Everyone knows about Victoria’s historic Chinatown, with its massive Gate of Harmonious Interest to its many, many great spots to grab Chinese. The difference between Chinatown and Fort and Blanchard is that there really isn’t much of a community ethnic community on Fort.
So another Christmas is behind us and the New Year is right around the corner. Between nursing a sugar and cheese hangover, trying to stay relatively sober before New Years Eve and saying farewell to another Christmas while the tinsel and tree are packed away, there are a lot of emotions to sort through.
With each year that passes, at this point in the month, I find myself taking stock. This year has been difficult – the events on the world stage from devastating earthquakes, mass shootings, refugees and a clinically insane billionaire businessman running for President of the U.S. are depressing enough. And then on a personal level, watching friends experience devastating loss, heartache and disappointment. But flip the coin and watch countries open their doors to the refugees (yay Canada!), earthquake survivors rebuild their lives, survivors of shootings standing bravely, expressing love and understanding toward their aggressors. Then I look next door and see friends welcoming new babies, celebrating sobriety, finding happiness, getting married. And each year, I am overwhelmed with how life is a series of paradoxes – conflicting experiences that creates this beautiful, roiling, emotional existence.
Ultimately though, at this time of year I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude for the life I lead, my friends and family, my health and, of course, this gorgeous city we live in.
So for New Years I’m going to eat well, drink moderately, be merry and dispense with resolutions except one: be grateful - always be grateful.
We’ve all heard it: “give experiences not things” – which is fine but what experiences are we talking about specifically here? One of the suggestions I heard recently is babysitting your niece. Great. But dude, that shouldn’t be a Christmas gift. It’s nice and all but if you live in the same city as the little rugrat, and you aren’t babysitting once in awhile, it’s time to step it up. And the ‘ol book of coupons for your main squeeze isn’t as awesome as you think, trust me. Sure, a foot massage sounds romantic, but there may be a reason it isn’t a popular request in your house (hint: you suck at it). All that said though, giving thoughtful and creative, experiential gifts is way better than going to the mall and buying everything in sight. But there is another way to be thoughtful and creative, so put away the craft supplies, set up a play-date with your niece for fun and instead, think local food and drink.
First up, West Coast Brewery Tours. What better way to check out Victoria’s booming brew scene than to actually go visit the breweries and speak to the malt magicians who work there? Tour choices range from a two hour jaunt to a five hour haul and all include transportation so you can imbibe, just make sure you grab a cab home!
Why not give the gift of dining? Most restaurants sell gift certificates so your recipient will be able to go for a great gastronomic experience anytime. Even though there are so many incredible restaurants in town, it’s tough to step outside your comfort zone. This is where a copy of TASTE MAG is going to come in handy. With detailed restaurant profiles of quirky Victoria favourites like Mo:Lé and North 48, old standbys like The Keg, Pescatores and Willies Bakery and new comers like The Guild Freehouse you’ll find a ton of information to make the perfect decision. Plus, with the locals driven listings you can do some taste-testing pre-Christmas, just make sure you use the built in rating system to keep track of your favourites. This is going to come in handy year-round. Turn to the back of the MAG and you’ll find an awesome piece that lets you know where you can take those coffee connoisseurs on your list – try checking out one of the many open mic nights or grab a low key lunch with made with local ingredients.
A gift basket full of local, edible goods is great for everyone. Surprise someone with a romantic picnic or let your family from out-of-town try the best of what Victoria has to offer. For a great homemade gift basket, your first stop should be the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson. It’s an incredible place where you’ll find local artisans, farmers, fishers, butchers, bakers, cheese-makers, vinters, perservers, florists and brewers all congregating under one incredibly funky roof – just make sure you take a break from shopping and grab a bite at Roast. Top off your basket with a bottle of local wine, cider or beer – you just can’t go wrong.
See? Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming, just remember that whatever experience you decide to gift someone this season, you’ll be in good hands pairing local fare with great company.
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There are few cities in this world that are so small and yet, so vibrant. Victoria is a hub for culture, art and fashion all wrapped up in beautiful Victorian architecture and stunning natural beauty. One of the most incredible things about this city is the passion that these artists and fashionistas bring to their communities. We had the great pleasure of chatting with Robin Achterberg of Parlor Hair Boutique…
TASTE MAG: Did you always know you wanted to be a hairstylist?
