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Thursday
Mar202014

peas & carrots

If a friendship lasts longer than seven years, psychologists say it will last a lifetime. ~ Unknown

In 1998 I was invited to a dinner party. A tall, blond, pretty 20 something girl from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia stood in her kitchen and cooked for me while we drank wine and talked about food, restaurants and music. She made a spicy chicken tomato pasta dish and it was fantastic and we became best friends. Her name is Kelly. We are like Oprah and Gayle, or Thelma and Louise, and as Forrest Gump would say “we go together like peas and carrots”. Over the next decade we ate lots of food and tried new things at a variety of restaurants. We visited farmers markets and specialty stores, and roasted local Larsen wieners over bonfires. We talked about life, and hopes, and dreams, all while sharing appetizers and desserts. Heck, she was there laughing her head off when I accidentally split my pants at a fancy restaurant in downtown Halifax! Kelly helped to shape my Halifax life, and in 2007 (seven years ago this month!) when I moved to rural Manitoba with my now husband, I was a bit worried that our friendship might slowly slip away, and leave nothing but a distant memory.  

All that worrying was for nothing. Facebook and Twitter appeared. Texting and Facetime gained popularity, and most importantly, Kelly started blogging. Her blog posts at www.kellyneil.com provided a glimpse into her every day life even if I couldn’t be back home in Nova Scotia. I was able to see her blossom into a well respected food stylist and food photographer. It kept us close even though we were provinces apart. Kelly began to encourage me to blog too, and to start sharing my Manitoba experiences so Nova Scotians could learn about Manitoba. In March 2011, Little Gray Bird was created, and I have been sharing my Manitoba thoughts ever since. Through my blog Kelly has started to view Manitoba differently - my stories and experiences have opened her eyes to Manitoba being a foodie destination - a place where two best friends could hit the road and go on an ultimate food road trip. We have talked about it many times, but we haven’t been able to make it happen quite yet, but some day we will take a Manitoba road trip and I will officially introduce Kelly to my new home province. We will eat lots of local Manitoba foods, discover the foodie culture, and most likely gain 10 pounds from all the amazing Manitoba experiences. It will be fantastic.

So in the spirit of friendship and food, and in hopes of someday taking a Manitoba road trip with my Nova Scotia best friend who has never been to the prairies, I have put together a list of Manitoba foodie adventures I think she would enjoy. Some I have already experienced personally, and others are still on my to do list. These are restaurants and places that I believe friends who love food and exploring would enjoy and would help create long lasting Manitoba memories. So why not grab your best friend, hit the road, and set out to discover a few of these Manitoba foodie adventures. Be sure to make a toast to friendship!

Ultimate Manitoba Foodie Adventures

Prairie Oils & Vinegars. Manitoba’s first oil and vinegar tasting room. Located in Steinbach. Pass me the bread and let’s start dipping! For more information click here.

Parkland Flavour Trail. The perfect way to explore The Parkland area of Manitoba with lots of foodie stops, including a stop at one of my personal favourite Manitoba restaurants, Foxtail Cafe. How about dinner aboard the Martese ship as you cruise around Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park? Lots of options to choose from! For more information click here.

Pizza from Foxtail Cafe in Onanole, Manitoba, part of the Parkland Flavour TrailFusion Grill. Listed as one of Canada’s Top Ten Restaurants by the Globe and Mail (2011), this restaurant offers truffle perogies with duck sausage and walnut cream sauce, chips and cheeks (pickerel), local Arctic Char, and many more with a regional flair. For more information click here

Half Pints Brewing Co. Manitoba beer! Free brewery tour every Saturday at 1:00 pm in Winnipeg. For more information click here

Chocolatier Constance Popp. Artisan chocolates made in Winnipeg using local products. Options include the beautiful Manitobar, Manitoba birch bark chocolate, and Manitoba beer chocolates. So many fantastic choices! For more information click here.

Country Corner Cafe. Located in the tiny rural community of Ninga, this restaurant is like a warm visit to you grandmother’s house. Small menu serving only a few sandwiches, soups, and pies, this cafe is a hidden gem, and has a devote customer base. For more information phone 204-534-2373.

Prairie 360. A Revolving restaurant with fantastic views in the heart of Winnipeg, it boasts an interesting menu with choices such as venison, elk, bison, and their own smoked Berkshire bacon. For more information click here.

