Category Archives: Why Winnipeg Rocks!

Mid-Winter Mardi-Gras: Let the Good Times Roll!

Well, here we are again Winnipeg, mid-January with the cold and snow firmly entrenched and no end in sight. For those of you, like myself, unable to travel somewhere tropical, there is a reprieve in sight. The good folks in The Vatican came up with the idea of Lent a couple of centuries ago and wouldn’t you know it the industrious citizens of New Orléans know an opportunity to eat and carry on when they see it. Fat Tuesday, or Mardi-Gras to our Creole and Cajun friends to the South is just the excuse to let loose, eat and drink till you can’t do that no more.

Tom McGouran lampshade at the ready with Alix Michaels rocking out with an Aligator at Mardi Gras Media Night

Tom McGouran lampshade at the ready with Alix Michaels rocking out with an Aligator at Mardi Gras Media Night

Held at The RBC Convention Centre February 13th and 14th this Mardi Gras celebration marks the tenth anniversary of the event in Winnipeg. Fabulous food, entertainment and two themed nights are planned to please and surprise those who have a shine on their shoes and spring in their step.

Announcing the festivities for Mardi Gras at media night.

Announcing the festivities for Mardi Gras at media night.

Friday, February 13th is Zombie Night. The living dead will be roaming the room at the RBC Convention Centre. Come dressed as one of the living impaired and join the Undead Newlyweds as they seek fun, dancing and brains!! Those who dress to impress the undead get free admission to the Friday the 13th event.

Tom McGouran and the Zombie Bride 2

Tom McGouran better eat quick he’s being sized up for lunch by the Zombie Bride!

Don’t have a date or a mate to bring to Mardi Gras on Valentine’s Day Saturday, February the 14th? Don’t worry, you can wear your heart on your sleeve and maybe meet that special someone who will sweep you off your feet and rock the night away. Cut out hearts will be available at the door to pin to your outfit and mark yourself Looking for Love! I can personally attest to hearing some very heartfelt testimonials from people who were looking only to dance the night away and found that special someone to make the night magical.

Tom and Alix

Tom McGouran and Alix Michaels

Speaking of magic, back by popular demand, all the way from New Orléans, Louisiana is Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellrasisers. The perennial party band is a sweet treat for your ears and your feet. You’ll be jumping and shaking with music so good you’ll want to slap yo mama!

Even Country Girls like Mardi Gras. Leanne The Boss Lady Cater in full plumage at Mardi Gras Media Night

Even Country Girls like Mardi Gras. Leanne “The Boss Lady” Cater in full plumage at Mardi Gras Media Night

If that’s not enough for y’all, don’t forget The Lindsays will be performing throughout the night.  Featuring Sword Swallowing, Juggling and feats that will  amaze and surprise young and old alike!  Showgirls and yes ladies Showboys will be on display for your roving eye.  Of course we can’t forget Beads! Thank goodness it’s an adult party with no children to protect from the giving of Beads! Wink Wink Y’all!

Fresh shucked oysters

Fresh shucked oysters

Now all that moving and shaking is going to be putting a fierce hunger in that belly. Why not try some of the flavours of Louisiana. The menu this year includes fan favourites such as Deep Fried Pickles and Sweet Potato Fries, screamingly fresh P.E.I Oysters, shucked just for you and of course Peel and Eat Shrimp. New to Winnipeg Mardi Gras, sample Authentic Alligator Fritters, be careful though these may bite back!

Freshly flambéed Shrimp with Pasta

Freshly flambéed Shrimp with Pasta

Looking for something a little more hearty? Try the Louisiana Style Shrimp with Pasta, French Quarter Gumbo or Bourbon Street Creole Style Jambalaya! I’ve personally tried all the above and they are spectacular.

Jambalaya

Jambalaya! Need I say More?

Gentlemen, why not treat your own zombie bride to be or Valentine date to a sweet treat. This year’s desert special is Basin Street Pudding with Bourbon Laced Caramel Sauce.

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

With all of this activity y’all are going to have a mighty powerful thirst going on. Don’t worry, they have you covered. Major drink sponsors include Fireball Canadian Whiskey, Wine O’ Clock, Diabolica, Molson/Coors and Heineken. Naturally, you can’t have a party Louisiana style without Jack Daniel’s or Southern Comfort so they’ll be there as well!

Come visit Kristjana the Fireball Girl at Mardi Gras

Come visit Kristjana the Fireball Girl at Mardi Gras February 13th at the RBC Convention Centre.

I know that personally I can’t wait for the chance to shake off these winter blues and dance till my feet can’t dance no more. Come join us, it’s going to be one hell-raiser of a good time.

