Holy Cross gym, 280 Dubuc St.
FOOD: The menu alone is truly an education. Much-appreciated large photos and descriptions of ingredients help with decisions on the way to the food line. Platters representing different regions -- the Sahara, the Kalahari, the African -- range from $7 to $10. The egusi and fufu platter (melon stew with pounded yams) is $12. Smaller plates that let you sample a little bit of everything range from $2 to $5. Choice of three different desserts, $2. (My recommendation: the chin-chin, a crunchy, sweet, deep-fried treat.)
DRINK: A wide variety is available. South African wine is $5 a glass, $25 a bottle. Amarula, a liqueur, is $4. There's a nice African cocktail for $5, a non-alcohol version is $2.25. African beer Castle is $5.
SHOW: Dancers really "shake their booty" -- organizers' words, not mine. Dancing, drumming and singing representing various regions of Africa will have you bouncing in your seat. There's something very special about that rhythm.
BEST REASON TO GO: The most interesting food at Folklorama.
CULTURE SHOCK: It's easy to forget Africa is a continent, not a country. It's made up of more than 50 countries.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The show bubbles over with enthusiasm and great music. But set-up between segments could be smoother.
-- Julie Carl
21. Al¥! Brasil
720 Henderson Hwy., in Bronx Community Centre.
FOOD: Deliciously spiced beef stew OR five mango shrimps on a skewer with a bed of rice ($10). Get both heavenly desserts to share -- the rice pudding smothered in cinnamon and the frothy passion fruit mousse ($3 each).
DRINK: Brazilian caipirinha drinks in tangy lime and sweet mango ($6) perk up the mood, as does Xingu Brazilian beer ($6) and Sul Americana ($10). For non-al folks, Guarana pop ($3) is a fun experiment.
SHOW: Many kinds of drums, modern dancers, and acrobats. Read the back of the menu for explanation of the coco, samba and forro dances.
BEST REASON TO GO: Yummy foods, and energetic dance shows.
CULTURE SHOCK: The Capoeiristas act involved two male acrobatic dancers, cartwheeling and hand-walking to the berimba, a single string bow percussion instrument.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The stage was bare -- black curtains, no tropical decor, and a too-small cultural exhibit for such a fascinating big country.
-- Maureen Scurfield
Notre Dame Recreational Centre - 271 ave de la Cathedrale
FOOD: There are many tasty options here, perhaps too many, as the food lineup dragged on. The quinoa salad for $6 was fresh and flavourful, and the torta mil hojas (thousand layer cake) for $4.50 was doused in caramel and coconut goodness. The hot foods sampled were served lukewarm--cheese empanadas and Peruvian stir fry--but would be worth another shot if served hot.
DRINK: While the drink lineup also ran long, there were many imported cocktail and wine options to choose from once you got to the counter (no imported beer options, unfortunately). The pisco sour and pisco mango (both $6) are mighty strong.
SHOW: The Andean show features professional dancers flown in from Peru whose snappy performances and gorgeous costumes were highlights. There was a small backing band that played traditional music. The sound system wasn't stellar, though, and their pan fluting didn't quite project all the way to the back of the room.
BEST REASON TO GO: The sassy Peruvian dancers are worthy of a full-time Folklorama gig.
CULTURE SHOCK: The Andean wardrobe is full of colourful swatches and intricate beadwork that will leave you in awe as you ogle the display.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: There is a lot of room for improvement here, but this is the first year for the Andean Pavilion. A necessary fix would be improving the sound system. Swapping the stage's direction to facing east-west (as it has been in past years) could improve the show's audibility and visibility for many.
-- Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
23. Argentina "Tango"
Caboto Centre, 1055 Wilkes Ave.
FOOD: Flaky empanadas (chicken or vegetarian) are the best you'll find this side of Buenos Aires ($3.50). However, a rather sad little sandwich de milanesa did not fare as well, with stringy, tough beef inside a plain white bun ($5). For dessert, try mil hojas ($3), alfajores shortbread cookies ($3) or crème caramel custard flan ($3).
