14 October 2014

It's Cabin Time

Recently, Chris and I have been jonesing for a bit of a get away. We discussed Seattle, Portland, Washington D.C. and Montreal, but we just didn't have the cash for the flights. So, for the first time ever, we decided to rent a cabin. After a fair bit of research, we went with Riverview Lodge for its lakefront views, option for a private outdoor hot tub and the fact that they allow pets (although we ended up deciding to leave Slim with family for the weekend).

It was a weekend of relaxing outdoors, drinking pour over coffees, curling up with good books, trying out new recipes, building fires, long talks and spending time with my absolute favourite human on the planet.

I'm so glad we decided to do this and it's definitely an option we'll be using again. Owners Margriet and Walter were so kind, helpful and thorough, and the entire weekend was an absolute dream.

6 October 2014

Winnipeg Neighbourhood Guide 3: West Broadway/Wolseley

Known affectionately as "The Granola Belt," Wolseley has a long and fascinating history as a residential district. Thanks to concerted community efforts to fight Dutch Elm disease, it's canopied by great, hardy elms: making it one of the most beautiful places for a fall stroll in the city. And right nearby, West Broadway has been blowing up over the past year or two. With a crop of hip new businesses and a brand new bike lane along Sherbrook, its dingier days seem long gone. Wolseley/West Broadway is rapidly becoming one of the hottest destinations and most desirable areas in the city.

Seriously one of the better cheeseburgers I've ever bit into. Jon grinds his own beef, so yeah, you can get that patty medium or rare. The food is simple, but flavourful with quality you can taste and the beers and spirits are nicely curated.

Boon Burger
With its all-vegan burger menu, this is a fantastic (and rare) choice for vegetarians, vegans or people like me who just enjoy a good veggie meal now and then. The menu offers a lot of variety and everything I've tried has been fresh, wholesome and delicious.

Oh, and their soft serve is a thing of beauty.

The Tallest Poppy
It's back and people are excited. The decor is eclectic and homey, the staff are friendly and the breakfast is great. I had the Talia breakfast. The bacon was fantastic, the toast was thick cut, perfectly crispy and amazing dipped into my poached eggs, and the salad was fresh and flavourful.

They're still working out some efficiency quirks (seating lagged a bit and our bill was mislaid) but it's only been a week, folks, they're going to work it out. Using the honour system to seat waiting tables creates a friendly, communal vibe. I dig it.

The Nook
Winnipeg loves a greasy spoon, and this one fits the bill with a vintage eclectic spin. Busy, buzzing and familiar all at once.

If you want breakfast cheap and fast, go here. This place is about as blue collar as it gets, with plastic cups, plenty of fried meats and most breakfasts costing less than 5$. The hours are a bit strange and the place is TINY, but the open kitchen, friendly staff and solid food are worth the hassle.

Stella's Cafe and Bakery
Yet another excellent spot for a great brunch. A wide ranging menu with something for everyone and fresh ingredients. Pop next door and take home some bread or delicious baked goods.
Thom Bargen
A hip place to grab a great cup of coffee. They offer quite a bit more seating than most of the specialty coffee shops in town, so it's a great spot for a meeting or study session with a pour over in hand. They also carry a fair bit of coffee gear and beans for your home brewing needs.

The Handsome Daughter
Much to my disappointment, The Handsome Daughter has hit a few snags with their opening date, so I haven't yet had the opportunity to belly up for a drink. But people are talking and I have high hopes that this divvy new place will finally put an end to the revolving door of new business turn-over in this spot.

I'll update you the minute it opens.
Wilder Dry Goods
Located at the rear of Thom Bargen, Wilder sells beautifully made bags with durable, equitably sourced materials. Their bags are designed with everyday use in mind; they're hella tough and they'll only look better with age.

You can also poke your head in back to see the boys at work making beautiful new products.

Organic Planet
This tiny little organic co-op oozes hippy ambience, and is seriously a place worth spending your money on those foods that just taste best organic. I lack the commitment (and honestly the cash) to eat organic all the time, but when it comes to seasonal produce, why not, right?

The Shoe Doctor
This is where I bought my Blundstones five years ago (when this was pretty much the only place in the city you could find them) and four Winnipeg winters later, those boots are still withstanding the test of time. If you've spent a winter here, you know how amazing/rare that is in a shoe :)

They also do affordable and reliable shoe repairs.

Humboldt's Legacy
A great spot to pick up earth-friendly home products - think organic cotton linens, eco cleaning products, hemp shower curtains and more. The staff is knowledgeable and passionate about the environment, but you'll never feel shamed by them. They honestly just want to be part of a positive shift away from waste culture. And their stuff is beautiful.

Tall Grass Prairie Bakery
Two words: cinnamon bun. Seriously dudes, just do it.

The Neighbourhood
Cozy up with a warm beverage and a gently used book from the shelves of this cafe/bookstore. A great, homey place to spend an afternoon or evening.
Art City
By supporting and giving voice to local artists in the city and putting on great events while they're at it, Art City adds something special to Winnipeg's art culture. Check their website for info on upcoming events and to learn how you can support.

