Culinary explorers can savour gourmet meals in quintessential Canadian settings such as on frozen rivers and icy mountaintops.
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The five-course dinner menu is exquisite: from the bison tartare starter and maple-glazed sable fish to the house-made lucuma and cacao ice-cream dessert. The setting, however, is somewhat unusual: a tent perched atop a frozen river in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, MB, where winter temperatures plunge to -20 degrees C (-4 degrees F).
Winter in Canada offers some extraordinary dining experiences. Canadian cuisine combines with uniquely Canadian settings—from frozen rivers to icy peaks and remote, snowbound provincial parks—to make for meals to remember. You may never think of “frozen food” quite the same way again.
For nearly three weeks every winter, the ice-bound fork of Winnipeg’s Red and Assiniboine rivers becomes home to RAW: Almond, a pop-up restaurant on ice. While the wind howls outside, diners clad in heavy-duty parkas, fur caps and insulated boots gather inside a heated tent, laid out in past years with a long wooden table and stumps for seats.
While the setting may be rustic, the food is gourmet. Chef Mandel Hitzer from Winnipeg’s trendy Deer + Almond restaurant partners with the city’s top chefs to devise hearty multi-course menus that show off the best of prairie cuisine. The surrounding scenery, meanwhile, is unforgettable. Just outside, the Red River Mutual Trail—a winter highway for skaters and walkers—winds for six and a half enchanted kilometres (4 mi) through the city.
Diners hoping to work up an appetite before a wintry meal can look further west to Vancouver. Atop Grouse Mountain, a unique tour offers guests the chance to experience alpine scenery before enjoying a dinner to remember. Diners don snowshoes and headlamps for a one-hour guided trek into Grouse’s snowbound forests and meadows. After venturing through the winter wonderland and admiring the twinkling city lights far below, adventurers converge on the mountaintop lodge for fondue, an après-ski staple.
The three-course meal starts with a classic cheese fondue, served with fresh-baked organic baguettes. Next comes a hearty broth fondue, paired with a selection of prime cuts, including wild BC salmon, chicken, beef, scallops and pork loin. The meal concludes with a traditional chocolate fondue. Fresh fruit and cinnamon puff pastry are dipped in rich chocolate sauce, optionally spiked with Baileys or another liqueur to ward off winter’s chill.
Meanwhile, Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario is home to a one-of-a-kind weekend excursion that has guys’ weekend written all over it. The Stew and Brew Winter Culinary Adventure takes culinary explorers to a remote log cabin deep inside the 7,600-sq-km (3,000-sq-mi.) park. While the snow falls outside, diners feast on rich winter favourites prepared by cabin cooks, from cassoulet to wild-game gumbo and black-beer Irish stew. Meals are paired with a selection of winter craft beers, such as La Fin du Monde, Leffe Brown and London Porter.
To work off those calories, groups set out on guided snowshoeing and backcountry skiing in the highlands of Algonquin Provincial Park. Other consummately Canadian excursions at the retreat include ice fishing, snowmobiling and dog sledding. And no winter weekend would be complete without an invigorating ice plunge and sauna and a game or two of broomball, a regional hockey variant played with brooms instead of sticks.
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