Jason Barton-Browne cooks on the frozen Forks at pop-up restaurant

Photo courtesy Jacqueline Young/RAW: Almond

Eating dinner outside in a bone-chilling -30°C on a frozen river sounds like an episode of Survivor, but Winnipeg’s deer + almond restaurant has found a way to turn winter weather into a gourmet experience.

For the second year in a row, RAW: Almond, created by chef Mandel Hitzer and Raw Gallery of Architecture and Design director’s Joe Kalturnyk, saw a heated tent shaped like an iceberg pitched on the frozen fork where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet. Teatro’s former sous chef Jason Barton-Browne was one of 12 chefs who each had control of the kitchen for two consecutive nights. The pop-up restaurant ran from January 24 – February 13.

Jason Barton-Browne’s “Tarsands” course featuring Sturgeon. Photo by Dan Clapson.

With an ambitious prairie-hybrid menu, the Calgary-born chef quickly had to adapt his food to fit the kitchen’s size and outside elements.

“I went in guns blazing and ignored the infrastructure,” said Barton-Browne. “There were only six burners for two cooks. The biggest challenge was keeping hot food hot.”

“And my feet got cold the second I stepped onto the ice!”

Milk and Honey dessert featuring a bee pollen and buckwheat cake, apple cider ice cream, almond praline, honeycomb. Photo by Dan Clapson.

That said, Barton-Browne produced a 5 course menu with both Calgary and Winnipeg roots featuring a cabbage roll with maple foie gras, a tongue-in-cheek fish course called “Tarsands” (Camelina oil poached sturgeon, leek, sunchoke, cippolini, white miso, black garlic and squid ink jus) and a milk and honey dessert.

This year RAW: Almond grew to accommodate a 30-seat dining room and a 10-seat tasting bar because of its popularity. It also had a weekend brunch option. Barton-Browne said Winnipeggers love RAW: Almond because they also love winter.

“My favourite part of the experience was being in a city where people don’t make excuses for enjoying winter,” he said.

“It was -30°C every day I was there and people still had huge smiles on their faces. Just the idea that people embracing winter was awesome.”

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