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Leaving Manitoba and eating Minnesota*
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Leaving Manitoba and eating Minnesota*

*With apologies to Soundgarden 

By the time you read this, I’ll (hopefully) be somewhere in North Dakota, on the highway to Minneapolis for my first out-of-country trip since late 2019.

The reason for the Twin Cities trek is a concert at the Fillmore (a new venue for me) by the band Jawbreaker (who I saw back in 1994, I think, at the West End Cultural Centre).

Anyway, while I’m very much looking forward to a little time away and some middle-aged rocking out (and the two or three days of subsequent back pain that’s sure to follow), there’s been a fair bit of handwringing by my partner and I about just how safe it is to be heading south of the border (or anywhere) right now, what with the rising COVID-19 cases. Here’s hoping the only things we bring back are some snacks and a good haul from the duty free. And maybe a Prince tote bag.

Of course, one of the things I love about a trek to America (and travelling in general) is a chance to dive into what food and drink is offered.

The last couple of times we’ve made the trek to Minneapolis, we’ve pulled off the highway for lunch in Fargo and gorged on Tex-Mex at Paradiso. The first time the food was decent, the portions frighteningly large. The second time the portions were just as massive but the food was… so-so. We’ll probably look for something different this time — if you have other suggestions for lunch in Fargo, Dish readers, let me know — heaven forbid we end up slugging back gas-station coffee and junk food while careening down the highway (although that can be fun, too).

We usually roll into Minneapolis in time for a later dinner, and head straight to one of the city’s Pizza Lucé  locations. I was first turned on to Pizza Lucé on a trip to the Twin Cities MANY years ago, back in my punk-rock/vegan late teens/early 20s. Their pies (veg, vegan and otherwise) are stellar, they’ve usually got decent tunes blasting and there’s always a solid selection of local craft beer.

One of the vegetarian pizza options at Pizza Luce. My dining companion requested her head be cropped from this photo. (Ben Sigurdson / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Our regular breakfast spot has usually been the Birchwood Café. But, Dish readers, it appears it’s currently closed, so send me your best brekkie suggestions for Minneapolis (aside from the mandatory Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods options).

Another request — we’re looking to maybe do Italian one night while in the Twin Cities. We went to Pazzaluna in St. Paul a few years ago, which was decent, but that closed for good in May 2020. Thanks, pandemic.

The last time we were in Minneapolis we were looking for a solid lunch spot, and Mercado Central on East Lake St. was just the thing. It’s a fun collection of kiosks, small shops and food stands that offers a wide range of Central/South American treats. We opted for pupusas from Restaurante El Rincon, which hit the spot beautifully before the drive home.

One thing the Twin Cities do well, and in great quantity, is craft beer. Last time in town we hit Keg and Case West 7th Market, located in the iconic old Schmidt’s Brewery production facility and home to a number of food and craft vendors. Much to my delight, that included Clutch Brewing Co., where I parked my middle-aged self after a day of shopping for a quick pint.

You’ll not find a selection of wine, craft beer and spirits under one roof in Manitoba that comes even close to South Lyndale Liquors. (Ben Sigurdson / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Beer and wine shopping is always on my to-do list when I’m away, and a recent Twin Cities discovery was South Lyndale Liquors. It might not look like much or have an inspiring name, but step inside this jam-packed store and you’ll find an incredible, almost overwhelming selection of wine, beer and spirits at every price range. It was a kid-in-a-candy-store kind of moment.

On one recent trip we opted for a glass of bubbly and small snacks with a killer view at The Living Room/Prohibition near the top of the iconic Foshay building. We also stayed at the W Minneapolis in the Foshay on that occasion; the room was nicely decorated and offered equally impressive views.

But my favourite spot to grab a drink in the Twin Cities is Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, a Polynesian-style tiki bar with killer cocktails that reminds me somewhat of San Francisco’s Tonga Room (which I wrote about last month). In addition to fantastic tropical drinks and just the right amount of kitsch, they also play great music and offer board games for guests. Winnipeg needs more tiki!

Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge — mender of broken dreams.

Oh, before I forget, does anyone need anything from Happy Harry’s?

Ben Sigurdson, literary editor, drinks writer

Tasty tidbits

● Eight local breweries have collaborated on a brew based on a recipe from Ukrainian brewery Pravda, with the aim to raise funds and awareness for Ukrainian relief. Launching Monday, April 11 at Torque’s King Edward taproom, other breweries involved are Trans Canada, Nonsuch, One Great City, Barn Hammer, Stone Angel, Devil May Care and Lake of the Woods. Watch for the beer to hit vendors and Liquor Marts shortly thereafter. The Brew for Ukraine initiative has over 500 breweries participating around the globe and hopes to raise more than $4 million for aid to Ukraine by month’s end.

