Food & Wine Fêtes: Spring Edition

Wine, wine and more wine at the Winnipeg Wine Festival. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Wine, wine and more wine at the Winnipeg Wine Festival. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Pick any month of the year and you’re bound to find a food festival, event or fundraiser on the agenda.

Winnipeg is emerging as a notable food city and a great food destination. For locals and visitors, a food party is a great way to immerse yourself in the local scene all at once.

Many of the events bring together the city’s top food makers and shapers. Here’s a list of upcoming food events in Winnipeg:

Winnipeg Wine Festival: April 27 to May 3
This year’s edition of the Winnipeg Wine Festival is all about Australia. More than 100 wines from 26 wineries across Australia will be showcased at public tastings May 2 and 3 at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg. Themed mix, mingle, sip and nibble events run throughout the seven-day event. The big gala dinner runs Thursday May 1. Event tickets range in price from $40 to $225. The annual fundraiser, in its 13th year, raises money for Special Olympics Manitoba. For a list of participating wineries click here. For more information about the festival visit winnipegwinefestival.com.

Chocolate Fest by Ciao magazine: Until April 30
This annual festival is hosted by Winnipeg-owned Ciao, a food and restaurant magazine. This year 14 Winnipeg restaurants and shops have all created special $7 chocolate desserts and treats that are “sweet, savoury and sippable.” White chocolate brulée, chocolate caramel fudge cake, chocolate sin torte and French hot chocolate are a few highlights. For more information visit ciaowinnipeg.com.

Table for 1200: May 31
On May 31 at about 6 p.m., the world’s largest dining table will mysteriously pop up at an as-of-yet-disclosed downtown location in Winnipeg. By 7 p.m., 1,200 guests will take a seat and sup on dinner created by a team of the city’s top chefs, all lead by Diversity Foods Executive Chef Ben Kramer of Elements restaurant. Local architecture firm 5468796 Architecture and StorefrontMB are pulling the event together as part of the Architectural Fringe Festival, a spin-off of the Architecture Canada RAIC (Royal Architecture Institute of Canada) Festival. For more information go to tablefor1200.ca.

#LOVELOCALMB Beer, Wine and Food Celebration: April 26 (5 to 9 p.m.)
Meet local producers and sample their wares at the first annual #LOVELOCALMB festival. This market party, to be held at the Winnipeg Winter Club, is a warm up to the city’s thriving farmers’ market season. More than 20 vendors will be on hand sharing samples. A complimentary glass of wine will be served to all guests, and a cash bar will also be on site at this 18+ event. Tickets cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door. For more information and tickets click here.

Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate at Chocolate Festival. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate at Chocolate Fest. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Peg City Grub is your ultimate source for food in Winnipeg. From the hottest chefs to the best new restaurants to the most delicious events, we’ve got you covered. Follow us on Twitter @pegcitygrub and visit www.tourismwinnipeg.com for more on the city’s fabulous dining options.

Peg City Grub is a Tourism Winnipeg culinary initiative.

De Luca’s: Cooking the Italian way

Ingredients ready for cooking class at De Luca's. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Ingredients ready for cooking class at De Luca’s. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

De Luca’s
Address: 950 Portage Avenue
Phone Number: 204-774-7617
Neighbourhood: West End
Website: http://www.deluca.ca
Facebook: facebook.com/de.lucas.98
Twitter: twitter.com/DeLucasWpg
Instagram: instagram.com/delucasspecialtyfoods

Every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the school year, De Luca’s hosts a party. There’s engaging conversation with new friends, laughs and plenty of fantastic wines and great food.

However, this twice-weekly party is actually in disguise. It’s a cooking class.

De Luca’s is a Winnipeg institution.This family-owned operation consumes a nearly one-block stretch of Portage Avenue in the West End. This Italian market, olive oil bar, deli, restaurant, bakery, butcher shop and wine boutique is a hub for specialty foods. It’s also a great community hub where folks meet over a common passion: Italian food.

Back to the party. A quarter century ago, Anna Paganelli was hired as De Luca’s first cooking school teacher. The southern Italy native was a perfect fit for the new venture. She’s charming, warm, and most importantly, a talented chef with a vast pool of culinary knowledge and a knack for teaching.

So on a recent Tuesday night, Paganelli took the helm inside the downstairs cooking classroom to teach 40 eager and hungry students some of the tricks of Italian cuisine.

The classes cost $50 per person (which includes a wine sampling bar). Six different dishes are prepared and served. Video cameras focus on the action on the counter top and images are projected onto several wide-screen TVs hang from the ceiling. A big mirror also hangs overhead her prep counter and Paganelli wears a microphone. There’s no bad seat in this intimate dining room. (Classes top out at 60 people.)

The dining room is dimly lit. Tables are set with white linens and candlelight. Students sit at tables of eight and watch the action from their seats. You sit wherever you want and make friends as the night goes on.

Strangers are united here in their love of food. The evening clips along nicely and time doesn’t drag. Paganelli and her boss Tony De Luca, who also hosts the evening, are a well-oiled team. Paganelli cooks, and in between instruction, De Luca talks about Italian food, ingredients and the market upstairs. (After class, students can browse the market and buy their own ingredients to take home.)

