Boutique baking and a tea room with a twist
House-milled flour, ancient grains are Hildegard's signature
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/05/2018 (1644 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
‘The urban home of Integrity Foods,” reads a sign on the big front windows of Hildegard’s Bakery. For Winnipeggers who love summertime pizza night at this Riverton locale, the chance to get some of that happy, healthy, local food within the city limits will be a boon.
This West End spot, located at the corner of Portage and Maryland, uses house-milled flours, especially from ancient grains.
The bakery’s daily breads include spelt and prairie sourdoughs, and there are rotating specials each day of the week. A round kamut bread with raisins and walnut, available on Wednesdays, has a moist chew and a good brown crust. Taken home, it was terrific toasted and topped with a little jam. (Good news there, as Preserve, offering those glorious fruit spreads, chutneys and pickles from Flora and Farmer, is due to open soon right next door.)
Small baked goods include pastries, cookies, scones and muffins.
I would steer clear of the croissants made partly with whole-grain spelt flour: with French patisserie you need to go refined or go home.
Muffins, on the other hand, thrive on rusticity, and Hildegard’s are very good — dense but moist. The Morning Glory is packed with healthy stuff, and a nice rhubarb version mixes tart fruit with a bit of brown sugary streusel on top.
There are chewy, dark ginger cookies with loads of blackstrap molasses and a good salted chocolate chip cookie. The butter tart combines flaky pastry and a filling that hits that sweet spot — literally — between runny and set (for those who follow the Great Canadian Butter Tart Controversy, Hildegard’s is in the no-raisin camp). Prices (muffins are around $2.50 and breads around $6, with bargains for day-olds) are pretty fair for boutique baking.
Along with bakery offerings, Hildegard’s also serves pizza, currently available Wednesday to Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to about 1:30 p.m.
The all-important crust — made with a mix of white, spelt and kamut flour — is thin and tender-chewy, baked in a massive wood-fired brick oven that heats to 370-420 C.
The Italian sausage option includes a touch of fresh, bright tomato sauce, a little cheese and a scattering of arugula.
The Menno, which at first sounded a bit improbable — sour cream, caramelized onion and purple sauerkraut, with the optional add-on of chorizo — turns out to be really good, kind of a loosely interpreted prairie-style pizza bianca.
There’s coffee from Flatland and Sheepdog, as well as an adventurous range of hot teas and a daily iced tea special (not over-sweetened).
Hildegard’s space is bright, open and airy, with a charming black-and-white tile floor and lots of verdant greenery, from hanging plants, a green wall and potted plants lining the big windows. Service is cheerful and friendly, and full of information about what you’re eating and where it came from.
Fans of the Amsterdam Tea Room just off Market Square know it as a passionate purveyor of premium tea, from ceremonial-grade matcha to vintage pu-erh.
Along with its house-blended and bespoke teas, the recently renovated spot is finally serving up its own food and drink.
The drinks menu features beer, cider, wine, spirits — including several premium scotch options — as well as tea-flavoured cocktails (both hot and cold). And maybe that last option sounds like a novelty, but even non-tea-centric venues have embraced this trend.
As it turns out, the complex flavours of tea can really elevate a cocktail. The sampled Bell-view — a mix of vodka, pressed cucumber, mint and rosewater — is a refreshing summer drink, given a little aromatic edginess by the addition of jasmine tea.
The food menu includes high-end bar snacks and light lunches, with several dishes inspired by Dutch café fare.
Charcuterie and cheese plates (available in two sizes) are nicely thought-out, not just with the meat and fromage on offer but with the little extras, including tiny sour cornichons, pickled red onion, chutney, a melange of toasted nuts and seeds, a mix of olives and good ciabatta.
Split pea soup is tasty and hot, and there are several open-faced and toasted sandwich options. The gouda with grilled red peppers, pickled red onions, cucumbers and aioli is good (though cool cucumbers in a hot sandwich seems counter intuitive to me, somehow). A better toastie option was a daily special of cheese and prosciutto.
The endive salad, with pear, pickled grape, walnuts and blue cheese, was promising, but the endive was slightly sad at the edges and the whole thing was served in a tea cup, which looked quaint but was a little impractical.
For sweets, there are a few dessert options — brought in, but fresh — including an individual flourless chocolate cake, dark and moist, and a nice little frangipane tart finished with raspberries.
The space is small and inviting, with a penny-tiled bar and a wild mural along one wall, and table service is casual but efficient and, if you ask anything — anything! — about tea, impressively knowledgeable.
Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.