Top 8 Things to Do Downtown This Holiday Season

With tons of activities and fun things to do, downtown is the perfect place to celebrate this holiday season! Enjoy markets, festive music, live shows and cozy restaurants. You can also dance, skate on rivers, watch holiday movies and visit Santa. Find all this and more in downtown Winnipeg!

Here are the top 8 things to do downtown this holiday season:

Downtown Winnipeg Tours

Various dates and locations

You can now choose from three new tours that will get you outdoors during the holidays and  showcase the incredible selection of restaurants that downtown Winnipeg has to offer. In addition, you can now enjoy your favourite tours all year-round, including the Tap In (beer) Tour, Breakfast Club and Winnipeg Wine Tour.

New tours this year include:

Cocktail Crawl – This fun walking tour takes advantage of our Winnipeg walkways to take you and your friends from cocktail spot to cocktail spot without ever putting on a coat!  Participants visit four restaurants and receive a featured cocktail along with shareable appetizers at each stop along the way!

Cost: $40.00

2017 Dates: November 10

2018 Dates: January 12, February 2, March 9, April 6

Bikes and Brunch – Be a true Winnipegger and conquer the winter blues with this tour of downtown’s best brunch spots using a winterized or fat bike! Participants bike to three of downtown Winnipeg’s best brunch spots, receiving a breakfast sample at each stop.  There is an option to rent a fat bike, or you can use your own winterized/fat bike.

Cost: $40.00 plus option to rent a fat bike for an additional $20.00

2017 Dates: December 3

2018 Dates: February 11

Caesar Crawl – Grab your friends and sip on some of the best Caesar Cocktails downtown Winnipeg has to offer!  Participants will visit four restaurant stops where they will receive a signature Caesar and sharable appetizers at each stop, before voting on their favourite Caesar of the night!

Cost: $40.00

2018 Dates: January 26, May 11 (the Friday before International Caesar Day)

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the person who has everything, we’ll also have Gift Certificates available in $40.00, $50.00 and $85.00 that recipients can use towards the tour of their choice.

Downtown Winnipeg BIZ will also be offering customized tours this year! You can now book your holiday party and/or private tour which can include a minimum of 10 people and up to a maximum of 50 people. For more information and to book a customized tour, contact Susan at tours@downtownwinnipegbiz.com.

For a complete listing of downtown tours including dates and featured restaurant stops, and to purchase tickets, click HERE.

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Santa Suite at the Fairmont Winnipeg

November 29 – December 17, Fairmont Winnipeg

In celebration of Santa’s favourite holiday tradition, Santa’s elves have decorated the suite with whimsical details including twinkling Christmas trees, an elegant dinner table set for Santa and his special guests, a letter-writing station for leaving holiday wish lists, and exciting giveaways to spread the good cheer.

Santa checks in on November 29 and checks out on December 17. Santa himself will take a break from his hectic holiday schedule to pose for photos with visitors in his Fairmont Winnipeg Santa Suite. At $10 per visiting group, receive a professional photo with Santa. All of the proceeds go to supporting the Children’s Wish Foundation.

Guests who post or tweet a photo of their Santa Suite visit using the hashtag #WPGSantaSuite will be entered to win a one-night stay at Fairmont Winnipeg.

For more information, click HERE.

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Third + Bird Christmas Pop-Up

December 2 – 17, The Forks Market

Third + Bird will once again host a Christmas Popup at The Forks! This is a great final push for Christmas shoppers and product. The Forks is alive and thriving. The Common, Fools + Horses and amazing food vendors have made the Forks the place to be on weekends!

Third + Bird will host 3 weekends of Popups on the second floor balconies overlooking the Common this Holiday season.

Dec 2 + 3 – 11 am – 5 pm

Dec 9 + 10 – 11 am – 5 pm

Dec 16 + 17 – 11 am – 5 pm

For more information, click HERE.

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Investors Group Presents Home Alone at Hudson’s Bay

December 9, Hudson’s Bay Downtown

The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and the Hudson’s Bay Downtown have partnered to host a fun holiday movie event the whole family will enjoy! Come early to take part in some pre-movie activities starting at 10 am, including face painting, arts and crafts, and games. The screening of Home Alone starts at 11 am.

