Recapping a year this hazy is going to be difficult (… We were working from home for that long? Wasn’t it over during patio season when we were double vaxxed? Is that VISA right? How did we eat that much takeout from Yujiro, Enoteca and Clementine this year...) but let’s try.
Things that stood out the most were notable chefs producing products that the local market still can’t get enough of, gorgeous new rooms opening despite ridiculous obstacles, and new pop-ups and breweries that are about to team up to bring some optimism into 2022.
Here’s just a few things that happened in the (geographic) centre of Canada in 2021.
Meet our makers
Crullers and a cat named Walter were big in 2021. Crumb Queen’s French crullers to be precise, the top item in an online bake shop by Chole Welchinski (whose CV includes being the pastry chef of deer + almond). They are everything a cruller should be, while her social media starring her fabulously grumpy cat was the cheer we all needed this year. When new batches are posted on Insta orders are often gone within the hour.
Another young female chef who made a splash entering the city’s battle of the bagels was Carter Bouchard who, along with Edzel Bernardino, started Salt and Sunshine Bagels. The “home of the whole bagel,” Salt and Sunshine’s bun-shaped creation still gives you what you want in a bagel (crispy exterior, chewy, airy interior), providing the ideal vessel for a breakfast sandwich. Outside of Sunshine, Bouchard can also be found making striking pasta features at Scott Bagshaw’s Passero, where she also works.
Then there’s Renée Girard, a former chef from Harth whose Made by Paste company has become a personal obsession. The texture of her hand-rolled pasta is a dream, and many last-minute meals in our house have involved waiting a whole four minutes for her ravioli to boil as we make brown butter (the amount of sage and Notre Dame Creamy we’ve gone through in this house in 2021 is shocking). Made by Paste’s lineup also includes all kinds of condiments—the chili crunch and tomato with Calabria chili we can’t get enough of—that make great charcuterie boards when paired with Welchinski’s Meats.
Tyrone Welchinski (formerly of Nonsuch Brewery) started Welchinski’s in early 2021, doing deft work with Zinn Farms’ heritage pork. He’s also expanded into creating the “Champagne of mustards” and other fun products like wild mushroom vinegar.
Finally, I have to keep tipping my hat to Chaeban Ice Cream, as Joseph has gone back to his cheesemaking roots to produce one the finest fetas out there. It's assertively salty, and if you take the time to whip his soft feta even fluffier, all your whipped cheese dreams can come true.
New rooms, bakeries and concepts
The worldly West End in Winnipeg continues to rock, surely one of Canada’s best hidden gems when it comes to a culinary scene. New for 2021 were Jamaican spot Gladys Caribbean Kitchen along with Gâto Bakery, where Mauritian pastry chef Laura Gurbhoo creates earth-conscious pastries worth celebrating.
The city’s Middle Eastern scene continues to grow, with one notable standout being Zaytoon, a lush new space in Osborne Village. Plus, Ramallah Café has opened up a second location, so folks around Kildonan Crossing can now experience the joys of shawarma with the fries wrapped right inside. The city has also fully embraced the birria taco trend, with Filipino and Asian fusion spots like Kyu and Oda Best really doing wonders with braised meats, cheese skirts, and consumé dip.
In Wolseley, the new neighbourhood hub The Ruby West has been transformed into the super cozy Bonnie Day (half the ownership team has remained the same). The cocktail menu is by local barstar Josey Krahn, and the comfort food menu is helmed by chef Pamela Kirkpatrick. Pam, along with being a gem in general, you may recognize as the founder of Cake-ology, a place that once again changed hands this year. It’s now co-owned and operated by a young chef whose CV features multiple Michelin-Starred kitchens. Austin Granados’ pastries at Cake-ology are flaky AF (and airy, buttery ), and you can taste the pedigree in creations like his kouign-amann that reach back to kitchens like Hong Kong’s VEA, and NYC’s Dominique Ansel.
Cake-ology is located in the Exchange District, an area of the city that also warmly welcomed the opening of the James Avenue Pumphouse. This room is so cool; the owners have created a dining room that works like an aquarium, with huge glass windows showcasing the massive early 20th century gears, pumps and equipment that once protected downtown from fires.
South Osborne keeps getting cooler and cooler, this time via the opening of Tabula Rosa by the Sous Sol crew. These people have a PhD in making dining fun, so it’s great to see them take over a space that once housed Bistro 7 ¼, which was always known for its breezy-yet-professional nature.
And then there’s Nola, surely Winnipeg’s most anticipated new room. It’s owned by Mike Del Buno as part of his Burnley Place Hospitality (which includes King + Bannatyne sandwich shop and its second location beside Nola) and is run by executive chef Emily Butcher, who’s been unstoppable these past few years.
Butcher’s recent accomplishments include third at the Canadian Culinary Championships, and a sixth-place finish on Top Chef Canada. At Nola, the menu combines her heritage with competition-winning dishes, all served out of an open kitchen to a room that invites the whole neighbourhood in through windows that run the length of the dining room.
(If you are paying attention, you’ll also notice that 2021 was all about incredibly talented female chefs kicking ass, which is so nice to see.)
Something fun to look forward to
In late-winter 2021 Winnipeg’s first all-female owned-and-operated brewery opened. Good Neighbour Brewing Co, by Morgan Wielgosz and Amber Sarraillon, has been every making friends all year with its gose, kettle sours, and bready brews. This summer, they worked with The Beer Can (a great outdoor pop-up attached to the Granite Curling Club) to great effect, and now the two ventures are combining on a tap room on Sherbrook Street. It will be called One Sixteen and will feature food from Two Hands, a pop-up company by chefs Keegan Misanchuk and Mike Robins. Given their cooking acumen, this one should be a showstopper.
85,000 meals and counting
Heroes deserve shoutouts, and Ben Kramer and his Made with Love team are those such heroes. To date, they’ve created 86,508 meals for some of Winnipeg’s most vulnerable, working with local companies and people to raise the necessary funds. Its people like them, and so many Winnipeggers that have given back this year, that give us hope for 2022.