Arts, shop­ping, nightlife... wait a minute.... THIS IS SASKA­TOON?

Saskatchewan’s sec­ond city makes for a great week­end away

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - FRONT PAGE - JULIE CARL

SASKA­TOON, SASK. — Saska­toon? Be­lieve me, I know what you’re think­ing. Saska­toon?

I heard all the jokes when I men­tioned I was plan­ning to visit Saska­toon. And when I added that I was seek­ing an ur­ban adventure, all arts and restau­rants and bou­tiques, no rough­ing it in the wilds on this trip, the laugh­ter re­ally hit a fever pitch.

Saska­toon?

That’s right. Saska­toon. You can stop laugh­ing now. For not only did I have an ur­ban adventure, I had an ur­bane adventure.

A won­der­ful arts com­mu­nity. A cool down­town. Hot shop­ping spots. Live and lively venues. A vi­brant street scene. Ter­rific restau­rants. There’s more than enough here to keep you busy for a long week­end and more. It all makes for an ideal jaunt from Win­nipeg. Who needs Min­neapo­lis when Saska­toon is less than an eight-hour drive away? And you can spend Canadian dol­lars at par here. (Lit­tle Canuck hu­mour.)

Yes, Saska­toon. But this is not your grand­fa­ther’s Saska­toon.

Let’s start with eat­ing.

The city is be­com­ing a bit of a mecca for food­ies. Per­haps that started when home­town boy Dale Mackay won the first Top Chef Canada in 2011. Mackay had al­ready bopped around the world a bit in the restau­rant trade, putting in some time un­der no­to­ri­ous chef Gor­don Ram­say be­fore Mackay won the top Canadian prize. Two years later, he was back in his home­town to open Ay­den Kitchen and Bar, http:// www.ay­denkitchenand­bar.com/, with part­ners. And what an ex­pe­ri­ence it of­fers. The restau­rant boasts home­grown, glob­ally in­spired com­fort food paired with hand­crafted cock­tails and an ex­ten­sive wine list. But it’s so much more than a meal. Be sure you are seated where you can see into the open kitchen to watch the long line of chefs and sous chefs at work.

We started with two very spe­cial cock­tails: a Rhubarb Mar­garita, which is pretty much what you’d ex­pect, and a Corpse Re­vivor #2, which is nowhere near as fright­en­ing as it sounds, par­tic­u­larly if you are a gin drinker. The menu of­fered a wide va­ri­ety of in­ter­est­ing dishes — lob­ster Cae­sar, ahi tuna with wa­ter­melon, hick­ory smoked duck con­fit with grapefruit.

We topped our meal off with the per­fect dessert: warm cit­rus madeleines with choco­late dip­ping sauce.

Also down­town is Truf­fles Bistro, http://www.truf­fles­bistro.ca/, a lovely lit­tle French restau­rant although you might not guess it from the out­side. It felt so French once the door closed be­hind us, there was sim­ply no choice but to start with Cham­pagne cock­tails. We had the trout and fin­ished with our first taste of Saska­toon berries with cream. But it was hard to re­sist the ta­ble d’hote menu with its of­fer­ings of ei­ther three or five cour­ses. Par­tic­u­larly tempt­ing was the starter: hush pup­pies with red pep­per jelly and pi­mento cheese.

For some­thing lighter, cross over the Broad­way Bridge and head to a lit­tle shop­ping area on Broad­way Av­enue. Calo­ries Bak­ery and Restau­rant ( calo­ries­restau­rant.ca) was def­i­nitely the start of some­thing spe­cial when it opened here 30 years ago as a lit­tle cof­fee shop. The neigh­bour­hood had a very dif­fer­ent feel then. Calo­ries wasn’t in the midst of the trendy shops and a live venue, a true feel­ing of com­mu­nity, which is the strip now. But French-born ex­ec­u­tive chef pro­pri­etor Remi Cousyn has put his restau­rant, its neigh­bour­hood and its city on the map, with a whole slew of awards for food and ser­vice.

We stopped in for cold glasses of Saska­toon berry lemon­ade and desserts cho­sen — af­ter much painful in­de­ci­sion — from Calo­ries’ enor­mous dis­play. The choco­late or­ange pecan trifle and rhubarb crum­ble cake won us over in the end.

Now on to shop­ping.

While you’re on Broad­way, take some time to check out the bou­tiques along this strip. Hand­made House ( www.hand­made­hous­esk.com) car­ries arts and crafts by Saskatchewan artists. We bought tiny carved wood prairie dogs.

For larger wood pieces and other fur­ni­ture, Mod­ern Coun­try In­te­ri­ors, ( face­book.com/pages/Mod­ern-Coun­try854?fref=ts) just down the street, car­ries wooden fur­ni­ture made in their fac­tory and boasts lo­cal artists’ work on the walls.

Tonic ( tonic-life.com) is where you can find unique cloth­ing in­clud­ing some vin­tage pieces.

Down­town has its share of indie stores, too. Etceteras ( face­book.com/

PHO­TOS BY JULIE CARL / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Cold glasses of Saska­toon berry lemon­ade with one of Calo­ries Bak­ery and Restau­rant’s tri­fles hit the spot. Above, choco­lates on dis­play at Calo­ries don’t

make it easy to choose a treat.

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