Last year I wrote about my favourite cookbook, More with Less. A Mennonite cookbook it contains many great recipes along with displaying a concern for using earth’s resources well. Combining good food and social concern is a hallmark of many Mennonite ventures, and Sam’s Place cafe on Henderson Highway certainly fits that model.
Not only does the cafe serve great food, it also serves as an educational venue, a training place, a hosting venue for local bands and artists. The cafe itself also make’s a strong effort to use local and ethically sourced ingredients whenever possible. In addition to this, many of the staff are volunteers, and the profits go to funding Mennonite Central Committee projects.
I’ve been to Sam’s Place several times over the years, and most of these visits have been in the context of some event. I’ve taken in a show by the Riel Gentlemen Choir. This is a great local group led by Jessie Krause, whose work David and Johnathan I reviewed last year. I also went to take in the Winnipeg launch of Kate Bowler’s book Blessed. The book launch was a part of St. Benedict’s Table Idea Exchange series. Most recently I met with Dennis Maione, a friend of mine who wished to discuss liturgy.
The one thing that binds all these events together is that they were shared over food and beverage. Sometimes I had a meal and sometimes just a sweet treat, but all were satisfying.
Sam’s Place for Sweets
Sam’s is a good place for a meal, but it’s equally good if you are just looking for a cup of coffee with something sweet on the side. When I went to Kate Bowler’s book launch, I was in the mood for a meal, but the others at my table, including Kate’s parents, just wanted dessert. They all chose the same one, an apple-rhubarb pie, which they all pronounced delicious.
I’ve enjoyed cookies and squares from Sam’s, I find them flavourful and cooked to just the right level of crispness and/or chewiness.
Sam’s for Mealtime
While much of the staff at Sam’s is volunteer, they do employ a professional chef. Rachel Isaak is the chef and this ensures consistent quality of food. At the book launch I had the Southwestern Soup. It was plentiful with a good mixture of the various ingredients.
Most recently I had the Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup. It was rich and creamy, and there were lots of mushroom chunks floating throughout. I also had the Three Cheese Panini. This was the cheesiest sandwich that I have ever tried. The cheese was piled high in the middle, was dripping over the edges, and a little bit of it also got crisped up in the process. The use of goat cheese as the third cheese added a little bit of creamy freshness to it.
Sam’s place exists to be more than just a cafe. This is reflected in the use of volunteers as servers. The staff is always friendly and tries to be as helpful as possible, but being volunteers they can be a little slow. It requires a little patience, but given all the things Sam’s Place is trying to do, it’s worth the wait. Plus, Sam’s also has books. So, buy an interesting book and the time will pass even more pleasantly.