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Everything posted by winefellow

  1. It's been a SPECTACULAR year for local wild morels...I've been out about 6 times picking and have gathered at least 200 mushrooms per pick. I believe the slow, cool (and not overly wet) start to the season has fruited many more 'shrooms than usual and the season has lingered nicely due to the absence of excessive "mushroom-frying" heat. I've pigged out numerous times on these delectable spring treats and have, as usual, gifted many to culinary-oriented friends and colleagues. My favourite way to cook them is perhaps the most simple; sautéed in butter in a large pan with crushed fresh garlic cloves until the natural juices have precipitated from the mushrooms and cooked off. If you're doing a sauce, the juices make an important contribution. Discard the garlic and eason the mushrooms with salt, pepper and a drizzle of fresh lemon juice just before serving. They make a fantastic accompaniment to veal (scallopine or chops), chicken or pork and are très sympatique served in concert with fresh fiddleheads, asparagus, spring peas or pea shoots. Having said that, Chef Masa of Yujiro Restaurant on Grant Avenue was going to prepare his "goody-bag" of morels tempura-style...that had the potential to be amazing! And the best part... Folklore has it than when it's been a great Morel year, it will also be a fantastic Chanterelle year! Can't wait 'til July! Cheers, all. Happy cooking, eating and drinking!
  2. Hello Kids... Ahhh...the eternal produce debate, primarily focused upon veggies. I think that you've summed it up...among the supermarkets, Asian Markets and - in the summer - the St. Norbert AND Assiniboia Downs produce markets (along with places like Crampton's and some new one that has JUST opened at the corner of McGillivray and the Perimeter), you pretty much have the gamut. One alternative...for those with a garden space, why not try growing your own unusual produce? The staff at garden centres such as Shelmerdine's or St. Mary's Nursery and Garden Centre can advise what stands a good chance of growing here. In fact, Shelmerdine's always has very interesting veggie plant material, although the selection is somewhat limited so one would have to move fairly quickly in the spring to source it. I always plant herbs...loads of herbs...there's a small greenhouse out south St. Mary's Road almost to the Floodway that has a fabulous selection of herbs...something like 10 kinds of thyme, 6 types of oregano, 8 types of basil, etc... I also plant tomatoes - usually three different varieties that all mature at a different rate so there is always something "coming in" during the season. Another possibility if you have the connections is the mega food service distributor, Serca Foods, which often brings in interesting produce for restaurants, etc. You will have to have a restaurant connection, however, to purchase anything from them and it's often in case lots unless you can share the case with your restaurant-owner/chef friend. DeLuca's warehouse often brings in fascinating produce as well for food service - especially interesting mushrooms in season. On another note, I've been out 4 times picking spring morels and while they are elusive, I have managed to gather approximately 20 lbs. in total over the 4 pickings. I'm going again today, but I think this will be the last of the season. I found half-free, or "cow's head" morels early - blonde in colour with a tall stalk; then I managed to find a fabulous patch of common morels that had the "burn-site" look to them...they were large, meaty and amazing in a lovingly-crafted risotto! Finally, I've found lots of blacks - to some the most amazing morels of all - with one patch yielding mushrooms that were huge! Others have not been so lucky...thankfully my secret spot paid off this year...hopefully there will be a few more out there today! Oh, FYI, most of my morels are given to my chef-friends...believe me, the goodwill attained by dropping off those morels to the chefs bodes well for favours that I might need throughout the year! Happy hunting everyone...and if anyone checks out the new produce place at McGillivray and the Perimeter, please post about it. Happy Cooking, Eating and Wine Drinking!
  3. The REAL question is...stewed in WHAT? Beef stock? Red wine? White wine? Fruit juice? Notwithstanding the known - i.e. the beef and the lemongrass, flavours imparted by the liquids and seasonings are the key here. Gewurz? Dammit...I've tried SOOOO hard to love gewurz as a match with food, but I find - almost invariably - that most Gewurz-es are too floral and often lack the acidity needed to pair decently with the vast majority of dishes. Once again, depending upon the stock and seasonings, I would be inclined to go with an old-world red. Moulin-a-Vent (arguably the "best" Beaujolais-Villages) - especially Chateau des Jacques from Jadot; a middle-rank Corbieres or Minervois; Pugliese Primitivo or a good Rioja Crianza definitely come to mind. Avoid oaky or overly tannic wines - younger is probably better here. Having said that, my preference is always to have at least 3 different wines in front of me at all times - now THAT is the way to eat. And to drink. Happy Easter and Pesach to all!
