Ed­i­tor’s let­ter

Canada’s 100 Best - - Editor’s Letter - Ja­cob Rich­ler

HE ED­I­TO­RIAL TEAM al­ways has a good deal of fun de­bat­ing po­ten­tial themes for our an­nual cook­ing is­sues, as the heated back-and-forth usu­ally un­folds over a long lunch in our board­room (the back snug at P.J. O’Brien’s Ir­ish Pub). But this year, no such luck: we had the con­cept set­tled and agreed upon be­fore our open­ing round was half-downed. There was noth­ing to de­bate: Canada’s 150th an­niver­sary ne­ces­si­tated that we shine a spot­light on Cana­dian cook­ing, sim­ple as that.

Clearly the best way to do that was to fo­cus on the best lo­cal in­gre­di­ents. For these are the build­ing blocks of re­gional cui­sine ev­ery­where, and the main thing that keeps cook­ing dif­fer­ent from one place to another de­spite the ho­mog­e­niz­ing in­flu­ence of so­cial me­dia (see our story on the in­flu­ence of In­sta­gram on page 36).

So to be­gin, we asked some of our best chefs to iden­tify their favourite Cana­dian in­gre­di­ents—the prod­ucts that above all oth­ers made them happy to be cook­ing in Canada. Then we asked them to show­case those prod­ucts with new recipes, and tell us the sto­ries be­hind them.

Nat­u­rally, some chefs had trou­ble de­cid­ing what to run with. For ex­am­ple, con­sider the inim­itable Jeremy Charles, of Ray­monds, who spear­headed the un­ex­pected culi­nary awak­en­ing of St. John’s on the strength of wild, lo­cal prod­ucts. Torn be­tween cod and moose, he asked us what we pre­ferred.

As it hap­pened, New­found­land chef Mur­ray McDon­ald (then at Fogo Is­land Inn, now at Cluny Bistro in Toronto) gave us a beau­ti­ful recipe for a mod­ern pease pud­ding and cod for our recipe is­sue in 2015. And this sum­mer, The New York Times ran a travel sec­tion opener on the new New­found­land cui­sine, ti­tled “Moose, any­one?” be­cause it fea­tured chef Charles’ moose carpac­cio. So we went with the flow—and took it fur­ther. So, on page 76 you will find the recipe for chef Charles’ spec­tac­u­lar moose heart tartare—along with the story of the pre-sea­soned edi­tion that a bald ea­gle made away with last year.

If you are vege­tar­ian, you should prob­a­bly turn in­stead to page 92, for a recipe for saska­toon berry ice cream with fer­mented oats and salted plum from the in­spired chef Ja­son Carter of Dandylion (Toronto). Else­where, John Win­ter Rus­sell (Can­dide, Mon­treal) took on his favourite veg­etable, the hum­ble car­rot, and paired it with smoked goose. Julie Marteleira (Leña, Toronto) served up her favourite Cana­dian seafood, spot prawns. Other great chefs ap­plied their con­sid­er­able ex­per­tise to ev­ery­thing from Que­bec’s leg­endary St-Canut suck­ling pig, B.C.’s trea­sured mat­su­take mush­rooms, P.E.I.’s Colville Bay oys­ters, Pa­cific ocean perch, Al­berta hogget and On­tario-grown agretti (salt­wort). We think it is an ex­cit­ing sam­pling of what we do best right now.

Mean­while, you can­not have a dis­cus­sion about con­tem­po­rary Cana­dian fine din­ing with­out the con­ver­sa­tion com­ing around at some point to one great restau­rant that has been pro­mot­ing and el­e­vat­ing that cause, rein­ter­pret­ing and mod­ern­iz­ing our best re­gional styles, and show­cas­ing our great prod­ucts both wild and cul­ti­vated for 22 years. I am of course speak­ing of Ca­noe.

And there—at the top of down­town Toronto’s TD Cen­tre, over­look­ing Lake On­tario—is where we shot our main fea­ture, a spec­tac­u­lar feast of Cana­di­ana pre­pared by some heroic Ca­noe chefs past and present (thank you An­thony Walsh, John Horne, Paul Brans and Ron McKin­lay). We asked them to pre­pare their idea of the ul­ti­mate Cana­dian feast and they ex­ceeded that man­date so thor­oughly that we could have filled the en­tire magazine with it—but in­stead, we set­tled for a cover and a six-page spread.

We hope you find those pages as daz­zling as we do—along with the rest of the magazine, which has an en­tirely new look cour­tesy of our ter­rific new de­sign team, art direc­tor Eng C. Lau and as­so­ci­ate art direc­tor Robin Dickie. We are very happy to have them on-board, and look­ing for­ward to work­ing with them—and lunch­ing with them— as we fi­nal­ize plans for our 2018 rank­ing is­sue, com­ing in March.

Un­til then, happy cook­ing.

Fol­low Ja­cob on @Ja­cobRich­ler

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