Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Flavourful Nelson, BC

I was housesitting and shopping in Nelson, BC, this summer, and it was interesting to identify what was the same and what was different from Saskatoon. Here are just a few of the things I noticed.

Mobile, wood-fired pizza oven

Local Food
The West Kootenay Eco Society hosts two weekly markets during the summer months. Every Wednesday, they close off two blocks of Baker Street (Nelson’s main thoroughfare) and on Saturdays, they host a market at Cottonwood Falls.

Compared to the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, these are much smaller affairs almost equally divided between food and crafts. There are a number of local organic farmers selling their fruit and vegetables, but the range is much more limited.

However, the Kootenay Co-op – and a number of other stores and coffee shops – sells a wide variety of locally prepared foods. For example, I ate Rosemary Rye Wild Onion Nutburgers from Salmo and Ariah’s Chili-Lime Burritos from Glade. And be sure to try Little Miss Gelato ice cream - the chocolate hazelnut flavour consists of layers of rich, dark chocolate and chopped hazelnuts.

The Kootenay Co-op has a large deli section, but they do not make the food themselves. Instead, they act as a go-between, providing a space for small local producers to sell their wares.

The local products really celebrate local culture. This is Doukhobour country, so you find lots of borscht and pirahi.

Tea & Coffee
Shock and horrors! There are no Starbucks or Tim Horton’s in Nelson. Instead, there are some excellent independent coffee shops. I recommend John Ward Fine Coffee (hot chocolate made from dark Callebaut chocolate and fresh baking) and Grounded Café.

You can also purchase locally roasted coffee, including Seven Summits from Warfield.

I was super excited to discover Cloud Mountain Tea House. The owner sources a wide variety of loose-leaf teas (black, oolong, green). I purchased several and was really happy with the quality of the teas. I would love to see a tea store in Saskatoon (Sorry. David’s Tea doesn’t count. I’m not interested in flavoured teas and franchises.)

Wine & Spirits
BC Wine Guys stocks over 500 of BC’s VQA wines, and they’re always happy to provide suggestions. I wish we got even half the selection in Saskatchewan.

Micro distilleries are a trend that is sweeping the country. There’s even one in the Slocan Valley – Kootenay Country Craft Distillery.

There are two excellent bakeries in Nelson. I particularly love Au Soleil Levant, a French-Canadian bakery. Tucked away in the alley behind the Bank of Montreal, they make excellent bread with daily specials. The Friday challah with raisins and poppy seeds is excellent, and the brioches are truly decadent (pineapple, apricots, white or dark chocolate, etc.).

The Kootenay Bakery & Café is a worker-run, organic bakery. If you’re looking for a picnic lunch, do try the spelt bun with tofu scrambler and Antoinette’s dip – yum!

I purchased organic milk in returnable glass jugs from Creston, BC (the other side of the mountains). How I wish that a Saskatoon dairy would offer a similar product.

Kootenay Co-op
The Kootenay Co-op is the largest independent, member-owned, natural food store in Canada; they’ve been in business for 40 years. The range of products that they sell is outstanding, and they pay close attention to quality and business ethics before stocking a product.

A couple of years ago, they purchased the grocery store at the end of Baker Street. They are planning to turn it into a commercial/residential development with condominiums. BC Wine Guys and the Co-op will be key tenants on the ground floor. It’s really exciting to see what they’ve achieved and I love shopping at the Co-op.

Another good place to shop for healthy foods is Ellison’s Market in a one-hundred year-old heritage building.

Baker Street
As many of you know, I was using a walker last summer, so I’m very aware of how cities are laid out and how easy – or not so easy – they are to get around. Nelson has to be one of the best.

There are handicapped parking stalls on every block of Baker Street, so you’re not competing with the whole population for a parking place that is close to where you want to go. In addition, there seems to be a lot more time allotted for crossing the street – you don’t have to run to make it across the street before the lights change – hallelujah!

The parking meters are for varying amounts of time, depending on the location. So on the outskirts of downtown, you can park for 4 hours, whereas prime spots on Baker Street are for anything from 15 minutes to one hour.

Nearly every coffee shop or restaurant has an outdoor patio. And they close off at least part of the main street once or twice a week for markets and other festivals.

In addition, Baker Street is lined with beautifully restored heritage buildings. This is my kind of town!

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