The following is a conversation my step-mom and I had on Facebook regarding a photo album I posted of pictures taken while in Winnipeg for work.
Step-mom: So I’m getting a strong sense that Winnipeg is all about swamps, ugly cityscapes, and odd packaged food. Is that about right? Am I missing anything?
Me: It’s cold here too. Oh! But the squirrels are cute!
Step-mom: That makes up for a LOT.
That’s Winnipeg in a nutshell. It’s cold. I was there in May and it was below freezing with the wind chill. It’s swampy-ish, minus the crocodiles, but only because I happened to be there right after a flood. It’s ugly and drab. Come on Canada, you can do better than this. You’re such a beautiful country and because of that I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume Winnipeg is beautiful in summer when the trees actually have leaves on them (I looked at Winnipeg on Google Street View and yes, I’ve confirmed, it does look much prettier when the leaves are green and the sky is blue). Odd packaged food, yes those Canadians love their crazy chip flavors like honey mustard and ketchup. And so do I. I was bummed that my bag of Lay’s Honey Mustard chips did not survive the plane trip back to California. What had been a bag filled with fried, crispy chips of honey mustard deliciousness when I packed it was transformed to what was basically a bag filled with honey mustard flavored sand. And the squirrels are cute. They have little tufted ears that brought a touch of cuteness and joy to the damp, gray, cold city of Winnipeg. But seriously, I’m sure it’s nice in the summer.
Enough bashing on Winnipeg. Although it seems like a city with a thick skin, or least a thick winter parka, and I’m sure can take any bashing I have to give, I actually do have some nice things to say about this Canadian prairie city. Like the food. Who would have thought Winnipeg would have some of the best food I’ve ever had? I had my first taste of tarte au sucre brun or brown sugar pie, a French Canadian delicacy, at Resto Gare Bistro located in Winnipeg’s French Quarter. It was simple and rustic, yet delicious. They also had the best creamed spinach I’ve ever had, as odd as that may sound. The words ‘best’ and ‘creamed spinach’ don’t generally go together in most people’s vocabulary, but I’m weird, okay. I actually like creamed spinach. Or rather I did like creamed spinach before I got pregnant. Now the smell of cooked spinach is enough to make me gag. But what’s important here is that at the time, I loved creamed spinach and this was the best creamed spinach I had ever had. But that’s enough about creamed spinach. Clearly I have digressed, let’s get back onto my favorite subject, sweet, sweet desserts.
The brown sugar pie was only the second best dessert I had in Winnipeg. The first, and my second favorite dessert of all time, was the chocolate cake at a Spanish tapas restaurant that I can no longer find any existence of online. This chocolate cake was so dense and rich, that even though it was flour based, you could have convinced me I was eating cheesecake in a blind taste test. It saddens me that this restaurant no longer exists because I would actually go back to Winnipeg just to have this chocolate cake again. It was that divine.
I’m not a steak eater, but my co-workers are, so we went to a couple of steak houses while in Winnipeg. I had the mustard salmon at The Keg Steakhouse and Bar and it was melt in your mouth delicious. The salmon was fresh and not fishy tasting and the mustard complimented it perfectly rather than over powered it. I had the Caesar salad and garlic toast at Rae and Jerry’s Steakhouse. The romaine was brown and limp and I spent the rest of the night curled up on the bathroom floor in my hotel room. Obviously, I’m not a big fan of Rae and Jerry’s Caesar salad, but I didn’t try the steak there or at The Keg so I can’t honestly say who has the better steak.
Even the fast food dessert options are better in Winnipeg. At the McDonald’s they had a Cadbury Cream Egg McFlurry. I’m actually kind of glad these aren’t available stateside or I would probably gain about ten extra pounds every year around Easter. As if the Cadbury Cream Egg wasn’t delicious enough as it were, add it to smooth, creamy vanilla ice cream and you have magic in your mouth. I could really go for one of these right now.
I’ve always had a fondness for Canadian cities. I love Toronto, Montreal, Victoria, Vancouver, and now I can add Winnipeg to that list as well. That’s right, I said it. I actually really enjoyed Winnipeg. And it wasn’t just the food. Sure it was ugly, cold, gray, and wet (I realize I sound like a broken record, but I can’t stress enough how cold and gray it was) while I was there, but it still found a spot in my heart. I liked the old prairie town meets cosmopolitan city vibe of Winnipeg. I liked the parks and walking paths along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, the quaint old Fort Gibraltar (I was an avid player of the computer game, Oregon Trail when I was a kid, so seeing an actual fort pleased me), and the British style buildings downtown, complete with the blue, green oxidized copper roofs. I liked the Canadian beer, the Tim Horton’s, and all the quirky British snack foods available at the Shopper’s Drug Mart. I would love to go back to Winnipeg some day, hopefully in summer. And that’s something I’ll never say about Fargo.