Plus, take part in the Home Alone contest! Show us your best Kevin McCallister impression and you will be entered to win a prize pack with some of his favourite goodies, including a large cheese pizza courtesy of Garbonzo’s U of W ANX.

Please enter the event on the east side (Vaughan Street) entrance of the building.

For updates and more information, click HERE.

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Celebrate the Season: Dinner and Movie at the Met

December 17 and 19, The Metropolitan Entertainment Centre

December 17 – Celebrate the Season at The MET and bring the kids to brunch and a Sunday matinee movie as The MET presents Elf! Doors & Brunch Buffet opens at 11 am. Movie Starts at 1 pm.

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December 19 – Celebrate the Season by joining us for a dinner and a movie as The MET presents It’s a Wonderful Life! Doors & Dinner Buffet opens at 5 pm. Movie Starts at 7 pm.

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For more information, click HERE.


The Nutcracker

December 21 – 30, Centennial Concert Hall

When midnight strikes, young Clara’s enchanted Christmas gift leads her into a wondrous world… with the valiant Nutcracker at her side, Clara defeats the Mouse King and his army of mice, and journeys to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. This sparkling holiday tradition is a festive feast for the senses with enchanting costumes, timeless choreography and a brilliant score by Tchaikovsky.  A holiday classic for the whole family!

For more information, click HERE.

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New Year’s Eve at the RBC Convention Centre

December 31, RBC Convention Centre

This New Year’s Celebration will feature the beauty and elegance of a glistening winter’s evening in the warmth of the City View Room which will be transformed into a festive wonderland with a little winter carnival flare.

After enjoying a gourmet feast starting at 6:00 pm with complimentary passed hors d’oeuvres and a fabulous five course dining experience, it’ll be time to toast in the New Year as the party kicks off with the ever popular Ron Paley and his 21 Piece Band featuring some of Winnipeg’s most notable performers. Dance until 2 am as Ron and his band plays top 40 hits and classic dance tunes.

For more information, click HERE.

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Wawanesa Insurance Family New Year’s Eve

December 31, The Forks

Fun, family programming inside and out from 5 pm – 8 pm will include, art activities, horse drawn wagon rides and snow sculpting – capped off with a family dance party and
exciting pyrotechnics at 8 pm in Festival Field.

DJs and art inside The Forks Market from 9 pm – Midnight.

For updates and more information, click HERE.

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Visit http://downtownwinnipegbiz.com/event/together-downtown-holidays/ for a complete listing of this year’s downtown holiday events.

Happy Holidays,

DT-Peggy-Signature-2017

War Horse – A special presale for you!

I feel a little weird posting a discount on April Fool’s, but pinky swear it’s real.

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Broadway Across Canada presents War Horse is coming this summer at the Centennial Concert Hall June 18 – 22nd – you might remember the name from the massive Spielberg movie in 2011 by the same name. It’s been made into a Broadway show that’s now racked up a grand total of 5 Tony Awards – if you didn’t see the movie, here’s the story in a nutshell:

 A heart-warming tale of loyalty and friendship, and winner of FIVE 2011 Tony Awards®, WAR HORSE tells the story of young Albert and his beloved horse, Joey. This powerfully moving and imaginative drama, filled with stirring music and songs, is a show of phenomenal inventiveness that is currently playing to packed houses in London and around the world.

I know what my first question was – it’s a play that stars, among other leading characters, a horse. So…how exactly is that going to work on stage? The answer’s actually kind of awesome:

At its heart are astonishing life-sized puppets created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, that bring to life breathing, galloping, charging horses strong enough for men to ride.

Yep. Epic, rideable, horse puppets. I’m going to need to see that. One disclaimer though – it’s supposed to be very heartwarming and it DOES star puppets, but the storyline also involves, well, war. So they recommend it for age 10+ only.

If you’re 10+ and want to get a special presale discount, use this link on April 4th and the passcode FRIENDS (tickets go on sale to the general public April 5th.)

 

Chic new boutique!

The new Loka location!

It just opened its doors a few days ago, but I think I may have a brand-new favourite shopping spot! Loka boutique has just opened a second location right downtown in the Richardson Centre underground, filled with super chic clothing, jewellery, bags and shoes for women – they carry lines like Kenneth Cole, Pink Martini, Lisbeth Jewelry – and BB Dakota, which is only available in their downtown location.

