B.C. Shellfish Festival

B.C. Shellfish Festival

Posted by Mathew Wright

Comox, BC – Shellfish lovers have the chance at winning one of two getaway contests to the BC Shellfish Festival this June in the seaside town of Comox to enjoy all the sights, sounds andflavours at the largest shellfish festival on the West Coast.

Contest#1 – Not open to residents of Vancouver IslandTwo return tickets on Harbour Air from downtown Vancouver direct to Comox on June17, 2011, returning June 19, 2011 (45 min flight)Two night’s accommodation in a one-bedroom suite with jacuzzi at the Crown Isle Golf& Resort Community, June 17-18, 2011 Two tickets to the Chefs’ Dinner on June 17, 2011 featuring chefs Robert Clark of CRestaurant in Vancouver; Andrew Springett of Black Rock Oceanside Resort in Ucluelet; Andrew Stigant of Crown Isle Golf & Resort Community; Garrett Schack of Vista 18 in Victoria; Richard Verhagen of Market Street Grill on Salt Spring Island and Belinda Jonesof Gatehouse Bistro in Cumberland Two tickets to the BCSF Festival Day event at Comox Marina Park, Saturday, June 18,2011 featuring cooking demos, live bands, the BC Oyster Shucking Championship, localfood and more

Deadline to enter is May 1, 2011 Entry details at:


– Open to allTwo night’s accommodation at the Crown Isle Golf & Resort Community, June 17-18,2011Two tickets to the Chefs’ Dinner on June 17, 2011Two tickets to the BCSF Festival Day event at Comox Marina Park, Saturday, June 18,2011 featuring cooking demos, live bands, the BC Oyster Shucking Championship, localfood and more

Deadline to enter is May 16, 2011Entry details at: http://www.discovercomoxvalley.com/promotions/contests.htmMore information about the festival and all the events taking place can be found on ourwebsite at www.bcshellfishfestival.ca and our FB Page at <a href=”http://www.facebook.com/BCShellfishFestival.









Courtenay’s Heart And Local Soul

By Paige Donner

Chef Roland St. Pierre, Comox Valley

Chef Ronald St. Pierre, Locals’ “Pride and Joy”

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

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Hazelwood Herb Farm

When you find yourself in short supply of ginger jelly, cowslip, calendula anti-aging cream, and fresh sprigs of chocolate mint…not to mention Fairy Meadow Tea, make your way to Hazelwood Herb Farm just outside of Ladysmith on Vancouver Island.

Hazelwood Herb Farm, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island

Recently purchased in February of this year by Barbara Stevens and her husband, Hazelwood Herb Farm is a swath of acreage that former proprietor of 23 years, Jacynthe Dugas and her husband, Richard White, cultivated into a thriving business of fresh herbs.

Hazelwood Herb Farms Nursery - A Living Encyclopedia

When you walk the carefully cultivated and manicured grounds, through the outdoor nurseries, and into the nascent/ sprouting nurseries, it is startling to remind yourself that the whole business is based on the cultivation of seeds. Each year, each season, seeds are planted, nurtured, sown, and with these raw stuffs the business owners furnish themselves with the necessary raw materials to produce their other products, the jams, the jellies and chutneys, the face creams, arthritis salves, body balms, teas and tinctures sold in the compact and packed-full Herbal Heaven Gift Shop located on the premises.

Fresh  Herbal Gifts

Hazelwood Herbal Heaven Gift Shop - Only The Freshest Ingredients

“Come Christmas time we are always very busy,” admits Jacynthe, present one afternoon during a tour of the grounds by new owner Barbara and her enthusiastic remedy devotee and herbal novice niece, Sandra.

An uninitiated glance around the gardens as you enter and the grounds appear to be beautifully tidy and trim with planted areas of distinctively varied plants. A more careful and focused gaze and one quickly realizes that what you are seeing is a living encyclopedia of rare, and everyday, herbs, plants and latent remedies.

