Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Foodie exploring First Fridays

My coworker Jess and I are very similar in that we're originally from Ontario, did our GC training at U.S. institutions, and then found ourselves practicing our profession in the 'Peg.  Having lived in some very chic metropolitan centres, Jess is very keen on finding unique and fun establishments and activities in the city, while I'm intent on exploring all the culinary culture.  As she joked to me, "I think you and I are going to end up knowing more about Winnipeg than people who were born and raised here!!"  She might be right.

This past Friday, Jess invited me to come out and experience First Fridays, a phenomenon new to Winnipeg but well known to other major cities.  It's popular enough to warrant its own Wikipedia article.  The idea is to attract residents to an area known for art galleries, eclectic shops, and restaurants, particularly if the area is in a state of renewal.  Such is the case for Winnipeg's Exchange district, a historic area that used to be the hub of the grain exchange in the late 1800s.  Since Hubs is the history buff, not me, I'll just point you in the direction of some links that will tell you more about this amazing district.

The Exchange District, also known as "xchange" or simply, "The District". 
Image from fellow Winnipeg food blog Food Musings
(I just discovered this site, and it looks wonderful... I'd better get caught up!)
Now, I'm not artsy or crafty, as anyone can tell you.  I can't even cut paper in a straight line without a paper cutter.  The extent of my artistic manual dexterity lies in cooking, and even then I don't think it's anything to write home about.  Luckily, though, I found First Fridays to be very accessible, and Jess was a great companion.  I didn't have to engage in deep conversations about the artist's message or textures or light play or the use of colour... as with wine, either I like it or I don't, and I might not be able to say why.  Not all the participants were art galleries, though... I particularly enjoyed browsing a vintage clothing store, an artisan yarn shop, and window-shopping at a bona-fide haberdasher.  Maybe Hubs WILL get that fedora he's been wanting...

One of the participating establishments, Cake-ology.  Of COURSE this appealed to me.  Read on to learn more...
Part of our outing did involve some food.  This was a good thing because all I'd managed for dinner after getting home from work was a slice of leftover sun bread toast with some Nutella.  Not exactly substantial.  First was a stop at Cake-ology, an incredibly tiny but adorable bakery.  I imagine that Charm City Cakes might have had humble beginnings such as this; the product on display certainly looked of a similar calibre.  I looked over at a work station, where a lovely baker was hard at work sculpting a STORM TROOPER HELMET CAKE.  How cool is that?!  I wish I could've taken a picture, but I foolishly forgot both the Canon and my phone at home!!

Wondering what I'm holding?  It was, quite simply, a bundle of Cake-ology deliciousness. Details below...
The lovely ladies of Cake-ology have come up with the perfect way to let guests enjoy some of their delicious cake flavours: cakettes.  Think: timbits, but a million times better.  These are little spherical pieces of cake, coated in buttercream icing and dipped in chocolate for a hard, moisture-sealing coating.  It was like a cross between a bon-bon and a cupcake.  Fantastic.  Jess had a raspberry-flavoured one; I opted for the popular-in-the-Praries red velvet version.  Mmm.

After checking out a couple of cool shops and a VERY active sculpting gallery (I'd never seen a diamond saw that close up...), I smelled onion rings.  And started salivating.  So, Jess humored me and I followed my aquiline nose to The Line Up, a diner offering everything from fish n' chips to deep dish pizza to asian noodle bowls.  It smelled AMAZING in that little place.  A very quick scan of the menu failed to reveal onion rings, but did include curry fries.  Hmm.  I was imagining some fresh-cut fries sprinkled with a dried curry powder as a seasoning... but what I received was SO much better.

Patience, Pebbles, we're getting to the good stuff.  You just KNOW that anything in a cute Chinese take-away box is going to taste fantastic...
These curry fries were more like poutine, but with a medium-spicy yellow curry sauce filled with tomatoes and onions instead of regular brown gravy.  Oh my goodness.  I was in heaven.  I got a little blasphemous and dipped some of the less-drenched fries in ketchup... didn't do anything to dampen the curry valhalla I'd found myself in.  I will, without a shadow of a doubt, go back to The Line Up, particularly since they boast an extremely reasonably-priced Dinner and a Movie deal.  SOLD!

Just LOOK at these.  Smothered in cheese and curry sauce... absolute perfection (even if they do look a bit sloppy...)
Messy, and almost gone. Mmm.
Not food, obviously, but when I saw curry fries on the menu I thought they'd be especially fitting given my artsy hair accessories :)  Don't worry, I reserve these chopsticks for styling applications; I have others for noshing purposes.
Overall, I considered First Fridays to be a resounding success; I can't wait to go again in October!!  This time, I'm thinking we'll have to specifically plan a time to eat, instead of just grabbing and running, whether we go back to The Line Up or try out some of the other tempting restaurant offerings in the Exchange.

Trying to resist a repeat visit solely to buy a box of red curry beef noodles,

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