By Paige Donner
A stay in Comox Valley, Vancouver Island would feel black and white, gray even, without dining out at least one meal – if not daily – at Locals Restaurant in Courtenay. Where the colors of nature greet you at every turn, this is a Valley bursting with vibrancy. If there’s one thing nature loves, it’s color: The eye-popping yellows and purples of Spring flowers, the deep greens of leafy vegetables, the dark reds of vine-ripened tomatoes, even the fleshy pinks of fresh salmon.
Comox Valley’s Pride And Joy
“Locals – Food From The Heart of the Island” is the pride and joy of Chef Ronald St. Pierre who, with his wife, have created a dining experience that represents the culinary best of Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley. To walk through Locals’ doors is like walking into an Island Chefs Collaborative Farmers Market turned restaurant.
The exterior is humble enough. In fact, the praises that were sung about the restaurant and Chef St. Pierre, his philosophy and his passion for fresh, local ingredients did not prepare me for finding the restaurant to be the cornerstone in a Courtenay strip mall. As a first-time visitor to the Island, at every turn I was struck by the quaintness and charm of old farms, wooden buildings, even Courtenay itself is a picturesque little town entirely walkable with cheerful cafes and shops that line 5th Street, its downtown core and the center of Comox Valley. But now I know why people had failed to mention the restaurant’s exterior – once you’ve eaten there, what’s outside doesn’t matter. The restaurant’s interior is tastefully appointed, with a second room that has large booths for a private dining experience. But truly, the only thing you remember is how good the food is!
Chef Roland St. Pierre is a pioneer in translating “locavorism” into the driving philosophy behind a successful restaurant. Mind you, on Vancouver Island, locavorism is the common mind-set and to do otherwise is, well, frankly absurd. The Comox Valley especially is an abundant bread, fruit, cheese, meat and seafood basket. It could easily be named “Valley of Plenty” so abundant is all the fresh quality fare within arm’s reach. The Locals’ website explains their philosophy and reasoning, such as, “Buying habits are shifting with ‘food currently tied with health as our 4th top spending priority.’” It’s definitely worth reading if you at all consider yourself a foodie. Or a greenie.
So Chef Roland and his wife got to talking with local farmers and growers and saw what could be directly sourced for their table. They create their seasonal menus around the ingredients available. Pattison Farms, for example, supplies their fresh greens such as baby spinach, heirloom tomatoes and spicy mustard greens. Beaufort Vineyards supplies them with wine, as do other local vineyards like Chase & Warren Estate Winery and Cabrea Vineyard & Winery as well as the many vineyards just a bit south in the Cowichan Valley.
As part decoration and as part tribute, Chef St. Pierre hangs his walls with portraits of the farm-to-table suppliers he sources his fresh, local ingredients from. If you are keen to do a tour of the Valley’s prime growers for ingredients ranging from pork to duck, tomatoes to broccoli florets, goat cheese to mussels to ancient method balsamic vinegars, take a look at Locals’ walls, jot down the names and then work your way down the “wall.” With this itinerary, curated by Locals’ Restaurateurs Chef and Mrs. St. Pierre, you are guaranteed to enjoy a thoroughly fresh and authentic introduction to some of the Island’s star growers and local farmers.
Local’s Market Sheet Menu
The price points are also exceedingly reasonable. More often than not Locals’ has a Prix-Fixe or Market Sheet menu to order from. Depending on the season, for $35 you can have a seared duck “prosciutto” appetizer, a main-course of Bison (or fresh caught salmon) and a medley of desserts including fresh off-the-farm raspberry mousse. Or you can order a’ la carte from the menu. Either way, you’ll leave exceedingly, freshly satisfied.
Reservations suggested. 384 8th Street Courtenay, BC Canada Reservations 250-338-6493