Monthly Archives: November 2013

Winnipeg Coffee Quest- Candidate #5

cafe d'amoure winnipegCafe D’Amour on Osborne was our fifth visit in our quest for Winnipeg’s best cup of coffee. cafe d amourThis coffee shop is very different from the others we tried which were quite sparsely decorated, modern and sleek. Cafe D’ Amour is cozy and cluttered and caters to quite a different crowd if our fellow patrons were any indication. More our age and gathered round the coffee bar to talk sports and medical issues. 

cafe d amourThere are lots of comfy chairs

cafe d amour and several copies of all the Winnipeg newspapers.coffee cup cafe d amourThe medium Americano coffee cup was quite a bit bigger than the large coffee cups in some of the other shops and the coffee was hot and flavourful. 

bagel and cream cheeseThe pastries come from good old Gunn’s Bakery (I’ve written a post about Gunn’s here)  on Selkirk Avenue and we shared a fresh and tasty bagel served both with cream cheese and a container of strawberry jam. cafe d amourThere are shelves crammed with novels, magazines, games and movie DVD’s, crossword and sudoko puzzle books, potato chips for sale, some glassware, plants,coffee making supplies and bags of coffee and yes admittedly some dust too. Clearly it had been awhile since the shelves had been wiped. 

pins cafe d amourThey sell these rather kitchy buttons. All kinds of designs. They are 3 for $5.

cafe d amourUnlike some of the other shops we visited that purposely didn’t have Wi-Fi this one advertises it’s internet connection boldly on the front door. cafe d amour winnipegThere are several little nooks where you can settle down to visit, read or work on your computer. art at cafe dam ourThe walls are full of posters and artwork. They were featuring pieces by a Winnipeg artist Samantha Atkinson the day we were there. cafe d amourThere isn’t a long counter in front of the window for people watching as at most of the other places we visited but this table for two could serve the same purpose.menu cafe d amourI’d like to go back for lunch to try some of the home made soups and paninis on the menu board.cafe d amourI loved the atmosphere of this place and think if it was closer to home we’d be regulars for morning coffees and hanging out. It is definitely a place I could go to write and read and feel at home.cafe d amourWe’ll  have to keep it in mind as a destination for our bike rides when the snow leaves Winnipeg. 

We’ve visited all five coffee shops on the CBC list of the best coffee shops in Winnipeg. We will take a hiatus now for Christmas and our annual stay in the sunny south but come spring we’ll be back to try some other Winnipeg coffee shops. Do you have suggestions?

Our other four visits…………

Candidate #1- Cafe Postal

Candidate #2- Thom Bargen

Candidate #3- Little Sister

Candidate #4- Parlour Coffee

Categories: Restaurants | Tags: , | 1 Comment

The Wittenbergs by Sarah Klassen- Should This Have Been A Teen Novel?

         the wittenbergsMia is an important character in Sarah Klassen’s new novel The Wittenbergs.  Mia is seventeen, loves to write, enjoys long distance runs and has a budding romance with the star of the high school basketball team who happens to be aboriginal.  Thoughtful, kind-hearted and principled Mia endears herself to the reader.  I liked Mia so much I wished Klassen had told the whole story  from her point of view.

      Mia would make the perfect heroine for a teen novel. She is  trying to figure out who she is and what she wants for her future, but is on this journey of self-discovery amidst difficult circumstances. Her father is an administrator at the high school she attends and he’s having an affair with her English teacher, the one person who affirms Mia as a writer. Mia’s mother is suffering from depression and her grandmother is dying. Her older sister has passed on a defective gene to her two young sons and as a result they are developmentally delayed. Mia may carry that gene too. To complicate things further a good friend of Mia’s is mixed up with drug dealers and wants her to withdraw money from the family bank account to pay them off. Her basketball player boyfriend is ready to have sex but Mia isn’t sure she is. Then there is the older man, a young university professor who is interested in her and professes true love. Should she encourage his affections?  All the ingredients are there for a great teen novel as Mia tries to navigate her way through a very rocky turning point in her life

Sarah Klassen

Sarah Klassen

Having said that, hearing the voices of the other members of Mia’s family as the narrative shifts from one point of view to another does add interest and depth to the story.  Each member of the family experiences growth and change during the novel and so perhaps we do need to hear things from their perspective in order to appreciate their unique arcs of self-discovery. 

      Besides shifting from character to character we also shift from the present to the past as Mia interviews her grandmother for a school project and writes stories about her ancestors’ life in Ukraine before and after the political upheaval that forced them to immigrate to Canada.

      Sarah Klassen is a former high school teacher and that shows in her realistic descriptions of life in a collegiate- the graduation exercises, classes and assemblies.

The thrift store that serves as a setting in the novel.

The thrift store that serves as a setting in the novel.

