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Canadian treats

July 17, 2010

The past week has been exciting as I was touring the western area of Canada, in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, with my mom and brother. I’ve been just blown away by the amazing scenery and the healthy lifestyle of the country’s citizens. On the first day I went to Vancouver’s Stanley Park, and I could not believe that there were so many fit people walking, biking, and jogging around! I guess it’s not a surprise considering the natural scenery of the area.

I also love how Canadians are really into conservationism. This was a picture I took at a random bathroom at a pit stop during the bus trip.

Even in the middle of nowhere, they care about making sure there is not too much waste. A lot of the other bathrooms in Canada also have blow-dryers to blow wet hands dry, since they save more paper compared to paper towels. I was very impressed.

Anyway, onto the food, since this is a food blog, after all! In all the gift shops in the tourist areas, I found a lot of merchandise for maple syrup and similar products, such as maple caramels, maple cookies, and maple brittle. Canada is really well-known for their good-quality syrup, and a lot of the products I tried did not disappoint.

On one of the stops, I found some maple-glazed almonds, which I wanted to snack on during the trip, and my brother wanted the maple-glazed popcorn, so my mom ended up buying us both.

Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed with both products, especially since each of them cost $2.99 for such small bags. On the almonds, I could taste the maple glaze, but after taking a look at the ingredients on the back, I found that there was more sugar than maple in the actual product. They were also too sweet for my tastes.

The popcorn tasted even less like maple and too much like regular caramel corn. They had the perfect degree of sweetness, however, so that was a definite plus. The package contained both pearl and rice popcorn, and the pearl popcorn was definitely better tasting, as it had less glaze. My brother was pretty happy eating all the rice popcorn, though.

Another amazing product in Canada is its ice wine. Ice wine is made by fermenting frozen grapes, and since frozen grapes only yield about one or two drops of liquid, it takes about 50 pounds of grapes to just make a bottle of wine. The wineries produce only a thousand or so bottles of ice wine every year, so the bottles at the winery I was doing the tasting ran over $75 for 500mL. They had both red and white wine, and I definitely liked the white wine more, with its more sweet and fruity taste as well as the lower alcohol content.

And of course, with the ice wine, came ice wine filled chocolate!

I was also sadly disappointed by this chocolate, as the center was filled with so much sugar that I could not taste the ice wine properly. Nor was I entirely convinced that ice wine was used in the first place, as the ingredients on the back of the package had only ambiguously included “alcohol.” The quality of the dark chocolate was just average, but for $3.99 for 5 of those maple-shaped beauties, I was expecting so much more. I guess that’s what I get for being such a tourist.

There were other interesting chocolate items, such as chocolate-covered nuts, which a lot of the brands named “bear droppings,” “elk droppings,” and the like.

Plus I found my most favorite refrigerator magnet ever.

Canada also has a lot of fresh fruit farms along the way up the Rocky Mountains. The majority of them carried blueberries, cherries, strawberries, apples, apricots, and nectarines. Being a berry fan, I purchased a pound of blueberries for $4.99 and a pound of cherries for $2.99. They were extremely huge, juicy, and delicious!

I also absolutely loved the grape tomatoes at the places I had lunch, such as at the buffet at Lake Louise. The tomatoes were very sweet and better than any tomatoes I’ve ever tried. This just makes me excited for my trip to Europe in the fall!

There were also quite a few interesting jam products at some of the stops as well. We stopped a place called The Jammery, where they sold the standard blueberry, blackberry, and orange jellies, and also interesting ones such as curry jelly and spicy cranberry jalapeno jelly.

Some shops also had yummy alcoholic jellies.

And the weirdest one, garlic and ginger wine jelly.

Finally, we went to Kamloops for the ginseng factory, where of course, all Chinese people have to eventually visit in Canada. While I’m not a huge fan of ginseng, my mother went crazy buying the fresh roots at the factory, which went for $30 a pound, which is not a bad price. There were other products, such as tonics, powders, teas, and mints.

Now, not many people know this, but there are actually two types of ginseng. Asian ginseng, which is grown in north areas of Asia, have a “heating” effect in Chinese medicine. Usually people drink chicken soup with this type of ginseng after losing a lot of blood in surgery or giving birth, and athletes use it to give them a lot of energy. It is also known to speed up the metabolism. This ginseng is not good for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, or diabetes.

On the other hand, North American ginseng, which is grown in the northern parts of North America, is good for helping to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and treating diabetes and asthma, as well as treating acne. I also noticed that after my tour group finished trying the ginseng powder samples at the factory, nobody fell asleep during the next four-hour drive back to Vancouver, when usually at least half of the people are resting their eyes during a drive longer than half an hour. I’m not sure if people would buy up some of the ginseng products because the root does taste bitter, but maybe, if they really are interested in its anti-aging and health-promoting properties, they could start with the ginseng candy.

I’ll be in Seattle for a few days hitting up some of the food areas, so I will be making another post soon on the food scene down here. Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Dai Dai

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One Comment
  1. Autumn permalink

    Hope you come back to Canada again sometime. We have a lot of yummy things to eat here!

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