Among the most beautiful old churches in the city: complete with stained glass, towering ceilings, organ music and church bells. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a wedding or a Christmas concert here, do it.

Balmoral Street Houses
Just south of Broadway Avenue along Balmoral lies a cluster of beautiful old historic houses. Stroll along, read the placards and appreciate Winnipeg's long history.

Working on this series so far has really help me to appreciate Winnipeg so much more, and I hope it's doing the same for you. I'll be back after Thanksgiving long weekend with more posting goodness.

29 September 2014

Doughnut Craze

Just a few short weeks ago, Amanda Kinden quietly began selling limited quantities of delicious, gourmet doughnuts at Parlour Coffee.

Each morning, she posts a photo to Instagram and Twitter of the delicious varieties available for the day (think cranberry ginger jam, coconut cream meringue and lavender glaze) and each day, Winnipeggers go nuts for them.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on my first one - a thyme-glazed beauty - two weeks ago and reached out to Amanda immediately for an interview. She's the first real option for lovers of gourmet doughnuts in Winnipeg, and the response has been (mostly) overwhelmingly positive. Demand for these babies is so high that Parlour typically runs out by 11am and the staff have joked about implementing an eat-in-only policy.

Last week, I had the privilege of meeting Amanda early one morning at Parlour to chit chat, take a few photos, and try both flavours that day. Amanda's also been kind enough to answer a few of my questions, despite her baking-filled days and upcoming wedding (congrats!).
How long have you been baking? Can you tell me a little bit about why you chose doughnuts?
I have been baking for about 10 years. My mom and I used to bake Christmas treats every year. Once I moved out on my own, I discovered cooking and more elaborate baking, and I haven't looked back. I'm always looking for a challenge, and I like to try out new ingredients. 

I actually stumbled upon doughnuts. I was asked to make dessert for a Manitoba Eco-Network event back in February. I was trying to think of what to make - something that would accommodate vegan and gluten-free options. Doughnuts came to mind, and they were very well received. People asked for my business card and if they could order from me. It occurred to me that there weren't good doughnuts in Winnipeg, whereas many other major cities have dedicated doughnut shops. I had originally wanted to open a vegetarian restaurant with vegan options, and doughnuts seemed like a more manageable endeavour.  

What are some of your favourite flavour combinations? Do you have a favourite doughnut?
I'm really into chocolate and caramel, oh, and chocolate and mint. Chocolate wins my heart every time. (ed. note: a woman after my own heart!) 

I often say that fruit has no place in dessert, so the fruit-filled doughnuts I make are more a realization that many people do like fruit for dessert, and it's not all about me and what I like. My favourite doughnut is the chocolate cake dipped in chocolate: sometimes with toasted coconut.

People have been going crazy trying to get their hands on your doughnuts! What's the craziest story, tweet or gram you've come across about the demand for them?
The response has been amazing! The craziest tweet was from a woman who started off saying she had to resist the doughnuts (it was chocolate caramel pretzel that day) because she had to be in a swimsuit in 2 weeks. Then a few minutes later, she said she couldn't resist and was heading to Parlour. Then, when she arrives, she tweets that there is a long line. A minute later, she tweets that a guy just walked out with a box of doughnuts. Finally, she gets to the counter, and tweets that the doughnuts were not worth the wait, because they were sold out. She and her friends tweeted a bit, then one of them said something like "We don't need their stupid doughnuts." That twitter conversation escalated quickly! 

Also, the baristas at Parlour have said some people have walked into Parlour asking if this was the doughnut shop. And Facebook makes you add an address when you start a page for a business. Because I don't have my own kitchen yet, I had to put my home address. I got a message on Facebook saying some people had just driven across the city to my street because they thought there was a doughnut shop there!

What about your job would surprise people?
Hmm. That it's just me? That I fry all the doughnuts three at a time in a pot (until I find my own kitchen space so I can use my doughnut fryer).

Do you have any future plans for expansion?
I have many plans for future expansion! I am just trying to find a space and get my financing in order and hope to increase my capacity within a few months.  I thought that I could start the business slowly by selling at Parlour, then opening my own place. I didn't anticipate the awesome reception and demand for fresh, homemade doughnuts in Winnipeg. It's basically the best problem to have. I'm also very appreciative of all the support from Winnipeggers; whether it is people buying doughnuts, or other small business owners offering advice, I've been very fortunate.
A big thank you to Amanda and congrats on her sudden success. If you want to try one of her doughnuts (and I definitely recommend you do), go early, and if they're already out, Parlour also serves some amazing coffee and a selection of non-donut pastry options :)

22 September 2014

Summer to Fall Shift

Last week marked the official end of summer, and the cool, misty weekend mornings and turning leaves seem to agree: it's fall folks!

If you're looking for a sensational summer to fall crossover treat, the pumpkin soft serve from Sargent Sundae is the stuff dreams are made of (imagine the creamiest, most delicious slice of pumpkin pie in soft ice cream form). It's made with real pumpkin and available until Sargent Sundae closes its doors for another winter on October 31st.

