French Canadian Food: A Winnipeg Sampler
Winter in Winnipeg means a lot of things.
It's about survival, yes. But it's also about embracing the season. For locals, the key to loving this half of the year is getting out, having fun and ultimately silencing the winter naysayers.
We also have a built-in antidote for winter whiners and whining: Festival du Voyageur.
This annual winter festival is a celebration of the season and our Métis and French roots. It's about food, dance, music and family. And food. And more food. Winnipeg's French culture and its cuisine doesn't start and stop at the borders of St. Boniface, our French Quarter.
In bistros, cafés and eateries in all corners of the city, French and Métis fare is proudly served. In that spirit, here are a few traditional and nouveau French and French-Canadian dishes that stand-out in Winnipeg's food scene.
Maple Sugar Pie at Fort Gibraltar
You haven't truly been inducted into the local food scene until you've scarfed down a slice of maple sugar pie. Lots of local restaurants serve their own versions of this classic Canadian dessert. We love the Fort Gibraltar version, sold on a stick during Festival du Voyageur. It's divine and it's delicious. And hey, it's dessert on a stick. What's not to love? (The rest of the year, you are likely to find the same version down the street at Promenade Café and Wine, which is also owned by the Fort Gibraltar folks.)
Lobster Poutine at Dessert Sinsations
Decadence, thy name is lobster poutine. Forget classic curds and gravy. Think mozzarella, dill and hollandaise and now you're talking. Dessert Sinsations' version of poutine brings high brow to low-brow eats. Bring a friend, order a plate and get eating. It's ridiculous and ridiculously good.
Chocolate Croissant with almond creme at L'Epi de Blé
Nathalie and Gilles Gautier know French pastry. They know it because they live it. As France ex-pats, this couple are masters of French pastry. Their West Kildonan patisserie has not only become a favourite for neighbourhood denizens but Winnipeggers across the city. The pastries, macarons, slices, breads, fruit tarts, you name it, are just that spectacular. (The bakery is a great pitstop for pre-Beach trips in the summer too.) The chocolate croissant is a dream of butter, almond cream and a finger of semi-sweet, Belgian chocolate.
Tartiflette at Chez Sophie
Add Trappist and mozzarella cheese, thick-cut slices of ham, bacon, cream, pan-fried potatoes and butter. Roast in oven until bubbling hot with a perfectly blistered cheese canopy. Chez Sophie's tartiflette is ridiculous. It's over-the-top French comfort food. It's heaven in a crock for carb lovers. It's fantastic. It's French. And you will need a nap after you're done.
Tourtiere at Le Garage
Meat pie is a hard sell. It's not fancy but it sure does fill you up. It's a mix of ground beef, pork and/or veal with diced onions and sometimes potatoes and other root vegetables. It's all packaged in pastry.Versions of the traditional French-Canadian dish is found on menus throughout Winnipeg. Le Garage's version is simple and simply grand.
Bison Spring Rolls at InFerno's Bistro
So Bison Spring rolls aren't on anyone's list of classic French-Canadian cuisine. Bison, however, was a food staple on the Prairies for Aboriginals and Métis traders and voyageurs. They hunt it, they ate it and it was a commodity to be bought and sold. At InFerno's Bistro, that lean meat goes modern inside a spring roll. Sweet chili dipping sauce adds a little heat.
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