“Winnipeg-Style” Foods

March 12th, 2012 by Emma Durand-Wood

At our big family supper last night, someone looked at the loaf of rye bread on the table and wondered what made it “Winnipeg-style”? Nobody at the table knew – and excluding me, everyone present was a born and raised Manitoban. In my experience, Winnipeg rye bread is very light and fluffy, comes in a long, oval loaf, and is impossible to stop eating once you’ve started. I’m not wild about caraway, and mercifully, most of the Winnipeg rye breads I’ve tried are very mild in the caraway department. (Come to think of it, most are quite mild in general, and not particularly rye-y!)

It reminded me that I’ve also heard of Winnipeg-style cream cheese – but again, what makes it so? A quick Google search reveals something called “Co-op” style cream cheese, but again, I’m not sure what that is – a brand? A variety?

So, culinarily-inclined Winnipeggers, please fill me in! What makes rye bread or cream cheese “Winnipeg-style”? And for that matter, are there other food items specifically called “Winnipeg-style?”

21 Responses to ““Winnipeg-Style” Foods”

  1. Meghan says:

    Hi there!

    Winnipeg rye bread is labeled that way because it is not based on a sourdough bread recipe, as many other types of rye bread are (at least, that’s what was explained to me when I complained that I couldn’t find good rye bread when I was away at school). That’s why it is lighter and less dense than other rye breads. Being a born an raised Winnipeger, though, I have never actually heard of Winnipeg cream cheese!

  2. I’ve wondered this myself. On the east coast rye bread really isn’t that popular, and in fact I don’t think I ever tried any rye bread until moving to Manitoba. One things with bread that I find funny is in Nova Scotia we have three basic types of bread that are common – wholewheat, white and brown. Brown on the east coast is made with molasses and is completely different than wholewheat and it is quite popular in the rural areas, served with baked beans on Saturday nights (common east coast Saturday night tradition). Here in Manitoba there seems to be three different basic breads – white, rye and brown. Manitobans say “brown” but really they mean wholewheat or at least what the east coast refers to as wholewheat. I always find it funny, and I feel like a fraud when I am at a Manitoban restaurant and order brown toast because I know deep down it is really wholewheat and not technically brown, at least in my Nova Scotia brain! haha Once at a Manitoban restaurant I even said wholewheat by accident (slipping into east coast ways) and the waitress said oh no dear, we only have brown, rye and white….ugghhhh yeah……so I ordered “brown” and what showed up was wholewheat haha. Who knew that within the same country and language there could be so many different interpretations!

  3. Yer Pal says:

    Winnipeg style rye bread is a tribute to Kub Bakery’s rye bread. It is a Winnipeg institution & is popular all across Western Canada. Safeway’s bakery manufactures a similar style bread & they call it “Winnipeg Style”.
    The CreAam Cheese? Same thing. Co-Op brand dairy products. They manufacture milk, cheese & such. Their cream cheese also very popular & another company wanting to ride the coat-tails of their popularity made the ol’ knockoff.
    You’re welcome!

  4. cherenkov says:

    The old debate: Kub rye or City rye — which is better? City is a denser bread than Kub (and better, I think). I don’t know what defines “Winnipeg style”, but maybe the oval shape, and the fact that we eat a lot of it and can therefore claim it as our own?

  5. Emma says:

    @Meagan – oooohhh, I think the sourdough thing makes sense. Thanks for the info 🙂

    @LittleGrayBird – Too funny! I think I’ve heard that in the US, they call whole wheat “brown” and for that reason I have always preferred to specifically say “whole wheat” – “brown” just seems to downplay its goodness… Maybe restaurant people here hear “whole wheat” and think “multigrain”?? Who knows!

    @Yer Pal – Interesting… I don’t think I’ve ever noticed Co-op brand in stores…I’ll keep an eye out for it from now on.