Media Celeberties laugh it up at Mardi Gras Media Night

Media Celeberties laugh it up at Mardi Gras Media Night

Authors Note: I do have a few free passes to give away for both Friday and Saturday nights. So to win, leave a comment detailing what night you’d like and what you’ll do to get them. For example, if you want Zombie Night, tell me what your costume plans are. If Valentine’s Day is more your style tell me why you absolutely need to meet that special someone this year. Winnipeg and area only please, I will be in contact with the winners to arrange pick up of the tickets.

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Winnipeg Indie Music Lovers Rejoice: The Real Love Music Festival is Almost Here!

Real Love ButtonWinnipeg has always been a hotbed of musical innovation.  From the 60’s community club scene that saw The Guess Who and Neil Young dominating the Rock and Roll charts.  To smaller bands like The Jury who never quite got the big break they deserved.  Some music scholars have theorized that it’s all part of the isolation Winnipeg enjoys geographically and meteorologically.  Let’s face it although Winnipeg is in the center of the continent we’re in the middle of nowhere and our winters can be brutally extreme.

What this does to people is debatable but one thing is for sure it breeds creativity.  The Real Love Music festival, happening June 6-8th, is proof of that in spades.  Taking place at Gimli Motorsports Park in Gimli, Manitoba The Real Love Festival hopes to give people of all ages and backgrounds an affordable and memorable music experience.

Real Love Festival Poster
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I am Awesome and I know it: A Getaway for Girls.

Tonight I just found out about an awesome initiative for teenage girls that just happens to be located minutes away from my home town of Fort Frances, Ontario.   The I’m awesome and I know it retreat takes place at Sunny Cove Camp, a place I grew up at and know intimately.

sunny cove entrance

The Sunny Cove Entrance off the Highway

  Renée’s vision for the very first “I AM AWESOME! (And I Know It!)” Self Esteem Retreat for Young Women is a simple vision Renée wants every young woman to be confident, courageous, kind, strong, and compassionate.  She believes with her whole heart that every young woman has a gift to share with the world, and that they can achieve anything if they have the confidence to reach for their dreams.  Renée understands that teenagers today are facing many pressures; body image, peer pressure and bullying, school and academic stress, boys, family issues, and media manipulation.  She knows that the retreat will give each girl who attends the tools to make confident decisions, embrace their individuality, and the courage to follow their passions!

How Awesome is this! A place where our stressed out and bombarded female children can just relax and have fun in an awesome natural environment.   The location, Sunny Cove Camp, has been a Fort Frances staple for decades.  Comfortable sleeping cabins in a group setting, a main lodge that is as homey as it is practical and a sand beach where generations of  area children have learned to swim.

Sunny Cove at dusk

Sunset Country at its best, with the light dropping slowly over Rainy Lake.

To me this program is a home run, anything that empowers our female children to grow up strong and self-confident is right in my books.

For more information on this program please check out

http://www.i-am-awesome.ca/index.html

Also this review from the Fort Frances Times.

2014 Mardi Gras is shaping up to be Mardi Great!

Being a blogger to my mind is its own reward. When I write I normally have something to say or to bring to the attention of the masses, however now and then there are a few side perks that pop up.  Last night Dar and I were the guests of RAS Creative who are doing the promotions for the upcoming Winnipeg Mardi Gras celebration.  It was a media and blogger night to get a taste of the event, the colours, the atmosphere and of course the food!

Mask with feathers From jugglers and drag queens, zydeco dancing, fancy southern cocktails and of course heaping helpings of Cajun and Creole food favorites straight from New Orléans.

Masks on Table

Two Beauties

Our evening started out simply shaking hands and getting to know the assembled crowd.  It turns out that one of Darlene’s co-workers is also a Winnipeg blogger and writes the webpage PegCityLovely.  From there our grumbling stomachs lead us on to the amazing food. I decided just to work my way around the room and try a little bit of everything.  My partner in crime Darlene humbly accepted the challenge of being the night’s beverage taster since I had to drive us home.

DSC00238

PegCityLovely

The first selection of the evening is a New Orléans classic sandwich, the fried oyster po’ boy along with a side of deep fried pickles the combo knocked it out of the park.  Crunchy and rich in flavour paired with the acidity of the deep fried pickle matched incredibly well together.

Oyster Po' Boy Sign

Deep Fried Pickles

Next up was a stop to my most frequented stand of the evening.  Raw shucked Glacier Bay oysters, peel and eat shrimp and the most decadent rich and velvety smooth gumbo this wordsmith has ever eaten.  I love a good briny oyster, nothing fancy just meaty slippery goodness.  Even more than the taste is watching people’s reactions as you wolf down a dozen or so of these beauties.  Revulsion and abject horror often flash through their eyes.  Yummy!

