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Fork in the Road: Best of the best in 2021

Bits and bites of good things that will stand the test of time
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Glenda Bartosh highlights the best in food from the year that was, with an emphasis on health and sustainability.

Whoa! Another year has flown the coop!? Even with, or maybe because of these COVIDian-confined days, time seems more slippery, more precious, than ever, which brings me to my best food picks for 2021. 

At least some of them, for “The Best” of anything is itself a slippery slope—albeit one that’s a fun tradition at year-end. So take these tips for what they are: A bit of inspiration for eating and snacking over the holidays and into the new year with a minimum of time and bother and a maximum of good health and sustainability. 

That includes supporting very local, very Canadian businesses, for there’s no brighter way to start 2022 than with resolve to strengthen our communities, wherever we find ourselves. 

Happy New Year, and best of the season to you! 

Let's get crackin' with some snackin' 

There’s Green Moustache Organic Café (this year’s Best Healthy Eatery, now in North Van, Squamish and Whistler), maybe for some morning glory oatmeal or a Zappa smoothie. There’s Purebread Bakery (two locations in Whistler plus three in Vancouver) with cakes and goodies so amazing they topped Pique’s Best Desserts list again for 2021. (Personally, I’ll still take my Old Stumpie rye with jam anytime.) Then there’s Moguls Coffee House in the heart of the village, with its homemade muffins, great views and loyal support, along with Zog’s Dogs, for WAG, the local animal shelter—once again, this year's favourite non-profit and home to Whistler's favourite volunteer, Denise Wood.

No doubt, there’s a lot of great snackin’ for the askin’ around Whistler, but what’s up when you browse store shelves for a little something to take home? That’s when things often fall apart, or at least back onto old habits or stuff you learned as a kid. 

I don’t know about you, but snacks fuel lots of my day, especially when I’m working, writing. I remember one time when Paul Burrows walked into my office after he’d hired me as cub reporter at the Whistler Question in the early 1980s.

“Looks like a bloody snack bar,” he said, laughing at the half-empty bags of chips, crinkled chocolate bar wrappers—you name it—piled on my desk. Something about a fast metabolism.

It’s taken me a while, but since the pandemic has slowed us down and a trip to the grocery store is like the best entertainment ever, I’ve finally figured out some tasty, almost-good-for-you snacks, or at least ones that won’t send you into immediate cardiac arrest. 

The top contenders

Nothing But Cheese snacks: Now these I couldn’t have discovered back in the Question days because they were only launched this year. A product of Ivanhoe and Gay Lea Foods, a dairy cooperative started in Ontario in 1870 that supports 1,400-plus Canadian dairy families, these are about as bonafide a Canadian cheese snack as it gets. Something like Hawkins Cheezies, another Ontario “cheesy” favourite, but Nothing But is nothing but… cheese, Canadian cheese that’s been air-dried ‘til it’s puffy yet crunchy, with all the protein and calcium of the real deal. Hard to come up with a better snack for the Sea to Sky—it’s so targeting the healthy, lightweight, snacking that outdoorsy types favour, the bright packaging variously boasts a mountain biker, a canoeist, and a jogger. 

Hippie Snacks: Made in Burnaby, Hippie Snacks make you smile just seeing the name. If you haven’t discovered them, rest assured they’re perfect for original hippies (put up your wrinkled hand!), neo-hippies and Whistler’s perennial hippie jocks, a term I first learned from the inimitable Charlie Doyle of Whistler Answer fame (or is that infamy?). Hippie Snacks are a local fave with good reason—the ingredient list is a dream. Avocado, not filler or flour, is the first ingredient in my favourite, the avocado crisps, and the lime juice and cayenne give them a nice zip. Twelve crisps deliver five grams of protein and 10 per cent of your daily iron. Plus, the company is one of Canada’s first certified B Corporations, which is all about sustainability. Available at just about every grocery store in Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton. How can you lose? 

Three Farmers Roasted Lentils and more: Offering clean, plant-based snacks out of Saskatoon, Sask., Three Farmers (and two sisters, actually) are all about roasting, not frying, pulses like lentils and chickpeas. They’re careful to use high oleic sunflower oil, and seasoning can be as simple as sea salt. (They offer several different flavours, but the simple ones are my faves). Bonus: the supply chain is totally traceable, so you know where your snacks have been. 

Gone Crackers: These Vancouver-made crackers were a hit when West Coasters first discovered them 20 years ago. Available at Nester’s Market, Whole Foods and more, the delicious, well-crafted Gone Crackers are made with no sugars, no yeast and no trans fats from ingredients found in a good pantry. They’re almost a meal unto themselves, like something from Gone Eatery in Whistler Village, this year’s winner of Pique’s Best Lunch category. 

If you need more good, easy-peasy food picks, think delivery. Luckily, you don’t have to let go of “sustainable.” Livlite delivers quality groceries and gifts with roots in the Sea to Sky, like Pemberton’s Two Rivers meat and North Arm Farm produce, and Whistler Chocolate’s organic bars. Plus it’s virtually zero-waste. As well, Whistler Cooks will cater, but via Fridge Full they can also deliver to your door everything from groceries to delicious, wholesome meals in eco packaging. 

Finally, one last “Best of Whistler” worth noting, and not only for 2021. You’ll read elsewhere in Pique about the departure of our trusty and trusted editor, Clare Ogilvie, who’s certainly been the best, most thoughtful person possible to have occupied that demanding chair since co-founder Bob Barnett’s departure. Gone from Pique, but not from Whistler, she’ll continue to be one of the best things about the community for years to come. 

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who’s going to really miss working with Clare, Keeper of the Crown Jewels.