About a week ago I received an email from Stephanie Scherbain at the Exchange District Biz. In it was an offer to participate in the Little South America Tour. The Little South America tour is one of the Food Tours that the Exchange District Biz operates during the summer.
This tour features three restaurants on the East side of the Exchange: Carnaval, Hermanos, and Corrientes. Having never been to any of these restaurants, I was more than happy to take up the Biz’s gracious offer to sponsor me as a media member of this tour. I also have to admit, I don’t visit the East side of the Exchange very often.
Our Little South America tour began with the group meeting up together in Steven Juba Park across Waterfront Drive from Carnaval. The group was a mixture of familiar faces and new people. One of the new people I met was Eden from Eden in Winnipeg, a blog that I have yet to reference here, but one worth checking out.
Hayley, our tour guide, started the evening off with a brief history of the Exchange District. Along with that she laid out the itinerary for our tour. Hayley did a great job leading the tour, and for me, as someone who does a lot of public speaking, it was great to hear someone who knows how to project when speaking to a group in an outdoor setting.
The first stop on our Little South America tour was at Carnaval. Carnaval serves Brazilian BBQ. When we arrived there was a festive atmosphere in the restaurant. Possibly related to Brazil just having defeated Cameroon 4-1 at the World Cup. We were shown to the upstairs of the restaurant where they had joined several tables together for us. At this first stop I had the pleasure of sharing my place with a group of women who had come in from Portage La Prairie to take part in the tour.
I had heard that Carnaval is a carnivores delight, and it is. What took me by surprise was how good all the sides were. Most of the sides do not contain any meat. What we were served was a scaled down version of their Rodizio Menu, which is an all you can eat meat delight. You can also bring your vegetarian friends, because the sides offer plenty of selections to allow a vegetarian a full and complete meal.
The way the meal works is that you are given a little coaster with a green side, that tells your server you want more, and a red side that tells your server you’re full. Needless to say, I never turned mine over to red. Brazilian BBQ is different from North American. In North America it’s about the sauce. In Brazil it’s about the cooking. All the meat was very good. The lamb was exceptional. Along with the meat and sides, I got to try a great habanero hot sauce, and a glass of red wine from Brazil.
Little South America Tour Goes To Hermanos:
Next on the Little South America Tour was Hermanos. Hermanos is located in the old Ashdown Wearhouse. The Ashdown Wearhouse is on of the oldest buildings in the exchange and serves to represent a period of great growth in the history of Winnipeg. Inside the owners have managed to blend well the historic characteristics of the building with a contemporary vibe in the seating and set up.
Here the food represents a mixture of southern Brazilian, Uruguayan and Argentinian food. The owner of Hermanos, Noel Bernier was our host. This was called the Little South America Tour. However, he wanted to emphasize that the aim wasn’t to create ethnic restaurants. Rather, his goal was to create restaurants where a Canadian sensibility was brought to South American food. These restaurants are places of collaboration and creativity. As a result they are not chef driven. Also, the staff regularly visits South America to experience it first hand.
This kind of fusion was demonstrated by the Ceviche, made with Manitoba Pickerel. I also tried the sausage with grilled vegetables. Milanese bites, which are schnitzel like. It was not originally part of the plan, but Bernier decided to drop some empanadas for us. These were close to perfection. Crispy, light wrapping and moist, flavourful filling. I washed it down with a Pisco Sour. A grappa based, lime flavoured beverage that was very refreshing.
Little South America Tour Winds Up at Corrientes:
Our final stop on the Little South America tour was at Corrientes. Corrientes derives it’s name from the central street in Buenos Aries. A street that is at the heart of the cultural life of the city. Corrientes is best known for their pizza. We were there for dessert. If their pizza is anything near as good as the dessert we have, it must be great pizza.
Our dessert was a mousse based on their Guandia. The Guandia is a chocolate and hazelnut torte, but the mousse was a great alternative. We had eaten a lot already. The Guandia mousse was nice and light.
This was the only place where we received our food on individual plates. All three restaurants we visited focus on dining en famille. Not only is the cooking collaborative, but so is the eating.
Visiting three different spots on the Little South America tour gave the opportunity for the group to mix and match. Each restaurant found me sitting with a different group. There were about 20 on the tour. This gave me the chance to have a few words with almost everybody. If you have an evening free this summer, think about going on this tour. If this doesn’t suit your fancy, check out the other walking tours of the Exchange.