Oyster Bar

Rounding the corner another set of tables loomed ahead, spaced perfectly with food, beverages, and food.  Needing some serious sustenance now a pasta dish looked to be the way to go and we were not disappointed.  The rosé farfalle pasta was amazing.  Complex flavours in a creamy sauce covering pillows of perfectly cooked pasta. The dish also included a oven dried tomato and a cheese crisp (chip) that added just the right zip to the velvety pasta and sauce.

Pasta Dish

Pasta PlateFireball 1

Dar seemed to be up for a challenge as we worked our way around the room and was game for a shot of Fireball whiskey.  The lovely bartender encouraged her saying that the shot tasted just like a cinnamon heart candy.  Dar did the shot like a trooper and even got a souvenir flashing shot-glass to mark the occasion.

Fireball Girl

Seafood is definitely a way of life down in New Orléans so a dish like bourbon flamed garlic pepper shrimp on a bed of rice pilaf is a natural. Like everything else we had tried up to this point the rice and shrimp were simply mind blowing. The aromas coming from this table were incredible, frying garlic and briny shrimps being flamed in top shelf bourbon I’ll let your imagination do the rest.

Garlic Pepper Shrimp

One last turn and we were into Dar’s favorite stand of the night the mixed cocktails.  liking a sweeter beverage Darlene tried two of the house favorites.   The Agent Orange and the Southern Hurricane.  Darlene preferred the Agent Orange due to it’s fruity flavour and deceptive power.  “You can’t even taste the booze in this, it’s dangerous” she exclaimed!

Southern Comfort Menu

But don’t think that’s where Mardi Gras stops as I said the party planners are bringing in top notch entertainment in the form of Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers.  Playing the best in washboard music and swamp pop that your ears have ever heard. I guarantee!

Two masks

Social Media Page

Come for the food, come for the fun and flamboyance. Come for the Ambiance and the Zydeco, how’s that for an A to Z fun time.  Come on down I guarantee you’ll have a great time.  It’s taking place at the Winnipeg Convention Center February 14 and 15th

If you live in Winnipeg and are a fan of Exploring Winnipeg and Beyond, I have some free passes to give away. But there is a catch.  Comment on this post and tell me how I got my start blogging.  It’s easy just go into the archives and look it up.  I’m looking for where I went (City) and the reason (event) I went there.
Comment on this blog posting an I’ll hook you up with some passes for Mardi Gras at the convention center.

Now do yourself a favor and check out the musical madness of Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers!

Bringing Bruce Springsteen to Winnipeg: An Idea that’s Born To Run.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will know almost instantly that I have three over-riding passions in life. I am crazy for our local sporting scene, being a huge supporter of the Winnipeg Jets and a Winnipeg Blue Bomber season ticket holder. I crow endlessly about Winnipeg food and the mavericks that slave day in and day out to feed this fickle city.  But one thing trumps both of those my love of live music and the ongoing spectacle that is Rock and Roll.

In fact the very reason that I began writing this blog is due to a trip Darlene and I won to New York City 4 years ago. We were lucky enough to win an all expenses paid vacation to see two nights of concerts honoring the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Two stellar nights of shows spanning the entirety of rock and roll as we know it.  One man was part of both nights, a singular rock and roller with gravel in his voice, hammer and anvil guitar style and Arlo Guthry in his soul.  I’m talking about the one and only Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello Belt out The Ghost of Tom Joad. (Photo Credit - Rolling Stone)

Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello Belt out The Ghost of Tom Joad. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concerts.  (Photo Credit – Rolling Stone)

As a devotee of rock and roll, I’ve seen more acts than most people will see in a lifetime, but I’ve never seen anything the likes of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. As concert time approaches random cheers and whistles grow into a single unified voice “BRUUUUUUUUUUCE” the people exclaim! Even now into his 60’s Springsteen is powerfully built yet charismatic and kind, like a favorite uncle who sits you on his knee to tell you a story. He commands not only his band but also the audience with a gentle iron fist. From the first second he strides on stage you know why he’s called “The Boss”.

Bruce Springsteen Working Hard as Always (Photo Credit Brooklyn Vegan.com)

Bruce Springsteen Working Hard as Always (Photo Credit Brooklyn Vegan.com)

Last week I was approached by Diane Geddes who is heading up the Springsteen2Winnipeg campaign, a drive of like-minded people who are rallying to bring Bruce and the E-Street Band to our city on the prairies. She asked me to add my voice to the growing number of Springsteen fans to spread the word Winnipeg Loves the Boss. How could I possibly say no?

