The Tallest Poppy

IMG_3007The greatest restaurants are really a reflection of the people behind them.  Lucky for the Tallest Poppy the people behind it are rich in flavour.

It’s opening day and Talia Syrie hasn’t slept much – possibly not in three days — she tells me.  But there’s a weary contentment in this statement.  In the space of roughly 3 months the old Campsie space in the Sherbrook Inn has been radically transformed from dank, dated, and carpeted to bright, modern, and cheery.

There’s a Partridge-family-esque “C’mon get happy” ceiling, wide evening sun-worshiping windows, and sky blue wall-mounted squares.  Fans slowly rotate above an eclectic assortment of mix and match tables and chairs.  The restaurant runs deep.  You hit a good-sized bar on the way to the brightly-lit kitchen.  Across from the bar, in a little nook, hangs the warm wooden sign of the original Tallest Poppy.   Four tin-plated ridges nestle in the ceiling above two cozy tables.

Syrie’s impish partner in crime, Steve Ackerman, tugs at his hair while he sorts some last minute business out on the phone.  He kind of has the air of an expectant father from the 1950s pacing outside the delivery room.

2 toneIMG_2998IMG_2952It’s too easy a cliché to say The Tallest Poppy is a labour of love.  But really, truly, it is.

Of course, most Winnipeggers remember the original Poppy on Main St.  From the moment it opened, The Tallest Poppy seemed woven into Winnipeg’s fabric.  Situated in the Occidental Hotel, the Poppy had a rustic, haphazard charm: like hanging out in a really cultured grad student’s apartment who also had, like, this AMAZING way with food.  The Poppy on Main had its problems, sure.  It wasn’t always the most consistent spot but Syrie says that’s all going to change in its new incarnation.

And with its cool retro design, its ipad ordering and payment system, and its fully operating bar, this Poppy certainly seemsIMG_2956 a lot more grown up.  But Syrie is adamant; the unpretentious charm of the original won’t be lost in this swank new spot.

“I want people to feel comfortable.  To, like, really feel — not like at home — but maybe like you had an aunt.  A really cool aunt.  You don’t get to see her very often but when you do she makes you something your mother would never make for you, and she serves you booze and you play gin rummy in the afternoon.”  Syrie pauses with a toothy grin, “Like that.”

The Tallest Poppy exudes comfort.  Not just in the decor or the easygoing staff but in its comfort food-rich menu.   The Poppy used to boast it was where the Deep South meets the North End.  A quick glance at the menu confirms it still is.

Pickerel po’boys, chicken and syrup-infused waffles, and the most moist and tender otherworldly pulled pork sandwiches you could ever hope to put in your mouth. “They take 100 hours to slow roast,” jokes Syrie… or is she joking?

IMG_2969IMG_2995IMG_2966And then there’s the trifecta burger: bison, pork and beef.

I’m not much of a meat expert but I brought along a friend who is.  After several appreciative and thoughtful bites of the onion-laden patty she declared the burger to be superior because it let the meat be the main event.  ‘It doesn’t try to hide the meat with a whole bunch of sauces and extras.”

In the kitchen, staff hand-form the patties of the Trifecta burger. There’s an easy camaraderie here, too.  “Take a picture of the bread,” beams one young guy.  It glistens under the overhead lights.  Most of the original staff have returned – for Syrie it feels like some classic band has gotten back together… only they now have a much bigger venue.

If Syrie is everyone’s cool aunt, that makes Steve Ackerman the cool uncle –  a cool uncle with a wicked flair for mean cocktails.

The cocktail bug bit Ackerman hard in New York where he studied photography.  He remembers the time his sister visited him and they went from bar to bar ordering Manhattans “because we were in Manhattan.”  Ackerman was fascinated with the chemistry of it all — how each bartender tweaked it just a little.

With a crooked grin he tells me his vision of the new Poppy: “I want to be a place where people relax and have delicious food made by someone who cares.  I want them to enjoy a cocktail not for the sake of getting drunk but for the deliciousness of the drink.”

