Elements: The Restaurant, opened in Winnipeg in October 2011, so it wasn’t quite open a year when I had lunch there in late August to do a review. I met with Executive Manager Kirsten Godbout, who has a warm, bubbly and down-to-earth personality that is addictive.
Loaded with one funny comment after another, she made me laugh on several occasions, including the moment she pulled out her phone to tweet about our lunch. This is of course something you’d expect a foodie who writes about restaurants and travel experiences like me to do, but not a restaurant manager in Winnipeg Canada.
The restaurant is located along Portage Avenue inside the University of Winnipeg’s Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex.
First, a l’il history.
In June, 2009, UWinnipeg introduced Diversity Food Services, which was created by The University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation (UWCRC) and SEED Winnipeg. The joint venture trains and employs people from ethnically diverse origins from Winnipeg’s surrounding community who may face barriers to meaningful work, an approach that is unique among universities in Canada.
The opening of Elements provides new employment for 25 people in both full-time and part-time positions. Diversity Foods goal is to offer nutritious, fairly priced and ethnically diverse food options with a focus on locally sourced foods, organic ingredients, and a commitment to fair-trade practices. In addition to Elements, it operates Pangea’s Kitchen, Malecon and Café Bodhi on UWinnipeg’s campus, as well as catering to the broader community.
They work with organizations that support local farmers and chef Ben Kramer is known for speaking up on fair practices and works with Food Matters Manitoba.
The team promotes some of their local farmers and food providers on the back of their menus, such as Nature’s Farm Paste & Eggs (Hermann and Sheryl Grauer), Fresh Option Organic Delivery (F.O.O.D. – Marnie Feeleus), Green Bean Cafe (Derryl Reid) and the John Russell Honey Company (John Russell), to name a few.
Where to start? During lunch, bite after bite, it was obvious that everything was fresh, organic and made with a whole lotta care.
Small plates include grilled eggplant and peppers with olive oil and lemon, roasted beets with fresh cheese, toasted pine nuts and balsamic and entrees include tomato basil shrimp, which is served with sweet bell peppers, baby carrots and patty pan squash over basmati rice, and a Smoked Duck Salad, with radishes, beans and bitter greens. (both below)
Kirsten joined me for lunch and had one of their ramen bowls, which apparently they are renowned for. You can get a three step ramen for only $10, which includes pork, chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu, topped with rice or egg noodles and then served in a hot and sour or seasoned chicken broth. I tried it and let’s just say: OH YUM! I wanted to try all of them.
They also have a wonderful selection of green salads, including a mixed greens, a warm spinach salad with mushrooms, caramelized onions and bacon, a smoked tomato caesar salad served with asiago cheese and grilled croutons, and the Mediterranean Quinoa salad, which is served with cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, feta cheese and pickled peppers.
I’d also recommend their unusually prepared Spicy Bacon Caramel Popcorn which is served with bacon, peanuts and chilies (yes really), Shrimp and Toast, which has assorted mushrooms, spinach, white wine, tomato and grilled bread and lastly, their Miso Chili Beef (below), which is served with sesame oil, black pepper and wilted spinach.
You can also order the Manitoba Pork Ribs with a choice of your own sauce: BBQ, miso chili, or sweet and spicy soy. They are served with a vinegar slaw. For more traditional lunches if you’re in a hurry, they have great burgers and sandwiches as well, including the old fashioned staple: grilled cheese.
Below is the team: Naomi Coertzen, chef Aron Epp and the ever so amusing Kirsten Godbout, who btw, drove me over to Constance Menzie’s artisan chocolate shop after lunch. Be sure to read my write-up on her work.
Disclosure: Tourism Winnipeg hosted my lunch however all opinions expressed here are my own.
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.
She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.
Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.
Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.