Browsing: Restaurant Features

Thom Bargen Coffee and Tea

January31

The handsome man in the middle is my son- J1.  Since last summer, he has kept us apprised of a special project that two of his best buds (the other two handsome men in this picture) have been working on.  They have inhabited the space at 64 Sherbrooke Street and lovingly transformed it into a warm and sleek coffee parlor.  I got a call from J1 early this morning that although Thom Bargen Coffee and Tea is not officially open until this weekend, I could get a sneak peek, if I made my way down there.

I ordered a latte that was perfectly prepared, right down to the milk foam art.  I also indulged in a chocolate croissant that rivaled the ones that I’ve tasted in France. People around me were commenting on the deliciousness of the blueberry roi bois, the double shots of espresso and the cinnamon buns.

Not only has the creation of the space been a labour of love, but everything that this little place serves, is equally so.  As is often the case, it starts with the best of ingredients.

The pastries are all from Jonnies Sticky Buns, a fabulous bakery in the same neighbourhood.  You must also give them a try -every single thing I have tasted there is absolutely sublime.

The coffee which is slowly coaxed into bloom by constantly swirling boiled water through the grounds in a cone filter is from Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.  I have done just a wee bit of research about these fellows and their company.  This is what I know:

We care about the green coffee that we purchase and the people who grow it.  We care about how it’s roasted,  We care about how it’s brewed.  But most importantly, we care that you find the time to slow down and enjoy a great cup of coffee.

Seems to me that the handsome men pictured above-TJ (Thom Jon) and Graham share this philosophy- welcoming every person who walked in the door and not minding a bit (or apparently not minding, at any rate), when I accidentally spilled the “to go” coffee that they went to all the trouble of making for me. (I said that I was blessing the new building for them).  If you see a darker area of hardwood floor, right by the front door-that is where I left my mark.

With the passion that these guys have for their space, their product and their customers, this place is going to do very, very well indeed.

Thom Bargen Coffee and Tea on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Without my morning coffee I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat.”-Johann Sebastian Bach

Love-that is all.

Grey Owl 2013

January28

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This past Friday, I made a road trip to Brandon, Manitoba.  I lived in Brandon for a short time and had heard of the infamous Grey Owl dinner but had never had the opportunity to attend.  The event is a very special and prestigious opportunity.

 The year at MICA  (Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts) culminates with the hosting and organization of the four-week Grey Owl fine dining restaurant. Students and staff come together to present a fusion of nouvelle and classic cuisine in the historic Grey Owl dining room at the institute. This annual tradition has enthralled the community for years. Culinary Arts students present a stunning fine dining menu to members of the public, while Hotel and Restaurant Management students practice their hospitality skills with tableside service. Tickets for the Grey Owl sell out every year and are eagerly anticipated by the community. Running this student-run event provides a practical component to both programs that is highly beneficial to their training.

You have likely heard the expression “the honour is all mine”.  This is so true when it comes to my associaton with the Manitoba Canola Growers who were my gracious hosts for the evening.

I am honoured:

  • to have been one of 24 guests invited to the 2013 Grey Owl dinner
  • to be considered a friend of the amazing Canola ladies: Ellen, Jen and Leanne.  Their hospitality, thoughtfulness and attention to detail is nothing short of stellar.
  • to have become acquainted with Isabel Wendell of Wendell Estate Honey, whose product was recently pitched on the CBC The Dragon’s Den
  • to have been sat a table with Dori Gingera-Beauchimen, Assistant Deputy Minister, Manitoba Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (my Daddy would have been proud).
  • to have been set next to one of the Manitoba Recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal: Bruce Dalgarno and his wife Carol.  I have even had the pleasure of a field supper on their beautiful farm in Newdale, MB.
  • seeing Donna Jackson of High Bluff Stock Farm again.  I am continually impressed by her style, warmth and savvy.
  • to have acquainted and reacquainted myself with members of the Manitoba Canola Growers Board of Directors including President Ed Rempel and Vice-President Brian Chorney (the other Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal winner).
  • Spending time again with Getty Stewart, Pat Orsak and Joanne Ross of Agricilture in the Classroom.  By the way Joanne, if you are reading this, I want to volunteer for a Manitoba Breakfast. All of them, passionate women.