ROBIN ACHTERBERG: “Growing up, I always loved fashion and as a kid. I’d play with my friends’ hair, trying different styles and up-dos. My dream though, was to become a costume designer.”
TM: What kicked off your career?
RA: “After graduating high school, I moved to California where I took a few fashion courses. A couple of years later, I returned to Canada where came across a competition to win a full scholarship to hair school. I couldn’t believe it when I actually won! So I enrolled in school soon after and I will never forget the feeling I had when I did my first haircut. It just felt right. Since, my career has been a steady climb getting to the places I've wanted to go – and looking back, I can’t help but feel so fortunate because everything has just fallen into place.”
TM: How did Parlor get started?
RA: “A few years ago I had opened my own little salon and loved working for myself, but it was tough to maintain the work/life balance that I was going for. When the opportunity to open Parlor with Kelsey and Sarah Marie was presented to me, I jumped at the chance. They are such incredible, strong women and I am so lucky to have this joint venture with them. The great thing about Parlor is that we also work as stylists in the salon with our amazing team. So we really get the best of both worlds. Our team is very close and we have so much respect and love for each other.”
TM: Tell me more about Parlor!
RA: “Parlor Hair Boutique was created to be a place where people can come to feel connected and comfortable and leave looking incredible. We were so lucky to find a space in a beautiful heritage building that is just flooded with natural light. Because it is such an incredibly beautiful space we decided to decorate with sweet and simple details that are subtle and homey. We’ve put our hearts into the place and Parlor is really a reflection of who we are. We’re a L'oreal Professionnel and Pureology salon, so we work with amazing products and our stylists are all so talented and execute so much care in what they do. We’re also total hair nerds! We love learning new techniques so we can always stay ahead of the curve.”
TM: What, for you is the best aspect of being in the Victoria fashion community?
RA: “I am so inspired by the amount of local talent here in Victoria and it’s awesome that I live in a place that is full of people who are passionate about supporting local artists.”
TM: What inspires you to create?
RA: “As a L'oreal Professionnel Color Portfolio artist I have a responsibility to keep up with trends and techniques. Plus, my position on the team means that I am training and teaching alongside some of the best professionals in the hair industry, which is so exciting. Each time I finish a L’oreal event, I get such a fire in my belly to take everything I’ve experienced back to Parlor and share it with my clients.”
TM: What look do you love most for Fall/Winter 2015?
RA: “One of the strongest looks this season is called the wob (wavy bob). It’s a part of the L'oreal Professionnel collection and it is seriously amazing. Add some beautiful balayage* to bring out texture and movement and it is absolutely killer. I love a shorter cut for fall. This is the time of year when you start wearing scarves and cozy sweaters. I think it's nice to have a cut that can be out in the wind, against a scarf, or under a touque and still look great – and this season, that look is the wob. Hands down.”
TM: Imagine a perfect day off, what would that look like?
RA: “Simplicity is key for me! I’d start with a great cup of coffee and cozy up with a book. Once my little girl was up, we would just hang out until we eventually made our way out the door to one of our favourite brunch spots. Then we’d go for a walk or head to a park. Later, I would tackle a home project or start one of the many crafts I have my heart set on. Then we’d finish the day with a nice dinner, a good movie by the fire and a great glass of wine (or two!)”
TM: What are your favourite haunts around town?
RA: “The top of my list is has to be The Burtchart Gardens. It's beautiful all year long so I try to make it at least once each season. Our all time favourite pizza place is Prima Strada, you can find us there every Friday! For brunch we head to The Village. They have the best breakfasts! The Italian Benny is amazing.”
TM: What is your ‘show off’ dish that you make at home?
RA: “I make pretty great lasagna. Anything pasta related seems to be my go-to when entertaining. It’s just my thing!”
TM: What, in your opinion is the most important local charity or organization?
RA: “One of the most important charities is Victoria Women's Transition House Society. I love what this organization does to provide a safe place for women experiencing abuse. They offer help, support, counseling and shelter for women and children who need guidance and confidence to leave their harmful situations."