DRINK: Fruity sangria ($4.50), and imported wines and beer are available either by the glass ($5.75) or bottle ($27). You may also tipple at a complimentary wine tasting station to expand your international palette. All in the name of research, of course.
SHOW: Malon del Sur dancers from Argentina -- Cristian Galeano, Jessica Soru Eduardo Rodriguez and Aldana Arthur -- perform sizzling tangoes (albeit too few) so smokin' hot they practically light the stage on fire.
BEST REASON TO GO: Besides the tangoes, versatile Argentine guest musician Diego Arolfo, who leads four-piece band Te A-cuerdas, holds nothing back on violin, vocals, accordion, guitar, panpipes or flute. Muy bueno!
CULTURE SHOCK: "Sharing the mate gourd," where you pass a gourd to a circle of friends filled with yerba mate, is seen as good hospitality. This drink is described as having "the strength of coffee, health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate."
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The modest cultural display area consists primarily of coloured photos and leaflets. But you can get your photo snapped with a life-sized paper-mache gaucho created by local Argentine artist Debora Cardaci. Selfies allowed.
-- Holly Harris
Le Club Belge, 407 Provencher Blvd.
FOOD: Everyone has heard of Belgian waffles -- well, they have them here ($2.50). If you are undeterred by the name, try Worst of Bloed Worst met Luxe Broodje (blood sausage with a bun $6.50).
DRINK: The Belgian Slammer is a drink (Southern Comfort, orange juice and orange brandy, $3.50) and a greeting (handshake, three light kisses on either cheek). There's beer -- lots of beer -- with a wide range of alcohol content. The 20 kinds here range from three to 11 per cent. Take a cab.
SHOW: A gifted accordion player performed live music for the folk dances. A Maypole dance (around a pole on which ribbons are wrapped in a pattern by the dancers) was performed and performers wore wooden shoes for another dance. Wooden shoes have a history in Belgium as well as the Netherlands.
BEST REASON TO GO: You get to see inside the historic Belgian Club, which will be 110 years old next year. Everyone is invited following the show to try Belgian bowling on the lower level, which is best played with "the ball in one hand and a beer in the other hand."
CULTURE SHOCK: Jean-Claude Van Damme, "the Muscles from Brussels," is from Belgium, but the most muscular mammal at the pavilion was the Belgian Blue (Blanc Bleu Belge) -- the country's famous cow -- which is known for being "double-muscled" and having a coat that is blue-grey. In this show, a pair of dancers wore a cow costume to make the Belgian Blue part of a dance.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The pace of the show was a little slow.
-- Ashley Prest
St. Boniface Cultural Centre, 340 Provencher Blvd.
FOOD: Great place for dinner -- delicious combo plate at $10.50, big enough to share! Or, pick spicy BBQ jerk chicken wings ($4.50), meat or veggie patties in orange pastry ($3), savoury roti, or curried dishes ($9). Best of the $2.75 desserts are the light pineapple tart, chewy coconut sugar, and tropical ice creams ($2.50).
DRINK: Try non-al ginger beer or sorrel ($2.50), made of flower petals and cloves. Famous Red Stripe beer and Dragon Stout ($6) are crisp and cooling.
SHOW: Hi-Life steel band sets the dance mood -- sensuous! Limbo dancers slither under arched human legs, poles, and fire to oohs and aaahs from the crowd, and the Caribbean belly dancer is a happy surprise!
BEST REASON TO GO: "Up, up and away" ambiance elevates mood quickly. Fun cultural exhibit features Caribbean inside info, and products and jewelery from many islands.
CULTURE SHOCK: The highest single-drop waterfall in the world is in Kaieteur, Guyana.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: While it's cool to have a big screen, the colour was bleached out.
-- Maureen Scurfield
Fort Garry Curling Club, 696 Archibald St.
FOOD: Hearty, hot and it's cheap to eat here. Think combo plate of bangers (sausages), mash (mashed potatoes) with gravy and cole slaw ($8).
DRINK: There are two bars here so finding a drink -- with alcohol or not -- is simple. How about an Irish Kneecap? Not the limb punishment -- it's an iced coffee with milk and Irish Cream liqueur ($4.50).
