290 Dubuc St. (Holy Cross Gym)
FOOD: There are lots of flavours to try here and all are delish. Big samosas are $3 or two for $5, come in meat and veggie versions and are -- according to a samosa-expert friend -- some of the best you can find in Winnipeg. We have to recommend the heart beef kebabs with veggies, which are marinated in a savoury tomato sauce and served with creamy fried plantains for $7.
DRINK: For a bargain, South Africa's Castle lager is $4.75, or you can splurge $7 for a can of Kenyan Tusker beer. Shots of Amarula, a sugary cream liqueur made from the fruit of the marula tree, are $4.
SHOW: Thundering drummers and energetic dancers take the audience through traditional and modern songs and dances, while a projection beside the stage explains the origin of each act.
BEST REASON TO GO: African cultures are often renowned for their hospitality and it's no exception here -- the warm welcomes and ever-present smiles make this a perfect place to bring the family.
CULTURE SHOCK: "You're not going to see this many countries in one show," proudly stated the genial show host, and that's true: there are 54 sovereign states in the continent.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: It would be a bonus if the cultural display -- which also features an African market full of trinkets, jewelry and clothing -- gave more insight into Africa's diverse cultures.
-- Melissa Martin
2. Olâ! Brasil
Bronx Community Centre, 720 Henderson Hwy.
FOOD: Their sample plate ($10)) is a best bet with a long skewer of mango-infused shrimps and a half portion of tasty stew with rice. Milho cheese buns are yummy ($3), and the piquant black bean salad is great for vegetarians ($3). Big desserts are large and easily shared between two or three.
DRINK: Try the crackling Xinghu Brazilian beer ($6) or go for a famous caipirinha rum punch in mango, passion fruit or classic lime.
SHOW: Smaller show than one expects from the Brazilian crowd, but fun. Marco Castillo is the serious-looking host with exuberant dancers and drummers from Winnipeg and Toronto. Costuming in the final act of the show was spectacular, with the women shimmying out into the audience dressed in fantasy feathered birds costumes.
BEST REASON TO GO: The food is great and the costuming is breathtaking.
CULTURE SHOCK: The giant beaded bird costumes rivalled those seen in Las Vegas shows and clearly cost a fortune.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: This pavilion needs a display of Brazilian carnival culture and people demonstrating the different drums.
-- Maureen Scurfield
Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain, 340 Provencher Blvd.
FOOD: Jerk chicken BBQ wings ($4.50), curried beef, chicken or vegetable roti ($8) -- filling a shell that looks like a pizza pop -- or a combination plate for $10 are good values. There's a delectable selection of desserts -- most feature coconut -- for $2.75 including coconut sugar cake and sweet bread.
DRINK: You don't have to drink alcohol here to get a taste of the islands, as you can try sorrel (a sweet punch-like drink made from the petal of a tropical flower flavoured with cloves) or ginger beer for $2.50. If you want to imbibe, you can try a pina colada or rum punch ($5.75).
SHOW: You can feel the warmth of the islands here. The show's host tells you the theme is "rhythm" and you quickly see why. The opening performance is the Hi Life Steel Orchestra with a sweet, swaying rendition of Jamaica Farewell followed by performances by the Jamaican Association dancers, Carnivale dancers, the Dancing Diva and a lively limbo display.
BEST REASON TO GO: Two of the limbo dancers performed beneath an extremely low bar that was on fire. The lights were dimmed for a thrilling effect that captivated the audience.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: None; it was fun and festive.
-- Ashley Prest
4. Celtic Ireland
Fort Garry Curling Club, 696 Archibald St.
FOOD: A selection of typical Irish food. The favourites combo is meat pie, bangers (sausages to the uninitiated), mashed potato with gravy and coleslaw for $8.75. To mark the pavilion's 10th anniversary, there's a $10 special plate that includes a 10th-anniversary cupcake.
DRINK: Can you guess? Guinness and Irish whiskey, $6.50 each. But so much more. Kilkenny, Smithwicks and Harp as well as domestic beer.
SHOW: A truly impressive display of Irish dance and fiddle music. The Riverdance-esque numbers, all clogging feet and flying curls, are courtesy of Brady Academy of Irish Dance.
BEST REASON TO GO: The dancing and fiddling. What a show!
