2 May 2012

Live to eat- Canadian Cuisine

When you think of Canada in culinary terms, the first image that’ll probably spring to mind is that of hot waffles smothered in maple syrup, but this country is home to many more delicacies than just this infamous golden elixir. From juicy lobster fresh from the waters of Nova Scotia, mouth-watering beef found in the cow town of Calgary, to our new favourite tipple – the delectable Ice Wine of Ontario. Get ready to loosen your belts.

ONTARIO ICE WINE

Obviously we rate wine rather highly in its regular form, but add to the mix the frozen grapes and sugary sweet taste of ice wine and we may just have found our new favourite tipple. The grapes used to produce the wine are frozen whilst still on the vine which means that whilst the water inside the grape freezes, the natural sugars do not, creating the concentrated, sweet flavour that makes ice wine so delicious.  Yes, the creation of this wine involves a painstakingly lengthy process, but we can’t help but romanticise the fact that the grapes have to remain on the vine until the temperature drops between -8 and -12 °C, meaning the harvesting is typically done in the witching hours after midnight, making this sought after wine even more enchanting.

Where to find it:

Canada, namely Ontario, has the perfect climate for creating this dessert wine and is also the birthplace of the sparkling version, created accidently in 1988 by a Canadian wine writer in his own home cellar.  For an authentic glass or three of both ice wine varieties, head to the Hillebrand Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake where you can sample these revered vintages, (Hillebrand created the region’s first ice wine in 1983) in the lush surroundings of the estate, just a twenty minute drive from Niagara Falls.

ontario ice wine

CALGARY BEEF

Be it burger, bourguignon or a good old fashioned slab of rump steak, beef in all its incarnations is a firm menu favourite. It’s thanks to the effect of Calgary’s “boom years”, (it is Canada’s oil capital) that the city has grown, not just economically, but also gastronomically, with a wealth of foodie choices on offer…but for us, it’s all about the beef. And with the city affectionately nicknamed Cowtown, home to the annual Calgary Stampede Rodeo, you know a great steak won’t be hard to come by.

Where to find it:

Cowtown is, unsurprisingly home to a plethora of great steakhouses where you can sample juicy cuts of infamous Alberta beef or lip-smacking ribs amongst many other meaty options. Our tip is to head to the trendy, dark-wood restaurant SaltLik Steakhouse, where fine dining fuses with mouth-watering flavours to create an affordable, must-do Calgary experience.

NOVA SCOTIA LOBSTER AND SCALLOPS

Head to Nova Scotia and you’ll be surrounded by captivating coastal scenery and delicious cuisine of the marine variety.  The much lauded Digby scallops are succulent, sweet delights and the fresh-as-you-like Halifax lobster, (which previously caused a media stir starring in its own reality show via a Lobstercam attached to a lobster trap in Halifax Harbour), is a must-eat gourmet treat.

Where to find it:

Make like a local and sample some of the area’s best seafood delicacies in the capital city, Halifax, where lobster and scallops reign supreme. Salty’s Restaurant is set right on the waterfront overlooking Halifax Harbour and offers an eclectic, locally sourced menu, whether you want fine dining featuring Digby scallops, or a more casual chowder affair. Alternatively, try the Five Fishermen where in a suitably nautical setting you can sample a plate of creamy Lobster Thermidor or lobster stuffed with Digby scallops if you want the best of both worlds.

scallop, halifax, canadaQUEBEC MAPLE SYRUP

From oozing out of the maple tree to smothering on hot waffles, the golden nectar that is maple syrup is something of a Canadian national treasure.  Legend has it that the discovery of this sugary substance came about when the chief of a tribe threw his tomahawk at a maple tree, from which the sap then poured. 300 or so years later and we are still obsessed with the syrup – there’s even a dedicated maple syrup diet, though we prefer ours on the more calorific side.

Where to find it:

The best place to sample this sweet treat is in Quebec – purveyors of the finest maple syrup, this east-central Canadian province holds the title of the world’s biggest maple syrup producer.  Discover the produce that comes from these “sugar bushes” in one of Quebec’s cabane à sucre, (fancy name for sugar house) from late Feb through until early May. For an unrivalled sweet experience head to Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal where traditional rustic ‘shack fare’ is given a contemporary twist, think maple cotton candy and buckwheat pancakes all smothered in the syrupy good stuff of course.

Words by Holly Rains

Why not make a foody pilgrimage to Canada, visit Calgary, Quebec, Manitoba, Yukon, Montreal and Ontario with tailor made travel company, Black Tomato. Visit the website for more information.

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