As promised, today we’re recapping last weekend’s experience at RAW:almond in Winnipeg.
The river pop up restaurant is a simple, ice-inspired structure constructed out of twisted scaffolding. From a distance, the restaurant looked quiet and unassuming – it’s white tented structure disappearing into the surrounding landscape of ice and snow – but as we approached the tent, we were greeted by a bright magenta lit corridor that hinted at the fun waiting for us inside.
We entered the tent bundled in several layers of winter wear, preparing ourselves for a cold night on the ice, but the interior of the tent was surprisingly warm. We’d like to think that it was the excitement and energetic buzz that kept the chill out that night.
Much like the restaurant’s exterior, the interior of the tent was designed to be simple and functional. The first section was set up for 30 diners (including EQ3′s own Thom, Madi and Tessa). A long, black communal table filled much of the space, and was surrounded by thirty wood stumps covered with sheepskin throws. A twisted metal sculpture and exposed bulbs were suspended above the table, doubling as ambient lighting and art. Chef Scott Bagshaw from Deseo Bistro was preparing the feast that night: five soul-warming courses with beer, wine and spirit pairings.
Thom (EQ3′s Creative Director) and Madi (EQ3′s Casegoods Product Developer) were seated at the main table.
Chef Mandel Hitzer assists the Head Chef of the night, Scott Bagshaw of Deseo Bistro.
Daniel from local blog Charcoal Collaborative was our server at the Tasting Bar.
Charles and I (Amy) joined a smaller group of 10 at the back of the restaurant, where a lighter tasting bar was set-up. We instantly loved the cozy and casual atmosphere of this space, which was outfitted with a wooden table and bench-style seating. The table and surrounding walls were covered with handwritten notes and other graffiti. There was excitement among the group and lots of chatter the entire night. Each meal brought on more oohs and aahs. More conversation. It was our first time meeting the other guests, but there was an immediate sense of camaraderie…one that can only be forged by food and the communal table.
And, speaking of food! Chef Ben Kramer from Diversity Food Services was cooking tapas that evening. His restaurant and catering business focus on local, fresh and natural fare, so we knew we were in for a treat. The tapas meal included three special snacks and a boozy accompaniment for each. We were already feeling happily stuffed when Chef Kramer surprised us with a fourth course to satisfy our sweet tooth. Here’s a breakdown of the menu…
Course 1: Manitoba Pho
Stonewood elk, soba noodles, edamame, chili, scallion, pickled mushrooms.
Course 2: Sustainable Seafood
Seared hand-caught scallop, braised kale, vegetable chutney, white anchovies, chickpea crisp.
Course 3: Pork N Beans
Smoked pinto beans, pork belly, grilled bread, housemade horseradish mustard, pickled apple.
Course 4: Fair Trade Organic Pot du Crème
Coconut Ice Cream, dried cookie/hazelnut crumble, pomegranate seeds.
Chef Mandel Hitzer and Chef Ben Kramer wrapped up the night by collecting donations for the Great Canadian Sleepout.
It was in that moment that we could fully understand what RAW:almond is all about. So much more than a place to get good food, RAW:almond is about coming together…about celebrating northern culture through the things Winnipeggers can relate to best: food, art, community and design.
Check out this press listing for more great features on the event. Or check out this interview with RAW:almond co-visionary Joe Kalturnyk.