Fernie, B.C., is best known for its powder skiing, but a new batch of independent food businesses is working hard to shift the attention. Restaurants, bakeries and chocolate makers are creating a smorgasbord of flavours in the historic downtown.
Established restaurants The Blue Toque, Curry Bowl, El Guapo and Yamagoya have lines out the door all year, while Cincotts Organic Market has expanded into a grocery store and restaurant.
Another line forms every Friday as crowds pick up smoked ribs from Backcountry Meats on Highway 3, fresh out of the smokehouse. (Order at least two days ahead in winter.)
Favourite pre-skiing coffee stops Freshies and Mug Shots have been joined by gourmet bagel shop Big Bang Bagels, loose tea specialist Fernie Tea and Coffee House, and Fernie’s own coffee roaster, Beanpod – which is also one of only 15 bean-to-bar chocolate makers in North America.
The store opened on Second Avenue last Valentine’s Day, trading for a day before owners James and Mary Heavey ran out of stock and had to start their five-day chocolate production process again.
“The thing we get asked the most is, ‘What are you doing here?’ ” says James.
“People from Vancouver and Whistler say this would be out of the ordinary there, and to have this in a small place like Fernie is just incredible. There are very few places in the Kootenays that manufacture products from scratch, so if we can help build that and support other local businesses, that is great.”
The Heaveys personally sourced cacao beans direct from ethical farms in South America, and use a 1948 melangeur from Italy to grind and blend cacao beans, cocoa butter and raw cane sugar, one step in a chocolate production process that is all manually controlled.
Mary also hand-moulds the chocolate into delicate bonbons with flavours including maple, jasmine green tea, peanut butter and jelly, and local honey (from Elk Valley Apiaries).
Over at Fernie Brewing Co., the brews include the award winning First Trax brown ale and Sap Sucker maple porter.
Meanwhile, Loaf Bakery produces more than 20 varieties of handmade breads in Fernie, plus a range of fresh pizzas, cakes, pies and pastries at the Loaf Cafe.
“We call our products real, honest bread because all they contain is flour, yeast, salt and water,” says owner Phil Gadd.
“Everything is handmade and flavoured with fresh ingredients sourced locally wherever possible.”
Meanwhile, Wendy Lyn and Dan Worth moved from New Brunswick to open Happy Cow Ice Cream and Desserts, producing ice cream, gelato and desserts made with natural flavourings and no preservatives or artificial colours.
“We picked Saskatoon berries one morning and made a batch of Saskatoon ice cream that afternoon.
We use wild mint from the Elk River banks, too,” says Lyn.
Todd Shipley left Calgary for Fernie in 2009 to retire, after he and his brother Scott sold the successful Original Joe’s franchise.
Then he began to restore Fernie’s Heritage Livery building and decided to open contemporary Mediterranean cuisine restaurant Picnic, which focuses on seasonal, regional food with an extensive wine menu.
This summer, Shipley bought The Northern bar in Fernie and cleaned it up, changing the menu to classic pub fare similar to Original Joe’s, and expanding the wine and beer selection.
“Fernie is getting a reputation for food with places like Loaf, Picnic and the Northern – it is growing and it’s nice to be part of that,” he says.
Picnic is across the street from Beanpod, and kittycorner from Le Grand Fromage cheese store – an area regulars have dubbed “Gourmet Corner.”
“I always dreamed of having a cheese store that would sell the small suppliers that aren’t carried by big grocery stores,” says Le Grand Fromage owner Pierre Dupont, who opened the store last December.
“A lot of people move here from Calgary and other places for the skiing, and they are used to having access to specialist products.”
By Rebecca Edwards, a journalist from Fernie, B.C.
Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/Foodie+Fernie/5481453/story.html#ixzz1Zawz92iC