  4. Ooohh! Damn self-deprecating Manitobans. Usually based from ignorance rather than fact. So, "...Winnipeg is not a great culinery (sic) city. It is not on par with Toronto or Vancouver, let alone the true culinery (sic) destinations like Paris, London, or New York..." Well, I can only agree (somewhat) to the statement that we are not "on par" with the cities mentioned. Well, DUH! Population, wealth demographics and sheer critical mass will always dictate that those markets will have more to offer. In terms of sheer cooking skill, I will argue to the ends of the earth that there is great food to be found in Winnipeg. And, conversely, that lousy food can be found at so-called "great" restaurants in "great" culinary destinations. I was appalled, for example, at the pitiful excuse for a gastronomic feast that I recently had at Gary Danko in San Francisco - and all for the pittance of about USD$250 per person, inclusive of middle-of-the-road wine. And I could relate many more, but I'd prefer to focus upon the good (and great!) that is to be found closer to home. You were on the right track when you indicated that "There are some honest, young chefs, running small restaurants and making contemporary French/fusion type cusine, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule." Not only were you on the right track for Winnipeg, but you were also on the right track for Toronto, Vancouver, Paris, London, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Sydney, to name just a few. There is a lot of lousy food to be found in those cities as well, and - trust me - you don't have to look that hard for it. So...where have you eaten in Winnipeg? Have you had the glorious gnocchi or succulent lamb at Tre Visi? Have you eaten Chef Gereta's mouth-watering bison ribs at Mise? Have you enjoyed Chef Lorna's take on regional Manitoba cuisine using Manitoba produce at Fusion Grill? How about Makoto Ono's magnificent Japanese/French/Canadian fresh market cooking at Glutton's? Hmmm...I drool thinking about Fern's moules/frites Provençal at In-Ferno's Bistro (for under ten bucks!) and you'd never catch me giving up Chef Bernard's classic French cuisine for Lent (ooh la la the foie gras!) at Mirlycourtois. Mike D'Acquisto's magnificent Prime steaks at 529 are to die for and young Alexander Svenne is packing them in every night with his inventive fresh market cooking at Seven and a quarter on S. Osborne. Try the wood oven pizzas at Bonfire Bistro and find a member-friend to take you to St. Charles Country Club for one of recent Order of Canada inductee Chef Takashi Murakami's "Chef's Table" experiences. And we haven't even touched on the ethnic to speak of...you've clearly had experiences that are outside the norm of the establishments that you've mentioned. I'm sure that a repeat visit would likely change your opinion. This is an abbreviated list, but I hope you get the picture. As for produce? Well, I agree wholeheartedly that the market at the Forks is a joke...isn't and never really has been good. But, there are other great destinations for great produce. Le Croissant on Tache for French breads, pastries and charcuterie and Lisbon Bakery on Sargent for kick-ass water bread and more. Sun Wah Market in Chinatown for ridiculously inexpensive and uber-fresh Chinese/Oriental veggies. Vic's Produce on Pembina for consistently superior products. Costa Brava on Sargent for sparkling-fresh fish and seafood Wednesdays through Saturdays. DeLuca's on Portage for all things Italian and DeNardi's (The Piazza) on Taylor at Waverley. Once again, this is but a small list...there are many more passionate food-mongers to be found day after day in Winnipeg, and our summer markets at St. Norbert and Assiniboia Downs are fabulous. Add 8 passionate private wine merchants with over 5000 wine selections cumulatively and you get the picture. There's a story here and it's time we told it. I hope you've enjoyed the prologue. Buon appetito!
  5. Interesting topic...funny that I was drawn to logging on for the first time in about 6 months - and there's Rona encouraging everyone to PM me! And...sigh...not even one PM. *chuckling* The problem in Winnipeg with trying to establish a cohesive plan and program for culinary tourism is largely politically based. The professional culinary community is not large and is, sadly, highly fragmented. There is far too much self-interest and not enough big-picture vision. The Restaurant Association has been a joke - rife with corruption and internal politics; The Chefs' Association is a bit cliquey and while it has noble intentions, is rather ineffective in promoting anything culinary other than its own narrowly based and parochial initiatives. Publications such as "Ciao", "Connoisseur" and "Style" cannot do it on their own. After all, they ARE all about selling advertising and I'm sure they would lack the resources to mount an effective campaign. Having said that, I am a shameless promoter of the Winnipeg culinary scene. Being a foodie who has travelled extensively and experienced the cooking of The French Laundry, Tetsuya's, The Fat Duck and many others, I can vouch for the world-class quality and passion of Winnipeg's food community, both amateur and professional. So, how do we introduce this to the world? At least, the finite world that might hop on a plane from Chicago, Toronto, Minneapolis or Thunder Bay for the express purpose of coming to Winnipeg to eat, drink and perhaps be pampered in one of our great new spas. Due to a lack of confident critical mass, however, I believe this "cause" needs to be taken up by an entity or entities with social and civic responsibility. Of course, we can always look to the tourism branches of both the Civic or Provincial governments, but there needs to be more. If the media could put their advertising order-books away for just a moment, perhaps a coalition of media-types along with enthusiastic and well-connected non-media individuals could be the answer. For example, the bright young new Publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, Andy Ritchie, has just arrived from a stint at the Globe & Mail and is gung-ho to put Winnipeg on the map. It doesn't hurt that he's an avid foodie and wine lover, either. Perhaps he and his key staff could organize a team to spearhead this initiative. In the end, a successful program means more business for all, and that's when their order-books can come back out and the natural cycle of cause and effect in a free market economy will repay them in spades. In the end, it's all about vision, isn't it? Being able to believe that this is a cause to be taken up for greater good and that resultant benefits will accrue in many corners. Who has that vision? Who has the ear of the people and the politicians? Who can pull a crackerjack team together that represents the true mosaic of the city? Andy Ritchie...this job's for you.
