This gave me my morning giggle – Kevin Macdonald has apparently been roaming around downtown, presenting JUNO awards to Winnipeggers he deems awesome/worthy (and really, aren’t we all?)
This is all to help share the pre-Junos excitement – in just about 3 weeks, the downtown is going to be PACKED with musical events. I didn’t realize it until we were hosting them, but the official JUNO awards are just one of the events – we’re going to have:
A two-night pre-awards-show explosion of music. More than 100 Canadian acts are going to be playing at venues across the city, including the Burt, The Met, the Pyramid Cabaret, Times Changed High & Lonesome Club, the Windsor, and lots more. We’re talking three or four acts every night at every venue going till 2am! Federal Lights, The Treble, Wilderness of Manitoba, Sierra Noble, Nathan, Royal Canoe, The Lytics, and about a 90 more – check out the full listing at http://www.wespeakmusic.ca. Tickets here!
Manitoba Rocks! with the WSO
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is going to join forces with some of the city’s best local acts. Put four of Manitoba’s best bands alongside the forces of the WSO, and you have a whole new experience. Imaginary Cities consists of multi-instrumentalist Rusty Matyas and vocalist Marti Sarbit. JUNO Award-winning Nathan Music Co. harnesses the essence of the Canadian Prairies, capturing the modern, old-fashioned sound of the lonesome, crowded west. JUNO-nominated Royal Canoe comes armed with falsettos, guitars, effects pedals, drums, basses, tambourines, shakers and a six-keyboard super-weapon. The Lytics is a five-man crew whose amalgam of old-school soundscapes and boom-box bangers celebrates, inspires and challenges.
Of course, the JUNO Awards themselves at the MTS Centre. Robin Thicke, Tegan & Sara, Walk Off the Earth are all going to be performing (I saw Tegan & Sara when they toured here last time, and if you missed them, GO NOW). I found some old pics from last time they were in town – the streets were shut down for a big red carpet, fingers crossed that happens again! Tickets for this one at Ticketmaster
No party is complete without the afterparty, and there’s one happening at Manitoba House, aka the Met, right after the awards – entertainment is going to be presented by Countryfest, so I’m getting out my ripped jeans and cowboy hat. Ticket info here
Watching the Oscars. Best done, in my opinion, in true Hollywood style: under a fancy vaulted ceiling in a upholstered theatre seat, after walking a red carpet and wearing a giant gown.
The Met can help you out with all of that (well, ok, you’ll have to bring your own gown if you want to get fancy). They’re hosting an Oscar viewing party this Sunday – doors open at 5pm, when you can strike a red-carpet pose, get some delicious dinner, watch the show on the big screen, and since you probably won’t be winning an Oscar yourself, get a chance to win some prizes. (I’m hoping Oscar betting pools are among them, because I ROCK at those). More details here
Who’s still jazzed about the AHMAZING comeback the women’s hockey team made at the Olympics yesterday? I’ve watch gifs of the winning shots and the goalpost bounce 10 times this morning already.
Luckily, excitement is SO far from over. The men’s Olympic semifinal is starting right away – Canada vs the US.
UPDATE – we’re in the gold medal game! And you’ve probably heard by now, there are bars opening at 5AM on Sunday to air the game! Here are the places downtown I’ve found so far – if you know more, add in the comments!
After the Olympics game, you can see our very own Jets hitting the ice – but a very different kind of ice than they’re used to. They’re hosting a practice on the river at the Forks! From 1:30 – 2:30, the team and all the regular coaching staff will be running their practice on the trail, free and open to the public to watch! Yes, this is going to be popular. So the Forks has been good enough to draw up a little map of where they think the best spots to watch are going to be:
1:30pm – 2:30pm. Practice is FREE and open to the public. The Jets along with the full coaching staff will skate for approximately one hour as they prepare for the final stretch of the regular season.
“Take your time with it. Don’t sip just yet – swirl, let it breathe, then take a sniff.”
That’s the first piece of advice I got when learning to taste whisky at Prairie 360.
