With some of Canada’s lushest land blessed with a relatively long growing season, British Columbia is a culinary cornucopia of local and organic foods.
In the gastronomic vanguard is Vancouver, which sports Ocean Wise sustainable seafood, increasingly innovative food trucks, and Canada’s biggest food festival, EAT! On the beverage front, there are dozens of microbreweries and gin distilleries producing drinks such as Okanagan Spirits’ Bittered Sling derived from 100 percent BC fruit. The local artisanal movement has crossed the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island, which has an even longer growing season. In the capital Victoria – known as the City of Gardens due to early blooms when other cities are snow-bound – this has led to much farm-to-table fare, for example at The Courtney Room, recently shortlisted for Air Canada’s Best New Restaurant of the Year. Island suppliers include the Merridale Cidery and Distillery in the Cowichan Valley where you can also feast in the family orchard on dishes featuring cider-poached pears, apple blossom honey and apple cider vinaigrettes.
Vancouver’s vibrant vibe has spread to resorts all around the province where both the domestic and international mountain sports’ markets are demanding the highest standards and variety in après ski and après cycle fare. At Kicking Horse, you can eat at 7700 feet elevation in Canada’s highest fine dining restaurant, Eagle’s Eye, which was voted as having the best view from a bar stool by Ski Canada magazine. Food focus includes BC delicacies such as slow cooked elk, bison, boar, sockeye salmon all washed down with home-grown wines amid a panoramic vista over five national parks on a clear day. Right on the slopes at sister resort Fernie, there’s Canada’s first indoor Ice Bar which specializes in frozen vodka tasting, complemented by the warmth of open fire heating and gastronomic goodies at Cirque Restaurant just outside. These vacation venues are not just for winter: they are open year-round, accommodating family holidays, weddings, festivals, and other special events in magical mountain settings.
One of Whistler Blackcomb’s topnotch resorts, The Four Seasons offers local wine sips and tips after skiing or summer hiking/biking, as well as specializing in the best of BC bounty at SIDECUT Modern Steak+Bar. The Pacific Ocean – just 30 minutes away – yields oysters, mussels, salmon, Haida Gwaii halibut and Humboldt squid, which have recently appeared in Canadian waters. Add to this an array of steaks including grass-fed striploin from Cache Creek and a BC-biased bevvy list of craft brews, local wines and ‘Spirit of the Mountains’ mixology.
In summer, the BeerBQ is a patio party celebrating everything local in five-star style: from BC beers to BC bands and a concentration on Canadian ingredients. “For more than a decade we have been inviting guests and locals to take a moment to enjoy the community, produce and talent that makes this place so special,” says José Ortiz, Food and Beverage Director at Four Seasons Resort Whistler. Cooked on custom-built grills and a larger-than-life smoker, dishes to be savoured include locally-sourced smoked brisket and barbequed salmon, traditional mac-and-cheese, freshly baked cornbread and a cute and colourful donut wall. A pastel-pretty Patio Camper serves fresh and fruity sangria filled with local BC wine. And a rotating pop-up of BC brewers is invited to showcase distinct drafts, offering first-hand facts, inspirations and techniques.
At Sun Peaks Resort in BC’s interior, the food and beverage scene has really taken off with talented chefs sharing their love of culinary creations in restaurants, après ski bars, and festivals. Savour the Sun, now in its second year, is a pouring partnership with Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country, and there’s also an annual Sun Peaks Wine & Food Festival. Around the resort, international flavours reflect the multi-cultural miscellany of year-round visitors. Mediterranean, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Middle Eastern menus spice up the authentic offerings of Canadian cuisine. For contemporary Canadiana, there’s Voyageur Bistro with delicate aromas of bison, berries and bannock infusing the historical décor motif. Joe Poutine serves up classic Canadian comfort food in both traditional and unique ways – for example, the butter chicken poutine. For the uninitiated, poutine is a combo of fries with cheese curds and gravy. Ski in to – and stagger out from – the Cahilty Creek Kitchen for a trendy Taproom featuring 16 taps of craft beer as well as BC ciders, and wines.
Triticale, a hybrid of rye and wheat from a West Kootenay farm, is the secret ingredient for the Monashee Distillery’s Ethos Gin. The botanical-rich gin uses not only local juniper, spruce tips and ponderosa pine needles but also native huckleberries. The cutting-edge Revelstoke-based distillery also makes a garlic vodka (a delicious nuance in a Caesar) using local garlic from Track Street Growers, a sustainable urban farm in Revelstoke’s downtown core. Monashee’s BC Negroni is made from all local ingredients and aged in a cedar smoke whisky barrel for a year. Combining Ethos Gin, Odd Society’s Bittersweet Vermouth and The Woods Spirit Co. craft-made Amaro, it is blended with Monashee’s Grapefruit Bitters, smoked in Maple Wood, garnished with a dehydrated orange and sprinkled with Campari Dust. This is cocktail couture! Smoke is a recurring theme at Revelstoke’s Quartermaster Eatery, too, where North and South American cuisine is conjured from scratch, courtesy of neighbouring artisan producers, boutique ranchers, and wild/sustainable fisheries. A favourite meal is the “Forager sausage and smash” featuring house-made vegetarian sausages, BC potatoes, roast vegetables, and a poblano romesco sauce.
Vegetarian and veganism are exploding in BC, where the plant-based trend benefits from indigenous and sustainable crops from nearly 20,000 farms. The Vipassana Meditation Centre in Merritt feeds around 70 meditation students each ten-day session throughout the year on a vegetarian and vegan diet. “Vegans – and restaurants catered towards them – are on the rise across Canada and particularly in BC,” says Vipassana manager, Rupert Hudson. “We source some of our produce from Po Lam Nunnery in Chilliwack, which grows delicious organic beets, kale, potatoes, watermelon, carrots, and even kiwis.” The veggie movement is appealing to all generations, says Hudson, but especially the under-35s.
Back in Vancouver, the veggie vision is well established. Van Nguyen, owner of Lotus Seed Vegan Restaurant is a vegetarian himself, proud of his personal and professional efforts in contributing to the environmentally-conscious plant-based phenomenon: “Over the past few years I have witnessed how younger generations are becoming more aware of the benefits of a plant-based diet and they are making changes toward the future.” Delicacies include sunflower paté, daiya cheese, zucchini and eggplant lasagna washed down with Goji Blonde Smoothies.
For every type of eater, BC culinary is a BOGOF opportunity: you can eat your way around the province while feasting your eyes on some of the most beautiful, untamed and unspoilt mountain, valley, river and ocean scenery in the world.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Canadian Sky.