But speaking of passion, I was blown away with the expertise of the student chefs and dining room managers.  The food was visually stunning and the word delicious, is grossly inadequate.  This is one of those times when I am not going to be able to find enough superlatives, so I will let the photos do the talking: 

 Amuse Bouche (amuse or delight the mouth) and it did.

Spinach pumpernickel with a fiery kick and crunchy sweet crust topping.  They had me at the bread……

One of the many talented table side chefs (full of confidence and so personable). 

I can always recognize the hands of an artist.

 

 Don`t try this at home.

 My prawns and scallops in Pernod sauce.

 A nest garnish.

 

Stuffed Mushrooms.

 

Isn’t this pulled pork flat-bread, simply gorgeous (my question mark is not working on my keyboard today).

I do not know what these were but they came with a shooter of vodka.

My pomegranate salad.

 

The garnish of my fabulous steak.   

Ratatouille deconstructed and reconstructed.

 

Butterfly garnish on the rack of lamb. 

Stuffed chicken.

Prawns skewers on the side of planked salmon.

The dessert tray.

 

 My peanut butter ice cream.

The garnish on these strawberries remind me of the Caribbean sea.

The evening was quite simply-perfect:  new and old friends to share the time with and exquisitely prepared food which was obviously made with passion and love. 

Kath’s quote: “If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.”-Fernand Point 

These hand made chocolates were served on an edible heart shaped platter.  Not being able to determine the heart shape in this photo is the fault of the photographer (me), not the skill of the pastry chef.

Love-that is all.

The Grove Revisited

January23

When we traveled to Ireland this past spring, we came to understand the essential importance of the neighbourhood pub.  If you define a pub in Canadian terms, it equates to something far different from what a pub is to an Irishman.  The Grove is the closest facsimile to a real pub in my mind.  For one, it is located on the street which borders ours, albeit significantly east of our locale.  For two, we could walk there, although when it is -47 with the wind chill, we chose not to on this day.  For three, there is familiarity-the owner waving at J1 as he arrived at work on this afternoon.  And then there is the rest of the package: personable staff, a wide selection of cold drawn and bottled beer and simple, yet wonderfully prepared food.

We were celebrating a family birthday.  That is, we have a celebratory meal together when it is a family member’s birthday.  The format does not change very much: the birthday boy/girl gets to choose whether we will slow roast a batch of ribs, plant ourselves on a patio for the afternoon or try a new restaurant together.  In this case, D wanted to ensure that he was sitting in his favourite chair in front of the big screen TV for NFL conference finals, by kick off time, so lunch it was.

When we arrived, there was a note on the door declaring that due to a mechanical issue (our guess was that something froze in the extreme cold), the menu would be limited.  We were undeterred and found all kinds of delicious choices.

Of course fish and chips were ordered and J1 and J2 remarked that the fish was very lightly breaded and that the haddock fillet itself was a hearty portion, more like a fish steak.  J1 would have loved to have had a burger which he declares is the city’s best but was pleased with this alternative.

Daughter #1 loves her Butter Chicken and found this recipe to her liking, that is to say: flavourful but not too firey.

The Frenchman sampled the lamb stew and was delighted.

I had been celebrating D’s birthday with indulgent food since the night before, so I decided to make a healthy choice and had the quinoa salad: sour cherry and pistachio crumble, cucumber, red onion, red pepper, tomato, carrot & mint, dressed in lemon garlic vinaigrette.

D had been dreaming about The Grove’s pan-seared scallops and knew that he had to savour them again.

Our cordial server brought out the German Chocolate cake that we had brought ourselves (D’s favourite cake) with a knife, plates, napkins and forks and we concluded our pub lunch in this way.

The Grove Pub and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Some people have a foolish way of not minding, or pretending not to mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly very studiously, and very carefully; for I look upon it, that he who does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else.”-Samuel Johnson

Love-that is all.

