When chef, author and TV personality Lynn Crawford isn't getting down and dirty travelling across North America in search of the freshest ingredients, you can find her at her east-end Toronto restaurant Ruby Watchco, cooking up family-style meals with the local food she loves.
Most recognizable for "Pitchin In," and "Restaurant Makeover," the ambitious and adventurous chef (hello, she has tattoos on the palms of her hands!) moved back to her hometown from New York a few years ago, but not before becoming the first female executive chef for the Four Seasons worldwide.
Crawford is set to star in a new Food Network show to be announced in June, and has also written a new book called At Home with Lynn Crawford due in the fall that features everyday recipes she serves at home.
Crawford spoke to The Huffington Post Canada about her favourite comfort food and booze, cheap thrills and the wildest thing that's ever happened to her in a kitchen.
What does "Canadian" food mean to you?
I think it’s just how lucky we are to live in such an incredible country that is so diverse from the East Coast different ways.
Interview continues below sildeshow.
Poutine — French fries generously slathered in gravy and cheese curds — is a classic Canadian treat that is said to have originated in Quebec in the 1950s. Since then, it has been adapted in many weird and wonderful ways from <a href="http://crownsalts.com/gardemanger/" target="_blank">gourmet versions with lobster</a> and <a href="http://www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca/menu.html" target="_blank">foie gras</a> to —believe it or not — a doughnut version. It's also inspired <a href="http://smokespoutinerie.com/" target="_blank">a crop of trendy "poutineries"</a> and a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/14/doughnut-poutine-psycho-donuts_n_2875921.html" target="_blank">"poutition"</a> to make it Canada's official national dish.
There are some snacks that define a nation, but not many that taste good to only those who live there. What do we love? The fact they leave our fingers dyed red after we've had a whole bag. Ketchup has never tasted so salty, non-tomatoey and outright good. Our U.S. friends may go nutty over Doritos, but we love our ketchup chips. Did you know that <a href="http://www.thestar.com/business/2013/02/28/heres_why_you_cant_buy_chicken_and_waffle_chips_in_canada.html" target="_hplink"> Lay's dill pickle and Munchies snack mix are also exclusively Canadian?</a>
What could be more Canadian than syrup that comes from the maple tree, whose iconic leaf has come to symbolize Canada and its national pride? Quebec is the largest producer of maple syrup in the world, accounting for about 75 to 80 percent of the supply. Maple syrup — <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1372549/Maple-syrup-joins-ranks-broccoli-blueberries-new-stop-shop-superfood.html" target="_blank">recently elevated to "superfood" status</a> — is a classic sweet topping on pancakes and waffles. Still, that hasn't stopped some people from thinking of surprising savoury pairings such as <a href="http://www.toromagazine.com/lifestyle/food/toro-tv/c3df4a2e-74ba-c154-9172-99d497567a76/Caplanskys-Maple-Bacon-Donuts/" target="_blank">maple-bacon doughnuts</a>.
It's no secret that Canadians are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/15/tim-hortons-new-bacon-taste-test_n_2884834.html" target="_blank">obsessed with bacon</a>. The delicious cured pork product can be made oh so many ways, including ever popular strip bacon and peameal bacon, often referred to as "Canadian bacon" abroad. In fact, Canadians are so passionate about their favourite food that <a href="http://bacontoday.com/the-people-of-canada-choose-bacon-over-sex/" target="_blank">many would probably choose it over sex.</a>
A butter tart is a classic Canadian dessert made with butter, sugar, syrup and eggs — filled in a buttery (yes, more grease) pastry shell, and often includes either raisins or nuts. They can be runny or firm — so it's hard to mess them up when you're baking. <a href="http://www.canadianliving.com/food/baking_and_desserts/best_butter_tarts.php" target="_blank">Also, they never seem to go out of style.</a>
BeaverTails, or <em>Queues de Castor</em> in French, is a famous trademarked treat made by a <a href="http://www.beavertailsinc.com/" target="_blank">Canadian-based chain of pastry stands</a>. The fried-dough treats are shaped to resemble real beaver tails and are often topped with chocolate, candy, and fruit. These Canadian delicacies go hand in hand with skiing, and even <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/17/beavertail-at-inauguration_n_2495957.html" target="_blank">gained White House recognition during U.S. President Barack Obama's 2009 trip to Ottawa.</a>
These legendary Canadian no-bake treats originated in (surprise!) <a href="http://www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/visitors/NanaimoBars.html" target="_blank">Nanaimo, B.C.,</a> and are typically made with graham-cracker crumbs, coconut, walnuts, vanilla custard and chocolate. Need we say more? Common variations include peanut butter and mint chocolate.
