Making magic in Manitoba’s Interlake

I know. I was supposed to be heading to Montreal for the next post. But it’s just so darned beautiful right now in Manitoba, and there are so many amazing things going on that I thought I’d treat you to one more round of local bragging. I hope you’ll indulge me, and join in with a comment celebrating your own favourite Manitoba place, memory or summer event. After all, as Travel Manitoba would say … “It’s Manitoba Time!”

the re-enactors of Vikings Vinland demonstrate battle techniques

We visited the Icelandic Festival in Gimli on the weekend and were fortunate to have timed our visit to see the battle re-enactment performed by members of Vikings Vinland, a troop of re-enactors from all over North America. It was awesome! We also enjoyed a Goldeyes baseball game in Winnipeg.

But what really inspired me to write this post was the amazing culinary talent we have right here in the Interlake. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending High Tea at the Fat Cat Bistro (located just north of Camp Morton on Hwy 222.) It’s held every Tuesday from 2-4 pm and is a delight for just $13. We started with a plate of giant pinwheel sandwiches, followed by a course of hot appetizers. I loved the giant Japanese mussels made in a sauce of tomatoes and peppers. The mushroom puffs were also terrific and light. And a crostini featuring local Goldeye fish finished off the middle course with a lovely fresh flavour.

The dessert course consisted of a plate of cheeses and fresh fruits alongside a plate of dainties. And yes, there was chocolate! The chocolate coconut brownies were soft, chewy and really quite decadent.

My friend couldn’t eat nuts, so was made a special pavlova (which was dressed right at our table by John, partner of Karen Nielsen, our talented chef.)

John preparing a lovely pavlova at our table

Although the High Tea was not traditional in the sense that there were no scones with clotted cream, it was delightful in every way. I’m told by Chef Karen that she does make scones on occasion and changes the menu every week to keep her scores of regular customers happy and coming back each week or every second week to see what she has in store.

Today, we visited Fat Cat for breakfast. I’d been there once previously for dinner, but had not (until today) had the pleasure of enjoying one of their tasty breakfasts. As I’m watching my calorie count these days (the two years of intense chocolate tasting has finally caught up with me!) I ordered a simple breakfast of two poached eggs and sausages with multi-grain toast and sliced tomatoes. Include your coffee or tea and you’ve got an amazing breakfast for $5!

My male companions were not as concerned with their waistlines and ordered much more elaborately. Roy had the omelette, asking Chef Karen to create something unique for him. And that she did! His fluffy omelette was stuffed with goat’s cheese and local Saskatoon berries. A bit heavy for me, but Roy loved it!

My husband, Reg, ordered the authentic Icelandic pancakes (Karen is a local girl of Icelandic heritage) stuffed with seasonal berries and topped with fresh whipping cream. Wow! That was truly amazing, and something that I would order on a return visit.

Fat Cat’s Icelandic pancakes

Fat Cat Bistro is becoming a local favourite with discerning diners of the Interlake. That, along with Mask Mediterranean Restaurant of Gimli are boasting internationally trained chefs who love the Interlake region and are hoping to tantalize diners’ taste buds beyond the (pickerel) fish and chips (french fries) that have become the flagship meal of many area restaurants. (Updated Note: Alas, the Fat Cat and Mask are not currently operating, but there are still many great places to enjoy a great meal in the Interlake. One of ours is Brennivin’s.)

Brennivin's in Gimli makes superb pizza.

Brennivin’s in Gimli makes superb pizza.

Let’s talk. Tell me about your favourite hangout, event or memory from YOUR most coveted Manitoba time.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

19 Responses

  1. It is always important to support local chefs and local foods. Having a local chef with some international heritage (Iceland) is a treat–and it looks like you enjoyed her treats.

    Thanks for describing the “simpler” breakfast you had. It shows that restaurants will accommodate simpler menu requests and I’m sure it was delicious. Heavy breakfasts like the pancakes look lovely but sometimes are regretted later when they just “sit” there.

    I’ve been to Winnipeg three times (1981, 2005, and 2008.) I have fond memories of visits to the Winnipeg Zoo (1981), the Maritime Museum and Fort Garry Hotel (2005–both welcomed as they were air conditioned and it was 33 degrees! and visiting the library, a local pub, and going to a Goldeye game (2008.) I haven’t been to the Interlake but that, and a visit to Riding Mountain National Park is on my “list” for my next visit to Manitoba.
    Good for you for highlighting your local treasures.

    • Come to the Interlake, Christine! We’d love to have you, and I know you’d enjoy the rich Icelandic heritage of the area.

      Just to clarify, Chef Karen was born in the Interlake but is of Icelandic heritage. So she’s grown up eating local Manitoba food, was trained internationally, and proudly features the best of all in her restaurant — including some delicious chocolate delicacies I might add!

  2. wkdvisitor says:

    From your description and photos, I’d say that the Fat Cat bistro is one that is worth a detour off the Number One for anyone travelling this wonderful country of ours.

    Manitoba Memories. So many.

    Food. Recreation. People. Landscapes.

    I’ve had the best Strawberry Rhubarb pie in Thompson, Manitoba. (My mouth is salivating as I type this.) It was at the restaurant at the Paint Lake Resort (http://mysterycountry.com/)

    It’s been many years, hence the past tense. Perhaps one of your readers can bring us up to date.

    • Thanks for your comment. Yes, strawberry rhubarb pie is a Manitoba favourite! And the Thompson area is certainly a fascinating one to visit. I still haven’t seen the wolf mural that was done as you enter the city, but hope to get up there some day soon for a return visit. Cheers!

