Last winter saw the arrival of winter dining on the river, with the advent of Raw: Almond. Raw: Almond is the brainchild of chef Mandel Hitzer of Deer & Almond restaurant and Joe Kalturnyk of RAW Gallery. Raw:Almond offers a unique opportunity to experience the creations of some of Winnipeg’s top young chefs in an enchanting environment. Along with dinner, there was also Saturday and Sunday Brunch served.
Last year I took the opportunity to enjoy both the dinner experience, as well as the brunch. This year, things worked out in such a way that I only did the brunch. I arrived early and took a place at the table. As the picture below shows, the table is several wooden units held together with an a small steel beam down the middle.
Given how cold it was out yesterday, I needed to keep my parka on while I was waiting for Brunch, but overall I was still reasonably comfortable. After all, it’s Winnipeg in February. I was helped along by the fact that one of the servers immediately brought me coffee, even though they were still setting up.
Sunday Brunch: Great Company, Great Food
While I came on my own, as with last year, it wasn’t long before I had company at the table. I was joined at my spot by Anne Marie, a special ed teacher, her partner Kevin who is a chef liaison and author of Kev’s Kitchen, and Primrose a local playwright. As pleasurable as the food was, the morning was made much better being able to share the meal with good company.
If, on the other hand, socializing takes back seat to the actual food experience, fear not. The brunch itself was superb. Prepared by Talia Syrie of Come N Eat at Neechi Commons, and Shel Zolkewich, one of my favourite Winnipeg food writers.
We were started off with a sampler of Red River cereal, with a dollop of jam on top. I did not grow up on Red River cereal. I grew up on lumpy oatmeal. This cereal achieved an ideal balance of texture and flavour. Good enough that I didn’t need to add any dairy to enhance the taste. It also made a nice warm start on the day.
The cereal was followed by a pancake and several strips of crispy bacon. The bacon was meaty and easy to eat with fingers. The pancake was nice and light and the berry syrup added a touch of sweetness. Next came the latkes, which were a mixture of potato and sweet potato. These were topped with spicy apple sauce and sour cream.
Then came the Sunday Brunch star. This was a sausage filled corn dog. It was a combination of mini donut shell and savory filling. Deep fried. Covered in sugar, with a little of the berry syrup. It might kill you, but there aren’t many better ways to go.
Following on the heels of this was the bannock buddy. Scrambled eggs and bacon wrapped in bannock. It was like an edible version of a Pizza Pop. Topped with a little hot sauce the flavour was incredible. The best part was that the eggs were not runny at all. This meant that the bannock didn’t get soggy.
At the same time, we were served a fresh fruit salad and shortly we finished our meal with a chocolate brownie topped with vanilla whipped cream. The brownie also was infused with lemon to give a pleasant mixture of flavours.
I recommend that you make the effort to take in the brunch. If the dinners and tasting bars aren’t sold out, try those as well. Allow yourself sufficient time for the brunch. While the service was excellent, it is not a rushed experience. Fortunately my table mates graciously dropped me off at St. Philip’s after the brunch allowing me to enjoy the fulness of the experience.
Also, check out chef Hitzer’s 21 day Great Canadian Sleep Out. This sleep out is in keeping with the community care that is rapidly becoming one of the hallmarks of the Winnipeg food community.