The Pacific Northwest Back to the Future Food
Located on the edge of the American Pacific Rim are the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia. The majority of the population is concentrated in the Portland–Seattle–Vancouver corridor.
The Pacific Northwest Back to the Future Food. So what does the Pacific Northwest have to do with your exciting world travels? With a funky, hip vibe, the breathtakingly beautiful Pacific Northwest has developed a unique ethos, with food to match. More than just a region, the Pacific Northwest is all about the people and a culture characterized by the vibrant technology driven economy.
The modern Pacific Northwest is well known as the palace that gave rise to indie music, particularly grunge, alternative rock and folk music. There are many music festivals here that you can plan to include as part of your exciting world travels. Some of the important local musicians who became world famous are Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Foo Fighters Sarah McLachlan, Michael Bublé, Bryan Adams, and Nelly Furtado. Must be something in the food?
Because Food tourism is about the essence of a place, let’s start with “where”. Three cities, clustered like cultured pearls on this easternmost edge of the Pacific Rim, form the Pacific Northwest corridor. Portland, Seattle and Vancouver are cosmopolitan city centers blessed with a cool, moist climate, natural splendor and rich volcanic soil.
The Pacific Northwest culture favors fresh local ingredients, influenced by the trend for locavore food. Seafood, fresh vegetables, fruits and berries are the foundations of the regional cuisine. The long coastline and Puget Sound (the Salish Sea) are the sources of fresh seafood, a hallmark of this regions’ cuisine.
Elaborating on the concept of food tourism, agritourism is particularly widespread in the Pacific Northwest. The word agritourism means, “Travel to the things that feed us,” discover the “story” behind our food. It happens anywhere, near any city where farmers are growing real food. Being an agritourist takes you into another level of food tourism as you visit food producers, wineries, farms and farm stays.
This is the region where the artisanal food movement has really found its feet. Everything from coffee roasting to jam making to cheese production has an innovator. Undaunted by the scope or demand for a commodity, it’s here that artisans are taking back food production from the big multinationals.
Since the birth of Starbucks in Seattle in 1971, the Pacific Northwest has been known for its coffee. Don’t play safe, ask the locals, follow your nose and try the local roasterias that make a cappuccino like nectar of the gods. The big coffee chains, the mini-roasteries, the little cafes all thrive in a region addicted to its coffee.
Portland is not left out of this artisanal coffee culture. Stumptown Coffee Roasters is well known as well as many other micro-roasteries and cafes. As a visitor to Vancouver, the best coffee experience is to settle down with a piping hot cappuccino or latte at any of the city’s shops for some serious people-watching.
This region has amazing seafood year-round and it’s very much a part of the food culture. Salmon is deeply linked with the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest. Roasted on a cedar wood plank, smoked, or fresh, baked or sautéed, the most famous include the Copper River salmon or Sockeye salmon or Coho salmon, or any other local salmon. Other briny regional treats includes Dungeness crab, mussels, oysters, prawns, clams or any other form of Pacific Northwest seafood.
This is the land of plenty when it comes to berries. If you’re visiting in summer, make sure to try Rainier cherries. And while you’re at it, don’t forget the huckleberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, too.
Apples & Pears
With apples and pears available well into autumn, do yourself a favor and go apple-picking or buy some from a roadside stand. So different from the tired cold storage varieties usually available in the supermarkets. Apples are all over the Pacific Northwest along with juicy pears.
Pacific Northwest wines are not to be missed. The latitude combined with coastal breezes contributes to a climate that invites appreciation for the family-owned vineyards and wineries. This area is becoming a big noise in wine production, and a day spent exploring the regions’ wineries is really worthwhile. These locally-made and premium wines are popular with drinkers and diners alike at the local restaurants.
The region is a focal point for craft beer made by many microbreweries. Artisanal breweries are supported by the profusion of local ingredients, many varieties of hops, and plenty of clean pure water.
Microbreweries have cemented Portland’s reputation as a craft beer capital, the major microbrewery center in America. Perhaps the best known is Widmer Brothers Brewery.
Street Food is varied and delicious, covering a vast repertoire of cuisines to be enjoyed. Northwesterners love their street food and food carts are extremely popular. Portland, Seattle and Vancouver have the most robust street food scenes in North America. The best way to experience exciting world travels is to get to know the local culture and a great place to start is street food. In Vancouver, a New York-style hot-dog stand has taken a classic street food and made what is possibly the most radical fusion food ever! Try getting seaweed and okonomiyaki sauce on your hot dog anywhere else. These Japanese-style hot dogs illustrate the creativity at work in the region. Completely American and at the same time Asian inspired and totally delicious.
The flourishing Vietnamese communities in these West Coast cities means that some of the best Vietnamese Pho (tasty beef noodle soup) and Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwiches) are found in this region.
The cuisine is constantly evolving and changing with radically new inventions being created by the regions’ dedicated foodies.
For a taste of what you can expect, to try at home, here’s a recipe for one of the regional favorites adapted from a recipe on BBC Food.
2 salmon fillets
4-5 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 lime, zest and juice
1 small chilli
2 tbsp maple syrup (can substitute honey)
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
1 chunk of ginger, finely chopped
1 sheet of egg noodles (or egg noodles for 2)
bunch of coriander, chopped
1 tbsp sesame oil
extra lime juice
Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the ginger, garlic and chopped chilli.
Add the zest and juice of the lime and pour in the soy sauce. Add the maple syrup and cook for 1 minute or until reduced and sticky.
Meanwhile, pan-fry the two pieces of salmon for 2 minutes each side in a hot griddle pan.
When the sauce is reduced add the salmon to the teriyaki sauce frying pan.
Cook and drain the noodles, adding the sesame oil, seasoning and coriander and a squeeze of lime. Serve the salmon on a bed of noodles with more chopped coriander.
Served with rice and a simple salad. A chilled white wine is also good
This article was written in partnership with Cari Mostert a great trained writer and culinary expert. Check out her works at she writes about travel and Africa at Wildmoz.com & new beginnings at
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