    @Cherenkov – Ha! This is the sort of dirt (the rivalry) I was hoping someone would share. I think a taste test is in order soon 😉

  6. Concenred About Winnipeg says:

    @Emma: I think you can start a riot if you go to a good ‘ol North End Ukrainian wedding social, walk up to the “lunch” table (served at 11 pm, of course) and say either “Kub sucks, where’s the City Rye” or “City sucks, where’s the Kub Rye”? Either statement will split the crowd in two, and fists will fly.

    There are a few die-hard Natural Bakery Rye fans out there, but the real rivalry is City v. Kub… and the City people are dead wrong.

    nb: Riots can also be started based on kulbassa trash talk.

  7. Lindsey says:

    @littlegraybird: The brown bread you’re describing sounds a lot like Icelandic brown bread – it’s also made with molasses. You can get killer Icelandic brown bread at the Arborg Bakery…not sure if you can get it in the city, though.

  8. Lila says:

    City bread wins the taste test- hands down!!!

  9. Sherry says:

    To me, “Winnipeg Rye Bread” is Bread from City Bakery. Kub is….okay, too.

    Stuck out here in Vancouver, all I have is fond memories of sitting in my hotel room in Winnipeg and hoovering an entire loaf of fresh City rye (I had help, didn’t eat the entire loaf myself, although I would have if I’d eaten faster.) with butter.

    We’re planning a move back to Winnipeg; I am not into the restaurant scene in Vancouver. Possibly because our restaurant budget flows into our obscene mortgage payments. I can’t wait.

    By the way, City rye bread IS sourdough based. The “Winnipeg” style rye out here on the coast is an abomination bearing no resemblance to the real McCoy.

  10. Erin says:

    last year I went a mission to find a rye bread close to Winnipeg rye bread in Moncton. After buying all 7 varieties from a local bakery, not one of them matched, so I started investigating online. Turns out that Winnipeg Rye bread is not actually Rye Bread, ie not made from rye flour. Winnipeg rye bread is actually White bread with cracked rye mixed in. Which is why it lighter than your typical rye bread. There are recipes online that I hope to try in future, so that I don’t have to wait til my next trip to winnipeg to stock up.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Co-op: was the dairy associated with the Red River Co-operative stores (Red River Co-op) … there used to be a Co-op in all the towns, and a few in Winnipeg. They also sold gas, and whenever you bought something you would use your member number and at the end of the year received a rebate in the mail. This was in the 60s and 70s, at least. There are still a few co-op stores around, but I don’t think they are part of the co-operative anymore. People can still buy Co-op gas, though, and get a rebate from that. The dairy was probably bought out by Beatrice or some other such company. When I was growing up, we mainly shopped at Co-op, rarely anyplace else.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    … just googling (i really wanted to know what makes ‘winnipeg-style’ cream cheese different from others, which is how I landed here in the first place) and found this on the Parmalat website:

    Beatrice Winnipeg Style Cream cheese is our most spreadable cream cheese. This makes it ideal for lighter textured bakery filling applications, dips or sauces. It also delivers a distinct cultured flavour for a rich, creamy taste.

    So I guess W-style is just creamier, whipped, and more spreadable.

  13. Jo says:

    This past weekend a friend brought some “Winnipeg cream cheese” to my house, and if it really was authentic, I was extremely disappointed. I felt it was barely distinguishable from Philly, and it clearly had stabilizers (guar or carrageenan gum), and frankly, it was dreadful. Could it have been the real thing? My favourite is Western (Brampton ON)–truly spreadable, no additives.

  14. Jim says:

    I saw a comment mention which rye bread is better Kub or City bread ? Answer Neither .. Natural Bakery Rye bread is without a doubt the best rye in Canada. I grew up eating both of the former, Kub & City ryes, when I finally tasted Natural Bakery Rye , That was it , I never bought another loaf of Kub Or City in my life… Wish I had a recipe for Naturals Rye

  15. paul says:

    I agree with jim, natural rye is by far the best. worth living in winnipeg for.

