Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Winnipeg Fringe!

So I haven't posted too much lately because I've been too busy hanging out at the Winnipeg Fringe which, incidentally, is a great place to go on a solo date. Pick some shows for times that work for you, no need to work something out with your friends. You can't chat once the show goes up anyway, so it's totally not weird to do that solo. I've also been doing some reviewing there, so check it out if you want to see some of the shows I think are pretty rad. The Fringe Exchange also lets patrons submit reviews too, so you can post what you think too :) Happy Fringe.

Price: $
Rating: *** (dependent on show; results may vary)

Friday, 21 July 2017

Smith & Riverstone Spa

If you heard my rambling CBC interview on the weekend morning show a couple of weeks ago, then you know that I plugged Thermëa  as one of my favourite places to take myself on a date. I'll write about that one eventually but that spot, to me, is a wintertime date and not a mid-July one, so you'll have to wait. Anyway, I realized that in addition to blogging, spas are a thing I do now; I have a pretty screwed-up back so I often go for massage. Since I don't have insurance anyway, I decided that I'd spend my money seeing a RMT at schmancy spa places and make an event out of it. My most recent excursion like this took me to Riverstone which is adjacent to Smith, so I'll tell y'all a little about the spa-ing before we go into cocktails, etc.

One thing I really dig about Riverstone is that the spa/sauna stuff is included in the price, so when I go in for a deep tissue massage, which is pretty pricey anywhere, spa or no spa, I get all the extras and don't have to shell out extra. It's a pretty decent place; all inclusive in that there are no BS fees for robes or anything like that, the towels are full sized and not these tiny pool-towel things you get sometimes, flip-flops are included. The saunas are small-ish but good; there's a steam room and a dry sauna as well as super fancy showers. It's gender segregated because the spa stuff is in the changing areas, so that might be a good thing if you feel weird about being alone in a swimsuit in a co-ed environment. However, there isn't really a silence policy, so you will hear all about Janine's new house, which Stephanie thinks is a great investment, although it's really too bad that the counter-tops aren't granite like her last one. Just as an example. There are also small snacks in the waiting are for the massage and other services, so that's a pretty cool touch.

As a huge history nerd, the HBC theme in Smith does it for
me so hard.
After the spa, I headed over to Smith. You can order drinks and such from there to Riverstone, but for some reason the receptionists didn't want to have me drink before my massage, so I had to put some pants on to go get my food and booze. I was there on the weekend during the day, so the menu was specific to weekend brunch. Often I find day menus a little disappointing, but this one had a 'mimosa bar' which was pretty cool. I tried all three which were fun spin-offs of the typical OJ and bubbly. They also have an extensive beer/wine/scotch menu but I prefer to drink things that I can't make myself (e.g. too many ingredients) when I'm out and about and on a super classy date with myself.

Smith has a HUGE sit-in bar, so there is plenty of solo seating; I imagine this has something to do with it being in a hotel. There are also TVs mounted about, so you really shouldn't feel weird if you're here by yourself. In fact, there is a good chance you won't be the only one. They have a great variety of small plates on the menu, so I got myself a Ploughman's Lunch. I wish the server had described the plate as she set it down; without the menu, I had forgotten what kind of cheese it was and that the white stuff was aioli. It was kind of annoying that there was no salt or pepper at the bar, so I had to eat my boiled egg plain. The olives were WAY better than the last time I had them here; they are scotch smoked and I found both those flavours so overwhelming on the batch I had ordered previously that I actually didn't finish them. Perhaps I am not the only one who prefers to taste at least a little bit of the olives that they ordered.

Anyway, there have been folks who've informed me that they'll feel a little out of place going out alone. This will probably be one of the most comfortable solo-dates I can recommend to you.

Price: $$$
Rating: **½

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Oakwood Cafe

I keep forgetting to take a picture of
my food before ripping into it; I
already ate the bacon because it is the
rules that you eat the bacon first.
One of my favourite things to go to in the summer in the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival and this year I'm part of a show. We rehearse pretty much right across from the Oakwood Café so I figured it was about time to check this one out since I've been passing it by pretty much weekly.

