For the last two or three years I’ve been having people ask me if I was familiar with the pizza nights put on by Integrity Foods. Only by people talking about them (one thing about not driving, rural events are mainly missed). Then one day I was talking with my friend Travis Unger. Travis and his wife Stephanie, run a small property management firm in the Spence Nieghbourhood, and are friends of mine from my days back at St. Vital Evangelical Mennonite Church.
On this occasion he told me that the son of the owners of Integrity Foods was looking at opening a bakery in town, including offering pizzas. As time went by I started to more about this new bakery, as the owners also have connections to some of the people I know at St. Margaret’s.
Over the last few months I’ve watched the southwest corner of Portage Avenue and Maryland Street. During this time I’ve had some contact with Dave Newsom one of the owner’s of Hildegard’s, and have anxiously awaited it’s opening. Finally, at the end of last month the bakery finally opened. For the first couple of weeks there was only coffee and baked goods, but no pizza. Last week, the pizza finally made it’s debut, and today I ordered one for the first time. Before I talk about the food, a little bit about the name.
Hildegrd’s Bakery is named in honour of St. Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard is one of the most remarkable and accomplished people in Western History. She is best known for her Scivia, but her bookPhysica, is the one that is provides more of the background of HIldegard’s relationship to food and a bakery. Physica is steeped and in many wells helped to codify and help advance the practice of humeric medicine, the dominant force in Western Medicine until the 18th century. In 2012 Pope Benedict named her a doctor of the church, only the fourth woman to be so named.
I started to read Physica, but found it a little tough going. It’s mainly a system of classifications. If you are interested in learning more about humeric medicine and about Hildegard of Biingen, I suggest you pick up a copy of Victoria Sweet’s, God’s Hotel. Sweet’s book gives good background on Hildegard, and also describes Sweet’s own, often successful, attempts to integrate medicine, as practiced by Hildegard, within the modern machine-centric hospital model.
Hildegard’s the Bakery
It’s fitting that as I walked into the bakery, a business named for someone with such an interest in the natural world, the first thing I noticed is that it is flooded with natural light from the corner windows. The next thing I noticed was a large wooden framework handing from the ceiling in which all sorts of climbing plants were being to bloom in pots. Given enough time these will for a nice pergola inside the bakery (unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the pergola.
Hildegard’s is focused on using ancient grains such as spelt in their products along with using organic ingredients in the food they produce.
On my first visit to Hildegard’s the bakery wasn’t in full swing yet. However, there was coffee being served and a few baked goods, and a couple of loaves of bread. I decided to go with the muffin and a cup of coffee. The muffin was a fruit-filled variety. the one thing I really liked about it was that it seemed more substantive than a lot of other muffins I’ve tried. Yet despite the extra heft to the muffin, it was still moist and there was lots of fruit to it. the coffe that day was from Black Pear Roasters, if I remember correctly, a long time mainstay of the Winnipeg coffee scene.
Returning a few days later I opted for a scone with my beverage. The scone was Saskatoon Berry. Of late most of the time I’ve ordered a scone it’s been one of the one’s made by Pennyloaf. There scones tend to focus on interesting combinations of scents to go along with any fruit, and they are very good. The HIldegard scone was more straight forward, but still excellent. The re were plenty of berries, there was a nice crunch on the top and it was also light while still being substantial. Sometimes doing simpler very well is the way to go.
That morning they also had out samples of their focaccia bread. This is another item that fits in well in the light but substantial category of baked goods.
Hildegard’s Pizza for Lunch
Last week I read on Facebook that Hildegard’s would be having pizza available on Friday and Saturday(this will be the case until further notice). Unfortunately, that didn’t fit in to my plans for the weekend, so I had to wait until this weekend to try the pizza.
When I got to the bakery today, the lineup was 12-15 people deep, winding out the door. I figured taht since I was in no rush to go anywhere I’d stay and wait as long as it took to get my pizza. the first piece of good news for the day, that wait wasn’t very long at all. Although they are still working out the best way for order taking, (the crowds have been better than hoped) I was still at the counter and placing my order in a matter of four or five minutes. From there it was only another four or five minutes until my pizza was ready. Hard work and determination will overcome many technical difficulties.
On the whole the service has been very good. The staff are very friendly, and the bakery has committed to having adequate staff to help deal with the lineups. A lot of new places don’t take such care.
Today there were four different pizzas on order. Cheese, Vegetarian, Chorizo, and Mennonite. The first three have red sauces while the Mennonite has a white, sour cream based sauce. I ordered the choirizo.
The pizza is really, really good. It’s every bit as good as the Red Ember. There are plenty of toppings, (although I’d prefer a little less arugula, which has become ubiquitous as a form of greens), the sauce and pizza is generally more zesty than spicy, but the flavours mix well, and the ingredients are really fresh.
My plan was to enjoy this pizza at a leisurely pace while I spent a little time on the computer. No such luck. This pizza is so good, that as soon as I started eating there was no way that I was stopping until I had finished the whole thing. I was a little stuffed when I finished, but like the other baked goods, the pizza crust is also light enough that the whole meal doesn’t sit heavily on one’s stomach.
As the (poor) joke in the title suggest, the biggest risk at Hildegard’s is in avoiding one of everything and stuffing your face until your humers are out of joint. However, reading a little bit of HIldegard of Bingen should take care of that.
HIldegard’s Bakery, is a great, up to date, old-fashioned, and just downright tasty, addition to Winnipeg’s bakery and pizza scene.