Tag Archives: French Cooking

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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A lovely anniversary dinner at Beaujena’s French Table.

This past weekend was a special one for Darlene and me.  We celebrated our 4th anniversary as a couple.  We exchanged kisses and gifts as I arose for work early Friday, but little did I know that Dar had more up her sleeve this year.

As I went out the door for work leaving her in bed she told me to be ready to dress special for dinner.  WHAT?  No clue to where we were going??  Just dress nice.  What a brat! My mind was spinning all day.  What were we going to dine on?  Should I dress casual or to the nines?

When I got home from work she finally relented and told me to get dressed for St. Boniface’s french quarter.  We were going to Beaujena’s.  Beaujena’s even for the residents of St. B is a mystery.  A husband and wife team run the 24 seat restaurant and the menu is known to change at a whim.   Once seated you are at the mercy of the chef.

Not to worry though, for years the reviews of this establishment have been solid to say the least.  Myself, a seasoned eater and more that welcome to eat whatever is put in front of me, was cool.  More to the point I worried about Darlene,  although not a picky eater, she really does have preferences and I thought that a “Strange” dish could have thrown our dinner off the rails.

The first dish of our seven course meal was a baked lemon with anchovies, cheese and olives.  Served with bread, it was strange for sure but savory, sweet and tangy all at the same time.  This dish shouldn’t have worked but it did, it was light and really awoke my palate.

Baked lemon with bread. This should never have worked but yet it did.

The second dish a light garden tomato soup.  The soup was silky smooth and rich, none of the extra acid one would normally expect from a tomato soup was present.  Rich and velvety, all around excellent.

Smooth excellence garden tomato soup

The third was a trio of quinoa Arancini stuffed with a light white cheese,  fried to a golden texture.  I am not a huge fan of quinoa, but I did like the treatment of the ingredients, everything worked well together.  If you like the grain instead of rice you’ll love these, served in an acidic red sauce they almost taste like pizza bites.  Everything works in this dish except for my dislike of quinoa.

Trio of quinoa balls in red sauce.

Fourth came an evolved seafood dish,  calamari stuffed with shrimp served on a light mustard sauce.  To my taste the shrimp stuffed calamari was perfect, a nice interplay between the two sea creatures.  As I told Chef Randy after the meal however, Darlene and I both found the mustard a bit overpowering.   Seafood by essence is delicate, mustard should be left for more hearty meats.

Squid stuffed with Shrimps

Bacon Squared turned the corner on flavor, throwing subtle out the window and giving us full two barrel flavor.  Bacon and fatty pork belly really make you hit the wall.  Salty, fatty but balanced with a supremely acidic gastrique.  It all works, if you like fatty pork, if you like bacon, if you enjoy a good tangy pickle you will love this dish.  It’s over the top in richness but saved by the gastrique which cuts through it all and just delivers flavour.

Three levels of heaven, the Bacon Squared

Thankfully a cleansing salad was served before dessert, a joyfully light portion of Asian greens with beets and a blue cheese vinaigrette.  Thankfully light and acidic.  Fighting once again through the very heavy levels of the bacon and pork belly.

Asian green salad with beets and blue cheese vinaigrette.

I bet you thought I forgot about dessert , not by a long shot friends.  The Chef himself brought out our decadent rich chocolate torte.  He and I discussed how the dinner progressed, Darlene seemed content to just sit and listen.  Waiting for the first perfect bite of an obviously obscenely wicked treat.

Beaujena’s chocolate torte. So rich, so delicious.

One cannot explain a meal like this in a few sentences.  Was the meal perfect? How was the service?  Did we have a great time?

For Beaujena’s I can solidly say that the total of the experience was well above average, the food was an exploration of what food can be, the service was personal and friendly.  Darlene and I got to reconnect in many ways that went above food and flavor.

If you and your special someone have more than a few hours to kill.  Do check out Beaujena’s French Table.  For romance and good food you will not forget the experience.

Beaujena’s French Table

Bob's Place Winnipeg restaurants

The Peasant Cookery: More than a step above the ordinary.

A few months ago I was doing some volunteer work with a group for men wanting to change their lives.  The work itself was incredibly rewarding but little did I know that I had gastronomic reward also waiting for me.  At the end of the course our group facilitator Mel handed me a thank you card for all of my efforts.  Inside was a gift certificate for any number of city restaurants in the WOW! chain of establishments.  But this certificate came with certain restrictions.

In her patented stern yet amazingly gentle way Mel informed me that I could use the certificate at any one of the WOW! restaurants as long as I chose The Peasant Cookery.  During the course Mel and I had often talked about our passions for finding great meals separate from the throng of mundane chain establishments that seemed to be sucking the life out of the Winnipeg dining scene.

In any case when I arrived home from work yesterday I could tell that Darlene was itching to go out on the town for dinner.  She suggested Hermanos, an all time favorite steakhouse of ours, until I remembered that gift certificate I had tucked away in my wallet a few months ago.  I suggested the Peasant Cookery and within minutes we were out the door and headed down to the exchange district in search of a great meal.

The Peasant Cookery in the 105 year old Traveller’s Block.

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Dining in the quarter made easy at Le Garage Café

As my long term readers will know we live in the French quarter of St Boniface, it is an area filled with the heady smells of fresh bread being baked in the morning and the sounds of ringing church bells keeping time in the afternoon.  It is also a place where you can expect to be greeted en Français before a word of English is spoken.

So to many an Anglophone, particularly those visiting from out of town, the French Quarter can be a confusing and intimidating place.  But rest assured travellers English is still readily spoken here even in the most hard-core French establishments.

Le Garage Café

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In Ferno’s Bistro: Prairie Fusion at its Best.

The other night my lady and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary together as a couple, the weekend was young and a nice dinner out was in order. As you may suspect there are many excellent local establishments we could have tried but as it happens we had hankerd to try a little bistro only 2 minutes from our home.

In Ferno's Bistro

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