SHOW: This is a world-class show, starring the Brady Academy of Irish Dancers, four fabulous female fiddlers and Calgary's Ian Gott, the All-Ireland Dance Champion. There's professional lighting, fog machines, a medieval castle backdrop with windows illuminated by faux torches and a sheer curtain that was raised and lowered several times during the show for effect.
BEST REASON TO GO: The show is a visual extravaganza of light, sound, stomping, leaping. There were even clever decorations such a street sign pointing the way to "Tipperary (long way)." If that's not enough, have some apple crisp ($3.50). Any questions? Didn't think so.
CULTURE SHOCK: Recordings by world famous artists U2, The Cranberries and Sinead O'Connor provide the background music before and after the show. A unique souvenir/culture display offers snacks such as chocolate bars available in Ireland ($1.75) that we don't have here in addition to knitted crafts, jewelry, T-shirts and garden plaques.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: None. This is one of Folklorama's best shows and not to be missed.
-- Ashley Prest
West Kildonan Collegiate, 101 Ridgecrest Avenue
FOOD: Be prepared for a meat treat: delectable spiced meat compressed until it's hard and dry ($5), sour cabbage rolls with pork filling ($5), and marinated meat on a skewer ($5). There's also sautéed potatoes ($3.50), but only because you need something to cleanse the palate between superb meat dishes. Bring a big appetite to this pavilion; unless you're a vegetarian.
DRINK: Last year, the Croatians were forced to serve mostly Canadian drinks because the liquor board was unable to secure sufficient Croatian alcoholic beverages. They're making up for it this year: Croatian beer ($6), Maraska rum ($4.50), Kruskovac wedding pear brandy ($4.50), and Plavachvar red and white wine ($4.50).
SHOW: A series of numbers is performed by more than 80 dancers, ranging from cute tykes in embroidered dresses with ribboned hair, to athletic youths performing courtship dances (one fellow somehow dances with an open bottle of wine atop his hat, didn't spill a drop), to 20 older dancers whose graceful steps are complemented by beaming smiles.
BEST REASON TO GO: The master of ceremonies for several shows this week is former Blue Bomber kicker Troy Westwood. As you can likely guess, Westwood is not a Croatian name and he explained he is not Croatian by blood, but he made lifelong friends with many Croatians when he played soccer for 30 years with the local amateur Croatian team.
CULTURAL SHOCK: This top-notch pavilion is a labour of love, run entirely by parishioners from Saint Nicholas Tavelich Croatian Catholic Church, 2688 Main St.
ROOM TO IMPROVE: We would love to see more pictures of Croatia, which apparently is a beautiful country. It would be delightful to have a slide-show loop playing non-stop somewhere in the pavilion.
-- Carl DeGurse
RBC Convention Centre, 375 York Avenue
FOOD: Cuba isn't traditionally known for its food, but the chefs have done an excellent job with preparing the local cuisine. Try the roast pork or roast chicken dinners, which are served with rice and beans, for $10.95 each. The Cuban riblets dinner is tasty, too. For dessert, try the coconut tarts ($2.25), coconut cream pie ($3.95) or guava pastry ($3.50).
DRINK: The bar is called Hemingway Corner, in honour of American author and journalist, Ernest Hemingway, who lived on the Caribbean island in the 1940s and '50s. Cuba's famous rum is the primary ingredient in the Pina Colada and Mojito ($6.50 each) and the Cuba Libre ($6).
SHOW: This is as close as you'll get to what's being performed throughout Cuba today. Six dancers, who were flown in from Miami, put on a performance that will heat up the room regardless of whether the air conditioning is working. The music will have you wanting to get up and shake what your momma gave you.
BEST REASON TO GO: Oh, my God, the show. Also, the rum. Also, the late-night parties on Friday and Saturday.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: As with other years, it's too bad Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries can't make it easier for the Cuban pavilion to bring in Cristal and Bucanero beers without large minimum orders and too much tax.
-- Geoff Kirbyson
Ethiopian Cultural Centre, 215 Selkirk Ave.
