There are many ways to seek insights into a country’s identity. It could be through art, music or even fashion, but the tastiest way to understand a culture is through their food. As a nation of diversity, Canada’s flavours are often as much about fusion as they are locally sourced or lovingly made.
If you are short on time, it can often be daunting to do more than drop into Tim Hortons or order a portion of poutine at the airport. If you are looking for true culinary insight into Canada, the best way is often through a food tour which is easily booked through Canadian Affair and can be added on to any holiday. Food tours happen across the country and are a brilliant introduction to the methods and flavours central to Canada’s foodie scene.
Anne from Anne Travel Foodie understands the importance of food tours when it comes to new cities:
“Whenever I visit a new city, I’m always skipping the museums. Instead of paintings, I check out the food. A food tour is my ‘hop-on-hop-off bus tour’. It’s a great way to taste a little bit of everything that the city has to offer. I love trying out new things and discovering the local flavours. We all love eating food, so you’ll be on a tour about a thing you really like. It’s also a great way to meet like-minded (read: food loving) people when travelling alone.”
Those with specific food needs should not be concerned on a food tour as they are often catered to as Anne goes on to explain:
“I’m a vegetarian and I’m always afraid that it might be difficult for me on a food tour. But in my experience, everyone is always very flexible and makes sure vegetarians get something delicious as well.”
Granville Island Market tour – Vancouver
If you have a flight to Vancouver or a stopover, this is a market not to miss. Though Granville Island is no longer the industrial hub it once was, this historic area of Vancouver is a great place for curious foodies or anyone looking for a wander. The large covered food market is accompanied by outdoor stalls and the presence of the Emily Carr University of Art and Design along with the Arts Club Theatre Company lends a creative feel to the area. Granville Island is ranked fifth on Trip Advisor as one of the best things to see in the city, and if you’re a food lover this can easily become the number one destination.
To avoid getting overwhelmed, opt for a food tour to guide you through the most iconic foods that reflect Vancouver as a city and Canada on the whole. One stop on the Vancouver Foodie Tour is the incredible charcuterie, Oyama Sausage Company.
Oyama Sausage Company brings charcuterie to Canada in the best way. Concentrating on quality ingredients and traditional methods, Oyama lovingly offers an incredible range of products to challenge even the most sophisticated palate. They feel this reflects not only their brand but the city of Vancouver and Canada as a whole. We spoke to Chris Halsey- Brandt from the company:
“Vancouver is truly a city of immigrants from all over the world. As a result, Vancouver’s food scene reflects the diversity of its population with excellent cuisine available from so many different cultures. At Oyama Sausage we have strived to integrate aspects of the international food scene into our traditional European-style products. So, for example, we make coppa that is infused with sake from a local sake maker. We also make char siu (Chinese BBQ) pork sausages and Japanese chicken sausages, to name a few.
We also make many products that showcase unique Canadian food – examples would include our game salamis and prosciuttos such as elk prosciutto, bison bresaola, wild boar rosemary salami and spicy venison salami. Or our traditional ham prosciutto marinated in Okanagan red wine. When people come to Vancouver from around the world and they visit Oyama Sausage they get a taste of charcuterie that they won’t find anywhere else.”
Combining patience and simplicity, Oyama is run by the fifth generation of a family in the charcuterie trade and the recipes have been passed down. However, as the reputation of Granville Island has increased, so have the expectations of those who visit it. Chris explains:
“Granville Island is a bit of a mecca for food in Vancouver. Furthermore, Granville Island serves customers from so many backgrounds: locals doing their weekly shopping, residents from further afield that visit a few times a year, chefs looking for new products for their menu, tourists from other provinces and countries visiting Vancouver. Each customer type is looking for different products, but they all demand top quality. So, at Oyama Sausage, we make something like 400 different products during the course of the year to provide the variety this diverse customer base wants. If we didn’t make interesting, unique and delicious products, most of these customers wouldn’t make the effort to come down for Granville Island – they’d stick to their local supermarket.”
Walking food tour – Calgary
As Canada’s third largest city, Calgary has a lot to offer and if you have a flight to Calgary you should consider exploring its gastro scene. Since its oil-boom heydey, Calgary has been developing its character and culture so it can now hold its own against Canada’s more cosmopolitan centres, and one of these emerging new industries is food.