CULTURE SHOCK: Did you know... donating blood in Dublin gets you a free pint of Guinness? It's medically recommended to replace the iron lost due to the donation. And speaking of that fine, black beer, this pavilion sells more Guinness in a week than any Winnipeg bar does in a whole year.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: A bit more effort in the history section would make the display more interesting. There's just a taste here, intriguing enough to leave visitors wanting more.
-- Julie Carl
5. Croatian "Zagreb"
West Kildonan Collegiate, 101 Ridgecrest Ave.
FOOD: Hearty, fill-you-up-good dinner choices include smoked sausage ($4), sautéed potatoes ($3), shish kebob ($4) and four spiced meat rolls ($4). The culinary highlight of this pavilion, though, is an astounding array of more than 20 types of pastry.
DRINK: The entertainment, food and drink service is all housed in a single gym, so it's possible to enjoy a beverage while watching the performers. Many guests were drinking cans of Karlovacko ($6), an imported Croatian lager with a heavy European taste.
SHOW: Dancing by the Croatian Folklore Ensemble seemed like an entertaining throwback to a time of chivalry and traditional roles, with women in beautiful dresses and fetching smiles being spun and courted by men stomping the stage in black boots. The program culminated with an athletic dance-off competition among men for the hand and heart of a woman. Don't leave without exploring the above-average cultural display, including a century-old wedding dress, traditional musical instruments, Croatian foods, and religious artifacts.
BEST REASON TO GO: The amazing array of pastries will likely be the most delightful recreational calories you will ever ingest and the needlework on display is beautiful and obviously time-consuming.
CULTURAL SHOCK: In case you needed a formal reason to raise a glass, Croatia joined the European Union on July 1.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Unlike past years, there was no Croatian wine to sample. A pavilion spokesman said there were problems getting the product through the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission.
-- Carl DeGurse
6. Cuba Va!
Notre Dame Recreational Centre, 271 avenue de la Cathédrale
FOOD: A roasted pork loin or chicken dinner ($10.95) comes with salad, rice and beans or white rice. The baby back ribs special ($11.95) is also tasty.
DRINK: Visit Hemingway's corner, named in honour of the American author who lived just outside Havana for 20 years, for a mojito ($6), a Cuba Libre ($6), a daiquiri ($6.50) or Cuban coffee ($2.50).
SHOW: If you close your eyes during some of the performances, it's easy to imagine yourself in the second-most popular winter destination for Canadians. (Mexico is first.) This year's show tells a musical story set in a bar. All of the performers have been flown in from Havana. You can also find out information about the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade.
BEST REASON TO GO: Cuba is home to some of the best cigars in the world. For between $10 and $20, you can pick up a Cohiba, Romeo Y Julieta or Montecristo. If you're looking to shake your moneymaker, check out the late-night parties on Friday and Saturday.
CULTURE SHOCK: There are about 100 Cuban families in Winnipeg, but it's hoped that number will jump in the coming years as the government of Raul Castro continues to ease restrictions on travel.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: As authentic a feel as the pavilion has, it loses something when you can't get a Cristal or Bucanero beer. Organizers say it's too expensive to import as there are no Canadian distributors.
-- Geoff Kirbyson
Ethiopian Cultural Centre - 215 Selkirk Ave.
FOOD: It's a good idea to come hungry to this pavilion as $13 will get you a full plate of injera, best described as a spongy, rolled-up sourdough pancake topped with vegetables and delicious lentils in sauce, a beef or vegetarian samosa, and an imported beer. You're meant to tear off pieces of injera and scoop up the beans to eat, but they do provide you with a fork. Walnut and honey-layered pastry, baklava ($4) is the dessert offering.
DRINK: St. George premium lager is a deliciously smooth Ethiopian beer for $6. They brew fresh coffee each show ($2) -- it's strong to keep you pavilion-hopping for the rest of the night!
SHOW: The dancers take the audience on a tour of a few of the regions of Ethiopia, explaining and then demonstrating the key differences in the styles of dance by region. The dancers fill the small stage -- and the whole room -- with a ton of energy! The cultural display is small, and be sure to catch it before you pay as you walk in, because after the show the audience is to exit through the back door.
BEST REASON TO GO: The warm, welcoming hospitality -- bright, beautiful smiles and delicious food and drink!
CULTURE SHOCK: Jamaican Rastafarian culture came about because an Ethiopian king visited Jamaica in the middle of a lengthy drought. It rained as soon as he arrived and the Jamaicans figured he must be a god and centred the Rastafarian religion around him.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: If anything, they should offer post-show dance lessons, because you're going to be inspired to learn the moves!