No one likes to think of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as dinner, but game meat is abundant in Canada and can be found in butchers, restaurants and homes across the country. Among other popular Canadian game is boar, bison, venison, caribou and rabbit.
B.C. Pacific salmon — commercially fished or farmed — includes many different species such as Chinook, Chum, Coho, Sockeye, Cutthroat, Steelhead and Pink. They can vary in colour and taste from Atlantic salmon, and are found in fishmongers and restaurants across Canada.
Believe it or not, Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of <a href="http://www.marquecanadabrand.agr.gc.ca/fact-fiche/5318-eng.htm" target="_blank">wild blueberries</a>, also known as “lowbush blueberries,” mostly grown in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.
Blueberry Blossom Honey
Bees also love our blueberry shrubs! Pollinating blueberry shrubs with honey bees <a href="http://www.dutchmansgold.com/blueberryblossomhoney.htm" target="_blank">more than doubles the potential yield of this very Canadian berry</a>, according to Dutchman's Gold, which makes its honey from acres of blueberries growing in Ontario and New Brunswick. Although this honey is not actually blueberry flavoured, it does have a subtle aftertaste of the fruit.
Canadians can enjoy fresh oysters 12 months of the year. <a href="http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/sheet_feuillet/oyster-huitre-eng.htm" target="_blank">These famous little aphrodisiacs</a> are plentiful on Canada's Atlantic and Pacific coasts, from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia to British Columbia.
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" may be an old English saying, but this nutritionally perfect food is quintessentially Canadian. Some of the most popular domestic varieties are McIntosh, Cortland, Gala, Fuji and Golden Delicious. According to Agriculture Canada, <a href="http://www4.agr.gc.ca/AAFC-AAC/display-afficher.do?id=1334147419910" target="_blank">apples were first brought over to the country by European settlers in the 17th century.</a>
P.E.I. potatoes (such as Russet, White, Red and Yellow) are famous across Canada and around the world. Prince Edward Islanders have been growing potatoes <a href="http://www.peipotato.org/why-pei-potatoes" target="_blank">since the late 1700s!</a> Apparently they're superior because of the land's ideal growing conditions, including red, sandy soil that is rich in iron.
Nova Scotia Lobster
The Atlantic province of <a href="http://www.novascotia.com/en/home/discovernovascotia/foodandwine/lobster/default.aspx" target="_blank">Nova Scotia is world-renowned</a> for its tasty crustaceans. They have some of the most fertile lobster fishing grounds on the planet.
The popularity of Alberta beef might have been a little tainted by the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/02/xl-foods-lawsuit_n_1934310.html" target="_blank">unfortunate E-coli outbreak at XL Foods in 2012,</a> but the province's AAA beef is considered among the best. Alberta is the cattle capital of Canada and <a href="http://www.raisedright.ca/CampaignStory.aspx" target="_blank">according to the province's farmers,</a> it has the fourth largest cattle herd in North America, behind Texas, Kansas and Nebraska.
You can call them the New York bagels of Canada, but Montreal bagels are often smaller and sweeter in taste. These O-shaped baked breads are paired deliciously with lox and cream cheese. Calorie-wise, bagels are equivalent to about three or four slices of bread, but you still might want to eat more than just one.
