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The EAT! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival is Canada’s largest food festival celebrating the culinary arts in one of the country’s most vibrant food cities. Now in its 13th year, it’s become a week-long affair (April 26 to May 3) with chefs from across the country gathering to participate in dinners, workshops, and a “Canadian Flavours” gala that served up signature dishes from coast to coast to coast.
Surpassing trend, our top chefs say we’re taking local, seasonal, and sustainable to the next level – showing off each region’s backyard bounty with a twist on tradition. Here are seven ways in seven regions to eat and drink Canadian.
You can’t get more local than fishing and foraging the foods you serve to your dinner guests yourself. Starting off on Canada’s west coast, chef Nick Nutting of the Wolf in the Fog in Tofino, BC serves up fish he sometimes catches himself off the beautiful coast known for surf and sand. His spring catch over foraged wild sorrel and pickled cipollini onions was fresh and showed off its ingredients. In the heart of downtown Vancouver’s west end, you can also check out Forage restaurant where chef Chris Whittaker’s dishes are inspired by what the local farmers and fishers are growing and catching. From local honey and hazelnuts to foraged mushrooms, his creations are a delicious taste of British Columbia.
Chef Robert Clark of The Fish Counter in Vancouver is known as the grandfather of sustainable seafood in Canada. And now the next generation of Vancouver chefs are taking up the torch, including the Vancouver Aquarium’s Tim Bedford. When you see the Ocean Wise logo, you know you’re getting sustainably fished seafood on the menu. Feast on spot prawns mid-May at the Spot Prawn Festival. Delight in albacore tuna at the Yew Seafood + Bar led by executive chef Ned Bell who went on a cross- country tour to launch Chefs for Ocean to make sustainable seafood accessible to every Canadian. Or savour pink salmon caught of Haida Gwaii, Humpback shrimp caught in Prince Rupert, and Mussels grown off Sawmill Bay at The Fish Counter. Whatever is being caught sustainably is what’s being served.
FERMENTED AND PICKLED
Look for Korean kimchi to spice up dishes and flavoured yogurts to dress up sides. Chef Andrew Winfield of River Café in Calgary inventively dresses up his prosecco poached oysters with pickled seaweed, while chef Jérémie Bastien of Leméac in Montréal puts a twist on the city’s classic smoked salmon with creamed cheese with a cured ocean trout with smoked sour cream, trout roe, and pickled onion.
When you think Canada, you might think maple syrup, long a traditional classic to top up pancakes, waffles, and anything you can think of. (I use it to sweeten up spicy chicken wings). But today’s menu will more likely have its more subtle and savoury cousin Birch Syrup – tapped from the Birch trees from the Boreal forest up north in the Yukon and other forests across Canada – to add flavour to ice cream, sauces, glazes, and dressings.
No need to look only abroad for delectable meats. Calgary’s Charcut Roast House specializes in locally cured, smoked, and dried meats from the province of Alberta known for meat, meat, and more meat. Try their housemade mortadella and their Argentinian asado inspired grilled meats. Then keep an eye out for their second restaurant CharBar, which will will serve up dry aged Alberta beef.
Many of Canada’s chefs are classically trained in French cooking, but when it comes time to spread their wings, our chefs embrace their heritage. In Toronto, chef Nick Liu of DaiLo serves up Hakka inspired Chinese cuisine, including the must-try smoked trout on betel leaf with almond satay sauce and fried shallots. But local in Canada doesn’t just mean from our own backyard, it also means localized from other international regions. Back in Vancouver, Vij Vikram, the father of authentic Indian cuisine recently opened up My Shanti, which focuses on different regional dishes of India. Awareness and curiosity of where our food and drink comes from is top of mind.
CRAFT BEER, INFUSED TEAS & SPIRITS
Wine is on the rise to become Canada’s drink of choice, but that may be because the rest of the beverages have gone artisanal. Look for microbrews galore, and infused spirits, particularly gin, as well as teas. Consult with a tea sommelier, join a tea club, or even rent tea party cups and saucers to host an afternoon tea. The Tea Sparrow’s Strawberry-Champagne tea made us re- think fruit teas from a simple beverage to a soulful sip.