-- Larissa Peck
German Society of Winnipeg - 121 Charles St.
FOOD: There are so many meal choices, you might have to go back a few times to try everything! Schnitzel or roulade (thinly sliced rolled beef) served with mashed potatoes or spatzle (homemade egg noodles) and sauerkraut or rotkohl (red cabbage) is $13, or you might opt for the bratwurst dinner for $8.50. Desserts includes black forest cake, mokka, sacher or hazelnut torte for $4 or apple, cherry, poppyseed or bienenstich (almond and custard) strudel for $3.
DRINK: If you're planning to sample all the specialties the pavilion has to offer, you'd best arrange for a designated driver. There are five varieties of imported beer ($6) along with a few different schnapps and brandies ($4.50). German wines are $4.50 per glass.
SHOW: This year, the German pavilion takes the audience to the scene of Germany's "fifth season," Karneval. There is singing and dancing, accompanied by a fantastic brass band, and perhaps not quite enough shouting of "Prost!" and "Zige zage zige zage Hoy! Hoy! Hoy!" The cultural display gives you a pretty good idea of what a true German beer hall is like.
BEST REASON TO GO: See if you can find 89-year-old Helene Dobel in the cultural display. She's a fantastic storyteller! If you can get a word in edgewise, ask her about her honeymoon!
CULTURE SHOCK: Lederhosen, the traditional male outfit. Be warned the shorts can be quite short and you might spot a few more pasty thighs than you're used to!
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: It's not often one gets a chance to request more yodelling, so I'm going to take this opportunity.
-- Larissa Peck
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 2255 Grant Ave.
FOOD: From perfectly seasoned chicken and pork souvlaki wrapped in a warm pita ($6) to Greek salad with just the right amount of dressing ($4) and hearty spanokopita enveloped in a buttery light crust ($4) -- this is a feast fit for the gods.
DRINK: Imported from Greece and new to the pavilion this year, Zeos Mak ($6) is a light and crisp lager that starts off sweet and goes down smooth. For punch lovers, there's Zorba's Kiss ($4.50) -- a refreshing fruity twist of gin, wine, fruit juice and grenadine.
SHOW: A group of lively young folk dancers keep it light and fun, interacting with the crowd and cheering each other on as they perform their version of several classic Greek dances. The display is multi-faceted, featuring antique art, faith-based ornaments and fun facts about the top-rated Greek islands to visit.
BEST REASON TO GO: In Greek -- philoxenia. In English -- hospitality. The service is excellent, the atmosphere is beyond welcoming and spontaneous "Opas!" throughout the show will have you feeling like a part of the Greek community.
CULTURE SHOCK: The Greek island of Crete has the highest olive oil consumption per capita in the world -- 26 kg per person annually. Crete also happens to have one of the world's highest average life expectancies.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Although entertaining, the show could be expanded to include additional elements such as live music.
-- Meghan Franklin
Burton Cummings Community Centre, 960 Arlington St.
FOOD: Great dinner stop for the budget-minded, with delicious food a la carte. Meaty goulash soup ( $5), mildly spiced sausage with mustard ($3.50), cabbage roll ($4) and deep-fried bread with garlic called Langos ($3.50) make up a filling meal for two. Also share a big dessert such as a torte ($4) -- try the dobos pronounced "dobosh" -- or titillate your palate with a poppyseed or hazelnut slice ($3.50) or simple crepes filled with creme cheese ($2.75). At the bar, you'll want to try the region's pear liqueur or sample some Hungarian wine. All wine and domestic beers are priced at $4.50.
SHOW & DISPLAY: Never seen a cuter children's dance group, some of the tiniest stars jubilantly throwing their black hats out into the audience at the end. Adult groups were vigorous and well-trained. The men doing the slapping-thigh jumping dances landed at least 200 whacks to their own legs over several dances. The audience burst into hand-clapping to accompany the music. Their cultural show requires some time to enjoy and read, but is well worth it, so go a little early.
BEST REASON TO GO: Superior dance show, atmosphere of joy.
CULTURE SHOCK: A total of 17 Hungarians have won Nobel Prizes and musician Franz Liszt and Bela Bartok came from this region, as did Zoltan Kodaly, who composed a lot of children's music.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: None. Smooth operation.
-- Maureen Scurfield
Heather Curling Club, 120 Youville St.