Paganelli demonstrates how to make each dish and then servers deliver the dishes to the eager students. There is no waiting. During our class, we started with pizza with ricotta cheese and cacciatore sausage and a mixed green salad with white balsamic vinaigrette; followed by pasta with chickpeas and zucchini, lemon-baked veal and potato salad and strawberry and mascarpone sponge cake.

Paganelli is a fantastic cook and great ambassador for Italian cuisine. Each course stood out from the other. No one course topped them all. Portions were very generous and guests were encouraged to come up for seconds.

No one went hungry and leftovers were packed away. Cooking class is a misnomer. De Luca’s cooking classes are a night out for a great meal for a great price. It’s also a great way to introduce visitors to a Winnipeg institution to enjoy great food and maybe, just maybe, learn how to cook the Italian way.

De Luca’s cooking classes run from September through May every year. For more information click here.

Instructor Anna Paganelli plates course during cooking class at De Luca's. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Instructor Anna Paganelli plates courses during cooking class at De Luca’s. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Pasta with chickpeas and curry at De Luca's. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Pasta with chickpeas and curry at De Luca’s. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Lemon-baked veal with potato salad at De Luca's. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Lemon-baked veal with potato salad at De Luca’s. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Pizza with ricotta and cattiatore sausage, De Luca's. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Pizza with ricotta and cattiatore sausage, De Luca’s. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Strawberry and mascarpone cake at De Luca's. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Strawberry and mascarpone cake at De Luca’s. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Peg City Grub is your ultimate source for food in Winnipeg. From the hottest chefs to the best new restaurants to the most delicious events, we’ve got you covered. Follow us on Twitter @pegcitygrub and visit www.tourismwinnipeg.com for more on the city’s fabulous dining options.

Peg City Grub is a Tourism Winnipeg culinary initiative.

Sushi Kuni: Bento box lunch spot

Bento box, Sushi Kuni. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Bento box, Sushi Kuni. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Sushi Kuni
Address: 131 Provencher Boulevard
Phone Number: (204) 231-3553
Neighbourhood: St. Boniface
Facebook and Twitter: none

Every once in a while I like to play a game I call restaurant roulette. I randomly pick a restaurant I’ve never tried before and then go for a meal.

Sometimes I do a quick search on the Internet and go by recommendations. Other times, I pick a type of cuisine and then choose a place. And still other times, I put the call out on Twitter and ask folks where I should go.

Last time I hit Dalat, a Chinese and Vietnamese restaurant in Grant Park and won big.

In this edition of restaurant roulette, Sushi Kuni was a destination born of convenience. I was at the St. Boniface library at the corner of Taché Avenue and Provencher Boulevard. It was lunch time. Sushi Kuni is across the hall from the library.

And that’s how I found myself in this wee, eight-table Japanese spot on a recent Wednesday afternoon.

The space was bright. The service was very friendly and attentive. And the sushi really hit the spot.

A no-frills Bento box for $7.95 spoke to me. The box included miso soup, four pieces of veggie tempura (including one shrimp), a tossed salad with a spritely soy and ginger vinaigrette, warm salted edamame and a 10-piece California roll.

There is something incredibly satisfying about this simple lunch. It’s filling. A variety of flavours, textures, temperatures and colours load the box.

Sushi Kuni serves four varieties. The Sushi Kuni Bento comes with everything above, except tuna and salmon nigiri replace the California roll. Teriyaki Bento comes with a choice of beef or chicken stir fry with rice. Nigiri Bento comes with four pieces of sushi. Each costs $8.95.

And if you’re a little wary of sushi, a California or a Teriyaki Bento is a gentle introduction to Japanese cuisine. (Sushi Kuni has a broad menu of Japanese favourites and an extensive sushi, nigiri and roll menu. A few Korean specialties are also available.)

Service at Sushi Kuni should also be noted. The server brought a cartoon child’s plate for the toddler at my table, and at the end of the meal, she delivered three small bowls of vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce. It was a huge hit and an unexpected touch of great service. The two fellows working behind the sushi bar were friendly and engaging. They chatted with customers. This kind of service and attentiveness should be the norm at all restaurants. It isn’t, so when you come across great service and friendly staff, it really stands out.

So if you’re in St. Boniface, Winnipeg’s French Quarter, give Sushi Kuni a try. Pick a Bento box and dig in.

Bento boxes are available daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Sushi Kuni is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Pick your favourite inside Sushi Kuni. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Pick your favourite inside Sushi Kuni. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

California roll, Sushi Kuni. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

California roll, Sushi Kuni. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Miso soup, Sushi Kuni. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Miso soup, Sushi Kuni. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Peg City Grub is your ultimate source for food in Winnipeg. From the hottest chefs to the best new restaurants to the most delicious events, we’ve got you covered. Follow us on Twitter @pegcitygrub and visit www.tourismwinnipeg.com for more on the city’s fabulous dining options.

Peg City Grub is a Tourism Winnipeg culinary initiative.