He’s crafted several drinks on the menu but two are absolute stand-outs.  First there is the Mantucky: where Winnipeg crabapple juice collides with icy bourbon, laced with black pepper syrup, lemon, bitters and mint.  He calls it a “slow, genteel drink that wakes you up and soothes you at the same time.”  And then there is the two-tone Caesar: classic Caesar on the bottom, a green salsa verde-spiked mixture on top.  I defy anyone to not to fall in love at first sip.

There’s no doubt about it.  The Tallest Poppy has grown up.  And it’s probably going to stand very tall in its new home.IMG_2998



Post by Katie Nicholson

IMG_0318Katie fell in love with Winnipeg the moment she arrived (despite the fact it was minus 30 that day).  She loves tasting everything life has to offer which is a nice way of saying she has a tendency to overdo it.  She has worked as a theatre and film critic in Canada and the UK.  She has roadtripped all over the US in search of dynamic regional flavours and the perfect cocktail. She can occasionally be found sabring bottles of bubbly.

Sarah Zaharia

Manito Ahbee – All we need to do is listen

Manito Ahbee_8958smlThe 9th Annual Manito Ahbee Festival just wrapped up after several days of awards ceremonies, contests and powwows. The entire festival was an overwhelming display of and appreciation for a beautiful culture and way of life. The powwows that took place at the MTS centre on the Saturday and Sunday were a kaleidoscope of colour and movement.

The dancers’ Regalia, my friend informed me, are all handmade. Each bead sown on, each feather set in place just so. The outfits alone are works of art, but the way they come to life with the movement of each dancer as the drums beat and a chorus of voices goes up in unison is almost transcendent. The best part of each outfit is that it represents the unique personalities and stages of life of each dancer. The Regalia differ from person to person based on age, sex and personal development. The connection between each dancer and their Regalia seemed to me to go beyond mere symbolic meaning and get at something closer to spiritualism, conveying a connection to the natural world and to the humanity of both the dancer and to those around him/her. Did I mention they look incredible? It bears repeating.

The powwow was staged as a contest, but I had this strange sense that the dancers weren’t photocompeting against each other. My friend put it beautifully when she said that in Aboriginal cultures, one competes with oneself more than outside competition, each dancer striving to do better than they’ve ever done, a contest focused less on victory than on personal growth.

I had witnessed this earlier in the week at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards, as well. Each performer who came up to accept their award seemed to have a sense that what they were doing was bigger than their music. Every acceptance speech acknowledged a power greater than the self and called upon the community to build each other up and work towards a better future.

photo (1)Manito Ahbee Credit Scott Stephensphoto (1)Nowhere was this more evident than in Shy-Anne’s shocking revelation that she would be retiring from music. She told a stunned audience that she felt called to teach in her community. Meanwhile she went on to win three awards throughout the evening, a testament that success in her field paled when compared to what she believed to be her higher purpose.

As I reflected on the festival it occurred to me that it’s impossible to talk about Aboriginal arts and culture without looking at the issues of discrimination and marginalization that continue to face Aboriginal people today. I’m certainly not qualified to speak to those issues, but I’m buoyed by the fact that for the fans and the artists, the awards weren’t just about celebrating great music and stunning performances, certainly it’s an honour to stand on stage and accept an award voted on by the fans, but the greatest honour seemed to be the opportunity to speak on behalf of change, on behalf of justice, on behalf of the community and on behalf of hope. There are Aboriginal voices speaking, all we need to do is listen.manito_ahbee_creditDanHarper

(Be sure to check out next year’s 10th anniversary of the Manito Ahbee Festival. It should be a big one)

Post by Josh Benoit – Photo credits to Josh Benoit and Dan Harper


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

Sarah Zaharia

Erin’s Kitchen – Coffee Crisp Cookies

Cookies.  What can is say… I love making cookies! A while back I came across a recipe for Kit Kat Cookies andIMG_6843 thought, now that’s interesting, chocolate bars instead of chocolate chips!  So of course I had to try them.

