Today, May 22, is Victoria Day, a holiday to celebrate historical British monarch Queen Victoria’s birthday. Of all places, this is not a holiday in the UK, but in Canada! One classic treat to have on this date is Victoria Sandwich, named for the queen. Despite the name, this is not what North Americans would think of when they hear the word sandwich – it is actually a cake! Another name for this treat is Victoria sponge (as in sponge cake), and it consists of two sponge cakes filled with raspberry jam and cream in the middle. I first heard of this cake when it was referenced many times on the Great British Bake-Off! You can find a recipe for a classic Victoria Sandwich on BBC GoodFood, Jamie Oliver and Urban Hounds.
Victoria Sponge by Gordon Plant
We are so happy to hear about stories of immigrants using food to make connections and find success in their new homes. We previously featured Honeydoe catering in Chicago, and we just learned of another successful venture by Syrian refugees in Hamilton, Ontario, Karam Kitchen. Karam Kitchen is run by Syrian female chefs Rawa’a Aloliwi, Dalal Al Zoubi, and Manahel Al Shareef, and two American/Canadian women, Brittani Farrington and Kim Kralt, who run the logistics of the business. Karam Kitchen was kicked off by a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, and is now up and running and taking catering orders (and recently ran a second Kickstarter to get a delivery van). Saveur has a great feature about the start of Karam Kitchen and People of Hamilton focuses on the women involved in the project. Karam means generosity, and you can definitely see the generosity in the amazing spreads of Syrian foods that Karam Kitchen prepares.
Karam Kitchen by People of Hamilton
We are starting the year with a tip about what may be the best brunch place in Toronto. Karelia Kitchen (1194 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1N2, Canada) is dedicated to all things Scandinavian for brunch, snacktime and dinner. Karelia’s brunch is a mix of continental, Canadian and Scandinavian flavors with dishes like Pitti Y Panna ($14) Swedish-style potato hash with dill, bacon and eggs; Herring Two Ways ($14); and a grilled cheese made with Canadian Oka cheese ($12). For something more savory, there is also a huge variety of smorrebrod – open faced sandwiches in varieties like salmon, shrimp and beet ($10-12). In true Scandinavian fashion, coffee is a major feature of the cafe, and there is also a wide assortment Scandinavian pastries for a true Swedish-style fika coffee break. It can get pretty crowded for brunch, so reservations are recommended. But even if you don’t have a reservation, you can order at the counter to go.Even with all of this selection, our favorite thing about Karelia Kitchen is that they have Pulla Bread! Pulla bread is a traditional Finnish cardamom bread, which is particularly hard to find pretty much anywhere in North America, and this quest is what initially led us to Karelia. Pulla is a relative of the Swedish cardamom bun, kardemummabullar, and may be found in braided loaves like brioche, or in smaller rolls (as seen below). Served with clotted cream and lingonberry jam, a pulla roll is a prefect not-too-sweet accompaniment for fika or breakfast (or a snack). If you have the chance head over to Karelia to sample the excellent pulla bread and more!
Thanksgiving is a big deal here in the US (obviously), but Canada has its own Thanksgiving, which also is held to give thanks for the harvest and other positive events of the year. Though Canadian Thanksgiving, which falls on the second Monday in October, is perhaps less bombastic than American Thanksgiving, there are plenty of Canadian recipes you can try (yes, poutine). On the dessert front, we have unearthed a popular Canadian dessert that is new to us, and brilliant in its simplicity: Sugar Pie / Tarte au sucre. A typical Quebecois recipe, a classic sugar pie consists of not much more than eggs, sugar and vanilla. Sugar pie variants are also found in Indiana, where it is called a “Sugar Cream Pie” (it is also related to the classic Amish Shoofly Pie). So I guess this is the perfect pie for both US and Canadian Thanksgivings. Aside from the crust, the recipe couldn’t be simpler, check out Canadian versions from Food.com and Canadian Living.
Poutine – a delicious combo of cheese curds and gravy over french fries – has become a fast favorite in the US, but its roots are undeniably Canadian. When we were in Toronto recently, we thought it would be the perfect chance to try poutine in its homeland (though technically poutine is from Quebec, we’ll let it slide). There are a ton of poutine-specific spots in Toronto, and everyone has a favorite. However, on the recommendation of a friend, we ended up at Poutini’s House of Poutine (1112 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1H9). This is a small cash-only spot, with tables for only 8 or so people, and poutine is the only thing on the menu.
There are several varieties of poutine on offer – including traditional, bacon and sour cream topped, mushrooms, BBQ pulled pork, and smoked meat – each of which comes in regular (all less than $11 Canadian) and “mini” size (less than $8 Canadian). We were also pleased to see they had vegan and vegetarian varieties. Lucky for us, since the friend we visited the restaurant with is a vegetarian, and this was her first poutine! Another nice feature is that you can get vegetarian, beef or gluten free gravy on any variety of poutine.
