Definition of BC Cuisine?
I am looking for some insight as to what is BC or West Coast Cuisine. I have a food and wine pairing project based on BC wines and cuisine. Any advice, insight or direction to sources would be appreciated.
IMO if we were to define a "cuisine": BC and West Coast cuisine is defined by the locally sourced ingredients (locally available seafood, pork, chicken) and fresh preparation techniques (not a lot of deep fried foods, etc.) with perhaps an tinge of Asian flavour.
A few months ago, I would have recommended a quick a look at Aurora Bistro's menu for a great sampler of food and wines from BC (it was all BC there)....but alas they are now closed.
The menu at Bishop's or Fuel are very BC too...you'll see the common sources: Polderside poultry, Sloping Hill pork, Qualicum shellfish, Nicola Valley Lamb, etc.
I thought it was Saltspring Island lamb!
But definition of 'cuisine' is the tricky thing. Do we mean what people have been growing, cooking and eating for the past century and half (or earlier if you want to include First Nations), or is it defined by the current trendiest restaurants, and the cooks who are drawing attention to the area?
Which is BC Cuisine, Sooke Harbor House, or the diner we ate in Sooke after touring the House's garden? Is it the roast beef and yorkshire pudding that I've had at a couple of places in BC (specifically a BC ferry, and newly opened cafe in Ashcroft), the psuedo-poutine I had in Pemberton, the sushi lunch in Burnaby, or the Korean seafood pancake in Hope?
PBS CreateTV has been showing a program called 'Endless Feast', in which the crew helps arrange an outdoor dinner using 'locally sourced ingredients and fresh preparation'. A couple of the episodes take place in BC, one near Qualicum, the other at North Farm near Pemberton (Whistler). Despite the fact that they used fish caught in Lillooet Lake, and decorated goat cheese from Saltspring Island, I'd be hard pressed to identify a distinctive cuisine on those episodes compared to ones that took place in Oregon, California, or Virginia. In a sense, this 'locally sourced' cuisine spans the continent, though ingredients do vary some with climate (e.g. no locally sourced olive oil in BC).
>>I thought it was Saltspring Island lamb!
Oops....yes. I meant Venison.
>>But definition of 'cuisine' is the tricky thing. Do we mean what people have been growing, cooking and eating for the past century and half (or earlier if you want to include First Nations), or is it defined by the current trendiest restaurants, and the cooks who are drawing attention to the area?
My initial take was the same as yours...but then the OP wrote: "I have a food and wine pairing project based on BC wines and cuisine". That part of her question influenced my final answer...hence my putting quotation marks around the word "cuisine." In my interpretation, the OP wanted an answer that was more "restaurant" focused.
However, saying that..if we were, for the sake of argument, stay closer to the ground...I could probably pair a wine with a First Nations meal...or a Chinese-Canadian home-cooked family meal...but I thought it would be out of context.
>>In a sense, this 'locally sourced' cuisine spans the continent,
Agreed. I think it is all in the nuances - selection of seasonings, choice of technique, etc. Using Aurora's menu as an example, Jeff Van Geest takes locally sourced duck, then tea-smokes it as a explicit nod to the Asian-ness of this city. He also used to serve Five-Spiced donuts, etc. A chef in Virginia might make a different set of choices.
"Locally sourced" as a food movement has definitely spread out over the continent, but it has only recently received significant attention from media and the general public. A number of restaurateurs have been doing this in BC for decades. Kind of like Alice Waters down in the Bay Area.
North America is a big continent and ingredients do vary from place to place. Though you might be hard pressed to tell the difference between a regional meal in BC and one in Oregon, that's because climate and terroir are relatively similar. The California and Virginia similarities to BC are a little harder to explain away. You'd probably have to taste the dishes.
Sure, you can declare anything you eat in a region cuisine of that area, but does a yorkshire pudding typify BC? I don't think so. An analogy would be looking at the music scenes in different cities. From a simplistic point of view, every city has a "rock scene". But what are the local influences? What do they sound like and what is their song writing trying to get across to the audience? There are unique and creative musicians in every city or town, just as there are chefs and restaurants. Those, in my opinion, are the ones that are used to typify a region, not the run of the mill house band that you can get at every neighborhood bar. (Okay, the analogy is getting long and old... time to get back to geology.)
For wine, I'd check out the advocate for the BC wine industry, the BC Wine Institute. http://www.winebc.com/ They market the products of the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) which are the top tier of wines produced in BC.
BC cuisine in my mind immediately brings up images of Sooke Harbour House from just outside of Victoria. Bishops in Vancouver is similar. Both are insistent on using local produce and in my mind embody BC cuisine. I've never been, but SoBo in Tofino is another spot that seems like it is quintessential BC. I'd say check out their menus and you'll be able to pick up on the cuisine style.
As Paul suggested, Vancouver is also home to phenomenal Chinese and Indian restaurants. Vij's gets a bit of flak on the boards here, but I love it. It's hard to think where else a restaurant like it might exist if not in BC.
How much do you know about BC? Judging by your question, I'm gathering not too much. Any specifics you need to know?
Definition? Any thing cooked in BC?
The coast has historically been known for its salmon and other sea food. First Nations also harvested salmon well in land along the rivers, though many of those runs are now blocked. Berries were also common.
The Victoria is a very English town, with a well known afternoon tea.
Vancouver is reputed to have some of the best Chinese and Indian restaurants.
Some inland valleys are known for the orchards and vineyards. Another is known for its seed-potatoes (due to its isolation from areas with potato diseases).
Other inland areas are cattle country. And toward the east, Alberta exerts its influence.
And every town has a Greek taverna of some sort (the Canadian counterpart to US Texmex?)
Beyond that, you can find the same stuff in BC groceries as you can in the rest of Canada, and even similar to the US (except everything is labeled in English and French, instead of English and Spanish).
Browse the threads in this section. They will give you a good idea of what the best dining is like in towns like Vancouver. It will be harder to learn much about the rest of the province.