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Keep Nelson weird

Nelson's {vurb} editor sees similarities to Nelson in the Pacific Northwest's weirdest city.
Taste of Nelson found in Portland's breweries like Hair of the Dog.

When you’re obsessed with food it’s hard not to let this fixation take over your daydreams and spare time.

It also has a way of highjacking travel plans.

Portland has long been my food mecca. When my love affair with food began in university I started looking at where chefs and foodies with similar interests called home.

While flipping through food magazines and reading food blogs I would always see Portland, Oregon as a destination for all things food and drink.

I would sit there with pen and paper in hand and scribble down places I had to visit - Voodoo Donut, food carts - and do around food if I were ever to find myself in mecca.

Earlier this month my boyfriend and I found ourselves travelling from Vancouver to Portland (with a three day stop in Seattle in between).

The primary goal of this trip was music. He was covering Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival in Seattle and MusicFest NW in Portland. While I was excited about the music, I was equally excited about all the eating and drinking ahead.

Our first food stop in Portland was a bit of a bust. We made the mistake of falling for the tourist trap logo on our free map, but things quickly improved.

The one thing they have in abundance in that city is locally brewed craft beer, and everywhere serves it.

It was rare to walk into a bar and read “Budweiser, MGD, Heineken and Pabst Blue Ribbon” as the only options. Craft beer was the focus and they wanted to promote what they were making in town.

On one of the days we were in Portland I had booked us a pedi cab brewery tour. Essentially we got picked up by our lovely tour-guide and chauffeur Madeleine and she peddled us around from brewery to brewery.

There is a brewery district in Downtown Portland but we opted for the East side tour, which is home to some of the oldest breweries in town.

We visited the Apex tap room, Hair of the Dog Brewery, Cascade Brewery, a botanical brewery, the Green Dragon Brewery and Burnside Brewery, and yes we could still walk afterwards.

What I love about Portland and cities like it – Nelson included – is there is a community of people with a focused passion.

Whether it be beer, doughnuts, cured meats, burgers, Thai food, gin, coffee and beyond, it seems as though there were business owners and foodies harnessing their love for whatever they were making and turning it into a career.

While waiting for a Dinosaur Jr. signing hosted by Red Bull, I met a Chad Draizin who owns an ice cream company called Fifty Licks Ice Cream.

Draizin was commissioned by the band to make an ice cream, and it had one main criteria, it had to be purple.

The first batch he made was raspberry, but it wasn’t purple enough, so what did Draizin do, he took a Peruvian purple yam and made ice cream.

I let my boyfriend wait in line to get his posters signed while I talked food with Draizin. I wanted to know how he thought of using yams, how he started his business and why ice cream.

By the time we left I had a list of restaurants to visit and some great ideas for future ice cream recipes.

In my time in Nelson I have seen a similar pattern. From Mike Kelly (master brewer at Nelson Brewing Company) to Jon Meyer (owner of Oso Negro) to Tobias Jenny (owner of Uphill Bakery,) there are so many examples of people taking what they love and creating a life around it, and we as a community have embraced this.

Portland has put itself on the map with its slogan “Keep Portland Weird” and the hit show Portlandia highlights some of the reasons it’s earned a reputation for being weird.

In some ways Nelson can be seen the same way, but there’s nothing wrong with being weird, it’s what makes us unique from Castlegar, Trail and other communities in the region.

Maybe one day we’ll put ourselves on the map as being a destination for foodies.

A girl can dream.