Late Summer Fraser Valley Meanderings

photo: cheddar dill scones on offer at the Langley community farmer's market credit: Julie Pegg

Nothing settles my grumpy side more than a foodie toodle from Vancouver. If up and out early, I’ll fuel up on gas, eggs and toast at a truck stop. A mid-morning start, and I’ll nose out a bakery for a warm savoury scone or buttery tart to nosh on over a locally roasted java. Hopefully that same bakery will have a loaf or two of hefty wholegrain or rye to take home. Late summer meanderings tend to follow farm stands brimming with the season’s bounty, or a family-run dairy offering rich milk and butter from their own cows.

Most recently I headed for the Fraser Valley, thermos of coffee, a bottle of water and an audio book at my side to weather bumper-to-bumper delays. (Construction and detour is everywhere. I have come to loathe the colour orange.)

It’s a bit of a late start so hedging my traffic bets I opt for the 8th Avenue exit that lead so off Highway 99 just prior to the Peace Arch border crossing, rather than enduring eighteen wheelers and roadwork on the Trans Canada Highway.

The pretty drive passes Campbellville Regional Park, horse pastures and Vista D’Oro Farm whose farmgate shop and winery is open to the public Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays. Nearby Domaine Chaberton Winery houses the very good Bacchus Bistro. My target on this trip, however, is the The Bread Affair, whose dozen or so handcrafted organic breads include a beloved break-apart-with-your-hands “miche” and a solid rye (with walnuts). Master baker, Tanya Belanger, has fashioned a signature cranberry/semolina loaf—perfect for that leftover roast chicken in my fridge. The bakery also houses a café but I’ve already made plans for a late lunch.

A friend’s recommendation, a rumbling tummy–and a few qualms (the restaurant is tucked into an industrial complex off a busy thoroughfare) lure me to Seasonal 56 in Aldergrove. This hidden gem hums nicely along, mainly through word of mouth. Husband-and-wife team Adrian (he’s the chef) and Shannon Beaty (she’s front of house) partner with local producers for sourcing, cooking, serving and catering seasonal fare. My chicken sandwich (I guess I really do have a hankering), is thick slabs of curried house made fruit bread stuffed with roasted free-range chicken, almonds, raisins and curried mango chutney mayonnaise. Washing the whole thing down is a bottle of hoppy Dead Frog (no irony intended) beer, from the micro-brew around the corner. Adrian tells me he’s working on getting humanely raised veal and rabbit for his cool weather dishes. Currently, diners favour the poached Polderside duck egg atop a medley of sautéed wild mushrooms, and Gelderman Farms roast pork loin atop white bean, bacon and vegetable ragout. I’d like to try this place for dinner.

After lunch I retrace my route to Langley. The Wednesday community farmers market, located in Kwantlen College parking lot is a third year toddler. It’s a small, lively enterprise with produce from no fewer than a dozen friendly down-to-earth vendors including highly touted Glen Valley Organic Farm. For the protein hunter there’s hormone-free Gelderman Pork, grass-fed Empire beef, Farmhouse cheeses, and for the sweet tooth Ivy Oven’s rustic tarts and “irresistible” brownies and a lovely touch–fresh-pressed juice. The gently sweetened rhubarb goes down a treat in the late afternoon heat.

Happy with my haul, I head home, the Westfalia “fridge” packed with fresh picked peaches-and-cream corn, a braid of Russian garlic, tomatillos, beef burgers for the evening’s BBQ, and, of course, my cherished bread.

For a more formal guide to rural Langley and the Fraser Valley check out www.circlefarmtour.com

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