One of Winnipeg’s leading hospitality brands, Sparrow Hotels expanded its presence in the city over the last 20 months with its catering division, Circa Catering. The locally-owned Sparrow Hotels brand encompasses three hotels, five restaurants, and a spa.
Circa started in October 2019 when it took over catering services at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) and has continued to expand its operations throughout the pandemic with a focus on local, sustainable menus, while launching new dining concepts at some of Winnipeg’s top attractions. Tourism Winnipeg sat down with Sheila Kristinnson, Director of Food + Beverage of Circa Catering to learn more.
Q: Circa Catering operates in many venues throughout the city, including in Quamajuq at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Can you tell us more about this newest endeavor?
We wanted to focus on creating a catering arm of Sparrow Hotels and combine that with unique off-site venues. We think one of the biggest trends is the desire for people to get out of a standard ballroom or meeting room and get into a creative space. The WAG is a perfect spot for that. As part of Quamajuq, we’ve had a chance to open a café in the new space on the main floor called Katita, in Inukitut it means “let’s get together”. We were fortunate to get to work with the Indigenous language keepers that consulted on the project of Qaumajuq and really wanted to convey a space for community and idea exchange, There is a mural at the café that depicts Turtle Island, a beautiful red, black and pink artwork that makes a beautiful statement as a centrepiece in the contrasting crisp and white with lots of glass Qaumajuq setting.
Q: Circa catering has also taken on the infamous Buffalo Stone Café at FortWhyte Alive. Can you share a bit about what you have in store for this new concept?
We took over catering and food services at FortWhyte in September of 2020. We launched our services at FortWhyte by catering their signature event, the goose flight dinners in the fall, which was very successful. We’ve been working closely with FortWhyte and have developed some new food and beverage concepts. We’ve talked about adding a family picnic onto a bison safari and some pop-up events, such as holiday dining and shopping, solstice dinners, kayak paddle and dine. We want to take FortWhyte’s amazing experiences and add a culinary flavour. Meetings, corporate events and fundraisers are all part of what we do here.
Q: Circa catering has a focus on sustainable menu options, can you elaborate on that?
Sustainability is a core focus of Circa as well as of our parent company Sparrow. It’s something we really spend a lot of time focusing on. All of our dining menus have “chef’s choice” of seasonal vegetables and starch because that gives us the ability to be using the freshest produce and whatever is seasonally available in the area. We also work with FortWhyte Farms so they plant items that can be used as part of our menus.
Q: Offering alternative menu options for a variety of dietary needs is a common trend we’re seeing in meetings and events, how has Circa catering prepared menus for unique diets?
We’re seeing the future of food heading in this direction with offering more flexible items. A lot of our soups are already gluten-free or vegetarian to start off with. You’ll see this shine at Katita, so you know the menu is very vegetarian and vegan friendly but then also there’s also the ability to add grilled chicken or a beautiful lemon-poached char to any of those dishes as well. Our chef is making our own vegan ricotta in house.
On the FortWhyte menu we’ve actually got this great vegetable carvery. So instead of a traditional beef carvery, it’s going to be these beautiful roasted seasonal vegetables and different types of sauces and dips to go along with it. Also, at the WAG we’ve created a seafood carvery for more plant-based or fish-based options.
Q: Do you have a personal favourite dish on the Circa menu?
Oh, that’s hard because there are so many good ones. I would probably say the fiore salad. We’ve got an abridged version of it right now in our grab and go but it’s our signature salad on the WAG menu. It’s this beautiful mixed green salad with balsamic, goat cheese, chickpeas, purple onion, tomatoes, and cucumbers, so it’s really fresh. I just love the idea that it’s a green salad but it’s already got some protein built in.
This interview has been edited for length, clarity and grammar.