Oysters From The Source

DSC02560Where does your food come from? If you take a moment to consider the time, energy and work needed to turn a grain of wheat into the bread on your table, it is truly amazing. As a lover of shellfish who lives in the heart of the continent, the journey these little sea creatures take has always blown my mind.

Oysters may be an acquired taste but those that love them can’t get enough. In Winnipeg there are a number of restaurants being supplied by a little oyster farm called CN Shellfish on Fanny Bay in British Columbia. Available at Wasabi in Osborne Village, Inferno’s Bistro, The Loft, the  Fort Garry, and Fairmont Hotel, it takes a mere day and a half from the BC farm to your Winnipeg table.  These are very fresh oysters!

This 35 million dollar industry supplies Canadians and sends tons of DSC02563shipments to Asia. These farms generate some of the highest quality and most sought after shellfish in the world. Regulations governing their production ensure the highest quality and the highest prices.

In the hierarchy of shellfish King Crab reigns supreme. But not far behind are Geoducks – totally bizarre creatures. These guys sell for $20-$30 a pound and they are so popular in Asia we rarely see them in the Canadian market. They can grow up to 140 years old!

Shellfish has one of the few licenses for growing Geoducks and as proud members of Ocean Wise, they constantly strive to do things as naturally as possible.  CN Shellfish has been in business for 3 years but its history runs deep. Nam Lao and Cory Hesketh own the farm and Hesketh’s father ran the farm before them.  With oysters and clams all growing on their farm, it is a busy place.

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Merroir, a take on the French word Terroir, is used to describe the flavours and qualities of a region and products farmed there. Co-opted from vintners, chocolatiers and coffee producers, oyster farmers have taken it as their own.

On the farm I had the chance to taste oysters that are aged on the beach against those matured on the rafts. It’s amazing how different they taste. East Coast oysters tend to have a lighter taste as they grow slower because of the colder water. On the West Coast they have more salt and brine in the flavour profile.

The next time you crack oysters open remember how far they’ve come to be slurped up off your plate!

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Sarah Zaharia

A Ballet Indulgence

mixed program 2At the end of some ballets, the audience will cheer and applaud from the comfort of their seats. Others will provoke a few people rise to their feet, then a few more, and then one-by-one people stand to their feet in an effort to follow suit. At the end of last night’s ballet, every single person was on their feet before the curtain was down. Andre Lewis was accurate in his prediction during pre-show introductions that Mixed Programme is “a royal treat that would have us on our feet”.

Mixed Programme consists of three completely unique and dynamic short ballets. The first, “Defile” celebrates the connections between the junior dancers and the company, and expressed the technique that each level learns. It started with ten-year-olds in soft shoes and finished with advanced pointe work and stunts from the leading dancers in the company. The second, “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” was speedy and full of adrenaline, showcasing the dancers’ ability and technical mastery. The third, “The Four Seasons” was a visual masterpiece. Set to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, this piece followed one man through seasons and showed his relationship with time. And, in my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful pieces of ballet of all time.

As you can see, the night was an indulgence for ballet-lovers. It involved every age of dancer, from little ones inliam10 the recreational division to former-principal dancers, such as Alexander Gamayunov, John Kaminiski, Caroline Gruber, and Evelyn Hart.

Yes, Evelyn Hart. Andre Lewis announced before the show began that Evelyn would be making an appearance in the “The Four Seasons”, so I anticipated her to be on for just a moment. I kept my eyes peeled for her throughout the entire second act. Spring, summer, and fall went by, then a man playing winter appeared and wrestled with the main character, showing the struggles that winter brings. Suddenly, as the fight ended, Evelyn Hart moved onto the stage. The audience recognized her presence immediately, and a collective hush filled the room as we watched her grace the stage again. She danced as beautifully as ever, and I silently wished her appearance would never end. Much to my delight, her time on the stage was not brief. She represented the beautiful parts of winter. We watched the main character have a fit about the cold and how desperately he wanted winter to end, while Evelyn swayed in the background, unmoved by his temper and patiently waited to be embraced. The scene was chilling and it was an honour to see her dance again.

Mixed Programme is a must-see. Because of Evelyn, because of “The Four Seasons”, and because of the eclectic celebration of classical ballet that had us all on our feet.