Savour The Flavour Culinary Experience. Learn to make easter bread, and eat perogies, sausages, cabbage rolls, borscht, and beet leaf rolls made by Ukrainian Babas in Dauphin. For more information click here.  

Borscht made by Ukrainian Babas in Dauphin, ManitobaThe Wilderness Gourmet Canoeing Trip. Combining the beautiful Manitoba boreal forest experience with gourmet food, Northern Soul provides the ultimate rustic foodie adventure. No need to sacrifice good food just because you are eating around a campfire. For more information click here

Supper In The Field. A festive meal celebrating local Manitoba foods and recipes held every year in The Parkland. For more information click here

Bothwell Cheese. Manitoba’s locally made cheese located just a short drive from Winnipeg. You can visit the factory shop and choose a few cheese favorites to take home. For more information click here

Foraging And Fast Water at Moon Gate B&B. This adventure combines foraging for Manitoba edibles, learning to make your own preserves, and delicious food with the B&B experience. For more information click here

Devour The District Food Tour. Wonderful walking tour through the Exchange District in Winnipeg where you sample foods from some of the best restaurants in the city. For more information click here.

Tourtiere at Peasant Cookery, one of the restaurants on the Devour The District Tour in Winnipeg, ManitobaHoney, Garlic & Maple Syrup Festival. A taste of the Pembina Valley, featuring displays, food vendors, and a large buffet supper. For more information click here.

Kurbis Country Market. Manitoba farm offering locally grown vegetables, pickles, preserves, homemade baking, eggs, free range meats, and Cornell Creme ice cream. For more information click here.

Cinnamon Bun Trail. 41 different stops across rural Manitoba to sample cinnamon buns! Wowza! For more information click here

Baking 101 Retreat at Thistle Lane B&B. Learn to bake delicious treats in a farmhouse kitchen. Perfect for friends who want to share a unique rural foodie experience. For more information click here.

Sausages & Spankings Restaurant. With a name like that it is just begging for a road trip to Fannystelle! Should we order the sausages or the spankings?!? Currently open on Sundays only, it is best to call ahead to confirm before heading out. For more information phone 204-803-5731.

Bridge Drive-In. Described by many as the ultimate Winnipeg ice cream treat, the BDI is one of my favourite food discoveries in Winnipeg. I recommend the cantaberry, the goog special, or the sleeping beauty, followed by a stroll along the bridge. For more information click here.

The Cantaberry at Bridge Drive-In in Winnipeg, ManitobaMorden Corn & Apple Festival. With a variety of activities celebrating the locally grown corn and apples, including free hot buttered corn and ice cold cider, this is a festival designed perfectly for foodies friends. For more information click here.

Friends & Lovers Package At Calder House B&B. Combining time at Stonelane Orchard with a relaxing stay at a beautiful bed & breakfast, you will help pick delicious vegetables straight from the garden and assist with preparing them for your evening meal. For more information click here.

Grazing In The Field. You are transported by motor coach to a local dairy farm where you are treated to a farm tour and have the opportunity to connect with local dairy producers. Afterwards you experience a delicious meal under an open air tent. For more information click here.

St. Norbert’s Farmers Market. The largest farm market in Manitoba, offering a wide range of local  products including saskatoon berries, honey, bison, vegetables, and various baked goods. For more information click here.

Rural Roots Food Cooperative. A small store located in beautiful Boissevain which carries a variety of local Manitoba food products. How about picking up some Naosap Harvest Manitoba wild rice from Cranberry Portage, or Rocky Lake Birchworks syrup from The Pas? For more information click here.

Pizza Night at Integrity Foods. Specialty made pizza is baked in a stone oven in the middle of the yard while you walk around and meet the farmer, visit with the chickens, and enjoy the gardens. When the pizza is ready you sit and enjoy it picnic style. For more information click here

Pizza oven at Integrity Foods near Riverton, ManitobaNeechi Foods. Located in Winnipeg, this Aboriginal grocery sells delicious bannock, Manitoba caught fish, and a variety of local fruits and vegetables. For more information click here

Livery Barn Restaurant. Located at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, this restaurant serves Russian Mennonite traditional cuisine. For more information click here.

Reykavik Cafe. Located in Gimli, and specializing in Icelandic baked goods, this is the perfect place to sample vinetarta or other Icelandic treats. For more information phone 204-642-7598.

