Follow Me Foodie to BC Ingredients and Products!
Happy BC Day! I highlighted unique and local food in every province and territory for Food Day Canada and today I’m focusing on BC ingredients and products in celebration of BC Day!
I’m grateful to live on the West Coast of Canada where the waters are close, the mountains are near and the weather is temperate. We have access to the country’s best salmon and are able to grow our own fruits and vegetables, produce our own milk and cheese, raise our own animals, and even make our own wine.
The BC agriculture tied together with a multicultural population allows for a very diverse food scene that I am really proud of. Quite often the ingredients are good as is, but it’s the creativity of cooks and chefs that can inspire us to appreciate these ingredients in eclectic and original ways. The emphasis on local ingredients is growing stronger every day and it’s more than a food movement, but a lifestyle and philosophy.
According to StatsCanada there were 19,844 farms in British Columbia in 2006, a 2.2% decrease during the past five years. There are numerous factors affecting the decrease, but the only way to sustain it is to support it.
There are a whole lot of farms, fisheries, suppliers, purveyors and artisans to choose from in BC, and I wish to highlight all the ethical and sustainable ones producing good quality ingredients and products. Thankfully there are too many to count to do that. I haven’t even made a dent in the 19,844, but here are just 10 of some of my favourites. These are not my “top 10″ or “10 best”, but just 10 I’ve really come to like, appreciate and want to share the love for.
BC Wild Hawkshaw Salmon
I mentioned it in my Food Day Canada post and I have to highlight it again. It’s the most obvious choice and for good reason too. This Wild Hawkshaw Salmon from BC’s Skeena River is still one of my favourite salmon. Although I prefer wild salmon for its flavour and superior health benefits, farmed salmon is not a bad choice. According to BC Salmon Facts, farmed salmon in BC is raised naturally and it’s the only way to get fresh salmon all year round. Salmon farming is also the most regulated agricultural industry in BC and it provides a lot of jobs for the First Nations people.
This just makes me want to go blueberry picking. 99% of BC blueberries are grown in the Fraser Valley in Richmond, Pitt Meadows, Matsqui Prairie and Surrey. It’s the #1 fruit exported in Canada and BC produces 95% of the blueberries cultivated in the country. The largest crops in BC, however, are still cranberries. Every farm has a different soil and process which affects the flavour of the crops and blueberries, so I would shop around. I only say that because I just bought a flat from an okay farm, but generally BC blueberries are nothing but impressive.
I haven’t tried every single oyster in BC yet, but one of my favourites is the Kusshi meaning “precious” in Japanese. It’s a Pacific Northwest oyster from the Deep Bay waters of Vancouver Island, BC. It’s a small oyster, but the flavour is superior and it’s very clean, delicate and sweet.
Anita’s Organic Mill (Flours)
Anita’s Organic Mill in Chilliwack, BC makes the highest #1 graded quality Certified Organic grains cleaned to 99.9%. If you’ve never baked with their artisan flours you should try it. It comes with a price, but quality over quantity. Try it on your favourite recipe and chances are you’ll notice a positive difference, and it’s better for you since they work with the best organic farmers in BC. The grains are milled to order using a technique that maximizes flavour and nutrition and they are also environmental friendly.
Kale & Nori Bittered Sling Extracts
Kale & Nori is a Vancouver based catering company that’s getting recognition for their commercially made bitters and extracts under the label of “Bittered Sling”. They have brought extracts and bitters to a whole new level by offering artisan flavours like Plum & Root Beer, Grapefruit & Hops, and Crabapple Cardamom. The popularity of bitters have increased in the last couple years due to the interest in classic cocktails where bitters were an essential component to the drink. Bitters are often associated with cocktails, but you can use them in cooking and they work just like extracts. Use them in sauces, dressings, cures, baking or even to make ice cream.
Northern Divine Caviar
It’s Canada’s first white sturgeon farm grown on BC’s Sunshine Coast and is considered one of the world’s best. It’s a sustainable caviar that is Ocean Wise and for black caviar it’s a bit larger in size. The eggs are plump, and the texture is smooth, and slightly creamy and there is no fishy taste or “pop” which is usually due to added preservatives. This is truly the best caviar I’ve had to date… not that I have it everyday, but it’s one I won’t forget and can separate from others. In Vancouver it is available at Diva at the Met, Hawksworth, C Restaurant and YEW Restaurant + Bar as well as a few other upscale restaurants. C Restaurant offers an exclusive Northern Divine menu – see my post on it here.
North Arm Farms (Organic Vegetables)
There are lots of farms in BC, and across Canada BC is ranked #5 with the most farms. One of the farms that intrigues me most is North Arm Farms, an organic farm in Pemberton. They grow some funky and extoic vegetables including black radish, Jade radish, black salsify, white carrots, purple carrots, sunchokes, Purple Top Globe turnips, Candy Cane beets, Music Garlic, Jerusalem Artichokes and many more. I would be surprised if you’ve heard of and tried all those ingredients listed, and those are only a small fraction of what they grow and offer. Not all of the vegetables are invented by them, but they do grow rare ingredients that are used in many upscale restaurants. I went to visit the farm during Follow Me Foodie to Whistler and I also made a nice dent at their in house bakery counter.
Birchwood Dairy (Whole Milk)
Yup, it’s not the coffee you’re looking at but the milk used to make it. If you’re into coffee than the next time you go to a coffee shop ask about their milk. If they’re not using Birchwood Dairy Whole Milk from Abbotsford, BC you might want to suggest it. There are other great dairy farms providing excellent milk, but Birchwood Whole Milk is ideal for speciality coffee. Their milk products are enriched with selenium which is an antioxidant similar to vitamin E so there is added nutritional value.
Golden Ears Cheesecrafters (Brie)
Golden Ears Cheesecrafters in Maple Ridge is Fraser Valley’s newest Artisan Cheese processing facility. They are responsible for killing my diet with brie… not that I have a diet, but hypothetically speaking this would be the end of it. I actually tried it at Sidecut Modern Steak at The Four Seasons in Whistler and I finished it in a day and a half. Served at room temperature it was rich and creamy with a distinct flavour that rivals many of “the best” bries I’ve had. It’s a triple cream hand crafted brie with 45% milk fat and it was love at first bite.
I couldn’t pick one wine to highlight and there are just too many worth mentioning. Grapes are grown in the Okanagan Valley, the Similkameen Valley, the Fraser Valley, and on Vancouver Island, but the Okanagan Valley is known for the highest quality wine. Depending on the area and soil the grapes and wines will vary, but BC Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer are popular choices. Outside of Canada, not many people may know about the wine scene, but BC is a wine destination. With over 200 family run and estate wineries it’s worth the weekend getaway for locals and week long getaway for tourists. Many of the wineries also have restaurants, farms and accommodations, so the only thing you need to find is the time to escape.