If you ask a chef in the Glebe to define Canadian cuisine, the answer will likely go beyond the iconic classics we all know and love, like maple syrup , Montreal smoked meat and ketchup chips.
Standing in his Eldon’s Restaurant surrounded by rustic tables, Chef and co-owner Corey Baird leans against the large wooden bar, lifts up his arms and looks around.
“It’s what’s around you,” he says, tossing a white towel over his shoulders.
“It’s not just poutine, it’s what grows here. There are so many vegetables. I think of Canadian food as whatever the farmers are growing. It’s chicken, beef, pork, potatoes, it’s everything.”
That’s why it won’t be too much of a challenge for Baird to concoct a dish for Canadian Eats, the Glebe’s signature food promotion that invites local chefs to put Canada on a plate for 10 days leading up to Canada Day. Because Eldon’s sources all of its food locally – beef from Tweed, fish from Lake Erie and vegetables from Juniper Farm in Wakefield – nearly everything on their menu could be considered Canadian. Baird could simply offer up his Gaspor Grilled Pork Shoulder as his Canuck dish, but he wants to create something totally new – and entirely Canadian.
“I like showcasing stuff that isn’t necessarily thought of as food, so doing stuff with spruce and pine needles, or trying to do something that incorporates a very Canadian element, but not in a food sense,” he says. “We could serve something wrapped in birch bark.”
Canadian Eats was launched in 2017 to tie in with Canada 150 celebrations throughout the city. The award-winning event featured nearly 40 Glebe restaurants last year who fired up dishes like Blueberry French Toast, Grilled Maple Brush Salmon, and a Springtime in Canada Dosa filled with sautéed fiddleheads. These and other dishes created a special Canadian Eats menu online that was bursting with everything from appetizers to main courses and desserts – all with their own Canadian flare. This year’s promotion will run from June 21 to Canada Day.
“Canadian Eats gives local chefs – and their patrons – the opportunity to explore our national cuisine and to celebrate our great country leading up to Canada Day,” says Glebe BIA Executive Director Andrew Peck. “What is Canadian food? Come down to the Glebe and let your taste buds answer that question.”
It didn’t take long for Razmon Poisson to come up with a truly Canadian dish for the June food celebration. One quick thought about Canadian fare brought the head chef at Orto Trattoria back to when he was younger and lamb was always on the table. Poisson’s creation is a pistachio-crusted roasted Quebec lamb rack with leek puree, house-made yogurt, and turnips with crispy leeks.
“I think it really taps into a lot of Canadian roots,” says Poisson, who trained under executive chef and Top Chef Canada winner Rene Rodriguez. “The turnips have a good aspect of spring, because they are quite acidic, and I slow braise them. And the leeks – if you think of Canadian cuisine, onions are everywhere – it’s just a more fun, playful way to eat them. When I think of Canadian cuisine, I think of lamb all the time.”
Poisson agrees that the Glebe is the perfect neighbourhood for diners to explore their own national cuisine; Most who walk through his door, he says, are authentic food lovers who want an enhanced dining experience that truly titillates their taste buds. He sees his restaurant as a bit of a classroom where he can educate people through his culinary creations, and he says Glebeites are the perfect pupils.
“You get some really good diners in the Glebe and people really know what they are going for, they understand food here,” he adds. “The Glebe is a really cool spot for diners.”
Come taste first-hand what Canadian food is all about, relish in the bounty of ingredients that are grown here and celebrate life in our great country. Canadian Eats runs from June 21 to Canada Day in the Glebe. Check out the menu online at www.canadianeats.ca.