Travel Guide to Canada
FOOD: A TASTE OF CANADA
Culinary tourism is a force of nature in Canada. From walking food tours of cities to tasty rural trails, there’s a cornucopia of good eats on the road. Creative young chefs reinterpret Canada’s regional dishes, showcase ethnic influences and play with exotic spicing.
Heirloom produce from local farms, indigenous wild foods foraged from the forests, organic meats and fresh seafood fished from the oceans and lakes are among their cherished ingredients. Sustainable, artisanal and locavore are their buzz words.
BRITISH COLUMBIA BOUNTY FROM THE OCEAN, FORESTS & LAND
Specialties on the menu in British Columbia include wild salmon, golden honey mussels, spot prawns, geoduck, BC bison, Fraser Valley duck and Salt Spring Island lamb.
There is a wide range of guided culinary tours—sometimes led by chefs—in southern B.C., particularly near the Okanagan Valley, Cowichan Valley and Fraser Valley. City tasting tours in Victoria, Vancouver and Whistler visit restaurants and culinary neighbourhoods (www.hellobc.com).
Cornucopia Whistler, celebrating 21 years in November, is an annual 11-day indulgence of local food and drink, that pairs homegrown chefs with top B.C. producers, breweries, distilleries, and wineries (www. whistlercornucopia.com).
Kissa Tanto, a jewel of a place that fuses Japanese with Italian in Vancouver’s Chinatown, was named Canada’s Best New Restaurant in 2016 by Air Canada’s en Route magazine (www.kissatanto.com).
Off the Eaten Track offers fun foodie tours such as the Gourmet Ice Cream Tour of Vancouver and the Craft Beer and Culinary Tour of Victoria (www.offtheeatentracktours.ca/vancouver). On the Wild Foraging – BC Rainforest Lunch & Walk, offered by Swallow Tail Culinary Tours, participants discover native B.C. ingredients in the forest: fiddleheads, licorice fern, big leaf maple flowers, nettles, oyster mushrooms and wild chamomile, to name a few (www. swallowtail.ca). Edible Canada on Granville Island offers a restaurant, artisan retail shop and an appetizing selection of culinary tours, events and adventures in Vancouver (www.ediblecanada.com).
THE PRAIRIES GRASSLAND GRAINS AND RANCHLAND MEATS
Manitoba’s Parkland region has a self-guided Flavour Trail with about 14 trail stops along the way, including Elkhorn Resort where local specialties such as Northern Manitoba pickerel, wild rice and saskatoon berries are on the menu (www.flavourtrail.ca).
In season, Winnipeg’s Exchange District BIZ offers tours to some of their delectable oneof-a-kind restaurants (www.exchangedistrict.org/tours/food-tours). West End BIZ covers the eateries in the west of the city (www. westendbiz.ca/visiting-the-west-end/tours/ food-tours-4). Eating and drinking tours of the downtown area feature patio crawls, moveable feasts and even breakfast samplings (www.downtownwinnipegbiz.com/tours).
The rolling grassland plains of Saskatchewan are best known for growing grains. The most exotic is wild rice, an aquatic grass grown in shallow waters. Saskatoon berries are baked into all kinds of desserts at places such as The Berry Barn, near the shores of the South Saskatchewan River (www.berrybarn.ca).
In Alberta, as Canada’s ranch heartland, elk, bison, wild boar, caribou and beef— which many refer to as Canadian Rocky Mountain Cuisine—are plentiful. Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts has their own 500 acre game ranch to provide for their four restaurants in the city of Calgary and dining at the lodges in Banff, Lake Louise and Emerald Lake (www.crmr.com/mountain-cityrestaurants-rockies). In Calgary, at The Guild, Chef Ryan O’Flynn, who spent time learning cooking techniques from the Dene, offers Indigenous-inspired Jacob’s Ladder Bison served Saskatoon style with wild rice and prairie corn (www.theguildrestaurant.com).
COUNTLESS TASTE TRAILS AND FOOD FESTIVALS
Home to the Ontario Pork Council, Stratford, famous for the Stratford Festival, boasts a Bacon & Ale Trail along with a Chocolate Trail and seasonal trails such as the Savour Stratford Maple Trail.
On Prince Edward County’s Taste Trail, visitors can pop into a cidery, brewery, or ice cream shop for a cold treat or sample fine pinots and chardonnays at wineries in this picturesque area on the north shore of Lake Ontario (www.tastetrail.ca). Check out the cool cocktail and food scene at the Drake Devonshire (www.drakedevonshire.ca), enjoy fresh laid eggs for breakfast at one of the bucolic B&Bs such as Wilfrid Boutique Farmhouse (www.thewilfrid.com ) or sign up for a cooking class to learn the tools of the trade at The Waring House (www.waringhouse.com).
Butter tarts were a staple of pioneer cooking in both Upper and Lower Canada (now Ontario and Québec). The townships of Minto, Southgate and Wellington North’s self-guided Butter Tarts and Buggies Trail combines these sweetly delicious pastries with insights into the Mennonite culture (www.buttertartsandbuggies.com).