Arctic char is a freshwater fish species raised across Canada, in the <a href="http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/finfish-poissons/char-omble-eng.htm" target="_blank">Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon Territory</a>, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Arctic char is a part of the salmon family, and looks similar to a salmon but is more genetically linked to trout.
Bannock takes its name from a traditional Scottish flat bread, adopted by North American Natives, including Canada's Innuit. It's recently received some gourmet treatment in the culinary world, <a href="http://www.oliverbonacini.com/OliverBonacini/media/pdfs/BannockMenu.pdf" target="_blank">as a focaccia-like substitute for sandwiches.</a>
Yes, Kraft Dinner is also Canadian. This dorm room staple and processed-cheese masterpiece has been <a href="http://walrusmagazine.com/printerFriendly.php?ref=2012.09-food-manufacturing-taste" target="_hplink">dubbed a Canadian classic.</a> And really, if you haven't tried a bowl of the instant comfort food yet, we recommend skipping the milk and going straight for the butter.
No, it's not a "Saved by the Bell" reference. Screech is a type of rum made in Jamaica, and bottled and aged in Newfoundland. It has a storied history <a href="http://www.screechrum.com/story" target="_blank">dating back to early trade between Newfoundland and the West Indian island</a> (when salt fish was shipped to Jamaica in exchange for rum.) We hear it tastes like any other rum, but it has an awesome name, doesn't it?
Tourtière is a traditional spiced and savoury meat pie from Quebec, made with diced or ground pork, veal, or beef. This French Canadian delicacy is typically made around Christmas time, but eclectic foodies enjoy it all year round.
Very similar to blueberries (but a fascinating alternative), Saskatoon berries are <a href="http://www.canadasfood.com/history_products/saskatoon_berries.php" target="_blank">native to the Canadian Prairies, British Columbia and Northern Canada</a>. They're also rich in antioxidants and considered one of the world's "superfruits."
Tim Hortons "Double-Double"
A "Double-Double" has become somewhat of a popular slang term for Canadians. It refers to a coffee with two teaspoons of sugar and two teaspoons of cream. How popular is it? In 2011, Tim Hortons even <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/08/30/tim-hortons-double-double_n_941875.html" target="_hplink">released a "Double-Double" flavoured ice cream.</a>
Fiddleheads are curly, edible shoots of fern, often consumed in many provinces seasonally across the country. And like your mother always told you, eat your greens: <a href="http://www.lesliebeck.com/ingredients/fiddleheads" target="_hplink">Fiddleheads are high in potassium and vitamin C. </a>
Swiss Chalet Sauce
Canadian chain restaurant Swiss Chalet's rotisserie chicken and grilled ribs get a fair amount of attention, but there's always been something special about that secret sauce that people love to pour all over their food. What's in this sauce, you wonder? People have debated this point for a while and we're not exactly sure either. But we can <a href="http://www.swisschalet.com/allergy.php" target="_hplink">assure you there are no milk, egg or fish products in it,</a> (cue the vegetarian sigh of relief). But if you'e still not convinced, try <a href="http://ownyourfood.blogspot.ca/2011/09/swiss-chalet-style-dipping-sauce.html" target="_hplink">making your own knock-off version.</a>
Montreal Smoked Meat
Besides bagels, Montreal is also known for its kosher-style smoked meat. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/05/schwartzs-sold-rene-angelil_n_1255654.html" target="_hplink">Schwartz's in particular</a> has been using the same recipe of marinated spices and herbs in their smoked beef brisket for over 80 years. If you've never been, go early — the deli shop is usually packed with long line-ups.
This classic East Coast late night food "is to Halifax what the <em>banh mi</em> is to Saigon, the<em> jambon-beurre</em> to Paris," says the Globe and Mail. Evolved from the Turkish doner kebab, it's typically made of spiced ground beef that has been shaped and pressed into a large loaf and then roasted on a spit, like shawarma and gyros. It's then usually served on flatbread with fresh tomatoes, raw onion and a sweet, garlicky sauce.