FOOD: Sample many Indian dishes on generous $12 sampler platters, either a butter chicken or a vegetarian version. Appetizers, $6 each, include a samosa plate, papri chat (I highly recommend) and tandoori chicken. Desserts are luxurious at $4 each, including a mango lassi.
DRINK: Organizers have imported two Indian spirits: Old Monk Dark Rum, the highest-selling dark rum in the world; and Royal Challenge Whisky, a Scotch-style whisky commonly known as RC. Try either at $6 a shot. Try a Kingfisher, India's bestselling beer, for $6 a bottle. Indian chai is $1.50.
SHOW: The dancing is out of this world. I defy you to find some toes not tapping as the entertainment really gets going. The brightly coloured, sparkling costumes make you feel like an extra in a Bollywood music sequence. Smiling costumed volunteers throughout the crowd are very welcoming. Learn to wrap a saree, get a henna tattoo or watch an artist painting.
BEST REASON TO GO: A genuine opportunity to learn about Indian culture. From the singing of both Canada's and India's national anthems to such activities as being wrapped into a saree, this pavilion never loses sight of its aim: to foster understanding between the two nations.
CULTURE SHOCK: Bollywood -- the nickname for India's filmmaking industry -- is marking its 100th anniversary this year. More than 14 million Indians go to the cinema every day for an annual viewership of three billion.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Let's call it pretty close to perfect.
-- Julie Carl
12. Indigenous Mardi Gras
Broadway Neighbourhood Centre, 185 Young St.
FOOD: American chefs Ben Jacobs, Matt Chandra and Jonathan Jacobs flew in from their groundbreaking Tocabe American Indian Eatery in Denver, Colo. to cook here. The rib-sticking jambalaya -- spiced with ground sassafras leaves in the style of Louisiana's Houma Nation -- is out of this world and only $5 for a hearty bowl.
DRINK: Make sure to try the Labrador tea, a slightly bitter and herbal concoction picked wild from Canada's muskeg territories for $1.50.
SHOW: Hosted by iconic Cree entertainer Winston Wuttunee, the show opens with a dramatic contemporary piece by young Aboriginal School of Dance students. It is capped off by bouncy dance numbers from Mardi Gras Indian Chief Harrison-Nelson and a companion, both decked out in the flamboyant regalia of the Louisiana tradition.
BEST REASON TO GO: Mardi Gras Indian culture is fascinating, rooted in 300-year-old bonds forged between escaped slaves and the First Nations who offered them aid. Getting to see the flamboyant performance in person is a treat.
CULTURE SHOCK: "You helped us when we needed you, and we thank you," Chief Harrison-Nelson said, and the difficult historical background of that statement is worth respect and a lot of thought.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: While the pavilion's goal of exploring two diverse evolutions of indigenous culture is compelling, something doesn't quite translate -- some more fusion or onstage exploration of the Mardi Gras Indian history might add context.
-- Melissa Martin
13. Korean Pavilion
J.B. Mitchell School, 1720 John Brebeuf Pl.
FOOD: I recommend the bulgogi (5$) a flavourful stir-fried beef, as well as the Mondoo ($2 for three pieces) deep-fried dumplings filled with ground beef, onions and bean sprouts.
DRINK: Get your responsible buzz on with a shot of Soju ($4.50), a Korean spirit, similar to vodka.
SHOW: The show is a must-see! Three beautiful dance performances, followed by an energetic taekwondo demonstration by K.S. Cho Taekowndo College students of all ages. Knowledgeable volunteers are happy to discuss and demonstrate what's unique to South Korea.
BEST REASON TO GO: The mesmerizing Bu Chae Choom traditional fan dance and the Oh Go Mu Five Drum Dance, performed by a group of powerful young women.
CULTURE SHOCK: Video-game nerds around the globe know South Korea is home to the best StarCraft players on the planet. Ask one of the volunteers about this video game, the country's national e-sport.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: This pavilion's MC discussed her favourite signature Korean dish: KimChi, a tasty fermented cabbage, which was not listed on the menu.
-- Chelsea Sanders
St. Norbert Community Centre, 3450 Pembina Hwy.
FOOD: For $10 you can try the taco combo, which includes three tacos -- your choice of beef, chicken, pork, or veggie on warm, fresh corn tortillas -- rice, beans, lettuce and pico de gallo (fresh salsa). Take it easy with the sauce, though -- even the medium spice will have you sweating as much as the dancers!
