard sauce and the salmon.


The best was yet to come when another Shiraz (St. Henri) arrived for us to savour with Beef Tenderloin Medallions accompanied by drizzles of béarnaise and whiskey peppercorn sauces.  Natasha declared that the wine was veiled, perfumed, velvety with aromas reminiscent of Easter Lilies.  I simply took her word for it, not having as sophisticated palate as she, but knowing it was likely the finest Shiraz I have ever tasted.


Grandfather Port, aged 30 years, was lovely to sip with the Dessert course of Chocolate Cake and fresh raspberries but even better when I followed the lead of one of our table companions, who poured his port right over his cake.  He is Sicilian and since we have travelled there, we know that Sicilians know how to eat, so I wasn’t going to challenge his decision.  He was right, the decadent richness of the cake was  put over the top with the baptism of port.


The room and our table were beautiful, as were the guests whom we dined with.  The value offered by both Penfolds and The Keg was nothing short of astounding, with a ticket cost of a mere $100.  A friend in the lobby remarked that he would have happily paid double that amount. Best of all, was that all monies raised went to Special Olympics Manitoba.  In all, one of those memorable evenings that will stay with us for a very long time.

The Keg Steakhouse + Bar on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Wine is bottled poetry.”-Robert Louis Stevenson


Love-that is all.


Osborne Village Cafe


“You should not judge a book by its cover” as the saying goes, but I must confess, I was worried that I had shown up at the wrong place when I arrived at 160 Osborne St. to find that it was the Osborne Village Motor Hotel, a place I had always referred to as “the Zoo”.  I had made arrangements to get caught up with a friend at the Osborne Village Café and had imagined something altogether different.  To be honest, the décor is very modest (nay I say a bit on the shabby side) but I witnessed our server scrubbing the floors and scouring every other surface, near closing time and I can attest that the place is as clean as can be.  Besides, shabby is in, right?

The star of the show is definitely the food and we were not disappointed.  In fact, both of us were equally blown away perhaps because our expectations were low.   This as an error on our part as owner and Chef Leighton Fontaine has extensive restaurant experience and it shows.


There are occasions when diners choose spaghetti squash to obtain a healthier alternative to plain white pasta.  In this case, the spaghetti squash was not merely a stand in but an essential ingredient of the dish as a whole.  All the components including red wine mushrooms, red peppers and avocado, tasted sparkling fresh and each individual strong flavour was not overpowered by the seasoning of the tomato basil sauce.  The dish typically arrives with a topping of mozzarella but my acquaintance tries to go easy on dairy.  She was happy with her decision because she believed that the sensation would have been overwhelmed by gooey cheese.  Her highest compliment was that the dish was reminiscent of meals she had savoured while traveling in Italy-high praise, indeed.


Our server (the Chef’s sister) recommended the Perogies.  The hand-made dough is absolutely tender and when the enormous half circles were stuffed with maple poached bacon, potato, cheddar and dill, they reminded me of decadent gnocchi recipes which I have relished.  The plentiful crescents are topped with butter sautéed onions and sour cream.  Since I typically chose 0% BF sour cream, I declined and was so glad by my own determination as the delicate tastes would have been masked by rich cream.  Instead, my decadent treat was to enjoy a side of Winkler farmer sausage.  There is also a vegetarian version of the perogies available stuffed with celery root, potato, parsley, mozzarella and roasted parsnip. 

I may chose these next time, but then again, the server also recommended the Potato and Beet Latkes-crowned with two poached eggs, sautéed white wine spinach, brunoised red pepper and dill studded crème fraiche.  I have learned my lesson and will not judge this gem by its unpolished exterior.

Osborne Village Café on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “No man is lonely eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention.”Christopher Morley


Love-that is all.


Jessie’s Kitchen Ukrainian Restaurant and Deli

 jessie1The residents of the apartment tower at 60 Whellams Lane are very fortunate indeed, especially throughout this past winter.  They didn’t even have to put on their winter boots to dine at one of the tastiest restaurant and delis in the Kildonans.  If you have never been to Jessie’s Kitchen before, you will need to pay close attention.  The restaurant is located in the lower level of an apartment block and you are required to buzz in and then follow a maze of hallways to  obtain a prized visit.


We were immediately greeted by a vivacious woman who I assumed was Jessie.  When we inquired, we were told that Jessie had moved out East but that we were still in good hands.  Jessie left her scrumptious recipes and the restaurant in the care of married couple Bruce and Margaret.  Not only had both worked at Jessie’s over the years but their daughter is married to Jessie’s son, so they are “kooms” (as such relationships are referred to in Ukrainian).


My lunch date appropriately started with a bowl of borscht.  The beet soup was only one of three offerings that day.  In fact, Margaret shared that in any given week they go through 30 L of soup “to go” on top of what is served up in the bright and pleasant surroundings. 


This was followed up with a Ukrainian Reuben (at my urging so that I could taste a bite).  Winnipeg Old Country Kolbassa is grilled on rye bread with mozzarella cheese, an unusual sauerkraut including carrot strips and a lively dressing.  The resulting sandwich is juicy and delectable.


I opted for another spin on an old favourite and chose the Potato Pancake Pizza.  The enormous pancake was scrumptious enough but made even more so when topped with kolbassa, sautéed onions and a cheese blend.  The tomato sauce made it closer to an authentic pizza, but I loved the other tastes so well, that I could have happily done without it.  Margaret noticed that I hadn’t used the accompanying sour cream.  I sheepishly responded that I was trying to reduce my calories and fat.  What a crazy notion, at a Ukrainian Kitchen!  Ukrainians have faced hard work and adversity throughout history and they needed this kind of sustenance to weather their hardships.