  3. Derryl Reid says:

    What a nice coincidence a friend was mentioning a great restaurant in Gimli but couldn’t remember the name. Your blog is a good reminder that I should be spending a little more time exploring the Interlake. Thanks

    • Right on, Derryl! You’d be surprised at all we have to offer right here in the Interlake. Keep exploring, and don’t forget to mention your fab coffee to them. Fab food deserves fab coffee.

  4. Christine Smith says:

    I am a Fat Cat regular and great fan. The food is delicious, the service always friendly and efficient. John is always there to make everyone feel special while Karen slaves away in the kitchen. She does manage to mingle with everyone now and then which makes the place feel like home.

    Great food! Great prices! Great environment! How lucky can we get ?

    • You got that right, Christine! Thanks for your comment, and welcome to the blog!

      I’ve found, since moving to the Interlake 4 years ago, that there is an abundance of amazing creative talent here. Whether it’s artistry with regard to the visual arts, music or theatre, or culinary artistry, such as Karen’s creations at Fat Cat. We really DO have a piece of paradise right here.

  5. Thanks Doreen for sharing that story and the pictures. The Fat Cat Bistro is one of my favorites as well. I have held several meetings there and Karen has delighted us with samplings of tasty treats to try.
    Karen will also be the noted chef of the September 18th 1st Annual “Savour the Flavour” of the Interlake held in conjunction with Open Farm Day and as a fund raiser for the Arborg & District Multicultural Heritage Village.
    The dinner will be held at the Heritage Village, will include a four course dinner using farm fresh foods from local suppliers, a “roving dessert party” as you tour the Heritage Village with costumed interpreters. Just think Doreen this is another chance to sample Karen’s tasty treats in a new setting.
    Best luck on your chocolate trip! Do a taste test for me as well.

  6. Thanks for joining us here, Gail.

    The Sept 18th event sounds delightful, and I am free that day. Can you please e-mail me the details?

  7. Just an update I feel I must report: The Fat Cat Bistro, although lovely, has irregular hours. The day we were there for breakfast this past week, they turned away people even though the restaurant was empty (we were leaving, and those arriving then were told the restaurant was closed as they were preparing for a large group. The ladies were aggravated, as they has called and gotten a recorded message that the restaurant was open. They’d made the trip for nothing.

    Today (Saturday, Aug 6th), we called, got the message indicating they were open, drove all the way out there to be told that they were closed as their server had quit. There was no empathy from John when I indicated that we had called and the recording said they were open and that we had driven a full half hour to get there.

    I wouldn’t call that good customer relations. As my husband, Reg, said in the car as we made our way to the Misty Lake Lodge, “They should be handing customers a voucher for future use if they’ve gone to all the trouble to come out and are turned away at the door.” I agree full-heartedly. A $5 voucher to at least cover part of the cost of gas and to encourage our continued loyalty would have been an excellent gesture. There were 2 other vehicles that had made the trip this Sat morn to the FCB only to be turned away. I hope they didn’t read about it here on the blog, only to be turned away! Sorry, if that is the case!

    It all worked out in the end, though, as we had a terrific breakfast at the Misty Lake Lodge at a very reasonable price, and with a much better view. The Misty Lake Lodge is lakeside, has beautiful lakefront grounds, a nice indoor pool and a very good menu, complete with wood-oven fired pizza on Thursday nights. We then continued on to the Arnes Farmer’s Market and had a super day.

  8. joylene says:

    Thanks for featuring Manitoba, Doreen. Not only is it a beautiful place, it’s filled with terrific people. And I’m talking about everyone, not just my relatives. LOL.

    • You’re so right, Joylene! BC is certainly beautiful, but I’m told by others who have moved there that they miss the down-home soul of MB and that they’ve never made deep friendships on the coast. The kind they had in MB. We are lucky here indeed.

      Thanks for dropping by the blog, and for remembering the great things of MB.

  9. Elva Anson says:

    What a great topic to research and a beautiful blog as well. I have a category on my blog called “Get Aways”. I love doing them and posting pictures to go with them. My blog is http://www.soulmatetips.blogspot.com The premise is you don’t find a soul mate, you learn how to become one. I write from 31 years experience as a Marriage Family Therapist and 56 years of marriage. Check it out.

    • Thanks for your comment, Elva. I have indeed been to your blog and have made a comment there. We do share a love for travel and a love for lifelong learning. I’m looking forward to getting to know you better. Cheers!

  10. Great post, I haven’t made it up to the Gimli area yet and it is definitely on my Manitoba to-do list! So far my fav spot for “Manitoba Time” is Wasagaming in Riding Mountain National Park. So many great activities, good food, beautiful. Perfect way to spend an afternoon.

    Little Gray Bird

  11. Thanks for your comment, LGB. Yes, MB is so huge and has so much to discover and explore!

    The Riding Mtn area of our province is certainly a special one that stands in the forefront for many reasons: the topography, the wildlife, the scenery and the history.

    The last time I visited Dauphin, I had the pleasure of flying over Riding Mtn Park and seeing the topography from the air. They really ARE mountains, albeit small mountains, but very beautiful. It’s been a few years. Time to go back and see what’s new!

  12. Doreen says:

    Update on the Fat Cat Bistro: Sorry to say that it has been permanently closed as of Feb/12. Good thing there are many other gems in the Interlake, but the Fat Cat was certainly one of them. It will be interesting to see where Chef Karen will land.

  1. July 8, 2013

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