This article originally appeared on the Manitoba Hot blog.
Not only is RAW:churchill the most exclusive dining event in the country, it’s one of those authentic journeys that give travellers huge insight into the Canadian identity. Trust us, you’ll feel a little more Canadian after this transformative culinary experience.
You may have heard of RAW:almond, a widely-lauded winter pop-up restaurant on the frozen river in downtown Winnipeg. Now, RAW:almond creators expanded their pop-up restaurant project to Northern Manitoba and partnered with seasoned tour operators Frontiers North Adventures and Parks Canada’s Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site for a bucket-list worthy culinary escape. Here are a few reasons why RAW:churchill is the most Canadian thing you will ever do:
Canada is a proud northern nation. The North is such an integral part of our heritage, yet the majority of travellers to Canada only explore within a few degrees of the 49° parallel (which hugs the US border). RAW:churchill brings you truly north, specifically to 58° parallel along the western shore of the Hudson Bay, to a town so remote that no roads lead there. You must travel nearly 1,000 kilometres by plane or train to get to Churchill, a town famous for a polar bear population that outnumbers its residents. The feeling of isolation is palpable in Churchill, but the locals will make sure you never feel alone.
Heading north during the summer is one thing, but heading north during the winter is what true Canadians (and dedicated travellers) are made of. RAW:churchill happens in March, when daytime temperatures average -20°C.
There's a mystical quality about the North in winter, and you’ll stand in awe of the strength and the determination of hardy residents who live in Churchill. Thankfully, the RAW:churchill dining structure is nestled within Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site, protected from weather (and wildlife) by 6.5-metre-tall and 11-metre-thick stone walls. But to access the fort in winter is the first challenge: guests at RAW:churchill arrive to dinner aboard a Tundra Buggy, a customized vehicle adept at traversing the tundra’s rough terrain. Read how organizers battled the elements during their 2016 RAW:churchill trial run.
RAW:churchill allows you to dine within a 300-year-old stone fort that played a key role in the fur trade and development of Western Canada. You'll eat on the same ground that some of history’s most intrepid explorers walked. Situated on a spit of land named Eskimo Point, where the mouth of the Churchill River opens onto Hudson Bay, Prince of Wales Fort was built over the course of 40 years by the Hudson Bay Company as a way to control the harvesting and shipment of fur over to Europe. In a way, Canada was built because of fashion. At RAW:churchill, guests learn all about the fascinating fort and area history. Parks Canada brings to the life the fort’s infamous Governor Samuel Hearne with an entertaining table-side conversation.
Fur trader diet
History? Check. Adventure? Check. But at it’s core RAW:churchill is a culinary event. The evening is undeniably about the surprise, multi-course dinner prepared by Manitoba award-winning chef Mandel Hitzer, the culinary creative behind RAW:almond and Winnipeg’s Exchange District hipster hangout Deer + Almond. Chef Mandel prepares a menu that’s inspired by the diet of the fort’s inhabitants – this means the kitchen tries to focus on ingredients that are native to the area. While challenging, due to the local climate, the food never fails to impress; even the most sophisticated foodies are wowed by the menu. Think bison carpaccio, seaweed noodles with cured rainbow trout roe, and beet ice cream with wild blueberries.
Mother Nature’s light show
RAW:churchill's pop-up restaurant is a long A-frame shaped structure designed by local architect Joe Kalturnyk, and its unique transparent roof allows diners an even more magical experience should the Northern Lights decide to make an appearance. Churchill, ideally located under the aurora oval, boasts aurora borealis activity over 300 days per year, the most active nights being January-March when winter skies are the clearest. No guarantees that the magical green ribbons will unfurl across the sky on the night you attend RAW:churchill, but if they do, be prepared for an experience that transcends the universe. Canada is fortunate to be one of few nations in the world where travellers can experience this natural phenomenon.