While I was out to buy my Kit Kat Bars I came across 2 great finds.

One: I didn’t need to buy the bars because they now sell these bags of Kit Kat Bits. Perfect for cookies! Score.

Two: They make a few different chocolate bars as “Bites”. Yay! So I grabbed Kit Kat ones and Coffee Crisp…

IMG_6840The first time I made them I just dumped the bag of kit kat bites in the cookie dough bowl. But when I started to make the cookies with my cookie scoop I could tell that the “bites” were a little bit big. But that didn’t stop me. I made them anyway. And they were good! I couldn’t wait to try them again with the Coffee Crisp Bites.

So a few days later I started making the Coffee Crisp ones. When it came time to add the Coffee Crisp I grabbed my meat tenderizer/ hammer, I let the air out of the bag (re sealed it) put it on the floor an smashed them a few times to break up the balls. Dumped them in the dough and scooped out my cookies! Awesome! They were even BETTER then the Kit Kat ones! (I like Coffee Crisp better then Kit Kat ha ha)

I have now made these cookies at least 2 dozen times.  I send them in large batches to work with my Hubs and I give them to friends. People love them! And the possibilities are endless! Just take any chocolate bar and crush it up a bit and add to your cookies! Yum!

Hope you enjoy!IMG_6853


Coffee Crisp Cookies


1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup Coffee Crisp (Bites or Bars)



. Cream butter and both sugars until combined. Add egg and vanilla.

. Add flour, baking soda, and salt.

. Mix until combined. Add crushed up Coffee Crisp

. Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment

. Scoop out 2 tablespoon sized balls or use a cookie scoop and place two inches apart on cookie sheet.

. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. 10 minutes will be slightly underdone (the way I love them) but if you like a more done cookie, let them bake an extra minute  or two. Let cool for 5 minutes, and then remove from pans to cool completely.


Post by Erin McLeod


Erin McLeod Head ShootI’m a stay at home mom and have been for a little over 3 years. I have 2 beautiful girls who keep me on my toes! The house is not always tidy… but I’m learning to accept that.

I have a big passion for photography. My dad is a photographer and I grew up playing in his darkroom when I was little. Yes darkroom! Before the digital take over. I also have a passion for cooking and baking. Now it’s a mystery where this love comes from because my mom hates cooking! She does however make some awesome christmas treats.

Hopefully in sharing some of my experience and recipes, I can inspire you to take some time and make something delicious.

From my kitchen to yours, bon appétit.


Sarah Zaharia

A Taste of Thailand

Paris in the springtime and Christmas in New York. There are classic times to visit iconic cities but what about travel in the Sarah in the best hammock in the worldoff-season?

Many benefits are waiting for the traveler willing to explore out of peak season. Few pick July to go to Thailand – a tropical country if ever there was one. But I couldn’t resist.

We stayed three weeks in Thailand, from the start of the rainy season in July until early August. Yes, it did rain at times and it was hot and muggy. But the tropical rain is brief and intense, usually lasting no more than 20 minutes.

Thailand is a huge country, mostly in length than width. With mountains in the North, some of the most beautiful beaches in the world in the South and the bustling metropolis of Bangkok centering it all in the middle.

Bangkok was everything it promised to be. Between cat cafes, 4D moves, Lamborghini dealerships in enormous malls and three separate red light districts, nothing is off limits in the city. Still humming with activity, we got to enjoy smaller crowds in an already crowded city of 8 million people.

Walking from the boat to the beachFlowers garnish everything!Bangkok motorcycleSmells hang heavy in the street with kaffir lime, durian and curry swirl around as you walk. Meat is grilled on every conceivable contraption, from grilled beef off a motorcycle that doubled as a food truck to curry chicken from a wooden boat with a coal barbecue in the center.

Between creative mobile barbecue, soup stands and the pollution of motorcycles and tuk tuks, we often took refuge on rooftop bars. Roofs serve as an oasis in the sky, whisking you up into an atmosphere of Bangkok that is quieter and breezy. Drinking a coconut in the shade of an umbrella makes the urban hustle beneath you melt away.

