Farm to fork is all the rage these days, however, few restaurateurs fully walk their talk. At first glance, eating seasonally may seem simple—you eat foods that are “in season”, or being grown and harvested at the time of year when you buy and cook them. But there’s much more to it than being just a trendy food movement, there are real benefits to eating foods that are available at their peak right now.
Pie Shoppe owners and sisters Stephanie and Andrea French caught on to the farm to fork concept early on when they first set out to fill a hole in Vancouver’s culinary landscape. Their mission is to hand craft exceptional pie with the best possible ingredients they can forage, barter, and buy! For the French sisters buying local, and in-season, means buying fruit and other ingredients at the peak of their supply. It also means buying fruit that costs less to local farmers and distribution companies to harvest and transport to grocery stores. The same reasons that keep the cost of seasonal food down also drive its quality up. The food is grown closer to you so it doesn’t spoil on its trip, its harvested at the peak of its season, and sold before it spoils. Ideally, this means getting fruits that haven’t had time to lose their flavor or their health benefits by sitting in a shipping container.
Pie-making for the French sisters is a simple task. In the summer they drive to the Okanagan and fill up their truck with picked-ripe organic fruit; in the winter they roast pumpkins. They use unbleached flour, local butter, and free-range eggs. They use fully biodegradable packaging and the shop proudly operates with a “zero” waste system. They are a small, independent operation focusing on one thing—and they do it well.
Given the sisters’ talent and commitment to succeed in a relatively short period of time, it’s not surprising then that they have created an impressive entrepreneurial niche in a city ranked near the top of the list of the world’s best food cities. Their knowledge and drive has forged synergistic relationships with suppliers giving a whole new meaning to the terms “organic” and “green”. Take, for example, the French sisters’ apricot almond streusel pie with Amaretto; the Amaretto liqueur is sourced from a local distiller, a tiny operation that produces its own bitter extract from the stones of apricots grown in the Okanagan. Under normal circumstances, securing enough apricot kernels to make a quality extract would be a lofty proposition. But with the provision of the French sisters’ leftover apricot kernels it becomes a different proposition altogether. The French sisters bake apricot pies, the leftover kernels go to the tiny distiller, the distiller makes outstanding Amaretto in small batches and repays the sisters with a cask of Amaretto liqueur to bake in their pie. It’s a throwback to an age-old method of exchange known as the barter system—and it works well.
The French sisters have come a long way since the inception of their cubbyhole operation in Vancouver’s Chinatown on a six thousand dollar budget. The Gore street location took just 9 days to design, build, and open with the help of friends and family. Everything in their shop including the ceramic cone coffee makers, wooden details, artwork, and of course the pie, was made from scratch by themselves or their community. Four years on and the operation has grown enough to move to a commercial space with a little more elbow and leg room, however the underlying principles of the business remain the same: love and care is put into every aspect; each ingredient is treated with respect.
Continuing in the micro entrepreneur spirit, the new Powell street location is still a small, well-thought-out operation offering a niche selection of seasonal pies, small-batch ice cream, coffee—their own small-batch single origin Panoramic Coffee—and unique workshops. There is no set menu, pie flavours alternate and change with the seasons. Flaky-crusted and sprinkled with sugar, the fresh pies (sold whole or by the slice) are baked fresh daily and the shop closes when the pies run out, which happens every single day! This just goes to prove what we’ve known all along—there’s no such thing as too much pie!
For much of our summer, we focus on buying local fruit and ingredients from British Columbia, specifically the Fraser Valley, Okanagan and the local Islands. Gathering from neighbourhood shops, green grocers, and Vancouver Farmer's Markets. We pit, chop, slice and core all our fruit-seriously. Sometime we are found employing our dear friends with beer to help us pit pounds of fresh fruit. With a strong emphasis on organic fruit, free ranges eggs, local dairy, Anita's Organic Flour, and fully biodegradable packaging. The shop proudly operates with a 'zero' waste system.
A Few Folks we Work With
STEAM TEA SHOP, Vancouver
ANITA’S ORGANIC FLOUR MILL, Abbotsford
VANCOUVER FARMERS MARKETS
MOONBREW Tonic Co. Strathcona
THE SOAP DISPENSARY, Vancouver
SIMILKAMEEN APIARIES, Cawston
SONS OF VANCOUVER DISTILLERY, North Van
ODD Society Distillery- East Van
PARSONS FARM, Kerameos
BISSETTE FARM, Westham Island
THE JUICERY, North Van
CHERRY LANE FARMS, Richmond
FORREST Farms, Salmo
NEUZ MYLK, Vancouver
TWO RIVERS, North Vancouver
PETE'S MEAT, Vancouver
BIODEGRADABLE SOLUTIONS, Vancouver
YUMMY YARDS FARM, Vancouver/ Richmond
DICKIE's Ginger Beer- Strathcona
WOODS Spirit Co., North Vancouver
MATSQUI Blue Farms
FULL BLOOM Flowers, The Drive
HOP COMPOST, VAN / CALGARY