This is a true escape for the hungry outdoor enthusiast; a challenging trek from the ski slopes of the Lake Louise resort across two, steep mountain passes, over or around a stunning alpine lake. The reward is the chance to stay in Western Canada’s oldest backcountry ski lodge, sans electricity or running water. The bigger reward is the decadent feast that chef Katie Mitzel delivers to the communal dining table each evening. All the ingredients are brought in by snowmobile in winter, and horseback in summer. Katie uses gas stoves and refrigerators, and has to be creative given her limited supply. Grain-fed Alberta beef, candied wild salmon, New Zealand lamb, Arctic Char, organic salads, an assortment of fruits and cheese – goat, gruyere, gorgonzola. All as much a hit with the lodge’s grateful hikers as with royals Will and Kate, who spent the night at Skokie during their visit to Canada.
Located alongside the Bay of Fundy, the Annapolis Valley is the third most important fruit-growing region in the country, blessed with some of the best weather in the Eastern Canada. Besides the charming towns and seafront views, foodies will love the culinary choices on offer, particularly the fine dining at the boutique wineries. Wine Access Magazine named Le Caveau Restaurant, located at the Domaine de Grand Pre winery, as one of the world’s 20 best vineyard restaurants. Not far away is the Fox Hill Cheese House, which produces 20 types of specialty cheeses, along with yoghurt and gelato. Foodies will also enjoy the Wolfville Farmers Market, which takes place every Saturday during summer. The Farmer’s Market also presents “Tastes of the Valley”, a celebration of local food that has the region’s best chefs creating locally-sourced dishes at just $3 a pop.
From the humble but irreplaceable Chez Ashtons to fine bistros serving finer French dishes, Old Quebec City will fit in with any foodies escape itinerary. Culinary tourists rave about the homeliness of the bistros, where chefs delight in the city’s quality of cheese, bread, wine and chocolate. Walk along Le Petit Champlain, once the city’s slum and now a beautiful urban street, lined with restaurants, arts and crafts. Step into chocolatier wonderland, like La Fudgerie, who might just serve up the best hot chocolate in all of Canada. There is poutine, and there is the poutine served by Ashtons, the very place that invented one of Canada’s most popular national dishes. The cheese curds, prepared daily, squeak with freshness. Foodies can also hit the countryside with the Charlevoix Flavour Trail, a 143km road trip that highlights the region’s best farms, artisan food producers and restaurants.
In early 2012, Zagat, the global restaurant guide and culinary authority, told its readers something locals already knew. That Prince Edward Island is one of the world’s top off-the-beaten track culinary destinations. In Charlottetown, I visited rock star Chef Gordon Bailey in his Lot 30, rocking patrons with panko-crusted oysters, grilled scallop tomato soup and a fun attitude to fine dining. The island revels in its seafood – lobster, fish, crabs, oysters – always fresh from the surrounding Atlantic. At Ship to Shore, a restaurant in scenic Darnley, Canadian shucking champion John Bil lets the sea do the talking. He serves up fresh mussels, scallops, melt-in-your-mouth halibut, and a wonderful enthusiasm for the region’s oysters. Other top restaurants on PEI include Pearl Café, Sirenella and Selkirk. Meanwhile PEI has plenty to offer the sweet tooth with its rich and creamy COWS. The island’s COWS Creamery is a journey into ice-cream nirvana.
Kelowna is one of the fastest growing cities in North America, and its growth has been accompanied by world-class cuisine. Chefs are spoiled for choice in a region famed for the quality of its fruits, vegetables, cheese and wine. Case in point is downtown’s Raudz, a busy yet relaxed bistro established by award winning chef Rod Butters and Audrey Surrao. Sourced from local, organic suppliers, Chef Butters served up artisanal cheese, white-bean hummus, asparagus tart, medium rare grilled flat iron bison with wild mushrooms and truffle aioli. Oh boy! Many vineyards have sensational patio restaurants, best enjoyed in summer. Gray Monk Estate’s Grapevine, Quails’ Gate Estate’s Old Vine and Mission Hill’s Terrace Restaurant are some of the best. Enjoy the views, the wine, and the taste.