So there you have it, my starting list for if/when my Nova Scotia foodie friend finally makes it out to Manitoba to visit. Do you have any suggestions for things we should add to our list? Any great foodie adventures in Manitoba that we should definitely check out? If so, I would love for you to share!

For more information on food photographer/food stylist/food blogger Kelly Neil, and to see her recent honey maple bread recipe using Manitoba products that I sent to her in a care package, please visit click here.

Monday
Mar102014

snow angels and snuggling

So, Dad, I planned out our whole day. First we'll make snow angels for two hours, and then we'll go ice skating, and then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we'll snuggle. ~ Buddy The Elf

Doesn’t Buddy The Elf have the absolutely perfect winter plan? Doesn’t it sound like a great way to spend a cold winter’s day with a loved one? It sure does to me, and although Buddy The Elf is from a Christmas movie and all about Christmas cheer and the north pole, I have a sneaky suspicion with his interests and agenda he might also really enjoy a winter break in rural Manitoba. I know the perfect place for Buddy to make snow angels, go ice skating, eat sweet treats and snuggle. It’s Lakeview Hecla Resort in Hecla Provincial Park which is located approximately 200 km north of Winnipeg.

I first discovered Lakeview Hecla Resort in August 2013. You can read all about my amazing Hecla summer vacation by clicking here, but the short version is I loved my summer experience at Lakeview Hecla Resort and I knew I wanted to return. I was absolutely thrilled when I was invited to attend a Travel Manitoba media trip with some bloggers and writers to discover Lakeview Hecla Resort in the winter. I had an amazing time and I fully recommend Lakeview Hecla Resort for a great Manitoba getaway. The entire experience from start to finish was relaxing, refreshing and I left feeling energized. It was just what my soul needed for a winter pick-me-up.

 

During my trip it became very clear to me that winter possibilities at Lakeview Hecla Resort are endless, and there is something for everyone. Outdoor activities such as ice skating, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and fun times around a bonfire, all offer hours of family fun and are a great way to connect with nature and loved ones. Rentals for equipment such as snowshoes, cross country skis and toboggans are available onsite. If you prefer indoor activities you can play board games (lots to choose from at the front desk!), hang out at the vast array of indoor pools and hot tubs, and snuggle up and watch free movies in your beautiful room. If food is your thing, check out Seagull’s Restaurant, the onsite full service restaurant, and its delicious menu filled with great options (try the pickerel tacos they are awesome!), or grab a stool at the bar and order up a few Caesars to help numb the winter cold.

With very affordable prices (take a look at the current Cabin Fever package - it includes so many things and starts at $89 per night!), and being only two hours from Winnipeg, it is a fantastic option for a Manitoba winter getaway. The entire resort is updated with beautiful modern rooms and common areas with an Icelandic flare, and it is one of my absolute favorite spots to stay so far in all of Manitoba. This is a resort I will return to again and again and again.

So if you are looking for a great local Manitoba winter experience that won’t break the bank - stop looking - Lakeview Hecla Resort is it. It is the ultimate spot to enjoy Manitoba in the winter. While you are there, remember Buddy The Elf’s perfect winter agenda and be sure to make a few snow angels and take time to snuggle. You won’t be disapointed.

A huge thank to you Travel Manitoba for my great winter experience. For more information on Travel Manitoba please visit http://www.travelmanitoba.com/.

A huge thank you to Lakeview Hecla Resort for my great winter experience. For more information on Lakeview Hecla Resort please visit http://www.lakeviewhotels.com/hotels/hecla/.

Monday
Mar032014

manitoba powerhouse

She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails. ~ Elizabeth Edwards

Every once in a while you have the most perfect plan and it all goes crazy. You can pour over every little detail, arrange every single moment, and yet it is all thrown out the window in one quick second due to something completely out of your control. Sometimes those crazy mishaps and curve balls actually end up making the best experiences and stories. They become the thing you look back on and laugh about, the memoir you always share at a cocktail party, the incident that ends up becoming an inside joke amongst your family or friends.

