Croissant au saumon fumé (PCG)

Promenade Café and Wine’s patio is always prime time in summertime

If you don’t appreciate excellent food on a patio with stunning views of the city, Promenade Café and Wine is not for you.

This is what we thought aloud over lunch yesterday, as we were sipping some Santa Margherita pinot grigio, relishing our lunch of croissant sandwiches, and taking in the views across the Red River of The Forks, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and the downtown skyline.

It was a civilized lunch that we could have savoured all afternoon (were it not a Wednesday and we needed to get back to work).

The Promenade patio offers views of all of downtown (PCG)

The Promenade patio offers views of all of downtown (PCG)

The sun was beaming down but there were umbrellas overhead. There was people watching galore as it seemed most of St. Boniface was out for a stroll along the Red River. And, despite us not arriving until 1 p.m., the lunch rush was still going strong with a full patio and dining room inside.

The great thing about Promenade is it walks the line between neighbourhood restaurant and culinary destination. It’s where we frequently bring travel writers to eat while we are touring St. Boniface and where locals congregate to talk shop — usually en français — over a leisurely lunch.

And why Promenade? Well, aside from the aforementioned city views, this place always delivers with tasty updates on traditional french classics. Yesterday’s lunch was all about croissant sandwiches — because we all know that when you put savoury things in butter pastry you are going to win.

You can't beat Promenade Cafe and Wine for an al fresco lunch (PCG)

You can’t beat Promenade Cafe and Wine for an al fresco lunch (PCG)

I went with a croissant au saumon fumé ($13, pictured at top of article) which hit all the right notes. The salmon was moist, the fried capers added both texture and a brininess that magnified the flavours of the fish, while the runny hollandaise sauce made me want to high-five my server (and ask for more napkins). I ordered it accompanied by a simple salad loaded with local greens that were perfectly seasoned and dressed in a light raspberry vinaigrette (which was a great departure from those thick, hideous raspberry vinaigrettes that populate grocery shelves).

My coworker went with the croissant au prosciutto, poire et brie ($12) and the thick-cut fries. Anyone in the know knows that brie+pears+prosciutto is one of those holy trinity food combos (much like beets+ balsamic+chevre) so this seemed like a slam dunk — which our tastebuds verified. The thick-cut fries were on-target too — crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle.

Obligatory soft-focus Instagram shot of the pear, brie, prosciutto sandwich (PCG)

Obligatory soft-focus Instagram shot of the pear, brie, prosciutto sandwich (PCG)

You may be reading this saying, “fries are fries” — but no my friends, a good fry is a real work of art. Between the choosing of the size, the soak, the blanching and the second finishing deep-fry, there are a lot of variables. A good fry must be acknowledged.

I tell you, owners Shawn and Connie McKane-Brandson continue to have a great thing going on at Promenade, and that patio is just begging for your next lunch or dinner visit.

Promenade Café is located at 130 Provencher Blvd and is open 8 a.m to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday-Monday. 204.233.7030

French toast and orange creamsicle milkshakes from  Cakeology (PCG)

Four must-have street treats to beat the heat (or induce a nap)

Let’s just get this out there — when it comes to summer time sweetness you are hard-pressed to beat the legends that are Bridge Drive-In and Sargent Sundae.

In fact, there are 10 ice cream dream institutions that we’ve covered before, so today we wanted to feature four must-have new (or newish) sweets (because three is too cliché) that can be found around the streets of Winnipeg.

Bringing Popcart pops to a picnic is a total party starter (PCG)

Bringing Popcart pops to a picnic is a total party starter (PCG)

Pop Cart: If you are from Winnipeg and are on Instagram, then surely you have already at least seen these aesthetically-pleasing, fruit-forward creations from Angela Farkas and Alana Fiks. Marketing wise, they are killing it (just plug #popcart into IG to see for yourself), while their colourful pops quickly become the thing to have when these ladies pop up at events across the city (the refrain of, “oh my god, where did you get that popsicle?” will happen frequently if you are walking through the Exchange District with one of their numbers).