We sampled the classic, bacon and vegetarian varieties. The mini size wasn’t small and actually was perfect for one person to enjoy for lunch. The poutine was made to order, and each version was a great combo of freshly-cooked, twice-fried skin-on fries, piping hot gravy and squeaky cheese curds. The vegetarian gravy was tomato-based and didn’t sacrifice any of the flavor of the beef gravy. This was the best poutine we ever had! If you ever find yourself in Toronto and want some real-deal poutine, this is the place! Where is your go-to poutinerie?
2014 is rapidly coming to a close, which means its time to reflect on the year gone by, drink some champagne and make some holiday food. One of the traditional Christmas season and New Year’s foods in Quebec is the Tourtière, a meat pie that is emblematic of Quebecois, and Canadian, cuisine. Tourtière has been around since the 1600s, and usually consists of ground pork in a pastry crust. The dish has since spread south into New England and into Louisiana with the Acadian communities, where the pie has been adapted over time to suit new locations and tastes. NPR’s the Salt has a brief history and a recipe and Chatelaine has updated the recipe with a new shape.
The Butter tart, along with the Nanaimo bar, is one of Canada’s most emblematic treats, and a perfect way to celebrate Canada Day on July 1st. The exact origins of the butter tarts are not known, though the treat is said to go back to pioneer days. Now you can find them across Canada, though their foothold is strongest in Ontario (where there is even a butter tart trail). The filling, as you might guess is primarily sugar and butter, with a little vinegar, though there may be some variations with nuts or raisins. The crust is a flaky pie crust, similar to an American pie, though butter tarts seem to usually come in miniature form. However, this is not an eggy custard like a Portuguese pastel de nata – it’s decidedly more sugary. Butter tarts actually sound kind of similar to a chess pie in the US, a Southern American classic. It is thought that both of these pies descended from a similar Scottish pie. I guess both come from the same principle – making a pie when there is not fruit available (or affordable enough) for filling. Recipes for butter tarts abound on the internet – and you probably already have the ingredients on hand. Happy Canada Day!
Though the most familiar Canadian cheese to American may be the cheese curds on Poutine, in honor of Canada Day, July 1st, we are featuring Oka, one of Canada’s native cheeses. Oka was created by trappist monks in Deux-Montagnes, Quebec in 1893 at the Abbey of Notre-Dame du Lac (known as Oka Abbey), where it earned its name. The recipe for Oka was sold by the Trappist monks in 1981 to a cheese co-op Agropur. The cheese is modeled after French Port Salut cheese, but was tweaked to have an original taste and to adapt to local conditions. Oka is a buttery, semi-soft cheese with an orange rind, which lends itself to a wide variety of recipes calling for a melty cheese (Grilled cheese or Mac and Cheese seem suited to Oka). Food Network Canada has a gussied up version of Poutine with Oka, or how about Oka Fondue or an Oka and Tomato tart.
Poutine, the emblematic Québecois fast food consisting of french fries, brown gravy and cheese curds has become popular over the past few years in the US, especially in the time since we wrote this post. Chicago will now it will be inaugurating its very own Poutine Fest! In the vein of the ever popular Bacon Fest, Poutine fest will feature a wide array of Poutines from over 10 restaurants across Chicago. The fest will occur on February 24, 2013 at the Haymarket Pub & Brewery. We wish we could be there for the carb-n-cheese goodness, so we hope someone will fill us in with a report.
Classic Poutine from L’Authentic Burgers & Poutine in Victoria, BC by Jen Arrr
Culture magazine had an interesting post about an effort to revive the rare Canadienne Cow, one of the oldest breeds in North America. The Canadienne cow was brought to Canada by French settlers in the 16th century, and though it was initially popular, it was gradually replaced by other varieties. Canadienne cows are now relatively rare, except in pockets of Quebec. However the Canadienne cow is making a comeback. Along with promoting the Canadienne cow comes the revival of unique cheeses only made with Canadienne milk, including the varieties made at La Laiterie Charlevoix.
Filed under Cheese, Links
Québec has a unique food history (including some superlative bagels), but until recently we haven’t been able to find the inimitable Québecois staple, poutine, anywhere in Chicago. Poutine is an unusual concoction of french fries served with fresh cheese curds and brown gravy, which originated some time in the mid-20th century in Canada. Until fairly recently, poutine was the domain of Québec only, but now restaurants serving the specialty are popping up all over the United States. The Chicago Tribune has a list of restaurants that serve poutine in Chicago.
Classic Poutine from L’Authentic Burgers & Poutine in Victoria, BC by Jen Arrr
We don’t often feature foods from Canada on ETW, but it’s not for a lack of variety. With the Winter 2010 Olympics (we are both big Olympics fans) being held in Vancouver we decided that we wanted to feature Canadian food more prominently for the duration of the games. So to start off, with we have a Vancouver original with a perplexing name, the Nanaimo bar. Named after a town in British Columbia, the Nanaimo bar is a no-bake dessert with vanilla custard filling, a cookie crumb base and a coating of chocolate. Yum! The Nanaimo bar seems pretty simple to make, but there are certainly many permutations. Chowhound put out a call for the definitive Nanaimo recipe and a recipe from Closet Cooking came out on top.