Friday, January 27

A North End gem

If you ever find yourself driving down Main Street, try to keep an eye out for a mustard yellow sign with a bright red poppy.  It's right beside the former Occidental Hotel, now named the Red Road Lodge, a historical building that was originally established back in 1886.

The Red Road Lodge now offers transitional housing and skills development programs for those living on social assistance in the North End community.  Tucked right beside the facility is a sliver of a restaurant, called The Tallest Poppy.

When it comes to early morning meals, my mouth waters as the thought of a café breakfast from Stella's, or a crepe from Cora's.  Walking into this unchartered breakfast food territory, I didn't quite know what to expect.

And I was absolutely charmed.  The decor is original and antique-y, with book-filled shelves, a single chandelier and fresh flowers adorning every table.  The walls are covered with wooden impressions, the floor has the illusion of plywood and the ceiling looks like something out of a European church.

We visited the The Tallest Poppy on a Sunday afternoon, and every single table was occupied.  Although there was a lack of seating, one of the staff members was friendly and welcoming and offered us coffee and water while waiting for a table to clear up.

We were later seated right by the life-size polar bear in the front window (I wish I remembered to include a shot of it - it sports a wicked sombrero!).  Instead of handing out physical menus, we had to pick from the chalkboard menu at the far end of the restaurant.

Although their menu is brief, the beauty of The Tallest Poppy is that every plate they serve is made with TLC. Whether you're a vegetarian, vegan or have other dietary restrictions, their kitchen will tailor your plate to your unique needs.  The restaurant also proudly sources locally grown produce wherever and whenever possible.

I requested the vegetarian cafe breakfast ($7.95), and I was delightfully surprised by what they came out with.  The dish constituted of homemade hash browns, freshly baked toast, fried tomatoes/peppers/red onions and scrambled eggs.  Not only was the plating attractive, but every bite of the meal was tastier than the last.

The toast, although the pieces were small, was the highlight of my meal.  It was lightly buttered and the dough simply melted in your mouth.  I would buy it by the loaf if I could.

My boyfriend ordered the non-vegetarian cafe breakfast, and the mixed vegetables were replaced with sausages (can be substituted for bacon).  He enjoyed his meal just as much, and said the delectable taste of the meat reminded him of the farmer's sausage he enjoyed as a kid.

Although the restaurant is small in size, it's obvious that the owners have a huge heart.  Advocating for locally grown produce and serving quality meals is why The Tallest Poppy shines in a neighbourhood flattened by negative stigma.

The Tallest Poppy on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 25

From bridal gowns to stripper poles

This show had it all, and then some.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting The Wonderful Wedding Show held at the Winnipeg Convention Centre (not on my own personal agenda, so don't get any ideas!).  It was my very first time attending, and I had no idea how much of a treat I was in for before entering the showroom doors.

The exhibition extended to three rooms - two of their large conferences rooms were filled corner to corner with demonstration booths, while the third smaller room was used for the Inspiration Gallery, presented by Events by Emma in collaboration with other businesses featured at the event.  It showcased some beautiful table arrangements, photography, bouquets and more.

The show offered over 300 displays over 100,000 square feet - and every single square foot was used to its fullest potential.  There wasn't a corner I turned to unused nor unoccupied, until the fashion show started at 4 p.m.  Otherwise, the isles were packed with a few men, many ladies and plenty of V.I.B.s (very important brides!).

From bridal gowns to wedding invitations to singing quartets to pole dancing classes to hiring someone to write your will, they surely had something there for every aspect of wedding planning: the before, the during and the very distant afterwards.  It was awe striking and overwhelming to see all of Winnipeg's bridal businesses come together to showoff what they're made of during a grand weekend of shiny lights and tasty delights.  They were handing out delicious dainties and bubbly drinks in the Brides Lounge - and it was marvelous.


