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.