It’s time we took a moment to comment on the judges. While our panel frets over a mere weekly tasting, the show’s judges face down a culinary gauntlet, running into some of Canada’s worst dishes while trying to find Canada’s best. Just think: the Triple “S” Meatballs we found too sweet and the Mini Cheesy Bees’ Nests that tasted like oil and jam each beat out what must have been an onslaught of drastically inferior options. We may not always agree with them, but we have to applaud judges Laura Calder, Dana McCauley and Tony Chapman for their endurance. This isn’t easy. (Galen Weston Jr. only gets partial credit since he only tries the top two.)
Is there a French-Canadian predilection for sweets? Two of the three competitors for this week’s Best Candies and Chocolates challenge, Robert Armatta and Lucie Dion, hail from la belle province, bringing, respectively, a vegan Dark Chocolate Treat and what was billed as the best Sucre à la Crème in the world. B.C. native Don Harquail, with his Golden Toffee Nut Gems, was the geographic outlier. Recipe went big for this batch-up—1,000 servings or bust—causing Dion’s hands to shake from the outset (shaky hands means caramel everywhere). Dion had difficulty maintaining the texture of her Sucre (apparently there’s a reason why you don’t see much mass-produced fudge), but Armatta’s vegan treat was too great an exercise in contrast (with a too-breakfasty cookie and too-decadent chocolate), so he was sent home. The ensuing product launch was like something out of an early Buñuel film. In a park, Harquail marketed his rechristened Triple Nut Toffee with people running around in giant chipmunk and walnut costumes, while Dion’s “sweet moments” campaign had harpists, masseuses and shirtless dudes mingling with Harquail’s launch. It was probably the single most bizarre thing on TV in its time slot. Back at the judging table, Calder was particularly ruthless. She called Triple Nut Toffee a lie: according to her, toffee is a specific thing, and Harquail’s candy breaks the rules. But she was overruled by Chapman, who loved the name and said Harquail clearly won the launch. Ultimately, Sucre à la Crème’s family recipe pedigree couldn’t save it from an underwhelming batch-up and sub-par product launch. The sweet moments ran out, and Harquail, proving that B.C. has serious confectionery game, took the prize.
Best product that the judges passed on: Gorilla Nuts
Best line: The Gorilla Nuts guy, on why they’re called Gorilla Nuts: “Because there’s nuts on them… and their shape.”
After our difficulties preparing last week’s Butter Chicken Lasagna, the preparation this time was blessedly non-existent—just open and eat. When we examined the box, however, the ingredients gave us pause. P.C. opted to use “milk chocolatey discs” instead of chocolate, and we’re leery of the substitution for good reason (the Canadian Food Inspection Agency allows the use of the term for “products having the appearance but not the composition of chocolate”). Still, the Triple Nut Toffee wan’t bad; it just wasn’t very exciting. The nuts, mostly almonds with a smattering of cashews and pine nuts (i.e., the good stuff), were drowned in toffee, sacrificing any nuance they might’ve offered for a two-dimensional delivery of butter and sugar. The toffee muted the crunch too, with a sort of gooey, sort of not gooey texture. We speculated that the original recipe may indeed have been pretty solid—with more cashews and pine nuts, less toffee and an airy, crispy graham cracker—but the post-P.C. kitchen version fell a bit flat. One panelist put it best: “triple blah toffee.”
Suggested pairing: Some toasted cashews and pine nuts