Massages, specifically foot massages, were shockingly cheap. It is common for an hour long massive to cost less than $10 Canadian, meaning it can be a daily ritual when visiting the city. Another benefit of off-season travel, you rarely have to wait in line.

Getting around in Bangkok is best done like a local. Avoid the stand still traffic and take the Skytrain, or if you’re feeling lucky, get on the back of a motorcycle taxi. If there are traffic laws in Bangkok, these bikes break all of them to get you there faster than you thought possible. Ask for a helmet (optional) and be sure to keep your knees tucked in as you wind through traffic.

Outside the city in the island-dotted South, transport is an adventure for different reasons. Your longtail boat won’t always pull into a dock. You may be left to walk in waist-high water to get in. For this reason and others, bring a backpack, not a rolling suitcase.

The reasonable prices were made even better by off-season specials. We stayed in enormous suites in some of the most exclusive resorts for little over a hundred dollars a night. Restaurants feed locals and expats and we never had trouble finding a seat.

We quickly slid into a slow island pace on the beaches of Railay and Ko Yao Noi. Between the pools, endless drinks with orchids as a garnish, it really was impossible to resist.

So when planning your next trip, try something totally different. Off-season travel has more benefits than inconvenience.Longtail boats wait to take you to your next destination

Sarah Zaharia

Eating in Cars – Erin’s Ford Adventure

photo 2Have you eaten a Ford lately? As of last week I can say I HAVE! (sort of!) Last week I had the chance to attend an amazing lunch put on by Ford of Canada.  It was a wonderful meal with ingredients that make your mouth water and help build your car! Prepared by the amazing Chef Rob Thomas this lunch was outstanding.

Well planned out with items like:

Soybeans, which taste great and also make up a Soybean based foam used in all vehicles produced in North America in seat cushions and backs, head restraints and headliners, saving over 2.2 million kg of petroleum annually!

Sweet Potato, which are delicious, but also produce Plastic made from sweet potatoes that is being for durability in interior applications such as the door map pockets and more!

And my favourite ingredient, Coconut! Byproducts of coconuts such as husks and shells are being studied as reinforcement additives for moulded plastics and can already be found in the Focus BEV and the F-150 truck.

Many other great byproducts and oversupply are being used or tested such as corn, sugarcane, rice hulls, dandelion and wheat. I can’t imagine what they will think of next!

Now on to the best part…. the FOOD!

flower dishDrinkchicken dishChef Rob Thomas’ menu had my mouth watering just reading it as I sat and waited for the presentation to begin. And as the cocktails began to roll out I wasn’t disappointed.

Refresh Cocktail: Cain juice, coconut water, pineapple, mint and lime

First Course: Ginger pork belly sugar cane skewers with tamarind syrup, edamame, sweet corn succotash and grilled sweet potato

Second Course: Beet Salad with dandelion greens, fried paneer, candied pecans and masala roasted tomato vinaigrette

Entree: Cornmeal crusted snapper OR Mango chipotle chicken with cilantro lime coconut rice, mango salsa, catalo and jerk prawn

Desert: Fried coconut dumplings with brulé banana, pineapple gelato and dolce de leche gelatophoto 1

This was an amazing experience and I was happy that I was able to attend! The only down side was that I didn’t win the free weekend with the awesome Ford C-Max Energi.. Maybe next time!


Post by Erin McLeod


Erin McLeod Head ShootI’m a stay at home mom and have been for a little over 3 years. I have 2 beautiful girls who keep me on my toes! The house is not always tidy… but I’m learning to accept that.

I have a big passion for photography. My dad is a photographer and I grew up playing in his darkroom when I was little. Yes darkroom! Before the digital take over. I also have a passion for cooking and baking. Now it’s a mystery where this love comes from because my mom hates cooking! She does however make some awesome christmas treats.

Hopefully in sharing some of my experience and recipes, I can inspire you to take some time and make something delicious.

From my kitchen to yours, bon appétit.


Sarah Zaharia