Winnipeg Meals Developments: What We Need To See In 2014

The Winnipeg food scene is never boring. Insiders keep the city’s gourmets satisfied with new dishes and new culinary experiences. Winnipeg’s culinary culture continued to evolve in 2013, largely with the introduction of RAW: almond, the pop-up on ice, and the opening of Prairie 360˚, the city’s revolving restaurant and boutique coffeehouses like Thom Bargen and Little Sister Coffee maker. New additions, such as The Grove’s Osborne Village location, are in sight. The coming year also promises a lot from local caterers, restaurateurs and chefs. Here are a few trends we’d love to see in Winnipeg in 2014.

Party planner
A few years ago Bistro launched 7¼ School Nights, a weekly Sunday evening get-together at Bistro South Osborne. The party was free, everyone was invited, and the themes were reflected in the food, drink, and entertainment. The lively nights that are still held each week brought diners of all stripes out. It was (and still is) a fantastic way to spend a Sunday evening meeting new people. More and more restaurateurs, chefs and gourmets are launching their own kitchen-themed parties, held in-house or in secret locations. The pros will look for creative ways to get bums in their seats, especially on days and hours of low occupancy. We gourmets want book clubs in restaurants, themed tasting menus, food festivals, tea parties and dinners with beer accompaniment. If you build it, we’ll come.

Breed your own
Chaise Café and Lounge owner Shea Ritchie is one of several Winnipeg restaurateurs and chefs who grow their own ingredients in summer and winter. Ritchie’s Provencher Avenue restaurant has a garden and container gardens in the summer and a hydroponic garden in the basement all year round. (Robin Summerfield)Diversity Foods at the University of Winnipeg, with head chef Ben Kramer at the helm, is in the process of creating its own indoor garden on campus in a largely abandoned greenhouse. He is one of several local chefs who grow (or try to grow) his own vegetables and herbs. Johnny Kien from Saigon Jon’s and Shea Ritchie from Chaise Café and Lounge have also gotten green fingers. Sure, Manitoba has a short growing season that severely limits the use of local produce, but we would still wish more kitchens would put this “eat locally” mantra to the test. Small batch food suppliers
Kim Bialkoski’s Flora and Farmer company offers cucumbers and canned food in small quantities. (Kim Bialkoski)Local chefs, many 9 to 5 years old, have started more small artisan food businesses in recent years. Flora and Farmer, Andorah’s Feast, Delicious Kicks are just a few newcomers to the market. They sell their goods at farmers ‘and manufacturers’ markets and in boutiques with groceries. Flavor, local ingredients, and little or no preservatives are key to these jams, pickles, baked specialties, sauces, and salsas. Quality and word of mouth are the keys to success. There’s a lot more space in Winnipeg’s food scene for more artisanal foods made by home-based foodies and entrepreneurs. Bring the pickle people.

Canning and preserving
Peasant Cookery, a restaurant in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, started the in-house canning and pickling trend. Or at least they were the first business people to embrace this trend. Either way, more local grocers will pickle, canning, and make jams to serve in the house. This annual fall tradition preserves locally grown ingredients for service through the winter months and into spring. The delicacies from the glass (pickles, asparagus, carrots and beets, berry jam, etc.) give the plate a new dimension on cold winter days.

More pop-ups appear
Secret dinners, backdoor bistros, alley burgers and supper clubs will continue to increase in 2014 as more professional gourmets and gourmets meet on the side. Some pop-ups are advertised on Facebook and Twitter and are open to everyone. Others will stay on the low level, circumventing alcohol laws and limiting those who know their way to a limited number. In every form, pop-ups bring life to a city’s food scene. The more the better.

Great thinkers
RAW: Almond to open again on the ice in 2014 (Jacqueline Young)In 2013, chef Mandel Hitzer and architect Joe Kalturnyk founded RAW: Mandel, Winnipeg’s pop-up on ice at The Forks. It was and is a complete success. The guests came out in droves, wrapped in their best cold-weather clothes, to experience some magic in the large white tent. There is no shortage of great thinkers with great ideas on Winnipeg’s list of chefs. The ongoing success of RAW: Almond has opened the door to other great ideas. There were rumors of a winter food festival to celebrate the uncelebrated season. It’s time. Winnipeg can be a well-known food city. It’s on the cusp and the city’s talented crew of food makers and aficionados are about to make it.

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