Terrace in the Park

January22

I have been assigned the task of declaring the most romantic restaurant in Winnipeg in anticipation of Valentine’s Day.  So let me start by sharing with you the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me: 

In celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary, D and I traveled to the Mediterranean.  We started in a village in Sicily and sojourned by train up the west coast of Italy and stayed in Prariano on the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Nice and then Paris.  D arranged that with every hotel stay, there were bouquets of my favourite flowers waiting for us in our room; we shared bites of perfect food and sips of amazing wines and saw the most breath-taking scenery.  And yet, travel can be stressful as was the case for one leg of our journey.

We had to catch a 6 am bus to Sorrento but were anxious that we would not get our wake up call as it had been the first time on vacation that we had to rely on one, so we had both been awake since 4:17 am.  It was a good thing, because we never did get the call.  In addition, the espresso machine had not been fired up for the day at our hotel, so we were caffeineless.  Our bus was jammed with school-aged kids who created a deafening din so we were relieved to transfer to a train for our next connection in Naples.  Both D and I had been to Naples before but for D it had not been a positive experience and train stations are not necessarily in the best part of town.  The Naples station was huge and confusing.  We were very stressed and this was made worse by a very angry Italian “gentleman” who claimed that we were sitting in his train seats.  After that was resolved the time to Rome passed uneventfully.  But then when we switched trains again to take us to Spezia someone else claimed that we were in their seats.  This man was more handsome and less angry than the first, but it was disconcerting, none the less.  We had an hour wait in Spezia and decided to perch ourselves and our luggage on an outside platform to get from fresh air. We took turns sitting with the luggage and freshening up in the washroom and stretching our legs.  When we boarded for the last train ride of the day, we realised that the piece of luggage that contained all of our souvenir shopping from the trip had been snatched from the platform!  I was devastated, not only because we had spent precious money selecting particular gifts for our family but because both D and I had splurged and purchased Italian linens to wear at an anniversary party that was being thrown for us upon on return.  Once we arrived in Riomaggiore, I had no idea that our apartment would be an almost vertical climb up the side of a mountain.  By this time, we were exhausted and hungry and I for one was in no mood to have my heart stopped by a cardio work out, so we waited for a shuttle.  Twenty minutes later we were being shown around our home for the next few days only to find that there was no AC and because the breeze was blocked by the mountain, absolutely no movement of air.  I had had it!  I was a mess.  I sobbed and threw myself such a pity party, I am embarrassed to admit it, even now.  And then this amazing thing happened.  Doug eye-balled the size of our terrace, went inside and pulled the mattress off the bed, bedding and all.  He dragged it outside and after an amazing dinner in town, we slept under the stars that night.  I not only cooled off sufficiently but heard the most amazing sounds of birds singing in the morning, bells chiming and the village below us, coming alive.  It was so romantic to watch the sun come up over the mountain and see the sparkling sea below us. 

So when the romance bar is being set, mine is very high indeed which makes selecting a place for  Valentine’s Day dinner a difficult task.  Terrace in the Park is located in a glass atrium which has been built onto the side of the historic Pavillion of Assiniboine Park.  D and I had the pleasure of being invited to their opening but have not yet enjoyed dinner. 

The samplings on that preview night were a delight, starting with San Francisco Cioppino,

Albacore Tuna Tacos,

Steamed Pacific Snow Crab Legs,

Flights of Oysters,

Scallop Ceviche,

and what turned out to be be favourite of the evening: Smoked Pike Rillettes.

We were not surprised that the seafood that preview evening was stellar as we have heard only great things about Chef Simon Resch.  He studied at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and then under the tutelage of Chefs Julian Bond and Rob Clark before returning to Winnipeg and the Beaujolais and Amici Restaurants.  Old Montreal lured him away and then an opportunity to work on the French Rivera (we must have travelled through his community on our Mediteranean train ride).  But Winnipeg was able to attract him back with positions at the Inn at the Forks and the Niakwa Golf and Country Club.  He joined WOW! Hospitality to work alongside Chef Mike Dacquisto before his final move to Terrace in the Park.

And so Valentine’s Day awaits and I will celebrate with the love of my life in the best way we know how-in a beautiful place, supping on exquisitely prepared food with perhaps a glass or two of a fine beverage.

