If you’re into food and travel, you may have heard of RAW:almond. If you’re into food and travel AND you live in southern Manitoba, I’m just going to assume that you have. For those of you that haven’t heard of it, but aren’t interested enough to click the link I’ve provided, I’ll provide a quick overview: it’s a fine-dining pop-up/art installation on the frozen Assiniboine River in Winnipeg.
The art installation part of this is the warming hut design competition on the Forks River Trail. Winnipeg is often overlooked as this tiny frozen city on the prairies. I kind of love that it’s mostly overlooked, though. Anyway, the food scene in Winnipeg is fantastic and ever-evolving. RAW:almond is a reflection of this, showcasing many of the city’s exciting young chefs, as well as notable chefs from other Canadian cities.
Okay, a quick thing about The Forks and the reason it’s special: it’s the place where the Assiniboine River flows into the Red River. This was extremely special to the aboriginal people… so basically this has been a remarkable, busy place for pretty much forever. I want to learn more about this yet!
We’ve had weirdly warm weather lately, so it was a very comfortable, windless evening — VERY strange for Winnipeg in January. We were a tad concerned the ice would break and we’d slide into the river and drown… but this obviously did not happen. We simply had warmer weather for our outdoor dining experience. Which was really pretty amazing. I felt so lucky!
Our reservation was for 9:30, so we had time to go for a stroll… and because of the weather, it was truly gorgeous… stunning… and dare I say, MAGICAL!
I’d foolishly always just thought of The Forks as Winnipeg’s most basic tourist site — sort of where you’d go when you’re hanging out with a bunch of people and can’t really agree on what to do next. I’d actually never walked on the ice, nor skated the trail. And so, this was my first time walking on the actual Fork of the two rivers. It was so very completely lovely. Everyone must do this! Or skate, if you’re good at that. (I’m not.)
At last it was time for us to go in!
I probably look bitchy because I hadn’t begun to eat yet.
Steve was with us for this culinary adventure.
Steve and Andrew shared red wine, which I’m allergic to… so I just had whiskey. And the girls next to us bought me a shot of Jägermeister. Hooray for shared tables! *clink*
So! We were at table number one, which was the table of Chef Eric Lee from Pizzeria Gusto — a place I’ve only been to once, but loved so much. I could eat all of their pizzas forever and be soooooo happy about it.
Pumpernickel pasta with mushrooms and parmesan. I loved it and wish I were eating it RIGHT NOW.
No more bitchy look. Now I have begun to eat and am very pleased.
Deep-fried foie gras! Heavenly delights! LOVE. Also creme fraiche, pickled beets in red wine vinegar (which Chef Eric Lee made himself), roasted carrots, and carrot puree. Obviously the highlight was the foie gras… but the beets with vinegar were quite divine as well… and the acid cut through the richness of the foie beautifully. Steak with arugula and parmesan two ways — traditional, and molecular. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I can’t remember what kind of fish this was. Halibut? Swordfish? Argh! Anyway it was very delicious and fresh. But honestly, the highlight here was the tiny Japanese crab, nestled on the tasty asparagus. This is my SECOND little crab. Because the girl across from me was too scared to eat it… so I benefited from her terror. It was delicious and my favourite. And I got TWO. Yessssssss! Though… maybe THIS was the highlight? A chocolate hazelnut tarte that was so decadent and perfect… just the ideal conclusion to our evening. (I have a sudden craving for Nutella…)
The end result: very satisfied diners! Yay wintery delicious Winnipeg gourmet pop-up on the frozen river!
Verdict: we’ll always strive to return. RAW:almond is utterly fantastic. Way to own winter, Winnipeg and brilliant young chefs!