Over the past decade, culinary tourism has taken off, spurred in large part by the popularity of cooking shows and celebrity chefs whose passion for food has proven to be contagious. In 2020, the World Food Travel Association reported that 53% of all leisure travelers are now food travelers who ultimately are a gift to the destinations they visit as they spend 24% more than the average globetrotter.
Fortunately, here in Canada, we have an abundance of talented chefs and restaurateurs who can give foodies on the go exactly what they crave – delicious dishes, prepared with the freshest ingredients and presented in a way that encapsulates the character and the personality. of place. Here are five road trip-worthy restaurants that won’t disappoint (with tips from the owners on where to stop along the way).
Galiano Island, British Columbia, 55 minutes by ferry from Vancouver.
At the end of a gravel driveway, surrounded by giant maples, cedars and fir trees is a small wooden cabin where chef Jesse McCleery has been doing his own culinary thing, in his humble way, for eight years. McCleery, originally from Manitoba, has a deep respect for British Columbia’s coastal waters, forests and farms and his menu is an “adventurous microcosm” (as Globe and Mail food critic Alexandra Gill) of what can be harvested, grown and fished nearby. In years past, McCleery offered a blind tasting menu that changed with the seasons. In 2022, he and his partner, Melanie Witt, go à la carte. There will always be Pilgrimme favorites (like sourdough bread with fermented potatoes and grains, or aged duck with parsley root and evergreen blueberry), but customers can also order wood-fired pizzas. with Kootenay Alpine cheese and Saanich asparagus from Charmer Pizza (which Witt started the property last year). On the last Saturday and Sunday of each month (May through September), tasting menu aficionados can also get their fix by reserving a spot for a 12-course sampler at $185 per person. “When customers come here, they really have no choice but to slow down and reset,” says McCleery. “Our internet is terrible, so they can’t use their phones.”
- The food forestrun by the Galiano Conservancy, which grows, harvests and sells green vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, root vegetables and homemade teas.
- On Salt Spring Island (next to Galiano) visit Francis Bread (wood-fired and made with organic BC grains) and Bodega Gallery (functional and decorative pottery – their vases, filled with wildflowers, are on display at Pilgrimme).
St. Boniface, Winnipeg, 10 minute drive from downtown.
Located in Winnipeg’s culturally rich French Quarter, Nola is the city’s newest small plate restaurant known for its lively atmosphere and lively open kitchen. The brainchild of chef Emily Butcher and restaurateur Mike Del Buono, Nola’s menu is West Coast fashion, with a few Chinese flourishes and Midwestern warmth thrown in for good measure. Boucher, a competitor on Top Chef Canada last year, grew up in Maple Ridge, BC and is of Chinese descent. She is also a former ballerina, holds a Bachelor of Music degree and was until recently the chef at one of Winnipeg’s top restaurants, Deer + Almond. “All of those influences are on display here at Nola where the dishes are big, bold, inventive and very colorful,” says Del Buono. “The combinations may seem strange to some, but they work. We have been packed every night since we opened last October. Top sellers include Butcher’s Reuben Gyozas (handmade Reuben-style dumplings served with sweetened soy and wasabi mustard), gunpowder roasted carrots and seared scallops on Lo-Bak Go (a Chinese radish). Diners can eat for $50 to $60. Del Buono says dining at Nola’s is a “living” experience. “You don’t come to us for a quiet, romantic meal. You come to laugh and share plates with your friends and family.
Winnipeg’s Nola offers many nods to chef Emily Butcher’s Chinese-Canadian roots
- Breakfast at Clementine’san underground brunch nestled in the basement of a Winnipeg heritage building.
- Forksa 56-acre National Historic Site, home to parks, shops, museums and the Forks Market, early 1990s stables that have been converted into a huge food store.
Algonquin Park, Ont., an hour’s drive west of Huntsville.
First, there is the novelty of arriving by motorized cargo canoe. After just a five-minute journey across Lake Cache, guests are immediately immersed in a Group of Seven landscape with rocky outcrops, blue-green water, and windswept pines. The small island lodge began in 1917 as a collection of small lakeside cabins and tents that attracted nature enthusiasts from all parts of the world. They always come to Bartlett Lodge to hike and explore the 7,653 square kilometer park, but they also come for the gourmet food served in a quaint, wood-paneled dining room where you can smell the pies baking in the kitchen. The menu changes daily, depending on what local farmers have on hand. The lodge’s owners, Kim and Marilyn Smith, who bought it in 1997, “strongly believe in respecting where we are,” says general manager David Fortune. “They are also committed to providing their guests with a fine dining experience in a chalet setting, where the food matches the spectacular scenery.” The four-course meal costs $80 for adults and $40 for children. Favorite dishes are fresh lake trout, AAA beef sirloin and Marilyn’s homemade wild blueberry pie.
- Henrietta Pine Bakery, locations in Dwight, Ontario and Huntsville, Ontario. (The must-haves are the sticky cinnamon rolls and clouds of Muskoka, a light pastry with fresh cranberries).
- Pizza on earth in Dorset, Ontario. (an artisan family pizza place along Highway 60)
Grand River Inn
Métis-sur-Mer, Gaspésie, Qc, 15 km from the famous Reford Gardens.
On the shores of the St. Lawrence, in the bucolic village of Métis-sur-Mer, there is a restaurant and a 15-room inn full of books and bonhomie. Marie and Raynald Pay instilled in their three children a deep appreciation of the region’s gastronomy, as well as an unfailing love for literature. The family has owned the inn for 27 years. Every nook and cranny of the hostel (including the dining room and kitchen) is filled with books, some old, some new, all treasured art objects on loan to guests for the duration of their stay. Three years ago, the youngest of the Pay children, Marguerite, took over the management of the inn, which specializes in classic French cuisine prepared with ingredients from the Gaspé Peninsula. “Our food is really good and really simple,” says Marguerite. The three-course table d’hôte costs $65. The must-haves are the house-smoked salmon, halibut, scallops and a basil crème brûlée.
- In the historic district of Métis-sur-Mer, make two stops: for coffee and pastries, go to Coffee on the sea; for ice cream go to Culinary workshop Pierre-Olivier Ferry (a wild rose and seaweed or maple ice cream has rave reviews online).
North Bessie House
Canning, NS, 20 minutes drive north of Wolfville.
At the base of North Mountain in the Annapolis Valley and surrounded by orchards and vineyards is a small farm named after a beloved teacher, Bessie North. When Chef David Smart and his wife, Susan Meldrum, bought the 130-year-old property in 2017, locals said, “Oh, you bought Bessie’s house,” Meldrum says. “We kept the name to honor a woman who touched so many lives in this community.” Five years ago, Smart and Meldrum, who previously owned the 65-seat Front and Central restaurant in Wolfville, wanted a meaningful change. They wanted to go somewhere rural, somewhere smaller, where they could work closely with local farmers to create a menu that showcased the richness of the valley. In 2018, they opened their 12-seat restaurant in the house (where they also live). It offers a seven-course menu that costs $130 per person. Smart’s concept and food are incredibly popular, with customers still buzzing with last year’s corn menu (which included, for example, homemade agnolotti pasta stuffed with corn and mascarpone and a corn tiramisu). There is a dinner setting, two or three evenings a week, from April to mid-December.
- The noodle guy in Port Williams. This is where Susan and David go for romantic evenings.
- The tangled garden, a self-guided tour of the garden and tasting costs $10. Jams, jellies, vinegars and preserves are made by owner Beverly McClare.
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