“What you see here is the best kind of functional beauty there is,” says Sandra, who, according to Barbara, helped talk her and her husband into purchasing the property and business. Barbara admits that she has been preserving her own food and cultivating her own herbal garden at home all her life but had “never thought of it as a business.” She, with the support of her husband, son and extended family acknowledge that it’s a demonstration of faith and courage to step out of their “bureaucratic jobs” and “city lives” and into the shoes that Jacynthe and Richard have fashioned out of soil and seeds for over two decades on this little patch of farmland just south of Nanaimo.

Hazelwood Herb Farm Vinegars

Hazelwood Herb Farm Oils


“There are 400-500 varieties of herbs here on Hazelwood Farm,” Jacynthe proudly tells you, “20-30% are culinary. The rest have medicinal or other properties.” Originally from Quebec, Jacynthe now does a variety of things, including teaching soap making to local students who come to the property from Vancouver Island University to learn the art of making soap using the plants picked from the garden.

“I like playing,” says Jacynthe, glancing around her on-site test kitchen as she pours a cup of Fairy Meadow tea, one of her proprietary blends she makes from Hazelwood plants, and pushes a plate of chocolate and mint scones towards you that is made from a mix sold in the Herbal Heaven gift shop in the room next door. She certainly has occupied her time productively “playing,” – the shop is filled to the brim with unique items that range from delicious ingredients for the gourmand, to sweet-smelling and purely natural body balms and body care products to remedies that have medicinal properties that keep people coming back…and ordering online from the farthest reaches of the globe.

In 2006 Hazelwood was nominated for a national business award, the Laureat de la Moyenne Entreprise. Jacynthe herself is all about the notion of “economuseum,” the phrase for learning artisanal ways of doing things, especially when traveling through a distinct region. Her husband, Richard, even shot a 13-part TV series, “At Home With Herbs,” some years ago.

Hopefully all of this inspires you to grow and make your own. As you walk the 5-acre property, Barbara joyfully tells you what every living thing is in her gardens: Greek Oregano (good for nerves or depression), St. John’s Wort (flowers are used for anti-inflammatory property), arnica (for bruising, popular with hockey moms), peppermint, English mint, orange mint and chocolate mint; four types of lavendar in the lavendar gardens including “twickle purple lavendar,” sea-holly everlasting, echinacea, Lily of the Valley, yarrow root (the original “band-aid”), Alpine ladies mantle (very rare)…and that’s just scratching the surface.

Hazelwood Herbs For Teas, Salad Seasonings, Meat Seasonings, Remedies, Tinctures, Balms and More...

In the outdoor nurseries, each plant is carefully labeled by name and most also have their Latin name tagged as well, especially for the traditional medicinal varietals. Hazelwood is a popular shopping spot for naturopaths, many who come over to the Island just to stock up at Hazelwood on their living raw materials. The little plants are sold for a few dollars each. Even the final products sold at Herbal Heaven are extremely reasonable, with few products topping $10 CDN. Hazelwood soaps make especially good gifts and the packaging is so sweetly simple, just a piece of dyed paper, tied with a cord, accented with a dried flower, that you feel like you’ve tucked something even finer and rarer than the finest French-milled soap from Provence, into your own personal “gift and souvenir bag for friends and family” as you linger before leaving Hazelwood Herb Farm.

Plant availability changes with the season. Open year-round but double check during the months of January and February. Www.hazelwoodherbfarm.com 13576 Adshead Road, Ladysmith, B.C.

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Cooking Local

Here’s all that a day of gathering cooking ingredients, locating a place in which to cook, and finding some regional cooking “advisors,” can be when you’re on The Island:

Book yourself into a farmstead that doubles as a B&B. We found Smith Lake Farms in the Comox Valley to be an ideal setting, especially if we had brought the children with us. Upon check-in we were handed two fresh eggs just gathered from the coop for our breakfast the next day.

Pattison's Organic - the stuff of legends!

