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Deseo at Christmas Time

December20

This was one of those evenings where you arrive at the appointed hour and in what seemed like moments later, it is time to go.  The time was precious and wonderfully spent with old friends to celebrate the joys of the past year with optimism for the one ahead.

The main floor of Deseo Bistro was jammed packed with merrymakers doing exactly what we were doing and the room felt alive with the energy of fellow Winnipeggers.  Our server was cordial, efficient and very attentive, even though he thought he had not been.  He came and apologised to us at one point for needing to focus on another party.  Truth was, we did not even notice.

The evening started with Deseo’s own versions of Bloody Caesars which had a wonderful kick and warmed up the evening.  Every couple decide to share a small plate including the Crunch Salad which I had tasted on other occasions and totally regretted not doing so again.  The crunch is contributed by celery, edamame, pistachios, peanuts, crispy onions and distinctively by jicama, a taste which I can’t get enough of especially when it is enhanced by lime and cilantro, which this was in abundance.  It also includes mojito vinny-huh?  I have no idea what that is.

D and I shared the Black Truffled Gnocchi which was an inventive combination of crisp black quinoa, black garlic and black boar bacon.  The tones were dark and earthy and you could taste the forrest.

I then went ahead and ordered another pasta for my large plate which was a seafood spaghetti topped with a poached egg and D chose the Monk-fish.

 

Mine was rich and creamy and D’s was light, so tastes from each plate were a satisfying combination.  Both were from their special features.  Our meals were lovely but I was fixated on another regret which was that I had not ordered the same dish as one of our friends – Roasted Brussel Sprouts. 

Marcona almonds, bacon, ginger, ponzu dressing and feta created a sweet and salty combination, which my readers know I love.

There were oohs and ahhs from other place settings at the table where Lamb Albondigas and Mussels & Chorizo were being tucked into. 

But the happiest of all was the birthday girl who loves pork as much as I do and after much deliberation decided upon the pork belly.  I had described it from my other tastings as being a veritable loaf of meat and even though I obviously remembered the portion incorrectly, she was overjoyed with her choice.  Perched  on top of the slowly roasted pork was a Serano wrapped prawn mousse and was accompanied by crisp chicken skin and  parsnip puree.  The tastes were complemented by both romesco sauce and sherry syrup.  At one point I heard her declare that it was the best meal that she had ever had at any restaurant (and this from a world traveller).  High praise, indeed.

A couple of after dinner liquers  and desserts were enjoyed.  In the mean time, gifts were shared as well as the tales of future Christmas adventures.  The love amongst us was evident and it was a memorable way to celebrate the many of life’s blessings together.

Deseo Bistro on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “It is a curious fact that no man likes to call himself a glutton, and yet each of us has in him a trace of gluttony, potential or actual. I cannot believe that there exists a single coherent human being who will not confess, at least to himself, that once or twice he has stuffed himself to bursting point on anything from quail financiere to flapjacks, for no other reason than the beastlike satisfaction of his belly.” –M.F.K. Fisher

Love-that is all.

Lunch at the Southside Keg

December14

Many of my readers know that I have many long-lasting relationships with The Keg Steakhouse and Bar: D and I met there, at one time, pretty much his entire family worked there, etc. etc.  As a result I try to be very “fair” by not shining a spotlight on them too often in spite of the fact that it is our favourite place for date night and the place where I choose for the majority of my business lunch meetings.  And so it occurred to me that in my efforts to be fair, I have actually been unfair to The Keg.

Yesterday, as the snow was blowing outside, the fireplaces and cozy booths were  a welcome treat.  I ordered as soon as the special was recited by our server.  A lunch-sized Mediterranean steak on a toasted panini was cooked to a perfect medium rare.  I often select the baked goat cheese as an appetizer because I am ga ga for Keg salsa. It is not a Mexican blend but one that is reminiscent of our time in Italy when tomatoes are coaxed into full flavour by basil and a bit of balsamic vinegar.   I do often enjoy bare-naked steaks (the meat, not me) but “topped” steaks are a special treat.  This particular combination brings out deep, rich tones and when coupled with a house salad is a more than a satisfying lunch.  Actually it is more like a supper at lunch time, so last evening I did the inverse, and had a peanut-butter sandwich for supper.

My lunch mate chose the salmon burger, which he heartily enjoyed but I noticed that he left a 1/3 of his lunch un-eaten so that he would have room for dessert.