I stopped in on my lunch hour to investigate, and fell in love with about 10 items immediately. Some of my picks? The plushest black velvet blazer imaginable – it’s going to be the perfect layering piece to make a dress office holiday-party appropriate. Gorgeous stackable gold and silver bracelets that go with just about any outfit. And the Matt & Nat bag in the pic below, in a cozy cranberry colour for winter.

I even fell for the wall art – they’ve got funky black and white pieces by local artist Kal Barteski covering their back wall collage-style, and they’re all available for sale too!

If you want to go stop by for some retail therapy on your lunch hour, Loka is in the Richardson Centre underground, phone number 942-1642. There’s also a great Facebook contest going where you could win $50, $100, or $250 in gift certificates from them – check it out! 

Hot hotels

As we continue our countdown to Let’s Do Lunch Downtown, I’m pleased to announce the winners of the last two gift cards.

Hy’s Steakhouse: Lyle

Lobby on York: Julie

Congratulations!

Okay, as usual, don’t worry if you didn’t win this round, I’ve got more to give away. Today I’ve got $50 each to The Lounge at the Fairmont Hotel and the Palm Lounge at the Fort Garry Hotel.

To enter, leave a comment below saying which one you’d like to try and a way a to contact you. (You can leave your email in the contact form–it will be kept hidden.)

You have until Friday at 9am to enter.

Lounge at The Fairmont
2 Lombard Place, 957-1350

I love to go for a nibble in hotel lounges–it kind of feels like you’re on a holiday, but you don’t have to go anywhere! A couple of weeks ago, I met a friend for after dinner drinks at the Fairmont Hotel. Since it’s connected to the underground walkway, it’s so easy to get there and you can stay toasty warm while doing it.

The Lounge at the Fairmont is exactly what one would expect, sumptuous and cozy with comfortable little booths perfect for a heart-to-heart or serious business meeting.

My friend and I decided to share a few appetizers and were delighted with each of our choices. The menu focuses on creative plates and favours the use of fresh Manitoba ingredients like Stonewood Elk and Manitoba turkey.

Our favourite was the incredibly tender lamb chops that were drizzled with a little bit of John Russell (also locally produced) honey. They provided that satisfying combination of earthy and sweet that I love, and they were literally falling off the bone.

We also sampled the pickerel fritters. They were crispy little balls of fried goodness and flakes of fish all served in a pool of spiced tomatoey aioli that was perfect for dipping. I kind of liked how they were all stuck with toothpicks to eat them with rather than using your boring old fork. I’m always a sucker for a cool gimmick.

And finally, we shared the smoked salmon “naan”-za. A cute take on a pizza, this one used traditional Indian flatbread as the base and was spread with dill cream cheese. It then came topped with ruby red slices of smoked salmon, slices of red onion and lots of capers (I love capers). The combination was light and fresh and satisfying.

Some other menu items I will have to try next time I go are the BBQ pork sliders, beer battered Lake Winnipeg Pickerel and, of course, the handmade perogies stuffed with Winkler sausage, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

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The Palm Room
The Fort Garry Hotel, 942-8251

One of my absolute favourite places in the city to visit is the Palm Room in the Fort Garry Hotel. I love everything about it.

I love the soaring ceiling decorated with gold and green and red. I love the huge chandeliers. I love the piano player in the corner. I love the dark wood tables and the big comfy chairs. I love the waiters in their smart grey jackets and mostly, I love the sense that you’ve stepped into a whole other era when men wore top hats and women fainted a lot.

It’s the kind of place where you can ask for pretty much anything and the kitchen will make it for you–although they do have a good menu too. I love their antipasto platter. There is just something so civilized about a plate of sliced meats and cheeses paired with olives and amazing marinated eggplant. A basket of soft fluffy bed is the perfect complement.

The menu is full of classic comfort foods perfect for travellers looking for a piece of home. Shepherd’s pie, roast turkey, mac and cheese and other soul satisfying dishes are all expertly prepared and delivered with a flourish.

They also offer nightly entertainment featuring light jazz that keeps the room buzzing. I was there on a Saturday night recently, and I swear it was the most happening place in the city.