St John’s is known for its comfort dishes, the food that warms the soul on a cold winter’s day. Chefs around the island use its natural resources to full effect. Expect fish and chips, pies and stews, along with local fruits like bakeapples, partridgeberries and toutons, a fried dough dessert. Food bloggers have been calling attention to the fact that the city’s culinary offerings are far more diverse these days, with great Japanese, Vietnamese and Indian restaurants. Raymond’s, an old world fine dining establishment with chandeliers, thick drapes, and beautiful views of the harbour, was named Canada’s Best New Restaurant in 2011. A seafood platter of lobster, shrimp, periwinkles and oysters was an instant hit. With its English, Irish, French and First Nation roots, several operators offer culinary tours across the island.
The great outdoors, pampering, and a healthy helping of the best food in the region – here’s a day trip designed for foodies. A tour operator called Earth Rhythms offers a cuisine experience into Riding Mountain National Park and Minnedosa. You’ll get to sample the best local produce, gather honey, and sample the specialities of local chefs in outdoor cafes. To work up an appetite, they’ll lead you along various hiking trails, before taking you to the Fairmount B&B in Minnedosa to relax, and of course, get ready for a feast. Meals are prepared using local farm products, accompanying fresh caught trout or meat dishes. In the morning, you can even gather your own eggs for breakfast. Beautiful food in beautiful surroundings.
In a region widely recognized for the quality of its food and wine, a culinary trail has been set up to promote agriculture, tourism and the food community, celebrating “the joys of local, seasonal and artisanal cooking.” Foodies can download a handy guide (http://niagaraculinarytrail.com/the-nct-guide/) that divides Niagara into five culinary regions. Niagara-on-the-Lake has the highest concentration of farm-to-table restaurants. St Catharines & Jordan offers a terrific farmer’s market. Along Highway 8, enjoy wine country cuisine in the towns of . Vineland, Beamsville and Grimsby. Apples, corn, syrup, and melons are abundant in an area of woodland, farms and fields surrounding Welland, Fonthill and the Effingham Hills. Finally, the guide invites you on an Epicurean Trek to Niagara Falls and its surrounding area.
There’s been a revolution on the streets of Vancouver, and fortunately, it’s been a delicious one. Prior to 2009, street food consisted of nuts, popcorn and hot dogs, but a city initiative has seen dozens of high-quality street carts hit the sidewalks. Vancouver is fast getting a reputation for having one of the world’s best selections of street carts. The old staple is Japadog on the corner of Smythe and Burrard. Movie stars rave about these Japanese-style hot dogs, and expect a line-up (Japadog now as a store on Robson Street as well). Being the west coast, expect tasty, wild and organic offerings at Fresh Local Wild, where the chef catches the fish himself. Try a fusion taco at Cartel Taco, the bulgogi tortilla with kimchi is a perfect representation of the multi-cultural city. Dim Sum Express, Re-up BBQ and Naan Wraps take your tastebuds to China, Louisiana and India in a matter of blocks. Grab a bite, explore the city, and never go hungry.
Here’s a self-guided, 100km road trip for those with a sweet tooth. The Butter Tart Trail is a celebration one of Canada’s favourite pastries, the sugar-syrup-egg and butter delight that became a staple of pioneer cooking. Butter tarts are one of a just a few recipes credited solely to Canadian origins, which you will learn all about as you explore the township of Wellington North. As you taste your way through dozens of different butter tarts, you might enjoy some local variations like the butter tart sundae, or even butter tart treats for your dog. Rustic, home cooking-style restaurants benefit from farm-fresh produce available at their doorstep. Wellington North is about a two-hour drive from Toronto.
Robin is now very hungry, and will not write another word until he has eaten something sweet, fresh, and local from the fridge.