Here’s the gist: Farkas, who is a pastry chef at ERA Bistro, and Fiks, who works for the Province, started making these pops after being inspired by carts in Mexico and New York City. They started doing pop-ups around town (as they both work nine-to-fives) and now have two carts that they ordered in from Brazil.

They do an insane amount of fruity flavours for $4 (our staff loved the Arnold Palmer and Pineapple Ginger) while they also do premium numbers for $5, of which I’ve fawned over the Salted Caramel, while yearning to get at the Pumpkin Pie and Toasted Marshmallow. They also do ice cream sandwiches for $5, and they even make popsicles for dogs (using bone broth and veg) — because we all know you dog lovers out there will surely shell out $2 to give your pooch a tasty, cool treat.

For locations find them on Instagram and Twitter.

Cornell Creme ice cream cart: I’m really a big fan of Lisa Dyck’s ice cream, and not just because her cows once licked me while I was doing a CBC Radio interview with her at her farm. This is farm-to-table ice cream at its best (the milk all comes from her cows) while the flavour combos and textures of this full fat ice cream (it is generally 19 percent milk fat, versus the average of 12 per cent) is near moan and/or coma-inducing.

The Lemon Meringue is always a good choice, as is the Raspberry White Chocolate, while the Malty Ale Pale is a nice one for all you beer lovers out there. I’ve even had a Honey Mustard ice cream of hers (they frequently do small batch runs of wacky creations) that I would put on nearly anything, savoury or sweet.

Cornell Creme’s bike cart makes appearances at festivals around the city, serving up single serve beauties that you would inhale were it not for the risk of an ice cream headache. You can also buy them in one litre formats at all the shops listed here, which includes Cake-ology, which just happens to be our next stop.

Cake-ology: There are milkshakes, then there are Cake-ology‘s weekly array of “are you kidding me, this is a ridiculous, somewhat aggressive, yet-whimsical and full on flavoured, milkshake,” milkshakes. These bad boys (pictured at the top of the article) are a work of art, featuring Prairie West Ice Cream that is jazzed up more than a Charlie Parker solo with whip cream and sprinkles.

My two favs so far (they just started doing milkshakes in June) are the French Toast and the Orange Creamsicle. The French Toast version is like drinking a really healthy breakfast with a creamy texture studded with maple syrup and bits of actual eggy bread decadence; it is surely chock-full of calcium and protein, which does a body good right? (I am not a dietician). I recommend you bring a friend because, like a tandem bicycle, these $6 monsters are built for two.

Cake-ology is located at 85 Arthur Street, right in the midst of the Exchange District and all the Fringe Fest action this week. So Fringers, if you need a decadent-yet-cool, pick-me-up between shows, you now know where to go.

The fancy plated version of Better Than Baba's blueberry perogie (Better Than Baba's)

The fancy plated version of Better Than Baba’s blueberry perogie (Better Than Baba’s)

Better Than Baba’s dessert perogies: Also hanging all week at the Fringe Festival will be the Better Than Baba’s food truck — a purple behemoth of a truck that serves incredible perogies, including sour cherry and a blueberry versions that will make you more than a couple friends if you are willing to share.

Better Than Baba’s young owner Andrew Malitsky is from the Ukraine (he moved here when he was 14) and wanted to show the city how perogies are done back in the homeland. He uses organic, locally milled flour to make the excellent dough, which has a toothy texture like al dente pasta. The sour cherry filling is both tart and a touch sweet, while the blueberry is a little taste of pure Canadiana. They both get topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some chocolate sauce and will be there for you if you ever need to eat your feelings.

For locations check out their website or follow them on Twitter.

Dungeness Crab Cake (PCG)

New & Notable: One of Vancouver’s finest moves to Charleswood

One of my favourite neighbourhood restaurants from Vancouver has come to Winnipeg — Charleswood to be precise — and I am kind of freaking out about it.

Well, it sort of has. To clarify, the original was called CRAVE, and was only a couple blocks down from our Main Street apartment, where my wife and I lived for six years.

We’d eat there at least once every two weeks, devouring ridiculously well-executed comfort food like a Buttermilk Fried Chicken Cobb Salad that was near moan-inducing, a Short Rib Rigatoni that was the ideal respite from the Vancouver rain, and a Dungeness Crab Cake (served alongside a matchstick apple salad) that is so good you’d consider resorting to violence if your dining companion tried to take a piece of it (I may still have a fork mark in my hand after trying to get the last bite of my wife’s).