Post by Meghan Zahari and photos by Vince Phakala for RWBmixed program 11

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Processed with VSCOcamSince she was little, Meghan has had a love for words and kept her nose firmly stuck in a book. Now, she’s a writer, a wife, and the owner of a pug and a puggle. She spends her days reviewing local ballet and theatre, writing all kinds of stories, running Concrete & Cloud, taking classes through University of Toronto, and doing projects and social media for a local chiropractor that promotes natural health.

www.meghan-zahari.com


Sarah Zaharia

Steak and Red Wine – Perfection at 529

529exteriorWhat is it about steak and red wine? Such a classic pairing. What if you had the best steak available in Canada paired with the best wine list in the city and one of the top Sommeliers as your guide? You would have the perfect dinner.

I started off the night with my favorite cocktail, the French 75, and from there we decided that sharing was the way to go. My dinner companion Katie, who is a recovering vegetarian, was treated to some of the best beef and seafood our city has to offer. The first course was Beef Carpaccio with shaved Parmagiano Reggiano ($16) and Jumbo Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops ($18) paired with a glass of rare and beautifully complex white Chateauneuf du Pape. 529 Beef Carpaccio

Next up was the classic Caesar Salad ($10) prepared table side.  There’s no question it is the best Caesar in the city. In fact, it’s the kind of salad that makes for a perfect lunch on 529′s riverside patio in the summer. But I digress! Christopher Sprage, the house Sommelier, paired it with a 2007 Arbois that made me rethink red wine with salad.

And then the steak. Oh, the steak. We had a perfectly seared, rare 6oz Tenderloin with Lobster Tail and Béarnaise Sauce ($45). 529 is one of the few places that serves Canadian Prime Grade beef and you can taste it. Only two percent of beef 529 - Steak&Lobster2127makes it into the prime category so you know you are getting the best. As Katie says, “the best loin is a tenderloin!”

529 knows its wines.  It boasts Manitoba’s highest rated wine list and won Wine Spectator Magazine’s “Best of Award of Excellence.” So when the Sommelier suggests a Riesling pairing with your steak…. you need to just go with it. We also had half glasses of Nappa Cabernet as a classic pairing and I can’t tell which I liked best.

Here is something you might not expect: the 529 Signature Onion Ring Tower ($12). Why can’t you have onion rings with white table clothes? The answer is you can and you should. I have yet to have better onion rings anywhere.

For dessert we had the bread pudding.  It has been slimmed down in size but is 529 - BreadPudding8601easily enough for 3-4 to share after such a big dinner.  It was expertly paired with a Muscat dessert wine.

529 has a unique blend of history and precision.  It’s food and service are expertly doled out in a location that almost demands it.  Built in 1912 and furnished with antiques, the atmosphere is warm. Manager Caroline Mehra aptly describes the feeling, “it’s like coming home.” Every occasion — big or small — is warmly welcomed at 529.

Post by Sarah Zaharia 


Sarah Zaharia

When Did Wine Become Mommy Juice?

The line up of wine designed for womenWhat used to be Miller Time, is now Mommy Juice Time!

According to the Wine Institute, annual wine consumption in the U.S has gone up from 1.3 gallons per resident in 1970 to 2.5 gallons in 2010. Because 64% of wine consumers are women, it’s no wonder we’re seeing more labels like Skinnygirl, Bitch and Cupcake marketed toward them.

Leslie Sbrocco, author of the book Wine for Women, says, “Women tend to be less focused than men on wine ratings… she.is on the lookout for the perfect bottle to commemorate a milestone or compliment a special meal.”  So if we sat down with the ladies over a bottle of Cupcake Wine and had a good time, chances are we’re going to buy it again.

The California creator of Mommy Juice Wines and mother of two, Cheryl Murphy Durzey, was inspired by her kids calling her wine “Mommy’s Juice.” Alas, the mommy wine market is a formidable one.

There is some debate about men versus women and their ability to taste, but it is accepted by many that women tend to have a more sensitive pallet. So if women have the more distinguished tongue and the represent such a large percentage of the market, why is the wine marketed specifically to them so bad?

I recently went into a wine store requested everything they had that was marketed directly to women. There were a surprising number of options! I came out of the very small store with five bottles: STRUT, Bitch, Skinnygirl, Bodacious, and Cupcake.Nutritional Facts on the back of a bottle of Skinnygirl

Now I’m no bra-burning feminist, but I couldn’t help but be a little offended. Is this really all marketers can think of to grab our attention? I need to be a bodacious bitch while strutting my stuff, all the while minding my calories (only 80 per 125ml glass on the Skinnygirl wine) but indulging in cupcakes.