If you live in Newfoundland, you probably already know why cod tongue is a local treasure. Cod tongue is usually made by <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/cod-got-your-tongue/article1077308/" target="_hplink">sautéing cod tongue with milk and flour,</a> according to The Globe And Mail.
Kind of like jerky, <a href="http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/pemmican" target="_hplink">pemmican is a type of dried meat often made from bison or moose.</a> The meat is usually pounded into a powder and mixed with melted fat, berries and other edible bits.
Red Rose Tea
Canadians drink more than nine billion cups of tea every year, according to the <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Empire-Tea-Alan-Macfarlane/dp/1585674931" target="_hplink">The Empire Of Tea</a></em>. If you've ever visited a Canadian hotel or even spent enough time at your grandparents' house you've probably <a href="http://www.redrosetea.ca/red_rose_tea/product_information.aspx" target="_hplink">seen Red Rose tea bags.</a> How Canadian is Red Rose? They even have a Canadian-blended version.
As controversial as it is, Canadian foie gras, particularly from Quebec, is a hot commodity. Foie gras, French for fat liver, is made of liver of a duck that has been through a process called gavage (force-feeding.) But <a href="http://www.realfoodtraveler.com/2011/11/jacques-legros-quebec%E2%80%99s-father-goose/" target="_blank">some foie gras is made more ethically</a>.
Oka cheese, a Quebec classic (named after the <a href="http://www.french-at-a-touch.com/Gourmet/Cheese/oka_canadian.htm" target="_hplink">small village of Oka</a>), is a semi-soft pressed cheese made with cow's milk. Oka's rind is often dark orange and has both a<a href="http://www.french-at-a-touch.com/Gourmet/Cheese/oka_canadian.htm" target="_hplink"> nutty and fruity flavour.</a>
Sugar pie or <em>tarte au sucre,</em> is a common dish found in Quebec. These desserts are made with a flour pie crust and are often filled with butter, flour, cream and maple syrup. They can also be topped with fresh fruits and English cream. Check out <a href="http://www.canadianliving.com/food/sugar_pie.php" target="_hplink">this recipe from Canadian Living</a> to make your own.
B.C. Spot Prawns
Wild B.C. spot prawns are actually the largest of <a href="http://www.wildbcspotprawns.com/about" target="_hplink">seven species of shrimp found on the West Coast.</a> These prawns are known for their sweet flavour and firm texture. Another fun fact: these prawns are often a reddish-brown colour but turn bright pink when cooked.
When it comes to food, Canadians concede there's far more selection in the U.S. but we're fiercely proud of the candy bars that can only be found here. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_Crisp" target="_hplink">Coffee Crisp</a> is a great example. Consisting of a crunchy wafer, milk chocolate coating and slightest hint of coffee flavouring, the chocolate bar is true to its marketing slogan of making 'a nice light snack' and is adored by all moms and seniors. Rumour has it they've been spotted in a few U.S. border town convenience stores. We want proof!
It's the ideal summer drink and hair of the dog when you're hungover. The Caesar, Canada's favourite breakfast, lunch and evening cocktail is essentially a Bloody Mary with <a href="http://www.mottsclamato.ca/lang" target="_blank">Clamato</a> instead of tomato juice. Think of Clamato as a spicy tomato-clam juice. It's typically served with celery and lime in a celery salt-rimmed glass, and it's pretty amazing. (Pleaes don't call it a Bloody Caesar, because that's just wrong.)
Sushi pizza, a mini pizza-like creation of a fried rice cake topped with raw fish and spicy mayo, is commonly <a href="http://travel.aol.com/travel-guide/canada/canada/montreal/atami-restaurant-detail-14483/" target="_hplink">found in Japanese restaurants in major Canadian cities</a>. Who actually started this trend? We'd love to know. We've heard <a href="http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/537790" target="_hplink">restaurant owners and forums say Toronto</a> — but sushi pizza has also been popping up in California.
