I’m in Winnipeg right now, attending the Winnipeg Wine Festival. This is my 3rd year at this show, and I alluded previously to how much I enjoy coming here. The festival is fantastic: the organizers are organized and welcoming, the attendees are genuinely curious, well dressed and polite (as opposed to irreverent, tipsy and impolite, which is common in wine festival-land), and the calibre of industry people who come out for this is always high.
I can’t help but think, as I head to Winnipeg and fly in, that, “*sigh* it’s Winnipeg,” and, “well, here we go again,” but it is always a good show and in response to my attitude, I always feel a bit surprised.
As I do in every city I visit, I make a point of wandering around for a few hours each day, and Winnipeg is a great wander. If you can get past (physically and mentally) the street problems that are prevalent downtown, Winnipeg is truly an historic and beautiful place. I love the old architecture that has been vociferously preserved, the new architecture that has been moulded in and around it, and all of the neat little one-off shops. I like the attention paid to the arts and culture, the multitude of particularly awesome galleries, the division of districts and the walkability of the downtown. There’s character here, and pride in it.
I had lunch today at a very special French-esque bistro, called Oui. Again, not what you’d expect in a place like Winnipeg. Or would you? What a great lunch – house salad was delicate and delicious, and their quiche du jour, featuring a simple combination of chevre and mushrooms, was wonderfully rich, yet light. Added was a soda and capped with an espresso, and the lunch didn’t cost me $20. Where can you find that west of Manitoba? I’ll tell you – nowhere.
I love French (or Belgian, or FrancoBelgian) bistros. They are spunky, trendy spots, and when done well, please everyone. Great wine lists, beer lists, food for the avant garde (I once saw stingray on a menu), but also fail-safes like Steak Frites and mussels. Typically, they’re smaller plates, which make for a fast lunch or a date on a budget. In Vancouver, it’s Chambar. In Toronto, it’s Le Select Bistro. In Calgary, it’s…. it’s….. Anyone got half a mill? Let’s partner and start one.