On my recent road-trip around the Vancouver/Victoria/Seattle-ish area, I ate out a yet-to-be-disclosed number of times. Here are my favourites from the trip, each made that much better because I was taken by de-light-ful friends.
This teeny-tiny gem is a quick walk from the water and frequented by a young, happy crowd. Although known for their late night dinners and drinks, they also do a mean brunch which we indulged in on a lazy Sunday morning. The service was incredibly friendly, it of course helping that my dining companions were greeted upon entry with a riotous “heeeeeeyoooooo!” by both kitchen and serving staff……clear regulars. I got the impression, however, that everyone is welcomed graciously to the Party, so fear not if you’re new to the neighbourhood. Food-wise, the menu offered a lot; we shared some cinnamon bun French toast, my huevos rancheros were stacked high and delicious, and the addition of a shot of Baileys to one’s coffee is a highly encouraged practise. In fact, more than one round of shots were ordered during the meal so take your friends, not your Grandmother, to this joint.
Finch’s Tea and Coffee House
My friend Jillian, a former employee of Finch’s, treated me to lunch here because she thought I would enjoy it. And did I ever. This lunch spot is known for its beautifully-crafted baguettes, each wrapped up with brown paper and string to go as perfect little packages. Jillian recommended “the” sandwich to me: paper-thin prosciutto, ripe sliced pear, generous wedges of bleu brie and toasted walnuts, all artistically arranged within an oil and vinegar-drizzled French baguette. The ingredients were quality and the presentation impeccable. Apparently some people take issue with the fact that these sandwiches take a few minutes to construct, but for those willing to hang out a few extra minutes in the tastefully vintage sunlit shop, the wait is both pleasant and entirely worth it. I could have a Finch’s baguette for lunch every day.
Now Over to the
Head 40 minutes up-island from Victoria and you’ll find
Hilary’s Cheese Shop
This little shop imports a number of European cheeses but features their own, locally made cheese produced at their nearby farm. We bought some fresh chèvre, a mild blue called “Sacre Bleu!” and a washed rind with a layer of vegetal ash at its centre, similar to Morbier but made distinct by a finish of cocoa powder on its rind.
After buying our cheese we headed next door to the village’s artisanal bread bakery, True Grain, which uses house-milled, locally grown grains in many of their signature organic loaves. These include heritage varieties of wheat such as Red Fife, as well as other, wheat-free alternative grains. Haley (my Cowichan-adventuring partner) and I stocked up on a few different cookies, sweet buns, a multigrain loaf, and an organic sourdough baguette (to go with the cheese, of course).
The Udder Guys Ice Cream Co.
After the bakery came dessert (number two, I suppose, after the cookies), provided by yet another local island venture – ice cream from The Udder Guys, based out of Duncan. It’s made from scratch and damn good. I had pistachio, Haley had chocolate, and we dangled our feet off the dock and ate them in the sun.
After our village shopping spree we left the harbour area and drove to this nearby farm, which houses an honour-system shop set at the far end of their winding driveway. The drive gives visitors a chance to admire their picturesque farm, complete with restored vintage trucks, hammocks hung below cherry blossoms, and horses seeking shade in the old grey barn (I assure this place was actually as pastoral as I’m making it out to be). We bought some house-made free-range chicken sausages, fed the horse, petted the cat, talked to the ewes, and were on our way.
This farm-find was the result of our next-on-the-local-grocery-list-pursuit: eggs. We followed some “BC Grown” signs to discover an incredibly diverse little farm that sold all sorts of things we weren’t expecting to find. Like chocolate! OrganicFair imports fair-trade cacao beans and make their own dark chocolate bars, adding home-grown flavours such as lavender, hazelnuts, chipotle chilis, rose essence, and dried blueberries and apples, among many others. They also sell homemade loose tea, herbs, aromatherapy oils, colourful eggs from free-range chickens of heirloom breeds (literally colourful – our box of six were pale green, blue, pink, and grey!), and fresh baking and produce in the summer. A must-visit!
This latest lower-mainland trip of mine included a 3-day jaunt to
La Carta de Oaxaca
Next on the
Recently featured on the Food Network, this laid-back kitchen dishes up the food of
Last but not least, I need to give a shout-out to the inviting Ballard coffee shop, Caffé Fiore, because they made me the best chai I have ever had. Very spicy, not sweet, served up by “the nicest baristas in the city,” according to Jen, and made all the better because they are located in an old brick building.