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Cobb with romaine, aged cheddar, bacon, egg, tomato, green onion, sun-dried tomato, blue cheese, ranch dressing (PCG)

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Cobb with romaine, aged cheddar, bacon, egg, tomato, green onion, sun-dried tomato, blue cheese, ranch dressing (PCG)

The people behind it were Chef Wayne Martin and Manager Greg Gunnarson, who along with CRAVE also open up two other highly regarded and successful spots, Fraiche and CRAVE Beachside, both in West Vancouver.

But now, after years in Rain City, Martin and Gunnarson have brought the concept behind CRAVE, including the majority of the menu, to the eastern end of Charleswood, resulting in the charming new Capital Grill & Bar.

“I started my career with the Four Seasons at Minaki Lodge…. and Winnipeg was where we would come do all our shopping and partying,” said Chef Martin.

“I just had good memories of it [Winnipeg] and I was tired of Vancouver — it had got so overpriced, overcrowded, and bad traffic.”

It’s a sentiment you do hear quite a bit about when people leave Van these days (I’ve personally been interviewed about it in the Vancouver Metro), but that being said, I still had to ask Martin and Gunnarson, why Winnipeg?

“Why not? It’s beautiful here,” replied Martin. “Plus there is more history here, and more culture, a lot more culture.”

Greg Gunnarson and Chef Wayne Martin (PCG)

Greg Gunnarson and Chef Wayne Martin (PCG)

Gunnarson’s family is here too, as he was born and grew up on Clear Lake. As he put it, “we just reconnected with friends and family. We knew we wanted to relocate and Winnipeg just made more sense compared to say Toronto or Calgary where we have no ties.”

Since moving, they’ve renovated the space that once housed Asahi, creating a stylish room accented in blues and greys featuring fresh herb centrepieces. It’s comfortable and well put together, just like the food, wine and beer menu.

The location itself is pretty close to everything, just down the road from Assiniboine Park, and under five minutes drive from the River Heights, Corydon and Tuxedo neighbourhoods.

It stealthily opened on May 5 — “we wanted to open quietly,” said Martin, “to get our feet wet and see what is popular on the menu and what is not,” — but has since found a following strictly through word-of-mouth.

Interior shot of the dining room (PCG)

Interior shot of the dining room (PCG)

The most popular item so far has been the Beer Battered Halibut and Chips ($18), which they’ve done over 550 orders of, along with the Chipotle BBQ Baby Back Ribs ($22) and the Capital Burger ($15), which is topped with crispy pancetta, caramelized onions and truffle cheese.

From my experience of eating Martin’s food so frequently for so many years I will tell you this: the man has a deft hand at braising and his fries are almost out of control (the perfect size, with a crisp exterior that snaps while still having that fluffy potato centre).

Along with the aforementioned crab cake — which is a must, Martin was stoked he could still use his same seafood supplier here and thus all his fish is as it was out west — we always ordered the Short Rib Poutine ($12), whose parmesan truffle fries are sauced with a short rib jus I’d consider bathing with, along with the Shorty Rigatoni ($16) that is going to be exactly what you’ll want on a winter’s day, perhaps after a ski next door in Assiniboine Park.

The Pulled Pork & Slaw Sandwich and house cut fries are damn near perfect (PCG)

The Pulled Pork & Slaw Sandwich and house cut fries are damn near perfect (PCG)

I’ve always been a sucker for his pulled pork too, which is ludicrously tender, slathered in a delectable barbecue sauce and served on a focaccia that is sprinkled throughout with flakes of sea salt and rosemary.

Eating at Capital was like catching up with an old friend, which of course it would be, as CRAVE was always one of the spots we’d bring friends when they were visiting us in Vancouver.

I’m sure shortly, as was their case in Vancity, reservations will be a necessity to see this old friend again; Capital’s food is too good not to develop a devout clientele.

Capital Grill and Bar is located at 3116 Roblin Blvd. 204.615.3116