The Velvet Glove. Even the name sounds fancy – and maybe a bit traditional and old-school, right?
That’s what makes what’s going on in there right now so interesting – there’s change. Potentially big change! And based on what I tasted the other night, I like it.
I was lucky enough to be one of the first Winnipeggers to taste the creations of a chef that’s just come to town – Eraj. He’s the new master of the Velvet Glove’s kitchen, just moved here from the Hilton’s restaurant in Toronto. And his first order of business was to reinvent the menu. Top to bottom, breakfast, lunch and dinner – nothing’s escaping his review. (if you love it and you’re hyperventilating, relax – favourites will still have a home, although they may get a fresh twist)
They’ve done some reinventing outside of the kitchen as well – if you’ve been to the Velvet Glove before, the first difference you’ll notice is that it feels lighter, brighter, and airier. They’ve kept the warm wood panels around the room, but have swapped out the chairs for waaaay more modern low armchairs in pale fabrics and upholstered the booths in creamy white leather.
We started with an amuse bouche served on a granite slab, of pickled eggplant, artichoke, and bites of crisp little spheres with piping hot mushroom and cheese inside.
Eraj called the next course a bit of ‘Manitoba on a plate’ – a fresh take on salad, arranged like a constellation there were heirloom tomatoes, asparagus seared with a blowtorch, puffed grains to add some crunch, and addictive little dots of goat cheese mousse. Before eating it, it was bathed in a basil cucumber water – it almost turned my salad into a fun little soup!
To get our palates fresh and ready for more tasting, there was something Eraj introduced what he called ‘bubble tea from grown-ups’ – little beads of ‘caviar’ made from cassis with lemon with pinot grigio poured over it and
A much more solid and traditional entree – ribeye so tender I didn’t need a steak knife for it, with a sweet lavender honey sauce, smoked butter and truffle oil with mixed veggies and potatoes.
When dessert came out, he asked us to listen to it – as weird as it felt, we put our ears up to our dishes and heard the snap and crackle of maybe the last thing I expected to find at the Velvet Glove – pop rocks! They were crushed and sprinkled over a dish that was a play on peanut butter and jelly – a flourless chocolate brownie with peanut butter sauce, blueberry confit and drunken cherries. It was so rich I almost had trouble finishing it – but somehow managed to make it through. The things I do for material. :)
There are a lot of new things planned for the restaurant – when he sat down with us after the meal, you could tell Eraj was excited about the possibilities – he was already talking pop-up dining, reinventing old favourite for the menu, starting a fantastic brunch, and maybe even changing the name!
I can’t wait to see what he comes up with!
So Manyfest – and Food Truck Wars! – start tomorrow! I’ve been doing my advance research and looked at the trucks lined up for tomorrow – it starts at 11AM, so that’s my lunch plan made – and I’ve realized I need to stop eating from now until I get there tomorrow, because I’m going to need the extra stomach room. There are a mind-boggling 25 food trucks setting up on Memorial Blvd to participate this year. I didn’t actually realize we HAD that many in the city – that’s more than twice as many as last year! It got so popular last year the lineups got crazy massive – so doubling the trucks should speed it up a whole lot! (plus it looks like you don’t need tickets this year – just walk up and pay at the truck)
Returning from last year for a second shot at the title:
- Barbie & Gabi’s Specialteez
- BBK Barbecue
- Habanero Sombrero
- Healthy Eats
- Lovey’s BBQ & Smokehouse
- The Poutine King
- Vilai’s Spice Box (winner of Judges’ Choice: Best Presentation)
- Stuff It Foods (Winner of the coveted People’s Choice!)
- Tot Wheels
- Pimp My Rice (winner of Judges’ Choice: Best Bang for your Buck)
And below – 15 trucks that are ALL new to Food Truck Wars this year! Some of these are old faves around the city – hello, Red Ember and your epic wood-fired pizza – and some I’ve never tried before! Up South BBQ, which I’m assuming is southern food? Waki Temaki, a sushi food truck – awesome and MAYBE a little crazy-sounding, but in a good way. And Simba Safari Grill…I’ve definitely never tried an African food truck before!