Pattison Farms of Black Creek in Comox Valley, run by Gerry and Dagmar Pattison, is the stuff of legends. The certified organic farm keeps two gigantic greenhouses under year-round cultivation and grows three kinds of cauliflower, “but none of them are white,” Gerry will tell you. White cauliflower is too mundane for Pattison Farms purposes where Gerry has firmly established himself a niche of growing the absolute best varietals of spinach, tomatoes, heritage apple trees, blackberries and loads more for renowned B.C. Chefs such as Ronald St. Pierre of Locals and John Bishop of Bishop’s.  St. Pierre even features a picture of Pattison on the wall of his Courtenay flagship Locals Restaurant.

John Bishop's Cook Bible Book

Out on that quaint country road in Comox Valley it’s not surprising to hear Gerry talk about the farm stand he keeps open for most of the year right at the gate of his property that operates on the honor system. “The most we’ve ever had go missing is two heads of purple cabbage,” he says, clearly communicating that he doesn’t sweat the small stuff. What is surprising to hear is that this unassuming organic gourmand ingredient farmer hosted racks of news crews and a sit-down lunch on the patio and in his backyard/ farm fields when John Bishop launched his cookbook several years back. What you’ll find over and again in the Comox community is that people who know, know; and your best bet is to make friends with those people who are in the know.

Beaufort Estate Winemakers, Comox Valley

Some of those people you’d be lucky to know are the ones who run Beaufort Vineyards. They are an Island culinary destination and have focused their 27 plus years of wine making toward crafting vineyard and winery practices that are people, animal and environment-friendly.

Just a hop skip down the road and you’ll find yourself in Courtenay, the jewel of the Valley. Grab yourself a cup of coffee at Mudshark’s and be sure to pop in next door to Bramble’s Market. Opened last summer by husband and wife Angeline and James Street (www.bramblesmarket.ca) it is B.C.’s only grocery store stocked with 100% local food and products, promoting a “50 km diet” of eat local, something that is actually quite possible to do when you live in the Comox Valley.

The Comox Valley's 50-km Diet Can Be Achieved at Brambles Market In Courtenay

The notion of eat local is a popular one throughout the Island. However, as James and Angeline, hard working new business owners, will confide, “The people you would expect to come in and buy from us regularly…don’t. Our regulars are people who drive up in old beater cars but who really love good food. They’ll come for the meats, the cheeses, the breads and the other quality fresh ingredients we keep stocked because they just really love good food… and they know they can count on what they buy from us to taste great.” We stock up for our cooking class that we’ve scheduled for later, with informational assistance from Tourism Vancouver Island.

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks

On our drive South, we pass Wal-Mart, Thrifty Foods, which is locally owned and does stock some local foods, and Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, an artisanal cheesemaker who specializes in “squeaky cheese,” which is really a form of curds and which Canadians love to liberally sprinkle on hot french fries, slather in gravy and call “Poutine,” a veritable national dish. Little Qualicum Cheeseworks also makes a goat cheese that Tigh-Na-Mara’s chef is using for his April “Earth Month”-inspired 100-mile diet menu in the Cedar Room.

We pull up to the Painted Turtle Guesthouse just a block up from the harbor walk in Nanaimo with our appetites barely in check. We’ve heard about the Mon Petit Choux bakery that supposedly does croissants better than anyone this side of Paris. Lucky for us, it’s just adjacent to the Painted Turtle so we tuck into it for a quick pick-me-up and indulge in not just the coffee (fantastico!) and a butter croissant, but also a Brioche that’s filled with pastry crème and fresh blueberries. The organic bread, and in fact all the baked goods, are made using only local ingredients and the roomy interior invites you to hang your hat for awhile. Owner Linda Allen is a throughbred of the Island Foodie Tribe and her other venue, the Wesley Street Cafe’, was rated a top-five Vancouver Island restaurant by Vancouver Magazine.

Karen and Carrie, Local Food For Nanaimo's Heart & Soul

A sip, a chomp and we’re off. On the second floor of the Painted Turtle there is a spacious communal kitchen that is clean and bright and inviting. There is a comfortable sitting room adjacent to the open walled kitchen that looks out over the boutique-laden Bastion Street from airy corner windows that span from wall to wall.

