We welcome another Manitoba winter in 2016, which means we once again embrace all the great outdoor activities our province has to offer: skating, skiing, snowboarding, visiting the Forks and, most importantly, Festival du Voyageur.
This ten-day French Canadian spectacular is world renowned and a ton of fun. Guests gather to watch the fiddling competition, cheer on the leg wrestling and log sawing, enjoy the live entertainment and take in the magnificent snow sculptures. All these amusing activities work up an appetite. The question is what to eat and where to eat it?
St. Boniface is filled with numerous possibilities on a daily basis, and Festival du Voyageur brings around many special menus and new Festival-inspired food options. To start off, there are a few key food items you must consume each year at Festival, these are: pea soup, poutine, tourtière, sugar pie and maple taffy. These items are widely available in the neighbourhood and are a must for a true Festival experience.
There are also a few specific places in St. Boniface that cannot be missed during this ten-day extravaganza. Starting on the Esplanade Riel is Mon Ami Louis. Walk down the beautiful foot bridge and enjoy their Festival-influenced Trappers Menu. Items such as bison meatballs and delicious tarte flambés are available.
East of the Human Rights Museum on Provencher Boulevard is Promenade Café and Wine Bar. Stop in and try their tourtière. This traditional meat pie is a staple and a must try item for those who have never experienced it before.
Take a walk down Provencher a few blocks and stop in at the exciting Le Garage Café. This bustling music hot spot is home to many gourmet treats made especially for Festival. Dig into mussels in a Fort Garry Pale Ale sauce, a pulled pork sandwich or choose from many different varieties of poutine, the bison bourguinon being intriguing and noteworthy. Don’t forget to check out their food truck right in Voyageur Park next to the Red River Tent. Their pea soup is dynamite and will melt your cold feelings away.
Further down Provencher is the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Center, this is home to the Voyageur Trading Post, the official site of the jigging, beard growing and fiddling competitions. Stop by and enjoy a community lunch catered by Stella’s and take in the amazing entertainment. Reservations are recommended during the lunch hour.
At the corner of Provencher Boulevard and Des Meurons Road is the iconic Resto Gare. This old train station turned restaurant is a tourist attraction all on its own. Try a piece of their delicious maple sugar pie. This sweet treat is a delight for any Festival goer.
Just a hop skip and jump over from Voyageur Park on Marion Street is The Marion Hotel, the official site for the Festival Games. Check out the tug of war and voyageur wrestling competitions while enjoying food from Marion Street Eatery. Try their classic or Montreal smoked meat poutine or their Festival-inspired bison burger. They are open late with a free shuttle from Voyageur Park on select nights.
An important note is the numerous options for snacks and treats available in Voyageur Park. Stop by the many food trucks for carnival favorites like mini donuts, beaver tails, cotton candy, snow cones, candy apples and the ever-important hot chocolate to fight the cold Manitoba weather. Head over to the Sugar Shack, grab a popsicle stick and make your own maple taffy. This sweet treat fills that craving for the fragrant maple syrup in the air.
On the final day of Festival do not miss out on the Pea Soup Competition. This yearly event is a chance for you, the attendee, to decide which local restaurant created the best pea soup. It is a real treat to experience all that creativity and passion for pea soup in one room.
Festival du Voyageur is a marathon of exciting French Canadian traditions and entertainment along with great food and plenty of drinks. We are lucky to live in a city that take prides in these traditions and heritage, we are even luckier to indulge in the food and fare that accompanies this amazing event.
Melissa Hryb is the chef at Marion Street Eatery, where she specializes in hearty comfort food with a twist.
Follow her on Twitter @MarionStreetEat or Instagram @MarionStreetEatery