Klassen has also been a volunteer at a thrift store and that becomes an important setting for one of the members of the Wittenberg family. Since I also volunteer at the same thrift store as Klassen, I can vouch that she vividly brings to life the atmosphere and personalities of the place. Klassen has traveled in the Ukraine so when the Wittenbergs take a tour there to learn more about their past and to return their grandmothers’ ashes to her childhood home, Klassen does a good job of immersing us in the sights and sounds of Ukraine with her evocative writing. Of course the main setting for the book is the city of Winnipeg and Klassen as a long time city resident does Winnipeg justice with her descriptions of the parks and streets, the Winnipeg Jets and places like The Fort Garry Hotel . The Wittenbergs are Mennonites and most Mennonite novels have rural settings. Klassens’ is one of only a few set in a major city. Klassen also captures Mennonite church services and congregations very authentically as well as the denomination’s uneasiness with more charismatic off shoots. 

      The ending of the novel by no means neatly resolves every conflict for the Wittenberg family  but it was for me at least, a hopeful if not happy conclusion and that always makes me like a book. 

Posts about other books set in Winnipeg……..

The Winnipeg Strike

The Flying Bandit

There is Winnipeg Mennonite Fiction

Categories: Books, Literature | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Palace Theatre- Part of The North End’s History

palace theatre on selkirk street winnipegI go by the Palace Theatre every time I walk down Selkirk Avenue to do my volunteer work at a thrift shop. The theatre building is all boarded up but it looks like it was a grand building once and I wanted to know more about it. 

palace theatre on selkirk avenue in winnipegI found out the Palace was designed by Max Zev Blankstein a Jewish architect trained in Odessa, Russia who emigrated to Canada in 1904.  He drew up plans for a number of Winnipeg theatres. The theatre was built by Jacob Miles whose family would become one of the biggest movie theatre operators in Manitoba. 

The Palace Theatre has some detailed designs in its brick work

There are detailed designs in the brick work

The Palace opened in 1912 and was initially a venue for vaudeville performances. According to Russ Gourluck the author of Silver Screens on the Prairie it was also used for meetings of the Ukrainian community as well as the viewing of motion pictures. 

The Palace Theatre in 1930- photo by Jim Fustey from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

The Palace Theatre in 1930- photo by Jim Fustey from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

An addition was built in 1927 adding a balcony and increasing the capacity of the theatre to 800. 

Michael Koster in the Palace Theatre -photo by Raymond Koster- from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

Michael Koster in the Palace Theatre -photo by Raymond Koster- from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck

Michael Koster worked in the projection room and it was sometimes so hot in the room that he wore only underwear, socks and shoes.

Jack Baturin a North End resident recalls kids attended Saturday shows that began at 10:00 am and many kids sat twice through the cowboy movies, mysteries, serials and cartoons bringing lunches that consisted of chunks of bread and kubasa sausage from home. the green hornet serialThe Green Hornet was a favorite serial. 

The theatre was a haunt of the Dew Drop gang who liked to run a variety of scams to avoid paying for their movie tickets.

palace theatre winnipegThe Palace Theatre closed in 1964 and was in turn an auction house, furniture warehouse and bargain store. Now it stands empty- a reminder of a time when the North End of Winnipeg was a very different place. 

Other posts about the North End………

Gunn’s Bakery

I’m a Shop Girl and I Love It

Ancient Objects- Seven Oaks Museum

Categories: Culture, History, North End | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Nathan Rogers at The West End Cultural Centre

nathan-rogersThis month I went to hear Winnipeg musician Nathan Rogers give a concert featuring the songs of his famous father Stan Rogers at the West End Culutral Centre. It was a great show!  I did a post on my blog What Next about it called Nathan Rogers: A Family Story That Tugs at Your Heart Strings.  Why not check it out? 

Categories: Culture, Famous Citizens, West End | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Winnipeg Coffee Quest- Candidate #4

front window parlour coffeeWe have been trying to visit  Parlour Coffee at 468 Main Street for a couple weeks. It is only a block from the front door of our condo so you’d think a visit would be easy. parlour coffeeBut the last five or six times we decided to have our morning coffee there the place was packed and there were no seats available for us. Yesterday we got lucky. front window parlour coffeeWhen we walked up to the large sunny front window only one lone woman was sitting there writing in her journal. We’d obviously picked just the right time because it wasn’t long before the place filled up again.  obby khan visits parlour coffeeOne visitor was Obby Khan, a former professional football player and the owner of Shawarma Khan, a restaurant located just one street over. Khan chatted amiably with the barista. Clearly he had been there before. Many of the customers appeared to be regulars. 

americano coffee at parlour coffeeOur Americano coffees came in creamy white cups and were reasonably hot and flavourful. cheese croissant tall grass prairieWe shared a cheese croissant from the Tall Grass Prairie bakery, filled with gouda and dusted with Parmesan.  I thought it was great but my husband said it wasn’t his favorite and wished we’d opted for the chocolate croissant instead. bikes outside parlour coffee

