Your Canadian Junk Food Shopping List

I went to Canada and came back with....a craving for All Dressed Chips.


Good thing there's a border between me and those chips!

But first, the backstory.

Jeremy, Rebecca, and I had a layover at the airport in Victoria. They're both Canadian so I got the lay of the land, probing them about important stuff. No, not about their sexy President who, when asked why his Cabinet was 50 percent female, responded, "Because it's 2015." DUH! And no, we did not go into detail about Canada's universal health care, or the fact that women get A YEAR for maternity leave. I needed to know about important, "What's up with ketchup-flavored potato chips????"

At that very moment, another traveler chimed in, "They're addictive! And you can't get them in the States."

This is a man who knows things!

Meet Rob Scoundrel, who gave me the lowdown on Canadian junk food. "You gotta try Coffee Crisps." I made a note, and he scoffed,  "The Smarties you get in the States aren't the same--at all!"

Clearly we bonded. And by the time he left for his flight, we were Facebook friends, and snapping pictures. Junk food unites people. World peace, and Smarties.

A few minutes later, Rob came back and offered this Gift from the Gods. Cheers to the nearby airport kiosk! Sparkies are like M&Ms, with better chocolate. The Coffee Crisps are delicious with a nice hit of coffee flavor, and not overly sweet. When my buddy Lance comes to Canada, he confessed, they buy them by the case at Costco.

But wait, it gets better. 

I posted the photo on Facebook, and a flurry of responses came back. The love for Canadian junk food runs deep, y'all! The only problem? I didn't have a car. My trip was jam-packed and there wasn't a moment to spare, or so I thought. 

That night I was laughing about this entire exchange...meeting Rob at the airport, and the laundry list of Canadian junk food recommendations that followed. Well, let's just say, the Prince George Tourism folks did me a solid. After dinner one night, we pulled over at a 7-11. The neighborhood might have been questionable, but the goods inside were spot on! I grabbed nearly $30 worth of stuff, all in the name of 'research'. 

So, if you're headed over the border, first thing to look for is Old Dutch brand All Dressed Chips. Accept no substitutes. (Ruffles, WTF? No. No. No. Not even close.) Old Dutch? Hello, my lovelies! 

What makes these chips so great? First, they don't skimp on the seasoning. Each chip is amply covered, and licking it off your fingers merely extends the joy.... Second, the chip itself is the perfect ratio--not too thick, not too thin, not too crispy (looking at you Kettle Cooked), and definitely not wavy. Pure potato flavor and ideally executed. What flavor is "All Dressed"? Well, there we have a bit of a mystery. It's like an everything bagel, in chip form, blending salt, vinegar, BBQ, sour cream and onion. In other words, utterly crave-worthy. Thanks for the tip Miss 604 and Chris Hoffman!

Homesick Canadians can even order a carepage with all the goods! 

After we left the store, my buddy Lance came through with his must have Canadian junk food list. Clearly another trip to Canada is in order, right? Well, in case you're headed to Canada, spread the love, and grab some junk food. Specialties to look for:

- Dare Fudge Cookies
- Smartie McFlurry (at McDonalds)
- Aero Bars
- Crispy Crunch
- Mr. Yorkie
- Crunchie Bar
- Mak Toffee
- Ketchup Chips

Beguiling Delights at Northern Lights Estate Winery

On a trip to Prince Gorge, BC, top of the list for food lovers is a trip to Northern Lights Estate Winery. The newly constructed tasting room with lofted ceilings and wrap around windows, features an orchard and and an idyllic spot along the Nechako River. 

Wine tasting on beautiful grounds? I'm in! 

But there's a twist.

At this high latitude, grapes do not thrive. The focus at Northern Lights Estate is on fruit-based wines. In other words, anything but grapes. Blending fruits such as blueberry, strawberry, haksup, gooseberry, apple, cherry, raspberry, black currant, and raspberry, they achieve wines that are reminiscent of familiar favorites, like Gewurtztraminer. 

Take the adjectives that we normally use to describe wines, and put them in the bottle. Genius, no? 

I met up with Northern Lights partner, Doug Bell, for a deep dive into their process. 

The first thing you notice is that the fermentation tanks are much smaller than a typical grape winery. Why? Grape wines can be held up to a year. With fruit-based wines, the fermentation is a short 3-4 weeks. Then they pull out the fruit and press it. The advantage is that with fruit-based wines, they can produce three cycles a year. While the yield is small, this enables them to make wine year-round. 

But wait. Everything that goes into a bottle isn't in season at the same time. You guessed it. While they use fresh fruit whenever possible, key ingredients like rhubarb have a short season, so they rely on a cache of frozen fruit. 

 Cross the busy Prince George Pulpmill Road, and you'll find a lush garden showcasing the fruits featured in Northern Lights Wine. The first thing Doug will tell you, is that they are proud of their growing practices. "We feed the soil, not the plant." And from this vantage point, you can see they are situated in a valley, which gives them a competitive advantage. The breeze blows off mold, frost pockets, mildew, and pests. 