Cooking Class Kitchen At The Painted Turtle, Nanaimo

Carrie and Karen, our cooking “advisors,” are a.k.a. Local Food For Nanaimo and are the resident Local Food Champions and experts. After just a few minutes of talking with them, it seems there’s nothing they don’t know about the local food scene on the Island, in particular in Nanaimo.

Here are some of the facts they readily shared and more can be found on: http://localfoodfornanaimo.blogspot.com

  • Nanaimo has 10% of the farmland within the Vancouver Island Health Authority
  • The majority of Nanaimo cropland is for grains and 72% of that grain goes to livestock feed.
  • The most commonly produced vegetables are sweet corn, pumpkins, broccoli, squash/zucchini, green beans and beets.
  • Most commonly produced fruits are grapes, apples, raspberries and blueberries.
  • In 2006 there were 41 hectares of fruit farms, 25 hectares of vegetable farms compared to 2,120 hectares of grain farms.
  • More Info: http://www.nanaimofoodshare.ca

They boast a wealth of knowledge about local food in the region which is a little surprising given that both young women are trained Marine Biologists and have undertaken extensive research assignments at prestigious facilities such as Rutgers University in the U.S.

But food is their passion and it’s never more apparent as when Karen’s face lights up as she describes to you the last poultry swap she went to which takes place every 1st Sunday of the month. Carrie is just as quick to jump in and tell you about Seedy Sundays where 300-400 people show up to swap seeds and talk to seed experts.

They’ll tell you all this, mind you, as they teach you how to prepare fresh Gnocchi flavored with “Nesto,” the Island Pesto made from Stinging Nettles. Both women regale you with the fun they’ve had teaching kids this recipe, as the youngsters especially enjoy rolling out the dough and splaying the little nubs with a fork. It’s a disarmingly simple recipe and is mostly potatoes, flour and an egg.

Karen and her beau have recently taken to farm living so she’ll tell you all about the over-abundance of potatoes they planted – and are still harvesting – this year and how they’ve learned more than they need to know about “headlamp farming,” (note: headlamp farming refers to farmers who hold down full time jobs and work a farm as a hobby. Meaning, after “work,” you put in your hours in the field. There have been times, she says, when she’s looked up and realized it has gotten pitch dark out somehow….). The Gnocchi is delicious, the Nesto a mild and sweet flavor, the Qualicum cheese salad with tender baby kale greens a fresh delight. The Painted Turtle Kitchen and “Great Room,” a perfect place in which to enjoy it all.

Nanaimo-style Dessert

Nanaimo-tini at Nanaimo's Modern Cafe

Unbelievably, we still have room for a bit more. So, since we’re in Nanaimo, we head out in search of a Nanaimo Bar. This is a chocolatey, creamy, coconutty bar that you see at nearly every coffee shop in Canada. No one really knows its origins for certain, but everyone knows and has eaten at some point, a Nanaimo Bar. We don’t have to wander far before we find ourselves in what feels like a Vancouver hipster joint, with exposed brick walls and trendy, large pieces of art hanging on the wall. We are in the Modern Cafe’ in downtown Nanaimo. We glance through the menu at the bar noting that the place is packed for an early dinner seating. And then, we spot it, the perfect top-off to our perfect Comox Valley/ Local Food Nanaimo Day: the Nanaimo-tini. And right at that moment, that’s perfectly local enough for us!

Www.tourismnanaimo.com * www.investcomoxvalley.com * www.bcculinarytourism.com

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Cow Bay

For a day of delight, make your way to Cow Bay. This little seaside village boasts some of Vancouver Island’s star culinary attractions. They are: Hilary’s Artisan Cheese, True Grain Bread, and newly refurbished Cowichan Bay Seafood.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District is also home to Fairburn Farm, the decade-long Slow Food and Water Buffalo mozzarella cheese farm championed by Mara Jernigan and the Fairburn Farm family.  Just a meandering island country road down from there is Blue Grouse Vineyards and Winery, one of the founding estate wineries of Vancouver Island. There’s also the Cowichan Valley Meat Market [and Quist Family Farm processing], an important component in ranking as a Slow Food Community, as Vanessa, on Cowichan Bay’s Slow Food Board, is quick to point out, “Everyone can grow their own vegetables and keep their own chickens, but what about the protein source?” she rhetorically asks, during a discussion about Vancouver Island’s unique on-island meat processing facilities.