  6. Just a quickie to congratulate Mark and Dana...success in the big city couldn't happen to two nicer people. Let it be known that Mark is a former Winnipegger..."...you can take the boy of out Winnipeg, but you can't take Winnipeg out of the boy..." (unknown) Can't wait to get out there and experience your place during WineFest, guys. Keep on doin' it! JJ
  7. Agreed...Cafe Kohler is yum, but too narrowly focused. It was likely "Provençe" at the Niakwa Country Club. I must say that Provençe has definitely picked up its socks recently...Chef Lau Yung (formerly St. Charles Country Club) has taken a while to get up to speed, but a recent lunch as well as another special function that I attended showed great improvement over previous visits. This resto is operated by Valerie Anne Owen and Shawn Branson (both formerly Le Beaujolais) under contract with the golf club. Gossip: It seems that its recent success has not gone unnoticed by the Board of Directors of the Niakwa Club. As I type, I believe their entire deal is under review with the potential that the Proprietors may walk if negotiations fail. Oh, by the way, WoW! Hospitality Corp's (529 Steakhouse; Pasta la Vista, etc.) new concept, "Hu's on First", shows interesting potential, despite its odd location at the ol' Canwest Global ballyard (at least that explains its name). And the space formerly occupied by The Loop has just reopened under the same ownership as Amici/Bombolini. Kind of a pan-Italian concept, I've heard. Watch them carefully. C'est la vie. That's the biz, I suppose. Have to go. Past my lunchtime.
  8. Amy... Did you happen to even bother checking out any new Winnipeg restos? This question is but a curiosity, because I don't believe that anything exciting has opened here for a few years now. New chefs have taken over the stoves at a couple of old spots, with extremely promising results. These include Luc Jean at La Vieille Gare (from the Manitoba Club) and Lorna Murdoch at Fusion Grill (formerly Bluewater Cafe, Vancouver and Messis, Toronto). Otherwise, it's pretty static. I do enjoy Bonfire Bistro for casual neighbourhood dining, but it shouldn't and even couldn't warrant a "best new" moniker by almost anyone's standard. And it's been open for a touch over a year. A self-deprecating lot we've always been, we Winnipeggers. But you love us anyway. Cuz we keep poppin' up all over the place. Like poison mushrooms. Ha! Ciao for niao
  9. Lesley... I'm a bit surprised that Xacutti in Toronto didn't make the grade...only reason I can think of is that their wine list is a bit bizarre. In their attempt to create something different and unusual, they've gone out of their way to go off the beaten track, perhaps to the point where they lost sight of the trail entirely. I think that a few "comfort zones" on the wine list would be most welcome to the majority of diners. Food is exceptional - sort of fusion-ish (damn I hate that word!) - with light-handed Indian and even Thai influences. Inventive cocktails and spectacular desserts, too. The large, rectangular communal table is a great idea for single diners, especially those foodies who are "single and looking" (take a peek at the quirky handwritten notes hanging from the chandeliers illuminating the big table, or better yet, write your own). And did I mention that Chef/Owner Brad Moore is a proud former Winnipegger? Then again, the world is loaded with those. All for the better, I'm thinking. *chuckling* Thanks for your constant valuable input into this great site. Oh...forgot to mention that there are plenty of other tables other than the big one, as well as a cute little lounge in the back corner of the resto.
  10. Steve, that is correct. Very difficult to find that brand and grade of beef, indeed. Apparently it represents only a tiny part of Cargill's production. We are fortunate to be able to experience this product at Wow! Hospitality Corporation's "529" Steakhouse here in Winnipeg. I think there is another restaurant somewhere in eastern Canada that uses it as well. Perhaps some of the other contributors know just where that might be. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving.