Of course there is also a lengthy wine list and the staff are always happy to offer up suggestions. If you’re in the mood for something else, there is nothing these bartenders can’t make.

 

Decadent Dining

I’m starting to get excited for Let’s Do Lunch Downtown, when 21 downtown restaurants will be offering up awesome lunch specials starting at just $6.99. Over the next few weeks we’ll be revealing the special menus that have been prepared for you. And if you Do Lunch Downtown, you’ll be eligible to win an amazing $500 restaurant package.

I’ve also got lots of gift certificates to give away and the winners of the last two are:

The Beachcomber: Leana Buhler

Modern Restaurant: Lindsey

Congrats!

I’ve got two more awesome prizes up for grabs again today. This time I’ve got a $50 gift card from Lobby on York to offer and a $50 gift card from Hy’s Steakhouse.

To enter, leave a comment below telling me which one you’d like to try along with a way to contact you. (You can leave your email address in the form–it will be kept private.)

You’ve got until Wednesday at 9am to enter this one.

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Lobby on York
295 York Avenue, 896-7275

I think oysters are becoming the new hot item in town and never one to miss an opportunity to eat, I knew I had to indulge. I’d been hearing about Lobby on York’s oysters for a while and last week, finally got the chance to check it out.

It turns out oyster night is every night (now that’s something I can get behind) in their lounge. They come nestled in a bed of ice, served with lemon and Tabasco and are perfectly tender and briny just as good oysters should be. Couple that with the sensuous atmosphere of Lobby’s lounge and you’re in heaven.

While we were there, we decided to try out a couple of menu items as well. I can’t rave enough about the tuna tartare. I adore tartare in all its forms and this was over the top. Flavourful and fresh, with just the right amount of avocado, sesame oil and chili aioli mixed in. It came with these incredible homemade ripple chips that were crispy and satisfying. I could have eaten whole bathtubs of both items.

We also tried their beet salad, which was also delectable. The beets were roasted and came with arugula, walnut, pear and chevre. The dressing was a maple balsamic reduction that was so rich and velvety, it almost seemed like my salad had been drizzled with chocolate. I’m not kidding. I actually had to ask the waitress if there was chocolate, but no, apparently the chef can just make things taste like chocolate without it. Kind of like turning lead into gold I think.

And finally, agedashi tofu is another of my favourites and Lobby’s upscale version goes to the top of my list. Light and airy, it came sitting in a shallow pool of truffle scented ponzu and flavoured delicately with ginger and lime. Pure heaven. (Trust me on this, even if you think you don’t like tofu. It’s to die for.)

The lounge is also featuring a new menu where we tried a plate of angus beef sliders. The meat was tender and juicy. My favourite items was the upscale poutine (you all know how much I love poutine) made with crispy fries, cheese, slices of pear and house-made demi glace. It was without fail, that perfect combination of salty, gooey and awesome.

I am going back soon to try the lemon truffle chicken wings, which sound so ridiculously good, I can’t even wrap my head around it.

Lobby is also offering a special ladies nights on Thursdays with drink specials, appetizers and the chance to win a $100 gift certificate. So get the girls and party like it’s 2011.

 

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Hy’s Steakhouse
One Lombard Place, 942-1000

Walking into Hy’s Steakhouse is liking walking into a castle. Soaring ceilings, big white fireplaces, rich dark walls, silky fabrics and the smell of a humming kitchen permeates the air.

Last week, I headed over for lunch and enjoyed a decadent two hours enjoying delicious food and good company.

One has to start with the signature cheese toast that comes wrapped in foil and piping hot from the kitchen. Thick slices of bread are covered in melting gooey cheese that is just amazing. It’s the perfect appetizer. One of my lunch companions also decided to try the French onion soup, which was delectable. The broth was rich and earthy and came topped with bubbling crust of cheese.

For my lunch entree, I opted for the beef dip, aptly called “rare dunkin'” on the menu. A soft white baguette was topped with tender slices of rare beef and served alongside a flavourful jus for dipping. I also opted for a side of their crispy, golden French fries. It was all delicious.

One of my favourite things about these classic types of restaurants is their ability to bring old school recipes to life. Another of my lunch companions had the crab Louie salad–a concoction that was apparently first served in Seattle in the early 1900s. The salad consists of crab meat (obvs), romaine lettuce, asparagus, hard boiled eggs, tomato and cucumber all tossed in a Louie dressing of mayo, chillis and peppers. Hy’s version was a fresh, flavourful and satisfying lunch option.

