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Tundra

Visit Wild Churchill Without Leaving Winnipeg at the Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

By Dunja Kovacevic

Tundra Treasures

Peer into the little explored but often mythologized world of the Arctic tundra with the Assiniboine Park Zoo‘s landmark exhibit, Journey to Churchill. Cutting-edge technology, top of the line research facilities, unparalleled attention to authenticity and environmental stewardship have set the bar for polar bear conservation centres, now recognized as the “Manitoba Standard”.

Mother bear and cubs by Keith Levit

Mother bear and cubs by Keith Levit

Majestic Manitoba

The story of Canada’s north is still a largely untold one. With environmental crises looming, the role that Manitoba has in protecting the legacy of the north and shaping the narrative of future generations is becoming increasingly important. By dazzling the senses and engaging the public, Journey to Churchill represents a monumental step towards Winnipeg’s growing reputation as a global leader in environmental and human rights.

The ambitious exhibit is both a love song to the untapped beauty of the north and a ringing call to arms. Opened in 2014, it is the first exhibit of its kind, aimed at education about climate change and conservation issues focused on northern species. According to Margaret Redmond, President and CEO of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC), Journey to Churchill is “unparalleled in the zoo world in terms of its focus on northern wildlife and the immensity of the space given.”

Photo by Brad McCann

Photo by Brad McCann

Polar Bear Pilgrimage

Some 10-12,000 eco-tourists and adventure seekers file northward to Churchill, Manitoba’s Arctic jewel, each year in search of the Great White. Aptly named the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”, the wind-swept tundra has become a mecca for the world’s largest terrestrial predators, located at the crosshairs of their migratory patterns. Thrill seekers take to the frozen expanses of the tundra to catch a glimpse of these incredible carnivores.

While nothing can mimic the heart-pounding adventure of interacting directly with the bears in their icy environment, Journey to Churchill offers and experience of observing polar bears and other northern species undetected. Within the expanse of the exhibit are four main areas: the Wapusk Lowlands, Gatewa to the Arctic, Churchill Coast and the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.

The Gateway to the Arctic contains polar bears and their primary food source, the ringed seal, in adjacent pools separated only by a thin clear wall. Expect dynamic interactions between the animals, who are able to see and smell one another through the wall, as they pivot and thrash in the exhilarating quickstep between predator and prey.

Perhaps most exciting is the Sea Ice Passage, a 10-foot wide acrylic tunnel that serves as the primary vantage point for viewing polar bears and ringed seals beneath the water. The exhibit functions as a “living laboratory” says Redmond, presenting rare and unique opportunities for field researchers to observe behavioural patterns of polar bears and seals beneath the ice.

Along with boundless roaming space, the exhibit features an on-site state-of-the-art research facility. The International Polar Bear Conservation Centre not only promotes conservation research, but is home to the only transition centre for orphaned and at-risk polar bear cubs rescued by Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship. At the centre, they are rehabilitated before being relocated to designated safe areas.

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Staggering Specs

In order to begin construction on the exhibit, 86,699 metres of earth had to be transported. The tundra area of the exhibit, home to caribou, musk ox, snowy owls, and arctic foxes, covers 3,714 square metres. Polar bear roaming grounds within the exhibit span an immense 9,507 metres squared. Pools for polar bears and seals contain a total of 1,959,714 L of water. The indoor Polar Playground and Tundra Grill alone house some 238 people. The cutting edge 360 degree domed Aurora Borealis Theatre measures over 13 metres in diameter, and 5.5 metres high. Despite these scale considerations, the zoo is making every overture towards sustainability, even seeing a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification from the Canada Green Building Council.

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Gathering Ground

Parks and zoos have long been spirited gathering grounds for families and larger groups. With this in mind, the Churchill Coast area is focused on immersive family fun. Children can explore the Polar Playground, which is packed with interactive and educational activities such as a moving ice-mass floor that responds to footsteps. Parents can unwind at the Tundra Grill, a fast-casual cafeteria-style setting with massive windows overlooking Churchill.

Also located within the Gateway to the Arctic is the Aurora Borealis Theatre, which hosts a domed 360 degree viewing screen. An interactive video weaves the interconnected legacy between the people, plants, and animals of Canada’s north. At night, the room is transformed into a bewitching backdrop for storytelling and concerts while the Northern Lights play above.

Visit the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s website for information on hours and admissions.

Read More

 

Renovated Tundra Features New Canadian Cuisine

A long-standing bastion of Canadian cuisine is pleasing palates once again, following a recent renovation and menu update. From the spherical sculpture carved from a Vancouver Island redwood that greets dining room guests to the giant satellite image of northern Quebec’s Ungava Bay that demands attention in the lounge, Tundra pays tribute to our country through numerous design details. And let’s not forget the food: executive chef Kevin Prendergast and his team prepare intriguing yet accessible north-of-the-border fare such as roasted venison and whisky-brined chicken supreme with—as one would expect—fresh, locally sourced ingredients.  —Ana Taveira

>> Tundra, Hilton Toronto Hotel, 145 Richmond St. W., 416-860-6800; tundra.sites.toronto.com
>> Map and reviews

Tops in Taste: Toronto’s 2011 Where to Dine Awards

From quick and casual eateries to fine dining experiences inspired by global cuisines, Toronto has many hundreds of excellent restaurants. Only a handful, however,
can be true consensus favourites, and the winners of our annual Where to Dine
readers’ choice awards.