Cowichan Bay is a small unincorporated area, more a village than a town, that is tucked inbetween Victoria to the South and Comox Valley to the north. Salt Spring Island is just a stone’s throw away across from the neighboring Genoa and Maple Bays.

Cow Bay Float Homes, Photo Courtesy Deddeda Stemler

If you’re into “Slow” then you probably already know that Cowichan Bay is the first North American community to be awarded the Citta Slow designation; a designation they won only just last August and due to the focused efforts of Mara from Fairburn, Hilary Abbott of the fore-mentioned cheese, Bruce of famed True Grain and Vanessa Elton of Affinity Guesthouse. Full membership of Cittaslow is only open to towns with a population under 50,000. To qualify as eligible, a town must score at least 50 percent in a 52-point Citta inspection – Cow Bay scored 93 percent, one of the highest scores in the entire International Network. This little village scored particularly high for their environmental policies and also, since Vanessa and her husband Dwight who run Affinity Guesthouse had something to do with it, friendliness as well.

Dwight And Vanessa, Cowichan Bay Slow Foodists and Canoe Paddling Instructors

An afternoon is barely enough time to take in Cow Bay, we recommend a weekend, and here’s some of the must-sees:

Check in to your B&B as only the view from a private residence will afford you the real glimpse of the Bay’s pastoral setting. The views from the two rooms at Affinity Guesthouse look out onto a river, a green and lush backyard that opens up onto the Bay and trees that appear to have popped out from the pages of a picture book. Likely Dwight will be jumping off of his tractor to greet you as you pull up. Don’t be swayed by the neighboring homes as you find your way to their off-the-beaten path Guest House, the destination at the end is well-worth driving through the few brambles.

Hilary's Artisan Cheese, Photo Courtesy Deddeda Stemler

True Grain Bread & Hilary’s Artisan Cheese

Next stop is True Grain Bread and Hilary’s Artisan Cheese, conveniently located side-by-side in Cowichan Village. Locals will tell you that on any given Saturday morning, there are lines outside the bakery for the fresh loaves and they’re often sold out by noon. Yes, they are opening a second location on April 15th in Mill Bay. What makes Bruce’s bread so different? They use no pre-made mixes or dough and bake only with organic grains. “We favor Red Fife Heritage wheat and ancient varieties such as Kamut, Emmer and Spelt that are pure varieties,” says Bruce, who, with his wife Leslie bought the business in 2008 and moved to the Island from Calgary. They bake all their loaves fresh that day or they give them away to the community. They use no preservatives, sugar, dairy, coloring, TransFat, GMO’s and so forth. Some loaves you will find: Hazelnut, Apple Cranberry, Bay Wheat, Kamut Pumpkin Seed, Whole Spelt…

True Grain Bakery, Cowichan Bay, Photo Courtesy Deddeda Stemler

Interestingly, for most Slow Food communities, protein is the challenging aspect as many regions do not have ready access to meat processing plants. The island, with their ingrained sense of “food security” has this aspect licked, but what proves to be a challenge to these native foodists is grain.

In answer to this, owners Brock and Heather of Makaria Farms, along with a few others, have begun the Island Grains project. This project has local residents planting, CSA style, rye, barley, Red Fife and hard white spring wheat. Participants are referred to as “grainies” and they get to take home a share of the grains planted on Makaria Farms. It’s the Island’s first-ever Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) grain and each participant this harvest will get about a 40-lb slice of the rye and wheat harvest. The communal harvest is forecast for August when grainies will show up with their “scissors, sickles and pruning shears.” True Grain will mill the flour and with respect to the threshing, hull-less oats, wheat, barley and rye are encouraged. On the wish list this year: a mechanical thresher! Www.IslandGrains.com

Hilary’s Cheese is a wonderful stop to stock up on picnic supplies such as his freshly made goat cheeses and the deli meats he keeps stocked behind the glass counter. It’s also a great place to grab a bowl of soup and sit at one of the tables in the lunch room overlooking Cow Bay’s “float homes,” (not to be confused with houseboats, an altogether different animal). If you think to call ahead and you get lucky scheduling-wise, we’ve heard that Hilary will give Cheese Tours from time to time for the chosen.