For dessert, we shared a slice of bourbon chocolate cake that is going to become one of my picks for Peggy’s Bucket List. Dark, dense and rich, it was absolutely sinful–and wow, could you taste the bourbon! It came topped with a big dollop of white chocolate ganache that melded perfectly with the dark chocolate and bourbon. Don’t miss out on this one.

 

Island Getaway

Thank you to everyone who participated in my first Let’s Do Lunch Downtown contest this month.

The winners of the gift certificates were:

$50 gift certificate to Old Spaghetti Factory: cathy kenny

$25 gift certificate to Dessert Sinsations: Kate

Congratulations!

If you didn’t win this round, don’t fret. I’ve got more stuff to give away.

This time I’ve got a $50 gift card to The Beachcomber and a $25 gift card to Modern Restaurant.

To enter, leave a comment below telling me which one you’d like to try along with a way to contact you. (You can leave your email address in the form–it will be kept private.)

You’ve got until Monday at 9am to enter this one.

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The Beachcomber
The Forks Market, 948-0020

If winter is starting to get you down, you need a trip to a tropical location. Not in the budget? No worries–I’ve got the solution for you right here and it won’t cost you more than dinner!

Beachcomber’s restaurant, located inside The Forks Market, and its fun and whimsical Caribbean and nautical themed decor will put you in the mind of warmer climes, while filling your belly.  (Although they do have one of the best patios in the city overlooking the river–so you’ll need to go back and enjoy that come June.)

The menu combines seafood, salads, steaks and pasta.

I really enjoyed the sun runner’s steamed mussels. One of their signature items, the flavours are really smoky and intense. And of course there’s plenty of sauce left to sop up with bread afterwards–one of my favourite things in the whole world. I also really liked the Kumala sweet potato fries that come dusted with Cajun spice for a little kick and served with spiced mayo for dipping.

As an entree you could opt for the Alaskan King crab legs (with butter of course), the paella packed with salmon, halibut, prawns, scallops, chicken and chorizo or my personal favourite–the fish and chips. Fish and chips is one of those things I have a really hard time bypassing on menus and this version is crispy and delicious.

For those who like their protein to have legs, the tender lamb kebabs are seasoned with garlic, herbs and spices. And you can’t go wrong with a big old plate of pork back ribs–dry rubbed and slow roasted, served with hickory BBQ sauce.

While you’re there, check out the drink menu as well. They’ve got all sorts of tropically inspired concoctions that come in glasses as big as fishbowls and bursting with fruit. I tried the watermelon bellini which came decorated with a big slice of dragon fruit. Definitely celebration worthy!

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Modern Restaurant
354 Portage Avenue, 415-7515

Today I headed to the newly-opened Modern restaurant, housed in the former location of Rinkside at 354 Portage Avenue. While you’ll recognize much of the interior from its previous incarnation, that’s where the similarities end.

Modern specializes in East African cuisine, featuring the stews, bread and spices of Ethiopia. It’s one of my favourite types of food full of comforting dishes and tongue tantalizing heat. This is the kind of food that takes hours and hours to make, in order to develop its deep, complex flavours. The most common spice used in Ethiopian cuisine is one called berbere–a blend of chili, garlic, ginger, cloves, allspice, coriander and more.

I can’t think of anything more perfect to warm the soul on a cold January day.

My lunch companion and I decided to opt for the “buffet”, in this case, a large platter topped with a variety of things so we could try it all. (And it was a ridiculous steal at just $15 for the whole thing.)

The large platter came in the traditional way, blanketed by a piece of injera–the flatbread of this cuisine with a taste similar to sourdough.  Heaping piles of lentils, meat, veggies and sauce were then doled out on top of the bread, where the juices soaked down into it. A few more injera were served on the side and these became our eating utensils as we tore off little bits and used them to scoop up the food. (They’ll bring you a fork if you ask, but c’mon, live a little.)

