Warmer temps aren’t the only reason to celebrate the start of spring: it’s the season Canada starts harvesting its most ubiquitous export. While the epoch of maple season lasts only about six weeks when freezing night temperatures thaw trees under the sun’s glow and make the sap flow, this sweet treat has melded its way onto menus giving Canada flavors all its own. Check out these Canada restaurants celebrating maple season in delicious ways.
The Guild, Calgary
What could be better than a hearty brisket to carry one through a serious Canadian chill? The Guild gives it a sweet twist with a maple glaze, served alongside braised black barley, Prairie corn, locally sourced Saskatoon berries, and pickled leeks. Make a reservation at The Guild.
Food is art at Shift, the restaurant inside the new Remai Modern museum, where Quebec-born executive chef Jonathan Harris puts a contemporary spin on dishes like pig-and-duck tourtière and pierogies filled with blackened Saskatoon trout and sumac aioli. Here, maple’s not on pancakes but you can start the day off right with a chia and coconut bowl with wheatberries and maple and preserves for sweetness. Make a reservation at Shift.
Good things come in threes — and trees — at Canoe, where the chicken confit drumettes are tossed in a trio of tree syrups: maple, birch, and cedar. Located high atop the TD Bank Tower on the 54th floor with impressive views of Toronto and Lake Ontario, you may just feel like you’re high above the treetops as well. Make a reservation at Canoe.
Bar George, Montreal
With a rich timeline that dates back to 1880 involving a railway tycoon and a private gentlemen’s business club, Bar George has an impressive history and grand façade. But it’s what’s on the inside that counts here in this boutique hotel — and national historic site — kitchen that cooks up three meals a day. Chefs Anthony Walsh and Kevin Ramasawmy meld U.K. classics with Québécois flavors for dishes like St-Canut porcelet rack with maple-roasted red onions, sunchokes, and beluga lentils with sea buckthorn jus. Make a reservation at Bar George.
Le Champlain, Quebec City
Paint the town red — literally — at one of Quebec City’s most renowned fine-dining spots with speckled foie gras. Here, the Marieville-sourced liver is candied in maple syrup and garnished with Northern fruits like seabuckthorn or blueberries, maple-caramelized almonds, and cedar powder, then drizzled with vibrant beetroot caramel. Make a reservation at Le Champlain.
Drake Hotel, Toronto
The Old Fashioned goes new school at trendy Drake, with brown butter and maple. Locally sourced syrup and mole bitters are added to both housemade brown-butter bourbon and housemade cigar tincture, two separate processes that take up to five days but are well worth the wait when tasting the results. The tipple is topped with orange zest for a dash of brightness. Make a reservation at Drake Hotel.
The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar, Squamish, B.C.
What could make sticky toffee pudding even more indulgent? You betcha: Canada’s superb syrup. Top off a meal with Salted Vine’s sticky toffee pudding –- and its sweet maple toffee sauce, or opt for a starter with panache: a twice-baked soufflé with Avonlea cheddar and maple mustard. Make a reservation at The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar.
Wildebeest, Vancouver, B.C.
One of the bestsellers here is a weekend-only maple breakfast sausage, but Wildebeest offers all the roast beasts and then some. The cocktail bar and lounge and open kitchen serve up a bourbon bacon Old Fashioned all week laced with maple syrup, and the dinner menu adds a healthy twist to a sugary treat: a beetroot and burrata salad dusted with spiced maple granola, picked Okanagan apricots, and smoked yogurt. Make a reservation at Wildebeest.
Bistro le SAM, Quebec City
Get your savory and your sweet at SAM, where the salmon tartar is made with maple taffy, a traditional sugar candy made by boiling sap past the point where it forms a syrup. Served with white soy sauce, daisy buds, and pink peppercorn, it’s served in both appetizer (3-ounce) and entrée (6-ounce) sizes. Make a reservation at Bistro le SAM.
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Carley Thornell is a travel writer whose experiences eating street food in Japan, English peas in the UK, free-range steak in Argentina, and Brussels sprouts at Estragon tapas in her hometown of Boston have provided unforgettable culinary inspiration. Shout out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credits: Mike Casali (Bar George); Shiori Mine (Canoe); Teagan Moore (Shift); Cindy La (The Guild); Jonathan Norton (Wildebeest).