Browsing: Restaurant Features

Vientiane Thai Restaurant

July25

I am always amazed and surprised by all of the little family places that grace Winnipeg’s neighbourhoods.  I had a hankering for Thai food recently and discovered Vientiane Restaurant in St. Boniface.  The charming little place shares the strip mall with Lovey’s Barbeque another place I have only recently tried.  The dining room has been painted a passionate red which is a strategic choice, as red enhances human metabolism, thereby stimulating our appetites.

Tom Kha Gai is one of my favourite dishes from Thailand and when translates simply means: Thai Chicken Soup, but oh, this is no ordinary chicken soup.  The fresh tastes of lime and cilantro are fused with chicken, veggies and coconut milk resulting in a balance of spicy, sweet and sour!  I have tried to concoct this soup at home but find that I do not always have the essential ingredients of galangal and lemongrass in the fridge.

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A mango salad complemented the complex soup tastes.  Shredded mango is doused in lime juice and tossed with chilies and then garnished with peanuts and dried shrimp.  All of this is places on an enormous, frilly lettuce leaf.

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Pad Thai is another of our “must haves” and the version served ay Vientiane is just slightly different than any I have tasted before.  I understand that there are as many versions of this recipe as there are Thai chefs.  Pad Thai is the assembly of noodles, peanuts, garlic, chilies and bean sprouts and is the countries’ national dish.  The prime minister of Thailand made this street food popular during the late 1930s as part of his campaign to reduce domestic rice consumption and increase nationalism.  Who knew?

The restaurant has been open for four years and is owned by Xuejun Xia and his wife.  On this day, he was behind the counter and looked as busy as an air traffic controller, answering the phone and controlling the flow of guests in and out of his restaurant.  I asked him if he was happy with his business and he gave me a smiling shrug.

Vientiane on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “I will stop loving you when an apple grows from a mango tree on the 30th of February”-unknown

Love-that is all.

 

Minneapolis Food Adventures

July16

Can you tell that I am in blogging catch up mode?  There were so many things that I wanted to have written about before the summer came along and here I am, still getting caught up on food and travel adventures from April!

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D has a diverse range of music tastes.  I would say considerably more far- reaching than mine.  The truth is, that I find it hard to concentrate when music is playing and often choose to have the house silent when I am working.  When I am in the kitchen, I often have the TV news on or maybe Ellen, which I really enjoy.  In the car, I listen to a single station and typically hear the same favourite songs quite frequently.  D is constantly attempting to broaden my horizons and this spring he purchased two tickets to see his favourite band- Airborne Toxic Event in Minneapolis and asked me if I would like to tag along.  With the promise of some shopping and good eating, I was happy to do so.  Little did he know, that I would love the band as much as I did and now find myself absolutely hooked on their ballads.

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With so many dining choices, all within walking distance of our downtown hotel, it was very hard to make a decision.  We decided not to venture to Murray’s , even though there is something about the place, that draws me back again and again.  Could it be the turquoise tiles on the façade?  I love the authentic, retro décor and as I recall, the food was excellent too.

The night of our arrival we happened upon a downstairs restaurant known as Hell’s Kitchen.  The promise of “damn good food” was just too tempting to walk away from.  Although we were offered up some tasty dishes, they were very heavy-handed with the salt shaker.  In fact, most places that we dined in Minneapolis we found the same thing.  I love salt and know that its addition enhances almost every food you eat, but this kind of salty was when your mouth gets sore from eating.  I have only encountered this once before and that was the day that I decided to skip lunch and only consume sunflower seeds on the beach instead.

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We started off with State Fair Cheese Curds.  D and I had attended the State Fair when we were first dating which was so long ago that Kenny Loggins was the headliner that evening.  Our remembered supper of cheese curds has stayed with us until this time and we longed to try them again.  The inside was hot and creamy and the coating crispy and crunchy (just way too salty).

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As soon as I saw that they had Walleye on the menu, I did not have to take any more time to decide.  Walleye (Canadians call it pickerel) is my favourite fish, bar none.  When tossed into a mixture of Parmesan coating, the flesh came out perfectly cooked (just a slightly bit too salty-ok, I’ll stop now). D opted for a Ham and Pear Crisp Sandwich.  We shared nibbles with each other and enjoyed the upbeat servers and the funky décor.

Hell's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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D photo bombing my picture.

Before the concert the next evening, we found a spot a bit closer to the venue at First AvenueThe Rock Bottom Brewery Restaurant was just our cuppa tea.  We started this evening with a beer flight so that we could inch ourselves up the beer palette ladder to one day equate J1’s (who is currently studying for his brew masters credentials).

