It has taken me 40-plus years to love winter on the prairies.
After kvetching about the cold for decades, I decided to try something different: I decided to embrace the cold.
All it took was a really warm winter coat, long underwear, serious snow pants and no mirrors anywhere in my home. (Looking cute is a near impossibility in winter.)
All that unflattering gear came in handy during a Late-February FAM trip to Hecla Grindstone Provincial Park and Lakeview Hecla Resort.
After a morning of snowshoeing, we headed to Ivan’s home on the shores of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba’s Interlake. This second-generation commercial fisherman, nicknamed Santa, is a hardy sort who loves showing city folk and other ice fishing neophytes to his neck of the woods.
In this case, this neck of the woods is the vast frozen wonderland of Lake Winnipeg in the heart of winter.
So a bunch of us writers, photographers and bloggers hopped into his circa 1951 Bombadeer and trucked out over the ice to Ivan’s fishing lines.
Nine of us piled into the transporter, hip to hip on the benches. Ivan hopped into the cab and coaxed the dinosaur into first gear. None of the dials worked and there was a strong smell of exhaust in the cabin. Whatever. We were on an adventure. A little carbon monoxide was worth the price. The wooden behemoth rattled and shook while we rolled across the snow-scape.
We stopped a few hundred metres from the shore line, we hopped out and Ivan demystified the life of a commercial ice fisher.
What we learned:
• The ice on Lake Winnipeg is about four-feet thick.
• Ivan, who looks to be about 70 or so, has been fishing as long as he can remember.
• Ivan has piercing blue eyes.
• His father taught him to fish and he taught his son to fish.
• They fish mostly pickerel.
• In the winter, they deploy 2,400 feet of fishing nets (eight, 300-foot nets).
• They deploy the nets using an under-ice jigger that floats up under the ice. The jigger was designed by a Manitoba man named Olafson. The slotted wood board quickly became the standard in the industry. Olafson tried to patent his invention after two years but he had waited to long. It had been in the public domain for too long and his window of opportunity vanished.
• In winter, they check the nets about once a week. A good day yields about three tubs of fish.
• In summer, they check the nets daily. On one record day, the father and son pulled 19 tubs worth of pickerel from the water.
• Ivan’s Bombadeer is named Old Helge, after the man he bought it from.
• Ivan loves, loves, LOVES to fish. He fishes in his spare time too.
This trip was organized and sponsored by Travel Manitoba.
So we Manitobans are in—what can best be described as—winter hell.
But in hell, it’s hot.
We are in the Arctic equivalent of hell.
So just how cold is it?
Well, one day in January we were colder than Mars. Since early December winter has us in a chokehold. Minus 40˚C is not unusual. Minus 30˚C is typical. And minus 20˚C is considered balmy.
Yep, it’s that bad.
It’s taken me 40+ years as a Manitoban to realize the only way to survive winter on the prairies, is to face it head on.
That means getting outside and getting away. While most head south to warmer climes, I recently headed north.
Hecla Grindstone Provincial Park is an outdoor oasis two and a half hours north of Winnipeg. Located on 360 acres, this Interlake gem has a ton to offer. In the summer, there’s camping, fishing, swimming, hiking and golfing. A charming village with all the basics awakens each spring.
In the winter, cross country skiing, snow shoeing and soaking in the hot tub beckon. And Lakeview Hecla Resort is where to love winter again.
On a recent FAM trip, a small group of writers, bloggers and photographers from across Manitoba rediscovered the joys of winter.
Lakeview is a fully appointed, family and pet friendly hotel with a restaurant, a water park with pool and water slides, spa and hot tubs. Rooms are modern and comfortable with a lounge, inviting soaker tub and monster-sized beds. Two flat screen televisions and free wifi are are part of the deal.
This year-round resort is a hub for ice fisherman and snow mobilers in the winter and golfers, boaters and families in the summer. The resort has an interesting past and spent several years shuttered until Lakeview took it over, renovated it and reopened in Spring 2012.
We started our first day with an hour of snowshoeing near the lodge. For the first 100 feet we were battered by blustery winds. The moment we stepped into the trees we also stepped into a winter wonderland.
