Forget poutine, Canada's chefs are now embracing the country's spectrum of landscapes and cultures, delivering an impressive new national cuisine with international roots.
Three regions currently generating buzz for their culinary smarts and award-winning wines — British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia — represent an exciting new era in Canadian cuisine.
Below, we round out the best locals-loved restaurants, wineries and bars in each region.
Come for the wine and stay for the spectacular views. Canada's West is known for its beautiful scenery and vast micro climates that allows for a huge range of produce to grow.
Vancouver's culinary landscape is fuelled by innovation and local produce. There is no better place to experience this than at St. Lawrence. Recognised as one of Canada's best new restaurants in 2018, the understated restaurant reimagines classic French cuisine in an intimate setting, with chef J.C. Poirier's rustic menu and interiors drawing inspiration from the romance of French and Québécois food and wine culture.
Head north to the Okanagan Valley, where many any of British Columbia's best wines, and much of its freshest produce, comes from. Of the enormous number of varietals and styles produced in the region the most distinct is ice wine; a refreshing, sweet wine made by harvesting grapes frozen on the vine. As the water in the grapes freeze, the sugars (and other flavour compounds) do not. The result is a surprisingly acidic but syrupy wine with a peach or green apple-like quality.
At Mission Hill Winery, winemaker Ben Bryant produces various styles including Bordeaux blends, pinot noir, chardonnay and ice wines. The site itself draws crowds thanks to its Mission-style architecture and outlook over Okanagan Lake. Its old-world grandeur is perhaps best experienced at one of the estate's popular Long Table Dinner events, where guests can enjoy sommelier-guided wine and food pairings at sunset.
1730 Mission Hill Rd, West Kelowna, missionhillwinery.com.
Situated in the southern Okanagan, in Canada's only pocket of desert, sits Nk'Mip Cellars, North America's first Indigenous-owned and operated winery. After joining Nk'Mip Cellars as a cellar hand, winemaker and Osoyoos Indian Band member Justin Hall decided he wanted to capture the culture of Osoyoos in a bottle. Travelling to Australia and New Zealand to hone this craft, Hall returned to Nk'Mip as winemaker in 2017. Visitors can sample wines while on a tour of the vineyard and cellar, or discover key elements of Indigenous cuisine (bear, salmon, bitterroot and saskatoon berry) in a private underground cellar tour that pairs wines with Indigenous foods.
1400 Rancher Creek Rd, Osoyoos, nkmipcellars.com
Nova Scotia's fresh and local way of life extends beyond seafood to its wine scene. One of Canada's most underrated wine-making regions, the peninsula's fertile soil and mild climate is ideal for producing crisp whites that pair beautifully with Nova Scotia's seafood-heavy menus. Launched in 2012, Tidal Bay is the first wine appellation for Nova Scotia. To be classified as Tidal Bay, wines must be made using specific grape varieties (that are 100 per cent Nova Scotia-grown) and be approved every year by an independent blind tasting panel.
Located near the Bay of Fundy, Domaine de Grand Pré is one of Nova Scotia's most picturesque wineries. Releasing its first wine in 1999 (a vintage red), the winery has worked hard to develop unique wines that are true to the province and unlike any others in the region. Created with specially grown grapes, Domaine de Grand Pré produce mainly hybrid varieties, its Vidal ice wine is an excellent example of its type.
Coincide summer visits with the vineyard's Devour The Vines evenings. With breathtaking vistas of the Bay of Fundy and the Landscape of Grand Pré UNESCO World Heritage site, this intimate dinner set —between rows of grape vines — is paired tableside with award-winning wines by two celebrated chefs.
11611 Highway 1, Grand Pré, grandprewines.com.
For a true taste of Nova Scotia head to Blomidon Estate, the region's only winery to touch the Bay of Fundy. Blomidon's unique seaside terroir is shaped by the daily high tides and ocean breeze. Expect award-winning wines (baco noir; L'Acadie blanc; Seyval blanc; and chardonnay) and striking scenery.
