Category Archives: Winnipeg and Hometown Goings On

Broadway Bound: The food truck wave finally hits Winnipeg in a big way.

The food truck/cart industry has always been a staple on the Winnipeg summer landscape. From the chip stands of the early 1930’s right up to modern smokie hotdog carts that dot the Winnipeg summer landscape like dandelions on a prairie field. So why all of the interest in what could be called nouveau gourmand food movement of bringing typically high end restaurant fare and serving it curbside out of a mobile trailer?

Hot Dog Cart

Hot Dog carts dot the Winnipeg Landscape

Personally I think it’s about the whole democratization of food, the idea proposed by so many of the crop of new talented cooks and chefs in typically high-end, high pressure jobs. Patrons are starting to suffer from white table-cloth fatigue, the idea of getting dressed up and paying high-end prices for everything but the food is wearing thin. Just think about it, if you go to say 529 Wellington and order a meal you’re not only paying for the food you’re paying for the cost of maintaining the building, the staff, the food supply chain and on and on. Winnipeggers are a fiercely cheap and efficient lot, we brag about how little we paid for something rather than how expensive something is. It only seems to reason that eventually it would filter down to our food choices.

Now I am not saying that Winnipeg invented the high-end food truck, that phenomenon has gone on for years in other enlightened cities having only recently caught on in a big way here due to City Hall’s reluctance to let the inevitable happen.

On any given weekday lunchtime during Winnipeg’s all too brief spring and summer one can wander downtown to Broadway Avenue, the heart of Winnipeg’s open air food scene.  As the office towers break for lunch thousands of hungry men and women emerge ready to see the delights awaiting them where grilled smokies and hamburgers once dominated the dining scene.

One sunny spring day I took an hour out of my day and investigated the food truck landscape of East Broadway; here is what I found.

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Hé Ho: Le Festival du Voyageur 2013

I know that for most of my southern friends my yearly Festival du Voyageur posts are loved.  This weekend past Darlene and I took in all that Festival had to offer.  From the fiddle music, and meals packed with Bannock, spit pea soup and fresh ham.

The wood fires to warms your bones against the cold, and of course historical re-enactments of life in the 1700’s when this part of Canada was settled.   Any of you who are also using WordPress may have been having trouble with the recient updates in adding pictures.

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A carnivores idea of heaven: Carnaval Brazilian BBQ.

With Darlene’s birthday this past weekend we decided that we were due for a fine night out on the town for dinner.  It was just our luck that a the owners of Hermanos Argentinian Steakhouse opened a new South American themed restaurant just down the block Carnaval Brazilian BBQ.

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For Winnipeg the concept is quite revolutionary, for a fixed price of $39 per adult an endless buffet of savory meats and side dishes is brought to your table and sliced fresh from a skewer and onto your plate.  Simple in concept and frighteningly efficient in bringing one quickly to the point of entering a meat coma.  But oh so good.  Onetime chef and now author and globe-trotter Anthony Bourdain has said in the past that food and cooking is all about domination and submission.   The diner must be willing to submit to the will of the cooks and the severs to receive the best of what they have to offer.

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Carnaval in this case is full on Fifty Shades of Meat, a cruel mistress who only cares about one thing, fulfilling your every dark prehistoric desire for incredibly tender, juicy and wonderfully marbled cuts of slower and tastier creatures than Yes please, I want more.

YES PLEASE

Our meal began quite simply,  the floor manager welcomed us to our table and instructed us on the workings of the table and the floor staff.  We were each given a coaster, one side printed green with a hungry diner smiling fork and knife at the ready.  This was to be displayed if we wanted the gauchos to bring food to our table.  The other side was printed in red, the diner passed out in blissful slumber as if to say “Please no more, I need a break.”

No thanks

She also explained that family sized portions of side dishes would be brought throughout our meal to accompany the gaucho’s BBQ’d offerings.  Ready, steady, GO!  We cautiously flipped our cards to green, almost instantly a smiling gaucho appeared with a skewer packed top to bottom with roast chicken wings.  Yes, why yes of course I would like some my good man.  The wings were hardly off the skewer when a second gaucho appeared bearing pork chorizo sausage.  All so innocent luring me into their trap.