FOOD: If you plan on dining, prepare for something hot, hot, hot. The Ethiopian fare sampled wasn't advertised as spicy, but did pack a punch. The very generous veggie combo platter featuring curries and cabbage could easily serve two or three at $7. A samosa or baklava at $3 is a more feasible snack.
DRINK: An imported St. George beer is the alcoholic brew of choice here, at $6, but the Ethiopians are known for their coffee. If you need a boost, visit the front of the room, where fresh java is being served in ceramic mugs at $2 each.
SHOW: The eight or nine adult performers who carry the Ethiopian show are truly remarkable, performing all of the show's dances, with corresponding costume changes, during three nightly appearances. Their energy is infectious and choreographer Danny shines with his sky-high jumps and drumming beats.
BEST REASON TO GO: On top of enjoying the yummy food and great live show, tour the cultural display with adult ambassador Helina Zegeye, who is practically an encyclopedia of Ethiopian knowledge.
CULTURE SHOCK: Ask to hear the story of the La Lalibela church from the Amhara region. The stone church was discovered underground umpteen years ago and conspiracy theories run amuck as to how it got there (aliens are an option).
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: This pavilion is small but mighty and has very little it could improve on. Things do get loud occasionally and turning down the music at some points during the show could prove beneficial for stressed ears.
-- Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
German Society of Winnipeg, 121 Charles St.
FOOD: Try the schnitzel dinner for $13, which includes a tasty breaded chicken cutlet, with your choice of spatzle (German noodles) or mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut, or rotkohl (red cabbage).
DRINK: There are five different imported beers for you to choose from at $6 each; I recommend the Krombacher. Or, shoot back an ounce of Jagermeister for $4.50
SHOW: The German Society of Winnipeg's brass band plays upbeat ditties between shows; Der Treue Husar and Heidschnucken troupes will delight you with traditional German dance routines. Warning: audience participation is strongly encouraged!
BEST REASON TO GO: This is the most friendly, enthusiastic, and patriotic pavilion I have attended! It makes me want to attend Schnitzel Fridays at the German Society in future!
CULTURE SHOCK: Prost! In the Bavarian region of Germany, some beers are classified as a food rather than a beverage.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Needs more yodeling.
-- Chelsea Sanders
St.Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 2255 Grant Ave.
FOOD: Food, glorious food! Enjoy big fat Greek portions of tangy salad ($4), chicken or pork souvlaki ($4.75), oven-roasted lemony potatoes ($2.50), gyros ($5.75), moussaka ($4.75) and spanakopita ($4). Flaky baklava is back ($3.50), but the brand new Rizogalo ($1.50) rice pudding is a delicious steal at $1.50.
DRINK: A good selection, but you can't beat Zorba's Kiss, a delicious cocktail of ouzo, gin, wine, fruit juice and grenadine ($4.50).
SHOW: Opa! The Kefi Dancers perform traditional village dances from the Greek Islands, including the flirty Ballos couples dance, and Patima, where individual dancers break off to slap their feet and hotdog for each other. Watch for I Trata, a dance that mimics hauling nets of fish -- an unusual and visceral ode to the sea.
BEST REASON TO GO: The hypnotic Zorba's Dance has closed every show in this founding pavilion for the past 45 years. The crowd-pleasing dance appears reinvigorated, with dancers punctuating their accelerating movement with joyful shouts while egging on the crowd to join in with a few of their own.
CULTURE SHOCK: Long before Oscar made his first appearance at the Academy Awards in 1929, the ancient six-day Dionysian Festival presented awards to Greece's top thespians. And the award for best actor goes to... well, Thespis in 449 BC. His prize? A goat.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: This pavilion still felt a bit disorganized despite my being there for the final nightly show with smaller crowds.
-- Holly Harris
Burton Cummings CC, 960 Arlington St.
FOOD: Paprika is a common seasoning in Hungary. See for yourself by trying hearty bowl of goulash soup ($5) or the chicken paprikas and noodles ($8). Help yourself to sausage ($3.50) and cabbage rolls ($4) as well. To end off your meal, choose from many delicious desserts, including crepes ($2.75) and tortes ($4).