Quiet enveloped us. The only sounds came from the crunching snow beneath our feet and the odd woodpecker chipping away on an unseen tree. Heather Hinam, an uber smart naturalist and guide lead the way. (Heather has her own custom adventure business called Second Nature and is also an artist who designs interpretative signs for parks that detail the wildlife and natural habitat.)
We learned about snow, trees and the local denizens, aka deer, wolves and coyotes. We hiked gentle slopes and tucked in between stands of trees. The trail was broken and we criss-crossed in and out of the trees. We sampled only a small taste of the trails winding their way to and from Lakeview. We traversed groomed cross-country ski trails and soaked up the sunshine.
And in no time at all, the cold was a distant memory.
This trip was organized and sponsored by Travel Manitoba.
Here’s an idea: Host a fantastic multi-course dinner on a professional baseball team’s diamond. Invite 100-plus food lovers. Get one of Winnipeg’s best chefs and his team to come up with a home-run menu. And bring ingredients, like fresh milk, cream, butter and ice cream, straight from a Manitoba farm.
That’s the inspired plan behind Grazing in the Outfield, the latest venture from the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba.
Organizers hoped to pull it off for this summer’s 2014 baseball season, but a very tight baseball schedule has made it impossible. So in 2015, Grazing in the Outfield plans to throw its inaugural event. No date has been settled and they’re still finalizing the details.
So, for the meantime, foodies will get their fix at Grazing in the Field. This year’s event will be held September 13, 2014 at Hans and Nelleke Gorter’s dairy farm in Otterburne, MB. Tickets cost $150 each (plus tax) and went on sale in early February. Only 100 will be sold and Brandes reports about 25 have already gone. Chef Ben Kramer and his team at Diversity Foods (University of Winnipeg) will be in the kitchen. Kramer always pulls together a fantastic and fun spread.
Tip to the wise: Don’t wait to buy tickets. In 2011, the first year, all 115 tickets sold. The second year was also a sell out with 135 tickets sold.
Check out the Grazing in the Field Facebook page here.
As many great ideas go, this one started over a beer with a buddy.
In 1998, Steve Moynes and a friend with a great pizza recipe, hatched a plan: ‘let’s build a mobile pizza truck.’
And with that, Expressway Pizza, a restaurant and delivery service all in one, was born. Eleven franchisee trucks later and Moynes, who built the trucks himself, was definitely on to something.
Word got around that Moynes had quite a talent for building food trucks. After that, “people kept calling,” says the 59-year-old.
Today, Moynes and his family-owned company Pizza Trucks of Canada in Dugald, Manitoba, have built an estimated 100 food trucks and have orders to fill for a year and counting.
Two years ago, the food truck boom hit with Food Network shows likeEat Street and The Great Food Truck Race, says Sandy, Moynes’ wife and co-owner along with their three sons Trevor, Kevin and Steve Jr.
“Now we don’t even have to sell them anymore we just have to be competitive,” she says. The cost for a new, empty food truck starts at $50,000 and custom details go up from there.
Their restaurants on wheels are on streets across the U.S., Canada and Australia. He recently landed an order to build a pizza truck to send to Kenya. The company, Naked Pizza, is co-owned by Shark Tank shark and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Moynes also recently salvaged a circa 1937 blue school bus in Tok, Alaska. The bus will be transformed into a New York Fries food truck for Toronto streets.
Closer to home, Moynes and his family recently finished Habanero Sombrero and Vilai’s Spice Box, which both hit Winnipeg streets this spring.
Moynes–along with his sons–builds every interior inch of the trucks including electrical, plumbing and insulating. And the team works on two or three trucks or trailers at a time in their Dugald shop.
The key to making a great food truck is a great floor plan that uses every inch, gives workers their own space and creates ideal work flow, Moynes says.
“You have to lay out the floor properly or it just won’t work.”
That can be tricky when you’re limited to 130-square-feet, the foot print of the average 18-by-7-foot food truck.
But every truck has its own charms and challenges, Moynes says. “I love designing these things. Every one is different.”
My story first appeared on cbc.ca/manitoba/scene. Here’s the link.
Little Sister Coffee opened for business in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village on September 11. The new coffee house is the second location for Nils Vik, owner of Main Street’s Parlour Coffee and marks the latest coffee/design house mash-up in the city.