Behold the full list of newcomers that will be at Food Truck Wars starting tomorrow at 11:
- A Little Pizza Heaven
- Burgers R’ Us
- Falafel Queen
- Fired Up
- Grass Fed Grill
- Iggy’s Family Doener
- The Red Ember
- Simba Safari Grill
- Up South BBQ
- Island Fusion
- Little Bones
- Waki Temaki
- The Roadrunner Grill
- The Walleye Wagon
Graham’s a street that sometimes gets overlooked – it’s not as prominent as Portage, not as big and full of food trucks as Broadway, and because a lot of it is designed for transit and bikes, not that many of us drive down it every day. But over the last little while, I’ve seen it changing piece by piece around Kennedy – and it’s gradually transforming into one of my favourite little blocks downtown! If you’ve never explored it, go check it out on your lunch hour – it’s worth checking out these spots that are new to the block.
Seeing the downtown grow doesn’t always mean massive exciting skyscrapers – although I love seeing those go up too! It’s the building of these little intimate neighbourhoods too, places that draw people to walk around that make the sidewalks fill up with people, and I think their successes are worth celebrating.
There are murals tucked in between the buildings, including a cute mural tucked away beside Second Cup with adorable helicopter bees (I really don’t know what else to call them). It’s also the street when the incomparable Kal Barteski installed her Love Every Body interactive artwork – I went down to take a selfie, and you should too!
There’s an amazing farmers market:
The Downtown Farmers’ Market started here last year. The plaza behind Manitoba Hydro Places is already a great place to sit for lunch when it’s sunny, but when the Thursday market comes out, it’s packed with people like looking for an excuse to leave the office for lunch and buy fresh-baked cookies!
Constantly changing menus at Sana SoupHouse:
They’ve been there less than a year and already I’m not sure what I’d do without their soup of the day list when it’s a rainy day and I need a cozy lunch. Plus, how many places in the city actually have soups like Chilled Strawberry, West African Peanut, and Pumpkin Apple Spice?
Rare finds at Bison Books:
This used & rare book shop relocated here a few years ago, and I never get tired of visiting it to see what literary oddities they’ve dug up. My favourite recent find, courtesy of their Facebook page: Elvis’ Favourite Recipes.
A new shop has popped up:
Pop-up events and pop-ups shops are all over the downtown this year, and I can’t get enough of it! The latest – Chook, at the corner of Graham & Vaughn, which has clothing, skateboards, and comes complete with a skateboard ramp inside! It wasn’t open when I was there, so I shamelessly peered in the windows to take pics.
The Urban Bakery is back home on Graham:
After nearly 10 years on Portage Ave, the Urban Bakery renovated a space on Graham and added a ton of creative touches, from a shoe wall to a handcrafted wood slab checkout counter, to an entrance that leads off the back alley!
It’s coffee heaven:
Alright, these aren’t new, but they’re essential! There are no fewer than 3 coffee places within this block: Starbucks, Second Cup, and the independent coffee house Twist Cafe. Second best of all, they all come with patio areas to sit and sip in the sun. Best of all – the Second Cup names their plants.
The third annual Don’s Photo Walk got rained out last weekend, but it’s still on! New date – September 7!
It’s no big secret (partly thanks to Instagram) that Winnipeg’s downtown is filled with some amazing architecture . Modern buildings, modernist buildings, turn-of-the-century landmarks…they all get captured every day on camera phones and look amazing.
In a couple of weeks, Don’s Photo has your chance to step it up and see what those photos look like when you graduate from a camera phone! They’re inviting any Winnipeggers that’s interested to bring their camera – whether it’s a point and shoot, that DSLR you bought but need practice with (although hey, experts also welcome!) – and take a guided tour of downtown capturing photos along the way.
They’ve also got their first theme this year – and it’s COLOUR! I’ve taken a sneak peek at the route, and there are colourful buildings, parkades, murals, gardens, and more to make for a bright finish to the summer.