Take for instance my family vacation in February 1992. I was in grade 8 and living in rural Nova Scotia. My parents had arranged this fantastic once in a lifetime family trip to Florida and we were super pumped. Until the biggest snowstorm of the year hit and our station wagon got stuck in the middle of the Trans Canada Highway, my dad cursing and trying to shovel us out to get us back on track. When we finally made it to the airport all flights were canceled and we ended up spending 26 hours sleeping on the airport’s benches and eating little bags of airline food because all the restaurants were closed down too. At the time we were upset, we were missing out on some warm Florida fun. But quickly our anger subsided and humor began to kick in. Our entire family started to look back on the experience with new eyes. Even though we eventually made it to Florida and had so many fantastic family experiences on our vacation, the adventure of being stormed in at the airport as a family is probably the one we reminisce about the most and it always puts a big smile on our faces. We had weathered the storm together and it brought us closer, and it is now a happy memory. 

Living in Canada these types of things happen all the time with the weather. You basically have a choice - you can complain and sulk about it or you can learn to adjust your perspective and embrace whatever Mother Nature has in store for you. This life lesson kicked in hard for me last week. I was invited to attend a Travel Manitoba media trip at Lakeview Hecla Resort in Hecla Provincial Park, approximately 200 km north of Winnipeg. It is a beautiful resort, in a beautiful provincial park, and I was with beautiful people who all shared my enthusiasm and love for Manitoba. We had the perfect Manitoba winter plan - to head to the marina on Hecla Island and spend the morning learning to ice fish with Jason Hamilton, a very experienced fishing guide, followed by a winter outdoor shore lunch. In the afternoon we would set out for a cross country ski adventure or partake in some snowshoeing or tobogganing. Sounds amazing right? The ultimate way to spend a February day in rural Manitoba!

As we walked out on the ice to where our guide Jason was set up and waiting for us we smiled and commented “it’s not too bad out” and “it should be a good morning for ice fishing”. Well Mother Nature - Manitoba’s powerhouse - sure had something else in store for us. As we snapped pretty photos of the shacks and the sun bouncing off the snow and ice, our fishing guide was struggling with the auger (used to drill the holes in the ice). Turns out the cold (-40 C degrees with wind chill!) had frozen the fuel line. Then came the wind. Holy cow! Mother Nature was sure blowing in a storm. The sun disappeared and was replaced by a whirlwind of snow and gusts up to 101 kilometers per hour. Some of us huddled in a fishing shack to escape her brutal force. When we emerged from the shack we discovered that Mother Nature was relentlessly pounding harder and harder - she had now lifted one of the ice fishing pop up shacks and blown it down the lake. One of our group members was struck in the head by it (thankfully she was okay) and our guide had to tackle the fishing shack like a football player to prevent it from being blown out to sea never to be found again. Things were getting exciting and crazy and we found ourselves in a the middle of an intense Manitoba adventure. But it was dangerous. It was time to bow to the power of Mother Nature and get off the ice before something really bad happened. We were forced to adjust our plans.

As we walked back to our vehicles I couldn’t help but look around and crack a smile. Our perfect plans were compromised by Mother Nature's own agenda, and instead of fishing and snowshoeing and toboganning we would spend the day soaking in the lovely indoor pools at Lakeview Hecla Resort, curling up with free movies, and gorging on amazing food from Seagull's, the resort's onsite restaurant. It was an incredible back up plan, and really showcased that Lakeview Hecla Resort has something for everyone and every situation, even in snowstorms. We all enjoyed watching the storm from the warmth and comfort of the resort. I can't think of a better place to be snowed in when a powerful Manitoba storm hits.

So in the end we didn't catch any fish, our auger froze up, our fishing shack blew away, and someone got hit in the head, but there was something humbling about Mother Nature and the winter experience in rural Manitoba, and our adventure was still very enjoyable. I will always remember the time we tried to go ice fishing in rural Manitoba and Mother Nature kicked our butt. That my friends, is a story I will tell at cocktail parties for many years to come. It will always put a smile on my face.

For more information on Travel Manitoba and great winter adventures and activities please visit http://www.travelmanitoba.com.

For more information on Lakeview Hecla Resort please visit http://www.lakeviewhotels.com/hotels/hecla/.

For more information on Jason Hamilton Outdoors, Lake Winnipeg Ice Fishing Guide, please visit http://www.jasonhamiltonoutdoors.com/home.html.

Little Gray Bird Attempting to Capture The Storm - Photo Taken By Shel Zolkewich