The walking food tour of Calgary is a great way to not only get to grips with the food culture but also to see the city. Each of Calgary’s neighbourhoods has a strong identity and different things to offer. Kensington Village is the undisputed coffee centre of the city, and coupled with the area’s literary scene ensures a laid back yet hip vibe. Meanwhile, Bridgeland was the original district were the Italian and Ukrainian immigrants settled and thus is fit to bursting with authentic cafes and great cannoli.
Calgary Food Tours offer a variety of tours throughout the city depending on your preference, whether that is Sunday brunch and a leisurely wander around farmers’ markets or a daring dive into Inglewood’s artisan establishments. We have spoken to Sidewalk Citizen, one of the stops on the tour, about what makes their products special.
Sidewalk Citizen is a bakery with an indescribably cool aura and two locations within the city so they can be seen on a couple of different tours. Using seasonal and quality products, you can always enjoy different flavours and interesting combinations. Going beyond artisan, Sidewalk Citizen crafts its bread with the utmost care and ensures the quality in every loaf. There is no better way to get you excited for a food tour than following their Instagram, which is packed with the incredible cakes, healthy salads and the organic elements that make this such a stand-out establishment. The bakery holds classes as well as ‘curated conversation about art and substance’.
Salmon Bake – Whistler
If you are looking for a little adventure with your dinner, this salmon bake could be right up your street. An incredible off-roading 4×4 experience is what anyone needs to whet their appetite, especially 1800m up Blackcomb Mountain.
Once you get there, you will feel nice and peckish for one of the culinary traditions of the area. Like all the big predators in British Columbia, the people of this area have long relied on the summer salmon runs to sustain them. Enjoy this local staple in the tastiest way at The Crystal Hut.
Gourmet Stop Tour – Quebec
Quebec is a fusion in every sense. Whether you are interested in language, architecture, music or food, the European influence, combined with cultures brought in over the years, continues to keep the city vibrant.
The Gourmet Stop Tour takes a look at Quebec’s finer side, enjoying the historical crescent of the Old Harbour. This is followed by a rickshaw ride which provides the perfect vantage point to enjoy the pollution-free Old Quebec. To enjoy the culinary aspect of the tour, make the most of your short stop in the Old Harbour Market – this is a great time to talk to those making the local liquors or pick up some famous Quebec cheese. The market has its own kitchen if you are looking for something more substantial or if you are feeling inspired, check out the blog for tasty seasonal recipes.
Deluxe Niagara Winery Tour – Toronto
For the wine buffs amongst us, Ontario has a wonderful reputation of wine making, especially ice wine. If you have just got off a flight to Toronto and are looking to tour a couple of local vineyards, this is a great opportunity to get out of the city and relax among the vines.
On this tour you will not only get to try some of the famous ice wine along with award winning reds and whites, but also visit Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a charming town, often overshadowed by the famous falls nearby. Quaint is a word often associated with this town and it is the only town in Canada with a Lord Mayor. Do not be fooled by its small-town aesthetic for some of the local wineries compete on the world stage. We spoke to Inniskillin about the history of their vineyard:
“Inniskillin was designed to assimilate old and new world wine region aesthetics, creating a sense of architectural harmony by utilising the natural and historic elements found in its surroundings.”
As one of the first vineyards to bring Ice wine to Canada, Inniskillin took a gamble on this artisan product. Ice wine is a very sweet dessert wine that requires the grapes to be picked after the first frost. This creates a much more concentrated flavour, however all the harvest must be picked quickly, within a few hours, meaning it is made in small quantities and is a privilege to taste and perhaps bring home a bottle of your own:
“In fact, Inniskillin was the first Estate winery in Canada and one of those that pioneered the development of ice wine in Canada.”
How to enjoy a food tour
If you are looking to enjoy a food tour on your Canadian holiday, it is easy to fit them into any schedule. Most tours only last a couple of hours and are perfect for a morning activity to get you inspired for lunch or as an afternoon spent enjoying the city. All the tours mentioned above can be booked through the Canadian Affair website well in advance to make sure you don’t miss out on the tour of your choice. Anne from Anne food tours recommends going on a tour early during your stay:
“The great thing is that it combines many different flavours in one tour. Normally you’ll need a few days to try out as many things as you’ll taste on a food tour. Also, it’s a local guide, so he knows the best spots. Not just the ones that have been discovered by many tourists already.”
Going early means you can visit the places you really enjoyed later in your stay, or explore a favourite area further.
Image Credit: Pete Owen , ptra , Priscilla Du Preez, John Johnston, Chensiyuan, A Yee,