● Fried Chicken Fest, Le Burger Week, Poutine Week — there’s a week-long (or longer!) themed food event for practically everything. Some new and returning fests, recently announced: Taco Week and Margarita Madness (June 3-12, various venues); Brunch Fest (summer, Upper Fort Garry); and Perogy Fest (now through April 18, RM of Springfield). Of note: 10 per cent of net proceeds from Perogy Fest will be forwarded to the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal via the Canadian Red Cross.

● Prefer to swirl, sniff and sip your way through events? The Winnipeg Wine Festival has announced it’s returning in all its glory from Sept. 17-24, with ancillary WineDown events running throughout the week leading up to the big public tastings Sept. 23 and 24 at the RBC Convention Centre. They have two events in the next month as well — a Trivento wine dinner at X-Cues Cafe and Lounge on April 21 and a rosé event May 1 at the Fort Garry Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom. Details and tickets are here.

● Food-truck season is nearly upon us, and along with the usual suspects there are sure to be some new kids on the block. There’s not much information to be found yet, but Engocha Ethiopian Eatery looks set to bring new flavours to the scene. Stay tuned.

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● On Wednesday, Little Goat Food & Drink announced via social media that the Portage Avenue eatery had permanently closed, citing the difficulties of navigating the pandemic. Some small solace: Buvette, a wee eatery and bakery at 120 Scott St. in Osborne Village, has quietly opened its doors, serving up soups, breakfast/brunch, baked goods and more. It appears Buvette is run by family of outgoing Little Goat partners Alexander Svenne and Danielle Carignan Svenne, which means the food will likely be quite good.

● Sticking with struggling St. James eateries, Vietnamese restaurant (and a favourite of Ben’s) Yen Kitchen has struggled to stay open through the pandemic, and they’re now asking for help from the community. They’ve set up a crowdfunding page in the hopes of raising $20,000 to keep the doors open.

● On a cheerier note, those who enjoy a cold beer in the warm summer sun can take comfort that The Beer Can is returning once again, although details on its Instagram page don’t specify whether it will again be located next to the Granite Curling Club. They’re also hiring, for those interested… details here

Recommended fare

Ben: I had a chance to check out the new Earls at 300 Main St., on the ground floor of Winnipeg’s new tallest building. It’s an eye-catching space, a curved semi-circle of a room adorned with art by locals and which was quite busy considering it was a Jets-less Tuesday evening. The service was quite good (and masked), wine is half-priced on Tuesdays (hello, Louis Jadot Chablis) and the food is what folks have come to know and love from Earls. They have a few dishes exclusive to the Main Street location, including the very good spicy tuna sushi tacos (I’m told the tofu version was also quite good), a truly massive seafood platter (which I didn’t try) and more. The adjacent patio is sure to be a summer hotspot.

I’m making my way through Emily St. John Mandel’s new novel Sea of Tranquility at breakneck speed, and absolutely loving it. The latest by the author of (among others) Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel came out this week and spans centuries, revolving around (without saying too much) a mysterious phenomenon that happens around a B.C. maple tree. Lunar colonies, time travel, book tours, pandemics, the fleeting sound of a violin and much more — it’s tough to summarize in a couple of lines, but Sea of Tranquility is absolutely compelling stuff and (so far) probably her best book yet.

Eva: This week, I started listening to Twin Flames, a Wondery podcast about a culty self-help group designed to show followers how to find their perfect partner, or “twin flame.” It’s a classic (in this day and age) story about a pair of master manipulators doling out horrible advice to desperate strangers to make a buck. It’s equal parts fascinating and infuriating. Basically, my ideal podcast listening experience.

I usually hate social media on April Fools’, when my feed becomes an onslaught of corny/poorly executed jokes from corporations and politicians. But this year, there were some truly funny gems from local food and drink establishments. Sous Sol took the opportunity to (jokingly) announce their move into the former Earl’s location on Main Street. Oh Doughnuts gave me a giggle with its new cat food-stuffed, sardine-topped doughnut. And Kilter shared that their popular Juicii beer would now be available in two-litre bottles. Turns out the last one was real. The St. Boniface brewery is raffling off 10 bottles of Juicii Jumbo in support of Sunshine House — that’s a whole lot of great beer for a great cause.

 

Homemade

In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the Free Press is making a community cookbook. Submit a recipe here and be entered into a draw to win a copy of the cookbook and other prizes. You can also join our Facebook group here.

Last week, Eva published a story on the perogy hotline at Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church, where volunteers have been pinching potato dumplings for decades. The group is now raising funds for refugees of Russia’s war in Ukraine. They kindly shared their perogy, or, rather, pyrohy, recipe with the Homemade project. Find the story and recipe here.

Sopia Kitasz places a pinched perogy onto her tray while a pyramid of balls of mashed potato wait to be made into perogies. (Mike Deal / WInnipeg Free Press files)

More stories to sink your teeth into


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The hint of spring in the air brings with it a sense of optimism about the season of beers to come. Read More

 

Sweet and piquant

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Smart cookie

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Little Goat a pandemic casualty

Restaurants struggling even as restrictions end, St. James eatery’s closure will ‘not be an isolated incident’ Read More

 

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