I’ll admit that visiting Manitoba wasn’t high on my list of priorities this summer. Extensive flooding has left many roads closed or really messed up and there’s still a lot of standing water. Large bodies of standing water means…you guessed it, mosquitoes. Manitoba is already well known to be a mosquito haven but this year they are particularly bloodthirsty. We camped our first night in Duck Mountain Provincial Park, which is absolutely lovely. There’s a beautiful campground at Blue Lakes and we would have enjoyed it but for the voracious hoards of blood suckers that no amount of Deep Woods OFF! would protect us from. I’ve never seen anything like it. We tried to stick it out, sticklers as we are for cooking outside during camping. We barbequed my previous marinated cashew chicken and made rice and carrots but we drew the line at eating and swatting at the same time, hauling our food back into the tent trailer so that we could eat in peace. We left as fast as we could the next morning.
What kept me sane was the promise of delicious shared meals with my in-laws in Pinawa and hubby’s promise to take me to Deer + Almond in Winnipeg. We found out when we arrived in Pinawa that the Fringe festival was on in Winnipeg and I was a little bit skeptical about getting a reservation and a place to stay overnight. Fortunately Winnipeg does not have such an intense dining out culture as we do here in Calgary. Believe me, if I tried to book a restaurant and hotel in Calgary in a similar time frame it just would not be possible.
We arrived a bit late to find hubby’s brother waiting for us at a cozy corner table. I sat next to him on the back bench so I could have a view of the goings on and get some of the fading evening sunlight for pictures. I think he found it a bit odd when I whipped out the camera as each dish arrived at the table. After all, it was his first dining experience with a food blogger and we can be a little nutty at times!
As a concept I liked Deer + Almond immediately. Locally grown, foraged, and produced ingredients packed into tapas sized plates to share. I immediately started wishing we had brought the in laws as well, that way we could have tried many more dishes. As it was we did fairly well with four plus a couple of desserts to finish. I’ve never been one to really sit down and eat an entire plate of mussels but I will usually have two or three. These mussels were so good I ate more than my usual share. The broth was really flavourful and I loved the addition of feta cheese. When we ran out of mussels I used the shells to scoop up stray cheese chunks. I would recommend that the bread be served alongside rather than arriving swollen and soppy inside the broth.The next dish to arrive was one of the evenings specials. Fried pork belly with really addictive fried rice, a soft cooked egg, green onions, and pickled green beans. All of this was topped with house made ‘barbeque sauce’ which tasted a fair bit like gochujang to me. While it wasn’t the prettiest dish to look at, it was definitely my favourite dish of the night.
For some reason I had convinced hubby and his brother that we really needed to try the Sautéed Brussels Sprouts and Orecchiette. The boys couldn’t say no to bacon and I am glad we ordered this dish. It didn’t really go with the other flavours we had enjoyed, which were more ‘Asian’ inspired but if you are looking for comfort on a plate this is the dish to order.
And for our last dish, we decided on the the Calamari. It was perfectly cooked and had a nice spice edge from the chilies. We ate it all before we realized the lime wedge on the side. I think it would have been a nice touch and that is probably why they included it on the plate.Could three people eat all of that and still have room for dessert? We had to at least check out the dessert menu to be sure. Hubby could not pass up this peanut ice cream covered with salty caramel. The chocolate smudged on the side was also very delicious. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a simple affogato on a menu so even though I was quite full I figured the ice cream paired with espresso would wake me up enough to take in a Fringe show.
I really wished we had more people in our group so that we could have tried more from the menu. The Stinging Nettle Linguini sounded really delicious but I think it freaked hubby out. Other dishes I would have loved to have been able to try were the Grilled Stone Fruit Salad, the Hokkaido Scallops, and the Ricotta Malfatti. I guess another trip to Winnipeg is in order!
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