An orchard on the rolling hills near Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley. Photo courtesy Tourism B.C.
For food lovers, a stroll through any of Canada's renowned Chinatowns is both inspiring and hunger-inducing. Fresh fruit and vegetable stalls spill out onto the sidewalks, the scent of barbecue lingers in the air, and exotic herbs and mushrooms excite curiosity. Cooks always find something new and inspiring in Chinatown – especially in Vancouver – and there are plenty of good eats along the way.
Vancouver's Chinatown is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2011. The area's thriving Chinese community began as a concentrated neighbourhood of Chinese immigrants who came to Canada to build the Canadian Pacific Railroad or to find their fortunes in the B.C. Gold Rush. While its history has been rocky – poverty and discrimination were a harsh reality until a 2000 revitalization project brought harmony and new energy to the area – today Chinatown is vibrant and full of life.
One of the best ways to get a personal, detailed sense of Chinatown's history and culture is to take a walking tour. Robert Sung, owner and operator of A Wok Around Chinatown, offers daily walking tours that combine culture, food, history, a dim sum lunch and a moment of relaxation at a Taoist temple. Starting at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (the only one of its kind in Canada), Robert leads you through herb shops, tea shops, bakeries, green grocers, fishmongers, butcher shops and everything in between, all the while recounting the history of the area.
Discover B.C.'s top 10 cheeses on the next page.
Top 10 B.C. cheeses
We asked Allison Spurrell, one of the owners of Les Amis du Fromage cheese shop in Vancouver, to share her top choices from B.C.'s renowned cheese culture.
1. Alpindon – This mountain-style cheese hails from Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co., located in the mountains near Lister. At this family-run farm, the parents split the milking and cheese-making chores with their daughters, who head up marketing. Alpindon is made with organic raw milk and aged to perfection, its crust rubbed with cultures to give it a unique earthy flavour.
2. White Grace – A firm cheese, White Grace is made from raw organic Jersey milk on Salt Spring Island by Moonstruck Organic. It has a natural crust and a fabulously rich interior, and it pairs well with red wine. It's also a nice complement to other cheeses.
3. Alpine Gold – This washed-rind beauty from The Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz is a tasty monastery-style cheese. It has a full earthy flavour and a great supple texture. It's fabulous with a glass of B.C. Gewurztraminer.
4. Island Brie – This offering from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks on Vancouver Island is consistently creamy and has a nice subtle flavour. The bloomy rind is very fine, so the cheese has a pleasing mouth-feel. It's a great example of Little Qualicum's careful cheese making.
5. Nostrala – Also from Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co., Nostrala is a slightly milder, nuttier, less earthy cheese than Alpindon. The flavour changes as the cheese ages, but it's always pleasant, with lots of milky, grassy notes. This cheese is made with organic raw milk.
Find more of B.C.'s top cheeses on the next page!
More top B.C. cheeses
6. Farm House Camembert – A traditional-style Camembert made by Debra Amrein-Boyes at Farm House, this cheese has a more European feel, with a rich taste and a fully runny texture when ripe. It's a delicate cheese to handle, as it's ripe and luscious, but it's well worth the care it takes.
7. Beddis Blue – This firm but creamy blue also comes from Moonstruck Organic and is made with their signature Jersey milk. This makes the cheese deliciously creamy and rich tasting, and gives the interior the typical Jersey yellow colour. The blue veining is abundant, but the taste is not overwhelming, even for blue novices. It has a great grassy flavour that is a nice backdrop to the stronger blue taste.
8. Tiger Blue – This rich, strong blue from Poplar Grove Cheese in the Okanagan is a little fierce (hence "Tiger") – and it has claws! Poplar Grove realized that our cheese buyers can handle strong tastes, and our customers buy this one up at an amazing rate.
9. Juliette – Made by David Wood at Salt Spring Island Cheese, this goat milk Camembert-style cheese fits in the full-flavoured category, and it doesn't hold back. Juliette has a full, rich texture and a strong, earthy goat milk flavour.
10. Aged Farmhouse – Called Farmhouse but not from Farm House, this cheese comes from Natural Pastures Cheese Company in Courtenay on Vancouver Island. An excellent aged cheese, it is firm, with a sweet, nutty taste and a finish that stays with you. It's one of our favourite offerings from Natural Pastures, although we like their soft cheese very much, too.
For more information on B.C. or its cheeses, visit Les Amis du Fromage online.
Learn about not-to-be-missed B.C. food and wine festivals next!
B.C. food and wine festivals
From east to west and north to south, the people of B.C. love their food. And what better way to celebrate this bountiful province than with festivals devoted to food and drink.