There were bike racks outside and even on a cold snowy day a couple hardy Winnipeg bikers had pedaled over. 

interior parlour coffeeThe decor was pretty stark although the wood floors make the place feel warmer than its daughter establishment- Little Sister. chandelier parlour coffeeThe ornate chandelier added some character to the bare interior. The walls were decorated with only three unique art pieces by Kirsten Nelson. kristin nelson art parlour coffeeThey looked like pieces of notebook paper in frames but the papers were  actually made out of cloth material. 

reading the paper at parlour coffeeMy husband Dave found a newspaper, but it had been left there by a previous customer not provided by the coffee shop. A sign on the wall said there was no Wi-Fi and encouraged us to talk with our neighbor instead. lots of supplies

They sell more coffee supplies at Parlour Coffee than any of the other coffee shops we’ve visited. Our kids bought my husband a coffee press at Parlour for his birthday last year and Dave stops at Parlour regularly for coffee filters. woman at the parlour coffeeWe’ve actually been to The Parlour several times before but this was our official Coffee Quest visit.  The Parlour has the advantage of being the closest to our home of all the shops but the disadvantage of being such a busy place it is hard to get in. I still like the coffee at Cafe Postal the best and the baking at Thom Bargen’s is still number one with me.  parlour coffeeI enjoyed sitting at the Parlour’s huge front window watching all of the interesting people passing by on Main Street. A unique feature of The Parlour’s popularity is that on all of our past visits we’ve always met someone we know inside. 

Only one more coffee shop to go and then we will have visited all of the top five in Winnipeg. 

Other posts about our Winnipeg Coffee Quest………

Candidate #1- Cafe Postal

Candidate #2- Thom Bargen

Candidate #3- Little Sister

Categories: Exchange District, Restaurants | Tags: | Leave a comment

I’m A Shop Girl And I Love It

selkirk thrift storeI’ve been volunteering at a Winnipeg store on Selkirk Avenue that was featured in Winnipeg writer Sarah Klassen’s latest novel The Wittenbergs. Read all about it on my blog What Next.

Categories: Businesses, Churches, North End | Tags: | Leave a comment

The Winnipeg Coffee Quest- Candidate #3

little sister coffee shop winnipegI tried not to be influenced by the fact that the third coffee shop we visited on our quest for great coffee in Winnipeg had won the CBC contest for the best cup of coffee in the city.We went to Little Sister Coffee Makers located in the Osborne Village yesterday morning.

little sister coffee shopThe design of the place reminded me of a hospital. insitutional tileEverything from the green and white paint to the tile floor and the green dishes said institution to me. art in little sister coffee shopThere is only one piece of art on the wall, hidden near the entrance. One wall is natural stone. There is a wooden bench along the wall and seats for about ten people. Unlike Thom Bargen and Cafe Postal which both have long tables to sit at looking out the front window, Little Sister has no seating street side.

little sister coffee shop winnipegLike Cafe Postal there were no racks provided for our bikes and like Thom Bargen, there were no newspapers.  Unlike the other two shops that provided wi-fi service Little Sister did not.  A sign on the wall said “No Wi-fi Here- Let’s Talk.”  Kind of a good idea.

women having coffee at coffee shop in winnipegThey serve a coffee called Bows and Arrows. It was piping hot, in a cup that was a little more generous than Thom Bargen offered but not as flavorful as the coffee at Cafe Postal. A nice touch at Little Sister is the unique spoons. spoons little sister coffee shop winnipegThey are all collectors’ teaspoons like you see on racks in little old ladies’ houses. 

little sister coffee shop signThe name comes from the proprietor.  She is the younger sister-in-law of the owner of the Parlour Coffee Shop on Main Street. 

little sister coffee shop winnipegWe were the only people who sat down to drink our coffee but there was a fairly steady stream of customers going in and out and the barista working seemed to know many of  them chatting about Halloween parties attended and research papers needing to be done. Obviously they have a solid group of regular patrons. 

little sister coffee shopLike the Cafe Postal, Little Sister is subterranean and also like Cafe Postal the pastries come from Tall Grass Prairie.  chocolate crouissantWe shared a chocolate croissant which was flaky and moist but couldn’t quite compete with the wild blueberry cinnamon bun we’d had at Thom Bargen.

The interior design of Little Sister was a little too stark and bare for my liking but I’d go back there for a good cup of coffee any day just because I like their bravado for locating right across the street from Starbucks. 

Other posts about our Coffee Quest……..

The Winnipeg Coffee Quest- Candidate #1- Cafe Postal

The Winnipeg Coffee Quest- Candidate #2- Thom Bargen

Categories: Osborne Village, Restaurants | Tags: | Leave a comment

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