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How to successfully eat your nine meals a day in Winnipeg

Previously unbeknownst to me, there are not three, but rather nine meals that one can consume in one day.

Wikipedia recently taught me this (so it must be true!) in their decidedly British sounding Meal section, with the day’s eating going as follows: Breakfast, Second breakfast, Brunch, Elevenses, Lunch, Tea, Dinner, Supper and finally, Snack.

Now, I’ve certainly come close to this without knowing when hosting travel writers in the city, but I’ve never set it out on paper as to what would be the ideal nine meals you could eat in Winnipeg.

So, in the spirit of it all (and as an excellent excuse to give some recognition to restaurants we haven’t covered as much as we should on this website), here goes:

Breakfast – considering that this will be the first of nine meals for the day, timing is going to be of the essence, so getting in and out of breakfast in an expedient fashion is a must.

As regulars of Falafel Place (1101 Corydon Avenue) will tell you, no one is abler at taking your order, feeding you, billing you, then seeing you on your way quite like affable owner Ami Hassan. He’s a pro at prompt service #nocampers, as there is guaranteed to be people waiting for your table because the Falafel Breakfast ($12.75), which gets you two eggs, eight little falafel balls, hummus and tahini with a side of toast or pita, is all the creamy garlicky goodness you should be looking for to start that engine. (Plus, as you can see below, they’ve just celebrated 30 years in business! #congrats)


Second Breakfast –
If you are not a hobbit, second breakfast might be a new concept. Wikipedia tells us it’s big in Bavaria, Poland and Hungary, and should be done around 10:30 a.m. featuring “coffee and pastries or some sausages.” In order to get that trifecta in one spot, let’s do Miss Browns (288 William Avenue), where we can get a sausage & egg roll on brioche ($6.50, and possibly the best breakfast… sorry second breakfast… sandwich in the city) along with a pastry from Sleepy Owl Bakery (also amazing) and a strong, silky flat white made by one of their baristas.

Brunch – I’m a firm believer that there is no better brunch than the dim sum brunch, and for me Northern Garden (6-33 University Crescent) is where it’s at for dim sum in Winnipeg (along with Noodle Express, of course). Get dim sum standards like shumai, har gow, BBQ pork buns, and some gai lan with oyster sauce (because you should at least be getting some greens in this meal mix) and you’ll do just fine.


Elevensies –
both the best meal name ever, and the toughest one to fit into your morning routine. Wikipedia tells us this can also be referred to as “morning tea” and “a short break taken at around 11 a.m. to consume a drink or snack of some sort.” With that in mind, there ain’t no tea party like The Amsterdam Tea Room‘s tea parties. This new place in the Exchange (211 Bannatyne Avenue) is steeped in loose leaf tea options, its handsome walls are adorned with the work of Winnipeg artists, and the large focal point window is perfect for people watching as you sip away.

Lunch – for our second “proper” meal of the day I want to give a shout-out to Crème De L’Essence (#16 – 1833 Inkster Boulevard), a place that is flying under the radar for a lot of people all while garnering respect from certain chefs and restaurant workers I talk to. Chef RJ Urbano is making gorgeous, inventive food in this small cafe, reworking dishes that combine his Filipino roots with his French training. Just check out their Instagram account; it’s terribly exciting.


Tea –
this takes us to mid-afternoon, and one can’t think of afternoon tea without images of slender sandwiches with the crusts cut off and perhaps some jams and crumpets. Ideally, you’d want this served in an aesthetically pleasing setting — one where you and your friends can discuss how the cordwainer has just crafted you some jaunty new brogues. High Tea Bakery (2103 Portage Ave) is the place for this; the room is charming and all their cakes, cookies, and creations are artfully adorned. Plus, they have arguably the best imperial cookies in town, they have a fine selection of organic teas, and they have a full “dainties” section on the menu. What more could you ask for during tea time?