DRINK: Tequila and Dos Equis beer are the imported drinks of choice for $5.50. For a non-alcoholic choice, there are several exotic flavours of soda to choose from.
SHOW & DISPLAY: The pre-show features the Little Faces of Mexico -- a local group of young children doing traditional Mexican dance, which is absolutely adorable. The Ballet Folklorico El Mazatleco del CETIS 127, a performing troupe from Mazatlan, is absolutely stunning and so fun to watch! The Quebradita dancers from Mexico City are a very modern quartet that involves revealing costumes, hair-flipping and the men tossing the ladies around while you cross your fingers no one gets seriously injured. Take a wander through the Mayan themed cultural display afterwards -- you might learn a thing or two!
BEST REASON TO GO: The Ballet Folklorico El Mazatleco. You will be thoroughly entertained!
CULTURE SHOCK: All of the world's best chocolate is made from cacao grown in Mexico. The Mayans first made chocolate with salt and chili. It wasn't until the Europeans discovered it and added sugar that it became a sweet treat.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Not much -- excellent value!
-- Larissa Peck
15. Pabellón de España
Casa do Minho, 1080 Wall St.
FOOD: There's a great selection of traditional Spanish dishes, including the delicious tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette) for $2.75, chorizo (spicy sausage) for $3.50 and $5 or $8 for a small or large servings of paella, a traditional rice dish with seafood, chicken and vegetables.
DRINK: Be brave and give the Sangria a taste. Sangria, which means "bloody," is a traditional Spanish wine punch. It's actually kind of sweet as it has red wine, orange juice, a bit of brandy or Triple Sec and carbonated soda. It comes in a 7-oz. glass ($4.75) or in a pitcher ($23).
SHOW: This show was a spectacle of colour, sound and fabulous multi-tiered dresses. In the "VIVA ESPAëA" show, there were 11 dances featuring local Spanish folk dance ensemble Sol de Espa±a performing some dances that were said to be more than 100 years old. The 9:45 p.m. show includes flamenco guitarist Jim Shewchuk and dancers from the Theatre Flamenco Studio.
BEST REASON TO GO: The eye-popping costumes, including numerous costume changes for the various dances, draw you in but you'll be riveted by the rhythms. If you've never seen a live performance featuring castanets, or even if you have, this is an exhilarating display.
CULTURE SHOCK: You get to shout "Olé" pretty much whenever you want. ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: None. It was lively and lovely.
-- Ashley Prest
Portuguese Cultural Centre, 659 Young St.
FOOD: No trip to Portugal is complete without trying the seafood. The octopus plate ($8) is delicious as is the shrimp ($7). The chicken meal ($12) is very satisfying, too. Finish it off with a custard tart.
DRINK: Sagres and Super Bock beers ($5 each) as well as wines such as Aveleda (white) and GraoVasco (red) are perfect complements to the meat and fish.
SHOW: Singers Milu Pacheco and Stephanie Tavares will have you tapping your feet and -- depending on how much you've been enjoying the Sagres -- convince you to get up and dance yourself. The display in the basement features replicas of different rooms of typical Portuguese homes as well as a café.BEST REASON TO GO: Before you've spent 10 minutes at this pavilion, the good vibrations, music and dancing will make you want to whip out your smartphone and book a flight to Lisbon.
CULTURE SHOCK: One means of cooking meat and vegetables in Portugal is to put them in a pot and place it in the ground. Volcanic steam can hit up to 70 C.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: This is admittedly picky, but as energetic as the dancers are, the show could reach an altogether new level if the music was played by live musicians.
-- Geoff Kirbyson
Glenlawn Community Centre, 27 Overton St.
FOOD: The dinner combo of meat (pie, sausage roll, bridie or mince), potatoes and vegetables, along with a scone and shortbread is delicious, filling and good value at $8.25. Looking for just a snack? Try a full scotch egg ($4.55), a trifle ($3.50) or a fly cemetery pastry ($2.45).
DRINK: Try a frosty cold Tennent's Lager ($5.50) or if you're feeling adventurous, a Hairy Haggis (1 oz. scotch, 1 oz. glayva).
SHOW AND DISPLAY: Many Winnipeggers associate bagpipes with the opening and closing ceremonies of curling events, but they're a whole lot more fun when they're part of a few highland dancing numbers. It's a high-energy show that ends with a performance by Brochan Lom, a traditional Scottish singing group. There are more than 7,000 Scottish tartans with more than 600 of them on display here.