  11. I think that Steven's reference to Manitoba beef was based upon a visit to Fusion Grill, where they are steadfast proponents of using local produce. They use beef from grass-fed cattle produced near Stonewall, Manitoba, I believe. Having experienced it several times at Fusion, I can vouch for its tastiness and tenderness. Beyond that, I'm not aware of any special "programs" such as Cargill's Alberta "Prime" program, which supplies the Winnipeg steak house, "529". Manitobans seem to be reasonably parochial about consuming their own products. If offered a choice between Manitoba beef and Alberta beef, with quality being essentially equal, I believe that most Manitobans would choose local. It's interesting that there's a quiet, but active, bison production business in Manitoba, as well. I purchased bison tenderloin at an outdoor market this summer that was absolutely stunning in quality. Not cheap, but a wonderful alternative to beef. By the way, there are also a few Manitoba lamb producers that do a great job - I buy Manitoba lamb regularly from DeLuca's market on Portage Avenue. Those in-the-know will phone ahead to butcher Felice and have him debone and marinate a leg of lamb a couple of days in advance. His "secret" marinade is absolutely amazing...roasted properly to medium-rare, you can't stop eating this...piece after piece after piece after piece... Bon appetit!
  12. Well, well, well...what a pleasant surprise to see a flurry of posts about the Winnipeg dining scene. Much of the information is accurate - particularly prasantrin's on-the-mark observations. However, the restaurant scene in Winnipeg, as in other centres, is dynamic. For example, chef Terry Gereta has departed from Fusion Grill and has opened an upscale catering company with his pastry chef wife, Sue. A young female chef with experience at both Bluewater Cafe in Vancouver and Scaramouche in Toronto is on her way in, undoubtedly with fresh ideas...PROVIDING owner/maitre'd Scot McTaggart lets her do her thing. Chef Dale Nichols (Velvet Glove at the Fairmont) is long gone. 529 - the aforementioned infamous steak house - has become the haunt of the "beautiful people" (Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon reportedly dined there frequently during the recent filming of "Shall we Dance" with J. Lo - with Gere supposedly raving about the salmon as he's not a meat eater). Quality is good, especially if WoW! Corporation's Executive Chef Michael D'Acquisto is actually in the kitchen. It's loosely modelled - foodwise and pricewise - on Montréal's Queue de Cheval, except the room is much more traditional (the old Khartum Shriner's Temple on Wellington Crescent...if walls could speak!). However, the steakhouse concept is not for everyone, so... Bright spots: In addition to the little 44 seat restaurant Tre Visi (call chef/owner Giacomo Appice on Monday or Tuesday to pick up market-fresh Mediterranean fish from the Portuguese fish market for Wednesday or Thursday dining), La Vieille Gare shows great promise. Young chef Luc Jean is definitely capable of producing fabulously inventive fare, but I would personally phone him to prepare a "special" menu if dining there...he thrives on a challenge (and a guest who allows him to break free from the owner's strict food cost formula). Chef Lau Young at Provençe Bistro in the Niakwa Country Club (open to the public), is a protegé of the amazing Takashi Murakami. His debut as chef de cuisine was rather ignominious, but he's been slowly finding his style in this restaurant which is owned by the former proprietor of the now-defunct Beaujolais Restaurant, Valerie Anne Owen. Chef/owner Ohno's son, Mak, has revamped the menu at Edohei after doing stages in the Languedoc and in London, and he brings a fresh new touch to the menu that transcends typical sushi/Japanese restaurant fare. Bonfire Bistro, located on an out-of-the-way stretch of Corydon Avenue, is a fun neighbourhood spot with high marks for yum factor. It's been spotty over the summer, but a couple of recent visits have been spot on. A wood-fired pizza with grilled pineapple, smoked Mennonite ham, roasted red peppers, grilled red onions, habanero chilies, monterey jack and cheddar cheeses and finished with a dusting of freshly chopped cilantro was SO good that I had it for lunch AND dinner on the same day. Great value at Bonfire. I could go on...but I'm sure I've lost most of the readers about 150 words ago. By the way, enough cannot be said about the influence of the very active Manitoba Chapter of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs in pushing the top Winnipeg establishments to achieve "personal bests", year after year. We are fortunate indeed to have the well-travelled and sage influences of Chefs Takashi Murakami and Bernard Mirlycourtois (St. Charles Country Club and Manitoba Club respectively) constantly prodding and encouraging Winnipeg's culinary professionals through Chaine involvement. By the way, Winnipeggers hearts generally lie in Western Canada, but we're smart enough to milk the eastern influence for all it's worth. (tongue firmly in cheek, please!) By the way easterners, I'll be in Toronto and Niagara from the 15th to the 20th of October. Any cutting-edge new spots that are can't miss? I'm travelling with a journalist (NOT the food critic!) from the Winnipeg Free Press, so there could even be a story there, if worthwhile...
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