How about a good glass of wine? I lined up the bottles for myself (along with two men, so the results may be a little skewed) and we dove right in, going from bubbles to rose to red.

I will certainly acknowledge that the Cupcake prosecco is less sweet than expected and a good opener to a night with friends. But the bottle of Bodacious white blend should just be skipped altogether. As for the Skinnygirl wine? Maybe she needs to let go and have a cupcake or two.

The surprise of the flight was the no nonsense bottle of Bitch wine. This 2008 South Australian Grenache was quite good. Low tannins, a little sweet and nice red cherry flavor.

So is Miller Time a thing of the past? Will we all be timing out for “mommy juice” instead?  Not on my watch!

 

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Post and photos by Sarah Zaharia


Sarah Zaharia

Good People, Hard Times

Good-People-ArtworkMTC’s follow up to Kim’s Convenience is another light-hearted slice of working-class comedy. David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People tells the story of Margaret (Martha Burns), a down-and-out Bostonian who loses her menial job at the dollar store and spends the rest of the play worrying about where she’s going to get the money for next month’s rent. The scenario is familiar and it opens up a timely dialogue about the economic disparity that is reaching an all-time high in the U.S. and elsewhere. I say dialogue because the play isn’t one sided in featuring Margaret’s plight as a poor “Southie” girl who just can’t catch a break. On the other side of the proverbial tracks we have Mike (Ari Cohen), Margaret’s former high school sweetheart who has managed to get out of south Boston and make something of himself.MTC

Margaret, in her desperation, looks Mike up hoping that he might have work for her. Though he’s upfront that he has nothing to offer her, she sticks around long enough to land a couple on his chin. On the surface, she’s looking to see if deep down he’s still a Southie at heart. She ruffles his feathers and tells him he’s gone soft, but underneath all the verbal sparring there is something revealing: it’s hard for her to see that Mike is successful.

The second act of the play delves deeper into the nature of success and fairness. In Margaret’s world, she sees the outcome of success as a role of the dice. In her view, she’s worked just as hard as Mike, some might say harder, but all that hard work builds to nothing more than a barely above minimum wage job. Whereas, Mike was born with some natural abilities and had a father who pushed him in school, so while Margaret dropped out of school to raise her daughter, Mike carried on with his studies and became a doctor.

Success means different things to different people. For Margaret, Mike is a success because he got out. Though she spends a great deal of the play making fun of him for it, deep down there is a nagging part of her that wonders what could have happened if they’d never split in high school. Good People offers a lot of those “what if” questions. It confronts our notions of fairness and success, but it never preaches to us. It doesn’t offer easy answers because it knows there is no single satisfactory answer. Margaret sees Mike’s big house, fancy office and imported cheese spread and thinks that is success, but she misses the hostility between Mike and his wife (Audrey Dwyer) who clearly are in need of the counseling Mike wishes he could stop attending. Success depends so much on who is measuring it.battle

For a play that touches on some heavy subject matter, Good People is surprisingly light thanks to the sharp dialogue and fantastic chemistry between the leads and the supporting cast, all sporting convincing Boston accents and volleying around some colourful phrases. Good People runs from April 17 – May 10/2014.

Post by Josh Benoit – Photos by RMTC’s Bruce Monk 

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Josh Benoit - head shotJoshua Benoit is a freelance writer, musician with the local band, Pumas and videographer living in Winnipeg. He is passionate about food, philosophy, travel and Kurt Vonnegut. At one time he thought he wanted to be an optometrist but ultimately found more joy in words than in formulas, just as he derives more pleasure from whiskey than from soda.

His life goals are modest and include owning a dog with an aloof demeanor and a needy cat, publishing no less than eleven novels (some of them trash), and possibly raising children, though he’d settle for a weekly afterschool special in which he could impart his street-wise verbiage to the children of the world.

Joshua studied English and Film at the University of Manitoba and took his sweet time about getting his B.A. He now works for the Department of Education and is continuing his creative writing studies through the University of Toronto. To get in touch with Joshua, write to him at jedwardbenoit@gmail.com


Sarah Zaharia