My favourite was the tender beef stew. Its rich red colour lending a clue to the intensity of flavour waiting. It boasted a delicious combination of spicy, sour and sweet. Alongside were red and yellow lentils, each with their own distinct earthiness. I also loved the collard greens that came steamed and mixed with house made cottage cheese, making it rich and creamy. One unique offering I hadn’t seen before was a shredded pile of injera mixed with spices that heightened the delicious natural sourness of the bread.

There is a variety of other dishes on the menu including lamb tibs (boneless cubed lamb sauteed in spices) and chicken stew (a spicy dish made with berbere and clarified butter), as well as some other vegetarian options including chickpeas and split pea curry.

Needless to say, we left stuff and satisfied. A great option for lunch, the atmosphere is relaxed, casual and distinctly modern. (Ha, see what I did there?)

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Don’t forget!

There’s a great promotion happening at Portage Place.

Purchase a $60 Portage Place Gift Card and get an additional $10 Gift Card free! Plus enter to win a $500 Portage Place Shopping Spree!

Offer valid from March 16 – 27.

I’ve also got a $100 gift card to give away to one lucky winner! To enter, go to the Downtown BIZ Facebook page and like us. If you’re already a fan, then you’re automatically entered! The draw will take place March 16.

 

Italian nostalgia

Thank you to everyone who participated in my first Let’s Do Lunch Downtown contest this month.

The winners of the gift certificates were:

$50 to East India Company: Shael

$50 to 4Play Sports Bar: Chrystal Friesen

Congratulations!

If you didn’t win this round, don’t fret. I’ve got more stuff to give away.

This time I’ve got a $50 gift card to Old Spaghetti Factory and a $25 gift card to Dessert Sinsations.

To enter, leave a comment below telling me which one you’d like to try along with a way to contact you. (You can leave your email address in the form–it will be kept private.)

You’ve got until Friday at 9am to enter this one.

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Old Spaghetti Factory
The Johnston Terminal, 957-1319

I can remember going to the Old Spaghetti Factory for pretty much my entire life. It’s the kind of place you can go with mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, kids and everyone else and their dog in tow, and everyone will find something they like. (Please note: they don’t allow dogs… I assume.)

I always love revisiting these places as an adult and realizing how much bigger they seemed when you were a kid. Although in the case of OSF, it’s still huge. My favourite room has always been the one surrounded by windows that looks out into the wilderness of The Forks site. After a day spent skating on the river, it’s the perfect place to warm up.

I am addicted to the bread and whipped garlicky butter they bring before your meal and always have to restrain myself from overdoing it before the food even comes.

I really love the sauteed mushrooms for an appetizer. They come swimming in a wine and butter sauce and it’s just the right size for two people to share.

One of the things OSF prides itself on is value, and they do that aspect extremely well. It’s hard to find a meal complete with salad or soup, entree and dessert for under $15 these days. Another reason this is a great option for families.

Of course you can’t go wrong with any of their pastas and I’ve always been partial to the classic spaghetti and meatballs and the spicy chorizo penne.

Last time I went, I thought I’d try something new with the spaghetti tossed in brown butter sauce and topped with shredded mizithra cheese–apparently it was a favourite of Homer’s while he was composing the Iliad. (We’re talking the Greek dude, not Simpson.) It was delicious and I’d definitely recommend it for someone who wants something a little different from the norm.

I also really like that you can opt for half sizes of the pasta in case you’re not feeling extremely hungry that day. (It’s never happened to me, but I assume it happens to other people.)

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Dessert Sinsations
505 St. Mary’s Avenue, 284-4661

One of my very favourite get-together-with-the-girls places in the city is Dessert Sinsations. From creative and innovative menu items to a sparkling dessert case that kind of makes me want to cry with joy, it offers the most delectable combination of sweet and savoury.

The menu is packed with so many things to choose from. If you’re a regular reader at Downtown Peggy, you’ll know I’ve got a thing for poutine and Dessert Sinsations’ is one of my favourites. It’s made with a combination of regular and sweet potato fries and topped with a beautiful velvety gravy. You can even make it vegetarian and then it comes with an equally delectable mushroom gravy.

The moist and juicy portabella mushroom white cheddar burger is a can’t-miss menu item (currently featuring as a top contender in the Downtown Magazine best burger in downtown search). I also love the pulled roast turkey sandwich topped with tangy cranberry sauce and sweet red onion chutney.