The Keg’s mini dessert options are so tasty and such good value-$7.95 for all three of these offerings: a mini creme brulee, chocolate cake and a butter tart.  I can imagine my entire gang ordering these to satisfy all of their sweet tooths (or should I say?- sweet teeth).

The Keg Steakhouse & Bar - Southside on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “The dessert crowns the dinner. To create a fine dessert, one has to combine the skills of a confectioner, a decorator, a painter, an architect, an ice-cream manufacturer, a sculptor, and a florist. The splendour of such creations appeals above all to the eye – the real gourmand admires them without touching them! The magnificence of the dessert should not allow one to forget the cheese. “-Eugene Briffault

Love-that is all.

Guest Blogger: Sister #3-Joyeux Noël

December13

Resto Gare, the reinvention of long loved La Vieille Gare in Winnipeg’s French Quarter, has been on my hit list since its refreshed unveiling in 2008.  I am pleased to say that I finally got a chance to try their fare at a recent Christmas party.

I am always thrilled to be included in the staff celebrations of a diagnostic centre that I work with in my role with CancerCare Manitoba.  I really appreciate that this group is always up to try something different and they have introduced me to a couple of venues I may not have otherwise discovered.

Resto Gare Bistro is located at 630 Des Meurons Rue in a Canadian Northern Station Building that will celebrate its 100th birthday next year.  The attached train car is only one year younger, being built in 1914.

The lovely interior is the perfect setting for a Christmas celebration with its colour pallet of gold and poppy red. Warm wood, rustic open beam ceiling and plush furnishings keep you cozy as you gaze out the window at the falling snow.

Being a large party. we had a limited menu, but the choices where all exemplary.  I started with the creamy potato and leek soup.  I think perfecting this simple dish shows a chef’s finesse. This one was the right consistency; you could taste both the leek and potato and it was seasoned perfectly.  This got me excited for my entrée and I was not disappointed.  For my main, I enjoyed Manitoba pickerel, pan seared in herb butter and topped with crispy pancetta, corn and a micro shoot salad and served with rice pilaf and perfectly cooked beets and Brussel sprouts.

My colleges raved about the rosemary and mustard rubbed Prime Rib; the half roast chicken served on preserved lemon smashed potatoes; and the wild mushroom and leek risotto with pecorino cheese.

The dessert cart selection was extensive.  I abstained, but heard the moans of my coworkers who indulged in the lemon tart, traditional maple sugar pie and the candy cane crème brûlée.

I look forward to revisiting Resto Gare, perhaps for a more intimate dinner in the train car.

Resto Gare on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Light, refined, learned and noble, harmonious and orderly, clear and logical, the cooking of France is, in some strange manner, intimately linked to the genius of her greatest men.”-Rouff

Love-that is all.

Earl’s St. Vital

December7

Have you experienced when a restaurant just falls off of your radar?  In the advertising business this is known as “erosion of top of mind awareness”.  There was a time when Earl’s was one of the highest restaurants on my hit list.  D, Daughter #1 and I liked to stop in for Margarita Mondays.  I loved the patio on Main to catch some rays at lunch time and the St. Vital Earl’s was the first place I ever tasted a Bento Box.  We used to meet clients at the very first Earl’s at Polo Park (on St. James where Tony Roma’s is now) and I would always order the Californian Shrimp Pesto Pizza.  In those days it seemed as if Earl’s had the corner on fresh, premium ingredients and a light-handed cooking style.

So did we just outgrow Earls or did something change?

For us, it was this:  My birthday is at the end of May and often heralds the beginning of those surprizingly hot summer days.  About Easter, I start thinking about how I would like to celebrate with my family and what patio we will assemble at for dinner.  For one of my special birthdays (where the right hand digit is a “0”) the weather in Winnipeg was awful-constant rain and the longest stretch without seeing the sun.  But because we are a resourceful bunch we said amongst ourselves, “let’s just find a covered patio and ignore the weather outside”.  And so it was that we found ourselves at the Polo Earl’s in the hopes of getting onto the patio (that has always reminded me of a circus tent).  As some of my readers know, our family is a bit tricky to accommodate because Daughter #1 gets around in a motorized wheelchair.   We often research ahead of time, which places have stairs or tricky washrooms to maneuver into.  We were eager for the afternoon that we were going to spend on the patio with lots of drinks and an never-ending stream of food.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at the patio, we saw that none of the available tables were the traditional height so we asked if they might possibly move a lower dining room one onto the patio for us.  When the answer was an unaccommodating “no” we left and I will admit that I was in tears (kind of like the lyrics to the old song: “You would cry too if it happened to you!”)  It seemed to us like a little thing for Earl’s to do but would have made all the difference in the world to us.

