By Meighan Makarchuk, Chef Liaison, Edible Canada
We made it! We successfully flew all the way across the top of Canada! Landing in St. John’s Newfoundland marked the farthest East this journey took us. Lush green trees and colourful buildings greeted us upon arrival as we flew in over the water onto the rock.
St. John’s architecture has a distinct style, the buildings are built onto a hilly maze of streets, all painted bright colours, varied and unique. As North America’s oldest city, it’s full of arts, culture and amazing fresh seafood.
The bounty of seafood is incredible. You can watch the fishing boats unloading their catch from the windows of many restaurants. This is a fishing culture the chefs here focus on what’s local, what’s in season, and what’s fresh that day. You don’t see things like farmed tiger prawns from Asia on menus here.
We have been incredibly fortunate to have Chef Jeremy Charles on this entire trip with us, and now to have him show us around his home town was an incredible honour. This is also a special place for Chef Ned Bell, although born on the West Coast of Canada, he comes from six generations of East coast cod fisherman.
Our first night in St. Johns we made a visit to Mallard Cottage, where our friend Chef Todd Perrin prepared a huge lobster boil feast! Live music, plenty of lobster, salads, made for a warm welcome indeed. And then, the night came – darkness! Something we haven’t seen for days during our trip across the North.
I watched the sunset from the top of Signal Hill, surreal colours that seemed to vibrant to be real.
For our fourth and final signature dinner our chefs pulled out all the stops. Hosted at Raymond’s Restaurant, where Jeremy is the Executive Chef, these guys prepared an eight course dinner celebrating everything local in Newfoundland, as well as bringing in some of the North. Restaurant owners Jeremy Bonia and Kim Cyr were incredible hosts, and each course was paired expertly with wines curated by Kim.
Starting with a Fairmont welcome cocktail by mixologist Grant Sceney our guests were greeted with caviar and a “Northern Punch” served over 10,000 year old ice harvested from an ice berg. Followed by snacks of whelk, bison bresaola, and muktuk.
Chef Wayne Morris prepared a dish of scallop crudo with sturgeon chips, gold caviar, horseradish crème frache and fermented chilli granita, and snow crab chawanmushi with cod floss and pickled dulse.
Making his cod fishing ancestors proud Chef Ned Bell cooked a dish of roasted cod with mussel and periwinkle broth, parsnip vanilla foam.
Chef Jeremy Charles cooked a pasta course of braised moose, potato and caramelized onion agnolotti.
Raymond’s Restaurant Chef de Cuisine Ross Larkin cooked snow goose we brought from Nunavut, along with sunchokes and maple glazed turnips.
Chef Stephane Modat cooked caribou with black current, red onion, wild carrot puree and fried lichen, and moose heart with mustard tempura and carrot flowers.
Dessert was wild rhubarb and toasted milk black currant leaf crème prepared by Raymond’s Restaurant’s Executive Pastry Chef Celeste Mah.
Followed by a rare whisky tasting by Don Livermore, Corby’s Spirits Master Whisky Blender this dinner had it all.
And we’re off again, back in the air on our way home. Stopping to refuel we landed in Churchill Manitoba to have some lunch, and to do a little hiking and wildlife viewing. We split into groups and our hosts at Lazy Bear Lodge took us out in zodiacs in search of belugas. We didn’t have to go far, within minutes hundreds of these beautiful white whales and their young grey calves surfaced, feeding on schools of capelin. Northern Manitoba’s Hudson Bay coastline is home to the world’s largest population of beluga whales during the summer months.
The majority of beluga groups move from the open ocean into coastal areas this time of year in response to the thawing of the sea ice. As the ice breaks up they move towards these newly open waterways and enter estuaries where the water temperature is warmer and the salinity is lower. These conditions trigger a moult of their skin, we saw many belugas at “the spa” rubbing on rocks just metres from the shoreline as they exfoliated. An incredible privilege to see these creatures in the wild.
Back on the plane for our final flight back to Vancouver we all reflected on the amazing journey we just experienced. We packed in months of activities into nine days on this whirlwind tour of Canada’s fragile and beautiful Northern regions.
At Edible Canada we strive to connect people with Canadian food and culture. Because this country is so large and diverse, the only way we can define what that is this: local, sustainable, and in the hands of many cultures. We succeeded on so many levels on this trip, setting foot in places few others have, cooking with ingredients many of our peers have never, and connecting on a new level with the land and the ocean.
I feel privileged to have experienced this, with a group of close friends old and new!
Thank you to our guests for adventuring along with us on this first of its kind trip. No charter jet has ever flown this round trip route before and it takes a special group of explorers to make this happen.
Thank you to our sponsors for supporting us on this incredible dream! Air North, Yukon’s Airline, Fairmont Hotels, Corby’s Spirits, Moosehead Beer, Haywire Wine, Okanagan Crush Pad, Nk’mip Cellars, Canada Goose, Finisterra Travel – we couldn’t have done it without you.
Sounds like the trip for you? The next Flight Across Canada will take flight in the fall of 2018. New locations, new adventures, and a new bounty of seasonal ingredients to cook with! We can’t wait!