10318 NS-221, Canning, blomidonwine
Head further south in the heart to Gaspereau Valley, where the cool climate bears an affinity with the Champagne region of France. Here, the winemakers at Benjamin Bridge vineyards produce world-class Méthode Classique sparkling wines and limited-edition luxury wines. Stop by for a group tasting and be sure to sample a flute of the perennial sell-out, Nova 7: a refreshing and delicately perfumed proprietary blend of muscat varietals, Vidal, Seyval and Geisenheim that pairs beautifully with spicy cuisines.
1842 White Rock Road, Gaspereau, Nova Scotia, benjaminbridge.com
With generations of farmers and small agri-business, Ontario has world-class wines and a nascent farm-to-table scene. There's plenty of French fare and locations with a distinctly Canadian vibe alongside microbreweries and third-wave cafes. Make your way to the Niagara Peninsula where you'll find Ontario's most concentrated wine region, as well as Canada's only teaching winery, Niagara College Teaching Winery and Culinary Institute.
At Niagara-on-the-Lake, one of the winery-dense sub-regions of the Peninsula, a grape-friendly micro-climate and longer growing season sees the production of a wide variety of award-winning wines, including specialities ice wine, mead, maple and fruit wines. Hidden gem, Peller Estate, has roots dating back to the 1920s and offers guests customised tours and tastings — don't miss the vintage library or barrel cellar. Winemaker Katie Dickieson and chef Jason Parsons collaborate on innovative wine and food experiences, which they serve in house at the estate's opulent dining room. Book a table for an unrivalled taste of the region's freshest produce — the ice wine-poached lobster linguine won't disappoint.
290 John Street East, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, peller.com
Visit one of the region's more progressive cellar doors such as Jordan's Pearl Morissette in the Niagara Escarpment and Twenty Valley sub-region. Ex-sommelier and vigneron François Morissette, whose neoclassical wines owe much to absorbing old methods that he learned from time spent travelling and living in Europe, produces limited quantities of long-lived and expressive varieties of pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet franc, and riesling. While he rejects labelling his wines as natural, Morissette's vision is heavily rooted in classicism: his aged wines are not tampered with and only released once fully developed.
The winery's new restaurant addition offers an omakase-style experience that's charged by seasonal ingredients, often foraged and prepared with a French sensibility. Expect switched-on service, incredible views of the vineyard's lush grounds and a seafood-leaning menu dressed up with detailed flavours courtesy of home-grown produce (think foraged hogweed or powdered sassafras) — all accompanied by Pearl Morissette's convention-bucking drops.
3953 Jordan Rd, Jordan Station, Ontario, pearlmorissette.com
While in Ontario, stop in Canada's capital, Ottawa, where new restaurants have given the city a polished sheen. Set amongst the city's beautiful and historic buildings, Riviera is housed within the ex-Imperial Bank of Canada building. The restaurant is renowned for its seafood tower (scallops, pink shrimp, mussels, bacon) and craft cocktails that come listed by the shaker. Its Art Deco interior commands attention but it's the local produce-led, Italian-inspired menu that's worth coming back for.
62 Sparks St, Ottawa, dineriviera.com
A trip to eastern Canada isn't complete without visiting the culinary mecca of Toronto, where Canoe Restaurant provides a wholesomely Canadian dining experience amid the city's extremely trendy offerings. Located in the TD Bank Tower in Toronto's CBD, Canoe puts the gaudiness of a sky-high restaurant aside, shifting the attention to the acclaimed food and wine menu.
Chefs John Horne and Ron McKinlay's contemporary take on classic Canadian dishes is crafted through fresh local produce. Menu highlights include Ontario squab and pork jowl to Wellington County-style rabbit in a romaine gnocchi.
Level 54, 66 Wellington Street West, Toronto, canoerestaurant.com
Presented by Gourmet Traveller and Destination Canada.