Saturday, June 11, 2011

O Canada!

What culinary delights you offer.  I visit this wonderful country at least annually and often more frequently on both business and pleasure.  My most recent trip was the first week of June when we visited the glorious Canadian Rockies.  I never come away from Canada without having enjoyed a number of wonderful meals in fine restaurants, many of which procured their food locally.  Here I'm mostly talking about seafood and meats.  As the country's long winter doesn't provide a bounty of vegetables and fruits year around, in the later summer you can find good, local produce but through most of the year, this is imported.  The prairie land of the Midwest  also produces the countries grains, and supports ranching.  

Jasper, Canada
Now if you know me well, you understand that I'm not much one for catching my own meal.  But if you love fishing and hunting, Canada is the place for you.  It's wildlife is legendary and its scenery spectacular.  During my recent trip even I was inspired to do some hiking and canoeing (yes the water really is that blue.)  Canada's many rivers and miles of ocean shoreline provide an abundance of seafood.  Her iconic Rockies provide wild game that will walk right up to your car.  (With bears the only question is who will be eating who!)  It is truly a land of beauty and kind, helpful people.  If you haven't visited recently, you should!
Shellfish ~ from the east coast:  Prince Edward Island (P.E.I), the smallest and least populous of Canada's 10 provinces, is nestled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence just above Nova Scotia on Canada's eastern coast.  This entire area is famous for its shellfish with cold, clean water with the optimal amount of salt due to its partial protection from the open sea.  The mussels are legendary here and are exported throughout the country and to the USA usually labeled "P.E.I. Mussels" even though they may be from New Foundland or other locations around the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  These mussels are blue mussels, which are different from the Mediterranean mussels available in the Northwest and from New Zealand's green mussels.  The mussels here are said to have a more robust flavor and plumpness because of the water's rich plankton supply.  Most P.E.I. mussels are farmed in the ocean waters by seeding them from ropes, and after 18-24 months harvesting, cleaning and keeping them wet and cold until they arrive at the kitchen.  This is also the area for Canada's best lobsters, clams and oysters.

Game ~ from the Rockies:  Have a taste for Moose stew, elk pot roast, venison chili, or bison filet mignon?    The great Midwest of Canada is the place for you, with some of the largest herds of both wild and ranched elk and bison.  During our recent time in the Rockies we enjoyed all of these game meats and more.  Shown below is a bison filet wrapped in wild boar bacon.  While more dense than a grain fed beef filet, it was still tender and flavorful.   (If you are not inclined toward game meats, Alberta is also famous for its grass fed beef.)

Venison (deer) is also widely available and has more nutritional value than beef, is lower in fat and cholesterol, higher in protein and more richly flavored than beef.  The best cuts are chops and ribs and it is also used in numerous recipes as a ground meat for burgers, chili, etc.   Elk meat provides the full flavor of beef but again with lower fat and cholesterol.  However, because elk meat can be tough, you usually find it in recipes where the meat can be slow cooked to tenderize it.  Wild boar meat has a sweet, nutty and intense flavor.  It is leaner and a deeper red color than pork and it is often grilled as rib chops and used for sausage.  Think you've seen it all?  How about moose ravioli?  It's like traditional beef ravioli but made with moose liver, heart and minced moose meat.  Confused about the menu item entitled "Moose Mountain Oysters".  You got it.... moose testicles sautéed in butter and served in a honey sweetened light cream sauce.   Perhaps you do need to be a somewhat adventurous diner to travel with Kevin and me. 
Halibut Prepared by those
Fantastic Fairmont Hotel Chefs
Fish ~ from the west coast:   This is a great place for fish, especially halibut, salmon and trout.  Salt water fishing is huge here. That's not to say you can't find fresh lake trout throughout the country, but the large steelhead trout, the amazing Chinook (King) salmon and the oh so flaky halibut are the prize fish in this region.  While you can fish and vacation near Vancouver (which is a wonderful city) take the time to get away from this major population center and visit the small towns of British Columbia (B.C.).  Consider a little place like Ucluelet, British Columbia where they say "more salmon and halibut swim by their front door than any place on earth."  There you'll find salmon headed for all of the rivers on North America’s west coast.  The Ucluelet waters swarm with giant schools of herring, pilchard, needlefish and squid.  Close behind them are the salmon and halibut gorging themselves and quickly fattening before the winter months.

If you have family along that are not fond of just fishing during their vacation, the salt and fresh water around Victoria, Sooke and Sidney on Vancouver Island is a prime location as it falls within the path of the salmon migrating routes and enjoys many large lakes and rivers from which they harvest delicious fish and that provide for many boating and swimming activities. If you happen to be in B.C.  between May and October, you'll also enjoy local Dungeness crab.  The capital city of British Columbia, Victoria boasts many historic buildings and fascinating museums. The city benefits from one of Canada's mildest climates and there is plenty to do with golfing, hiking, biking, shopping, dining and even theatre in this city rated a Top 10 Family Vacation by TripAdvisor 2011 Travelers' Choice awards.  And it wouldn't be a trip to Victoria without the time-honored tradition of high tea in the tea lobby of The Fairmont Empress that has served England’s most beloved ritual and Victoria's grandest tradition of Afternoon Tea to famed royalty, celebrities and dignitaries alike.  Does it get better than this? 

1 comment:

  1. Wow sounds great. My oldest son William is in his last year at Cordenbleu in Pasedena, California. He desires to specialize in meats and wild game. Would love to share receipts.
    Elizabeth Cowboy