Cowichan Bay Seafood

Just a couple doors down and past a potter’s studio and other artist attractions, is Cowichan Bay Seafood. Recently bequeathed a new coating of paint, it’s one of the freshest, cleanest fish markets you’ll find anywhere. Fresh halibut, now in season, as well as crabs, shrimp, scallop and, yes, fresh oysters and mussels, are all ripe for the picking.

Blue Grouse Vineyards

Just a short drive up the road, across the main “highway” and down a country lane you’ll find Hans at Blue Grouse Winery and Vineyards. “True and healthy varietal wines,” is how Richard Kiltz and his father describe their wines. On a picturesque sloping estate, just a few kilometers from Fairburn Farm, the Kiltzes established their vineyards in 1989.

“Ja, we came to the island in 1989,” Hans will tell you, “At that time, there were 28 wineries in all of British Columbia. Eight of them were owned by Germans.” Richard, trained in the tradition of oenology in Germany, credits the pure air and spring water with providing the raw stuffs that make the grapes that great wine comes from. Ortega is a grape they’ve planted since the beginning and for a splash of freshness, drink a glass and take home a bottle of Blue Grouse’s Siegerrebe, an offspring of Gewurztraminer and Madeleine Angevine…mmm!.. rose petals and peaches. Www.bluegrousevineyards.com The Sixth Annual Cowichan Valley Wine & Culinary Festival happens in September.

Providence Farm

It’s time now to find a quiet little nook to enjoy your picnic foragings on your first Cow Bay food run. Find your way down to Providence Farms and once again, you’ll walk right into a picture book. It’s the tall Church Steeple and red farmhouse you will see as you drive along Tzouhalem Road. Providence is a “therapeutic farming community;” a 400-acre haven bequeathed by the Catholic order of the Sisters of St. Ann and was established in 1979 as the Vancouver Island Providence Community Association. Www. Providence.bc.ca

Fresh Island Produce, Photo Courtesy Deddeda Stemler

The grounds themselves are pastoral, picturesque, picture-book like scenery. But not to miss are the greenhouse and nursery where you can pick up annuals, perennials and herbs and the Farm Store where you can buy treats for yourself and to take home such as freshly baked cookies, canning from the Kitchen Program – a program that Dwight and Vanessa volunteer for – and fresh eggs from “the girls.” You’ll want those for your breakfast in the morning. All purchases go toward supporting the running of the farm.

Stinging Nettles

If you happen to be on the island in Spring, absolutely not to miss is the Stinging Nettle Festival at Fairburn Farm. Stinging nettle dates back to ancient times as a food source, and even farther back as a medicinal and clothing fiber source. It contains the most chlorophyll of any vegetable. It also contains 40 percent protein and has higher volumes of vitamins A, C, and D than spinach, even, when cooked, as well as potassium and calcium.

Stinging Nettles For Nettle Pesto

Mara Jernigan, who is soon off to Italy for an indefinite amount of time, but is, at the moment, still the Slow Food Canada President, is hosting this 5-course Nettle Dinner at Fairburn. Entry fee includes stinging nettle tea, taste workshops and guided nature walks. You can even purchase lunch items made with nettles at the “Stinging Nettle Cafe.”

Stinging Nettle Festival April 17th and 18th at Fairburn Farm. Www. Fairburnfarm.bc.ca

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Foodies, Faeries And Super Natural Blueberries

Vancouver Island could easily be nicknamed Ceres Island. “Ceres,” Goddess of agriculture and growth, has blessed the Island many times over. For me “the island” was somewhat shrouded behind a veil of mystique. For starters, you have to take a Ferry to get over to it.  And then there were the people on the “Mainland,” that is, Vancouverites, mostly, who often refer to “the island” as a place they retreat to when life feels too fast.