For an entree choice, chèvre stuffed chicken breast is a good bet. It comes with an amazing strawberry rhubarb red onion compote and a creamy, buttery pistachio risotto. And for a local hit of flavour, I love the spiced pickerel that comes wrapped in a banana leaf (neat) and topped with blueberry siracha sauce (really neat). It too comes with risotto, but this time a corn one. It’s all to die for.

Once you’ve had your fill of dinner, that’s when the fun really begins. After all, in a place named after desserts, it would be a sin not to save room for some… see what I did there? Oh never mind.

The dessert case has got it all–tortes, cheesecakes, cookies, squares and cupcakes–and I’ve never gone away anything less than completely delighted. I’m always partial to lemon and chocolate desserts so I often go for the very citrusy lemon torte or the chocolate mint cheesecake. Along with poutine, I’ve also got a thing for cupcakes so I’ve been known to take one or two (or six) home with me after dinner to save for later.

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On another note:

I also wanted to let you know about a promotion happening at Portage Place.

Purchase a $60 Portage Place Gift Card and get an additional $10 Gift Card free! Plus enter to win a $500 Portage Place Shopping Spree!

Offer valid from March 16 – 27.

I’ve also got a $100 gift card to give away to one lucky winner! To enter, go to the Downtown BIZ Facebook page and like us. If you’re already a fan, then you’re automatically entered! The draw will take place March 16.

A little spice and everything nice

Today I’m excited to announce a new restaurant promotion happening April 4-29.

During Let’s Do Lunch Downtown, 21 downtown restaurants will be offering up awesome lunch specials starting at just $6.99. Over the next few weeks we’ll be revealing the special menus that have been prepared for you. And if you Do Lunch Downtown, you’ll be eligible to win an amazing $500 restaurant package.

As a lead up to this exciting event, I’m going to be promoting all of the participating restaurants and giving away tons of gift certificates for them!

First up are East India Company and 4Play Sports Bar.

I’ve got a $50 gift card to give away to each of them.

To enter leave a comment below telling me which restaurant you’d like to try along with a way to contact you. (You can enter your email in the comment form–it will be kept private.)

You’ve got until Wednesday, March 9.

East India Company
349 York Avenue, 947-3097

Indian food–it conjures up images of creamy sauces, fragrant spices and oh-so-good buffet. Of course we all know East India Company does it better that pretty much everyone, and your tour of Winnipeg’s ethnic restaurants wouldn’t be complete without a visit here. (And not only is their food amazing, owner Sachit Mehra is just the nicest guy ever, and I like giving my money to nice people.)

Apparently the Mehra’s have been using their own family’s unique garam masala (a blend of spices often unique to families) in their dishes for 35 years.

If I were to be granted a final meal, then East India Company’s butter chicken would be on my list. Tender pieces of chicken are swimming in a creamy tomato sauce that’s to die for. I also love, love, love their malai kofta–delicate cheese balls that are fried and dunked in a spiced sauce. Of course you can’t leave without trying the flavourful tandoori chicken or melt-in-your-mouth lamb curry.

Another one of my favourite items is the spinach paneer–a mixture of creamed spinach and Indian cheese that is earthy and satisfying. I also love watching their chef churn out naan (fluffy flatbread for scooping up sauces) at the tandoor oven sitting right in the middle of the buffet.

Of course there are also petite, crispy samosas stuffed with potato and peas and golden brown pakoras (battered spinach that is deep fried) perfect for starters. If you like something sweet to balance it out, try the tamarind chutney over top. I also like the mint chutney for a real kick.

Their dessert buffet is always impressive with some of my favourites including mango ice cream served in adorable little terracotta pots and gulab jamun–cheese balls fried and served with sweet syrup flavoured with rosewater and cardamon. Totally to die for.

And finally, make sure you try a mango lassi–kind of like an Indian milkshake–for a creamy and sweet treat.

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4Play Sports Bar
323 Portage Avenue, 221-4583

If you haven’t heard of (or been to) 4Play Sports Bar yet, you’re missing out on an experience unlike anywhere else in the city. Modeled after similar concepts in places like Las Vegas, 4Play Sports Bar is like man heaven (or woman heaven too if you want–I’m all for equal rights).

The former nightclub location looks similar on the surface, but here, it’s all about the presentation.

