I’m planning an extended time of traveling in far-off places, so I’m starting to feel a little nostalgic for my home country, Canada.
What comes to mind when you think of Canada and food? Maple syrup, poutine, Nova (smoked salmon), and doughnuts are what most of my non-Canadian friends say.
I’ve recently discovered the most amazing maple syrup, so stay tuned for more on that. You can get smoked salmon in many places, and I don’t think Nova Scotian is the best (I’m a Pacific salmon fan). Poutine—French fries, gravy and cheese curds—doesn’t really do it for me (although I’ve had a version with foie gras which was pretty darn good).
So, let’s talk doughnuts! Canada has more doughnut shops per capita than anywhere else in the world. We know doughnuts.
Canadians really like their Timmy’s, for both doughnuts and coffee. “Double double” is a Canadianism meaning, “I’ll have a coffee with two sugars and two creams, please.” This is often ordered at Tim Horton’s with a doughnut, or with Timbits (doughnut holes).
Now, there’s nothing really wrong with a Tim Horton’s doughnut, especially since smoking was banned in Canadian restaurants and Timmy’s doughnuts no longer taste like stale cigarettes. Tim Horton’s has a full range of flavors, shapes and sizes, and you can get them everywhere (even in Nunavut!). My personal favorites are the chocolate dip, Dutchie (a square glazed doughnut with raisins), and, only when I’m eating in private, a sugar-covered raspberry-jam filled one. (Don’t get me started on the range of Canadian names for these. I’m from Canada’s west, so I call them Bismarks. Those silly central Canadians and easterners call them jelly doughnuts; Manitobans call them jambusters; Nova Scotians supposedly call them Burlington buns; and Loblaw’s grocery stores call them paczek, after the Polish name.)
Regardless of what we call them, Crazy Canucks like doughnuts, and we’ve branched out into the gourmet variety during the past few years. I’ve been sampling them during cross-country trips, and if you’re visiting Canada (or lucky enough to live here), you need to do some sampling of your own.
The Best Doughnuts in Canada: Ottawa, you win!
Suzy Q doughnuts (@SuzyQDoughnuts). Big, yeast-raised, and with creative high quality toppings. My faves are London Fog (vanilla with earl grey tea), toasted coconut with kaffir lime, and dirty chocolate (chocolate glaze with Valrhona cocoa). The selection changes regularly—be sure to try the maple bacon (how Canadian). $2 each (a bit more for the special ones like creme brûlé) or $10/half dozen. Best doughnut bang for your buck.
Back Lane Café (@BackLaneCafe). Back Lane takes their cooking seriously, and all their food is spectacular whether made in the wood-burning ovens or the deep fryer. There are usually two doughnuts on the dessert menu, both excellent. The must-try is the citrus glazed, with the doughnut hole filled with a large scoop of their homemade strawberry ice cream. They also have warm beignets at breakfast. Yum.
Vancouver: Lee Doughnuts on Granville Island. Flavors aren’t too out-there, but these are nicely made and delicious. The birds on Granville Island also know how good they are. This little guy (pictured)—not much bigger than a doughnut himself—stole a half-eaten cranberry doughnut right out of my hand. I was devastated. Hot honey-dip—could there be anything better? I can hardly wait to try the autumn’s pumpkin spice (around $2 each). (By the way, Lee’s beats out Lucky’s Doughnuts, from the 49th Parallel Coffee Shop, hands down.)
Calgary: Jelly Modern Doughnuts (@JellyModern). Originally from Calgary, expanding to Toronto. Hand-filled and hand-dipped classics, a doughnut of the month, plus candy treats like Skor bars and Smarties (another Canadian specailty!). Many of their doughnuts are especially pretty. Even the Eton Mess, invented for Prince William’s visit (striped, with berries and cream) is kind of cute. About $2.50 each, $24.95/dozen.
Toronto (tie, it’s a big city!):
Dough by Rachelle (@DoughToronto). 100% made from scratch and awesome flavors like balsamic hazelnut, cinnamon ghost crunch (crème fraîche with candied ginger and ghost peppers), brown butter bourbon, as well as fruit fritters and crullers. A pop-up shop that runs out of places like Beast Restaurant and Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Kensington Market.
Glory Hole Doughnuts (@GHoleDoughnuts). Simple (butter and toast) or elaborate (Elvis with marshmallow—peanut butter frosting with banana chips, nuts, bacon, and toasted marshmallow), and interesting (beer, pretzel). $3-$4.50 each, $21/half dozen.
Montreal: Léché Desserts. Beautiful and flavorful classics and should-be-classics like pecan caramel, milk or white chocolate mousse, and lemon meringue.
In the Doughnut Family
One can not mention Canada and doughnuts without mentioning BeaverTails. BeaverTails are a flat doughnut, which sort of resemble the tail of the very Canadian beast, the beaver. If you can get one freshly made and piping hot, they’re worth a try (this means do not buy one while skating on the Rideau Canal, the world’s longest skating rink, during Winterlude). While you can get a whole range of sweet or savory toppings, the best is the traditional Killaloe Sunrise: sugar, cinnamon, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Plus, by ordering it, you’ll show you a) know your BeaverTail history (they were invented in the little town of Killaloe, Ontario) and b) that you know how to pronounce it (“kill-a-loo”, not “kill-a-low”). BeaverTails are so popular you can now find them across Canada, as well as in Saudi Arabia and the United States (Colorado ski country).