DRINK: Choose between the large selection of Hungarian wines to savour in a glass ($4.50) or bottle ($23). Egri Bikavér (red) and Tramini (white) are recommended. If you want to try something a bit stronger, there is pear and apricot brandy ($4.50).
SHOW: A large cultural display teaches you everything you wanted to know about Hungarian history and culture. With the ladies' endlessly spinning skirts, and the gentlemen's rhythmic stomping, clapping, and slapping, the dancers' captivating performance reflects styles from different regions of Hungary. During one of the dances, the female performers somehow manage to effortlessly dance with bottles of wine balanced on their heads.
BEST REASON TO GO: The impressive bottle dance is definitely worth the trip to this pavilion. Another reason is the delicious Hungarian flat-bread, l°ngos ($3.50), which are freshly made and deep-fried outside the pavilion. Order yours sprinkled with icing sugar for a sweet treat.
CULTURE SHOCK: When visiting the country's largest city, be sure to take a dip in one of its many heated mineral pools. Budapest has more thermal springs than any other capital in the world.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: While there were many Hungarian wines to choose from, it would've been nice if some ethnic beers were added to the drink menu as well.
-- Eden Ramsay
Heather Curling Club, 120 Youville St.
FOOD: Caterer Charisma dishes up $13 platters, one with butter chicken, the other vegetarian with channa masala. Both include navaratan korma, cumin potatoes, basmati rice, naan, salad and pappadam. As usual, the desserts are fabulous: gulab jamuns or mango ice cream, $4. For a penny less, you can have a mango lassi, a luscious smoothie.
DRINK: On offer are King-Fisher and Taj Mahal, Indian beers, also Cheetah, a beer brewed specifically to complement Indian food, $6. Domestic beer and spirits are $4.50. But come on, it's Folklorama; be adventurous.
SHOW: Outstanding. Performers capture the colour and sparkle of India in dances, from Bollywood-inspired numbers to a fishing village's traditional folk dance. In fact, throughout the 45 minute show, you'll feel like you're in a Bollywood movie.
BEST REASON TO GO: No question: the dancers and their fabulous costumes.
CULTURE SHOCK: The great Indian doctor, Sushruta, who lived in India circa 600 BC, pioneered plastic surgery, specializing in rhinoplasty.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: It's a great pavilion in a less-than-great venue. It's not surprising the place is packed, but the crowds quickly heat up the un-air conditioned arena.
-- Julie Carl
Rady Jewish Community Centre - 123 Doncaster St.
FOOD: The most deliciously fresh hummus with pita bread for just $4.50. A traditional bowl of matzo ball soup will cost $4. A falafel plate is just $6.75.
DRINK: Isreali beer Maccabee, is available by the bottle for $5.25 and, if you're ready to party, a shot of Sabra Israeli liqueur will cost you $4.50
SHOW: Learn about Israel's rich cultural history, and its more recent advancements in technology. Then, sit back and enjoy a radiant dance and musical performance by the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble.
BEST REASON TO GO: It's the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble's 50th anniversary of world-class dance performances accompanied by a live band and choir -- something not all pavilions can boast.
CULTURE SHOCK: Smarty pants! Israel has the highest number of Nobel Laureates in the world.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: If you want a copy of this pavilion's program, it is hidden on Page 14 of the Aug. 6 issue of The Jewish Post & News.
-- Chelsea Sanders
J.B. Mitchell School, 1720 John Brebeuf Pl.
FOOD: Three different combo plates ($12/10/9) offer tasty barbequed beef bulgogi, spicy chicken wings, glassy japchae noodles, dumplings and steamed rice -- all excellent.
DRINK: A limited selection of domestic beer ($4.50) and wine ($3) is available, plus the usual pop.
SHOW: The eclectic show ranges from traditional fan dance Buchaechum, in which an ensemble of female dancers evokes butterflies, flowers and ocean waves with large, hot pink fluttering fans to explosive tae kwon do demonstrations courtesy of Winnipeg's Tae Ryong Park Academy. The Five Drum Dance is another highlight; delicately costumed girls pound out intricate rhythms on large drums while performing nail-biting back bends.