Ottawa is home to the only Canadian campus of the renowned Le Cordon Bleu French cooking school (www.lcbottawa.com). C’est Bon’s gourmet walking tours are an ideal introduction to the National Capital Region’s vibrant food scene (www.cestboncooking.ca/gourmet-food-tours).
Ontario has some 450 annual culinarythemed festivals and events listed in their on-line calendar (www.ontarioculinary.com).
QUÉBEC A GOLDMINE OF FRENCH-CANADIAN SPECIALTIES
New France’s first inhabitants ate hearty meals to cope with the rigours of everyday life and the cold winter climate—evolving a distinct home-cooking style over the centuries, that became Québec classics, such as: tourtière, meat and pork pie; cipaille, a layered wild meat pie; fèves au lard, baked beans; cretons, a fatty pork spread; tarte au sucre, sugar pie; and soupe aux gourganes, broad bean soup (www.quebecoriginal.com/en-ca/food#local-specialties).
Maple syrup plays a big role in traditional food with more than 10,000 producers in the province. In spring, Québécois gather at some 400 cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks) to enjoy baked beans, oreilles des crisse (crispy pork rinds), and pancakes
all drenched in maple syrup (www.quebecoriginal.com/en).
A dish that has gained North American recognition is poutine—french fries topped with cheese curds, then slathered in gravy. On the Route to Gourmet Delights in central Québec (www.tourismecentreduquebec.com), Fromagerie Lemaire offers poutine in its country-style restaurant and still warm curd cheese to eat while watching the cheesemakers at work through a panoramic window.
From Petite-Rivière-Saint-François to La Malbaie, epicureans treat themselves to a gastronomic adventure on the Charlevoix Flavour Trail which features some 23 specialty producers and 15 restaurants (www.tourisme-charlevoix.com/en/whatto-do/routes-and-circuits/flavour-trail).
The Eastern Townships, renowned for its gourmet cuisine, has over 100 “Creators of Flavours,” as well as a number of Creative Chef Restaurants and Village Cafés—brands created by Tourism Eastern Townships to recognize special products, agritourism, cafés and restaurants in the region (www.easterntownships.org/restaurant).
Montréal counts more than 400 chefs including many top names. But it is also famous for bagels (St-Viateur and Fairmount) and smoked meat (Schwartz’ and Main Deli). The city is host to around 40 annual Food Festivals and events, from the most famous Montréal Highlights Festival to La Poutine Week (montreal. lapoutineweek.com).
In the Laurentians, the Chemin du Terroir is a signposted trail that takes travellers through more than 226 km of country backroads and byways, with delicious food and drink discoveries at every turn (www.laurentides.com/en/chemin-du-terroir).
THE GLORY OF SEAFOOD
The culinary scene has exploded in Nova Scotia. The Chowder Trail merged into The Seafood Trail, bringing together a collection of restaurant, retail and fishery experiences that highlight the province’s incredible seafood products (www.novascotiaculinarytrails.com/seafood-trail/overview). The Highwayman in Halifax, named one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2016 by ENROUTE magazine, is a restobar that celebrates the provinces seaside ties (www.highwaymanhfx.com).
In New Brunswick, travellers can build their own trail to farmers’ markets, restaurants and sites via the website (www. tourismnewbrunswick.ca ). There are tasty snacks hard to find anywhere else, like dulse—a salty sea treat—and hearty Acadian dishes. Visitors to Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar will meet owner Dr. Cornel Ceapa (a PhD in sturgeon biology) who raises sturgeon to sell around the world.
The PEI Flavours Culinary Trail guides people to the Island’s distinct regions, each with its own culinary traditions, as well as to restaurants, farmers, fishers and local markets (www.peiflavours.ca). In Fortune Bay, long-time Islander and Food Network Chef Michael Smith has transformed the restaurant at The Inn at Bay Fortune into FIREWORKS, where a 25-foot brick-lined, wood-burning fireplace in the centre of the restaurant is the anchor for the “Fire Kitchen” —every dish is cooked over fire (www. innatbayfortune.com). The International Shellfish Festival includes shucking competitions using local Malpeque, one of the world’s finest oysters; about ten million are harvested every year (www.peishellfish.com).
Newfoundland is known for its seafood and traditional dishes such as salt fish and brewis (made with hard tack or dry bread) and Jiggs dinner (boiled salted beef and vegetables). At remote and gorgeous Fogo Island Inn, everything coming out of the Inn’s kitchen is house made: caribou sausages, pickled quail eggs, grainy mustards and berry-jewelled breakfast scones (www.fogoislandinn.ca).
WILD HARVESTS UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN
In the Yukon, Michele Genest and Beverley Gray are authors of the books The Boreal Gourmet and The Boreal Herbal, respectively. They explain what you can harvest in the Land of the Midnight Sun. At Gray’s Aroma Borealis Herb Shop in Whitehorse, visitors can arrange to join her on a foraging outing (www.aromaborealis.com). Michele Genest offers workshops and events, along with her latest cook book, The Boreal Feast (www. borealgourmet.com). In the Northwest Territories “Shopping in the Boreal Forest” is an interpretive walk with biologist Rosanna Strong (www.experienceyellow knife.com/packaged-tours/#tour-73).
Whatever their fancy, wherever travellers go in Canada, they are sure to find their taste nirvana.