Dinner – “the heavy main meal of the day,” says Wikipedia, which once referred to any large meal eaten during the day. Sticking with this large theme, I say we go big and French and throw in some panoramic views of the city at Promenade Café and Wine (130 C Provencher Boulevard). Promenade is the spot for updates on old-school classics — a place where you’d like to pat your belly (which you’ll have by now, this being meal number seven) after washing down your last bite with a gulp of pinot noir. Go with the confit de canard served with a berry gastrique, or the bison tourtière — which could be our city’s flagship dish. Or, if you go in the morning, which could still be dinner if it is big enough apparently, then do the smoked salmon eggs Benedict (I just had this this morning and it was so good; the lemony hollandaise and house-smoked salmon were ideal).

A perfect snack to welcome me back. #meatballs #keepitcloseco

A photo posted by Close Company (@keepitcloseco) on


Supper –
 If your body hasn’t shut down yet, you may still have room for supper, which we are told is, “not to be confused with supper-time, or dinner.” Wikipedia continues that, “Supper may refer to, on largely class-based distinctions, either a late-evening snack (working and middle class usage) or else to make a distinction between “supper” as an informal family meal (which would be eaten in the kitchen or family dining room) as opposed to “dinner”, a generally grander affair (either or both in terms of the meal and the courses within the meal itself), which would be eaten in the best dining room [my emphasis], could well have guests from outside the household, and for which there might be a dress code.”

(I tell you, this Wikipedia page on Meals is amazing. I now really need to meet someone with a second-best dinning room in their house so I can get invited over for dinner — which I hope would be served in the best dining room.)

Anyway, following those guidelines, here are two options: First, you could just walk a few blocks down Provencher to Le Garage Café (166 Provencher Blvd) where the late night menu presents the possibility of ordering an alliteration of poutine, pints and pickerel sticks (with the poutine in particular being one of the best in the city). Or, you could head to Close Company (256 Stafford Street), which has become for many one of the best new spots in the city. Close Co. is open until midnight, it’s tiny yet cozy, the service is impeccable, and the food that comes out of the tiny kitchen (which surely is the smallest in the city) is so well-executed. And note, they also do lunch and brunch now too.

Persillade crusted lamb rack, pickled squash and squash purée, mustard seed yogurt.

A photo posted by Hidden In Plain Sight (@soussolwpg) on


Snack – 
If you haven’t yet died or exploded like Mr. Creosote in The Meaning of Life, you can move on to the finale, Snack.

Now it’s going to be late by this point — like past midnight — which is just fine as this city now has that part of the evening covered. Great, late night rooms now include Sous Sol (22-222 Osborne Street. Erik’s drinks are the best!) and The Roost (651 Corydon Avenue), both of which are open until 2 a.m., have really cool vibes, and above all, excellent cocktails and food.

As well, when I’m feeling snacky, my other go-to is SMITH at Inn at the Forks (75 Forks Market Road. Open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday) for three main reasons: one, the room is gorgeous; two, I love the drinks — particularly the always updated takes on the negroni; and three, the pounded cheese (with garlic chips, cider vinegar, honey, chives and sourdough – $12) is one of the best drinking foods you can get — it’s salty, sweet and interactive.

Note: the lede image is a dinner party at Sous Sol (PCG)

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Guest blog: Globe and Mail (Calgary) food critic Dan Clapson on where to eat in Winnipeg

When Dan Clapson isn’t visiting Winnipeg and taking Instagram shots of everything he is eating (ample evidence below), he can generally be founding galavanting across Canada so he can produce works for Food Network Canada Online, WestJet MagazineEat North (which just came out with a national restaurant job posting website Dan would like to make you aware of: jobs.eatnorth.com), and more.

At home in Calgary he is the restaurant critic for The Globe and Mail, as well as a writer for Avenue, Culinaire and The Bay St. Bull. He has appeared on Cityline and pops up on various morning news shows across Western Canada, but most regularly on Global Calgary as their restaurant and food travel correspondent.

Below, he dishes (all in his own words) on what he loves about dining in Winnipeg:

It doesn’t matter if it is in the depths of winter when temperatures dip and the city comes alive with Festival Du Voyager and RAW: almond, or in peak summer when every patio is packed with people eating and drinking, Winnipeg is a city where there is always something I can look forward to.

After traveling here regularly over the past four or so years, I have really come to love this city’s thriving food scene and and the vibrant personalities passionately involved in making it so.