BEST REASON TO GO: No other pavilion will teach you how to compete in the "Heavy Games" with the caber toss, hammer throw and other events that make the Olympics look like a Sunday-morning jog.
CULTURE SHOCK: A full Scottish outfit, including kilt, shoes, jacket and sporran (kilts don't have pockets), can run $1,500 to $2,000.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: None. A well-oiled machine.
-- Geoff Kirbyson
18. Pearl of the Orient Philippine Pavilion
R.B. Russell School, 364 Dufferin Ave.
FOOD: Cafeteria-style dining offers generous portions and rapid service. For a full meal, experience the succulent Chicken Adobo, skilfully flavoured with a tangy blend of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and onions. It comes with steamed rice, an egg roll and pansit (rice noodles): $12. A lip-licking treat is okoy ($3), a fried fritter stuffed with bean sprouts, celery, carrots and onion.
DRINK: You can sip and sing at the outdoor beer garden, which offers karaoke to guests who want to warble, and imported San Miguel beer ($5) . While outdoors, check out the colourful Jeepney, the most popular transportation mode in the Philippines. It has a cab extended to fit six to eight passengers. And, of course, it includes a karaoke machine.
SHOW: A gym is filled with cultural artifacts, including beautiful crafts, jewelry, clothing, books and a replica of a simple straw hut. The highlight of this pavilion, though, is a theatre show by the dancers of Magdaragat Philippines Inc. The action kicks into high gear when dancers gyrate with lit candles on their heads and performers move into the audience to dance with guests. As good as that is, the show-stoppers are dances by children. You'll leave your heart in the theatre.
BEST REASON TO GO: The show had the audience cheering wildly and leaving the theatre with smiles.
CULTURE SHOCK: With about 70,000 Filipinos in Manitoba, a stage announcer noted "the Maples is known as the little Manila of Manitoba."
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: We wanted more information on the cultural relevance of dances and costumes.
-- Carl DeGurse
Centro Caboto Centre,1055 Wilkes Ave.
FOOD: Sample Russian-style dumplings, rice infused with apricots and raisins, borscht, and light-as-air pastry with the combo plate ($15), but make sure to save some room, because it gets even better with dessert. The sweet Russian plate ($10) comes with an array of bite-sized goodies.
DRINK: Non-alcoholic punch ($1) made from steamed fruit is a sure bet for the whole family and included with the combo dinner plate. Premium Russian import, Baltika 7 ($5.50) pairs nicely with the main meal.
SHOW: This 10th-anniversary show packs a punch with Hollywood dancers, live music and a talented clown that has both children and adults cracking up. The display features examples of elements seen on stage during the show such as a balalaika.
BEST REASON TO GO: Russian clown and former Cirque du Soleil performer Valery Slemzin.
CULTURE SHOCK: Many Russian people agree there is one way to properly take a shot of vodka. First, the vodka is served frozen. Second, you must breathe out before taking the shot and breathe in while taking the shot. The Russian adult ambassadors at the pavilion are happy to walk of-age guests through the process.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Given Russia's long and diverse history, it would be nice to see the display include some additional items of historical and cultural significance.
-- Meghan Franklin
20. Serbian KOLO
St. James Civic Centre, 2055 Ness Ave.
FOOD: Taste your way through Serbia's many regions with a delicious and varied menu of Serbian sausage ($8 for two pieces), golden spinach and cheese pies ($5), melt-in-your-mouth pork roast ($8), savoury cabbage rolls ($6) and much more. Dessert will take you on an entirely different journey with baklava ($4), crepes ($3) and Zito ($2).
DRINK: Enjoy apricot or plum brandy ($4.50) before your meal, and a creamy citrus lager such as Jelen Pivo ($6) with your food.
SHOW: Talented Kolo dancers, fresh from performing in Columbia, entertain audiences with a variety of traditional Serbian dances. With 14 different dances prepared, catch this show night after night because not one lineup is the same! The cultural display features artifacts such as an ancient Slavic instrument and traditional folk dance shoes worn by Kolo dancers.
BEST REASON TO GO: The flavourful and delicious food. If you've never tried Serbian cuisine, this is your chance.
CULTURE SHOCK: Serbia has about 5.6 times more plum trees than people -- that's about 42.5 million plum trees!
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Although an absolute delight to watch, the show may benefit from a dimmer audience atmosphere as well as a more evenly distributed sound system.
