Well – we finally made it to Vancouver after travelling for 34 hours and through three international airport stops thanks to Qantas, who seem to resent one actually trying to use their hard-earned Frequent Flying points. I’m really loving Vancouver and it is so easy to see why it consistently makes it onto the lists of the worlds most liveable cities. It is fresh, clean, friendly and magnificently set with the snow-capped mountains on one side and the harbour full of bobbing boats at their moorings on the other. It is possessed of wide streets, stylish high density housing and a glorious green space called Stanley Park which is bigger than New York’s Central Park and which wraps around the harbour. Vancouver has some of the most expensive real estate in Canada. I’m told that the cost of housing is so high here that it is not included when the national average is calculated as it will distort the national figures! And dogs – everyone appears to have a dog. I’ve never seen so many. They are everywhere – all on leads and all very well behaved. There are approximately 100,000 dogs in the city area – or one dog for every six people. Our hotel has 2 resident dogs which are available to the guests for patting or walking if we so desire. Apparently this hotel also allows guests to bring dogs to stay and has a special selection for them on the room service menu.
We spent our first, somewhat brain-fogged, day with my daughters host family whose generosity appears to know no bounds before we collapsed, semi-comatosed, into our hotel beds. Our plans for day two were somewhat curtailed by the fact that we overslept, but we managed to spend some very happy hours on Granville Island. Granville Island is the major craft and artisan centre for the city of Vancouver and includes the public fruit and vegetable markets as well as numerous art and craft studios. All of the stores and outlets on Granville are locally based with all of the products coming from largely British Columbia-based artisans and craft-persons.
There was such a wealth of local talent on the island is was hard to know when to stop/start snapping pictures. There were artists, weavers, photographers, jewellers and ceramicists, but most of my attention was taken up by the food. No surprises there. We did find a store called the Broom Co. which made – you guessed it – brooms. They were all hand made on the premises out what I think was millet and were all very desirable. Sadly, I know for a fact that Australian Customs officers would not have been pleased to see one of these in my luggage.
But, I digress. Back to the food.
The strawberries and raspberries were massive and extraordinarily cheap – especially given that they were shipped from California. I couldn’t resist the raspberries in particular which where big and blowsy and practically perfect. I paid $18 for just over a kilogram of them – a far cry for the $7 per 200 gms I pay for the local ones in the Adelaide Hills. While the big, flashy US fruit might have looked the part, their flavour lacked the sweetness and juiciness of our local fruit, unfortunately.
There were stunning pastries and baked goods as far as the eye could see –
and a remarkable range of locally made smallgoods and specialty meats.
Anyone for elk proscuitto or bison bresaola?
After an hour or so of wandering around looking at all of the above we felt it was time to get serious about some eating and managed to snare ourselves a table at the hugely popular Edible Canada. So much more than a bistro or a providore, this business is an almost complete exercise in local food. The busy bistro sources approximately 80% of the food it prepares and serves from local producers in British Columbia, with the bulk of the remaining 20% coming from elsewhere in Canada. It also includes a retail and online store dedicated to sourcing high quality local products, hosts demonstration market dinners, runs guided market tours and gourmet weekend kayaking trips – in short, the absolute go to place for all things related to British Columbia food.
The Salmon Benny, with hot smoked salmon was an absolute winner, closely followed by the Canadian Rockies beefburger, both of which are served with local beverages – alcoholic or non-alcoholic, including a stunningly fresh cranberry juice which beat the pants off anything I’ve had back home in Australia.
After lunch I took a wander through their store and checked out some of the range of local products available, including flavoured honey from Honeyview Farm,
Urbansweet Honey, collected from bee hives which have been located around the parks and buildings of the city of Vancouver –
and the salt produced by Andrew Shepherd of the Vancouver Island Salt Co. British Columbia has no large commercial salt production as there is not enough sunlight to evaporate the water from large salt pans. Andrew, who is no stranger to South Australia, hand-collects fresh seawater and personally oversees the evaporation process of small quantities of it, adding flavours at selected stages.
There was a great deal more in the store to tempt me, including some maple syrup (although it is not cold enough in British Columbia to produce very much syrup), sustainably line-caught salmon, whisky, jams and so much more. If you are planning a trip to Vancouver can I suggest that you put a trip to Granville Island on the top of your list – we liked it so much we went twice! If you are interested in taking a guided tour of the food markets make sure to book beforehand with Edible Canada.