Browsing: Restaurant Features

Luda’s Deli

January18

As I sat waiting for my husband to arrive for our lunch date, I had a great opportunity to soak up the quaint surroundings of this little place -Luda’s Deli at 410 Aberdeen Ave. at Salter in Winnipeg’s colourful North End.  Day time TV was displayed over the front door for ambiance, perhaps, or to comfort and entertain the diners who were there for a meal on their own.  Two merry old gentlemen walked in with the salutation: “Hi ya girls!”  I was to learn that the “girls” were Kristie who takes care of all of the tables by herself and her look-a-like Mom Tracey who is in the kitchen and at the till.  Both are big-eyed, full-lipped Ukrainian beauties. Shouts go back and forth when someone known to them arrives and in some cases hugs and kisses are exchanged (at least this was the case on the day that I was there).

Come noon, the place was full and I observed two finely dressed businessmen walk in, look at the full room and announce that they would try again tomorrow.  They were unsurprised and not put out, in the least.  By this time, I am thinking that Tracey’s home style cooking must be something else and we were not disappointed!

Coffee and water is self serve, which is a good thing because Kristie is too busy taking orders and ladling out soup-on this day the choices were Bean and Bacon or Borscht. We sampled the latter and loved that it was chock full of match stick sized beets that were the perfect texture.

“Kristie’s Clubhouse” was a delectable combination of tomato, lettuce, crispy bacon and sliced turkey.  The wedge of meat had been put right onto the grill to warm it and pop up the flavour.

Sauerkraut and corned beef equally shared the space between the pumpernickel rye bread from nearby Gunn’s bakery and was as delicious a Reuben as I have ever tasted (and that includes Montreal and New York). The plentiful hand-cut shoe string fries were worth noting as well.

Kristie patiently explained, when I asked if the diner had been named after Luda, that the word is Ukrainian for “the people”, in other words this popular little place represents the  “neighbourhood” and there are various menu items named for different real life persons.  I wonder what they would put into a “Kathryne”.

Take cash and go early to avoid disappointment.  Parking is only on the street and there are a couple of steps up to enter the premises.  The businessmen determined that doors open at 7 am for breakfast and lunch from Monday to Saturday.  They may be closed on the weekend over the summer.

Ludas Deli on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Food is a subject of conversation more spiritually refreshing even than the weather, for the number of possible remarks about the weather is limited, whereas of food you can talk on and on and on.”-A.A. Milne, ‘Lunch’

Love-that is all.

Burrito Splendido

January17

My niece, who is a restaurant expert in her own right, knows that I am constantly on the quest to find authentic Mexican, but more specifically Mayan cuisine, in Winnipeg.  Not only am I drawn to clean, fresh flavours of this healthy way of eating but the tastes transport me (via my imagination) to summer time or, as I consider myself blessed to be able to say-my annual sojourn to Isla Mujeres.  So when she told me that a really great, little Mexican restaurant called Burrito Splendido had opened on west Portage (A4-3380 in Westwood to be precise), I had to put it on my “must try” list.

When we pulled up, I thought that we must have come to the wrong address because from the outside, I thought it was a sub place.  It definitely has a “fast food” look to the place.  And then I thought, well why not, as tacos and burritos are fast food, meant to be consumed like a hamburger on the run or for a quick meal.  They even had our favourite brand of Mexican fruit soft drinks.

The pair of fish tacos that I chose was quite petite as compared to my husband’s hearty burrito.  In three chomps one was done and yet the portion size is consistent with our times in the Yucatan.  With most meals a little package of the same sized corn tortillas will come to the table so that you can scoop up from your plate and blend the flavours for each bite.  Each bite of the taco, sparkled with cilantro, shredded lettuce, crunchy cabbage, queso fresco (which I didn’t even know that you could purchase in Manitoba), a well-prepared pico de gallo and one of my favourite tastes in all the world-pickerel.  I was one happy camper.

But then to my husband’s chagrin, I started eyeing up his burrito.  Everything the taco had not been, the burrito was-hearty, substantial and bursting with chicken, rice, beans and shredded cheese.  Once all of your selections are spooned into a customized bowl at the serving counter, it is then edged onto a whole wheat tortilla and folded together but then (and I think this is the key), it gets put into the arms of a big, hot griddle to seal the edges and just begin the melding process of the ingredients.

So do not be surprised when you arrive at Burrito Splendido, yes you have arrived at a “fast” food restaurant, but it is so much more.