  16. Hannah says:

    Living in Vancouver I missed Winnipeg style Rye Breads but then one day while walking through Safeway I found City Rye!!! Wow what a feeling! Bought 3 loves one for me and my two daughters, who are adults, because I wanted them to taste it. I can safely say they are addicted. We make runs to Safeway just to pick up City Rye for each other. It really is the best because it is baked in real wood fired ovens. Imagine my disappointment when I went the other day and found Natural Bakery from Winnipeg instead of City Rye. I bought it anyway but the wood fired ovens of City Rye can’t be beat. Hopefully Safeway has not discontinued City Rye. I loved Kub rye too but we can’t get it here.

    As for Winnipeg Style Cream Cheese one of the Wet Coasts best dairies, Island Farms, makes the most popular cream cheese in BC and it is called Winnipeg Style. It is very close if not exactly like that bought in the North End of Winnipeg. I find that Winnipeg Style has a creamier texture, fully bodied flavour that really pairs well with just about anything. My favourite is toasted City Rye topped with cream cheese layered with sliced heirloom tomatoes, that have not been refrigerated, and sprinkled with Brittany’s grey salt (I know it is expensive – oh but the taste) and cracked pepper. Whenever I serve it to someone new they can’t believe how good it is and invariably ask for more and write down the name of the salt. This cr cheese / tomato serving is also very, very good substituted with Scandinavian hard rye bread.

  17. Emma Durand-Wood says:

    I’m drooling just reading about your toast/tomato/cream cheese combo. Yum!!

  18. Stu says:

    Both Winnipeg rye and Winnipeg Style cream cheese are different than other products and original to Winnipeg. The rye bread that I remember was more moist and slightly denser than others. The cream cheese much tastier than Philly. I haven’t seen or tasted either for a long time. I do remember having this conversation about the cream cheese many years ago with an elderly Jewish gentleman. He told me that he had family in from New York once and they had the Wpg. Style cream cheese and they couldn’t get enough of it, apparently so much better than they had in NY. So every few weeks he had to send some down to NY for the family and it became quite popular in NY. Fresh KUB rye bread is as close as you can find though CITY is close.

  19. Jesse says:

    KUB and City are both institutions in their own rights.
    As I understand, KUB is Winnipeg North End Ukrainian in its history and City is a Kosher certified Winnipeg North End Jewish bakery.
    I personally prefer City. I love it fresh. I go to my local bakery on the day that I know it’s being delivered so that I can fill my freezer with a few weeks worth while it’s on sale. Yes, I’m a Winnipegger.
    I know that City Bread is free of preservatives and their bakery is subjected to pretty strict health standards to adhere to and maintain their Kosher certification. KUB has been reprimanded repeatedly for health violations. I don’t know if KUB is preservative free or not as I’ve never bought it or read their label.

    As for Natural Bakery, take a loaf of City and a loaf of Natural and put ’em side by side in your bread box. Go back in 2 weeks and tell me which one is “natural”. Natural Bakery rye will go weeks without mold thanks to their “natural” ingredients. They aren’t in the same game in my opinion.

  20. Daphne says:

    I worked at a kosher bakery in Calgary in the 70s, and the owner used to order Winnipeg cream cheese for the customers. It was delicious! I had never tasted it before then. (I am from Victoria, BC, but my Grandpa was from Winnipeg) I remember one time the delivery truck broke down somewhere along the journey across the prairies, and people were so disappointed they couldn’t get their cream cheese that day. It really is a taste sensation spread on good rye bread, and with some fresh picked tomatoes – awesome!

  21. Greetings:

    I grew up in Winnipeg’ s north end on both Winnipeg cream cheese and KUB rye bread. Both were delicious and distinctive from similarly named products such as Philly cream cheese.

    Co-op cream cheese was made by the Co-op dairy in Winnipeg’s North End. The dairy closed in the 90’s -alas! It was creamy, tangy and made wonderful cheese cake. Island Dairy’s Winnipeg style cream cheese on Vancouver Island is the closest I have found to the original taste.

    KUB bakery (I believe the UB stands for Ukrainian Bakery) made a light rye bread that was heaven when you had it still warm from the bakery (as my dad used to bring it home this way).

    Both are wonderful memories of growing up in Winnipeg.



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