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. »