Not many people immediately think of Canada when they are asked to name countries with excellent cuisine. However, though Canada may not include particularly exotic ingredients, the food produced here is certainly some of the world’s best.
In honor of February’s celebration of the 26th annual Cuvee festival, a gathering where Niagara’s most talented chefs and winemakers present their fare to locals and visitors, here are some of Canada’s most iconic foods to sample during your next trip to Niagara Falls.
1. Maple Syrup
It isn’t just coincidence that put the maple leaf on Canada’s flag — it is Canadians’ profound love of the sticky, sweet sap the tree produces. As versatile as it is iconic, maple syrup isn’t just for breakfast foods; natives will drizzle it on just about anything, from pancakes to bacon. Cooked into candy and mixed into marinades, maple syrup shows up in Canadian recipes you’d least expect. Make sure to try as many maple goodies as you can while you’re north of the border, and bring back a bottle, or five, of the sap to experiment with your own maple creations.
This monstrosity of a meal is becoming more famous in the United States, but it remains a recognizably Canadian dish. French fries slathered in gravy and littered with cheese curds makes for a salty, gooey treat that will fill your calorie requirement for at least two days — but somehow, it’s always worth it. While there are many variations on poutine, you should start out with the traditional three ingredients for the real Canadian experience.
3. Beaver Tail
Though Canada developed into an important colonial holding due to its profitable beaver trade, this noteworthy treat has nothing to do with the dam-building rodents. Instead, a beaver tail is a huge, sweet pastry, perfect on cold Canadian days. Shaped like their namesake, sweet pastry dough is then topped with the diner’s preferred garnishes, which can include chocolate syrup, fruit, sprinkles, or, of course, maple syrup.
4. Nanaimo Bar
Another favorite Canadian dessert, the Nanaimo bar is much simpler to make at home than the beaver tail, but the real thing can only be tasted at a Canadian bakery — though they require no baking whatsoever. The treats are layer cookie bars, and like poutine, they have spawned several hundred varieties due to their popularity. However, the traditional Nanaimo bar as first created in Nanaimo, British Columbia, features a graham cracker base, vanilla custard filling, and chocolate ganache top.
Every culture has its own type of bread: Jews have challah, the French have baguettes, and the American South has cornbread. Canadians enjoy a quick, biscuit-like bread called Bannock that is incredibly adaptable to any meal. Covered in icing and sprinkles, bannock tastes just like a doughnut. Wrapped around a hotdog, bannock is buttery and crisp just like a toasted bun. During at least one meal in Niagara Falls, you are bound to find bannock sitting next to your plate.
6. Ketchup Chips
Americans enjoy dipping potato chips in a variety of sauces — from French onion to Mexican bean — but very few would ever consider slathering their crisp in bright red ketchup. However, ketchup is such a popular topping for potato chips in Canada that familiar chip vendors in the states, Frito-Lay for example, produce (and frequently sell out of) ketchup-flavored varieties. While these snacks won’t win a culinary award anytime soon, you won’t find a bag of Ketchup chips in America, so you should sample them while you have the chance.