This popular Novia Scotia dessert is made from blueberries and flour dumplings — it's basically like a blueberry pie without the crust. Check out this <a href="http://www.selectnovascotia.ca/?cid=7&id=7" target="_hplink">recipe to make your own.</a>
This two-in-one chocolate and surprise (talk about a win-win situation) wasn't really "invented" in Canada, but you won't find Kinder Surprise eggs in countries like the United States. In fact, even if you're thinking about smuggling some south of the border, you shouldn't. Last year, two <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/07/18/kinder-eggs-illegal-candy-canada-border.html" target="_hplink">men spent two hours in a detention centre after trying to bring these chocolate eggs illegally</a> over the U.S. border. These <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/news/us-ban-of-kinder-eggs-cracked-at-last-8539723.html" target="_hplink">treats have been banned in the States</a> because of the potential choking hazard of the small toys.
Girl Guide Mint Cookies
Chocolate-covered mint cookies have come a long way for the Girl Guides of Canada. In 1995, this popular treat was first introduced to all provinces across the country and in <a href="http://www.girlguides.ca/GGC/Cookies/Cookie_History/GGC/Cookies/Cookie_History.aspx" target="_hplink">2003, they were produced in a nut- and peanut-free bakery.</a> And sure, you can find mint cookies anywhere, but these cookies are certainly a Canadian tradition.
Rappie pie is a traditional Acadian dish made from shredded potatoes, and sometimes, with meat and onions. Popular in Nova Scotia, this <a href="http://www.deonsrappiepie.com/" target="_hplink">dish dates back to the 1700s.</a>
These cherries, also known as wild black cherries, are found in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Quebec and Newfoundland. They are related to plums, peaches and apricots, and are commonly used in <a href="http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/fruit/bla01s00.html" target="_hplink">making juices, jams, jellies and wine, according to the Government of Manitoba.</a>
Who knew that Saskatchewan is the world's largest exporter of green lentils? This nutritious little legume grows in pods and is one of the oldest cultivated crops on earth. They are often<a href="http://www.foodnetwork.com/healthy-eating/healthy-eating-all-about-lentils/index.html" target="_blank"> found in French, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine</a> and are perfect for wintry soups and stews.
Sourdough In The Yukon
Sourdough bread is particularly popular in the Yukon. But up north, sourdough is made both into <a href="http://breakfast.food.com/recipe/yukon-sourdough-flapjacks-pancakes-34749" target="_hplink">flapjacks and bread.</a> In fact, the territory even celebrates a <a href="http://www.yukonrendezvous.com/about-us/history#2000" target="_hplink">Sourdough Rendezvous festival</a> every year with a bread baking contest and winter activities.
Garlic, which belongs to the onion family, is a cool-season crop and grown across Canada, but the purple varieties — found in Ontario and British Columbia — are more rare.
Mussels cultured in the cool water surrounding Prince Edward Island are famous across North America. Cultured mussels are grown in mesh stockings that are suspended from ropes in the water, never touching the ocean floor. According to P.E.I. Tourism, <a href="http://www.tourismpei.com/pei-mussels" target="_blank">this creates conditions ideal for growth</a>, while giving these cultured mussels a sweet taste and tender, plumper consistency free of ocean grit.
There are few brands in Canada as reliable as President's Choice. Mr. Christie thinks he makes good cookies but nothing tops<a href="http://reviews.presidentschoice.ca/6584/F14934/reviews.htm" target="_hplink"> the Decadent</a>, the brand's answer to Chips Ahoy. Kraft Dinner, in its familiar blue box, pales in comparison to <a href="http://www.presidentschoice.ca/LCLOnline/products.jsp?type=details&sortOrder=byRate&productId=4745" target="_hplink">PC's White Cheddar Mac & Cheese</a>. It also doesn't hurt that nerdily-handsome Galen Weston (hearthrob of Canadian suburban housewives everywhere) is the pitchman for this iconic line of Canadian products. Why yes, Mr. Weston, I'd like some more <a href="http://reviews.presidentschoice.ca/6584/Fprod1410011/reviews.htm" target="_hplink">Memories of Morocco Sweet And Spicy Sauce</a>...