Correction number one: The B.C. Ferries are more like cruise ships, with spectacular scenery, seamless drive-on, drive-off, and roomy, plentiful seating. There’s even talk of spa services being added to the on-ship diversions.

Merridale Picnic Grounds and Spa, Photo Courtesy Deddeda Stemler

Correction number two: Yes, Island pace is a bit slower. However, when you are a culinary traveler searching out the island’s delectable gems, there’s little rest for the adventurous!

And there’s no doubt about it, Vancouver Island is a foodie mecca. In fact, another nickname, one perhaps even more fitting, would be “Island of Foodies.” And not just any foodies, Local Foodies; the island is filled with such distinctive tribes of locavore foodies, farmers, winemakers, cheesemakers, bakers and blueberry cultivators that they’ve pretty much coined the idea of “local food” and just about made it into a religion. Them and their guardian Faeries…

Merridale Cidery, Vancouver Island, Photo Courtesy Deddeda Stemler

Little under an hour North of Victoria, in a pastoral setting nestled between Mill Bay and Cobble Hill, there is Merridale Estate Cidery.

Merridale, the first cidery on the island, is owned by Rick Pipes and Janet Docherty who readily admit that the undertaking is a “labor of love” and has been since they first bought the 20-acre property in 2000. No one else at the time was doing cider on the island. So Rick, Merridale’s cider maker, got in touch with Peter Mitchell, the U.K. -based “cider guru” to teach him some tips.

Read More HERE on Local Food And Wine/ B.C. >>>

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Tria Culinary Studios Outdoor Full Moon Feasts, Photo Courtesy Tria

Tria Culinary Studios

Tria is a triumvirate of Chef Kathy Jerritt, and husband and wife team Marla Limousin and George Ehler of Nature’s Way blueberry farm and Blue Moon Estate Winery. British Columbia’s (other) cash crop is blueberries. But few have had the vision to make wine from their blueberries as George of Blue Moon Estate Winery has done.

“We were lucky,” explains Marla, who also teaches a Cultivating Your Garden class at North Highland College on the island,”When we bought the farm about a decade ago, it was just about the time that there was this run on blueberries. So we quickly found ourselves sitting on a cash crop,” she says with a shrug and a smile.

Nature’s Way Farm, soon to be know as Blue Moon Farm, has about 2,000 blueberry bushes that produce about 30,000 pounds of blueberries from about 6 acres. They also cultivate an herb and vegetable garden on site in their greenhouse that Chef Kathy uses in her on-site cooking classes and demonstration dinners.

On a recent afternoon while walking the property with Marla and Kathy and meeting their resident four llamas, Kathy picked a leaf of the tender arugula and mustard greens for a sampling of the kinds of fresh ingredients she uses for her dishes. What a difference fresh makes! My eyes started watering from the spiciness of the mustard greens; Wasabi is grown fresh on the island but if you want to kick your taste buds out of this world, chomp on a leaf of Kathy’s mustard greens!

Nature's Way Farms Field of Greens, Tria Culinary Studio's Raw Ingredients

Now that Spring is warming up and summer is around the corner, make a note of these important Full Moon Feast Dates: Milk Moon, May 27; Strawberry Moon June 27; Mead Moon July 25 and then there’s Wort Moon and Corn Moon to follow in August and September respectively.

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Culinary Tourism Anyone? Try Vancouver Island

By Paige Donner

Culinary Tourism makes perfect sense…at least to us!  When you travel for pleasure, at least half your time and itinerary are taken up with decisions like where to eat and what to eat?  When you plan a trip around destinations known for their exquisite culinary offerings and wine pairings, you’ve already done most of the hard work before you’ve ever left home. Then all there is to do once you arrive is…Relax and Enjoy!

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Spring and Summer mean Blooming Gardens in Victoria and all over Vancouver Island…

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The Comox Valley – also on Vancouver Island – is a Must See, Must Do, Must Eat and Drink and Be Merry kind of destination…

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