Cocktail Culture: the Palm Lounge

The Palm Lounge, Fort Garry Hotel. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.) The Palm Lounge, Fort Garry Hotel. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

The Palm Lounge at Fort Garry Hotel
Address: 222 Broadway, main floor
Phone number: 204-942-8251
Neighbourhood: Downtown/Broadway
Facebook: facebook.com/pages/The-Fort-Garry-Hotel-Spa-Conference-Centre
Twitter: twitter.com/TheFortGarry

It’s named the Palm Lounge but locals call it the Palm Room. Whatever its name, the Palm Lounge is Winnipeg’s most elegant cocktail lounge.

Located inside the Fort Garry Hotel, a magnificent 101-year-old railway hotel, the Palm Lounge exudes an upper class air but without any pretentiousness. The domed ceiling rises high above the tables. Luscious drapery, stacked windows framed by columns and accents of gold rope relief on the walls recalls a reading room at an English castle.

If you aren’t going to New York City anytime soon, the Fort Garry Hotel and its Palm Room are Winnipeg’s version of that city’s The Plaza hotel.

As a hotel lounge, the Palm is always populated with visitors. But the room is a favourite with Winnipeggers too. The cocktail menu won’t win any awards for mixology innovations. Instead, you’ll find Tom Collins, Bloody Marys, Rob Roys and the rest of their friends on the simple menu of classic drinks. Margaritas and martinis are also served. Locally made Fort Garry Ale is also on tap along with six other ales.

Check out the lounge menu here. Scroll down for the cocktail list.

Service is professional but not overly familiar which is welcome and a refreshing change from overeager servers elsewhere.

The room is the showstopper here. Deep club chairs invite guests to stay a while and then a while longer. A grand piano at the back of the room marks the stage where live jazz is play most weekends.

You don’t have to be dressed in your finest to fit in at the Palm. Short of tank tops, short shorts, muscle shirts and shredded jeans, you will fit in. But you may be surrounded by wedding guests in their finest or conference goers aiming to impress. The Fort Garry is a popular venue for weddings throughout the year.

Guests can order dinner or appetizers from a newly updated (spring 2014) menu of upscale modern dishes.Check out the menu here. A small selection of pizzas and home-away-from-home dinners (including pot roast roast chicken) covers all the bases. A separate lounge menu is also available.  On our visit, we sampled ribbons of grilled zucchini with crostini. With a little bit cracked salt and pepper this simple plate impressed.

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.

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.