-- Meghan Franklin
Daniel McIntyre High School, 720 Alverstone St.
FOOD: Delicious platters ($15) made for sharing are heaped high with succulent barbecued pork and chicken cooked on site every day and served with potato salad, coleslaw and rye bread. For smaller appetites, there's mildly spicy klobasa (smokies) with rye bread ($4), Filena stuffed peppers ($6) and crepes ($2.50). Indulge in desserts like Oca cake with multiple cake layers and fillings, artful cookies such as sunburst "trzaske piskot," plus tortes, strudels, cranberry stuffed crescents and peach-shaped and coloured stuffed dainties.
DRINK: The Cochta drink? Tastes like Coke and licorice. Also available: dry red and white wines and beers.
SHOW: Lots of love went into preparing the cultural display of the eight areas of this tiny country. The entertainment includes a charming group of kids called The Little Bells, who dance and bump into each other, plus an older, award-winning group.
BEST REASON TO GO: The warmth of this small but mighty pavilion -- big welcome, fun tour, good food, fast-paced show.
CULTURE SHOCK: Many stars came from families of this little region, including Matt Stajan of the Calgary Flames, Anze Kopitar of the L.A. Kings and Winnipegger Majda Ficko -- who sells Baby Butz diaper cream to the Hollywood stars -- who was serving desserts.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Audience lighting should go down to highlight the entertainment onstage.
-- Maureen Scurfield
22. South Sudanese
Sudanese Community Cultural & Resource Centre, 129 Dagmar St.
FOOD: Go hungry, go early and eat everything: The South Sudanese serve a mouth-watering spread at reasonable prices, and everything is tender, juicy and sumptuously spiced. Don't miss the glorious okra served with fluffy rice ($7) or the dabs of salad ashod ($1.50), featuring savoury eggplant marinated in peanut butter and spices. This is, no joke, the best food we've had at any pavilion in years.
DRINK: Just the standard array of pop, juice and festival beers.
SHOW AND DISPLAY: An exuberant and wonderfully authentic series of songs, rhythm and dance from three of South Sudan's more than five dozen tribes. It feels like you're getting an opportunity to sit in on a village dance in South Sudan, as community members in the sidelines ululate.
BEST REASON TO GO: This is the first year South Sudan has had its own pavilion at Folklorama, the country having gained independence in 2011, and the cozy room is alive with the excitement of its hosts. It's one of the most emotional experiences you'll have this year.
CULTURE SHOCK: The Dinka tribes are proud of their height -- a quick once-over of the towering dancers will tell you why -- and some of the Dinka men in the show paid up to $15,000 for the honour of marrying their tall wives, the host explained.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The cultural display, which features some photos and carvings from the personal collection of a gracious attendant, is wedged into a basement room that also serves as the preparation spot for the dancers, so the scene was slightly chaotic, although everyone is so welcoming it shouldn't bother too much.
-- Melissa Martin
23. Spirit of Ukraine
West Kildonan Memorial Arena, 346 Perth Ave.
FOOD: The stars of the show here are perogies (varenyky), cabbage rolls (holubtsi) and kovbasa (spicy ham sausage). Try the dinner platter ($9.95) and you'll get a healthy serving of all three along with a dill pickle rye roll and, of course, sour cream. Few can resist a bowl of borshcht, the traditional beet soup, for $3.95.
DRINK: There's vodka, and then there's the Khortytsa Pepper Honey Hot Vodka ($5.75) that will either thrill you or repel you. Either way, it's an adventure not to be missed.
SHOW: Performing three songs was renowned Ukrainian recording artist and vocalist Marta Shpak, an award-winning artist from the Boykivschyna area of Ukraine. Even if you don't understand Ukrainian, her powerful voice and commanding stage presence overcome any language barriers. The Zoloto Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and Company of Winnipeg performed with dancers in several age groups.
BEST REASON TO GO: World-class traditional Ukrainian dancers live, learn and perform right here in Winnipeg. Especially adorable were the Zoloto "Kalyna" dancers, the group of girls and boys aged 7-11 who both charmed and entertained.
CULTURE SHOCK: The pavilion, in co-operation with three Manitoba-based Ukrainian heritage museums, brought in displays of costumes and artifacts, which are set up near the stage. Little-known fact by those outside the culture is that the variety of costumes reflect the many regions of Ukraine.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: None. It was entertaining and educational.
-- Ashley Prest