BEST REASON TO GO: Seeing what are basically young children crack boards with their hands or fly over 12 curled up bodies to break plywood with their feet is an astonishing testament to the power of the mind and body.
CULTURE SHOCK: Koreans have only had a written language since 1443. King Sejong the Great first created the Korean alphabet, comprised of 14 consonants and 10 vowels. It is now deemed one of the most creative and scientific language inventions in history.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Admittedly, hearing a constant stream of loudly aggressive "kihap" shouts during the Tae Kwon Do demonstrations can rattle your nerves. It also makes it extremely difficult to hear Academy Master Instructor Jae H. Park's spoken explanations throughout the show. And heads up: the non-air conditioned venue got very hot. BYOF -- bring your own fan or purchase one onsite.
-- Holly Harris
36. Pabellon de Espana
Casa do Minho Portuguese Centre, 1080 Wall St.
FOOD: Feast on authentic paella made with rice, chicken, shrimp and squid. A large portion will cost you $9.
DRINK: Estrella, the Barcelonean cerveza, will set you back $6.50. A glass of sangria is $4.75
SHOW: Discover the unique Spanish castle sculptures created by Frank Segura, who immigrated to Winnipeg from Madrid in 1965. The women of dance troupe Sol de Espana will entice you with their castanet synchronicities.
BEST REASON TO GO: Order your group a pitcher of fragrant sangria for only $23 (best deal in the city), along with a portion of Patatas Bravas (Spanish hashbrowns) for $3.25; they are simply divine and exactly how they serve them in Spain.
CULTURE SHOCK: This pavilion's got major Girl Power! The Sol de Espana dance performances include only female dancers.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: This Pavilion's Flamenco performance, accompanied by a live guitarist, only shows during the 9:45 p.m. set. Although the performance I saw was good, I wish I'd known about this one beforehand!
-- Chelsea Sanders
37. Pavilion of Portugal
Portuguese Cultural Centre, 659 Young St.
FOOD: The Portuguese know how to eat. Every morsel is prepared that day by a team of volunteer chefs. Try the shrimp perogies ($3) and cod balls ($3) as appetizers. The half-chicken dinner is delicious ($12) as is the octopus plate ($8). Try and have just one of the pastries ($2.50). Bet you can't.
DRINK: Try the Super Bock beer ($5) or Aveleda white wine or Dao red wine ($4.50 per glass or $20 for a bottle). Both are made in northern Portugal.
SHOW: The traditional dancers are out of breath by the time they're done their physical and entertaining performances. You probably won't understand what guest singers Michelle Madeira and Milu Pacheco are singing about but they'll make you want to learn the language.
CULTURE SHOCK: If you visit Portugal's coast, you'll eat ocean delicacies, such as swordfish. The more inland, you go, however, the more meat is consumed.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: This pavilion is a well-oiled machine.
-- Geoff Kirbyson
38. Pavilion of Scotland
Glenwood Community Centre, 27 Overton St.
FOOD: Ah, haggis. That great chieftain o' the puddin' race: you can try a lump of minced and mealy fame here for $4.75. There's other honest working fare, with the best deal probably being a $9 combo that includes tatties and neeps (mashed potato and rutabaga) or peas with a meaty pie or mince.
DRINK: Why yes, they do serve scotch here. So come take a tipple at the spacious Scotch Glen bar, where you can sample Laphroiag or Glenfiddich, among others ($8). There's also some Scottish beers, and -- of course -- the creamy, orange Irn Bru soda ($3.75) that flows everywhere in Scotland.
SHOW: An energetic spin through kicky Highland dance and famous old Scottish pub tunes, performed by a live band in front of an imposing castle backdrop. The venue is huge, and they make use of it, with side stages positioned throughout the crowd, and a wide-open dance area to join in the fun.
BEST REASON TO GO: After the second mainstage show of every night, a full-blown pipe band marches into the arena with drumsticks a-twirling. Always thrilling.
CULTURE SHOCK: It's easy to wander into the display room and get lost in the sheer number of Scots clan tartans, and their many variations, presented for perusal.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: It can get steamy in the big arena, all filled up with people, so plan on wearing something airy.