Here is a list of events throughout the year and across the province:
• Summer Okanagan Wine Festival – Okanagan Valley, July 8 to 16, 2011
• Organic Islands Festival – Victoria, July 9 and 10, 2011
• Taste: Victoria's Festival of Food and Wine – Victoria, July 21 to 24, 2011
• Slow Food Cycle Tour – Agassiz, July 23, 2011, and Chilliwack, July 24, 2011
• Slow Food Cycle Sunday – Pemberton, Aug. 21, 2011
• Feast of Fields – Vancouver area, Okanagan and Vancouver Island, September 2011
• Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival – Vancouver Island, Sept. 14 and 18, 2011
• EAT! Fraser Valley Food and Cooking Festival – Sept. 16 to 18, 2011
• Hills Garlic Festival – New Denver, Sept. 11, 2011
• Fall Okanagan Wine Festival – Okanagan Valley, Sept. 30 to Oct. 9, 2011
• Cornucopia, Whistler's Celebration of Wine and Food – Whistler, Nov. 10 to 13, 2011
• Clayoquot Oyster Festival – Tofino, Nov. 17 to 19, 2011
• Winter Okanagan Wine Festival – Sun Peaks, Jan. 18 to 22, 2012
B.C. food trails
Many regions throughout British Columbia offer self-guided culinary tours or food trails. Simply follow road signs or look for posted signs in participating shops and farmer's markets. Check out the links below for some fabulous trails to get you started.
• Island Farm Fresh
• Circle Farm Tour
• Green Banner Tour
• Hello B.C. wine routes
Explore the Okanagan Valley wine region with Test Kitchen Specialist Soo Kim on the next page.
Locavorism is a hot food topic these days. Terms such as "locally grown," "wild" and "fresh" are on the lips of chefs, food producers and consumers alike. Menus often feature the name of the farm where an animal or vegetable was raised. While this may seem new to most of us, for the Haida it's old hat.
As far back as the last ice age, Haida people lived along the mountainous archipelago off the northern coast of B.C. called Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands). The surrounding rough sea provided an inexhaustible source of food, including salmon, shellfish and even octopus. What didn't come from the sea was provided by the forest, including berries and other plants, mushrooms and deer.
This steady source of food allowed the Haida to stay in one spot and develop permanent villages and communities instead of travelling in search of food every season. Staying put meant that those interested could devote more time to developing crafting traditions and honing their hunting, fishing and gathering skills.
Over thousands of years, the Haida have experienced many changes: population loss due to disease; massive deforestation; and dwindling seafood stocks. Yet much remains the same for the Haida people, who are determined to fight for and preserve their land and history. Locavorism isn't trendy there, it's just how people live on what nature provides.
Discover the Okanagan Valley and its farms on the next page.
The following pages first appeared in the July 2011 issue of Canadian Living.
Wine & Play
I enjoy a glass of wine when I'm on holiday just as much as I love throwing myself into a variety of physical activities. The Okanagan Valley offers both.
Nestled between the Rocky Mountains and British Columbia lake country, the Okanagan wine region is located in a 160-kilometre-long valley in the southern interior of the province. Last year I spent a week visiting boutique vineyards and family-run operations.
Watching the weathered hands of a seasoned winemaker open a bottle of the vineyard's best Merlot and listening as he described the work and passion that went into its production completely changed my appreciation of wine. Walking between the rows of grapes, I developed a keener sense of terroir, the bond of farmer to earth to consumer. If you'd like an oenophile – or wine lover's – primer before you join one of the region's vineyard tours, visit the B.C. VQA Wine Info Centre in Penticton, where you'll learn to sniff, swirl and sip like a pro.
There are various wine routes to follow in the Okanagan, including the Naramata Bench, Bottleneck Drive, Corkscrew Drive and the Golden Mile. And the best part? You can follow on foot, by kayak, on bicycle, or in a vintage car, limousine or bus.
Top Cat Tours gives the royal treatment: wine tour and lunch. Hoodoo Adventures offers kayak tours around Okanagan Lake with shore stops to taste wine along the way. Some wineries are within walking distance of each other.
Family-friendly fun is abundant. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail crosses a series of picturesque trestles and includes a scenic ride through Myra Canyon and a must-stop at an abandoned rail tunnel. Plus there are beaches, hiking and biking trails and farmer's markets galore to go along with the wine. I'll drink to that. (Check out tourismpenticton.com for more info.)
Learn about the Haida and their connection to locally grown food on the next page.
Nestled between the Columbia and Cascade mountain ranges, the Okanagan Valley is one of the most important agricultural regions in B.C. Thanks to glacial activity thousands of years ago, the valley floor, particularly through Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton, is rich, silty sand that's ideal for agriculture.
Combine that with a climate that's hotter, sunnier and drier than in the rest of the province and the stage is set for producing some of Canada's best fruit. Orchards abound in the Okanagan: from apples and peaches to plums and cherries. And there are hectares of vines that produce the grapes for the province's fast-growing, award-winning wine industry.
Thanks to this fertile landscape, culinary tourism is growing like wildfire throughout the Okanagan. Whether it's self-guided or in a group, a culinary tour through the valley reveals some of B.C.'s freshest, most delicious and innovative cuisine. For more info, check out hellobc.com.
Experience the charm of Granville Island with our snapshot of its Public Market, next!
Cobblestone streets crossed with rusty rail tracks and corrugated metal–clad warehouses remind visitors to Granville Island of its industrial past.
