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ORGANIC AND WHOLESOME - TASTY LESSONS IN SUSTAINABILITY
 
(2012 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: CASSANDRA KRIVY HIRSCH



Travel is best enjoyed when you yield to its lessons.

In Richmond, B.C., I learned sustainability tourism is thriving. It’s caught on with fishermen as well as chefs, who bring wholesome ingredients from the sea and garden to the table.

Garden to Table

The elegant Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, ranked the No. 1 airport hotel in North America at the 2011 World Airport Awards, boasts a sumptuous breakfast at its restaurant, Globe@YVR. Chef Geoffrey Carkner’s“Garden to Globe” menu boasts produce grown at the restaurant’s plot in the Terra Nova Sharing Farm where the Fairmont Vancouver Airport maintains a herb and vegetable garden. Fresh, organic produce, such as Brussels sprouts, garlic, cabbage, broccoli, snap peas, fava beans, fingerling potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes, are abundant and locally available. The hotel also plans to grow edible flowers. With a million bees kept nearby at McDonald Beach Park, the hotel harvests its own wildflower honey, a memorably tasty addition to my oatmeal.

Fisherman Frank

In the charming fishing village of Steveston, where the Fraser River meets the Pacific Ocean, the affable Frank Keitsch, whose face wears the weather from years of being sunbaked on his boat, the Western Sea II, is steeped in the fisherman’s life. Vice-chairman of the Steveston Harbour Authority and co-founder of Organic Ocean, he uses hook and line to fish rather than nets so he can throw back what he doesn’t need while it’s still alive.

He and the small group of fishermen in this cohort choose to sell directly to their customers and I saw many with faces split wide by satisfied grins that morning on Steveston’s wharf. Between April and October, Frank fishes spot prawns, salmon, tuna and halibut. “In big catches, pink salmon doesn’t fare so well,” he says. However the way he catches it guarantees a different experience for the consumer and I would be exposed to this at lunch.

City Meets Village

It was Frank’s caught-that-morning pink salmon and white sablefish I tasted at the Tapenade Bistro, a city-meets-village establishment tucked just beyond the dock, still within view of the river. Here, Vince Morlet, the bistro’s owner, combines his urban sensibility with this historic fishing village, resulting in a unique sophistication. Tapenade Bistro’s chef, Toronto’s Alex Tung, prepared the pink salmon served crisp skin side up, its taste absorbing the flavours of everything nestled around it—herbed pommespurées, summer vegetables and light tomato cream. Firm on the fork, its flesh fell sweetly into pieces against the tongue. The salmon was paired with a crisp and cool white wine, SummerGate Kerner 2009 from Summerland, B.C. The B.C. trap-caught sablefish was served with a chickpea panisse resting in chickpeaand confit garlic purée, succotash, salsa verde and Marchand de Vin sauce. Paired with a Bordeaux blend, Herder Meritage 2008 from B.C.’s Similkameen Valley, the fish fell tomouth-sized morsels at the fork and slid into my grateful belly.

Art of Growing

Ian Lai, the Terra Nova Sharing Farm’s Principal, teaches schoolchildren who visit Terra Nova to understand the food they eat. From September to June, the Richmond Schoolyard Society, which Ian founded six years ago and which is part of Richmond’s school curriculum, brings kids to Terra Nova. Ian teaches them respect, return and responsibility, showing them how to grow their food and that lost seeds are irreplaceable. They give their surplus to local food banks. For Richmond’s schoolchildren, eating has ceased being an empty ritual.

Though the site itself is owned by the City of Richmond with whom Terra Nova has a partnership, restaurateurs, students and private residents garden and harvest there. With a pedigree that includes the Four Seasons Hotel, the Consulate General of the United States and teaching at culinary schools, Ian works mostly with the Schoolyard Project. “If we’re going to win [kids’] hearts, we’ve got to win their minds.” The environmental education he offers “fits every single student . . . Here, they can connect with the earth.” Each child gets .6 square metres of garden and chooses what to do. Ian hopes these children will eventually study sustainable living or farming.

Ian teaches them about food security; in short, food that’s “accessible, affordable, culturally appropriate, healthy and nutritious.” He and his wife and partner, Kyoko, offer skill sets to plant food and cook healthy basics. They teach food preservation through canning, drying, smoking and fermenting. “The eventual goal is to eat organically, but start with eating fresh . . . [to] make choices with your food dollars, supporting local products [with] less reliance [on] big-box stores and processed food.”

Ian’s cooking includes no more than five ingredients “so subtle flavours don’t get muddled . . . Ingredients [can] speak for themselves.” That evening, he served braised lamb shank over Israeli couscous, baby bok choy and tomato jus. His roasted corn chowder whispered of chives and ginger, and the salmon, brined with salt for a day, was served over arugula salad with pecans, kamut and blood orange. Finally, warm peaches and ice cream were drizzled with honey cultivated 91 metres away and his dandelion wine was sweeter than my childhood memories of dandelion brew in a pail. On fertile land once inhabited by the Musqueam, a Coast Salish Tribe, a visit to Ian and Kyoko will enlighten, inspire and nourish you.

I am endlessly open to Richmond, a colourful city filled with gratitude for the gifts yielded by land and sea.

Travel Planner

For more information, visit or call Tourism Richmond: tourismrichmond.com

Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel: Fairmont.com

Globe@YVR Restaurant (Fairmont Vancouver Airport): 604-248-3281

Tapenade Bistro: tapenade.ca

Ian Lai—Principal of Terra Nova Sharing Farm (Urban Agriculture Consulting): myurbanag.com

 
 
 
 
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