Winnipeg’s ‘coolest’ dining experience

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Posted January 28, 2013 by Karen Burshtein in Canadian Festivals
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Construction on RAW: Almond was ongoing until the night before the opening of the pop-up restaurant. The hut seats 20 and serves a five-course tasting menu made by Winnipeg’s leading chefs. (Jacqueline Young photo)

Story by Karen Burshtein
Vacay.ca Senior Writer

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA — It’s billed as the “coolest” culinary experience in Winnipeg and is one of the hottest tables in town.

Two members of the city’s well-known creative class have launched a pop-up restaurant, RAW: Almond, in a hut on the frozen Red River. Diners pay $85 for a five-course tasting menu, which is served beneath a tent that can only shield you so much from the frigid winter temperatures that have recently hit minus-25 Celsius degrees (minus-4 Fahrenheit). Still, the chill has not deterred the city’s culinary connoisseurs.

The project is the brainchild of Mandel Hitzer, the tattooed, wool toque-wearing owner/chef of Winnipeg’s much-hyped new restaurant deer + almond, and architect Joe Kalturnyk of RAW: Gallery of Architecture and Design in the historic Exchange District. The duo has invited Winnipeg’s most acclaimed young chefs to take turns sharing with Hitzer what is surely an enviable place behind the hot stove. The 20-seat temporary restaurant will run until February 13, with three seatings each night.

RAW: Almond joins in the warming huts festival on the Forks, the crossroads of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. Through an annual competition, renowned architects and artists have designed shelters for winter enthusiasts who skate, walk or ski along the frozen river trail. Since the warming huts event came into being in 2010, the likes of Frank Gehry and Atelier Big City — a collective of three Montreal architects — have competed to have their conceptual warming huts built. The profile of the architects involved has earned the event plenty of attention and notoriety for the winning designs.

The winners of this year’s competition are Hygge House by three Winnipeg firms, the Smokehouse by aamodt/plumb architects in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York architect Myungkweon Park’s Woolhaus. Two student entries from the University of Manitoba’s architecture school will also be built as part of the event, which began on January 24.

But it’s the hut that hopes to sate the hungry that is receiving the most buzz this year.

Raw: Almond a Culinary Treat for Winnipeg

With RAW: Almond, Hitzer will pair with a rotating cast of chefs who will each cook for three days. Among the chefs taking part are Scott Bagshaw of Deseo, known for its nuevo Latino fare, Adam Connelly of highly regarded Segovia, and Bistro 7 1/4‘s Alex Svenne, arguably the man who has provided the most impetus and inspiration behind the city’s wave of creative young chefs.

On weekends, brunch will also be on offer courtesy of Talia Syrie of the locavore Tallest Poppy restaurant on grungy Main Street. Syrie acts as something of a den mother to Winnipeg’s young creatives; at least her restaurant is home base for many of them.

Kalturnyk and his team were working up until last Wednesday to finish the construction of RAW: Almond, which is made from tube and clamp aluminum scaffolding and features one long communal table and seating made from logs. The pop-up restaurant is heated (and has heated outdoor lavatories nearby). Nonetheless, Kalturnyk says the dress code leans more towards Sorel boots and longjohns than Manolos and Missonis.

The pop-up is selling tickets swifty. Still, with temperatures as low as they are, the food — and the architecture — better be very good.

More About Winnipeg’s Warming Huts

Schedule of rotating chefs at the Raw: Almond pop-up restaurant

January 24-26 – Adam Donnelly – Segovia
27-29 – Eric Lee – Pizzeria Gusto
30- February 1 – Aaron Epp – Elements
February 2-4 – Scott Bagshaw – Deseo
5-7 – Ben Kremer – Diversity
8-10- Alex Svenne – Bistro 7 1/4
11-13 – Tristan Foucault – Peasants Cookery
Reservations: To purchase dinner tickets for $85 each, go to deer + almond (85 Princess Street between 11 am-3 pm and 5-11 pm Monday to Saturday) or RAW:Gallery (290 McDermot Avenue between noon-7 pm Wednesday to Friday or noon-5 pm Saturday). Capacity is approximately 20 per seating. There are seatings at 5:30 pm, 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm daily. Tax, tip and drinks are not included in the price.
Weekend Brunch: Cost is $15 and served from 10 am-3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays to anyone who wants to walk, skate or ski up to the hut; no brunch reservations are needed.
Website: For details on Raw: Almond visit http://cargocollective.com/rawgallery/RAW-ALMOND
Warming Huts: For details on the warming huts at the Forks visit warminghuts.com

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About the Author

Karen Burshtein
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