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The wings were crispy and juicy to a fault I gnawed at the wingtips for the crispy goodness and devoured the chorizo with equal fervor.  More and more gaucho’s appeared, skewered chicken thighs, slices of heavenly rare top sirloin, sirloin cap so fatty and crispy and delicious on the outside and so incredibly tender and flavorful on the inside that my eyes rolled up into the back of my head with near  orgasmic delight.

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One of the most outstanding wandering table side attractions turned out not to be food at all but a caipirinha trolley.  Where he mixed a very potent Brazilian staple beverage in honor of Darlene’s birthday.  Handing it to her, he whispered sip it slow it, it sneaks up on you.

Our table which was empty at the start of our meal was now packed with side dishes, condiments and the detritus of the meal.  Looking less and less like a fine dining experience but more like a frat party gone horribly wrong.  I had slipped into the dark side and was loving every finger licking, chin mopping crispy skinned and painful sigh as I tried to keep pace with the gauchos.

They looked less like friendly servers now, taking on the visage of black clad, sash wearing delivers of pleasure and pain.  My stomach pleaded with me to stop, full to bursting.  But my meat addled brain wanted more, more lamb, more cap of sirloin, a chicken wing yes please.

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Then it appeared, the object to stop my protein psychosis.  A single slab of BBQ pineapple coated in cinnamon and grilled to perfection.  The simple combination of sweet and acid brought everything together. Something so simple almost mundane left me full and complete.

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Overall the meal was delicious, however on my next visit I would do things a bit differently to ease into the meal.  Ordering a course of salad or starters from the complementary menu right of the bat seems the way to go.  We were pounded by meat right away and by the time our salads and bread had arrived we were already into full-fledged feeding mode.

This concept for Brazilian BBQ coupled with the quality and know how that the Hermanos ownership group brings to the table, I can’t see Carnaval being anything but a smash hit.

IKEA Winnipeg: Workout and Shopping Destination all in One.

IKEA: Noun of Swedish origin. Acronym comprising the initials of the founder’s name (Ingvar Kamprad), the farm where he grew up (Elmtaryd), and his hometown (Agunnaryd)

Swedish furniture and house wear retailer famous for furniture requiring a single Allen Key to assemble.

 Winnipeg, Manitoba definition: A four hundred thousand square foot mega-shopping destination, set to change the retail landscape in the province for decades to come.

With IKEA set to open its doors in Winnipeg tomorrow we here at Exploring Winnipeg and Beyond were treated to a special media event last night.  Along with some two hundred or so representatives from television, print, internet websites and radio.

Only two more sleeps till IKEA opens!

At 6:00 we all gathered in the sub-zero early evening shivering but anxious none the less to be among the first ones in Canada to see this new location.  Promises of a meeting with the store general manager Stephen Bobko and a cocktail reception didn’t hurt either.

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Hello Winter My Old Friend.

This morning when my eyes fluttered open, laying snoozing under the warm covers and reality began to come into focus for another day I remembered a few things.  First of all today is Remembrance Day in Canada where at 11 am we stop everything, and give thanks for those who gave their lives and futures so that we in the free world could remain free.

A good 8 or 9 inches of snow overnight before drifting!

Also we were to get a huge dump of snow over night, yesterday as we enjoyed our evening there already was a light dusting on the ground.  Enough to paralyze a southern American city but hardly enough to make a Winnipegger blink twice.

Today however is a slightly different story,  although not debilitating to any Canadian versed in winter, but a pain in the ass none the less.  Over night we got a good solid dump of around 9-10 inches of wintry goodness.   Enough to make our trucks in the backyard look like they were tucked in for a good winters nap complete with sleeping caps à la The Night Before Christmas.

Truck and jeep cleaned off but still with a little toque of snow on top.

It’s not like we were not expecting it, but it still sucks to know that you have to put on the Sorrels and shovel everything out before going out.  It makes you want to just stay in bed and cuddle the day away with your special someone.

I guess that’s it for fires this year. Our fire pit is full of snow.

It also makes me very glad that Darlene and I have 4 wheel drive, thus allowing us to brave the higher snowbanks and forgo shoveling out the driveway until we get our snow blower back in action this week.

The path to our composter is clear thanks to Dominick.

I guess the most important thing about being Canadian is loving each one of our four seasons and making the most out of each of them.  As we say in St Boniface C’est si bon! It’s so good!!

Lest We Forget