I could go on and on (and on and on and on) about where I enjoy dining in Winnipeg, but here’s a few of my favourites (alphabetically):

Boon Burger (79 Sherbrook Street & 141 Bannatyne Avenue) – Do you know how hard it is to find a decent veggie burger in this country? It’s pretty damn hard and finding a delicious vegan burger is approximately one million times more difficult. Boon does a great job of being an ethically-minded burger joint that delivers in the same “meaty”, hangover-curing way that, say, the Royale from deer + almond does (also a ridiculously tasty burger). My favourite thing to order here is the Prairie Fried Chik’n Burger with a Boon Shake on the side.


Enoteca (1670 Corydon Avenue) 
– I haven’t eaten here since the wintertime, and just a handful of times in 2015, but Scott Bagshaw’s eatery has all of the makings of top tier North American restaurant. The menu changes often, but signatures like tartare and foie gras are always around. It’s a dish that should always hit your table. I also enjoy that this great spot only offers wine because as cool as cocktails can be, wine culture isn’t celebrated nearly enough in Winnipeg.

Beef tartare at Enoteca (photo by Dan Clapson/Eat North)

Beef tartare at Enoteca (photo by Dan Clapson/Eat North)

Forth (171 McDermot Avenue) – There aren’t many places in this country where you could effectively spend an entire day in. Since Forth opened, it’s been my go-to spot to have coffee (roasted in the building) and get some writing done in the mornings while I’m visiting Winnipeg. And although Instagram has made avocado toast an overexposed and occasionally eye-rolling picture to look at, it is very tasty here. The cocktail bar downstairs is an awesome spot for drinks and the interior design is even better. Sitting down there feels like you’ve been transported to some European mecca for a fun night out. Doesn’t get better than that.


Nick’s on Broadway (287 Broadway)
– I feel like there is a constant discussion of what’s better: King and Bannantyne or Nick’s, and King does make some tasty sandwiches, but I like the more gritty feel of Nick’s and that their sandwiches are a bit more “down and dirty.” If I want a simple, quick and easy lunch in Winnipeg, this is where I’m headed.

Segovia (484 Stradbrook Avenue) – The first time I came to Winnipeg, I remember that almost every single person that I bumped into would say: “You need to go to Segovia.” There’s always the danger of a hyped restaurant failing to deliver, but this place always delivers in terms of food execution, stellar service and ambiance. The Spanish classics like chorizo and apples (my favourite dish) or anchovy toast are impeccable and the other contemporary dishes like the fried beets with cashew gremolata are out of this world (you can order the beets at Clementine too in The Exchange). Yes, I fangirl pretty hard over Segovia. I wish I could transport it to Calgary somehow!


Sous Sol (22-222 Osborne St) 
– I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly the inspiration behind this cocktail establishment’s design was, but I’d describe it as dungeon-meets-grandma’s-house-meets-thirft-shop? I mean that in the most loving way possible. It’s always a fun time having the well-crafted libations in this funky space and chef Mike Robins classic French food is top notch. Classic French food can be a little stuffy, but in a room like this one, Sous Sol manages to shake all the pretences.


The Tallest Poppy (103 Sherbrook Street)
 – What makes Poppy special doesn’t necessarily lie in its from-scratch comfort food, its surprisingly good cocktails, the quirky interior, or its unique artists-in-residency program. It’s a combination of it all. The idea of community that has been created around Talia Syrie’s restaurant is, to me, very unique for Canada and 100 per cent genuine, which makes it even more special. If you sit down to eat a BLT on that delicious, cheesy bread or the bourbon peach cinnamon toast — it is so good and only $5, steal of a deal! — it doesn’t feel like you’re supporting an independent restaurant; it feels like you’re supporting Winnipeg. I love that.


Vera Pizza (670 Osborne Street)
– Vera is such a great example of the K.I.S.S. mentality. You know, “keep it simple, stupid.” Find a quality pizza dough recipe, keep your menu nice and tight, keep the space small and what you end up with is a no-reservations spot that people are willing to wait an hour (or longer) to get into. From the well-dressed house salad and the meatballs to the Salsiccia pizza with house-made fennel sausage and, last, but not least, the buttermilk panna cotta, this little pizzeria is always a home run.

