Meditations

Take a bite out of BC


Tartare of Beet Cured Wild Okanagan Salmon

There are a couple of places in Vancouver that have managed to successfully transcend their tourist appeal and evolve to offer locals plenty of reasons to convene at. Then again, maybe their original success has simply turned them into tourist attractions? When you can’t tell anymore maybe that’s a good thing.

I’m talking specifically about Gastown and Granville Island. Gastown is now the scene of hipsters, tech workers and tourists milling about, and has seen a veritable explosion of restaurants and fashion establishments opening in rapid succession over the last few years. I used to work there and come cruiseship season would have to weave my way down the sidewalk just to get past the steam clock! Thankfully Meat & Bread wasn’t there yet or a few of them would have been knocked over in my lunchtime scramble for porchetta. Regardless, my food-related excursions to Gastown are more about filling the belly than the larder, but when I’m looking to grab all my fresh ingredients for that special meal and minimize the running around, there’s a good chance Granville Island Public Market is where I’ll head.

Finest at Sea, Oyama Sausage, South China Seas and Armando’s are just a few of my usual stops. The other is Edible British Columbia. Incredibly, Edible BC, I think, has managed to epitomize the blend of tourism and local appeal with their concept of selling only BC-made, food-related products. Mostly food, they do also carry stuff like handmade Cosmo knives from Saltspring Island that look to rival the finest. Were I a traveller looking for something unique to bring back to my friends and family elsewhere in the world that epitomizes the best of everything this province has to offer, I can’t think of a better place to head. Or a better way to create a trans-global connection than through food. If you just have to have a replica Mountie statuette or inukshuk (hope not) go for it I guess, but give me birch syrup or Cocoa Nymph’s dark chocolate with sea salt and toffee any day.

There’s universal appeal here for tourist and local alike. Sure, I might buy a gift here, but chances are, I’m doing personal shopping for artisnal ingredients and specialty products. So, how do you take this to the next level? How about selling a little piece of a BC chef?

No no, not flesh, just time, and talent. Enter the Edible BC Market Dinner Series. The formula: invite a notable BC chef to prepare a meal of fresh, local food and drink for 14 plus diners in the market after hours. Recently I had the fortune to be invited to such an evening featuring Chef Bernard Casavant of Wild Apple Restaurant in Kelowna.

Pan Seared Queen Charolette Sablefish with preserved quince butter sauce, market greens and rice paper bundle

I was excited because during last summer’s vacation to the Okanagan I had wanted to get to Casavant’s restaurant but it didn’t happen. I’d heard good things about it, topping off the other great things I’d heard about his food while he was the chef at Burrowing Owl Winery’s restaurant.

At the last minute we added a third dining companion. The hitch: vegetarian. A sheepish call to EBC, but they said, “no problem”. Nice they can roll with the punches.

Around 7pm on the designated night we entered the market from the water side. Even though there weren’t more than about 16 people, we had a little bottleneck getting in as there would be a film crew shooting us that night so we had to sign waivers. No big deal, though the bright lighting set up was a little distracting. Thankfully we were at the other end of the long table set up right in the isle in front of the store. A makeshift kitchen was nestled between my back and the row of local honey.

Long table set up in the market.

There was no wall between diner and kitchen that night, but what I found most surprising and delightful was that wall did not exist figuratively either. Chef Bernard and his team involved all of the diners in each step of the meal. With information about the provenance of the ingredients, tips on preparation, technique and the wine pairings, we were welcomed into the meal in a completely unexpected way throughout the course of the evening. I say unexpected because I was not prepared to learn, despite some great tips on cooking the sablefish with butter and oil and infusing boiled potatoes for example.

And of course, they made turning out this five course meal for us from a small convection oven and an induction hot plate look brilliantly effortless.

Here’s the menu, combined with some of the recipes and the wine/spritis pairings. Official photos of the evening are on EBC’s Flickr set here. My own pics are here.

Edible BC is about taking a piece of British Columbia home with you, that much is certain. It’s up to you if that means carrying it in your belly, basket or your luggage.

Check out upcoming BC’s Best Market Dinners and book one, or just stop by the store. Incidentally, you can sample anything they sell, just ask.

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