Canada is the largest exporter and the second largest producer of mustard seed in the world, accounting for 75-80 per cent of all mustard exports worldwide, according to the <a href="http://www.specialcrops.mb.ca/pdf/CSCA-Special-Crops-Brochure.pdf" target="_blank">Canadian Special Crops Association</a>. Who knew? Apparently, Canada's climate provides ideal growing conditions for the spicy crop.
It completes your morning bowl of cereal, can quench thirst and is the perfect companion to chocolate chip cookies. Milk, dear readers, is an all around amazing drink. And grabbing a glass of the white stuff in Canada is unlike anything you'll be able to experience in many other countries. That's because there are <a href="http://www.dairygoodness.ca/good-health/dairy-facts-fallacies/hormones-for-cows-not-in-canada" target="_hplink"> no unnatural hormones in our dairy products</a> (so concerns about negative side effects simply doesn't exist), and we <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/760654--so-we-drink-milk-from-bags-does-that-make-us-weird" target="_hplink">serve the beverage in a plastic bag</a>, which, frankly, is far more convenient and environmentally friendly than cardboard containers (the baggies can be reused as makeshift lunch bags!). (Photos Shutterstock)
ALSO: 9 Times Canada Was Smarter Than The U.S.
9 time Canada was smarter than the U.S. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/15/canada-smarter-than-us_n_2789794.html" target="_blank">Read the story here.</a>
What is one of the first things you crave to eat when you return home from a trip?
I have a pizza oven at home and I just love firing up the pizza oven and making a delicious pie. That’s me, I love that. Homemade pizza dough and really simple ingredients. The other night I made a pizza and it was just beautiful heirloom tomatoes, basil, buffalo mozzarella and a little bit of tomato sauce that I made.
What’s your favourite food to make for yourself at home after a boozy night out?
A fried egg sandwich with good old browned butter basted over easy egg, toasted Montreal-style bagel, Sriracha mayonnaise, and cheddar cheese.
What's your favourite poison?
My favourite poison today? I’m going to say bourbon. I’m really into my bourbon, I love bourbon. I changed the drink menu at Ruby Watchco to include a couple drinks I invented. In the cookbook, there are some interesting cocktails too.
If you could prepare only one last meal, what would it be?
I think it’s just a garlic and thyme-basted, butter-basted rib eye, good old straight-up mashed potatoes, and then char-grilled broccoli with garlic confit. It’s steak and potatoes for me.
What would be in your emergency "survival pantry"?
In your survival kit, you should have some sea salt, a really good olive oil, a pound of butter; some shallots, lemons, bacon, rice, potatoes and booze -- lots of booze.
What is the wildest thing you’ve ever done in a kitchen, culinary or otherwise?
The wildest thing was putting out a grease fire in the vents at Winston’s, but that was in 1842...when I was there and did my apprenticeship — I’d never seen anything like it. That was crazy.
What is the best restaurant that nobody’s ever heard of?
What’s really good is Mi Mi’s (on Gerrard Street East in Toronto). She does a great job in there. It’s really good. Vietnamese, the best pho and spring rolls.She has a really great broth and the barbecued pork ...maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. Oh my God, it’s awesome. Now it’s all I can think about it.
What would you be doing if you couldn’t be a chef?
I wouldn’t be doing anything.
What is your favourite cheap food thrill?
I like a good burger, a good cheeseburger. I go to Shake Shack in New York.
What is the most memorable food city in the world?
Oh, there are so many: Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco, New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seville, London.
Which Canadian restaurants (and chefs) would you recommend?
First and foremost chef Lora Kirk at Ruby Watchco I’ve got to also say chef Paul (Rogalski) at Rouge (in Calgary) and chef Lee Humphries at C Restaurant in Vancouver.
What is the most unusual and delicious food that you would suggest people try?
Australian finger limes are crazy, they’re like citrus caviar. They pop in your mouth.
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