I got an email from the owner Ken Livingstone this afternoon.  We have one of those small world connections as he and my niece worked together at the now defunct Pasta la Vista restaurant (I still yearn for one of their dishes called “That Ole Black Magic”).  Years ago, my niece and Ken’s wife traveled around the world together.  He took the opportunity to tell me more about his restaurant’s commitment to quality:

“Our cheese (that I didn’t know could be purchased in Winnipeg), is made in house daily. It`s super simple. I also wanted to let you know that we stay local where and when possible, our pork, beef, chicken and pickerel, for our fish tacos, are all local. The organic flour for our whole wheat and white tortillas also comes from Manitoba.”

I am sure that this great little place will do well as it is discovered by foodies and Mexican food lovers alike.

Burrito Splendido on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “I don’t like to eat snails. I prefer fast food.”-Roger von Oech

Love-that is all.

 

Promenade Cafe and Wine

January7

Our youngest spent this past summer in Montreal with the goal of becoming more proficient in Canada’s official second language, so she was the perfect lunch date to accompany me to Promenade Café and Wine at the historic corner of Tache and Provencher Blvd. in St. Boniface.  As we ordered, she told me tales of the poutineries in the Le Plateau area of Montreal and one place in particular which was open 24 hours a day and served over thirty varieties.

Once I started thinking about Poutine, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head and just had to have it, but also wanted to sample something a wee bit new, so I chose poutine topped with tourtiere meat.  The tourtiere recipe that I am familiar with is a combination of ground beef, pork and veal seasoned with cloves and sage.  This version used bison tossed with cloves, all spice and paprika and was rich and savoury. The fries themselves were thickly cut from what must have been huge potatoes, because they were as long as the width of my hand.  They were topped with both squeaky cheese curds but also shredded gruyere cheese that added a smoky tone. The piping hot gravy (the high temperature is a must so that the cheese melts), includes a taste of red wine and a variety of French herbs.

Daughter #2 selected the Reuben, another staple from her time in Montreal.  She commented that the meat was abundant and that the Chef uses her preferred Montreal smoked meat as opposed to corned beef.  The proportions of sauerkraut, cheese and dressing were just right.  Her yardstick is that the juices ran down her arm when she took a bite.  A tossed house salad accompanied the sandwich but she could have chosen the daily soup which was bacon and pea on the day that we visited.

Promenade is well positioned for much success with a gorgeous view overlooking the “Feather Bridge”, the historic Forks and the amazing structure of the Canadian Human Rights Museum.  The owner Shawn Brandson is no stranger to St. Boniface as he has also taken on providing the foodservice for Fort Gibraltar.  I am anxious to return for breakfast and the special tasting menus that Shawn and his Chef create on a regular basis.  I have reserved a romantic table for two with the best view in the house for my husband’s upcoming birthday (please don’t tell him-it is a surprise).

Promenade Cafe and Wine on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “The only cooks in the civilized world are French cooks. . . . Other nations understand food in general; the French alone understand cooking, because all their qualities – promptitude, decision, tact – are employed in the art. No foreigner can make a good white sauce.”-Roqueplan

Love-that is all.

Bailey’s for New Year’s Eve

January2

I’ll admit it: I don’t particularly enjoy New Year’s Eve.  This is not because I don’t like the moments of hugging and kissing at the appointed hour, because if you know me, you understand that I love any and every excuse to embrace and smooch.  I am an optimist and I live my life looking forward, so it is not that either.  I suppose it has to do with the regret that we don’t live every night of our life with a “new year’s eve” attitude-of forgiveness and reconciliation and the determination to do better.  The evening seems kind of artificial and contrived to me.  Do any of my readers feel this way too?

We often attend the bash at the Winnipeg Convention Centre where the multi-course meal is divine but the jazz stylings of Ron Paley and his big band even better.  Last year and another before that, we were on Isla Mujeres where the entire island (or so it seems) crowds into the square at midnight to kick off the year with a tremendous show of fire works and then they dance all night long.  And I mean this literally, because the next morning when we tried to hunt up some breakfast, most places were shuttered up because they had just arrived home to get some sleep.

Well this year, we were invited by new friends to join them at Bailey’s Restaurant and Lounge.  The evening had a lovely pace and lots of opportunity to get to know them better.  When we left to go elsewhere for midnight, there were only family and staff members left who were assembling to celebrate midnight together.  We had the pleasure of meeting Leo the owner and other members of his family. Typically Leo is very hands on helping with table service and the like, but on this evening he was simply making the rounds to warmly embrace his many patrons.

The first course was a cold platter of appetizers for the table with a nibble each of spanakopeta, spring roll, beef satay skewer, smoked salmon and garlic shrimp.  This proved to be a lovely way to forecast the culinary treats ahead.

