Our current climate of blowing snow and slush doesn’t exactly scream salad weather.
Instead, it makes you want to bathe in oniony beef stock with a blanket of melted cheese, or get smothered in buttery mashed potatoes topped with tender braised meats and a rich demi-glace. (We’d say metaphorically here, but really who couldn’t do with a French Onion Soup filled pool? Perhaps it will be the next addition to Thermëa?)
This is how your appetite should welcome winter. And for us, our favourite spot in the city to do so is at Promenade Café and Wine.
It’s safe to say that Promenade, with its prime location at the foot of the Esplanade Riel providing panoramic views of downtown Winnipeg from the dining room, has become a staple for quality bistro fare. They knock it out morning or night, be it eggs Benedict on meaty-yet-supple house-smoked salmon (the breakfast really is a hidden gem of sorts), or moules frites in a creamy broth with matchstick fries for lunch or dinner.
They also make a mean poutine, as evidenced by the pimped-up ras el hanout version that won them the People’s Choice title at this fall’s Poutine Cup.
If you want the holy trinity of meals when it comes to embracing winter, go with a three-course dinner consisting of French onion soup, followed by the Agneau (braised lamb shank) and Winnipeg’s best pecan pie.
Promenade’s French onion soup is always going to be a winner with its balance of sweet-savoury-creamy, courtesy of caramelized onions, deep beef broth, and melted Gruyère. It’s one of those dishes that is equally a dishwasher’s and cook’s nightmare (there’s no cure for the onion-cutting cries nor for dealing with all that baked-on cheese), while always being a dinner’s delight. Just be sure to pay homage to that kitchen crew by picking off all those crunchy Gruyère bits while slurping up every last drop of broth.
Lamb shank $26 (PCG)
The lamb at Promenade is braised to the point that it is just barely holding onto the bone. That braising liquid (composed of red wine, stock, mirepoix etc.) is then reduced to a viscous savoury-sweet demi that could win the day on nearly any cut of red meat. To even out the flavours and provide a bit of texture you get truffled chickpeas, sautéed mushrooms and bits of blue cheese for some added tang.
It’s a very dad dish, one you’d be expected to ordered from the head of a table during a family dinner. All stereotypes aside, there are few meat dishes in the city that are as luxurious and rewarding.
It comes on a bed of super buttery mashed potatoes – Promenade is known for using local products whenever possible. This includes Notre Dame Creamery butter, which they put to awesome effect at Fort Gibraltar Dining Corp. (owners Connie and Shawn Brandson’s catering business) during Festival Du Voyageur (more on that here).
Be sure to save room, because the display case of pies, cakes and crème brûlée at Promenade is the kind of thing that a small child would throw a deserving fit over after being denied after much pointing.
Considering the amount of sugar pie they go through during Festival, it only makes sense that the pecan pie here is a masterpiece. It’s a solid two inches thick, with that gooey, sugary filling and a tall, buttery, flaky crust. It’s seriously the best pecan pie in the city, one that you can more accurately describe in moans than words.
Promenade Café and Wine is located at 130 Provencher Boulevard and is open daily, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.