The Forks combines food, drink, art, culture & history
Truth be told, I had never been to Winnipeg (“The Peg” to most Canucks and “Huh?” to the rest of the world). I’ve never really had a desire to go there. I’d go as far as to say that, in my mind, the phrases “Go to” and “The Peg” were incongruous. All I knew was it is a frozen wasteland in the winter and a mosquito-infested nightmare in the summer. Yeah, there’s a culturally significant intersection and all, but the idea of being frost bitten or bitten to death trumped the possible adventure of taking a selfie at Portage and Main.
“Huh?” you say? Look it up.
So then I got this invite to visit The Peg, specifically The Forks area of said city. There are things in life I never turn down: help with my taxes; offers of immediate and untold wealth and pleasure; trips to anywhere. A quick online search of The Forks, Winnipeg, turned up something pretty surprising. Food. Drink. Art. Culture. History. Get me there!
“The city has really changed,” my 15-year-old drive informed me as he delivered me to regal, historic The Fort Garry hotel. After unpacking and taking a quick tour of the area, it was time to get to business. Wine and food business.
Though The Forks (more of a merging of the Red and Assiniboine rivers rather than an actual fork of either) is known as the city’s meeting place, a hub of culture and community with a rich history dating back thousands of years, it’s The Forks Market that is quickly becoming the go-to-place in Manitoba for unique and delicious local eats that can be paired with 20 unique beer and wines not found anywhere else in Manitoba.
The Market’s Food Hall is the first of its kind in Canada. Locals and visitors can explore the culinary offerings from the city’s best chefs and restaurants. These local specialities can be matched with stellar wines (and beers) thanks to a partnership with world-renown, award-winning sommelier Véronique Rivest. At The Common (the sort of “market square” eatery), Rivest curates an ever-evolving list of 20 craft beers and 20 global wines that can be enjoyed with a meal from any one of the local food vendors, allowing patrons to truly enjoy a multi-tired gastronomic experience. Intrigued by the concept from the get-go, Rivest jumped at the opportunity to elevate the experience further.
“When I was first asked by The Forks to curate the wine and beer list for The Common, I was amazed by the program,” she admits. “It is really very progressive to see a place anywhere in Canada where you can purchase a glass of wine or beer, grab something delicious to eat from a wide variety of food vendors, and walk around the space, the stores, or sit at one of the communal tables. I keep saying that we need to bring all of the [Canadian] liquor board officials to The Forks to experience this.”
Rivest rose to the challenge of crafting a wine and beer list that would satisfy both the adventurous, and those wishing to stay closer to what they know, while at the same time reflecting both domestic and international styles and fitting into a changing, seasonal food selection.
“My approach to the wine and beer lists is to provide suggestions that are worthy of the specialness of The Forks. The clientele is very varied, so I try to provide options people will be familiar with, but also introduce new things. To me, the worlds of wine and beer are so fascinating because there is so much variety, exploration is endless. At The Common, we always have a selection of local beers as well as a few Canadian wines. But we also want to showcase the best of what else is out there! It’s always good to compare and see where we stand.”
Much like Toronto’s Distillery District or The Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, Winnipeg’s The Forks Market offers a unique combination of local art, history, and food, but ups the game by having its own dedicated beverage expert. The city is changing, alright, and The Forks, with its Market and Food Hall, is leading the charge.