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New year, less third-party delivery
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New year, less third-party delivery

Like much of Winnipeg, my holiday plans were derailed by COVID-19. Namely, my partner and I caught the ‘vid and spent our entire vacation laid out on the couch coughing and sneezing our way through endless hours of television. It wasn’t the break we were looking forward to, but if I’ve learned anything over the last two years it’s that expectations lead to disappointment.

Christmas dinner was getting strange even before we spent a combined seven hours in line waiting to get a PCR test. My family dinner had already been cancelled and we were working on a plan to host his family for a small, unorthodox pizza party on the 25th — although now I’m determined to make Pizza Christmas a thing at some point in the future. 

Still, by all measures we were lucky. We got sick before we had a chance to spread it to loved ones, our symptoms were mild — the worst part being the lingering phlegmy-ness — and boredom was manageable. 

In December, I wrote about the beauty of doing nothing, and we certainly put the concept into practise. I have never in my life played so much Yahtzee, cribbage or Settlers of Catan (and I may never play the latter again after losing seven of eight rounds).

Free Press arts writer Eva Wasney and her dog Quinn both did a whole lot of nothing this year. (Supplied)

The modern magic of delivery, however, is where the real excitement lay. With the touch of a button, we could order everything from breakfast to beer to dinner to groceries. Until you’re unable to leave your house for two weeks straight, it’s hard to appreciate just how easy it is to get whatever you want dropped off on your front stoop. 

We ordered drinks from Kilter Brewing Co. in St. Boniface, Christmas dinner from our favourite Chinese spot, Lucky Koi on Portage Avenue, and a New Year’s Eve meal from Charisma of India on Sherbrook Street. Major kudos to all the delivery drivers working overtime while a huge segment of the population is housebound with COVID-19. You are all heroes.

Delivery is now a mainstay, but it’s a luxury that comes with a cost. While I certainly enjoyed tucking into a feast of curry, korma and kofta, I couldn’t help feeling a twinge of guilt for ordering through a third-party delivery service.

More fast-food companies have been offering delivery by teaming up with food ordering apps. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP Photo file)

Apps such as SkipTheDishes, DoorDash and Uber Eats have cornered the market on convenience while charging restaurants and vendors exorbitant service fees — sometimes as much as 30 per cent of each order.

Hildegard’s Bakery outlined the issue in a recent Instagram post.

When they receive an order through DoorDash, the restaurant loses 25 per cent of the bill to fees; when an order is placed on its website, that drops down to three per cent. It’s a cost that really adds up during the pandemic.

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, but I am going to try avoiding third-party delivery apps in 2022. Instead, I’ll order pick-up and look for restaurants with in-house delivery. Winnipeg also has a growing slate of hometown delivery services, such as Bunnii and Good Local. A little less convenience can go a long way for businesses struggling through another round of restrictions.

Eva Wasney, arts reporter

Tasty tidbits

Stella’s has moved into new territory. While the local café conglomerate closed its Sherbrook Street and Osborne Village restaurants amid the pandemic, the company opened a new location in the Courts of St. James at 2727 Portage Ave., earlier this month. 

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There’s more beer news brewing beyond Winnipeg’s borders, as it appears a new brewery in Dauphin is getting closer to opening its doors. A permit application on the Liquor, Gaming & Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA) website lists Obsolete Brewing Company, to be located on 2nd Ave. NW in Dauphin. They’ll join other non-Winnipeg craft brewers in Morden, Steinbach, Brandon (which apparently has a second brewery coming down the pipes), Neepawa and (also soon-ish) Gimli. 

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Fried Chicken Fest kicked off this week with dozens of local restaurants vying for the title of top bird. The first food festival of the year runs until Jan. 22 and diners can vote for the deep-fried dish that will rule the roost at friedchickenfest.ca.

Recommended fare

Ben: Like many, we’re re-evaluating how and what we eat around here in the new year, which has meant adding a few new recipes into rotation for the good old Instant Pot. (Currently the only regular dish we make is a vegan chili, a variation on a recipe from Kitchen Treaty which, I must say, is exceptional.) The other day we made a very good Brazilian-style vegetable curry from the Instant Pot Vegetarian Cookbook, and it was fab. (Related: do NOT chop hot chiles and then touch your face, especially your eyes!)

I just finished this month’s Free Press Book Club selection, Waubgeshig Rice’s excellent 2018 novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow. As winter sets in, the power goes out in a northern Anishinaabe community, then all communications with the outside world are lost. Stragglers from southern communities begin showing up to escape the unnamed catastrophe, and the increasingly tense dynamic in the community comes to a head as the months wear on. It’s a quick but gripping read. If you want to join the virtual book club meeting with myself, Rice and folks from McNally Robinson Booksellers on Monday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m., you can sign up or learn more here.

Eva: I’ve been listening to a lot of good music lately. Winnipeg’s Boy Golden has been on repeat and I’m digging Montreal singer-songwriter Ada Lea’s 2021 album. In a fit of pre-Omicron euphoria, I purchased tickets for James Vincent McMorrow’s show at The Park Theatre in March and am crossing my fingers (and toes) that it doesn’t get cancelled. 

Julie Penner, audio producer, and Susan Algie, executive director of the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation at a No. 10 bus stop. The two worked on Archi10, a new app that delivers an audio tour of local buildings while travelling along the No. 10 bus route. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press file)

Last month, I wrote about the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation’s new bus-powered audio tour and I would highly recommend downloading the Archi10 app for a relaxing way to see the city. It highlights buildings along the No. 10 bus route and is narrated by John K. Samson and Andrina Turenne. 

What’s simmering

The Winnipeg Free Press turns 150 years old (!) this year and we’ve got some fun projects in the works to celebrate the milestone. One of which is a community cookbook that is set to launch later this month. We’ll have more details to share soon, but you can start combing through your recipe cards in the meantime.

Recipes and reviews

Mushroom tart: Find Chef Mark McEwan recipe and tips for cooking a crowd-pleasing savoury mushroom tart here.

"When it comes to holiday cooking, don’t be shy," Chef Mark McEwan writes. "Holiday meals need to be dynamic and diverse." (James Tse)

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