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The fish tacos were recommended from the appetizer menu by our server.

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It was happy hour and all appetizers were on special, so we just had to oblige and also ordered an oey goey cheesy shrimp dish, that we dunk lovely baguette pieces into.

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Unfortunately by this time, I was done in with food consumption.  I ordered a salad for dinner but my valiant husband managed to force (for the purpose of research, doncha know) the meatloaf extravaganza!

Rock Bottom Brewery on Urbanspoon

So much fun in such a short space of time.  Thank heavens the Twin Cities are just seven hours away.  A quick couple of days getaway, is always such a lovely break.

Kath’s quote: “Don’t smoke too much, drink too much, eat too much or work too much. We’re all on the road to the grave — but there’s no need to be in the passing lane.”-Robert Orben

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Love-that is all.

Eva’s Gelato

July14

 

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Do you know the difference between gelati and gelato? In Winnipeg most of the little shops that serve Italian ice cream have gelati in their names and then many years ago, Eva’s Gelato opened almost at the corner of our street.  The owners, as opposed to having of an Italian heritage were from Argentina and so I concluded that gelato was a Spanish version of gelati.  Perhaps I was even guilty of having perpetrated that Winnipeg rumour. In those days, Eva’s was a a narrow little store front with not much room for more than the freezer and a hard-working employee.  The frozen treat was scooped from a big white plastic pail into a weeny brightly coloured bowl with a “Barbie-doll” sized spoon.  My eyes were always pulled to those translucent bowls but I was a sugar-cone fan from a way back and so even though my eyes wanted one thing, my tummy desired another.

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Now, of course I know that gelati is simply the plural version of gelato, or maybe it is the other way around.

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I have had my fair share of gelato experiences in between our original taste of Eva’s and the “new” Eva’s sensation.  While D and I traveled along the west coast of Italy from Sicily to the Italian and French Riveria, gelato fixes were the primary motivation for an evening walk after long train rides or a day of hiking.

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We have our favourite spots too on Isla Mujeres where coconut gelato is my fav and D’s is pistachio.

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Eva in the mean time had also been busy, moving east on Corydon into expansive new digs.  The quality of her product did not diminish with the move.  Nor did its popularity.  By then Eva’s was available at other retailers in carton form.  I even enjoyed it recently at the inaugural Bomber game at Investors Group Field.

We decided long ago that Eva’s made and served our favourite gelato but I needed a recent photo of their new locale.  So I sent J2 (aka Daughter #3).  Many of you know that she is days away from giving birth to our first grandbaby and when I asked for the favour, she was quick to oblige.  What is it about pregnant women and ice cream?

Eva's Gelato & Coffee Bar on Urbanspoon

When I was expecting my first baby 28 years ago, it was the summer that Dairy Queen came out with Blizzards.  D and I would often walk in the evening with DQ as our destination.  J2 has gained just the right amount of weight and even though our grandbaby is sticking way out in front, from the back, you wouldn’t even know that she was pregnant.  I on the other hand, gained some 70 pounds when I was pregnant the first time around, and I can definitely equate that weight gain to the Blizzards.  During my third pregnancy when I craved ice chips and celery, my weight gain was 22 pounds.

Kath’s quote: “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.”-Voltaire

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Love-that is all.

Dessert Sinsations

July12

One of our 86 year old Mom’s favourite restaurants is Dessert Sinsations Cafe.  Her criteria for a great restaurant is surprisingly different from yours and mine. She likes that Rich, the owner is an old friend of mine and that he comes over to our table to be reacquainted. This makes her feel very special.  She enjoys that even though the restaurant is located right in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, there is plenty of free parking and easy access into the cafe with no steps or ramps.  Mom appreciates that the tables are nicely spaced out so that she can maneuver around with ease and that there is a spacious wheelchair accessible washroom that is not down a complicated route of hallways.

You may be wondering, does she enjoy the food?  Mom is a fabulous cook in her own right and religiously watches the Food Network with Jamie Oliver being her favourite Chef.  But her tastes have really simplified as she has grown older, eating small portions of a few of her favourite things for example she loves chips and gravy.  Years previously, when we use to rent a neighbour’s cabin at Grand Beach, Mom found a hamburger stand called Jo-Anne’s which prepared a rich mushroom gravy to have with fries.  Jo-Anne’s is long gone now but that summer, we found any old excuse to have her savoury gravy and fries as our dinner.

Her tastes have broadened to the extent that she does enjoy sweet potato fries and this is what she had her heart set on when we assembled for a girl’s supper out recently.  She was not shy about telling Rich’s daughter who was our server, that she really likes gravy and to make sure that the portion was a hefty one.  Our server smiled and indicated that she would do her very best.  Mom was sheepish when she couldn’t get anywhere near finishing her mound of fries or the gravy that she frequently dipped into.