Canoe (photo by Kristina Doyle)

AMBIENCE
The Keg Steakhouse & Bar
Six locations of the popular steakhouse ensure diners can get a grilled-to-perfection sirloin, T-bone or filet mignon practically anywhere in Toronto. The brand’s most notable venue is in a circa-1868 mansion on Jarvis Street—the immaculately adorned interior is a conversation starter. Two other restaurants in the heart of downtown offer a more modern vibe for business lunches and pre-show dinners.
Honorable Mention: Auberge du Pommier

BREAKFAST/BRUNCH
Cora Breakfast & Lunch
Down-home country-kitchen dishes are the draw at this group of restaurants, originally from Quebec. Fresh fruit and eggs in various preparations comprise the majority of the menu, from the “10 Star” omelette—filled with ham, sausage, spinach, tomatoes and much more—to the “1990s Harvest” of cinnamon French toast with an egg, bacon and a mountain of seasonal fruit.
Honorable Mention: Fran’s (more…)

February Editor’s Picks: Dining

Buca's industrial-chic interior (photo by Jessica Napier).

1. The rustic Italian heavyweights of Toronto’s dining scene have a new challenger in Buca, a supremely hip yet still homey restaurant that recently opened on King Street West. Brainchild of the owners of similarly stylish steakhouse Jacobs & Co., the industrial-chic space—exposed brick, iron girders, bare light bulbs—suggests tastes both modern and timeless, ably reflected in the daily menu of Italophilic fare conjured by Mark McEwan protégé Rob Gentile. The chef’s authentic offerings are priced in the $12 to $39 range, and could include fresh pastas like veal cappelletti or duck egg tagliatelle, authentically adorned thin-crust pizzas, and, in acquiescence to a growing trend, a variety of flavourful house-cured meats.

Sweet and sour pork at Zin.

2. The words “fine dining” and “Chinese food” are not always synonymous, but they mesh handsomely in Yorkville, where Zin recently took up residence in a turn-of-the-century home. Aiming for upscale, attentive servers proffer delicately plated dishes that add a French inflection to Cantonese cuisine. A smattering of traditional dim sum options (all $4) such as har gow and spring rolls lead into exemplary mains, from Peking Duck ($48) and slow-baked Ontario squab ($28) to sweet-and-sour pork ($14) and two pounds of lobster cooked any way you like ($42).

Prime restaurant

3. Frightful February weather shouldn’t keep you from a fresh and filling meal. You may find these restos are but an elevator ride away.

>> A mélange of classic dishes and seasonal, locally sourced fare comprises a culinary cornucopia at Annona, aptly named for the Roman goddess of harvest.

>> Yorkville’s One dishes out decadence courtesy of star chef Mark McEwan in a swank room adorned with smoked glass, cowhide leather and tiger-eye onyx.

>> Only top-quality cuts—like Kobe beef striploin ($115)—are served at modern steakhouse Prime. On Sundays, the prime rib dinner ($40) is a meaty value.

>> At Senses, chef Patrick Lin mixes French and Asian inspirations in such entrees as a crispy duck breast ($29) and a trio of crab with tartar sauce and black bean vinaigrette ($27).

>> A mountain-, forest- and ocean-inspired interior reflects the Canadian cuisine—such as birch syrup–glazed arctic char and foie gras ($34)—at Tundra.

Two for the Show—The Canadian Opera Company in April

A duet of classic Italian operas hits all the right notes.
—By Amy Baker

Soaring arias, stunning sets, tales of tragedy—this month, experience dramatic performance at its finest as the Canadian Opera Company presents tour de force works by Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi.

One of the most celebrated operas in history, La Bohème sets the stage for a love affair guaranteed to captivate the whole audience. Based on French novelist and poet Henri Murger’s autobiographical novel, Scènes de la vie de bohème, this four-act opera tells the story of Mimi and Rodolfo, two bohemians struggling over issues of infidelity, jealousy and poverty in 1830s Paris. Created by Puccini and his two librettists, Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, the show premiered at Turin’s Teatro Regio in 1896 and received mixed reviews. However, more than a century later, it is a staple of the Italian repertory and one of the most widely performed operas in the world. As Thomas Edison once said: “Men die and governments change, but the songs of La Bohème will live forever.” The COC’s production, starring Canadians David Pomeroy and Frédérique Vézina in the lead roles, is sure to be a worthy addition to the canon of this timeless classic.

(more…)