- Admission is totally free, just bring your own camera.
- Participants please meet at the Don’s Photo location at 410 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg MB for 12:00pm
- Dress for the weather and don’t forget to put on a comfortable pair of walking shoes!
- Facebook event is here – RSVP to make sure you get updates in case rain happens again :/
So I’m super jazzed to be offering another chance for you to have a Wicked Night Downtown for their big return next week!
So much happened before Dorothy dropped in.
Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkinland, two girls meet in the land of Oz. One – born with emerald green skin – is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for “the most complete – and completely satisfying – musical in a long time” (USA Today).
Tickets to opening night? Of course! But to have an night out, you’re going to need a bit more. A fancy dinner would hit the spot, right? So I’m going to set you up with dinner at the Fairmont’s Velvet Glove. And that’s an extra-big deal right now – because they’ve just hired a new Executive Chef! Eraj Jayawickreme is coming to us from Toronto after working with Hilton, holds his Red Seal and is currently working towards Chef De Cuisine. If you’re the lucky winner, you not only get to be among the first Winnipeggers to taste his fab food, you get to meet and greet with Eraj!
To enter, tell me the comments below: Elphaba is also known as the Wicked Witch of the ______.
Winner will be drawn August 19th!
If you want to purchase your own tickets, the show is on from August 20 – 30 at the Centennial Concert Hall, and you can buy them on the Broadway Across Canada website here!
I used to cycle every day to work, and then when we had a rainy spring, I started to slack a bit. I mean a lot. I got a stack of bus tickets and spent my commute in the cozy confines of the bus with my phone on playing Candy Crush, or even driving to work some days. But now that’s it’s gorgeously sunny out again, I really don’t have any excuse…and then two things happened the other day to get me off my couch.
One, I got to chatting with the super-fit @MsBehavior and @lindsayhamel on twitter about starting up a bike commuter school for people who want to try cycling downtown. (FYI, those two can get you excited about ANYTHING fitness related!) And two, someone sent me this video.
They reminded me of just how freeing commuting on a bike here can be. No, the bike lanes in Winnipeg aren’t perfect yet, and I make sure to wear a helmet – BUT I can change my plans or my route at the drop of a hat, and that’s pretty liberating. Answered one more email and stayed at the office too late? No worries, my bike didn’t leave without me, and I don’t have to refill the parking on the bike rack. York closed because of the RBC Convention Centre construction? Hop off my bike on the corner and walk along the sidewalk – maybe 30 seconds lost. Want to make a TGIF stop with a friend? Easy to make a detour. So as of yesterday, I’m back to biking.
Any fellow cycling commuters out there? Why do you ride to work? (or home, or out for fun?) And if you haven’t tried it yet, would you come out to bike commuter school?
Just when I think I’ve explored all the hidden gems around me, I find a new one. Yesterday I discovered the Vinyl Vault for the first time, and I can’t believe I’ve never been there before. It turns out that the basement of the Power Building at 428 Portage holds the city’s largest used record collection – and the Vinyl Vault sale is your chance to rummage through it!
It’s run by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, but the music spans all genres. I saw rock, jazz, country, Broadway, even kids’ music there – and all the records are priced at $2!
To find the Vault, you go to 428 Portage – a very ordinary-looking office building across from Portage Place – and you’ll see a little stand-up sign outside advertising it. Go in and take the elevator down to the basement, and as soon as it opens you’ll see a rack of records and a table where a lovely gentleman will take your payment when you’re done. But where you really want to go is to the right just past his table. That’s the Vault – walls of floor-to-ceiling records carefully sorted by genre for your browsing pleasure! If you’re a vinyl fan, it’s way too easy to lose track of time – I spent most of my lunch hour there before I even realized it.
The Vault only opens once a month – it’s open right now 10 – 3 and will be again tomorrow, and then it shuts down again until September. Dates for the rest of the year/next year are: September 27, October 25, November 29, January 31, February 28, March 28, April 25, May 30, June 27