Cook like a lo­cal: Pa­cific North­west

The forests, moun­tains and shore­lines of this part of North Amer­ica have helped cul­ti­vate a lo­ca­vore mind­set. Delve into it with dishes such as grilled oys­ters, fig sal­ads and cherry tarts


The forests, moun­tains and shore­lines of this part of North Amer­ica have helped cul­ti­vate a lo­ca­vore mind­set

Run­ning from the Pa­cific Ocean to the Cas­cade moun­tains, and strad­dling both the USA and Canada, the Pa­cific North­west stretches across a vast forested area that sur­rounds Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton and Van­cou­ver. Tak­ing in­flu­ences from both Na­tive Amer­i­can and im­mi­grant cuisines (pre­dom­i­nantly Asian), fu­sion cook­ing has long been part of the lo­cal din­ing scene. So, too, has sea­son­al­ity.

Mild, wet win­ters mean there’s an abun­dance of pro­duce all year round, and with the chang­ing sea­sons a new palette of flavours ar­rives: spring brings radishes, peas, spinach and rhubarb; sum­mer means bell pep­pers, cour­gettes, aubergines, fat lit­tle toma­toes and peaches; au­tumn is a time for huck­le­ber­ries, black­ber­ries, pecans, squash and mush­rooms; and win­ter of­fers kale, chest­nuts, rutabaga (a bit like turnip), clams and cran­ber­ries. A ma­jes­tic coast­line means ex­cel­lent fish, too, while wines pro­duced on fam­ily-run vine­yards and craft beers are the norm – 85% of Amer­ica’s hops are grown in the re­gion.

Eat­ing and drink­ing sea­son­ally here is about more than just good in­gre­di­ents, though. It’s also about be­ing part of a culi­nary com­mu­nity that’s connected through farm­ers’ mar­kets and CSAs (com­mu­ni­ty­sup­ported agri­cul­ture), where con­sumers know the names of the peo­ple who grow their gro­ceries. The legacy of Ore­gon na­tive James Beard, that great cham­pion of Amer­i­can food, is one of let­ting na­ture choose what time of year is best for eat­ing a straw­berry – an ethos now sec­ond na­ture to this re­gion’s chefs. Build­ing mo­ments with food, ones that you can look for­ward to and think back on, is re­flected every­where from home kitchens to res­tau­rants such as Seat­tle’s Hitch­cock and Van­cou­ver’s For­age.

But the farm-to-ta­ble move­ment wouldn’t have taken off so quickly in the area if Pa­cific North­west­ern­ers weren’t ob­sessed with eat­ing the best food hu­manly pos­si­ble. Lo­cals truly love to eat, and it’s that pas­sion that con­nects farms, com­mu­ni­ties and din­ner ta­bles. »

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