Now having been in the business ourselves, we know that there are fire codes, and rules and protocol and I don’t blame Earl’s for turning us away but somehow from this moment on, we did not consider ourselves part of the Earl’s family any longer.  We just felt like we were not young enough or important enough or attractive enough.  Do you understand how we were feeling?  I go to the trouble of writing this so that hospitality employees might see how their actions can effect a guests’ special day and even the years to follow.  That is how very important the role of a person in the hospitality business is.  In fact, I teach Food and Beverage Service and Front Desk Management for the Manitoba Tourism Education Council and I use this example (without mentioning Earl’s) as well as hilarious examples from U-Tube clips of Fawlty Towers of how not to conduct yourself and what the consequences might be.

Now it is not because we have held a grudge against Earl’s, it is just that as I indicated earlier, they just kind of fell off of our radar.  That was until the perseverant Cate Simpson of Earl’s found me on line.  Over the last couple of years she has invited me to special events at Earls that I have not been able to fit into my schedule.  So too, when I saw that the re-opening of their St. Vital Earl’s restaurant fell into an unbelievably hectic week, I thought that I would have to decline once more.  Happily, I was able to attend.

Sister #3 and I were immediately welcomed by Earl’s Big Cheese and we settled into a comfy little booth to get our bearings.  The facelift creates a light filled room that is sure to please.

We got a chance to order from their featured cocktails and loved the taste and presentations of both.

And then the food started coming out and we focused on tasting some for our first time.

And then the Californian Shrimp Pesto Pizza arived.  The first tastes were like reuniting with a dear old friend!

Sister #3 had never tasted the recipe before but will be back for more, I am sure.

The evening ended with hot ginger bread-the perfect way to kick off the holiday season.  The snow had started coming down heavily by this time and we had to venture back out into the night but something had changed for me:

Earl’s is back on my radar!

Earls Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.” ― Charlotte Brontë

Love-that is all.

Smoke’s Poutinerie Revisited

December6

I try very hard to eat food for the “right” reasons, that is to supply my body with the appropriate fuel that it requires for optimum health BUT I am human and sometimes slip into old habits. I’ll be frank, I  eat when I am stressed or to reward myself for (what I perceive is) a job well done.  Case in point, I have recently had a long stretch of teaching and speaking engagements along with a couple of food styling gigs.  I am such a  “pleaser” that I put myself under a lot of pressure to think of every single little detail for the chef and publicists that I am contracted to.  When the time comes that I am able to pack up and head home, I am relieved and looking for a way to celebrate.

My last commitment today was at the not yet opened Paterson GlobalFoods Institute at the Exchange campus of Red River College.  Lo and behold, I was parked right in front of Smoke’s Poutinerie and I hadn’t indulge with a treat from there since the summer that they opened.   Even though the menu was intriguing with chicken, pork, beef and vegetarian offerings, I am a purist and ordered the Traditional.  I enjoyed my first couple of piping hot bites but I had to get on with the rest of my day and so packed the majority up to finish at home.  By the time I unloaded all of the gear from my car, the dish had cooled off and I found that I enjoyed the tastes even more!  The gravy was rich and not overly salty and the authentic cheese curds had firmed up and retained their squeakiness once more. 

I have just finished a work entitled “My Canada includes Foie Gras” where the author Jacob Richler, Maclean’s food columnist, proclaims that “Poutine” maybe Canada’s only authentic food: “Our culinary identity abroad is more often rooted in unexciting single ingredients than actual dishes- things like maple syrup and “Canadian bacon” ( a minor stylistic rethink of a very common food).  And with the exception of poutine, a genuine Quebec original, most of our Canadian cuisine has far too much in common with its European antecedents to appear to others as something new.”

So there you have it-I rewarded myself and substantiated culinary research all at the same time (as if I needed a second excuse)!

Smoke's Poutinerie on Urbanspoon 

Kath’s quote:  “The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite.”-A. J. Liebling

Love-that is all.

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