Recently I was reading the local paper and there was an article about a new cookbook, featuring a Canadian chef cooking Canadian cuisine. The article mentioned the trouble the cookbook author has always faced in offering Canadian food. Is there such a thing, the article asks? 10 years ago, I would have shared his frustration. But nowadays, there are so many chefs cooking what they would define as Canadian food. This trend started years ago with restaurants like Canoe in toronto, River Cafe in Calgary and Sooke Harbour house on Vancouver island. Many of our greatest chefs, like Jamie Kennedy, Michael Staedtlander and Rob Feenie would describe their style as Canadian. Locally we have a number of restaurants serving food they define as either Canadian or Manitoba Regional cuisine. Although defining Canadian cuisine remains as difficult as defining Canadian culture or Canadian identity, I don't believe there is anyone left who still wonders wether there is such a thing as Canadian cuisine. Although difficult to define, we know it when we taste it.
Last week, I had a group in from Toronto. They came for dinner, then returned for lunch the next day. They enjoyed their meals very much, but when they were done, they asked me where they could get some real Winnipeg food. "What do you mean by Winnipeg food", their server politely asked. "You know, perogies and goldeye." We sent them to Alycia's. This brought back a recent memory of a call I got from a writer for National Geographic Traveller. She wanted to interview me about the food scene in Winnipeg and about my bistro specifically. I agreed to the interview, but when she called me up she said, "I really only have two questions for you: Do you serve pickerel? Do you serve bison?"
Why does winnipeg food have to be so narrowly defined? We are more than just Perogies and goldeye. We are more than pickerel and bison. We are an incredibly multicultural city, with restaurants representing nations around the world. Is Winnipeg cuisine french canadian or metis? Is Winnipeg cuisine ukrainian? Is Winnipeg cuisine german, italian or icelandic? Is it Askenazi? Is it Vietnamese? Chinese? Phillipino? Is it aboriginal? Is it old? Is it new? Casual? Fine dining? The answer to all these questions is yes! Winnipeg cuisine is all these things and more. Would you ever go to Toronto and ask "Where can I go to get the real Toronto cooking?"
My wife and I own a funky little french bistro. We were born and raised in Winnipeg. Is our restaurant winnipeg cuisine? You bet your smoked goldeye it is.
World's Easiest Smoked Goldeye Mousse
meat from 2 smoked goldeye, be careful to remove all the bones
1 cup cream cheese (winnipeg style?)
pinch of cayenne
(variation: add 1 tbsp horseradish)
in a food processor, puree goldeye, cream cheese and cayenne until smooth.
serve with crackers and a garnish of capers, cornichons and red onion.