Is there anything more satisfying than eating your way through a journey? In Canada, gourmands are spoilt for choice when it comes to food – anything is on the table, thanks to an abundance of locally grown ingredients, culinary influences of Indigenous Peoples, and flavours introduced by immigrants from France, China, Lebanon, Italy and many, many other world cultures. Culinary journeys: One of the best ways to explore Canada’s symphony of flavours is to follow a local food trail. Offered from coast to coast, these mouthwatering journeys showcase Canada’s diverse cultures and heritage while instilling in imbibers an ethos of eating locally, seasonally and sustainably harvested ingredients. Mouth-watering flavours: Almost everywhere you go in Canada, you’ll find a nearby food trail. Nova Scotia alone has three – the Good Cheer Trail, the Chowder Trail and the Lobster Trail. Prince Edward Island‘s Culinary Trail has six distinct adventures ranging from fishers and farmers to local markets. And in Kawarthas Northumberland, Ontario, the Butter Tart Tour combines dozens of stops paying homage to the patriotic pastry.
Follow your tastebuds: If cuisine is a portal to culture, then Canada has myriad doors for travellers to open and walk through. These five food trails will take you there:
- Lobster Trail: There’s a reason the lobster in Nova Scotia is world-famous – the region is home to some of the most fertile lobster fishing grounds on the planet. Here, lobsters are the lifeblood of many fishing communities, and there’s no better way to sample the crustaceans than on the Nova Scotia Lobster Trail. You’ll soon realize there are more ways to serve a lobster than you thought possible – full-fledged lobster dinners (bib and all), lobster rolls, lobster bisque and even lobster beer. Sample bite: The Shore Club has served traditional lobster feasts – cooked in ocean water and served right out of the pot – for over 75 years. Tuck into your lobster supper, then hit the dance floor – the club is a dance hall, too. Dig deeper: Alain Bosse, also known as The Kilted Chef, has earned a reputation as Atlantic Canada’s culinary ambassador. He’s familiar with nearly every operator on the Lobster Trail and can speak to the uniqueness of their dishes.
- Cheesemakers Circuit Les Têtes Fromagères: Cheese-lovers, you’ll want to make time to visit Quebec’s Eastern Townships, where artisan cheesemakers produce an astonishing variety of cheese. Follow the Cheesemakers Circuit Les Têtes Fromagères to indulge in cheese tastings that introduce you to new flavours as you learn about the people and stories behind each product. Sample bite: Fromagerie La Station in Compton is a family-owned business whose organic farming practices can be tasted in every bite of cheese. The winner of several regional, provincial and national awards, the business offers satisfying samples of its delicious products, including organic raclette (traditional melting cheese). Bonus: the farm is also home to 24 hectares (60 acres) of maple trees, whose sweet syrup is sold at the cheese shop.
- Poutine Trail: Poutine has been a Canadian staple since the late 1950s, when it first emerged in Quebec. Typically featuring French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy, poutine can now be savoured across the country. The Poutine Trail in Manitoba points diners to several variations served throughout the province, including a perogy poutine, a chili chorizo poutine, and a smoked meat poutine. Sample bite: Poutine for breakfast? Yes, please. Last year, Old No. 12 Café and Lounge in Sainte-Anne served a morning poutine featuring grilled baked potato chunks topped with fried onions, bacon bits, cheese curds and gravy. Check back to the Poutine Trail website for the latest additions.
- Kelowna Wine Trails: Located in the lush wine region of the Okanagan Valley, BC – which is acclaimed for crisp whites, complex reds, and a growing number of organic winemakers – Kelowna’s Wine Trails are populated by more than 40 wineries. Kelowna is historically significant to BC’s wine industry, with the province’s first vines planted here; it’s also home to the province’s oldest continually operating winery, Sandhill Winery (established in 1932). Find a designated driver, then hit the tasting rooms – many of which boast spectacular lake and mountain views – or pop into a winery bistro or restaurant to sample local, seasonal cuisine paired with a savoury vintage. Sample bite: Summerhill Pyramid Winery, part of the Lakeshore Wine Route, pours award-winning organic and biodynamic wines in a spacious tasting room surrounded by spectacular lake and vineyard views. The wines are finished in the winery’s pyramid, which visitors can tour through a reserved booking. Dig deeper: Marsha Morrish, general manager of Okanagan Wine Country Tours, oversees a knowledgeable team dedicated to connecting guests with an authentic wine country experience.
- Niagara Wine Route: The Niagara Peninsula in Ontario is the site of countless vineyards and wineries treating oenophiles to intimate tasting experiences. Along the Niagara Wine Route, you’ll find larger wineries that have brought the region’s cool-climate wines to an international audience, as well as smaller artisan wineries that offer insights into their boutique approach to winemaking. Sample bite: Inniskillin Winery, a pioneer of winemaking in the Niagara region, helped to put Niagara on the global map in 1991 when its Icewine won a major award. Drop in for a tasting flight, or book the INNteractive Icewine Tasting to learn about the winery’s flagship product while sampling three different Icewines. Dig deeper: Rebecca DeBoer, owner of Zoom Leisure Bikes, is an expert at wine touring in the Niagara region – her company leads guided bike excursions to the vineyards and offers rentals for self-guided explorations.
- Nanaimo Bar Trail: Satisfy your sweet tooth by following the Nanaimo Bar Trail in Nanaimo, BC. What’s a Nanaimo bar, you ask? It’s a no-bake dessert consisting of a wafer, nut and coconut crumb base; custard icing; and a layer of chocolate ganache on top. The classic bar is available at several cafes around Nanaimo, as well as plenty of specialty, organic/vegan, ice cream and cocktail versions (there’s even a Nanaimo bar spring roll!). Sample bite: the Hearthstone Bakery serves classic and peanut butter crunch Nanaimo bars, as well as a featured flavour that changes monthly (past features have included a raspberry white chocolate Nanaimo bar and a candy cane Nanaimo bar). The Nanaimo bars here are so outstanding they’ve been featured on the Food Network. Dig deeper: Jenn Houtby-Ferguson, interim executive director at Tourism Nanaimo, is a valuable resource on the history of the Nanaimo bar and the best places to sample it.
- Dumpling Trail: Brought to Canada by Chinese immigrants, dumplings are pieces of dough stuffed with savoury fillings such as meat, egg or vegetables. Richmond, BC is home to several eateries that dish up these delightful pillows of goodness, 15 of which are featured on the Dumpling Trail. Note: some types of dumplings are available all day, while others are only served during dim sum hours (traditionally between 10am and 2pm). Refer to the Dumpling Trail brochure to see when your favourites are typically served. Sample bite: SuHang Restaurant serves dumplings during dim sum and dinner, so you’ll have plenty of choice throughout the day. Options include dumplings in soup, pan-fried shrimp and pork dumplings, steamed vegetable dumplings, sesame dumplings topped with minced peanuts, and many more – make sure you bring your appetite! Dig deeper: Michelle Ng, founder of Vancouver Foodie Tours, offers an Authentic Asian Eats tour that showcases her deep knowledge and passion for Richmond’s food scene.
For more information readers should go to www.explore-canada.co.uk