My Version of Extreme Travel

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Winnipeg, Canada

As with street trucks, pop-up restaurants are becoming really big in Toronto. Chefs are moving into spaces that haven’t been leased and running restaurants until someone realizes it is a great space and kicks them out.

It drives the hipster foodies all around the city looking for the next big thing but it also means chefs can experiment and if they do well they’ll have a following when they move on to something more permanent.

Living in Canada’s largest city this is not unusual but when I was approached about coming to Winnipeg I wasn’t sure if I could expect the same with Winnipeg food.

But Winnipeg may have taken one giant leap ahead with pop-ups. Chef Mandel Hitzer from Deer + Almond restaurant partnered with architect Joe Kalturnyk to launch a pop-up on the frozen river trail where two rivers meet.

They call it Raw: Almond and each night features five-course tasting menus by the best chefs in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg is not a destination that draws many international tourists and some people think I am crazy to be here. But two summers ago I visited the Folk Festival and it is possibly the best music festival I’ve been to so I have a soft spot for Winnipeg, or as most people refer to it – Winterpeg.

It’s February, and it’s Northern Canada and this is my version of adventure travel.

I don’t need to scale some mountain; I’ll just eat dinner on a frozen river in temperatures most people have never experienced.

And it was cold. With the wind chill, the temperature dinner was -49C/-52F.

I had prepared by wearing every single piece of clothing I had – seven layers of t-shirts and leggings underneath my jeans. I may have looked porky but I remained warm.


Raw Almond

Raw Almond

Raw Almond


This may have been one of the most unusual dinners I have ever had and I was so happy to share it with Cailin O’Neil.

Twenty people arrive to sit on wood stumps at a communal table, warming themselves with shots and red wine as Chef Hitzer explains each course.

Tonight the guest chefs were Chef Ben Kramer, who I have been told is the Jamie Oliver of Winnipeg and Aron Epp from Elements.

Raw Almond

Mandel Hitzer

Unlike other restaurants, they chefs don’t mind if you peek into the kitchen, a small area where they huddle around the plates assembling them with clockwork precision.


raw almond

Beyond the kitschiness of having dinner is a tepee-like tent on a frozen river the food is amazing.

Our five courses included: Duck and daikon cake, Manitoba congee (with the wise instructions to break the egg yolk immediately), pork belly, XO beef and black cod and a dessert although who had room for dessert?


Winnipeg Chefs

This restaurant is only open for 21 days but there is a younger generation of chefs doing some really interesting things in Winnipeg.

They all have their own permanent restaurants but continue to one-off or limited-time food events.

It reminds me of the restaurants in Ottawa where a group of chefs are working together to help promote each other.

Chef Mandel Hitzer told me he already has many more ideas to extend the pop-up restaurant but events, you can see the Winnipeg food scene is changing at a rapid pace.

The city may not have been a destination before but it could very well become the most interesting place for food experiences.


Disclosure: I was a guest of Tourism Winnipeg, they did not request that I write a favourable review or use this as a test drive for my winter boots for my upcoming trip in Finland. And much thanks to Cailin O’Neil who provided the photo of me outside the restaurant.

Join the Conversation

  1. This looks amazing, such an interesting dining experience! Thanks for bringing Winnipeg to my attention.

  2. -49C??? Wooh, okay! Yet here I was, complaining about -30 in Ottawa last weekend. The foods look so delicious! I think I’d be very nervous to be sitting atop a frozen river though – the thought that it might crack and send me plunging into freezing water gives me the shivers!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      If you felt how cold it was you would never worry! There was no chance the river wasn’t frozen solid!

  3. What an amazing experience! I never would have expected it of Winnipeg. I look forward to seeing more coming out of the city.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      This is my second time to Winnipeg and it could very well be the most underrated in Canada.

