Some Thoughts on Canadian Cuisine

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Fine, I’ll wait a few minutes for the giggling fit to subside. I get it, I get it. The food from the Great White North has long been used as a punchline. Given that most people only associate maple syrup and poutine with Canada, I can understand the skepticism. However, my extended time in the country has proven that this isn’t a barren wasteland where Tim Horton’s is considered a delicacy. Nay! In fact, I am willing to state the following: Canadian food can be as appealing and mouthwatering as their new swoon-worthy Prime Minister (and fellow McGill alumni, thankyouverymuch), Justin Trudeau.

Not convinced? Then let me give you 5 compelling reasons why Canada can be a foodie haven:

1) It is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world…

…and their longstanding farmer’s markets are a testament to that tradition. The Jean-Talon Market in Montreal was a welcome respite from the cheap corner stores of my college days and the Marché du Vieux-Port was one of my favorite parts of visiting Quebec City. Despite the godforsaken winters, both of these market’s are open year-round and they not only sell seasonal produce but also have bakeries, cheese shops, butcher counters, and more.

Bright red cranberries at Marché Vieux Port in Quebec City. All I need is some vodka and we've got a party.

Bright red cranberries at Marché Vieux Port in Quebec City. All I need is some vodka and we’ve got a party.

2) The French influence is real…

…which means that they are not kidding around with their bakeries. As a self-declared carb-addict, there is nothing that gives me a bigger high than the intoxicating wafts of fresh, buttery croissants being pulled out of an oven. Those Canucks know how to knead that dough and turn it into a bounty of baguettes, ciabbattas, rye, sourdough, rolls, puffs, hoagies, and other wheat-bombs. Paillard in Quebec City had some of the flakiest baked goods I’ve ever tasted. And don’t even get me started on the whole Montreal vs. New York City bagel debate. In my mind, there’s no competition. The Montreal bagel understands that restraint can lead to a more sublime experience. By being thinner and sweeter than its American counterpart, you avoid the sensation of having a rock in the pit of your stomach after a simple breakfast. It was not unusual for me to return to the States with a bag of St. Viateur bagels smuggled away in my luggage.

3) Canada is also an immigrant nation…

…and if there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, no matter what your political stripes, is that the presence of immigrants usually means a drastic improvement on food options. Toronto is home to a large Southeast Asian population and finding good Indian food is pretty easy. One of my favorites finds was Pukka, a trendy but welcoming spot which puts a modern twist on traditional Indian dishes. The restaurant even boasts a sommelier who has taken on the challenging task of curating a wine list that will go with the spicy meals. Montreal’s Portuguese community is so prominent, they even have a Little Portugal in the city. But for a taste of the country’s most casual fare, head to Downtown’s Cafe Vasco da Gama. This cozy nook knows its way around a hog, making their pork and prosciutto sandwiches a melt-in-your-mouth experience.

4) A nation that is full of good-natured hippies, I should add…

…which means they’ve been boasting the whole mantra of grow local, eat local before your man-bun, bespectacled neighbor started preaching about it. Quebec City’s L’Echaude, for example, has been delighting customers with their hyper-local meals since 1984…almost my entire lifetime. This is the kind of place that can be tempting to both the traditionalist and the adventurer–it’s easy to find fresh salmon on the menu, but why not try some bison or elk while you’re at it?

I ate rabbit. And rabbit kidneys. I named the dish Fluffy.

I ate rabbit. And rabbit kidneys. I named the dish Fluffy.

5) And having mentioned elk for dinner, it’s safe to say they’re not exactly squeamish…

…which means there are no laws against unpasteurized raw milk. Which means there are no laws against unpasteurized cheeses. Which means there are no laws against importing said cheeses, which means the European fromage they receive is the real deal. And it is nothing compared to what you get at Jewel.

We can make fun of Canadians about a lot of things. Saying “eh” at the end of each sentence! Their affinity for flannel! Drake! But their food? Not so much.

And if you’re curious as to what other amazing things you can find in the Great White North, listen to the podcast episode where we gush about its awesomeness.

–INES

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14 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Canadian Cuisine

      • Yep, I always seek for good food, as you can see my blog name 😉 I intend to visit two biggest markets, one in Little Italy and one near the river (Atwater I think). Which area near these markets is best to stay? Thanks!

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      • Those markets are in opposite ends of the city. Then again, Montreal isn’t too big. If you want to be centrally-located, Downtown is always a good option. The areas surrounding McGill University are also convenient. For charm though, I really love the Mont-Royal neighborhood. Both markets are also very accessible by metro so getting to them shouldn’t be a problem. I hope you enjoy your trip!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I totally agree with what you say in here. I have only been to Vancouver but the food was great. Lots of Asian influence but incredibly delicious and at a fair price. Based on that experience, I get butterflies on my stomach just thinking about how good the food will be on the European influenced part of the country.

    Liked by 1 person

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