Day Tripping

People around Winnipeg have been packing their bags and heading for warmer climates these days and it's got me itching to travel. So to tide me over, I threw my camera in the car and drove down to Gimli with Rachel (a.k.a. winnipegskywatch) for a little day trip.

First we headed over to Flatland Coffee Roasters and chatted with owner Chad over cappuccinos made from locally roasted beans. Then we strolled over to H. P. Tergesen & Sons where we ran our fingers over wooly knits and browsed the Icelandic book selection. (Oh and that big, beautiful cash register? Still in use!) After a bit more shopping, we walked along the pier and snapped photos. We wrapped up the afternoon with greasy convenience-store pizza and a final drive around the town. It was a peaceful, fun and beautiful way to spend a day, and it definitely scratched that travel itch.

Eat and Drink Minneapolis

Ted Talks and motivational Instagram accounts have been telling me to do what I love, and two things I definitely love are delicious beverages (preferably of the alcoholic or caffeinated variety) and delicious food. So on a weekend trip to Minneapolis with friends, I took it as my solemn duty to consume as much of those things as possible. What follows is a quick list of reviews on my picks for eating and drinking in the city. Since I was only there for three days, this isn't an exhaustive list by any means. But don't worry, I'll be back (and recommendations are always welcome).

Fantastic espresso and highly skilled baristas. I tried a natural process Ethiopian - the most deliciously fruity espresso I've ever tasted, and a Gibraltar with a more traditional South American blend espresso. The barista drew a swan with the steamed milk on the Gibraltar and I wish I had given her a round of applause for this feat. Weird? yes, but appropriate I think.

The gorgeous little windowed seating area is a bit on the small side, but Uptown is a cool neighbourhood, so get that coffee to go and enjoy it as you look at books, records and home goods.

Hen House
I completely loved the retro-diner decor, and the food is decent. I had the fried chicken and waffles, which were the tiniest bit dry, but still yummy and unusual. Their jam is made in house and is completely to die for. I didn't try any of the desserts, but they looked like delicious works of art in the pastry case. Their brewed coffee is better than most diners, but skip the espresso-based drinks.

Chino Latino
This place is huge and fun fun fun. Between four people we ordered three small plates and one large and there was food a-plenty. Their guacamole and salsa is an explosion of flavour and the leftovers tasted amazing mixed up in my scrambled eggs the next morning. The mojito I ordered was underwhelming, but they have a great beer selection.

Great coffee and lovely decor. I especially love all the original mouldings and ceiling. This would be a perfect place for a chat with friends, some laptop time, or a book.

Butcher and the Boar
If you want some flavourful, well-balanced cocktails, go here. Their outdoor beer tent (a misnomer, since they serve the full drink menu) is beautiful. We didn't try anything from the dinner menu, but it looked promising.

As a side note, the restaurant floor is tiled with pennies: pennies people. I think the Canadian government should take every penny they've removed from circulation and tile the floors of all the government buildings they can with them, because the effect is interesting and gorgeous.

Do yourself a favour and enjoy a deceptively strong tiki drink. Just make sure you're not the one driving. I had the One-Eyed Willy, which was delicious and made me feel just wonderful ;) Each drink comes in its own specialty glass that requires a 5$ deposit. Because, yeah, the cups are totally steal-worthy.

Our pizzas were okay, but nothing to write home about, and the service was friendly, but a bit slow. Understandable since the place is HUGE and what you're really paying for is the atmosphere.

The Angry Catfish
Watching my syphon-brew being made was like witnessing a science experiment, and the result was a really clean, bright cup of coffee. The staff were very friendly.

If you're interested, they also carry some pretty serious bike gear for various types of riding. Definitely a neat space. I was super sad the The Butcher's Wife's just down the street was closed, because pastry dipped into coffee is among my favourite things. If you're there and it's open, try it out and report back!

Brasa Premium Rotisserie
I am completely in love with the concept of this restaurant. You order multiple plates of soul food to create your own meal or share around with a group. I had one protein and two sides (all small) and I was stuffed by the end. The prices are really reasonable, and if you go in the summer with nice weather, the restaurant is open to the outdoors, with a patio and a fire pit. Such a great place to spend an afternoon or evening.

New Businesses Around Osborne

I love my little neighbourhood around the Osborne Village. Yeah, sure, things can get a bit disorderly on weekend nights, but I love being so close to everything: only a walk or a short bus ride away from a drink with friends, a leisurely meal or some window shopping. And lately, a few new businesses have been adding to the environment.
The first is Green Carrot, a smoothie and juice shop that's perfect for a healthy snack or a light meal. The atmosphere is airy, modern and clean and The Best Ever Green Smoothie I tried was creamy and divine. I can't wait to go back and try other smoothies and juices. This will definitely be my new go-to for a quick and easy healthy snack.

Stain also opened up its doors very recently. With the long tables toward the back, it would be a great spot for a meeting or study session. The decor is hip, moody and fun. They've started with a soft open, consisting mostly of coffees, juices and shakes (I tried the watermelon juice, which was refreshing and delicious), but from the looks of the refrigerated cases, they plan on expanding soon.

I'm excited about the new spots that have opened up around Osborne in the past year or so, and look forward to seeing the community continuing to expand. Now if someone could please just open up a new and used bookstore, my life would be complete ;)

Summer Coffees

The weather's officially taken a turn for the summery here in Winnipeg (although I know I'm cursing us with rain just by typing those words), and I've been updating my coffees to recognize the shift.

