Story and Photos by CHAZ PLAGER
One of the many blessings granted to California residents is the weather, which never dips below 60 Fahrenheit, even in the winter.
So, you can imagine the rude awakening I had when I headed up to Manitoba, Canada this Thanksgiving, where it was 20 degrees. Described by some as the Detroit of Canada (though that might be a bit unfair to Detroit), Winnipeg is the largest city in Manitoba.
I got to experience new and foreign things to an American like myself, such as a Canadian hockey game, basic human kindness, and most importantly, traditional Canadian food. I’ve always had an interest in food, so I can’t say I wasn’t interested in what Canada had to offer. With nothing else to do, I set out to try everything unique I could find. Here are a couple of highlights from my tour.
Called Walleye in America, Pickerel is a kind of whitefish you don’t see very often. When I went to the Winnipeg mall, The Forks, and saw Fergie’s Fish and Chips was serving it, I knew I had to try it.
To be honest, Pickerel itself isn’t that great. It’s kind of bland, especially compared to the codfish I had a taste of when I went back for the second time. But the fact I went back for a second time should speak volumes about just how good the restaurant is.
Their portions are large and hearty, and they have some of the best fries I’ve ever eaten. Their fish is freshly caught, too – you can see workers carrying in buckets of them throughout the day.
It made a perfect stop after touring the Winnipeg Museum of Human Rights, which is a pretty cool museum in its own right.
Sablefish is yet another whitefish, which doesn’t sound all that interesting by itself. However, the adventurous chefs at PASSERO decided it would go just great with chorizo, risotto, and cheese sauce.
And as strange as that combination of ingredients sound, it really does go perfectly together. The dish was designed to be shared, so it ended up being split between, my mom, and my dad and me. Which upset me just a little bit – I wanted to eat the whole thing. But it tasted good enough that I didn’t care.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Caribou is a kind of deer, specifically a reindeer. A place close to where we were staying called Peasant Cookery served a Venison Tourtiere, a French kind of meat pie.
My mom seemed hesitant at the idea of eating deer, but my dad had no problem asking me if he could have a bite or three of my food.
The restaurant itself is called Peasant Cookery, but you really do eat like a king. (It’s actually placed right next to a bar called King’s Head, which is a funny coincidence.)
The meat pie itself was massive, and it came with mashed potatoes, peas, and gravy. The meat was a mix of ground pork and venison, and the gravy was also made from venison.
Venison is delicious – it’s sweet and savory, but also very lean, so you don’t have to worry about weight gain. I couldn’t even finish the whole thing in one night, even with my dad’s help. Absolutely would recommend it.
To cap this off, I’d like to recount an experience I had just outside that restaurant, where I had my first interaction with local Winnipeggers, so they call themselves.
I asked two men what someone staying for a week could do here in terms of activities. The man on my right laughed, then whispered to the man on my left in French. Both laughed, then the man on my right asked me if I could spare him a cigarette.