 

ManyFest 2014 Food Truck Wars (640x427)

Winnipeg fall food events that only your waistline will want to miss

If you are into food festivals and all round gluttony, Winnipeg in September is the place to be.

Much like kids who are currently hitting the panic button with that first day of school looming so close, your midriff might be looking to pull the parachute too, as this upcoming month is no friend to diets or calorie counting.

To truly conquer this month’s epic epicurean events you’ll have to eat 59 burgers in one week, sample food from 30 food trucks in three days, then eat 10 poutines in one evening. And then, you will most likely die.

So now that we’ve put that out there, let’s see what September has in store, shall we?

Up first is Le Burger Week, which takes place in Winnipeg (and other select Canadian cities along with Port-au-Prince, Haiti) from September 1st to the 7th.

King + Bannatyne's River City Brisket Burger (Brett Howe)

King + Bannatyne’s River City Brisket Burger (Brett Howe)

This is the fourth year for Le Burger week in Winnipeg (the excellent peeps of Charcoal organize the Winnipeg leg — check out their website, it is full of stylish Winnipeg stuff), and as I alluded to above, there are nearly 60 participating restaurants in Winnipeg, that Charcoal has listed here in alphabetical order, along with sexy burger pics from their photographer Brett Howe.

The Le Burger Week gist is this: go out and eat a bunch of burgers at a bunch of the participating restaurants, then vote for your favourite burger(s) on the Le Burger Website (link here), once it goes live on September 1st.

Get this: some people (or more often groups, whereby people can share and take a bite of a burger each) have gone out and tried them all in years past. These are the kinds of people who will be the first to colonize far-off planets, such is their lust for adventure and daring. In fact, if you can prove to me that you ate (almost) every single burger over the course of the week, I will personally take you for lunch at V.J’s Drive-In (my fave burger joint).*

NuBurger — Winnipeg’s locally sourced, grass-fed, hormone-free burger spot will be looking to take the crown for a fourth straight time while facing competition from some truly dazzling offerings that are worth noting. Indeed, some of the entrants are so elaborate that their list of ingredients constitute full paragraphs.

The Handsome Daughter's entrant, the (photo by Brett Howe)

The Handsome Daughter’s entrant, The Steamed Ham (photo by Brett Howe)

Take for instance The Steamed Ham from The Handsome Daughter, a belligerent burger on a brioche bun toasted in bone marrow with a house-ground beef patty with sautéed lobster mushrooms, a “disc of bacon,” Bothwell smoked gouda, tomato jam and more… including an extra of pan-seared foie gras #meatsweats.

Many feature at least two types of meat. King + Bannatyne’s River City Brisket Burger looks particularly impressive with its house-ground brisket and chuck patty topped with its near-famous smoked brisket and special sauce, while VG at the Fairmont’s Bite Mi has a shrimp, chorizo and beef patty. And it’s not just beef — of the several fried chicken burgers the KYU Bistro KYU Burger and Bernstein’s Deli’s Super Delicious Fried Chicken Burger look terribly exciting, while Chosabi is doing an ahi tuna patty. Perhaps best of all is the vast selection of sexy homemade buns, which is so important for getting that golden bun to burger ratio.

For my two cents, I was really impressed last year with Deer + Almond’s entry, the “Big trouble in little China” chicken burger, which tasted like everything great about steamed buns at dim sum (along with bonus points for a toasted nori dusting on the bun). While on the traditional side of things Oscar’s Deli’s Dirty Burger was massive, bold, and extremely juicy.

Two days after Le Burger Week wraps up is when you can take your appetite to the streets, as Downtown Winnipeg Biz presents one of ManyFest’s (September 9-11) marquee events, that being Food Truck Wars.

ManyFest Food Truck Wars (Downtown Winnipeg Biz)

ManyFest Food Truck Wars (Downtown Winnipeg Biz)

Winnipeg’s food truck scene is really off the chain these days, with our comprehensive guide now listing nearly 50 trucks on the city’s streets. The majority of these trucks will be competing over the course of three days for Food Truck Wars‘ four coveted titles, those being People’s Choice Winner (based on overall votes) and Judges’ Award Winners for Best Presentation, Best Bang for your Buck and Most Original.