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The 3 Sisters had salads, as well as Daughter #1 who was invited to join in on this day.  The Quinoa with Chicken, Thai Steak and Taco Salads were all abundant, delicious and cleverly prepared.

Mom also appreciated that we could leave our cars in their parking lot, while we headed next door to view the 100 Masters exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  By the time we returned to our cars, the place was humming even though it was pleasantly unbusy when we enjoyed our early supper.

Dessert Sinsations Cafe on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “I come from a home where gravy is a beverage.”-Erma Bombeck

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Love-that is all.

The Promenade-a Summer Visit

July9

The historic corner or Tache and Provencher delivers a gorgeous view winter or summer.  When we dined at Promenade Cafe and Wine for D’s birthday in January we requested a table by the window.  It was approximately -30 that evening.  True to the premise that the Canadian prairies produce the most extreme weather in Canada, this past week when I visited the temperature was topping the other end of the scale at +30 degrees.  We still decided to sit outside under an umbrella to enjoy the unobstructed vista.  Yes, it would have been cooler inside, but summer is short in Winnipeg and I intentionally spend every moment that I possibly can, outside.

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The occasion was a business lunch, but because I know my associate so well, we were comfortable to share both our choices.  Duck confit is a traditional French recipe made with the leg of the bird. To prepare a confit, the meat is rubbed with salt, garlic, and sometimes herbs, then covered and refrigerated for up to 36 hours. Salt-curing the meat acted as a preservative before modern refrigeration was common plaec.  Prior to cooking, the spices are typically rinsed from the meat and then patted dry. The meat is placed in a cooking dish deep enough to contain the meat and the rendered fat, and deposited in an oven at a low temperature where the meat is slowly poached at least until cooked, or until meltingly tender, generally four to ten hours.  It was not actually the duck that caught my eye as I perused the menu, but the truffle kissed chickpeas.  I am drawn to the musky taste of “truffled” anything, and the garbonzo beans were a satisfying choice.  The duck and the chick peas were tossed with micro greens, grilled pear slices and a crumbling of blue cheese which assembled a number of tastes on one dish.  The duck unfortunately was not “fall off the bone” the way I prefer it, which would lead me to believe that it was not cooked for long enough or that it was dry-roasted instead of poached.  This is not a complaint, just an observation that the duck was not prepared as I have enjoyed it in the past.

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In the mean time, my lunch date opted for a Crogues Monsieur for us to share. The sandwich originated in French cafés as early as 1910 as a quick snack. The name is based on the verb croquer (“to crunch”).  In essence, the dish is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and the crunch comes into play when the bread is toasted on the grill to crispness.  Promenade’s version also adds a little dollop of what I thought was a lemony hollandaise sauce adding a citrus taste to offset the salty and savoury ones.  The ham that was rolled up and put back onto the grill for a couple of moments to add a crunch to it as well, was of the highest quality.  I imagined a whole old fashioned ham, slow roasting for an afternoon and then being thinly slaved for the sandwich.  If that is not how the owner Sean and his chef prepare it, they sure had me fooled, because the ham itself was perfection.

To this, the side of perfectly prepared French fries (ironically, better that any I had tasted in France) put my enjoyment right at the highest point of the pleasure scale.  What put me over the top was the gorgeous Fetzer Gewurztraminer that was suggested as the pairing with the Croques.  This grape is sometimes considered too sweet and fruity for some palates, but was the perfect choice to offset the myriad of tastes between our salad and sandwich.  The truth is, gazing out over the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers with a clear view of what my family calls the “feather” bridge and the recently completed Canadian Human Rights Museum, I could have easily ordered another glass and whiled away the Friday afternoon with my friend.  We took so long discussing mutual business opportunities that we had to pack our personal news into the moments as we were settling the bill.

All this means, is that another visit to the Promenade before the summer is over, is in order.  Oh the lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer…..

Promenade Cafe and Wine on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “The French approach to food is characteristic; they bring to their consideration of the table the same appreciation, respect, intelligence and lively interest that they have for the other arts, for painting, for literature, and for the theatre. We foreigners living in France respect and appreciate this point of view but deplore their too strict observance of a tradition which will not admit the slightest deviation in a seasoning or the suppression of a single ingredient. Restrictions aroused our American ingenuity, we found combinations and replacements which pointed in new directions and created a fresh and absorbing interest in everything pertaining to the kitchen.” –Alice B. Toklas

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Love-that is all.

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