With no real vacation plans decided upon yet for the year, a stop-gap was in order. Truthfully, since I've been to Vancouver Island several times, I wasn't expecting a very exciting getaway, but we had lots to see and do over half a week. Perhaps Vancouver Island's slogan should "Better than you might think". The first stop was Cathedral Grove for a short woodsy walk, before continuing on to Courtenay.
This is Goose Spit Park, in adjacent Comox. Well worth checking out.
And just around the corner is the Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park. The grounds are open from dawn to dusk, so even though the house had closed for the day by the time we got there, we were able to stroll around and look at the various old-timey buildings, including this alleged root cellar. I could store a lot of potatoes in there.
Despite a rainy drive down to Victoria, a couple of stops were in order. This bold sheep was at the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, where we sampled cheese and bought a bottle of blueberry wine.
For some time, I've been curious about the Crow and Gate pub outside of Nanaimo. A deluxe ploughman's lunch awaited; it was a rare meal that defeated me as I couldn't quite manage to finish it all. Then, while driving through the small town of Duncan, we passed by a small, temporary midway. What better activity after eating a large meal that to go on the tilt-a-whirl? It's always been my favourite ride but I hadn't been on one in years; it still lives up to my memories. Whee! After eating too much and then spinning around and around, clearly it was time for a tasting at the Merridale Ciderworks. Oof...
In Victoria, we stayed down the street from Emily Carr House. A lot of eating ensued. There was dinner at Rebar, perogies at Hungry Rooster food truck, the best meal of the trip at Stage, pizza at Fol Epi, and doughnuts at Discovery Coffee.
Aside from eating, we also took in the sights of the Royal BC Museum, wandered the grounds of the Lieutenant Governor's house, and had a self-guided tour of BC Parliament Buildings (next time we'll check out the restaurant there too). On our last day we managed to also see baby goats at the petting zoo in Beacon Hill Park, and stop for a wine tasting at Church and State. More than a successful stop-gap, it was a real vacation after all.
2 dinners in a row, 2 make-again winners in a row. First there was an Ottolenghi pasta via Orangette. The ingredient list was a little odd (equal weights Greek yogurt and peas to dry pasta?) but I trusted the Ottolenghi/Orangette pedigree. And it was fantastic. I immediately began prosthelytizing to friends. Tonight's new recipe was one that I had overlooked from Smitten Kitchen's blog, and glanced at with little interest in her cookbook. Yet, as I had tomatoes in need of using up and there was next to no prep time involved, it seemed like a good one to throw together on a Monday night. It looked pleasantly rustic on the plate. I tried it and struggled between savouring it and devouring it. Divine.
Much like Gruner deserved two back-to-back dinners, this pizza was so good, we had it twice in a row. I declared that it might be the best home-made pizza yet. And it's straightforward to make:
1. Roll out your pizza dough.
2. Spread on home-made pesto. (Don't be afraid of the salt!)
3. Add grated mozzerella.
4. Top with roasted beets, asparagus, and blobs of chevre.
5. Bake. Season with extra salt, pepper, and maybe even a few red chile flakes. Pairs well with Friday nights. Enjoy!
Spending half a week in Portland was great, but it wasn't enough time. Portland and I have unfinished business.
Our doughnut business is finished (although I could easily go for another Blue Star classic buttermilk).
Hill walks are another story, though. Out of the 24 walks in this fantastic book, I did 4. They included fancy suburbs, woodsy trails, and an aerial tram. It was unfortunate to leave the other 20 undone, but I'd go back to Portland just to do more.
And to eat alpine cuisine. Dinner at Gruner was so amazing that we went back again the following evening and ordered pretty much the same meal. Not pictured are the crispy polenta-and-raclette balls. Or the homemade pretzel. (Note the pretzel croutons in the salad.)
Ruby Jewel Scoops! Unfortunately, we also missed getting pie at Random Order and sandwiches at Grand Central Bakery and pizza at Apizza Scholls. Next time we'll try for an entire week, and in addition to hitting more restaurants and hill walks, it would be great to also make it to Sauvie Island, the Willamette Valley, Mount Hood, Timberline Lodge, Crater Lake... Oregon and I. Unfinished business.
I like to collection information on destinations, be they food, travel or otherwise. This satisfies my need for making lists, for subsequently crossing things off of lists, and for knowing where to find "the good stuff". For instance, I have a folder of bookmarks dedicated to Seattle, and this past weekend provided the perfect opportunity to check some of them out, along with discovering other gems.