Here’s the gist: when you arrive at ManyFest, which takes place on right on Broadway at Memorial Boulevard, you will see at least 30 food trucks lined up, along with a table in the centre where you can pick up your ballot to fill out once you’ve had your food truck fill.

If you can eat from all 30 food trucks over the course of three days, I won’t offer you anything — not even a hug — because you won’t want one. I was on the judging panel last year for this and after eating one dish from every truck, all I wanted to do was to be left alone, like a python who has gorged on an entire antelope and then is physically useless for the next year while it digests.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be amazing! The trick is to be selective (use our guide!) and assemble a sturdy group of gourmands to grab dishes from the Many trucks. This way, you get so many options without having to truly stretch your eating endurance.

You are guaranteed to find some culinary delights from wonderful wood fire pizzas (The Red Ember is a perennial crowd favourite — as massive lines will attest, but don’t forget about Fire’d Up which scored big on our judges’ scorecards last year), to all sorts of tacos, to sushi, to what appears to be a whole slew of barbecue trucks that are new to the scene.

Last year KYU Grill took People’s Choice Award for their Heroshima skewer-style sandwiches, while us judges were enamoured with Tot Wheels (Best Presentation, and I would have given them taste were there such an award), The Churro Shop (Bang for your Buck) and Island Fusion, whose plantain sliders were vote Most-Original.

After that, you at least have a few weeks to hit the gym, yoga studio, TRX class or what have you (because Winnipeg is #blessed with some great facilities) so you can get back into fighting shape for the 2016 Poutine Cup, which takes place on September 28 starting at 5:30 p.m. at everyone’s favourite festival venue, Fort Gibraltar.

The Grove took honourable mentions from the judges and made the top 3 in the popular vote in 2015 (PCG)

The Grove took honourable mentions from the judges and made the top 3 in the popular vote in 2015 (PCG)

Poutine Cup — now entering its third year — is more than just ten excellent Winnipeg restaurants putting their best fry forward with Bothwell cheese curd and gravy for one of two trophies. It’s a real cultural event and pretty sweet little party, where you can mingle with at least 300 other poutine enthusiasts in the Fort’s beautiful setting while washing it all down with some cold local beers and cocktails.

I also judged this one last year (and I will be again this year) and although it can be salty — in the literal sense for once — it can also be innovative and incredibly tasty.

Poutine under purple and pink prairie skies (PCG)

Poutine under purple and pink prairie skies (PCG)

Case in point during the first Poutine Cup when us judges (which included chef Mandel Hitzer and food writer Robin Summerfield) awarded our Judges’ Choice to Maw’s Eatery. The Maw’s crew blew us away by pickle brining their fries for their ruben poutine, which now sits in my memory bank of top five poutines (and that includes post-bar ones, which always taste the best).

Last year (link here), Marion Street Eatery took both People’s and Judges’ Choice (in 2014 they took People’s Choice too) with a tremendous poutine called “The Drunken Baba,” which featured vodka horseradish cream, julienned beets and dill pickles, garlic sausage crumble and caramelized onion gravy on thin fries. Sweet mercy, it was marvellous.

Marion Street Eateries two trophy winning entry (PCG)

Marion Street Eateries two trophy winning entry (PCG)

Poutine Cup is being organized and hosted by culinary power couple Connie and Shawn Brandson, who, along with running Fort Gibraltar Dining Corporation, also own Promenade Cafe and Wine and run Provisions at Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site.

For tickets, you have to visit the official website (link here), where you can join the mailing list to ensure you get first dibs when they are released — which you will want to do, as last year this event sold out within hours.

Three hundred tickets will initially be sold for Poutine Cup, with another 200 released the day or so before the event weather depending (if it rains, they can’t release those other tickets).

*Offer valid only for the first person (and/or group of four or less) to prove that they have indeed done this. We’ll be getting a V.J’s Special with extra crispy fries in a box, as it should be.