by Trevor Greenway
A few Canuck staples come to mind when we think about Canadian cuisine: Quebec poutine, perogies from Manitoba, Halifax donairs and west coast Nanaimo bars.
But if you speak with some top Canadian chefs, our palette goes way beyond the obvious comfort dishes that we’ve all grown up with. The wide array of diverse ingredients grown across our 13 provinces and territories create a somewhat hard to define Canadian menu; one that differs from region to region and season to season. This sundry bounty is what makes Canadian food so diverse – and poses the greatest challenge to defining what Canadian food really is.
“We are very lucky. We have access to one of the bigger spectrums to food and flavours than anywhere else in the world,” says executive chef Ross Fraser, co-owner of The Rowan restaurant in the Glebe. Fraser has brought his food across the globe, including on a recent trip as head chef at a hospitality venue at the Olympics in South Korea this past winter. He says that Canadian food can no longer be defined by one iconic dish.
“The styles change across the country and the ingredients people gravitate towards. The food that is giving regions and cities across Canada their identity doesn’t rest on one dish anymore. It’s going back to the quality and the appreciation of the food. I don’t think Canada needs to have just one dish.”
This is exactly what local chefs hope to capture during Canadian Eats, the Glebe’s signature food promotion that will turn the neighbourhood into a playground for food lovers from June 21 to Canada Day. Participating chefs will feature a dish they feel captures the spirit of Canadian fare, one that is inspired by the vast array of Canadian ingredients we find here in Ottawa and beyond. It’s all about putting Canada on a plate and inviting food lovers across the city to explore our national cuisine. And for Fraser, the latter isn’t so difficult anymore. He says that he’s seen a major shift in Canadian eating habits with more and more diners paying close attention to what they are putting in their bodies, how it’s prepared and where it comes from.
“In Canada, we have an incredible appreciation for the variety of food here, and we are very accepting of different world flavours,” he adds. “When we do a dish that is inspired by another country, we can do it well because we have access to those products, and people will embrace it.”
Aside from treating your taste buds to some seriously delicious Canadian grub during Canadian Eats, diners will also have the chance to win a dinner for eight, four, or two to share with their closest friends at their favourite Glebe restaurant. Every time you eat at a participating Glebe restaurant during Canadian Eats, you will be entitled to a ballot for a chance to win. The contest gives food lovers yet another reason to come down and explore all the amazing restaurants in the neighbourhood and a chance to taste them all again while treating their friends and family. It’s no secret that the Glebe is becoming a top food destination in the city. Whether it’s tasting the passion that former Top Chef Canada winner Rene Rodriguez puts into his Italian cuisine at Orto, treating yourself to some Humboldt Squid from Pomeroy House or seeing what former Albion Rooms executive chef Jessie Bell has cooking at Rosie’s, your taste buds will certainly be thanking you.
You’ll find a similar passion for food at Erling’s Variety where head chef and owner Liam Vainola is poised to craft a second helping of Canadian Eats again this year. His asparagus, whipped ricotta with capocollo, ramp and scallop bark dish flew off the menu last year and he is hoping to create an entirely new all-Canadian dish for this year’s showcase. It won’t be difficult for him.
“Our whole menu is Canadian,” he says, with a wide, hungry smile. “It’s not just poutine. It’s ramps and fiddleheads and trout lilies and stinging nettle and all the cool wild stuff that you can find right here.”
Last year’s food showcase boasted 41 unique Canadian items that formed a collective Canadian Eats menu. Hungry diners feasted on everything from wild boar pogos and coconut mussels to Maritime-style lobster rolls, confit duck legs and Newfoundland jiggs dinner soup. We’re expecting even more Canadian creations to grace this year’s menu.
Canadian Eats will entice food lovers, both near and far, to come down and explore first-hand what our national cuisine is all about. It’s about sparking a conversation and an appreciation for how rich our food is and how lucky we are to be Canadian. Canadian Eats runs from June 21 to Canada Day. Explore our menu and learn how you can win one of three dinner packages at www.canadianeats.ca.
Trevor Greenway is responsible for communications at the Glebe BIA (Business Improvement Area).