Fresh Lobster (Nova Scotia & New Brunswick)
Wherever you see wooden lobster traps piled on a wharf, you'll know a fresh lobster meal isn't far away. The most productive lobster fisheries are around Shediac, New Brunswick, and all along Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast. Sunny days are ideal for cracking open a crustacean while sitting at a wharfside picnic table, preferably with a locally brewed beer close at hand.
The unforgiving rocky and boggy soil of this blustery island resists most crops, but it also produces some of the most delicious berries in Canada. Look for roadside stands or pick your own blueberries, strawberries, partridgeberries, or bakeapples. Many restaurants add these berries to desserts (cheesecake, custard) when they're in season, too.
Pigging Out in Montreal (Montreal)
See what its cultish fans have been raving about. Au Pied de Cochon (tel. 514/281-1114) looks like just another storefront restaurant, but it's packed to the walls 6 nights a week because of its slabs of meat, especially pork. "The Big Happy Pig's Chop," weighing in at more than a pound, is emblematic. Foie gras comes in nearly a dozen combinations, including stuffed into a ham hock, with poutine, and in a goofy creation called Duck in a Can which does, indeed, come sealed in a can with a can opener.
Indulging in a Tasting Menu Dinner in Quebec City (Quebec)
Higher-end establishments in both Montreal and Quebec City are increasingly offering menus that let you sample the chef's wildest concoctions, and "surprise menus" are equally popular -- you don't know what you're getting until it's right in front of you. The imaginative menu at Laurie Raphael (tel. 418/692-4555) has included silky-smooth foie gras on a teeny ice-cream paddle with a drizzle of port reduction, Alaskan snow crab with a bright-pink pomegranate terrine, and an egg yolk "illusion" of thickened orange juice encapsulated in a skin of pectin served in a puddle of maple syrup. Dazzling!
Indulging in Toronto's Gastonomic Scene (Ontario)
Toronto is blessed with a host of stellar chefs, such as Mark McEwan (North 44, tel. 416/487-4897), Susur Lee (Susur, tel. 416/603-2205), Chris McDonald (Cava, tel. 416/979-9918), Marc Thuet (Thuet, tel. 416/603-2777), and Jamie Kennedy (Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, tel. 416/362-1957). This is your chance to find out why they're household names.
Tasting the World in Toronto (Ontario)
The United Nations has called Toronto the world's most multicultural city, so it's no surprise that the restaurant scene reflects that diversity. Whether you try the excellent sushi at Hiro Sushi (tel. 416/304-0550), modern Indian cooking at Xacutti (tel. 416/323-3957), classic French cuisine at Bistro 990 (tel. 416/921-9990), or imaginatively updated Greek at Pan on the Danforth (tel. 416/466-8158), your taste buds will thank you.
Dining along the Wine Route (Ontario)
The Niagara Region enjoys its own unique microclimate, a fact that explains why this is one of the lushest, most bountiful parts of Canada. Sampling the local wines is a great way to spend an afternoon, particularly if you add lunch and dinner to your itinerary at a vineyard restaurant such as On the Twenty (tel. 905/562-7313) or Vineland Estates (tel. 888/846-3526 or 905/562-7088).
Cutting Edge in Winnipeg (Manitoba)
After Makoto Ono took first place honors as Canada's top chef in 2007, his small and quirky Gluttons Bistro (tel. 204/475-5714) suddenly became a must-dine destination for gourmands from across the country. Putting an Asian spin on traditional Canadian foods, Ono delivers seriously delicious and inventive food that's the perfect summation of Winnipeg's multicultural yet emphatically midcontinent spirit.
Going Organic in Calgary (Alberta)
You'll walk through a quiet tree-filled park on an island in the Bow River to reach the bustling River Cafe (tel. 403/261-7670). An immense wood-fired oven and grill produces soft, chewy flat breads and smoky grilled meats and vegetables, all organically grown and freshly harvested. On warm summer evenings, picnickers loll in the grassy shade, nibbling this and that from the cafe's picniclike menu.
Dining at a Hotel in Lake Louise (Alberta)
At its cozy dining room in an old log lodge, the Post Hotel (tel. 800/661-1586 or 403/522-3989) serves up the kind of sophisticated yet robust cuisine that perfectly fits the backdrop of glaciered peaks, deep forest, and glassy streams. Both the wine list and the cooking are French and hearty, with the chef focusing on the best of local ingredients -- lamb, salmon, and Alberta beef. After spending time out on the trail, a meal here will top off a quintessential day in the Rockies.
Serving Up Exquisite Canadian Cuisine in Edmonton (Alberta)
The Hardware Grill (tel. 780/423-0969) is a stylish restaurant in a historic storefront with one of western Canada's finest dining rooms. The chef captures the best of local produce and meats without being slave to the indigenous foods movement, instead taking a Pan-Canadian view of fine dining. Fresh B.C. oysters and salmon, Alberta steaks, Quebec foie gras, and Maritime lobsters are artfully prepared, and it's especially exciting to make a meal of the menu's ample selection of small plates -- savoring these exquisite culinary explosions is the gastronomic equivalent of foreplay.
Enjoying Dim Sum in Vancouver's Chinatown (British Columbia)
With its burgeoning Chinese population, Vancouver's Chinatown has more than half a dozen dim-sum parlors where you can try steamed or baked barbecued-pork buns, dumplings filled with fresh prawns and vegetables, or steamed rice-flour crepes filled with spicy beef. One favorite is Sun Sui Wah (tel. 604/872-8822).
Eating Local in Lotus Land (British Columbia)
Self-sufficiency is the new watchword on the west coast, with top chefs sourcing all their ingredients locally. On Vancouver Island, the Sooke Harbour House (tel. 800/889-9688 or 250/642-3421) offers lamb from nearby Salt Spring Island, seasoned with herbs from the chef's own garden. In Vancouver, the Raincity Grill (tel. 604/685-7337) makes a specialty of fresh-caught seafood and local game, while the vast selection of B.C. wines by the glass makes dinner an extended road trip through the west coast wine country, with no need for a designated driver.
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