My favourite part of the show, although it wasn't targeted towards women, was the Shaw Grooms Lounge.  A new addition this year, they lounge features large HD televisions, free popcorn and a draw for Jets tickets.  The marketing idea seemed to work just as planned, seeing as most men were hanging out in the lounge while their brides-to-be were M.I.A. - probably checking out the wedding party limos a few isles over.

HOT 103 also had their share of the wedding cake, advertising their contest for Winnipeg's coolest couple.  More details on the contest are available here and the winners of the contest will win a $20,000 dream wedding.  Submissions are being accepted up until Sunday, February 12.  It's a great opportunity for young, hip couples to share their love stories and trim down their hefty wedding budget.

I think that The Wonderful Wedding Show is a great opportunity for businesses to network with future bridal parties and each other.  Everyone in attendance was both friendly and accommodating, and although it's part of their job, I was still impressed by how savvy they were about their trades and how beautiful their booths turned out to be.  A lot of hard work was invested into these two short days and it certainly paid off.

For future brides and grooms that are looking for ideas for their upcoming big day, The Wonderful Wedding Show is definitely the best place to check out Winnipeg's wedding industry in a lively nutshell.  Be prepared for a long day of walking, talking and prize entering (every booth seems to be giving something away - free lanterns, anyone?).

Friday, January 20

It's time to fill your red envelopes

In China, the New Year is celebrated by hosting elaborate parades, hanging handsome decorations and sending firework displays into the night sky.


This year, the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, begins on January 23rd.  This holiday is very similar to how the Western culture celebrates Christmas, and is a time for families to get together, share hearty meals and exchange gifts.


Instead of toys and clothing, the older generation gives the younger generation bright red envelopes filled with new money.  The bills are usually crisp and unwrinkled, a sign of respect for the recipient.

“As a child, once I received the red envelope, I would spend the money on candies, firecrackers and Chinese lanterns,” said Kevin Fan, the executive director of the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural Centre (WCCC).


Chinese couplets are also hung on doorways.  “Back 200 to 300 years ago, not many people knew how to write Chinese characters.  What they usually did was go to the market, find someone who would write these characters, and ask them to write something on a red piece of paper,” said Fan.  These red papers were displayed to wish happiness for the family in the upcoming year.


For the New Year, many families hang Chinese lanterns in their homes.  This tradition also dates back to the same era.  When men and women would travel away from their hometowns for work and school, they would return for the Chinese New Year and the candle inside was meant to lead their way back home.  Fan said, “It’s not only for decoration, but also lets people know: here’s your home, please come back, we’re waiting for you.”

Winnipeg families observe many of these oriental customs, and have adapted new ones that are more fitting for the smaller Chinese community in the city.


My dad always says that Chinese New Year in Cambodia is much more extravagant than it is here.  In Winnipeg, there’s a whole bunch of other races that don’t really celebrate it,” said Cindy Chan, who regularly spends the New Year with her immediate family at home.  “My family’s pretty laid back, we don’t have any strict traditions or rules.  We pray with the ancestors, get money and just hang out.”

Although most families choose to spend the New Year amongst their loved ones, the WCCC also offers three public events for the community to attend.

The first event is on January 21st at The Forks Market.  At 2 p.m., there will be a two-hour performance including the lion dance, Chinese martial arts, Tai Chi, folk dance and a singing performance accompanied by traditional instruments.  There will also be a cooking demonstration sampling Kung Pao chicken. 

The second event will be at the WCCC at 180 King St. on January 28th.  Some of the same performers will be attending the event, as well as a Chinese choir.  They will be serving cake, tea and light refreshments.


The third event is the Chinese New Year banquet on January 24th at Kum Koon Garden.  Every year, the WCCC and the Downtown Winnipeg Biz host a competition to find a design for the Chinatown banner.  The winner is announced at the banquet.

“Every year, we receive 50 to 60 designs,” said Fan.  Whoever comes out on top will have their artwork posted all around Chinatown and receives a cash prize.


