(Photo Courtesy of Destination Canada)
Few countries experience the four seasons more vividly than Canada — the winters are white, spring bursts through like fireworks, summers sizzle and autumn glows with golden leaves. As a result, its harvests are plentiful yet remarkably varied throughout the year. With pioneering panache at the heart of the Canadian spirit, its citizens are used to living off the land and evolving their dinner plate to reflect the changing produce.
Add hundreds of years of immigration from all over the planet, and you’ve got Canada’s modern culinary tapestry that features bright flavors from around the globe that build upon the traditions of refined comfort food and market-fresh produce.
Here, experience a day of eating across the country, savoring some of the finest dishes, and indulging in some of the coolest experiences focused on the dinner table.
Breakfast in Quebec
New Yorkers may cry foul, but Montreal has the best bagels on the planet—a coveted recipe brought over from Eastern Europe by Jewish immigrants long ago. Montreal bagels are much thinner than the New York variety, with a sweeter dough enhanced with more egg and honey—they have more sesame seeds (the original flavor) as well. Our favorite rings of bread can be found at St-Viateur. Open 24 hours a day, the shop’s wood-fired smell wafts into the streets, as fresh batches are being churned out every few minutes.
Walk down the street to Café Olimpico—a staple establishment of the Mile End neighborhood—for perfectly roasted Italian-style espresso to wash down your bagel.
For something more substantial, head to Québec’s Eastern Townships where you’ll find a luxurious morning-time platter at Manoir Hovey. Instead of topping your pancakes and waffles with maple syrup, try birch syrup instead—harvested by hand on-site, the sap has a richer, thicker taste. The property makes a mean birch pannacotta if your sweet tooth kicks in during breakfast.
Lunch in Newfoundland & Labrador
For a fresher-than-fresh meal, why not learn how St. John’s top-notch chefs source their produce on a private tour with Cod Sounds. Lori, the forager behind Cod Sounds, will take you to untouched forests and beaches to sustainably source a variety of items for a picnic lunch, from briny uni, plump blueberries (eaten together they create a surprisingly delightful burst of flavor), mussels, and mint. Lori often brings along some of her signature homemade bread as well.
St. John’s punches well above its weight class when it comes to the lunch plate, with a cluster of highly acclaimed restaurants in its small downtown core. Try the Merchant Tavern, the baby brother establishment of famed foodie haven Raymond’s, where the cod comes straight from the waters nearby and is served alongside an epic raw bar that includes poke and tartar.
The luxurious Fogo Island Inn opens its dining room to guests not staying on property for a chance to experience gourmet twists on hardy maritime flavors, like elevated cod cakes and simmering crab. The in-house sommelier will recommend pairings of light wines, like Nova 7 from neighboring Nova Scotia’s up-and-coming vino scene.
(Photo Courtesy of Destination British Columbia & Andrew Strain)
Dinner in Alberta and British Columbia
Go one better than a burger, and try honest-to-goodness bison in Alberta at Canadian Rangeland Bison and Elk farmed sustainably and with care in the Wild West. It’ll wind up on your dinner plate in Edmonton and Calgary—cities that have recently emerged as two of the country’s culinary hotspots. Try the newly opened Native Tongues in Calgary, a surprising addition to the multicultural dining scene that smothers Canada’s high-quality meat with authentic Mexican flavors, or Prairie Noodle Shop in Edmonton which creates authentic ramen dishes that intertwine with the culinary history and ingredients of Alberta.
One of the most fruitful wine regions in Canada—gaining an international reputation for its high standard—is the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Today, there are over 170 wineries to choose from, and the hub city of Kelowna promises a handful of excellent wine bars showcasing the best harvests. Follow the Kelowna Wine Trail as it winds past notable vineyards like Mt. Boucherie, with its rich volcanic soil, and 50th Parallel Estate with its sleek architecture and an incredible view over Lake Okanagan.
After Dinner in Ontario
Not to be missed is Ottawa’s favorite hangout: the Union Local 613, where friends and strangers mingle over house-made punches and seasonal cocktails using locally sourced ingredients. Still hungry? Not to worry, Union Local serves up late night snacks until 2 AM including some of Ottawa’s best fried chicken. If you’re looking for something a bit more private, the venue also boasts Ottawa’s only speakeasy where you can host your event with the restaurant’s signature southern dishes and an international wine list featuring several selections from Canadian vintners.
Cap the evening off with a visit to Toronto’s Distillery District if you’ve had an early dinner, but if you’re staying up until sunrise check out West Queen West—a veritable strand of bars and restaurants offering options to every stripe of local and traveler. Hit up The Drake (no relation to the artist ;) for homemade cocktails like the East India Trading Co, a Greyhound with gin and spices.
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