Terrace in the Park on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “Most seafoods…should be simply threatened with heat and then celebrated with joy.” –Jeff Smith 

 

 Love-that is all.

Promenade Cafe and Wine for Dinner

January21

D’s birthday weekend was full of celebrating as a couple and as a family.  First up, was a cozy dinner at the Promenade Cafe and Wine-a place that I have been to once for lunch and D had never had the opportunity to try.  When I had originally booked, I chose a little table right against the window for a view of the Forks and the Canadian Human Rights Museum but when we arrived, Shaun the owner explained that he thought we would be more comfortable at a spot on the other side of the room.  This was because they host live music on Saturday nights and we would have been right next to the musicians setting up.  To be honest, having picked one the coldest nights of the year, I was quite content not to be reminded of the season for just a bit of time.  Inside, we could have been anywhere that people who enjoy fine food and wine would assemble.

We had come thinking that we would go with the pre-fixed dinner of chicken livers, mushroom soup, pork tenderloin and chocolate mousse but were so intrigued by other menu selections that we wanted to order different options so that we could sample from each other’s plate.   Our server was stellar and we took some time to quiz him on his places of previous employment because he was obviously very well trained and best of all, loved his profession.  He was very helpful, when we asked his suggestions for both our dining and wine choices.  We love to be guided by other people’s preferences, it opens up an entirely new range of culinary options.

So the food choices were settled and then we made a bold (for us) wine selection and ordered a  Gewürztraminer from California.  Our server complimented our choice and explained that the word meant ” spice garden”.  The sweet crispness of the chilled wine, completely took us to another place.  We recalled the summer that D  had traveled to German wine country and brought home a couple of special bottles for us to sample on the deck at the Beach House.

But to the food.  We started by sharing a pork pate that was served with micro greens, pickled onions and our particular preference with pate-gherkins.  My favourite aspect of the dish (always the carbs…) were the lacy pieces of crostini that had been thinly sliced from a small baguette and then carefully toasted over an open flame.  I have to figure out how to do this in my own kitchen-it takes “toast” to a magical level.

I was equally enthralled by D’s gnocchi as my own Boeuf Bourguignon and the opportunity to go from my plate to D’s was even better (one of the benefits of being together for thirty years).  The potato noodle that held together all the flavours, was perfect in itself-substantial and firm but at the same time tender.  So good, I could have eaten it with just a drizzle of butter and been perfectly happy.  So the tossing of pine nuts, mushrooms and spinach was like icing on a cake.  D chose shrimp to add some protein to his dinner and remarked at one point that they were the most perfectly prepared seafood that he had enjoyed in a very long time.  He brought home a little taste to enjoy again as his supper last night (in front of the big screen while he and J1 enjoyed the NFL playoffs).

When D requested the Bourguignon on my behalf, our server corrected his pronunciation from beef to boeuf, which was not condescending in any way but contributed to the authenticity of our evening.  I know that a successful bourguignon starts with a choice cut (sirloin in this case) being sauteed in an uncrowded pan so that the individual pieces do not touch but are able to breathe as they develop a light crust.  Then the slow braising in red wine begins.  I was thrilled to see authentic pearl onions in the sauce.  Both dishes came absolutely piping hot which was so appreciated on the chilly night.  My left overs are waiting for my lunch.  I will add some additional potatoes (of course) to extend the amazingly rich and satisfying sauce.

Unfortunately, we left no room for dessert but will sample the inventions of the kitchen again soon when we visit Fort Gibraltar for the Festival du Voyageur because Shaun, the owner of Promenade, also takes care of their food-service.  We are already dreaming about sugar pie….

Promenade Cafe and Wine on Urbanspoon

Kaths quote: “Boeuf a la Bourguignonne (Beef in the Burgundy style): This is the stew of stews, an apotheosis of stew, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the watery, stringy mixture served up in British institutions. It’s a rich, carefully cooked recipe which is served up on special occasions in French homes, and which appears without shame on the menus of high-class restaurants.”-Jane Grigson

Love-that is all.

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