This one is probably better for lunch and breakfast - which they serve all day, but I ordered dinner because having a date night with yourself and eating eggs is somehow weirder to me than all of the other things that are weird that I do on my own. The server picked up pretty quick that I'd never been and pointed out that there was wine in addition to their cocktail menu. I ordered liver and onions because I am a weirdo who enjoys organ meat. It came with mashed potatoes and peas. The potatoes were done with the skins on, which I dig, but were kind of dry. They came with packets of butter on the side, so I guess this is something that the kitchen anticipates. The liver was just ordinary, breaded, with equally ordinary onions and a couple of super crispy strips of bacon on top. 

My meal, with the generic side dishes and breaded meat reminds me of something that I'd have at my mother's, which really means nothing to you, so I'll explain that my mother prepares super basic meals because she loathes making a mess to the point that cooking that causes any kind of splatter or potential spills is out. So, yeah, the liver was super hot and tasted good enough, but over all it's not something that you or I couldn't throw together with marginal cooking skills and no mess or hassle. Generally I try to avoid taking myself and ordering food that I could probably make myself, so maybe this one wasn't the best choice for a dinner date for one.

Best milkshake in the universe. Go
get one. If you are 18+. Please
drink responsibly. Or the serving
staff might judge.
They had a summer cocktail menu based on lemonade which was super fun and available virgin. I had a blueberry one at the suggestion of the server but didn't really notice much of a different from the strawberry gin one I had next. I do have to say they had super awesome milkshakes and there was a Black Russian version that I had and would definitely go back again for.

I really felt that the Oakwood was more of a family restaurant than a good place to go alone. Take some friends there for breakfast/lunch and I think you'd have a great time. I didn't really get to sample too much else since there weren't really small plates and I am not the kind of person, physically or financially, who can order more than one meal. So yeah, not great for one, especially if you're into the cocktails; the server, when running me through, awkwardly commented on the number of drinks I had (3) which I had to repeat to myself can't be that ludicrous since I had a full meal. But yeah, I guess you might stand out a bit if you try to do this one on your own, just a head's up.

Price: $$
Rating: *

Sunday, 9 July 2017


Om nom nom, why do not more people
sit on this patio and eat these amazing
Ok, moment of truth: sometimes I write a review for my blog and don't post it right away. I have it so I can roll these things out in a consistent way. Sometimes I have a page of notes and don't write the review until I'm bored or procrastinating, or haven't gone out recently. This is not one of those cases; I could not freaking WAIT to tell y'all about this place and Jesus H. Christ, you get yourself there while you can. I get the feeling that Saperavi doesn't get as much business as it should and, as I understand it, it takes quite a bit of cash to run a restaurant so, seriously, patronize this place before it's too late.

Soup was great but could stand to
lose the ice cubes; how chill do we
really need to be?
I genuinely don't understand why this place isn't hopping; it's got a choice patio right on Corydon and amazing food. Maybe people are hesitant to try Georgian cuisine for some reason? Maybe they figure the Georgia in question is the state and not the country (which might be good too, I don't know what American Georgians eat traditionally)? Do they confuse it with other businesses that share the building? Who the hell knows, but when you walk by these days, they've got a table with their menu, business cards, and a freaking free sample to try to show you how delicious this stuff is. The sample was this amazing baked cheese flaky pita thing called Khachapuri Imeruli served with a delightful tomato cilantro sauce that they don't name in the menu, but is available either mild or spicy. Since I tried the cheese one from the sample, I ordered a meat one for dinner (Kubdari). Dumplings also seemed to be the food to get. They were out of meat ones but the server suggested the mushroom and I do love mushroom, so we were cool. I kind of wish there was more filling in it, but they came with sour cream which made the extra dough delicious anyhow. 
Suppers for large group. *Sigh*
Wish I had a family that loved me
and/or would eat out with me at
cool places.

