Covered against the rain, Vancouver’s Granville
Island Public Market is always a chatty crush of locals and visitors
foraging for tasty treats. From cheese-filled bagels to sugar-frosted cakes, from
exotic fruit pastries to mountainous meat pies, there is no shortage of
temptation for those who like to pretend they have not eaten for days.
But while small-batch, artisan-produced grub is the
flavour of the moment across North America, Vancouver is going further than
most – or more accurately, not going far at all.
When Vancouver authors Alisa Smith and James Mackinnon
published their book 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating in
2007, they inspired those concerned about the carbon footprint that ingredients
generate when they travel thousands of miles before being consumed. The pair
spent a year eating food that was not just made on their doorstep but was also
created from ingredients grown or raised within 100 miles (160km).
Fast-forward to today and Vancouver-area food and
drink providers have since dedicated themselves to this local ingredient
movement, offering visitors and residents a full menu of true West Coast
flavours – as long as they know where to look.
From market to
Granville Island Public Market is a good starting
point. Alongside its globally imported fruits and jars of European preserves,
some vendors work hard to keep the local foodie flag flying.
Benton Brothers Fine Cheese stocks pungent
offerings from across Canada and around the world. But they also include a
strong selection of irresistible British Columbia products for dairy-loving
locavores, many of which are located just a few kilometres away. Ask for
recommendations, and they will help you create a cheese plate from little British
Columbia suppliers, such as Agassiz’s Farm House Natural Cheese – try
the rich Country Blue Stilton – and Salt Spring Island’s Moonstruck Organic Cheese,
with its creamy Ash-Ripened Camembert.
Hungry shoppers should also hit Vancouver’s roster of
local farmers’ markets. There are several sun-dappled options to choose from
between May and October, while November to April sees a bustling Winter
at the Nat Bailey
Stadium in the city’s Riley Park-Little Mountain neighbourhood. Seasonal
produce from the lush Fraser Valley farming region, which starts 60km east of
the city, is a highlight of the market, from crisp autumnal apples to orange-hued
But it is not only about fruit and vegetables. Among
the 100-mile producers regularly appearing at these markets, Langley-based Chef's
Natural Sausage sources its meat from small Fraser Valley farms – the
sun dried tomato and turkey variety is recommended. And while the Flour
Peddler can often be seen cycling a pedal-operated flour mill at the
markets, most of his products are milled at the company’s Roberts Creek base,
from grains grown in either the Fraser Valley or British Columbia’s further
afield Okanagan region – including organic oats that are popular with locals
who like a hearty breakfast.
However, you do not have to brave potential rainfalls at
outdoor markets to eat local in Vancouver.
Fraser Valley hazelnuts and berries are part of the
mix at decadent chocolatier Thomas Haas, which has two sweet-toothed
stores in the Vancouver area. And the 100-mile diet is reduced to just a few
steps at downtown’s Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, where honey
served to guests is harvested from hives – and 500,000 industrious bees – on
Back on Granville Island in the heart of Vancouver, Edible
Canada is a restaurant and retail combination that does double duty
in the local food stakes. Its store showcases artisanal goodies from around the
region – from sea salts to vegetable preserves – while its cosy bistro is
largely based on seasonal local ingredients. If available, direct your taste
buds to the Fraser Valley duck or Chilliwack goat cheese often found on the
And if you are still hungry, downtown’s new Forage
restaurant, which opened in December 2012, is also dedicated to the 100-mile
method. Here, lip-smacking ingredients often include Gelderman Farms pork from
Abbotsford in Fraser Valley, wild watercress from Hannah Brook Farm near suburban
Maple Ridge and free-range eggs (go for breakfast and have the mushroom and
goat cheese omelette) from Rabbit River Farm, just south of Vancouver in the
city of Richmond.
Meet your maker
If all this talk of Abbotsford, Maple Ridge and the
wider Fraser Valley has you salivating to meet the people behind the food on
your Vancouver table, you are in luck. The 100-mile approach gives great
license to hit the road. But rather than trawling blindly through local farming
regions, five self-drive touring trails have been created to make it easier than
scoffing a plateful of fresh-picked British Columbia blueberries.
The Circle Farm Tours website includes free downloadable
maps that lead you to some of the area’s best and most visitor-friendly farms,
farm shops and locally-focused restaurants. One of the most popular is the Langley
tour, which starts at Vista D’Oro Farms and Winery, a welcoming
family run operation specialising in seasonal preserves sold in Vancouver and
beyond; go for the blackberry jam plus a bottle of fortified walnut wine, made
from berries and nuts grown on the farm.
Also on the tour, check out the bucolic vineyards and
warming tasting room at Domaine de Chaberton Winery, or compare
locally-made fruit wines at Krause Berry Farms and Estate Winery with
the cranberry-focused tipples at Fort Wine Company. Whichever one wins your
personal taste test, they are the perfect way to toast the region’s
flavour-packed 100-mile approach.