-- Melissa Martin
39. Pearl of the Orient Philippine
R.B. Russell School, 364 Dufferin Avenue
FOOD: Dining is separate from entertainment in this venue, with food service in the school cafeteria -- all the better to concentrate on the meals, which deserve undivided taste-bud attention. Pork BBQ ($6) features lean pieces on a skewer, marinated and grilled, tangy and tender. It goes well on a bed of pancit (rice noodles, $5), sautéed with veggies in soy and oyster sauces, with a side of Lumpiang Shanghai (deep-fried egg rolls, $2). An unsual beverage, called Sago at Gulaman, contains tapioca pearls and cubes of gelatin in a syrup flavoured with banana extract.
DRINK: This pavilion's only advertised Philippines alcoholic beverage, San Miquel beer, hadn't arrived when the pavilion opened Sunday, but organizers hope it arrives later this week.
SHOW: Entertainment this year is dedicated with gratitude to people in other countries who helped Filipinos recover from Typhoon Haiyan on Nov. 8, 2013. More than 100 dancers perform a wide variety of dances, including a special interpretation of Sublian, a dance traditionally performed slowly by interchanging performers over 48 hours as a prayer.
CULTURE SHOCK: Leave lots of time to pore over a rich cultural display, including men's shirts woven from pineapple fibre, sections of houses made of straw and complete costumes that are intended for a special 21-day dancing marathon.
BEST REASONS TO GO: 1) There's karaoke, of course; the only thing Filipinos love more than singing is cajoling other people into singing. The karaoke machine is on an outdoor stage in a cozy beer garden. 2) Get your picture taken in a photo booth with warrior garb, such as spears and shields, or a lady-like fan and huge hat made of bamboo and coconut strips.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: No food or drinks are allowed during the performances. It would be nice to enjoy a beverage, at least, while watching the excellent entertainment.
-- Carl DeGurse
40. Serbian "Kolo"
St. James Civic Centre, 2055 Ness Ave.
FOOD: Don't miss out on the savoury sausage, meat and cheese pies ($5), meaty cabbage rolls ($6), stuffed pepper, and succulent pork roast ($8). You can't have a meal without dessert at this pavilion. Chocolate plays an important role in the various cakes and crepes ($3). The melt-in-your-mouth, baklava ($4) will have you going back for seconds.
DRINK: Enjoy the large selection of Serbian beers, brandies, and wines. The Jelen Pivo ($6) is a refreshing, pale lager and one of the country's most popular beers.
SHOW: Kolo is an old Serbian word meaning "circle." During the performances, the dancers often held onto each other's belts to reinforce this idea of a strengthened community. It definitely added to the entertainment as performers formed large, unified masses of people, stomping and spinning to the lovely Serbian soundtrack.
BEST REASON TO GO: There are many options for scrumptiously spiced food and refreshing drinks at this pavilion, so take advantage of it during your stay. On your way out, pick up some to try at home from the large, Serbian ethnic food market.
CULTURE SHOCK: There may be a pattern to Serbian female names. The pavilion's adult ambassador mentioned he cannot think of one female Serbian who's name does not end in the letter, "a".
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The cultural display was a bit easy to miss outside of the main pavilion area and could have used a more interactive element.
-- Eden Ramsay
720 Alverstone St, in Daniel McIntyre High School
FOOD: Love slavic food and a big choice of to-die-for desserts? You've come to the right place. Huge stuffed peppers are only $6, spicy sausages with rye bread ($4), hot half chicken with potatoes, salad and cole slaw and rye bread ($15). Desserts -- dont tell your dentist. Assorted tortes are just $3.75 (try the multi-layered ocas!). Palacinke crepes ($2.50) are Mmm-mmm. Yes, you can get take-out boxes for all foods!
DRINK: Slivovic plum brandy is a must ($6), and beer lovers will want to try Lasko ($6). For the car ride to the next pavilion, split a Cockta soft drink -- rich black, tastes like a blend of Coke and creme soda.
