Canadians are just so darned nice. I sometimes wonder if all Canadians have to study agreeableness at school from the age of 5, or maybe there is a niceness test attached to the passport application that has to be passed before an individual can leave the country. I have never been to Canada; all the Canadians I have met have been away from their home country and utterly lovely, presumably having passed this niceness test.
A few months ago I received an invitation, from the lovely Nim at the Canadian Tourism Commission, asking me to a Cook with Canada Event. This invitation arrived a few days after Canada Day, and I was impressed that Nim had actually read my blog and had made reference to one of my posts in her e-mail to me. The date went into my diary and I promptly forgot all about it until Nim very helpfully sent an e-mail last week to remind me.
I was unsure of what to expect. I was starving when I arrived, I was sure that there was far more to Canadian cuisine than maple syrup and Poutine, but I was totally unprepared for the veritable cornucopia of excellent food & drink that awaited us.
I kicked off with a blueberry bellini, made with blueberry syrup and Canadian Fizz (method champenoise), which was delicious. This was followed over the course of the evening by Canadian ice wines, ice ciders, pinot noir all fantastically good, but sadly not available in the UK; sensibly the Canadians keep it for themselves, and I cannot blame them. In reality not that much is produced, so it is not that easy to export and I felt very lucky that the Tourism Commission had managed to export some to the UK.
This was the menu
Ice Wine Martini
Blueberry Cocktail with Nova Scotian Sparkling
Sparkling Ice Wine
Scallops Three Ways
Glazed with birch syrup and served with crisp lardons
Pan fried and served with a hemp seed oil sauce vierge
Scallops with liquorice maple syrup
Fillet of Cod en papillote with British Columbia morel mushroom sauce and creamy mashed potatoes
Whole Roasted Striploin of grass fed Bison served with braised savoy cabbage and a blueberry coulis
Thin strips of Duck cooked on the plancha and served with a pumpkin puree, wild rice and a chocolate drizzle
Skewers of Atlantic Salmon poached in a fragrant broth and served with a salad of fiddlehead ferns with Maple Syrup mustard dressing.
Maki roll of Arctic Char with cucumber and wasabi
Chocolate and maple taffy soufflé
Flambéed Caramelised apples with an ice cider emulsion
Buckwheat pancakes with various flavoured syrups
Kicking Horse Coffee
served with Ganong Chocolates and honey drops
Maple syrup taffy
The food was all amazing, I know it was a showcase and the best of the best, but it was seriously top quality. I was totally stuffed after the evening and rolled to the tube.
The birch syrup was astonishly nice: think maple syrup with added forest, as soon as it was poured into the pan the most amazing smell materialised that I can only describe as forest.
Much of Canada is within the Arctic circle and Arctic Char is a popular fish. In the wild char only live within 500 miles of the North Pole. This was my first attempt at making sushi.
For me the star of the evening was the fiddleheads! I read lots of North American food blogs and every spring I see a plethora of posts featuring fiddleheads, which are impossible to obtain in the UK (if anyone knows of a source please please let me know). I was delighted to be finally be able to try some. These had been frozen, but were still utterly delicious. I thought that they were like a more tasty mix of asparagus and spinach; so so delicious and so pretty curled up in a spiral. I went back for seconds!
A product new to me was Carta Fata, a clear film that is heat resistant and allows parcels of food to be sealed and cooked without fat. The bubbles you see in the picture above are the sauce boiling, perfectly cooking the fish with no evaporation.
Delicious, I want some Carta Fata, but at £20 a roll I think that it will have to go on my Christmas list.
The pairing of tender duck with a crispy skin with the pumpkin puree and chocolate sauce was perfect and one I shall be trying at home soon.
I had not had bison before, and was surprised at just how tender it was, meaty and full of flavour, slightly gamey and low in fat. Sadly this was not Canadian Bison (blame UK customs at Stansted) but was from the UK. Again something I hope to be having again.
Just look at the souffle perfection – utterly delicious.
Many thanks to Nim and her colleagues who were representing the different Canadian provinces. Canada has now moved from my list of places that I would like to visit at some point onto my list of places that I definitely shall visit, and I know that I shall eat and drink exceedingly well.
I attended the event as a guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission.