DINE and Destinations - - DRINK -

On­tario cui­sine is in the sto­ries and the con­di­tions of the farm­ers and the hun­ters, and in the var­i­ous re­gional set­tle­ments from Men­non­ites to Scan­di­na­vians. North­ern cook­ing is game-driven: duck, goose, grouse, par­tridge, rab­bit, deer, moose and bear. In the south it's the farm­land an­i­mals like pork, lamb and beef. On­tario pork is renowned to the ex­tent that “Cana­dian Ba­con” is of­ten the first item we think of when asked, “What do Cana­di­ans eat?” This “peameal ba­con,” wet-cured back-ba­con, orig­i­nally rolled in ground yel­low peas, now in corn­meal, is found across On­tario. The peameal ba­con sand­wich is a Toronto in­ven­tion.

From the Great Lakes in the south through to the park­lands of the north, On­tario has an abun­dance of lake fish like bass, pike, white­fish, perch, pick­erel, trout and Lake Su­pe­rior her­ring. On­tario cui­sine is not about recipes; it's about what's at our fin­ger­tips. “It's em­pha­siz­ing the in­gre­di­ent,” shares Chef Ja­son Bangerter (Lang­don Hall). “It's telling a story about the in­gre­di­ent: pre­par­ing lake trout with ju­niper or pine from the for­est, and con­nect­ing it all to­gether.”

On­tario pro­duce is the envy of the world, from fid­dle­heads in spring to pota­toes, pump­kins, squash and turnips in late fall through win­ter: Nor­folk County as­para­gus; Perth County gar­lic; and fruits and vegeta­bles in abun­dance from ap­ples to zuc­chini. A short grow­ing sea­son is bal­anced by greater ther­mal am­pli­tude, so the fruit bas­ket of South­ern On­tario is burst­ing with flavour. Look for Muskoka cran­ber­ries; Ni­a­gara peaches and cher­ries; and of course, ap­ples. The na­tional ap­ple of Canada, Mac­in­tosh, for which Ap­ple Inc. named their line of per­sonal com­put­ers, was first planted in Eastern On­tario. North­ern On­tario is abun­dant in wild berries and chaga for tea. On­tario is home to half of Canada's mush­rooms in­clud­ing morels, saf­fron caps, puff­balls and shaggy manes. The Yukon Gold po­tato was in­vented in Guelph. Tree syrups like maple, birch and black wal­nut are a fam­ily af­fair and a sta­ple in most kitchens.

Cheese pro­duc­tion in On­tario is flour­ish­ing and par­tic­u­larly renowned for ched­dar.

Craft brew­eries and dis­til­leries are boom­ing, and cideries are also be­com­ing pop­u­lar, but it's On­tario grape wine pro­duc­tion that has the most in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion. The cool cli­mate wines of the Ni­a­gara wine re­gion are most prom­i­nent, fol­lowed by Prince Ed­ward County, Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Is­land, but there are other emerg­ing re­gions too. There is much ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in va­ri­etals and meth­ods en­abled by the ver­sa­til­ity of the ter­roir. Icewine is the most prized wine prod­uct from Ni­a­gara-on-the-lake, and the quin­tes­sen­tial On­tario grape used is Vi­dal.

Who can for­get about On­tario's pas­tries like Ot­tawa's fried doughy Beaver­tails with a dust­ing of cin­na­mon and brown su­gar; and the ubiq­ui­tous syrupy sweet But­ter Tart, orig­i­nated in Bar­rie.

“It’s telling a story about the in­gre­di­ent: pre­par­ing lake trout with ju­niper or pine from the for­est, and con­nect­ing it all to­gether”—chef JA­SON BANGERTER

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