Coast to Coast with Club House for Chefs: Winnipeg Edition

Have you caught road trip fever yet? Club House for Chefs continues its Coast-to-Coast Tour across the culinary communities of Canada this season.

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You can view the recap of the inaugural stop in Edmonton, Alberta here.

After the Brazilian BBQ Pork Sausage Bao’s and Fiery Habanero and Roasted Garlic Popcorn Shrimp collaborations of the Albertan capital were created among local chefs and the Club House team, it was time to head to the next destination, Winnipeg, Man. Wanting a “for-chefs-by-chefs” experience of the wintery city and all its food community has to offer, it was deer + almond’s chef Mandel Hitzer to the rescue, acting as honourary storyteller and tour guide for the day — even in the bitter cold.

Starting the day was a visit to Luda’s Deli. Run by Tracy Konopada and only open for breakfast and lunch, Luda’s is quite literally a place where everyone knows your name — and it might even be on the menu.

“When I was asked to do a city tour, Luda’s was the first place I thought of because when I come eat here, it makes me feel like I’m at home,” chef Hitzer added. “I tried to bring the RAW: Almond chefs here but they were closed, we’d missed them so, I want to bring them next time.”

Some items on Luda’s menu are directly inspired by people who have ordered them, such as the Wally Fries — a huge order of fries — and the Ronnie Omelette, an omelette with everything thrown into it you can imagine. While there’s no Mandel option yet, he did inquire about the possibility of a custom pierogi poutine.

It was then time for the group to weather the cold for a small outdoor walking tour of permaculture with Tiffany Grenkow, Orchard Steward at the Sustainable South Osborne Community Co-op.

“People spend their entire summers on their own time with a lot of people in the community here in South Osborne tending to the garden. You can apply to take over a lot or, if you’re not from the neighbourhood, you can come have a stab at farming or gardening for the first time. There’s a group, South Osborne Permaculture Workers Cooperative, that planted an apple orchard and they get together to make food and grow food for restaurants,” chef Hitzer explained on-route.

Upon arrival at the South Osborne Permaculture Commons, the CHFC crew learned how Grenkow had first showed up at deer + almond six or seven years ago, beginning chef Hitzer’s journey of inspiration, learning and being challenged as a chef to learn more about food, where it comes from, how and when it grows plus how and when to use it. At the time of the tour, the group was able to see where items such as Russian paragon, bergamot, sorrel and mint had already been planted in the cold, snow-covered gardens. They even had the chance to taste sea buckthorn right off the tree.

Continuing the day where he prefers to start his, chef Hitzer brought the spice squad to Little Sister Coffee Maker, home of ‘thoughtfully sourced’ coffee and located in the chef’s South-Osborne neighbourhood.

“They make some of the best coffee in Winnipeg, the best environment to come hang out and have a beautiful cup of coffee before I start my day.”

Caffeinated and ready to see more food growth from warmer indoors, it was time for a chat at the family-run Braman’s Greens, chef Hitzer’s other go-to for naturally grown micro-greens.

“The legendary Braman’s Greens,” chef Hitzer proclaimed inside, “best salads and greens, in my opinion, in all of Manitoba. It even has heated ground and then the sunlight powers the rest, allowing the greens to grow all year long.”

“Consistency is a big deal here,” added Adele Braman, showing everyone the growing mustard greens, dill, baby arugula and other produce in progress. “We can’t say, ‘oh I don’t have it’ because you [the restaurants] are depending on it.”

And just like the spices in chef Hitzer’s restaurant, Braman has her many greens’ seeds in Club House containers for easy “seasoning” of the boxed soils. In summer, it’s not uncommon for some of the Braman’s produce to have an easy seven-day turnaround, compared to the one-and-a-half to two-week turnaround in the wintertime. While natural light is the biggest necessity for the greenhouse throughout the year, the micro-greens and popular items such as kale and baby romaine often receive a little help from Braman’s sounding bowls — crystal bowls used for musically assisted growth via widely resounding vibrations.

Ready to head back out into the chill of the afternoon for one last activity, chef Hitzer brought the crew to meet Trevor Kristjanson of Kristjanson Fish. A fifth-generation fisherman, Kristjanson took everyone out onto the still-frozen Lake Winnipeg for a lesson on the various islands, including who settled them in the  1800s and how those pioneers had fished to survive. The first fish caught on record back then? The goldeye, a freshwater fish still found in Canada and the northern United States today.

For citizens of Winnipeg, popular times to fish are spring and fall. Kristjanson points out that those who call themselves fishermen and fisherwomen will fish the “long” season, the winter season, which is considered November to April, as ice can last on the lake until the end of April.

“The more people you get in the world to try the fish that nobody knows about, the better that is for us commercially, sustainably and financially,” Kristjanson informed Hitzer. “People all over the world are talking about the food you’re preparing. Without people like you selling these fish, where would we be? So, keep up the good work.”

Once back on land, the Club House team bid farewell to Kristjanson and Hitzer as it was time to take the day’s inspiration and create some brand-new dishes with other local restaurateurs. First on the collaboration list was The Merchant Kitchen, a contemporary restaurant serving Asian and Latin-American dishes by chef Jesse Friesen.

Made with boneless chicken thighs brined in a blend of Club House French Mediterranean Sea Salt and brushed with a Club House Piri Piri-seasoned oil, Club House, chef Friesen created a spring/summer feature worthy of a menu’s front page, the Piri Piri Fried Chicken Salad.

Known for serving ‘modern dishes rooted in First-Nations foods,’ the team was humbled to then be able to team up with Feast Café Bistro’s chef Christa Bruneau-Guenther. There, chef Guenther demonstrated the formation of the Shaved Bison Roasted Sandwich, complete with Club House Juniper Berries and an empty-plate guarantee.

Next up was Oxbow, a locally focused shared-plates restaurant and wine bar featuring the culinary talents of chef Sean Bernard. There, wielding his Club House Sriracha and Lime and Club House Cumin Seeds, he created a collaborative Sriracha & Lime Labneh, made with cumin-roasted beets, local quinoa, kale and pickled carrots.

The last of the Winnipeg restaurant adventure was soon experienced with none other than chef Mandel Hitzer in his own kitchen at deer + almond. Together, Club House and chef Hitzer concluded their day with the making of the Falafel Burger, complete with chickpeas, toasted Club House Cumin and Club House Coriander Seeds, garlic, white onion, cilantro, lemon, Club House Turmeric and Club House Crushed Red Pepper.

Keep up with Club House for Chefs on Instagram @CH4Chefs / #CHCoast2Coast as they continue to meet top chefs, explore new places and create new dishes just for you across Canada. Next stop, British Columbia!

Photo Credit: Will Bergman

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