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Northern Knoshing

(CBS/The Early Show)
Like an Army, a Travel Guru marches on his stomach. And when I'm on the road, as I was last week in northern Canada, my stomach suggests about three times a day that we do some serious cultural research of the face-stuffing variety. You never quite know what you're going to find in a strange city (fried worms were on the menu once in northern Thailand), but I'm happy to report that the chefs of Edmonton know what they're doing, and the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients is alive and well in the Great White North.

For example, at a dinner at the Hardware Grill in Edmonton, which took over a lovely old building that was once the city hardware store, the chef-owner offered things like bacon-wrapped elk with a raspberry reduction that was flavorful and not overpowering. I would seriously consider returning to Edmonton on a Friday night just to revisit his porcini crusted halibut that sat atop a plump crepe of truffled lobster. Who expected fine dining in Edmonton? Certainly not me. I was expecting moose jerky and a Tim Hortons chocolate doughnut.

Packrat Louie in the Old Strathcona historic district is a bistro that could be picked up whole and dropped into the middle of San Francisco, with its wood-fired oven that sent out crispy lemon pizzas with fontina and mozzarella, and a thick, juicy buffalo lasagna. I had a marinated Moroccan chicken on Israeli couscous that was first-rate, and the crowd was an eclectic mix of businesspeople and students.

The food was even terrific at the golf courses. At the RedTail Landing course, the usual hotdog and chips lunch was replaced by steak sandwiches with a little pot of freshly grated beet horseradish that was not only sensational with the meat, but a first for this gnoshing correspondent. My only regret is that I have but one stomach, and never got around to trying "poutine," a Quebecois favorite that consists of French fries topped with cheese with ladles of gravy over the top.

Maybe it loses something in the translation, but I bet it would be good. Do you have any favorite Canadian dishes to share with our readers?

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