Food & Drink, Trends

RAW, Deer and Almond putting a pop-up on ice

Wouldn’t it be cool to have a pop up restaurant in a warming hut on the river?  Wouldn’t it be cool to see an architecturally designed warming hut that could host 20 people for dinner in comfort and style? Wouldn’t it be even cooler if it offered five course menus featuring the collaborative creativity of some of the best chefs in the city?

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It’s the kind of idea that must have been conceived late at night; a couple of friends sitting around chatting. There may have been some drinks, maybe something to smoke. Suddenly, one friend says, “wouldn’t it be cool to have a pop-up restaurant in a warming hut on the river?” The other, an architect, says “ya, I could design the hut.” In these conversations we always build on our friends enthusiasm, “so we wouldn’t just do burgers and dogs, lets do a fancy five course dinner with wine and everything.” By the time they are done dreaming, they have some of Winnipeg’s best chefs involved, sharing the spotlight and collaborating on some crazy good food. All prepared and served on the river.

The way these things normally go, the night ends, you go to sleep, and when you wake up it’s back to work. Back to normal life and the crazy idea you had the night before fades away. But this time, the dreamers woke up thinking their crazy idea still had merit. They then set out to see if they could realise their big idea. Many phone calls later to the city, the forks, the Liquor Commission, late night conversations with chefs and restaurateurs, the crazy idea has become a reality.

There will be a pop-up restaurant on the river. This Idea was conceived  by Mandel Hitzer, chef owner of Deer and Almond and Joe Kalturnyk, Architect and owner of RAW Gallery. The idea was to showcase an innovative and artistic warming hut and design and use it to host a twenty-seat restaurant on the frozen river. The hut leans into the north wind at the historic junction of the red and Assiniboine rivers.  There will be one communal table with chairs built specifically for the event. It will run from January 24th to February 13th.

Mandel is part of a growing community  of young(ish) chefs in Winnipeg; a group of chefs that put aside the competitive nature of the business to work together and play together. Mandel saw that this project was bigger than just him and his restaurant. He invited chefs from this community to collaborate with him on this project. Each Chef would get a three-night run, working alongside Mandel to create some of the tastiest and most interesting food this city has seen. Scott Bagshaw from Deseo, Adam Connelly from Segovia, Ben Kramer from Diversity, Eric Lee from Pizzeria Gusto, Aaron Epp from Elements, myself and  one yet to be named chef will be each taking a turn on the river.  Wines will be selected by the Winehouse.

To add one more level of fun, the warming hut will also be featuring breakfasts, lovingly prepared by Talia Syrie of The Tallest Poppy. Starting Jan 26, breakfasts will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., for the late risers among us. When asked what she will be serving, Talia responded with “uh…eggs?” I am sure you can expect some of your Tallest Poppy favourites to appear on the menu.

For  some practical information, the hut will protect from the elements and is heated.  There will be heated restrooms, as well. But Winnipeg winters, as you may know, are unpredictable. Wear warm clothing and winter boots, your feet will be on the ice. Please arrive on time, as everyone will be served at the same time. Our kitchen facilities are limited and the menu is pre-fixed. We can only accommodate allergies if we know when you buy your tickets. Please advise your ticket seller.

Tickets can be purchased at Deer and Almond at 85 Princess Street between 11-3 and 5-11 Monday to Saturday, or at RAW: Gallery at 290 McDermot Ave between 12-7 Wednesday and Friday or 12-5 Saturday. Tickets will be available on Monday, Jan. 14. Tickets are $85 per person not including beverages, taxes or tip.  There is limited seating, so be warned , tickets will sell out quickly.

Winnipeg is a great place to live in the winter. Sure its cold, but we have really learnt to embrace our weather. The skating  rink on the river, the architecturally-designed warming huts, the hip-hop Zamboni parade and the Festival de Voyageur all speak to a people who laugh at the cold and celebrate the communal spirit it invokes.  This pop-up, the creative brainchild of Mandel Hitzer and Joe Kalturnyk, is just the latest contribution to the celebration  of our coldest season by  the coolest people in Canada.


Alexander Svenne is the food writer for Spectator Tribune and chef at Bistro 7 1/4. Follow him at @ChefAlex

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