  4. And here I am moaning that the UK is 40 degrees colder than Brazil. At least it’s still above freezing! You are a legend for braving those temperatures. I’d have stayed in and ordered takeaway!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It was the coldest weather I have ever been in. Although totally worth it.

  5. I don’t do cold weather but a meal like that just make me brave it for a night 😉 Looks like a blast!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      The wine warms you up!

  6. I wish I’d timed my visit to Winnipeg this winter with this restaurant being open. I am amazed at the creativity happening in Winnipeg and the way the city has come around to embracing and promoting winter. Despite the -30C temperatures in January, my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our skating – and a piece of Saskatoon-rhubarb pie from the Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I love Tall Grass Prairie, I never wrote about its story but it’s really fascinating what they are doing for the community.

  7. love this concept for a pop up restaurant!!! very creative!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      They are really doing some interesting things in Winnipeg with more to come.

  8. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista says:

    I love your idea of adventure travel and would be right there with you! This sounds really interesting and if it wasn’t so cold you could have taken some clothes off and had room for dessert 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well it’s nice you can blame that you look roly poly from all the layers.

  9. What a great idea and experience! This is something I’d love to take part in. You always find the most exciting dining experiences, Aynge.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I seem to be getting lucky with these things, who knew a small city in Canada would have such a crazy restaurant.

  10. -52 degrees, WTF!!!! I didn’t even know it could get that cold!

  11. -52F…wtf! I didn’t even know it could get that cold!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well we were pretty far North in Canada. Although I have never been in such extreme temperatures.

  12. Wowzer. Repect to all the participants and chefs. Amazing concept. I have never experienced that kind of temperature.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      This was my first time, definitely an adventure!

  13. Ron | Active Planet Travels says:

    I’ve never been to a hipster pop-up restaurant like that but I’ve always wanted to. Looks like you had a great time…and should I say everything looked super tasty! 😛

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Haha, no hipsters, just regular folk with love food.

      1. Ron | Active Planet Travels says:

        Well there’s nothing wrong with that! 😉 lol

  14. TammyOnTheMove says:

    -49 degrees? OMG! I felt chilly at 11 degrees Celsius when I visited London after one year in Cambodia. I had to wear two fleeces and long johns to stay warm. I wonder what would happen to my body if I went to somewhere like Winipeg now being back in Cambodia again?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I had been complaining about the weather in Toronto that week too, but I returned feeling very lucky Toronto was so much farther south.

  15. Just One Boomer (Suzanne) says:

    This experience qualifies as extreme in my book. There’s no rule that you have to eat only reindeer jerky when it’s 30 below.Still, I confess that my inclination is not to head north in February. So, we’re just back to Philadelphia from Hawaii. I seem to have picked up a norovirus and I’m miserable. Maybe the key is to only eat on frozen rivers where viruses go to die— or at least become dormant.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      This is the first time I have traveled somewhere cold, a different experience but worth the cold.

  16. EarthDrifter says:

    I find that red wine somehow helps push down some dessert no matter how full I am. Vino (red) and my after-dinner sweet tooth tend to go mighty fine together too.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Usually I just have wine for dessert but this was worth a few bites.

  17. Triptease says:

    Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention, Ayngelina. It sounds and looks so amazing – such a great experience!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It was definitely one worth traveling for.

  18. So much fun! I would have been guzzling the red wine. To keep warm, of course.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      We started off with a shot, it helped a lot!

  19. Chill Educational Travel says:

    I love this idea! I never knew that this was the “new” thing going on with food. Will def. check into these pop-up restaurants in my area. Tanks for the info!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yeah it seems to be a good way for chefs to try new ideas and not be bogged down with the financials of developing a more structured restaurant.

  20. Went for brunch today, and I was very excited to try this great idea! What a disappointment. They ran out of coffee and said they would have some shortly, which never happened, food was blah! They never brought dessert. Had to go out to eat after!! What a waste of money! They also ran out of propane and it got extremely cold in the back of the tent. Stay home and cook there!!

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