During the banquet, the City of Winnipeg presents services awards to the Chinese community for committed volunteers who have helped make Winnipeg a better place.  Mayor Sam Katz will be presenting the awards to the recipients, who have previously included university professors, group leaders and community volunteers.

Wednesday, January 18

SANDBOX is retiring its pail and shovel

Although their website states they are the lucky ones, it's not just luck that made SANDBOX Magazine a huge success.

It was magazine co-founders Jeffrey Vallis and Braden Alexander, their editorial team and countless volunteers that poured their hearts into an outstanding publication that showcased Winnipeg at its finest.  Through trying times for the print industry in recent years, they were able to go against the grain and successfully produce a buzz worthy magazine that people truly cared about.

Last week, SANDBOX Magazine officially announced they'd be releasing their final issue at the end of January.  Although the end is bittersweet, they'll be celebrating their past two years of success in style.

Join them on January 28 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for the very last SANDBOX party.

Winnipeg artist Flo will be performing live and DJ Hunnicutt & Co-op and Chelsea Taz Marinelli will be supplying the music for the night.

Ticket are $10, available at Red River College's Mercantile, the University of Winnipeg Info Booth, the University of Manitoba Answers, Rhymes with Orange and Hush.

The final issue of SANDBOX will available on January 30 exclusively at McNally Robinson.

Also, please visit my good friend's blog, Winnipeg Love Letters by Suzy Bodiroga, who is also the Creative Director of SANDBOX Magazine.

Wednesday, January 11

Looking to spice up your living space?

Well, do I have a treat for you!

Image from

For any of you that have your own digs, or are planning on investing in one in the near future, popping by the Winnipeg Convention Centre this weekend might not be a bad idea.

They'll be hosting the 11th annual Kitchen, Bath & Renovation Show from January 13 - 15.  Whether you're looking to renovate, or if you're simply looking for a flicker of inspiration, the KBR Show will most likely have something showcased to suit your unique tastes.

Check out their decorating workshops for the bathroom and kitchen (registration is available on their website).  And while you're there, don't forget to stop by the FROGBOX booth, an eco-friendly reusable moving box that was featured on CBC's Dragons' Den.

Another neat thing you can do at the show is book a consultation through "Ask a Renovator" or "Ask a Decorator".  You'll have the chance to meet members of the Manitoba Home Builders' Association's Renovation Council and Sherri Cowlthorp, a member of the Canadian Decorators Association, to help you with all of your renovating and decorating dilemmas.

General admission is $12.00 per person.
Senior admission is $8.00 per person before 5 p.m.
Admission for children under 10 is free.

You can purchase your tickets through TICKETMASTER here.

Tuesday, January 10

The best burger joint in town

Call me a woman of simple pleasures, but I believe nothing hits the spot quite like a good old greasy burger.  After being spoiled by burgers and melts from places like Montreal, Chicago and New York, I had a hard time finding anything that compared - that was, until White Star Diner shone its hopeful light my way.

White Star Diner is located on 58 Albert Street beside The Royal Albert Arms Hotel.  From the outside, it looks like an unattractive, old-fashioned hole in the wall.  The first time I walked past this place, I didn't bother owing it a second look.  But simply judging it by appearances doesn't nearly do it enough justice, because what lies within is a whole world of mouthwatering delicacies that only a homestyle diner can perfect.

The restaurant is owned by Bruce Smedts, who is usually the same man that greets you when you walk through the front door.  He's consistently jovial and welcoming, and is always willing to strike up a conversation if the restaurant is not filled with hungry patrons.  He does get a sizeable crowd during the lunch hour rush.  This is especially evident because the facility can probably fit no more than 10 people at a time.  There are four seats inside, and also a couple tables set up outdoors if weather permits.

I recommend visiting either a couple hours before or after noon.  Mind you, they are usually only open from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday.  It really is a treat to catch this diner when its doors are open, and thankfully it stays in business all winter long.

