There’s a lot of things I love to do in Canada. With the Rockies and Cabot trail, it’s my favorite place to strap on my hiking boots. With the West Coast’s waterways, the Ontario lakes, and the East Coast fjords, it’s the best place to put my kookatat pfd to use. It’s also one of my favorite places to eat.
A “oui” bit French, a whole bunch English, selectively global, decidedly North American, there is a culinary nationalism in Canada that prides itself on tradition and local ingredients.
Here’s my Canadian diet essentials…
Wild blueberries handpicked on an island in Prospect Bay, NS.
Wild Nova Scotia Blueberries — Nova Scotia is the 2nd largest wild blueberry producer in the world (Maine ranks in at #1). Without a doubt, everywhere you go in the province, you’re sure to find some sort of wonderful blueberry-featuring dish. Blueberry teas, blueberry infused maple syrup, blueberry chutney, blueberry pies, blueberry preserves, blueberry ice-cream, and most famously, blueberry grunt (a sort of crisp meets fruit dumpling dessert that’s just fantastic and homey.)
Prince Edward Island Mussels — PEI mussels are celebrated for their clean taste and velvety texture and are shipped out all over North America (I even had some in Atlanta, GA). They grow them on ropes so there isn’t any grit inside the shell. They also know how to cook them up here — simple preparation and not too much garlic (which always distracts). I ate so many the last time I was in the Maritimes that I developed a slight allergy…
Peameal Bacon — This is what Americans think of when they think of Canadian Bacon. It’s delicious and lean, more like ham than traditional strip bacon, and makes the best sandwich-filler. It’s more of an Ontario thing, so when we visit the family, we wander over to Covent Gardens (London, ON) and buy a good pound or two from the butcher.
Black Diamond Cheddar — Hands down the best cheddar you can get outside of England. Creamy and crumbly, it makes the best cheese and chutney sandwiches or mac & cheese base.
Digby Scallops — Everyone loves scallops for their velvety texture and rich flavour. Digby, Nova Scotia is famous for their crop of these lovely little shellfish.
Fish and Chips — Enjoyed on both coasts of the country, but the provincial dish of Newfoundland, Canadians know how to do a good beer batter (Alexander Keith’s is a winner) for their haddock. Oh! and some PEI Potato fries! yum yum yum.
PEI Potatoes — the red soil of PEI produces, hands down, the best tasting potatoes in the world. Trust me, I’m Irish.
the Cows Cow outside the Charlotteville, PEI store
Cows Ice-Cream — Selected as one of the 10 best creameries in the WORLD, Cows is stellar ice-cream. Based on Prince Edward Island, it’s an east coast gem. My favorite flavor is mocha almond fudge, though their pralines and cream is also a winner.
Alexander Keith’s IPA — Canadians do good beer, and the Halifax brewery happens to be a very good one.
Buttertarts — mini pecan pies without the pecans, but dotted with plump raisins. These are more of an Ontario treat and are hands down my favorite Canadian specialty.
Date Squares — These are one of my all-time favorites. A hearty, stick to your ribs sort of dessert/snack, Date Squares are a layer of chunky date puree sandwiched between two oaty, crumbly, brown sugar-laden crust layers. When I’m on the go, I enjoy them with my cafe au lait for breakfast.
Nanimo bars with a cup of coffee... yum, yum, yum
Nanimo Bars — From Nanimo, BC, but universally enjoyed across Canada, they are a chocolate coconut brownie-like base, vanilla cream center, and chocolate ganache topping. What more could you want in a dessert square?
Oatcakes — a Nova Scotia specialty. Think a less sweet, more durable oatmeal cookie that is best served with a bit of jam, or dipped in chocolate.
There’s a serious shortage of vegetables on the East Coast, where I’m currently located, but the super fresh seafood makes up for it…