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Last year I was tasked with visiting some Folklorama pavilions and tasting a cross-section of drinks from around the world. Essentially, I was to “tie one on” for the benefit/amusement of readers — co-workers haven’t let me live down the tail end of the video that resulted from the tour — under the auspices of tasting aspects of different cultures.
If you missed that gem of a piece of reporting, scroll down to re-live the memories.
This year we wanted to do something sort of similar but different. So earlier this week, with Free Press photojournalist Mike Deal in tow (and with a GoPro camera strapped to my back via Mike’s daughter’s pink princess backpack), we popped into some pavilions to sample some sippables and take in some entertainment.
Our first stop was the Portuguese Cultural Centre on Young Street, where the Pavilion of Portugal was taking place. We ran into some ambassadors at the entrance, who filled us in on the food and drink culture in the coastal European country.
I visited Portugal a few years ago on a wine media junket, stopping in the Vinho Verde region where they make light, crisp white wines. We then stopped in the Douro Valley, where port is produced.
Anyway, we headed inside to the bar, where we were met by Marlene from the pavilion. And while they were serving my beloved Vinho Verde at the Pavilion of Portugal, I had my eye on one of Portugal’s most well-known wines — Mateus Rosé.
Yes, it’s still in the stubby bottle and yes, it’s still available in the province, as it has been for the 20 years I’ve been involved with wine. There’s got to be some reason for its staying power, and I wanted to find out what it was.
It turns out Mateus Rosé isn’t a bad little wine. This crisp, off-dry pink wine brings a hint of effervescence that would be pretty darn refreshing on a hot day. It also happened to do well with the food samples provided to us.
I also had a chance to sample a couple Sumol-brand Portuguese sodas — one orange, the other passion fruit — that were pretty tasty albeit a bit too sweet for my liking. Still, I reckon it would be a hit if you were bringing kids along to the pavilion.
We wanted to make sure we caught at least some of the entertainment at the Cuban Pavilion at the RBC Convention Centre, so we hustled over and saw the tail end of the set, which featured Latin dancing, hip hop and more.
Rum is the first drink that comes to mind when you think Cuba, and there are plenty of ways to have it at the Cuban pavilion. Like things on the sweeter side? The Cuba Libre features rum, cola and lime, and is a staple.
I opted for a mojito, a refreshing drink featuring muddled mint, white rum, soda water, lime and sugar.
I also sampled Legendario, a Cuban "elixir" comprised of rum and raisin extract. It brought some spice and sweetness when I tried it solo — at the pavilion they serve it with coffee and whipped cream on top.
The German pavilion is always one of Folklorama’s most wildly popular pavilions, and this year is no exception — the lineup for the 8:15 p.m. show snaked around the building.
Thankfully, organizers set up an outdoor beer garden complete with a bratwurst kiosk (the "brat hut") for eager pavilion-goers to take a load off and absorb the Gemütlichkeit (look it up).
We snuck in just before show time and bellied up to the bar with German ambassador Doreen Hanyecz, who walked us through some of the beverage offerings at the pavilion. There were a couple of wines available, as well as some pretty run-of-the-mill beers — I had hoped for a slightly better selection, to be honest.
Still, the Warsteiner I sampled (which I’ve sampled many times before) was a lighter, serviceable brew that went down pretty easy as we took in the performance in the incredible room at the German Society of Manitoba.
Our final stop of the night was the Pearl of the Orient Philippine pavilion, held at R.B. Russell School just a couple blocks from the German pavilion. The bar was set up outside of the performance area, so we sidled up and chatted with Lawrence, who let me sample the two beers from the Philippines that are available.
First up was the San Miguel lager, another very serviceable brew that brings a bit more weight and maltiness on the palate than the Warsteiner. Then we got to the good stuff. The Red Horse beer, also made by San Miguel, is also a lager, but is made in a much more aggressive style. There’s a bit of sweetness to this beer, and it clocks in at eight per cent alcohol, meaning there’s also quite the kick.
We had just missed the end of the 8:15 p.m. performance, so there wasn’t a whole lot to see on that front. And while I had enjoyed a number of samples, I certainly wasn’t three sheets to the wind — heck, I reckon on a breathalyser I’d blow maybe 1.25 sheets to the wind.
Still, when Lawrence pointed out there was an outdoor karaoke garden, well… I couldn’t help myself. See for yourself.
Tasty beverages aside, one of the greatest things about Folklorama is the people — everyone we talked to were ridiculously friendly, and clearly loved sharing aspects of their culture with us.
Folklorama runs through Saturday, August 13 — do yourself a favour and raise a glass at one of the pavilions while you can.
Oh, and here’s the video we did last year, which got a little more… festive.
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