SHOW: Dance groups from kiddies to adults in cultural costumes from all the different regions. As for the vessels of water on their heads? Don't try it at home, folks. Check out the button-box accordions bookending the Good Friends band, brought tenderly from Slovenija.
BEST REASON TO GO: Aside from the fabulous cultural display and dancing, you should slice up different desserts to share with your friends.
CULTURE SHOCK: This tiny independent country of two million has an ocean in front, mountains behind, and food-producing plains in the middle -- and is a favourite with honeymooners. "Drive through Slovenija and it feels like you've been to four different countries," say the tour guides.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: All efforts are made at the Slovenija pavilion! In fact, pigs and chickens are cooked daily outside the pavilion back door in a giant BBQ pit. Cannot improve on that!
-- Maureen Scurfield
42. Spirit of Ukraine
West Kildonan Memorial Arena, 346 Perth Avenue
FOOD: Pardon the pun, but the soups are super. Diners might think they are familiar with borscht (beet) or kapusnyak (cabbage) soups ($3.95), but the chef at this pavilion brings these working-class staples to a level of culinary connoisseurship.
DRINK: In a city known as the Slurpee capital, this pavilion offers a Prapor slushie, an icy treat coloured patriotically in blue and yellow, the colors of Ukraine. Adults can order their slushie with a shot of vodka. Also try Krimsekt, a sparkling semi-sweet wine in red and white, offered in Manitoba for the first time.
SHOW: Every unattached male in the audience will want to propose immediate marriage to Marta Shpak, a raven-haired diva from the Ukraine who sings nightly between acts of Ukraine dancers. Elegant and ebullient, she commands the attention of everyone in the room but has the gift of making you feel her smiles are intended for you alone.
BEST REASON TO GO: Successive dance troupes from The Zoloto Ukrainian Dance Ensemble & Company, and the Vesselli Dancers fill the stage with pulsating rainbows of colorful choreography; guys in sashes and embroidered tunics kicking high and stomping with muscled machismo, girls smiling sweetly as their skirts swirl and their feet blur with nimble grace.
CULTURE SHOCK: Don't miss an unusually well-curated cultural exhibit by Ashleigh Czyrnyj, who somehow persuaded Ukrainian museums to lend her exhibits. Her arrangement, A Year In The Life, uses crafts, clothing, rare pictures and implements to portray Ukrainian life through the seasons.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: It's in an arena. Yes, the cavernous size means they can squeeze in a large number of guests. But, still, it looks like an arena. And it sounds like an arena. A world-class singer like Marta Shpak deserves better.
-- Carl DeGurse
43. United Kingdom
Punjab Cultural Centre, 1770 King Edward St.
FOOD: A spread of hearty -- and decidedly meaty -- British fare, including a plump steak and kidney pie ($6) dripping with gravy, or fish 'n' chips ($9.50). The Round Table is hosting a prime rib dinner on Friday night for $20.
DRINK: Of course, they've got ales -- among them, pub stalwarts Boddingtons and Guinness ($5.50). Real spirit connoisseurs will want to gather 'round the Whiskey Snug and sample some finely curated scotches and whiskeys ($5 to $10), under the guidance of a well-versed bartender. Not drinking? The Barrs Cherryade soda ($2.50) is gobsmacking good.
SHOW: A host of dance troupes and musicians deliver a slick, well-produced trip through Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. Featuring bona fide Irish minstrel Tom McDermott and plenty of fancy footwork, the show delves into Celtic dance and the age-old Morris English tradition.
BEST REASON TO GO: The details are perfectly proper: there's a cute British tea room in the corner, where you can sip a cup with some wee pastries. The cultural display is clever, set up as a stroll down a village street with vintage British wares -- royal china, Brit-rock records, and Harris tweed.
CULTURE SHOCK: Okay, let's just say it -- there's something fascinating in the fact that the United Kingdom pavilion is teamed up with the shiny new Punjab Cultural Centre, given the intertwined history of those regions. That's Folklorama in a nutshell, folks.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: There's a ton of space to play with here, and it would be fun if the Whiskey Snug had a bit more room to congregate for sips and chatter.
-- Melissa Martin