My companion ordered an enormous slice of strawberry/blueberry pie to go.  Margaret divulged that they had picked the strawberries themselves and kept them in the deep freeze.  She and Bruce utilize fresh local produce wherever possible and the sparkling tastes from their kitchen are confirmation of their philosophy.

Jessie's Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Kath’s quote: “You cannot fight fire with fire, so what makes you think you can overcome hatred with anything but love.”-Unknown


Love-that is all.

St. Patrick’s Day at 529 Wellington


I have said it before, I live a blessed life.  I have been teaching up in Thompson MB and fly back there tomorrow which means I have been hard to pin down for a lunch date. There were to be three and perhaps four of us for a midday meal celebrating the success of the Sochi Olympics for CBC Winnipeg.  I thought when I arrived home from a week of teaching up north late on Friday night that I was especially tired but this morning I put two and two together and realized that with my daily headaches, body aches and overwhelming fatigue, I must have the flu.  I pulled myself off of the visiting schedule to see my Mom.  The last thing that her geriatric ward at the Misrecordia Hospital needs would be me, spreading my germs around.  I also cancelled a supper date with D, instead we’ll enjoy some soup and homemade bread and watch the Jets game together.  But I didn’t feel that I could/should renege on my lunch date.  Besides the rendezvous was at 529 Wellington!

I made the correct choice because when I got there, she was sitting all alone.  Life is unpredictable and sure enough, I was the only one from the group who could accept her invite.  My host is animated enough to keep the conversation going single-handedly (not in a bad way, but a warm and gregarious one).


She knew what she was having without even opening her menu.  She declared that she always has a steak when she is at 529-Beefsteak that is.  She is hooked on the Beefsteak Tomato Salad and I can see why.  The enormous, meaty slices of tomato were smothered in thin rings of red onions and blue cheese dressing with morsels of blue cheese, crumbled on top.


She consistently couples the salad with 529’s French Onion soup.  She enthusiastically lapped up the broth, sautéed onions and cheese and managed to leave the bread floating in the bowl. Just before she broke through the bubbly cheese crust, our server came by and poured a glistening of sherry over it.


As I have been yearning for spring, I have also been longing once again for a taste of Manitoba pickerel.  529’s is typically battered and deep fried but the chef was coaxed into sautéing it for me.  The result was sublime, especially with a squeeze of the provided lemon.


This meant that I could justify (in my own mind at least) the inclusion of 529’s fabulous fries.  Fries are my weakness and with the exception of Mexico, I have not had a fry since New Year’s when I made my resolutions.  529’s fries are definitely worth the indulgence.

Our perfect lunch was made even more so by running into old friends: Jim Armstrong and Doug Stephen, the gallant owner/operators of Wow Hospitality Concepts (with Janet Cunningham, another long time friend).  After such an engaging lunch and lovely chats with all, I felt as if I had successfully shaken off my ill effects-amazing how friends can lift your spirits in an instant.

529 Wellington on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “It takes a long time, to grow an old friend.”-Unknown


Love-that is all.

















Come N’ Eat in Neechi Commons

come4.jpgNeechi Foods Co-op at 865 Main St. in North Point Douglas is incorporated as a worker cooperative, owned and operated by its staff and the Neechi Commons’ building with its exposed brick walls and sunlit rooms was beautifully designed to let the sun and sky flood inside, while at the same time keeping the prairie wind at bay.  We wound our way up the spiral staircase to their restaurant dubbed Come N’Eat and found the last available table tucked next to the window.  The inauspicious dining room is pristine and unadorned with the exception of huge paintings on the north wall.  We shopped many times at Neechi Foods when they were located on Dufferin for pickerel, wild rice and blueberries and I had pretty much decided that I would go with one of these authentic ingredients.  Would it be the bannock French toast covered in blueberries or the wild rice and sweet potato croquettes?  I knew too that Come N’Eat would be memorable because I had also visited the Tallest Poppy Restaurant just down the street.  The connection?   Talia Syrie who operated the novel little café in the Occidental Hotel is now the Food-service Manager at Neechi Commons.  I was also familiar with her talents from her work with Raw-Almond, the temporary pop-up restaurant on the river near the Forks.    


In the end, I opted for the Pickerel Burger.  The cost of this local fish is forever accelerating which makes me happy for the toiling fishermen of Lake Winnipeg.  But the dear price of the fish must be a challenge for chefs who are trying to prepare affordable dishes incorporating our local delicacy.  Come N’Eat chooses to economize by preparing a patty of potatoes and some minced pickerel which delivers a delicate fish flavour.  In truth, I would have liked to have known this in advance because the menu description of Breaded Pickerel had me salivating for a different taste altogether. 


The grilled bun was set aside and instead I tucked into the House Salad of wild rice, cucumber, corn and apple.  The dressing was light and the nutty full-bodied taste of the rice was allowed to shine.


My luncheon date decided upon Talia’s New Breakfast which proved to be a casserole of sautéed mushrooms, peppers, bacon and potatoes, crowned with two glorious poached eggs and triangles of bannock.  Glistening green kale poked out of the casserole.  She remarked that she had never tasted kale prepared in this way before.   The cook had gone easy on the salt and the entire dish “felt” and tasted full of nutrients and very healthy. The fruit accompaniment was a nice light extra.

This is a lovely spot for delectable food at breakfast and lunch.

Come 'n Eat on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Eggs taste best in the spring. Fresh eggs are given to young mothers to drink, and popular wisdom holds them to be good for newlyweds too.”-Pellegrino Artusi


Love-that is all.

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