Canada is somewhat lacking in it’s national food identity. There are some foods associated with being Canadian: beaver tails, poutine, maple butter/syrup, etc. These have been capitalized and tourist-ized to the point of becoming kitch… and frankly, embarrassing. I would argue that each of these are not even really food (imagine how sick you’d feel after sitting down to a meal of poutine and beaver tails covered in maple syrup).
But, after eating at Boralia in the Toronto community of Ossington, there are now a whole bunch of foods/plates that I previously took for granted and now realize are Canadian… things that pulled out tastes and memories from my childhood: rabbit sausage, beets, elk, pine smoked mussels, devilled eggs, scallops in cucumber water….etc. The overall theme at Boralia is hunter/gatherer “Aboriginal and Historical Canadian Food” but many of the smells, ingredients, and seasonings are so engrained into daily Canadian cuisine that I had difficulty finding the Aboriginal component. They periodically have pemmican on the menu… I will be back to try the pemmican.
Every bite at Boralia had incredible depth. This is especially true for the pine smoked mussels. For our visit, the mussels came from the St. Lawrence and the pine smoke brought back memories of camp fires, clam bakes, and summer camp. The experience created a pleasant “childhood memories” conversation that made it really easy to get to know the people at the table and their personal history.
The menu is served in a very unpretentious way and they were incredibly accommodating of my gluten allergy. With a day’s warning were able to produce alternatives to the set menu that didn’t leave me feeling left out.
I will say that the restaurant is pricey… but completely worth it.