Sunday, March 22, 2015

Winnipeg Restos Winter 2014-15

Winnipeg in the winter - all you can do is stay warm and eat good food, right?  Diet starts in the spring....  Here are some of my favorite places in Winnipeg right now, including three at the bottom with lots of potential.  I've also added one place that disappointed...

I'm lucky that my job allows me to work from the 'Peg from time to time, in a heritage building in the Exchange District. 
 My work lunch fav, and what I consider one of the hidden gems in Winnipeg, is Taste of Sri Lanka in the food court in Winnipeg Square - the perfect place to go for lunch in this underground maze of shops and restaurants under the famously cold and windy Portage and Main.
Sri Lankan cuisine is amazingly complex - the flavours are so unique.  Make sure you order the Kotthu Roti - a mixture of different curries, heated up on the griddle with a rotti chopped and mixed in, scramble an egg to tie it all together and VOILA!  Don't forget to get the spicy tamarind sauce.  This order will feed you for 2 or three meals - spectacular.
My other favorite lunch spot that I always try to drop in on when I'm in the city - the teeny White Star Diner, again in the Exchange District.
The owner, Bruce, lovingly produces classic burgers and sandwiches that will make your eyes roll back in your head.. my favs are the Double Oink (pulled pork and bacon with awesome coleslaw) and the Reuben (comes with Thousand Island dressing - is that a Winnipeg thing?  Love that I don't have to ask for it....).  The burgers and fries are delish as well.
Haven't had the guts to wash it all down with one of their milkshakes.  Sound like a meal in itself.
The Crusty Bun is another hidden gem - this time in St. Vital.   To begin with, it is an amazing European bakery - breads, pastries, the most amazing Christmas stollen, and of course, the crusty buns (my favorites are studded with pumpkin seeds and drizzled with cheese - they are truly crusty with a soft chewy interior).  In addition, they serve simple European-style lunch (read - small but perfect portions) of soup and sandwiches - it is always full which speaks to the quality (and not to mention the tastiness of the dessert you know you have to have).  Don't forget to take a number when you come in the door!  
Parlour - having spent a lot of time in Montreal going to Third Wave coffee shops, Parlour's coffee quality makes me smile.  Yes it's trendy, minimalist, and full of lumbersexuals, but it's quaint and heartfelt.  Love the location on Main Street in the Exchange District... gives you a feel for this historic city centre - worth the sprint out of the rabbit warren.
Now for three restaurants I tried for the first time.

Vera Pizzeria E Bevande is a recently opened pizza joint on South Osborne - remember Woo's Cafe?  The space is cozy and warmed by the open kitchen and (natch!) pizza oven. 
Small and simple menu...
The salad was tasty although a little droopy with all of that dressing...
The Napoli style pizzas were delish - high quality toppings (fior de latte, homemade sausage, etc.), not overloaded, chewy crust - pizza reinvented!  And anyone who tops off a pizza with Maldon salt gets my vote.  Simple but nice wine list.  Looking forward to trying everything on the menu.
Boon Burger - Who would have thought that a prairie town could support a vegan burger chain?  Love their cruelty free and enviro groovy vibe. And did I mention the vegan burgers?  "Boon" means bean, but also a blessing or something to be thankful for in Afrikaans.  And I am thankful to be eating this healthily but also get some real flavour - you choose from the mushroom based Boon patty, the spicy chickpea Buddha patty, the tofu filled White patty, or the beany Black Bean patty.  Then the hard part - so many toppings and condiments... including cheez and smokey bacun!  I'm excited to try more of their combos on my next visit.
Had the opportunity to go to the recently opened Canadian Museum for Human Rights - I've watched it grow over the years.  It was packed, and overwhelming, once you realize that we will probably always have human rights issues to deal with...
The museum restaurant, Era Bistro, has a cozy vibe and an interesting menu, including lots of small plates and local treats (pickerel cheeks, arctic char, bannock, etc.).  We only had time for a freshly baked apple tart and coffee.
One miss this past trip - had heard the buzz about The Tallest Poppy in its new home on Sherbrook, nestled in the front of the Sherbrook Inn.

Funky decor in a cold and dark space - we froze in the front window (okay, it was -20C!), and the long line of hipsters holding the inner doors open didn't help.  Thinking back, neither did the icy, slightly flippant service.

Matzo ball and cabbage soup, pickerel po'boy (not a lot of fish)... in general the food was alright, but we were underwhelmed overall.  This doesn't seem to affect their draw - the place was hopping!

Looking forward to my next trip this spring - to be continued....

Taste of Sri Lanka on Urbanspoon

White Star Diner on Urbanspoon

The Crusty Bun on Urbanspoon

Parlour Coffee on Urbanspoon

Vera Pizzeria E Bevande on Urbanspoon

Boon Burger Café on Urbanspoon

Era Bistro on Urbanspoon

The Tallest Poppy on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Is spring on its way?!?! A visit to Café Sfouf & la Maison du rôti

Is it spring or have we passed on to winter already?!?   Off to Montreal for brunch - can't believe it is mid-March and the snow continues to fall....
We find a little ray of sunshine in an otherwise dreary, cold, damp, slushy day... Cafe Sfouf at 1250 Ontario Est.  Super cozy, family and student friendly - our charming hostess seemed to know everyone.  A great place to spend the morning or afternoon tucked in away from the cold.  They have partnered with vendors at the nearby Marché St. Jacques - can only imagine the flavours to come this summer!  It must be coming...

Although the regular menu of tartines and soups looked good, we had to go with the lebanese breakfast.  

Ridiculously thick labneh dusted with zaatar (an herb mix including sesame seeds, oregano, sumac, and mint) with a big glug of olive oil, garlicky olive oil laced chick peas, cukes, tomatoes, radishes and olives, a spinach, sumac and onion stuffed bread, with freshly toasted pita.  Dessert was meghle, a lebanese spiced rice pudding with strong cinnamon flavour, topped with coconut, almonds, and pistachios.  Top that off with an amazing turkish or allongé coffee and the signature "sfouf" - a golden tumeric semolina cake topped with a pine nut, served with each hot beverage.

Before leaving town, we had to make a stop at La Maison du Rôti, 1969 avenue Mont-Royal Est.  This gourmand destination is a must-visit on any trip to Montreal, but make sure you have a cooler if it isn't a frigid late winter day!  It will get warm, one day, right?

 The store is full of beautifully cut and displayed meats, poultry, and cheeses, as well as gourmet foods from a myriad of cultures.  They also provide hot prepared foods as well as fresh and frozen meals that would wow any foodie.  There is usually a vendor providing samples - today was no exception - we sampled Feelo, a delightfully complex, chartreuse-colored olive oil from Greece.  A taste of summer, fruity with a bitter edge - dreams of summer tomatoes sprinkled with this and sea salt...
 We came specifically to pick up their beautifully prepared duck confit - at $29.95/kg, an amazing deal.
 We picked up their homemade heavenly paté and terrine, some salty gorgonzola, and two small quiches - the Forestière with wild mushrooms and artichokes, and the Poireaux et escargots - leeks and snails.
It is probably a good thing that we do not live in Montréal...

Hoping that Café Sfouf will have an Urbanspoon presence soon!

Click to add a blog post for Café Sfouf on Zomato 

La maison du rôti on Urbanspoon