From the early 1900s through the 1950s, Granville Island (known briefly as Industrial Island) was home to ever-growing mining, forestry, construction and building industries. But when the vast need for such industry began to decline, the sandbar islands needed a new look.
Today, Granville Island is home to a thriving arts and crafts scene, as well as the ever-popular Public Market. Locals and tourists flock to the island for one-of-a-kind items, from local cheese and charcuterie to hand-dyed yarn and artisanal sake.
Trendsetting restaurants and cutting-edge theatres are scattered throughout the pedestrian-only walkways and alleys. While modern-day Granville Island is a far cry from its humble beginnings, business hasn't slowed down – it has merely changed with the times.
If you're in Vancouver, the Public Market at Granville Island is excellent, but there are farmer's markets aplenty across the province. For a list of times, dates and locations of other B.C. markets, visit bcfarmersmarket.org/findamarket.asp.
Discover some of B.C.'s top food trends with our listing on the next page.
From fashion to food, it's common to look to the West Coast for the latest trends. To get our fingers on the culinary pulse in B.C., we collaborated with Eric Pateman, owner of Edible BC, a specialty shop in Vancouver's Granville Market where you can find one-of-a-kind food items made only in B.C. Here are some of the top food trends that Eric identified – and the places to find them.
Vancouver's street food scene recently received a well-deserved makeover.
A new crop of vendors are dishing up everything from Japanese-inspired hotdogs to fresh, locally sourced meals. More are scheduled to arrive on the scene this summer. To find these stands and satisfy your appetite, visit vancouverstreeteats.ca.
This is one of the top food trends in B.C. There's a flavoured salt out there for every use: for finishing dishes, cooking or even adding to drinks or desserts. Pick out your favourites at seatoskyseasonings.com.
Shops specializing in handmade chocolate are popping up all over the province. Unique flavour profiles and carefully sourced ingredients are what set these shops apart. Places to check out:
Tea lovers unite! British Columbia is leading the march toward Canada's tea resurgence. Look to these shops for inspiring, trendsetting teas:
Don't miss this unique and proudly British Columbian alternative to maple syrup. To get your hands on this sweet delight, visit sweettreeventures.com or edible-britishcolumbia.3dcartstores.com.
Read about a passionate B.C. foodie in our featured profile, next.
When Shelley Adams and her husband, Mike, took ownership of a ski resort in the sleepy town of Nelson, B.C., Shelley had a clear vision of how to upgrade the menu at the existing cafeteria. With her extensive culinary background, including running a successful movie-catering business in Vancouver and training at École de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, Shelley knew she would not be happy slinging the standard hamburger and hotdog fare to hungry skiers.
Instead, she transformed the cafeteria into Fresh Tracks Café, offering snow-covered, jelly-legged skiers wholesome, simple, real food. Steaming bowls of curry, vibrant salads, fresh crab cakes, sticky ribs and mouthwatering desserts are among the ever-changing offerings at the café. While Whitewater Ski Resort continues to lure skiers with its endless powder snow, steep chutes and soul-stirring runs through ancient cedar groves, the appeal of the food isn't far behind.
Once Fresh Tracks was established, people began stopping Shelley in the street, begging for the café's now-famous recipes. And so the idea for Shelley's first cookbook, Whitewater Cooks, was born. Printed in 2006 after a year of hard work, this compilation of café favourites was finally available to the public – and it was an immediate success. The lineup of fans hungry for more of Shelley's creations didn't stop, so her second cookbook, Whitewater Cooks At Home, was released in 2009. Both books are now national bestsellers.
A third cookbook, Whitewater Cooks With Friends, was published this year. In it, Shelley draws on her vast cooking experience as well as that of friends, coworkers and other inspiring people to bring readers more recipes that are guaranteed to please.
What goes best with B.C. cuisine? Local wines, spirits and beers, of course! Here are the top picks from B.C. poet-sommelier Brian Storen. Some of these may be available in other provinces, but most don't stray far from home.
• 2010 Millefiori, Venturi Schulze Vineyards, Cobble Hill, Vancouver Island
• 2006 Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir, Quails' Gate Vineyard, Kelowna, B.C.
• 2008 Petit Verdot, Kettle Valley Winery, Naramata, B.C.
• 2007 Small Lots Program Sangiovese, Sandhill Estate Vineyard, Oliver, B.C.
• 2008 Chardonnay, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, Oliver, B.C.
• Victoria Gin, Victoria Spirits, Saanich, Vancouver Island
• Victoria Oaken Gin, Victoria Spirits, Saanich, Vancouver Island
• Left Coast Hemp Vodka, Victoria Spirits, Saanich, Vancouver Island
• Okanagan Spirits Old Italian Prune Eau de Vie, Vernon, B.C.
• Okanagan Spirits Taboo Absinthe, Vernon, B.C.
• Mitchell's Extra Special Bitter, Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub and Guesthouses, Victoria
• Driftwood Ale, Driftwood Brewery, Victoria
• Hop Circle IPA, Phillips Brewing Co., Victoria
• Hermann's Dark Lager, Vancouver Island Brewing Co., Victoria
• Red Racer IPA, Central City Brewing Co., Surrey, B.C.