With that in mind, here’s a story I wrote for CBC’s Scene about Winnipeg’s new wave of coffee. Here’s thelink to the original story.
Thom Jon Hiebert pours scorching water from a stainless steel kettle into a sort of glass science beaker. Inside, sits a coffee filter, but no coffee.This is not the brewing process. This is prep.
Hiebert uses the hot water to wash away any paper fibers that might otherwise land in the cup he is about to make. Only then does he add the freshly ground beans.
“These beans were roasted just 20 days ago,” he tells his customer. “You might taste a bit of berry in here and it’s also very buttery.”
Forget double-doubles or even Starbucks lattes. There’s a new breed of coffee house that does for the bean what wine bars do for the grape. Each drink has its own pedigree, carefully concocted and expertly explained.
This ‘Third Wave’ of coffee culture has hit Winnipeg in the form of several new, locally-owned grindhouses staffed by a skilled collection of “baristacrats.” Hiebert and Graham Bargen, opened Thom Bargen late last month. The Sherbrook Street boutique joins Corydon Avenue’s MAKE/ Coffee + Stuff, Café Postal in St. Boniface and Main Street’s Parlour Coffee. Finer grinds, higher water pressure, precise temperatures and a fresher bean all add up to a better brew.
“Fresh coffee just tastes different,” says Hiebert. “There’s none of that bitterness or burnt flavour of overly roasted beans.”
“It’s not just your dad’s coffee anymore,” says Adrienne Huard, co-owner of Café Postal. “It’s about rediscovering all the aspects of espresso.”These new merchants even know the varying harvest times in order to serve in-season beans. “It’s like wine,” explains MAKE/ Coffee + Stuff barista Hailey Darling.
These coffeehouses buy fair-trade beans from roasters like Pilot and Phil & Sebastian, Canadian roasters who actually visit the farms and meet the growers.
“Once you’ve tasted actual fresh coffee you’ll never go back,” promises Bargen.
Two large pizza pies oozing with melted cheese and loaded with toppings are hungrily eyed by diners.
But it’s no ordinary pizza party. The women seated at the linen-draped picnic-table are about to tuck into pies loaded with vegetables they just picked at a vegetable farm down the road.
Talk about fresh food.
The late-afternoon outdoor garden party is the well-earned reward for work in the field and kitchen.
This is Friends and Lovers, a new two-day retreat at Calder House Bed and Breakfast, located just east of Steinbach in southeastern Manitoba.
The adventure taps into a growing trend—cuisine-focused travelling that connect people with local foods from the dirt up.
Calder House B & B owners Carole Tetreault and Grant Milliner partnered with nearby farmers Kim Shukla and her husband Richard Whitehead of Stonelane Orchard to create a hands-on, yet relaxing retreat for travellers.
Armed with a ‘shopping list,’ guests grab baskets and pick ingredients at Stonelane Orchard. Shukla leads her charges through the fields, greenhouse and orchard, teaching the ins and outs of Manitoba agriculture along the way.
“It sounds funny but we really like to talk about vegetables because it really broadens people’s horizons,” says Shukla. “It’s really about getting back to the land and knowing where your food comes from.”
That food includes a plethora of vegetables including peas and peppers, beans basil and leafy greens, among many other garden-fresh eats.
“People really want to connect with their food,” says Shukla. “And if they can pick their own lettuce and eat it that night they get really excited.”
That’s where husband-and-wife team Tetreault and Milliner come in. Back at Calder House, a circa 1922 farm-house, the duo enlists their vegetable-laden guests to help make dinner using the produce and herbs harvested from Stoneland Orchard. Tetreault leads the kitchen party, teaching any neophytes how to cook and overseeing the action.
Dinner is served on the garden patio (or inside the large dining room if the weather doesn’t cooperate). After reaping the delicious rewards of their garden-fresh feast, Tetreault, a massage therapist and reiki practitioner, can work out the kinks in the upstairs treatment room.
The two-day package is a true food-lovers escape with the added bonus of a peaceful retreat from the buzz of modern life,, says Tetreault.
“I hope (guests) find some peace, reconnect with themselves and just be, be present.”
Friends and Lovers runs mid-July through September. Get dirt under your fingers and eat what you reap. For information visit Calder House B & B’s website.
My story first appeared on Travel Manitoba’s media website. Here’s the link.