If you’re into food and travel, you may have heard of RAW:almond. If you’re into food and travel AND you live in southern Manitoba, I’m just going to assume that you have. For those of you that haven’t heard of it, I’ll provide a quick overview: it’s a fine-dining pop-up/art installation on the frozen Assiniboine River in Winnipeg. (The art installation part of this is the warming hut design competition on the Forks River Trail.)
Winnipeg is often overlooked as this tiny frozen city on the prairies. I kind of love that it’s mostly overlooked, though. The food scene in Winnipeg is fantastic and ever-evolving. RAW:almond is a reflection of this, showcasing many of the city’s exciting young chefs, as well as notable chefs from other Canadian cities.
The Forks, where the Assiniboine River flows into the Red River, has been extremely special to the Cree, Anishinaabe, Sioux, and Nakoda people for over 6000 years. I want to learn more about this yet!
We’ve had weirdly warm weather lately, so it was a very comfortable, windless evening — VERY strange for Winnipeg in January. We were a tad concerned the ice would break and we’d slide into the river and drown… but this obviously did not happen. We simply had warmer weather for this remarkable outdoor dining experience.
Our reservation was for 9:30 PM, so we had time to go for a stroll on the frozen rivers. We never go boating on the river in summer (but I will try to make it happen next summer) so this was my first time viewing the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and the Louis Riel Bridge, from the middle of the Red. It felt like wet snow was hanging in the low clouds, warm, like a shimmering blanket over the city.
I’d always thought of The Forks as Winnipeg’s most basic tourist site — sort of where you’d go when you’re hanging out with a bunch of people and can’t really agree on what to do next. I’d actually never walked on the ice, nor skated the trail. And so, this was my first time walking on the actual Fork of the two rivers. It was kind of surreal.
At last it was time for us to be seated.
Steve and Andrew shared red wine, which I’m allergic to… so I just had whiskey. And the girls next to us bought me a shot of Jägermeister. Hooray for shared tables! *clink*
We were at table number one, which was the table of Chef Eric Lee from Pizzeria Gusto.
Above: pumpernickel pasta with mushrooms and parmesan.
Deep-fried foie gras! Also creme fraiche, pickled beets in red wine vinegar (which Chef Eric Lee made himself), roasted carrots, and carrot puree. Obviously the highlight was the foie gras… but the beets with vinegar were divine… the acid cut through the richness of the foie beautifully. Steak with arugula and parmesan two ways — traditional, and molecular. I can’t remember what kind of fish this was. Halibut? Swordfish? Very delicious and fresh. But honestly, the highlight here was the tiny Japanese crab, nestled on the tasty asparagus. This is my SECOND little crab. Because the girl across from me was too scared to eat it… so I benefited from her terror. Chocolate hazelnut tarte. Decadent. The perfect conclusion to our evening.
Verdict: we’ll always strive to return to RAW:almond!