With a long Pacific coastline and terrain ranging from snowy mountains, to ancient temperate rainforest to desert, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the Canadian state of British Columbia has a lot to offer when it comes to food. We’ve just returned from our honeymoon in Whistler and Vancouver having sampled our fair share of really fantastic food. But what was great to see, and what’s inspired me to break with habit and write about something that’s not strictly related to East Anglian food, was the quality of the local raw ingredients, and perhaps even more, how they celebrated them. And I’m not talking about maple syrup, although that was good too!
The restaurants all seemed to shout about their philosophies, and rather than using terms like local and seasonal as buzzwords, as it sometimes feels they can be, the staff often spoke about their passion for local food and drink, and menus went into great detail about how they source their produce and exactly where it comes from. The Tap and Barrel pub in Vancouver was a great example – somewhere we just happened to walk into for a casual drink and ended up staying for several, and some dinner!
The list of beers in the Tap and Barrel was long, which is a sign that the USA’s craft beer movement has crept over the border. But British Columbia is also home to many thriving vineyards, producing great wines. We also saw a couple of distilleries, which seem to be popping up, producing gin, vodka and more, which were being put to great use in some delicious cocktails, none better than at Alta Bistro in Whistler. Alta Bistro’s philosophy is not just about quality and local food, but also sustainability – it’s definitely worth a read. And the food was delicious too.
But before you think that our holiday was all about booze(!), it’s also worth mentioning the meat and seafood. The Pacific coast meant that the freshest Salmon, trout, cod and shellfish were widely available and delicious. Beef is a particular speciality, but elk and venison in particular, were popular as more exciting alternatives.
Burgers are a great example of the quality of the food. A mainstay of many menus both here and in Canada, but while here I’d often refrain from ordering a burger for fear of a poor patty, a soggy bun or limp lettuce, over there I was constantly tempted. I’m not sure that there’s such a thing as a bad burger in Canada, and we definitely tried a few! The difference seems to be that Canadians won’t put up with poor quality ingredients. I guess this is partly because they know that great food is widely available and usually reasonably priced, whether you’re at a food truck or a fancy bistro, but also because of a pride and interest in their produce that’s really deeply rooted.
Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver was a fantastic showcase for raw produce from British Columbia, the rest of Canada and beyond, but it is also home to lots of passionate artisans making great traditional and exciting new products with local and more exotic ingredients. We spent several very happy hours strolling around (I’ve included some photos below), longing for a kitchen so that we could go and cook with the great produce. Fortunately there was a solution in the shape of the Edible Canada Bistro, just outside the public market. The bistro makes the most of the produce available at the market and also sources products from across the region, which they sell in the adjoined shop. The whole business is based around promoting local food and producers – everything from wines and chocolates, through to my particular favourite: maple bacon peanut butter!
While British Columbia may dwarf East Anglia in size, East Anglia has such diverse produce and so many dedicated producers, all backed up by a history and culture, which can’t be rivalled. I’ve only mentioned a few of the places we visited in this blog, but the experience served as a great reminder for why we started Eat Anglia; to shout about the great food on offer in this region and to help people to discover it and take pride in it.