Grab some and stroll through the beautiful trees of Assiniboine Park or scarf it down in your car - no judgement.
Sargent Sundae on Urbanspoon

15 September 2014

Winnipeg Neighbourhood Post 2: St Boniface/Norwood Grove

My hopes are set so high for the St. Boniface and Norwood Grove area. With the Esplanade Riel, the brand spankin' new Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Cathedral ruins clustered together, it's the most popular fodder for tourist-y skyline shots; yet there are dilapidated pockets with occasionally downright bizarre businesses dotting the area. It lies so close to some high traffic tourist areas, but there are only a few truly good restaurants to choose from. Yet, with some new and exciting businesses moving into the area in the last year or so, together with its growing popularity in the housing market, I have real hopes for its continued improvement.

As before, each category is arranged from most to least highly recommended. I've selected the spots that I think exemplify some of the best Winnipeg has to offer, but if you ever think I've missed something great, please, let me know!

Resto Gare
A railway station building and an attached observation car transformed into a bistro and bar, this is a truly unique Winnipeg institution. Dishes are high quality and flavour packed with often locally sourced ingredients, and the service is impeccable. For a romantic and splurgy treat, try one of the Dîners pour Deux.

Marion Street Eatery
This little restaurant is in the same vein of the previously mentioned Village Cafe - a charming eatery tucked inside a fairly sketchy hotel/bar. Gourmet twists on tradition North American comfort food plus lovely minimalist yet cozy decor make this an exciting new spot in Winnipeg.

In Ferno's Bistro
With a cozy ambience, well-made dishes and a rotating specials list as long as my arm, Inferno's Bistro is an old date night spot for Chris and I. The patio is particularly lovely.

Cafe Postal
This cozy little specialty coffee shop is among my favourite spots in the city. They have the wildest cold brew contraption I've ever seen, their drinks are lovely, and all the natural wood is to die for. There are only a handful of spots to sit inside, but I've always found a place to perch.

Chocolatier Constance Popp
Head chocolatier Constance is among the best in Manitoba and her passion and attention to detail show in the chocolate she makes. Each bon bon is a delectable work of art that tastes just as good as it looks, and her chocolates are free of preservatives or artificial flavours.

The shop also serves coffee, pastries from A l'Epi de Ble (one of the best little French bakeries in Winnipeg), as well as specialty items like chocolate sculptures. For a unique Manitoba treat, try the Manitobar - rich dark chocolate paired with locally-sourced seeds in the shape of the province of Manitoba.

Le Croissant
Le Croissant makes some of the best fruit bread I've ever had the pleasure of slathering with butter. Their selection rotates regularly, so what's available depends on the day and time you get there (HINT: the earlier, the better). Their croissants have a bit more of a bread-like sponginess to them than, say, the buttery flakiness of Tall Grass Prairie at the Forks, but they're delightful.
À la Page
The teensiest bit run down (but hopefully some renovations coming soon?), À la Page is an excellent resource for your French literature needs. They also boast a small English lit section, but it's mostly tattered classics, and really, nothing to write home about. The French section on the other hand has a great mix of new and used, and the staff here are completely lovely.

Jardins St-Leon
I know I'm pushing the boundaries of Norwood Grove a bit with this one, but I admire Jardins St-Leon too much NOT to include it. The cutest little outdoor market runs daily across the summer months, and serves up a bevy of "real" produce ("real" meaning grown in Manitoba) and other fresh, Canadian foods.

Admirably, the owners hire almost exclusively local, French-speaking youth and also offer yard cleaning services to help you get your garden ready for the summer months.

La Boutique du Livre
If you're in the market for French books and games for children, this is your place. The atmosphere is airy and welcoming, and they offer a great selection.

Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface
A fascinating and beautiful reminder of our French history and the site of Louis Riel's grave: the ruined cathedral is eerily beautiful and completely free to visit. Grab some bread and coffee and enjoy them on the stone steps (which is precisely what I did with my dear friend Carly this past weekend).

Esplanade Riel
Penis jokes aside, this iconic pedestrian bridge is a great spot for photos and sports some pretty fabulous views. Enjoying gourmet dining on this bridge during Table for 1200 was an absolute dream. I've also heard good things about bridge restaurant Chez Sophie's private dining area for special events.

Fort Gibraltar
Open year-round, but a special treat during Festival du Voyageur, come watch blacksmiths, carpenters, weavers and more working in the style of the French-Canadian settlers. For more info on Festival, see my full post here.

Le Musée de St. Boniface Museum
Learn about the fascinating history of French settlement and French-Canadian and Metis culture in Western Canada in the former home of the Grey Nuns. Collections range from artifacts concerning the establishment of St. Boniface to the ambitions of Louis Riel and on. The artifacts are well curated, preserved and annotated and the staff is enthusiastic and welcoming.

Tourisme Riel
Located in the former City Hall Building of St. Boniface, this is where to find information about the area, peruse brochures and magazines about Winnipeg, and use free internet if you're visiting from away.