If the West Coast were a Girl Scout, then she would have been the first in North America to acquire all of her locavore food and drink badges. The region is the cradle of the modern craft beer and specialty coffee industries, a longtime testing ground for a range of organic agriculture practices and home to the very first Edible magazine (shout out to Edible Ojai).
Yet those accolades only scratch the surface.
Tucked in the Canadian southwest, Vancouver may not be as publicized as its southern neighbors, but the city is their peer in every way. It’s situated at the southernmost point of the North Shore Mountains on a damp, craggy peninsula that juts into the Pacific. Ent-like trees shade its pebble beaches and can make a visitor feel more like they’re on the set of the next Jurassic Park film than on the edges of British Columbia’s cosmopolitan center.
But the boundary between nature and neighborhood is fluid here, and a graceful balance of these extremes is as noticeable in the landscape as it is in some of the city’s best food and drink.
Choices can range from traditional Chinese pastries and homely fish and chips to imaginative farm-to-table menus and high-end sushi made with only sustainably sourced catch. Brewers, distillers and winemakers bottle their own British Columbia–sourced beers, sake and varietals that are served throughout town, and visitors can tour their nearby facilities. Markets, some seasonal, are neighborhood hubs that offer a spectrum of products ranging from the very familiar to the very exotic.
And the producers aren’t the only backbone of the growing local food scene. The city government continues to make Vancouver an international role model for how communities can enable sustainable food production, distribution and access. If things keep going in the direction that they’re headed, then the city will remain on track to meet their 2020 goal of becoming the “greenest city in the world” — an aim that gives local food benchmarks as much weight as it does green buildings and transportation.
It’s difficult to describe this place without a utopian slant, but the sentiment comes from a hope that promising trends that rise on the West Coast will continue to arrive and adapt out East. If we’re wise, we East Coasters will continue to watch, taste and learn.
A special thanks to Vancouverites Debbra Mikaelsen of Edible Vancouver; Edible designer extraordinaire Bambi Edlund, Britney Gill of Farmacie, Peter Ladner (author of The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities), Karen Le Billon (author of French Kids Eat Everything and Getting to Yum: The 7 Secrets of Raising Eager Eaters), Vancouver Chinatown, Granville Island and Vancouver Tourism.