Thursday, June 25, 2015

Winnipeg? Winnipeg!

When the ethically-challenged governing body of soccer in the world announced that the United States team would play its first two games of the Women's World Cup in Winnipeg, my first reaction was that I would stay home and watch it on television. After all, I mean... Winnipeg? Jeez!

Then, of course, after a couple of seconds and only the whisper of a breath of a hint of serious reconsideration, I thought, Oh, well, Winnipeg. Okay. A week or so there can't be any worse than three days in Waco, which I have done, and survived (and did so without a car; at least in Winnipeg I'd have a car).

Polar bears all
over the place
Turns out, Winnipeg is a pretty good place to spend about a week. Probably could manage a second week there if there was a reason. It's actually a nice, clean, thriving city, with hints of culture both high and popular, and reasonably friendly people. If I had to live somewhere outside of Texas, Winnipeg wouldn't be too bad a choice. Plus, having booked the week through ProActive Soccer Tours, the same outfit that we used for the 2011 cup trip to Germany, ensured that we'd be in the hands of people who had actually researched the town and picked out interesting things to see & do. Kudos to them.

Of course it suffers from chronic vague post-modern guilt, and points too resolutely and too desperately at its glitzy new-age museum and purportedly francophone area as a result, but underneath it's a collection of some 800,000 souls going about their business. Like Austin, without the internalized stress.

Anyway, been there, done that, and the pictures are up on the Picasa web site. Take a look if you're interested. You can click on the bear, or here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I Licked the Bowl.

Le Garage Café
166 Boulevard Provencher
St-Boniface, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Looking for une aventure française in St-Boniface, the French-speaking area of Winnipeg, this is the place we ended up when it turned out our first choice closes early, our second choice turned out to be Japanese, and our third (considered only briefly, and only because It Was There) was Chinese. In all honesty, there was nothing particularly French about this place, beyond some distracted obeisances on the menu, and the definite article introducing the name of the place.

Inside is a counter, and an aisle lined with a few tables leading to a larger, darker room that doubles as an intriguing live-music venue and giant-screen TV auditorium. Our server delivered three menus each, one being a drinks list. He ran down an enticing list of daily specials, brought our drinks, and took our order: the pasta of the day, and a pulled pork mac-&-cheese.

I can't exaggerate this: these were both truly delicious dishes. The pasta was penne in a wine sauce with chicken that was OHHH so good. Seasoned with basil and cooked with tomatoes and, I would say, a little cream, the chunks and shreds of chicken distributed throughout were relegated to providing texture, in a departure from meat's normal starring role. Yet the chicken performed admirably in a supporting role where the sauce is the breakout star.

And the mac and cheese. If there is a better way to prepare macaroni and cheese than to put it in a crock with cream and pulled pork with a slightly-sweet barbecue sauce, and to cover it with a slab of cheddar cheese, and heat it until the cheese infuses the dish, I can't begin to imagine it. I would not have thought a humble collection of ingredients like this could produce such awesome flavour. I confess that the headline of this post is almost literally true. I didn't actually lick the bowl; I did, though, run my finger along the inside, and then lick that. Many times. And I would do it again, since I'm in a town where nobody knows me, and I don't have to behave like a mature adult, as I do when at home.

The service was excellent, from both servers on duty.
The place is done in a simple, unaffected way, going (successfully) for a cool-place-to-hang vibe; the atmosphere was marred only by a giant television playing an NBA Championship game. (Had it been the Women's World Cup I'd be willing to overlook it.) And the prices were about what you'd expect in town, and very reasonable for what you get.
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