Here, you trade romantic rows of grape vines for rhubarb plots and berry bushes.

Just beyond the garden, in the summer, event spaces feature outdoor concerts, movie nights, and in the future, they hope to offer morning yoga classes. 

 Name that fruit.

Have you ever heard of a haskap? As Doug explained it, the elongated haskap berry it has a high level of tannin and the complex flavor is both tart and sweet. It's essential to their production, they've locked down the entire local inventory. 

 Back at the tasting room, we finally got a chance to taste their wines. While I expected a fruit-based wine to be sweet, the first whites we tried were quite dry. Moving into the 'reds' you find the expected attributes of cassis and cherry.

My favorite was a limited release called the Seduction. It may have had something to do with a sunny day, sipping wine on the patio....along the bank of a lazy river, but that's exactly what it was meant for. Well chilled, this blush wine made with rhubarb and strawberry was tart, with a hint of sweetness on the finish. Seduction? Perfectly named.


Though Northern Lights is a young winery, they're on to something special. Expansion projects are already under way and it will be exciting to see where they land in the years ahead. I suspect they will be a significant player shaping this emerging industry. 

Dare to Explore: Prince George, British Columbia

Dare to explore? Challenge offered, and accepted.


Where is Prince George????  C-A-N-A-D-A!

At the confluence of two glacier-fed rivers, Prince George is an idyllic spot north of Vancouver. For those exploring Northern British Columbia, summertime festivals keep a steady stream of visitors coming through. With a thriving arts scene, excellent food, and a warm welcome at every turn, by the time I left, Prince George had worked its charm on me. 

Seattle -> Vancouver --> Victoria --> Prince George

From Seattle, getting to Prince George is a bit of an adventure, but the flight provides plenty of eye candy.

Flying over the islands that dot the Inside Passage between the city of Vancouver (on the mainland) and nearby Victoria on Vancouver Island. Bit of trivia? Vancouver Island is the largest Pacific Island east of New Zealand. Getting here is a quick 15 minute flight from Vancouver.

Historically, this area was settled for resources, including fur and lumber. Today, forestry is still a key part of the economy. Along the shoreline, you can see commercial rafts of tree waiting for transport.

Crossing the Coast Mountain Range, we spent our time looking for glaciers and late spring avalanches. Fortunately my travel companion, Jeremy Derksen, is an ace mountaineer and gave me an impromptu lesson. "No, that's not an avalanche. See that spot over there? The side facing the sun? That's an avalanche."

Landing in Prince George, you're greeted by a mural featuring the town's mascot, Mr. PG. The original stands 24 feet high and is a tribute to the region's timber trade.

While in town, I got a chance to check out the local book store, Books & Company. The kids section captivated me with a large section with subjects dedicated to various native tribes, aboriginals, and lore. This far north, you can see the aurora borealis or "Painted Skies."

Quick. Who's the most famous Canadian chef? Michael Smith is a TV chef who has continuously been on the air since 1998. They had several of his books, but this chef-focused book caught my eye.

Understandably, True North is long on fish and seafood, but this dish stood out. Behold. Mortadella made with seal meat. The recipes headnote explains, seal hunting is highly regulated and there are quotas. White-furred baby seals are off limits. I wonder...if you don't hunt, is it possible to get seal meat through other channels? Ah well, I won't be making this anytime soon!

Taking in Prince George's finest bites means a mandatory stop at Ohh Chocolat Cafe. Owner Caroline Longhurst indulged us in an after-hours chocolate dipping class, while we talked about her growing business. "We're perfectly imperfect in everything we do."  Cases are lined with rustic cakes, over-sized confections and truffles, bolstered by hearty lunch and brunch offerings. "We're in a community that cares about taste and value" and she delivers on both.

The bite that haunts me still is this lovely morsel, affectionately known as an Oopsie. A deluxe version of Rice Crispy Treat, Ohh Chocolat's Oopsie begins with honey, white chocolate, peanut butter, and Rice Crispies. Palm-sized portions are cut into bars, then dipped in chocolate. It's a glorious creation and if mail order was an option, it would be on my regular rotation.

Between the flight and a bit of sight seeing, it was time to grab a glass of wine and relax. Fortunately,  we nabbed a reservation at Cimo Mediterranean Grill. Their mezze shared plate is perfect for noshing. Turn your gaze to the lower left hand corner of the photo and you'll see the most delicious lemon-infused risotto cakes. A creamy, feather light interior, played against a crispy pan fried exterior, and with that, chef set a new benchmark.

The beauty in Mediterranean food is that it can be so simple, and yet, extraordinary. At Cimo's, Salt Spring Island mussels were quickly simmered in a beguiling mix of basil, almond pesto, and cream, and I was swiping every last drop from the bowl.


Cheers to exploring a destination! More to come tomorrow....