Now, the fun part begins.  White Star Diner has a plethora of burgers, melts and sandwiches to choose from.  The Vegetarian Rueben ($4.95) depicted above comprises seasoned sauerkraut, house 1000 island dressing, mozzarella cheese and toasted bread.  The traditional lean corned beef is replaced here with grilled tomato, which in my mind, is equally tasty.  The bread is grilled to perfection and is the best balance of crunchy and chewy.  But it's the tangy and spicy house 1000 island dressing that takes the taste of their sandwiches to the next level.

I've had a similar sandwich from this restaurant called the Mushroom & Green Pepper Melt ($4.95), which is made up of sautéed mushrooms, green peppers, onions, melted Edam, fresh tomato and their signature 1000 island dressing.  It's hard to say which one I like better, but the thought of either makes me salivate profusely.

Their fries ($2.85-$4.95) are also homemade.  They aren't quite as earth shattering as their sandwiches, but are always a welcome accompaniment for any meal.

Image from

They offer an interesting assortment of milkshakes that are made up of "real" extracts.  Some of their flavours include the conventional strawberry, peach, chocolate and pineapple.  Some more tastes include mexican vanilla, peanut butter coffee and anise.

I haven't touched upon any of their non-vegetarian menu items, but I've heard nothing but positives things about the aromas, textures and tastes of that end of the burger spectrum.  I've also been told that for the less adventurous, the Blue Cheese Burger may not necessarily be the best choice (unless you have a taste for the delicacy, that is).

The prices are fair, the service is sincere and the burgers really don't get any better than they do at the White Star Diner.  If it's your first time heading to the restaurant, prepare yourself to be delightfully surprised by their flavourful, filling and one-of-a-kind burger menu.

White Star Diner on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 8

Bridesmaids and bridal gowns

This weekend, I took the rare opportunity to curl up on my couch and watch Bridesmaids again, in which Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy did not miss a beat.

Image from

And speaking of weddings, seeing the beautiful bridesmaids gowns get ruined by regurgitated Mexican food reminded me of all of the great bridal salons that we have downtown.  Now, I personally haven't forged through these stores for wedding gowns, but I did get to sneak a peak at their swag while looking for grad and debut dresses.

Here's a few of my honourable mentions:

516 Portage Ave.
Stella's offers a great selection of modern evening wear (perfect for formal parties or graduations), as well as some very attractive wedding gowns.  I purchased one of my graduation dresses from here and their selection and service did not disappoint.  Their website is well done and a helpful resource before visiting the retail location.

325 Portage Ave.
This downtown gem is tucked away underground, but simply looking through the front window gives you a preview of the finer pieces buried within.  I also purchased a few of my debut dresses at this location, and their prices are reasonable and their selection is vast.  They also have a ton of great accessories to scope out.

Unit 106-500 Portage Ave.
A family-owned operation that offers a wide selection of beautiful gowns and dresses.  They carry a few different designers that have some really gorgeous pieces.

422 Portage Ave.
An upscale bridal salon that offers pieces by Alfred Sung, Sophia Tolli and many more.  You can go directly to the designers home pages off of Helene's website.

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So for those of you who are ready to tie the knot in the near future, the downtown bridal strip has got you covered!

Thursday, January 5

Winnipeg Is Beautiful

It sure is!

United Way of Winnipeg has recently launched Winnipeg Is Beautiful, a photo-based website that allows users to submit their favourite pictures of our lovely city.

The website was created by Erica Glasier, a local non-profit social media manager, blogger and artist.  The idea behind the website is to index the changes in our city over time, as well as to bring Winnipeggers together through engaging photography.

So far, many of the photos are from Winnipeg's downtown area.

Photo by Ian McCausland from Winnipeg Is Beautiful

I absolutely believe that this is a fantastic idea, because it allows areas that sometimes carry a negative stigma to shine.  Although the days are shorter, and the grounds are covered in sand and slush, there is still beauty to be found around every corner.  I'm excited to see what kind of photographs will show up over the next few months.

Check out this article from the Metro to read more about this exciting project.