After dropping our things off at the Chambered Nautilus (a great b&b near the university), we headed straight to... the Chittenden Locks! Truth be told, the locks themselves were not all that exciting. No, the real excitement was in watching the action at the fish ladder (I am not joking). Dinner afterwards consisted of multiple tapas from Essex; the cauliflower toasts and rhubarb toasts were particular hits. The pictures above were taken the next day at the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which was one of the biggest highlights of the trip. The Boat Street Cafe provided lovely lunch fare (there was a cornmeal custard thing drenched in maple syrup that was pretty fabulous), and then it was off to Bainbridge Island where we enjoyed a driving tour of the island and wine and cheese tastings (keep it up, Eleven winery!). On our last day, we quickly ran through Pike Place Market (thankfully avoiding the gum wall) before taking the underground tour. The best meal of the trip might just have been sandwiches at the Grand Central Bakery and then we left Seattle and headed for Woodinville. We were not expecting Woodinville to be a wine tasting hub, but that is what we found. And finally, we hit Trader Joe's in Bellingham for the cheese arbitrage. Next up... Portland in July!
My ship came in last week, in the form of an inspiration pass. This is a fairly new program at the library where said pass grants you (as well as 1 additional adult and 4 children) free admission to most attractions in Vancouver. Of course, due to its popularity there is a lengthy wait to get one, but because of said popularity the program may be expanded and additional passes issued.
Stop # 1 out of 10 was the aquarium. The jellyfish have landed!
The cobblestones at Sun Yat-Sen Garden really caught my eye. Drinking tea, admiring the penjing, and noticing the many carefully-executed architectural details was a tranquil way to relax before heading to the the Vancouver Police Museum. There we learned about the Vancouver's early race riots, were chilled by details of various gruesome crimes from the city's sordid past, and saw a replica of a coroner's lab. Then at Science World I discovered that the modern beaver had an ancestor that was the size of a black bear. This fascinates me still.
Bloedel Conservatory was a good place to go to watch exotic birds preen themselves. Other highlights from the weekend included the Museum of Anthropology (including a worthwhile tour), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum (a real gem) and the Maritime Museum (I went in with no expectations, and was pleasantly surprised).
Fuel for all this inspiration included vegetarian poutine at Belle Potate, which ranked a solid 7 out of 10 on the poutine scale. The fries were excellent; the vegetarian gravy was... fine. This sort of lunch was balanced by a healthier dinner later on at Heirloom, which also served up a super tasty strawberry mojito - which will be super easy to make at home too!
Susannah's shop, The Curious Vitrine, is an "emporium of handmade art, curios & vintage collections". She's having a sale until June 9, so go check it out! As a fan of tone-on-tone, this cream crocheted cuff is my favourite item: it's "embellished with distressed vintage lace that has been hand-dyed with rosehip and hibiscus tea, and scattered with irridescent sequins". Charming!
I made a hat. It was actually finished some time ago, but I decided that it wasn't complete until I added gold sparkly bird pins. (Do they look like birds? I'm not so sure, but I do enjoy a pink/gold colour combination.) I shaped the "birds" out of modelling clay, used liberal amounts of awesome glitter from Paper-ya, and hot-glued pin backings on them. The stitch pattern is Little Birds, and the hat pattern is my own (it fits more like a beret than a toque, which may not be clear in this photo). I'm still working on my rose cardigan, but after seeing this incredibly cute hedgehog scarf, well... there's an incredibly cute hedgehog scarf in my future.
In food updates, high tea at Last Crumb was excellent; I'm also excited to find out that Butter has high tea too - this will be an expedition for May. I'm thinking of heading to Patisserie Lebeau for traditional Belgian waffles, and to Miura Waffle Milk Bar for a waffle sandwich (!). In the last while, I've had two excellent home-made breakfast items that are worth sharing: granola (the best I've made yet), and baked oatmeal (a nice change of pace from my regular go-to baked oatmeal with apples and raisins). Lastly, the April cookie of the month!
During a visit with my friend Sheena, many years ago, she whipped up this most delicious thing that she referred to as "spicy noodle sauce". I'm not sure where the recipe came from, but I made sure to get a copy of it. Then, for whatever reason, I only made it once or twice before it was inexplicably left to languish in my recipe binder. However, during a recent cupboard clean-out, I made the sauce again as part of a campaign to use up some aged rice noodles. I wondered if it would live up to my memory of it, if it would be as amazing now as I thought it was back then. And yes. It was. I had sauteed bok choy and tofu over noodles, but you could use this sauce as a dressing for a cold noodle salad, or maybe as a marinade. Try it and see - it's repertoire-worthy!
Spicy Noodle Sauce
Note: I've halved the quantities and tweaked the ingredients slightly.
Whisk together the following ingredients. The sauce should keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp chili sauce (I used sambal oelek)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2" chunk of ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp chili flakes
2 tbsp vegetable oil
In other food updates, The Last Crumb is a new-ish bakery on Main Street. After only two visits there, I'm prepared to say it may just be on par with Thierry (which is Vancouver's best bakery IMHO). It also turns out that The Last Crumb has afternoon tea on weekends; full report coming in April.
(By the way, this is a banana bread pudding with creme anglaise.)
And finally, the March cookie of the month. Solid!