Our attentive waiter came over to sadly tell us that the red pepper soup had been substituted with an asparagus one.  No disappointment to us- it was pungent with asparagus and buttery at the same time.

A warm from the oven, crusty roll occupied us until the salad course of mandarins, strawberries and candied blueberries topping mixed greens and a sweet poppy seed dressing arrived.

The guys both chose a platter including a beef tenderloin medallion, a lamb chop, shrimp and scallops. 

My new friend loved the veal chop with a tarragon port wine reduction.

I was over the moon with my selection of scampi.  There were so many upon the plate, that my vegetables and roasted potatoes had to arrive on a second plate, alongside.  I wondered how I was going to eat them all and then proceeded to do so without any trouble.  Each Icelandic baby lobster was still completely encased in its shell which meant that I had to roll up my sleeves and crack my way through to the sweet meat.  I mopped each one of them around in Bailey’s own butter sauce (which I have to get the recipe of) and when they were gone and there were still dobs of sauce on my plate, I swirled slivers of the potato and then cauliflower to ensure that I soaked up every salty drop.

I could have easily bundled up for our walk to the Forks to see the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the fireworks by this time, but we were not quite done.  Everyone needed a chocolate fix which was satisfied by the Black Out Torte and I opted for fresh fruit swimming in cointreau.  Coffee and Biley’s (of course) came after that.

By this time, we got moving to mark the strike of twelve.  I loved the intimate evening with our new friends which seemed so perfect at a time which sings about auld acquaintances not being forgotten.

Bailey's Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon 

Kath’s quote: “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”-Bill Vaughn

Love-that is all.

MTC Modern Taco Company

December24

I feel that it is appropriate that I set the stage here.  I do not profess to be skilled in any way to produce delicious Mayan fare (I leave that to Sister #3 and BF Laura).  But I have been traveling to the Yucatan for over 20 years and I have sojourned to Isla Mujeres (which is a culinary gem) for eight consecutive years.  When we do so, we live like the locals, purchasing our fresh ingredients in the markets and dining primarily at loncherias.  There is not a single multi-unit restaurant on the island and we hope that it stays that way.  There are some ex-pats who have brought along their spins on Mexican recipes, but we find ourselves gravitating to the food from the locals.  So what I am saying is, we know good Mexican food!

I have tasted great Mexican food in my travels to Minneapolis, New York and else where in Canada.  Surprizingly, Saskatoon has a couple of really good places.  Restaurants in Winnipeg have earnestly tried and there are a couple of dishes that I enjoy at a couple of spots, but we just can’t seem to get it perfect.  By “perfect”, I mean with just the right amount of cilantro so that the flavours sing in your mouth balanced by just enough fire provided by the abundant variety of chilies and freshly squeezed lime juice, that I think makes everything taste better (even my beloved French fries).

Suffice it to say, the bar is set very, very high.  We have watched with interest as the Modern Taco Company has renovated a little place in our neighbourhood that has been a German bakery and then The Frenchway Cafe.  Last weekend as D was out walking the mutt, he saw a line snaking out the front door and we knew that the long awaited spot had opened.  Someone offered to hold onto the dog, so that he could go in and have a look around.  Since we didn’t have any plans for dinner that evening anyway, we called Sister #2 and husband and made a date.

The place has been absolutely transformed but looks vaguely familiar.  It has the same flow as Unburger and Saigon Jon’s for instance.  You enter the premises and look up towards the menu boards (including a long list of cervesas and tequilas) before placing your order at the counter to the front of the open kitchen.   The place was busy but we managed to get a table so I plunked down to reserve it.  I love watching my food get prepared so next time I may opt to sit at the stools that face the grill.

We started with  a spicy tomato & roasted jalapeno soup garnished with pico de gallo and avocado crema

and tortilla chips, with more pico de gallo & guacamole.

We also added a side of slaw with jalapeno vinaigrette.

For our mains, we choose tequila shrimp, composed of grilled shrimp, slaw and  chipotle crema,

pulled jerk chicken, caramelized pineapple, cilantro.

You can order a single variety for a trio or

a platter of three of a kind.

The tacos taste fresh, with high quality ingredients.  You can tell that the tortillas themselves are freshly made. Do they taste exactly like the ones that we enjoy while on vacation?  Of course not, but they are pretty darn good.  And besides we would have to have our toes in the sand and be sitting under a palapa on the Caribbean to replicate that taste.

Modern Taco Company on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “One morning, as I went to the freezer door, I asked my wife, ‘What should I take out for dinner?’ Without a moment’s hesitation, she replied, ‘Me.'”-anonymous

Love-that is all.

 

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