travel to taste – canadian favourites

Most people remember the feeling of hot sand between their toes and salty water in their eyes. They talk about touring world-renowned galleries, or seeing that famous landmark that adorns travel brochures and souvenir shot-glasses. They laugh when recalling sketchy hostels with squeaky, lumpy bunk-beds that only costed £9 a night (what do you expect?!)

Believe me, I have those memories. 

But my favourite ones, by far, are the tastes. The “I Had Heaven in My Mouth” memories that excite my salivary glands just thinking about them. The ones that  make me want to spend $900 on a flight so I can relive that experience once again. 

I may enjoy the moment, the ride, the sights and the sounds, but it all boils down to this: I come for the food. 

I haven’t travelled a lot – at least not nearly as much as I would like – but I have been lucky to explore the streets of many cities and towns in North America, Europe and Asia. Each place has it’s own memories. The next few blog postings will recount some memorable food experiences, so you can get ideas on where you might want to travel to taste. 

Unfortunately, I found many of these favourites before Instagram was popular, so pictures are sparse. It will be my personal goal to try to make it back to all of these places and snap a shot.

Let’s start close-to-home with my favourites from Canadian cities:


Toronto

Home of more than just the CN Tower and terrible sports teams, Toronto is a multi-cultural jackpot for all kinds of flavours. I’m sure once I move there I’ll find a whole lot more to add to my list, but here are the ones that stand out:

Avocado Crunch Roll at To-Ne Sushi Bar

I went here with my friend Ben on our way to a surprise 30th Birthday Party at Tequila Bookworm on Queen West. We grabbed a couple rolls and just ate like bums on the sidewalk. So glad we did because I found the gem that is The Avocado Crunch. Every time I see a maki whose description resembles it, I have to get it. Every time I do, I’m sadly disappointed that it’s not To-Ne’s.  

Pasta Alla Vodka at John’s Italian Caffe 

Introduced to me by my friend Terran, this is an amazing spot! We went for a special, far too infrequent, catch-up-on-the-past-six-months, dinner out, and everything about it was great. We sat on the patio, drank red wine, laughed, and indulged. I’m sure no matter what I ordered off of the menu, it would be dynamite. Next time, if I don’t cave and just go for the Pasta Alla Vodka again, I think I’ll try the Gnocchi Gorgonzola. Mmmmm… blue cheese anything. 

Macarons at Nadège Patisserie 

Another Queen West fave that Terran introduced me to. Try the macarons – all of them. When I get a job in Toronto, I promise, I will pick up an assortment of macarons for my colleagues all. the. time. (subject to wage). 


 

Niagara-on-the-Lake

I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Niagara region, and when I do, I seem to always find myself at crappy chain restaurants. I’ll blame that on the boys that I’ve dated. While there for work, I was able to eat great food and check out some local vineyards. It;s on my list of places to go and really explore what they have to offer.

Flourless Chocolate Armageddon at LIV Restaurant (White Oaks Resort)

Seriously, one of the best desserts I’ve had in my entire life. I have already raved about how great it is on a previous blog post


 

Peterborough

Although it’s my home-town, I must admit that Peterborough boasts a pretty fantastic food scene. I have my go-to favourites, including the Chicken Shawarma at Ariyana (but you’ve already heard about that before), and the simple two eggs breakfast at Aviemore (which is nothing great, but you’re in and out in under 20 minutes) but here are some others that stand out above the crowd:

Curried Oeufs Mayonnaise and Salmon Tartar at Le Petit Bar

The atmosphere, cocktails, cheese, charcuterie, knowledgeable staff, and lively clientèle all make this my number one pick in Peterborough for social eating and drinking. I go there at least once a month (and it would be more if I had extra money). I love EVERYTHING at this place, but these two appetizers are ones that will go down in history for me. Unfortunately for you, you might not get to try these brilliantly flavoured and beautifully executed appetizers because they change their menu seasonally. I guarantee that no matter what you order, you’ll enjoy it!

Saag Paneer at Shafiq’s Taste of India

I must admit, I always went for the typical Indian dishes when I went for Indian food. You know, the ones that it’s hard not to love. The chicken kormas, butter chickens and chicken curries of the world. Thankfully, my friend Catherine hosted a dinner with an array of dishes from Shafiq’s, and that is when I first tried Saag Paneer. It instantly became a favourite, and I like to pretend it is healthy since it’s vegetarian, despite the rice and naan that I slop it up with.

Taku’s Big Booty Poutine at the Whistle Stop Cafe

With a poutine menu that is second to none, Whistle Stop carries over 100 different concoctions. That being said, the one I come back to time and time again is Taku’s Big Booty Poutine. The basic poutine foundation of fries, gravy and cheese is served with the addition of crispy chicken strips, bacon and ranch dressing. For the sake of my arteries, I don’t have it very often. But when I do – God, I enjoy it!

Bagel with Spinach & Feta Spread at Silver Bean Café

Silver Bean not only has a beautiful river-side location, but was also incredibly convenient when I worked at the downtown government building. A short stroll through the backyard and I could get my morning coffee/tea fix and sometimes a quick bite to eat. My favourite was always the bagel with spinach and feta spread, but those chocolate chip peanut butter cookies are SO tempting! Big enough to share, but so good that you won’t want to.


Unfortunately, my travels haven’t been wide-spread in Canada – limited mostly to Southern Ontario. I’ve been on the East Coast, but that was when I was very young (and the food was likely limited to camping food – hot dogs, eggs and beans). I was also in Quebec City back in the 90’s, and had an awesome tourtière. And only a few years ago I was in Montreal, but my culinary experiences were limited to middle eastern cuisine.

I still have lots to see and lots to taste. So tell me, what am I missing? What are your all time favourites that you’ve had across Canada?

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