I’m a newbie when it comes to whisky – I usually pick a glass of wine or a cocktail when I’m out with girlfriends. But the Winnipeg Whisky Festival’s second year is coming up this week, and before it starts I decided it was time to learn how to enjoy it.
And what better place than the city’s brand-new whisky lounge at Prairie 360, hosts of two of the festival events? When I confessed just what a novice I was, the team there was good enough to sit me down at the bar and teach me a few things!
I’m glad I had their expertise, because there are over 170 varieties on their menu – whisky, I discovered, has scents and flavours that are just as complex as wine. To help out, the menu is handily divided into sections like “Fruity & Spicy,” “Malty & Dry,” “Smoky & Peaty” and more.
When I described what I liked – lighter tastes, nothing too overpowering – they picked a Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve from right here in Canada for me.
First lesson – did I want it on the rocks (with ice) or neat? Ordering with ice is fine, but I learned you want to avoid little pieces – they melt quickly, and dilute your drink. Prairie 360 only serves with large cubes, but some people think serving it neat (no ice) is even better for flavour, so that’s what I went with. A lovely tulip-shaped glass of golden liquid arrived – and here’s their tips on how to get the most out of it:
Swirl. This opens it up, releasing more of the bouquet and flavours. Bonus – makes you feel like a Bond villain.
Take a whiff from a few inches away – right away I could pick up an incredible vanilla aroma on mine.
Sniff again, from closer this time – you’ll get a different layer of scents. Beneath the vanilla, I started to pick up a deeper, richer oak scent.
Your first taste – take a tiny sip, so tiny you can’t even swallow it, and swirl it in your mouth. This was a revelation for me – instead of tossing it back quickly, which left me thinking the taste of scotch was burning, it got my tongue used to the drink and real flavours like the vanilla I’d smelled started to appear.
Now you can – slowly – sip away!
After I finished tasting it, I was hooked – Prairie 360 is hosting a Festival event focusing on whisky cocktails, so I decided to give one of them a try too. I went with something old school – the Stone Fence, a drink that apparently comes from a 1862 recipe! It blends bourbon, which I learned is one of the more approachable whiskeys, with cider, sweetened ginger juice and lemon. YUM. If you’re not quite ready for straight whiskey, I highly recommend giving a cocktail a go – the ingredients pull out the unique flavours of each whisky and give some extra sweet and sour flavours to balance out the strength. It’s not all recipes from the 1800s either – the menu has new concoctions from their own bartender with local flavour names like Winnie the Pooh, Golden Boy, and Fort Garry.
TheWinnipeg Whisky Festival is February 21st at the Fairmont Winnipeg – you can buy tickets online here. There are also a great list of smaller pre-events as well – including:
Now, there’s nothing wrong with either option – hey, I’ve indulged in both. This is for those that might be looking for, y’know, a bit of a change this year. Something a little spicier to do!
February 14th, the RBC Convention Centre is hosting their annual Mardi Gras! If you’re up for something different, here’s 5 reasons you it might be just your flavour:
- The music – Zydeco tunes to get you dancing all night long! (if, like me, you just discovered Zydeco, I’ll save you the trouble of googling. Here’s the wiki!)
- Louisiana foodie treats – some of which I guarantee you’ve never tried. Jambalaya, gumbo, crocodile fritters, Bourbon flamed garlic pepper shrimp, and an oyster bar!
- Entertainment – it’s about more than just music, they’ve got showgirls, showBOYS and a Mardi Gras Parade to entertain you!
- Feel the burn – the drink of the night is cinnamon whisky shooters! I’m not at all confident I’ll be trying more than one, but I’m going to give it a shot!
- It runs till 2am – so even if you’ve already got plans, there’s always time to stop by for a dance and some beads before or after!
And….I’ve got tickets to give away! Let me know in the comments the food you want to try most, and you’re entered!
More info on their website here!
Nobody does winter like Winnipeg this year. Seriously, we OWN you, Polar Vortex. Bring on your ice and snow, we’re going to play in our parks and get on our bikes anyway!
