It makes sense that British Columbia would rush to raise the flag of the local/sustainable/seasonal dining movement. Fertile lands, temperate climate, bounteous sea life and incredible foraging are nature's gift to Canada's southwestern coastal province. The people tend to be an educated and sensitive lot - many of whom have moved from other parts of Canada or the world to follow their dreams of artisan cheesemaking or the 100-Mile Diet. And the mayor of Vancouver has vowed to make it the "greenest city in the world" by 2020. Because, as this gallery will show, the green, organic and artisan foods to be found within 100 miles of Vancouver can offer an out-of-this-world dining experience, every day.
By Lena Katz
Public Market | Granville Island
Tourists and locals unite in a friendly jostle under this roof, where the region's best organic vegetables, Fair Trade coffee, fresh-baked goodies and artisan honeys are just a few of the things available every day. Vendors change weekly, but our favorites (if they're there when you are) include yummy fresh soups from The Stock Market, artisan dark chocolate caramels from ChocolaTas, and Masala Chai from Granville Island Tea Shop (only if you're not on a diet, as it's made with real butter).
Green and Organic
As the City That Would Be Greenest, Vancouver's commitment to organic farming is very strong. Most of the local chefs have relationships with farmers and foragers who hold to the highest eco-friendly standards...and visitors are likely to learn the provenance and pedigree of their meal, including just which farm stand the greens came from, before said meal arrives at the table.
Locally Sourced and Seasoned
Edible Canada started as a shop, and it still has a retail side, adjacent to the restaurant on Granville Island. Of the 800 products currently available, 90% are from British Columbia (the other 10% are from elsewhere in Canada). One of the best sellers is this amazing line of naturally flavored specialty salts from Sea to Sky Seasonings. Not only are they colorful and creative and charmingly packaged, the flavors are amazing and, in many cases, unique. Bacon salt is the most popular, but our favorites were the Cabernet Sauvignon salt (recommended in a vinaigrette or on local lamb), smoked salt (done over bourbon wood chips - use it on barbecued meat or seafood) and vanilla salt (sprinkle it on foie gras or local spot prawns).
Edible BC | Granville Island
All that passion pays off, too. When the food arrives (like the simple luncheon pictured, from Edible Canada at the Market), it's going to look like a work of art and taste like an epicurean dream. For about $12 for a bowl of fresh-from-the-ocean seafood and duck fat fries with bacon aioli, this is gourmet cuisine on a shoestring budget - simple, beautiful, and a labor of love.
Locals laugh that they get so much fresh salmon from offshore waters, it's as common as chicken to them - and certainly, they eat it like the Irish eat potatoes. Smoked, candied, raw or grilled, it's always delicious, and visitors can't get enough.
Goldfish Seafood + Chops | Vancouver
If salmon is the greatest finned fish in the local seafood pantheon, a dozen other clawed, shelled and inky contenders also star on local menus. At this busy after-work restaurant located in Vancouver's posh professional neighborhood of Yaletown, "buck-a-shuck" oysters and $5 tuna poke appear on the Happy Hour menu, while lobster and other delicacies are beautifully plated in the main dining room.
Artisan Cheeses | A World of Flavor
B.C.'s cheese-making scene is still quite small, and even the most loyal local supporters might only be able to stock a dozen B.C. cheeses at once and still maintain European quality standards. However, local consumers are not only avid in their support of local farmers, but also voracious in their consumption of gourmet cheese - the stinkier the better - thus ensuring a happy and productive future for Canada's West Coast cows.
A Carnivore's Dream
While not every restaurateur in the region has discovered the joys of house-curing their own salumi (as has happened in California, Colorado and even neighboring Banff and Jasper), that craze is probably right around the corner. In the meantime, if you love cured meats, it is imperative to pay a visit to Oyama Sausage Company, where locally cured duck, elk, wild boar, bison and BC black pig share jam-packed display cases with the finest imported meats from Genoa, Tuscany and Castilla la Mancha.
Fresh-Baked by Terra Bread
This Vancouver bakery is wildly popular not only because of its mouthwatering breads and pastries baked in stone ovens, but also because of its generous policy of giving away day-old goods to the homeless. Stop by any of its four locations and find an array of goodies like pizza Bianca panini, gourmet-topped bagels and rustic tarts.
Quick and Crunchy
Even when they're on the go, citizens of the Pacific Northwest don't divert to the "Itos" aisle at the local gas station. Instead, they opt for fresh-baked granola crispies, garlic-roasted peanuts, naturally flavored popped corn, or some other sort of healthy, locally made snack.
You'll want to make an occasion out of every possible meal when visiting though. With places like Raincity Grill (pictured) becoming famous from concepts as simple yet delicious as the Hundred-Mile Diet, B.C.'s gourmet scene isn't reserved for big-pocket occasions. Lunch, brunch, an early supper or a midnight bar snack could be your next meal of a lifetime. Just wait till you get a taste...