Winnipeg’s Culinary Series-The Homegrown Trail

July2

Here is what Peg City Grub says about the rationale behind their “Homegrown Trail“:

Ask a Winnipegger where to get the best home-grown eats and you won’t get the same answer twice.  That’s because the definition of Manitoba Regional Cuisine doesn’t fit into one tidy sentence.  Pickerel, bison, wild berries, wild rice are local favourites found on menus across the city.  But that’s just the beginning.  From ethnic eateries to greasy spoons, from food co-operatives to upscale dining rooms high above city streets, chefs have their own takes on the food found on Manitoba’s prairies, lakes, forests and wetlands.  On this tasty trek across Winnipeg, you’ll sample some of the province’s staples in their traditional and modernized forms.  You’ll taste our past and present, created by some of the city’s most talented cooks.

It was impossible for me to get away on the media preview of Tourism Winnipeg’s “Homegrown Trail” but having been on a couple of culinary trails in Stratford Ontario last fall, I was anxious to see what had been put together in my own backyard, as it were.  We began with Fusion Grill, not exactly in my own backyard but pretty close-a block and a half walk away.  The cafe’s close proximity actually makes me guilty about not dining there more often as owner Scot McTaggart is an old friend of ours from a time when we all worked at a popular restaurant together.  Scot’s culinary philosophy has always been a passion for “local”, years before the trend was in vogue.  Scot declares that his wish has always been a simple one: “to sell carrots from my own backyard.”  As Scot described his memory, my own came back so clearly: He recalls raiding a garden for carrots and scraping off the dirt with your hands.  He remembers the sweetness and the crunch and adds “even the dirt tasted good.”  Being the scaredy cat that I was, I never raided a garden but was able to pick as many carrots as I desired from my Grandma’s garden as a reward for helping her weed and water.  As a very little girl, she taught me how to make a fist around the carrot and pull it through to scrape away most of the dirt.  Even though I didn’t like to get dirty as a child, I recall leaving as much Saskatchewan mud as possible on those carrots because I whole-heartedly agree with Scot: even the dirt tasted good.

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On this day, the sample of Panko-Crusted Pickerel cheeks was sublime.  Gutsy Scot was the first of Winnipeg’s restaurateurs to deliver Manitoba regional cuisine like lamb, pickerel cheeks, Arctic Char, Northern Pike caviar and grass-fed beef.  The all-Canadian wine list was also a bold move when he first opened but feels vindicated now with the focus on both food and wine from closer to home.  He believes that Canadian wines are the perfect pairing to chef Lorna Murdoch’s cuisine.

Fusion Grill on Urbanspoon

Next on the trail was a stop that we didn’t make on our mini-tour.  We consider Mise Bistro (although not walking distance) still one of our favourite neighbourhood restaurants.  Over the years we have sampled their pickerel too, loving it with a dusting of corn-meal. Also an old-favourite but not visited on this day was Fude where Chris Fougere passionately explained to us years ago, his spin on deconstructing and reconstructing his restaurant’s dishes.  Fude was the first place we had ever tried chocolate chicken!  We couldn’t place the taste at first and then recalled savouring mole chicken in Mexico, on one of our first visits, years prior. Also not included on our mini-tour was Prairie 360 but coincidentally I got to enjoy lunch there the very next day.  I once lived across the back-lane from the Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company where aromas of their cinnamon buns would wake me out of a morning sleep.  For the epitome of home sweet home cooking, Sonya’s across town in my old stomping grounds of EK/Elmwood is on the full trek but not our mini version.  No matter, I can vividly recall owner Steve’s cheerful banter as he served us house make cheddar and potato perogies served with grilled onions and crispy pieces of bacon.

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Don’t think that I didn’t eat my fill on this mini-tour as our next stop was Market Burger.  As soon as we sat down a platter of “sides” arrived at the table.  I had a difficult time deciding which I loved the best between their excellent onion rings, hand-cut fries, hickory shoe-string fries or their deep-fried pickles.  I have been unimpressed with fried pickles in the past but this authentic kosher dill pickle (I suspected it was an Elman’s) was elevated by the crunchy batter that adorned it.

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I had to stop myself from eating all of the tasty sides as no less than 6 sliders arrived soon thereafter including the Desi (spiced Pakistani-style beef), the Mac ‘n Cheese, the Banh Mi (reminiscent of my favourite Vietnamese dishes) and the Smothered Chili Burger.  I was about to declare the Butter Chicken Burger my favourite until I bit into the piece de résistance: the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger!  Sweet/salty/savoury all in one compact taste-heaven, I’m in heaven……

Market Burger on Urbanspoon

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Our last (but certainly not least) stop on the tour was at Peasant Cookery which serves ” real food from the land.”  I have tasted many of award winning Chef Tristan Foucault’s dishes but never had room for dessert, being satiated by his charcuterie, poutine, pickerel or gnocchi.  This stop though was just for dessert and although I thought that I could not possibly consume another thing, I gleefully managed to slurp down all of the berry sorbet and goat milk cheesecake.  The piggy shaped short bread cookies were the “icing on the cake” so to speak.

Peasant Cookery on Urbanspoon

So in answer to the question: where should we eat in Winnipeg?-there are just too many choices, so try one of Tourism Winnipeg’s Trails whether you re a visitor to our fair city or “Homegrown” like me.

Kath’s quote: “This little piggy went to market….”

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 


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3 Comments to

“Winnipeg’s Culinary Series-The Homegrown Trail”

  1. Avatar July 4th, 2014 at 12:13 am Terry Says:

    Hi, enjoyed your article, please tell me where one could sign up for such a tour and the cost for the same.

    Thanks


  2. Avatar July 4th, 2014 at 8:12 am Kathryne Says:

    It is a self guided tour with no package price. For all the details, see the Peg City Grub website.


  3. Avatar October 24th, 2014 at 12:20 pm Enoteca Wine Repository | Winnipeg food blog Says:

    […] one of many. The exceptional restaurants within walking distance of our home verge on gluttonous: Fusion Grill, In Ferno’s, Pizzeria Gusto, Chew, Bonfire Bistro, Mona Lisa and now right smack at the end of […]


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