There will be the naysayers among the crowd who say that Winnipeg is too small, too flat, too boring to have a hope in hell’s chance of attracting The Boss. These of course are the same people who said the Winnipeg Jet’s would never ever be back and that the Blue Bombers would never get a new stadium. I like to call those people WRONG! Just sitting here writing in my basement I can think of tons of reasons why Bruce would love to visit Winnipeg and why I think he would get just as much out of a visit as the fans. In fact I think I have enough for a top ten list!

Top Ten Reasons Bruce should bring the E-Street Band to Winnipeg.

10. Winnipeg is a blue-collar town. We work hard for our money, suit and tie is not the dress of the day. Bruce is an outspoken supporter of the working class.

9. Winnipeg is a Rock and Roll town. Radio stations like 92 CITI FM have been around for 35 years and show no sign of slowing down.

8. Howard Mandshein the Godfather of Winnipeg rock radio would lose his mind… Seriously!

7. Winnipeg is really just a collection of small towns.  People know their neighbors and friendliness is a way of life.  Our license plates say “Friendly Manitoba” for a reason.

6. Winnipeg has great food. From a plateful of North End Perogies to a Steak Dinner at 529 Wellington Winnipeg will feed you well.

5. Little Steven can shop for some new headscarves in the Exchange District. Stars from all over the world love shopping for trinkets at Ragpickers.

4. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is opening next year. Because Bruce’s Rock and Roll has a conscience, always has always will.

3. Investors Group Field is a great place to feel the love. Rock Royalty and Bruce’s buddy Paul McCartney just played to a packed house here.

2. Our Summer evenings last forever. In the Summertime the sun doesn’t set till almost 11:00!

1. Winnipeg Loves Bruce and the E-Street Band. From humble beginnings the Springsteen2Winnipeg movement is growing and growing.

Bruce wows the crowd. (Photo Credit - American Songwriter.com)

Bruce wows the crowd. (Photo Credit – American Songwriter.com)

We need everyone to jump on board here and make noise, tell your friends, tell your family, hell tell your dog and cat. Kevin Donnelly is listening, The E-Street band’s management is listening and Bruce Springsteen is listening. The time to act is NOW! Be vocal, be active and be proud to live in Winnipeg. Together we can bring the E-Street Band to Winnipeg, if only we believe!

To join the cause visit Springsteen2Winnipeg.ca

Here’s a little Snippet from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert that I was lucky enough to have been to.  Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello with the Ghost of Tom Joad.

Rollin’ downtown for lunch with On a Roll Sandwich Truck.

With the Winnipeg summer heat soon drawing to a close and the inevitable onset of fall close at hand I set out to redouble my efforts and visit as many of the new food trucks that now dot the Winnipeg lunchtime streets.  Yesterday found me in familiar territory on Broadway Avenue where the majority of lunchtime food trucks are known to set up shop.

On a Roll Sandwich Truck

On a Roll Sandwich Truck

As it turned out my choice was an easy one, turning off Main Street the first truck that met my eye was a new to me, the On a Roll Sandwich Truck.  Painted an eye-catching bright green announcing “Bringing the flavours of the world to the streets of Winnipeg” was an offer I simply could not refuse.

Menu Board

Menu Board

The menu pasted to the side of the truck spoke of simple family favorites from around the world delivering on the promises of their motto.  Shrimp Po’ Boys representing the Louisiana coast of the United States, Jerked Chicken Sandwich giving a taste of Jamaican spicy influences.  For a more savory note a patron could try the ever popular, if confusing Chicken and Waffles.  Even vegetarians are welcomed with a falafel patty Banh-Mi sandwich representing the best of French and Vietnamese influences.

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The Red Ember: Hot Hot Hot!

There are always a few things that I look for in a new eating experience, location, menu choices, the price of the items on the menu all rank high on how I form a first impression. But few things wow me like a serious line of hungry patrons waiting for service. The fact that people are cued up on a busy downtown street spending their lunch hour waiting in line screams eat here!

The Big Red Truck, AKA The Red Ember.

The Big Red Truck, AKA The Red Ember.

Well folks The Red Ember pizza truck at the far end of Broadway Ave down by the legislature on Kennedy was packing in the masses for lunchtime on Thursday for sure. It’s hard to miss this transformer like mash-up of a bright fire engine red and big rig styled wood fired pizza joint on wheels. Many of the apartments in the tenements on Broadway no doubt are smaller than this monstrosity and I can pretty much guarantee that the food coming out of those kitchens can’t hold a candle to the applause worthy pies coming out of The Red Ember’s wood fired pizza oven. Yep, a wood fired oven on a truck in Winnipeg, grab your skates and sticks, Hell has officially frozen over folks!

Eat Real, Eat Local

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