If you're looking for something beyond the usual iced latte, I'd recommend an affogato to you. Here's three reasons why you should run out and order one immediately:

1. You'll feel all fancy and sophisticated ordering it - don't the words affogato just roll off the tongue?
2. There's ICE CREAM in it
3. You get your caffeine kick and that creamy goodness in a chilled form
3. b) Did I mention the ice cream?!?

I particularly love MAKE's incarnation: rich, natural Cornwell Creme vanilla ice cream with a shot of 1936 Fernwood espresso. The slight bitterness of the expresso combined with the sweetness of the ice cream is divine.

Signs of Summer

This weekend marked the opening Saturday of the Saint Norbert Farmers' Market. Combined with the +30 temperatures and afternoon thunderstorm, it truly felt like the first weekend of summer.

It was a weekend of eating meals in the sunshine, sipping iced lattes and affogatos, browsing stalls at the farmers' market, carving up watermelon, taking long walks with the dog, napping, playing catch in Munson Park, and dancing in celebration of the kick-off of Pride Week.

In short, it was one of those perfect weekends.

Coffee Classes at Thom Bargen

You could certainly say that I have a thing for coffee and coffee culture in Winnipeg. Connoisseur? Hell no. Enthusiast? Definitely.

So when I saw that Thom Bargen was offering pour-over classes with the enigmatic Randall, I jumped right on it. Alongside other coffee lovers, I spent an evening tasting and brewing some delicious, lightly-roasted coffees.

We started off with a cupping. This experience bears many similarities to a wine tasting. You break the crust to smell the coffees, skim the grounds off the top, and then slurp a soup spoon full from each glass. And I literally mean slurp. Co-owner Graham taught us to do a quick, audible intake of the sip so that the coffee hits the back of your throat and fills your mouth with flavour. It feels silly, but really makes a noticeable difference. After taking a few passes at each cup (four in all), we attempted to identify which region each came from and ranked them from most favourite to least. Graham taught us some words to help describe the tastes and textures of coffee and gave us tips on the qualities you can usually expect from different regions.

After that, Randall taught us the V-60 pour-over brewing method. We tried each coffee again, appreciating the changes that come from different brewing methods, and a few volunteers tried their hand at pour-over brewing.

It was a really fun and interesting experience, and has helped me to appreciate coffee (and all the work that goes into it) so much more. I went home with a complimentary bag of beans in my purse and a caffeinated jig in my step.
Thom Bargen is planning on hosting more classes like this one, including a milk-steaming class in the future (sign me up!). You can check in on their Facebook page or Instagram for information about these classes.

Travel Routines

Although I love to travel, I'm also a creature of habit. That's why I find it soothing to establish little routines when I'm away from home. In the mornings, this routine predominantly revolves around coffee. While in Chicago, I woke up every morning and set out to try a new coffee shop. It gave me a chance to explore different neighbourhoods, allowed me to enjoy one of my favourite indulgences - a baked good dipped in cappuccino - and provided me with a leisurely start to each day.

I visited IntelligentsiaThe Wormhole Coffee, Letizia's Natural Bakery,  and Ipsento Coffee House and Roaster during my time in Chicago. If I missed some good ones (which I'm sure I did) let me know, and I'll add them to my list for next time.

Shake Up Your Routine

I've still got a few weeks to go until Chicago, so while I plan that trip and salivate over the vacation photos of family and friends online, I've been attempting to shake things up a bit to appease my wanderer's heart.

Because I teach high school English, most weekends require a few hours marking at a coffee shop (preferably one without wifi). The caffeine gives me added focus and energy, being away from home makes me feel like I'm out and doing something, and the absence of Netflix, home tasks and internet eliminates unnecessary distractions. Typically, I do this marking at Little Sister Coffee Maker over a cappuccino, and perhaps a chocolate croissant if I'm feeling indulgent.

But last weekend, I decided to shake up my routine. Instead of walking down to Little Sister, I drove to Saint Boniface. First, I purchased pain au chocolat at Le Croissant (in addition to cranberry bread and french macarons for later in the weekend), a bakery I'd heard good things about and been dying to try. Then, I made my way over to Café Postal to do my marking. Somehow, even that small change in location made the marking more enjoyable and gave me the excitement that comes with trying new things and places. (The baked goods and delicious cappuccino didn't hurt either.)
So, the next time you have to complete a(n) [insert adjective here: arduous, dull, aggravating, routine?] task, try switching up your locale. Surprisingly, those little shifts can make a big difference.

Little Sister on the River

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Little Sister Coffee Maker. Great neighbourhood, coffee, decor and tunes: it doesn't hurt that co-owner Vanessa Stachiw is one of the friendliest people you'll ever meet. So when Vanessa and Nils trekked down to the Hygge House warming hut on the Assiniboine River to serve up coffee and hot chocolate this past Saturday, I was psyched to tag along.

Little Sister isn't the first to take their operation mobile. Not-so-big brother Parlour has moonlit in the Artspace building and hutK and Thom Bargen graced Normandy Shop for its grand opening. 

It's so nice to see our local coffee culture growing and really weaving itself into the fabric of the Winnipeg community. I can't wait to see what else they have in store.