This month, our Travel columnist Shel Zolkewich goes hyper local with a tour of the city she’s called home for two decades. Come along for the quintessential Winnipeg visit. This one is just for mom and dad—a quick fall getaway during the most romantic time of the year.
Your eyes will wander as you check in to the Fort Garry Hotel. The posh Palm Lounge temps with banks of ultra comfy club chairs, a gilded ceiling, sparkling chandeliers and a perfectly chilled Cosmopolitan. Make a promise to visit later tonight. For now, drop your bags and head north for an evening in the celebrated Exchange District where the Canada’s robust grain industry boomed.
A little retail therapy is up first. Tuck in to the glittering white space that is Hilary Druxman Design and pick up a sweet silver apple pendant necklace. You’ll help Hilary support one of Winnipeg’s food banks. Dinner time! Head over to Peasant Cookery for a touch of France inside and a dynamite view of Old Market Square on the outside. Start with a signature cocktail featuring Manitoba’s own Crown Royal. Moule et frites, charcuterie or tortiere are all winners, just be sure to leave room for the chocolate pot for dessert. Waddle back to the Fort Garry Hotel and soak in the splendor of this grand hotel with that chilled Cosmo in the Palm Lounge.
While at this hotel, you must spend some time on the 10th steamy Ten Spa awaits. Opt for Hamam Fully Loaded. The communal Hamam experience will put you in mind of a Turkish bath scene from days of old. Tea and a sweet to start, then a foot massage, olive oil soap scrub, hair wash and lingering in the misty, warm room with the twinkling lights overhead. Be prepared to feel like a wet noodle afterwards.
For lunch, pull yourself together and get to bustling Bistro 7 1/4 where a cheese plate, charcuterie board and Elvis’s favorite pound cake with flambéed bananas and ice cream will fuel you up for the afternoon.
A visit to Manitoba’s Legislative Building will have you thinking twice about why sphinxes prowl the roof and wondering if something sinister lurks beneath that big black star on the floor. The Hermetic Code tour points out the occult clues cleverly hidden in the building’s architecture. Is this structure a conduit for secret earth energies? Head over to perpetually unique Osborne Village neighborhood where a little browsing is in order. Pop into The Happy Cooker, David Rice Jewelry and Silver Lotus to get the vibe. The Village is also home to home of Segovia Tapas Bar & Restaurant.
Opt for the seared scallops, chorizo with gala apples and confit rabbit. Pair your meal with locally-brewed Half Pints St. James Pale Ale. Always leave room for cinnamon churros with Spanish hot chocolate. After dinner, walk across Osborne Street to The Toad in the Hole (call it The Toad if you want to pass for a local) and sample one (or two) of the 160 whiskies stocked behind the bar.
I hope you’re hungry for breakfast. If there’s a Grand Dame of Winnipeg’s brunch scene, it’s Sundays at the Fort Garry Hotel. In a word, it’s fancy. Table after table is laden with premium cheeses, chilled seafood, delicately braised duck breast, butter-rich brioches, parfaits, crème brulees and pastries of every description. Best of all, it’s included with your Saturday night rate.
After brunch, it’s time to get your French on. Head to St. Boniface, Winnipeg French Quarter. Wander the grounds of the St. Boniface Cemetery and Cathedral and visit the eternal resting place of Louis Riel, long considered the father of Manitoba and nothing less than a colorful character. Pay a visit to Fort Gibraltar, a reproduction of the fort built in 1810 by the North-West Company, a rival of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Keep the French theme going with a leisurely dinner at cozy and quaint Chez Sophie. There’s a generous helping of Manitoba-made Trappist monk cheese in the tartiflette, a bubbling casserole of potatoes, onions, bacon and cream. Add the sinister-sounding Black Salad with Parmesan, balsamic dressing and shaved dark chocolate on top. As the evening comes to an end, it’s time to bid au revior to the French Quarter and to Winnipeg.
Shel writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she’s not playing outside, on the road or eating. Her recent adventures have included a trip to the tundra to serve as cook at a caribou hunting camp and making a long overdue journey to Ukraine with her dad Merv. She’s the founder of a group called the Manitoba Food Bloggers as well as an avid angler and hunter. She lives in Winnipeg with her husband Ivan and their son Clark. [email protected]