I love that we finally seem to be embracing the fact that we’re a winter city! Over the last few years, winter activities have been growing and growing, and it feels like we’re finally hitting a tipping point. (others seem to have noticed too!) We’ve had classics like Festival du Voyageur for years, but now we also have:
- the longest skating trail in the world, the Red River Mutual Trail…
- …with an warming huts international design competition on it
- …RAW: Almond, the restaurant on the river
- …Actif Epica, a race for super-sporty people who can run/cycle 130km in the winter to the Forks. Just…wow.
- …Winter Bike to Work Day.
- …the WSO New Music Festival
- …Big Fun, another winter music festival
And now 2 more!
If you’re looking for family fun, this weekend is for you – there’s a snow maze planned for that pretty park behind the Millennium Library, and you don’t just get to go through it, you can help build it on February 1st! There’ll be hot cocoa, activities, music, and THE FACT THAT YOU GET TO BUILD A SNOW MAZE. Fun fact: the landscape architect that designed the whole park is actually the one who designed the plan for the maze!
You might have seen a really cool tour that went on last summer called A Moveable Feast - people cycled from restaurant to restaurant, eating different courses of dinner along the way! There’s actually a big conference coming here in the middle of February called the Winter Cycling Congress – yes, you read that right. Hardy souls from places like Sweden, Finland, and all over North America who take to their bikes in winter are coming here! And as one of the conference activities, there’s going to be a winter edition of A Moveable Feast on February 13th! And they’ve saved some spots for the public too – so you can not only cycle in winter, and try awesome food, but you can meet fellow winter-lovers from around the world! Details are at wintercyclingcongresswinnipeg.org
Last night was opening night at RAW: Almond!
And that’s where I was headed last night, clutching my coveted tickets and skidding along the river trail to make sure I got there in time. No joke, I was running late and started to worry I might lose my space! I was in such a rush it took me a moment to spot the restaurant – an all-white construction, it really does seem to be rising out of the ice, perched just below a bridge covered in lights.
The year, one of the new additions was a tasting bar, so that’s what I decided to try out. The tasting menu is served at a single long table for 10 with shared benches covered in fleecy blankets – it gets you chatting and bonding with your tablemates almost immediately. (we all made a pact as soon as we sat down, that we would not judge each other for instagramming all our food )
To celebrate the first night, Chef Scott Bagshaw of Deseo Bistro started us off with a glass of Veuve Cliquot – which quickly got us raising a toast to him. To get something more than a glass, you can order from a list of wines by the glass or bottle – Jaegermeister is also available if you need a little more warmth, and yes, they have credit/debit out on the ice! The waitstaff (in furry hats) isn’t just attentive, they’re fun – they made sure the food and conversation kept flowing and our glasses stayed filled.
And the food? FANTASTIC. Although it’s called a tasting menu, we got enough for a substantial meal over 3 courses, and all of it delicious. To go with the champagne, we started with a miso crab dish with marrow served alongside – I’d never tried marrow before, an d I got a little messy, but it was worth it to get to the wonderfully rich stuff. It was followed by precisely plated foie gras, pork cheek bacon pickled beets and carrots – and a peeled grape or two, to make you feel like a pampered king or queen. The meal finished with a rabbit ragout on brioche, paired with a warming shot of rye whisky to send you on your way.
Speaking of warmth, you might be wondering – just how warm IS a restaurant on the surface of a frozen river? Pretty comfy actually! Warm air is piped in directly at your table, and of course all the cooking going on adds to the warmth. Don’t get me wrong, warm boots are a must and I went with a couple of long-underwear-ish layers, but tuques and gloves were shed immediately, and our table all sat with their jackets open. The kitchen sits directly between the dining room and tasting bar, with large open windows on each side, and we could see that kitchen staff were even working in tshirts! I loved this setup – you can watch your favourite chefs at work and go chat with them after the meal – it was the perfect chance to go say thanks for an amazing experience.
To check if there are still tickets available, call Deer + Almond Restaurant or RAW Gallery – and if you’re out of luck, remember, brunch happens on weekends and is walk-up! Enjoy