The first thing you’ll notice is a towering 24-ft screen blasting TSN and SportsNet all day long. In front of the screen, they don’t have boring old tables–they have an entire 50-person living room of cozy leather chairs replete with cup holders and detachable trays. If they hadn’t made me leave, I might have moved in there.

Can you imagine watching the Bombers win the Grey Cup on a screen bigger than your house in a chair better than anything you have in your house? Actually, it felt kind of like I was in first class on an airplane with that little tray across my legs as someone brought me beer and appetizers. (Definitely not just man heaven then.)

On top of all that, they’ve got an entire bank of Wiis where you can play to your heart’s content as well as a golf and soccer simulator. They’ve got pool tables, Foosball tables and even tables where you can sit and eat (novel, I know).

There are 32 TVs and a DJ controlling them all. So if you and some friends decide you’d like to watch the Westminster Dog Show in your little corner (it’s a sport right?), then you just let him know.

They’ve added another bar on the main floor (never a bad thing) and have many varieties of beer on tap, including Sapporo which I’ve never seen outside of a can before. And of course, what would a sports bar be without some hardy grub? They’ve got all the usual varieties of burgers, wings and fries as well as creative plates like cute little mini-burgers with four different toppings, poutine and yam fries. Yum, yum, yum. (Never mind that I was drinking at noon on a Monday, it was totally worth the effort to stay awake for the rest of the afternoon.)

There’s also a really posh VIP room upstairs that you can reserve for meetings and presentations.

It’s a place with endless potential as a destination in downtown. They are constantly hosting exciting events to coincide with your favourite sporting events with specials, contests and more. This place is just really, really cool.

Make yourself over

This is just a friendly reminder that if you haven’t entered the Downtown Makeover contest, you’ve got just a few more days to do so! Contest closes February 28!

Details are below:

This is your chance to win a complete downtown makeover!

Enter the Downtown Makeover Contest and you could win a new outfit, shoes, accessories, makeup and hairstyle all provided by great downtown merchants.

We’re giving away four makeovers in four age categories: 20s, 30s, 40s and 50+.

You’ll then get to show off your new look in the Spring 2011 issue of Downtown Winnipeg magazine!

Tell us why you need a makeover!

Starting a new job? Just got married? Need a style update? Or just feeling lost in a sea of choices? Then enter here for your chance to win.

You’ll need to include a snapshot of yourself as well.

Questions? Email me at mail@downtownpeggy.com. Good luck!

My Bucket List: 101 things to do in downtown Winnipeg

Everyone loves a list… right? Well everyone loves a bucket list and I think it’s high time someone created one for downtown Winnipeg.

Over the next few months, I’m going to be creating a list of 101 things you must do in downtown Winnipeg. But I can’t do it all alone! I’m going to be asking you to help me out.

Along the way, you are going to be eligible to win the opportunity to do the things on my list!

Here are some guidelines when creating an item for the list:

1. Make it specific, instead of just saying “eat at X restaurant”, make it more like “eat the chicken noodle soup at X restaurant.”

2. Make sure it’s downtown (only submissions in downtown will be considered). The downtown boundaries go east to west from the UofW to The Forks and north to south from Higgins to the river.

3. Make sure it’s fun and something you would recommend to your friends and family!

To get us started, I’ve come up with a few of my own:

1. Have the cheese croissant at Tall Grass Prairie at The Forks market. It is absolutely to die for and will brighten any day.

2. Visit the Nonsuch Ketch at The Manitoba Museum. This is probably the coolest thing ever.

3. Go for a stroll on the Assiniboine Riverwalk on a warm summer evening. There are few things in life that make you feel more alive than that.

4. Experience the full haman spa treatment (hamam fully loaded) at Ten Spa inside the Hotel Fort Garry. You’ll feel like royalty once you’re done.

5. Take a drawing class at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Learn a new skill and have fun doing it!

So here’s how to enter your submission:

1. Leave a comment here with your pick and a way to contact you.

2. Send me an email at mail@downtownpeggy.com.

3. Post it on my Facebook page.

4. If you’re succinct, tell me on Twitter, using the hashtag #WpgBucket

Once the list starts growing, we’ll start sharing what prizes we’ll have up for grabs, and of course, start awarding them!

Good luck and I can’t wait to hear your suggestions!