It was stupid hot, as it has been the past few days, so I figured I'd start off my meal with some chilled cucumber soup and sangria. The soup was refreshing and I really dug the walnuts on top, but the fact that it had ice cubes in it made it kind of hard to navigate; I get that you want it to be cold, but eating around ice cubes with a spoon is a little tough. The sangria was solid, available white or red, and the bartender came out to see if I liked it since she said she didn't make white sangria all that often. It was great but it was nice that she checked in. For the most part this is a beer/wine place, nothing special on the cocktail side. I was a little disappointed that the Georgina wines were only available by the bottle. I'm not going to pretend that, as a solo diner, I have never consumed the equivalent of a bottle of wine, but it seems a little much to order a bottle of wine for one. I'm not even sure if that's legal in this province.

Over all, I would definitely say this is a hot, comfort food kind of establishment although it's certainly worth the visit on a hot day for the patio if for nothing else than beverages. The menu was a little overwhelming for going solo; there was a lot of choice and large-ish portions made it hard to have a variety but the food kept well enough for a take-home container. If you're thinking of making it out here with others, it looks like they have a set dinner for x number of people, which looks like it might be fun to try if I wasn't so very, very alone.

Price: $$
Rating: **½

Friday, 7 July 2017

Naru Sushi

A recent article on the CBC got me thinking about sushi. It sounds like a good chunk of these restaurants in Winnipeg was using an unlicensed guy to hire Korean workers. While that's kind of sketch, it isn't inherently exploitative BUT at least one of these restaurants made their staff hand over a good chunk of their wages, which is just sick. Pay your staff, srsly. To my knowledge the restaurant(s) that did/do this have not been made public, but if you know who they are, please share. There's a ton of sushi in Winnipeg and I'd really like to frequent those establishments that pay their staff. Call me a crusader.

It took me awhile to get a picture
that showed off the steam sufficiently;
I am terrible at snapping pics of my
ANYWAY, one of my fav solo sushi dates is at Naru Sushi. It's on the way home/to a lot of places from where I live so the convenience of location probably plays into that. The service is really great too and accommodating for a solo diner such as myself, so I sincerely hope that the owners don't skim off the servers' (or kitchen staff's) cheques. If it ends up being the case, I can content myself that the experience isn't quite as good as it once was; they've axed their shrimp gyoza and the nigiri has been a bit dry. As is fairly typical, they use 'crab stick' for their California rolls, but you can upgrade to real crab for a slight charge, which is a nice option to have.

There's nothing terribly special here for booze, so I don't make this an alcoholic night out since wine and beer is something you can get anywhere. But if you're the kind of person who abstains, there are some fun 'kid-friendly' virgin drinks available. I had the Pineapple Spumoni (pineapple, grapefruit, pop) which was a nice alternative to getting a Coke. I usually go with tea with sushi since that seems to be the things to do, but it was a zillion degrees Celsius in Winnipeg that day, so a cold drink seemed to be in order.

That said, their hot dishes at Naru are pretty great. I have to get miso soup or I feel like I cheated and theirs is just as good as any. I really dig their sushi pizza; raw salmon is one of the best things to serve with avocado and the rice patty it's all on is not too thick and nice and crisp. If you're not sure what to try, give that one a go. It'd make sushi purists gag, but it's worth it.

One of the reasons I love sushi as a solo-date is you can get nigiri in single orders/the rolls are usually small enough that you can get a couple different ones without stuffing yourself to the max. As I've mentioned before, I don't have a huge appetite, so I definitely go for variety over quantity when I take myself out for dinner. Naru in particular has great combo trays for one. My go to and the one I got on this visit was the 8 piece sushi, California Roll, and a miso soup. As I said, the nigiri has failed to live up to what I was used to getting and I'm always a little disappointed when they don't identify what the fish is when you order a 'chef's choice' kind of combo. That said, the server might have just took my confidence in ordering as a sign that I could tell what I was eating by sight (which is half true, but beyond the tuna, salmon, and ebi, I have no idea).

Naru is a pretty small place, so I recommend making this spot a weeknight dinner venture so you don't feel too guilty taking up the space that a larger party might need. If you live in the Village, it's a solid stop-off before or after some grocery shopping, if you're walking to the Safeway or Vita Health.

Price: $$
Rating: **