TM: What impact you see the Victoria Women’s Transition House Society having on the community?
RA: “I believe that organizations like this benefit everyone and have a huge impact on our community. Building women up and supporting them to finding peace and happiness is the beginning of endless possibilities. Giving women the opportunities they deserve will only build them up to become the women they once dreamed they could be. We need strong, inspiring women out there impacting our community. Everyone has a story, and everyone has the right to pursue their goals no matter what trials they've faced.”
TM: Is there anything about our fair city that you’d like to see improved?
RA: “I think it would be great if shops were open a little later into the evenings. As wonderful it is to live in a peaceful city, it would be nice if there was a little more hubbub in the downtown core at night.”
TM: How would you describe your personality as a flavour profile?
RA: “I would say sweet and spicy...I tend to be an easygoing person with a sensitive heart, but the spice will come out if necessary!”
TM: How do you take your coffee?
RA: “I like it simple - Americano with a little milk…aahhh.”
Follow Parlor on Twitter @ParlorVictoria
*balayage: a French word meaning to sweep or to paint. It allows for a sun-kissed natural looking hair colour - similar to what nature gives us as children - with softer, less noticeable regrowth lines. The principal idea being less is more when creating soft, natural looks – via Marie Clare
Now, before you head out to these awesome events, make sure you’ve got a copy of Taste Mag with you! You never know when you’ll need to take a martini minute or a beer break before heading back out to this busy, festive season. Oh you shopped late? Don’t want to go home and make dinner? Taste Mag. Seriously. It’ll end arguments and stop you from making hangry decisions. Ok, now go have fun!
Need a quick Christmas fix? Take a stroll through The Bay Center for the Festival of Trees! From sponsors and organizations to local businesses and individuals, the Victoria community comes together to decorate Christmas trees any way they can! The result is a ‘forest’ of wacky, beautiful, crazy, imaginative trees all to help raise money for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. This indoor coniferous forest is sure to have you humming ‘Oh Tannenbaum’ in no time.
November 18, 2015 to January 05, 2016, daily. Free admission.
Move over Granny, these gingerbread sculptures are not your traditional confectionary casas. Created by both professional and amateur local chefs, these detailed, imaginative structures are a treat for your eyes (and nose!). While you’re soaking up inspiration for your own spicy, decorated domicile make sure you vote for your favourite and crack open that wallet to support Habitat for Humanity Victoria.
November 21, 2015 to January 03, 2016, daily 9:00am - 9:00pm at the Inn at Laurel Point. Free admission.
What is more romantic than a ride on a Ferris wheel at Christmastime? Grab that sweetheart, some hot cocoa and take in the view from the top but make sure to sneak a kiss before you reach the bottom! Or if you’re stuck with the nieces and nephews for the evening, shuttle the crew down for a ride. They’ll be raving about it for a long time – hello favourite Aunt / Uncle award!
*riders must be over 2 years of age
November 28, 2015 - December 20, 2015 runs Friday from 5:00pm - 9:00pm; Saturdays from Noon - 9:00pm; Sundays from Noon - 7:00pm. $2 per person.
Ever wanted to take a ride in a horse drawn cart but thought it was just too touristy? Well here’s your chance! Every weekend until December 20th, there are free horse-drawn trolley rides that tootle around downtown letting riders take in the festive scenery of old Victoria. It’s a great addition to a staycation weekend or a chance to rest after a day of Christmas shopping.
* Pre-set route: Store St. at Chatham St., Johnson St. near Warf St., Langley St. at Bastion Square and Government St. at Fisgard St.
November 28, 2015 to December 20, 2015, runs Saturday from Noon - 4:00pm; Sunday Noon - 3:00pm. Free admission.
This season, make sure to check out our incredible local shops before you hit up the chain stores! Silk Road has an incredible line of health and beauty products, cute home ware, delicious tea (obviously) and a spa! The geniuses at Violette Veldor have curated an incredible selection of jewelry for every taste. Trounce Alley is home to the always fashionable, She She Shoes and She She Bags. Search Fan Tan Alley’s Heart’s Content for the most awesome collection of Mod, punk and alternative fashion and accessories. Let your third eye lead you to Triple Spiral, they’re sure to have something for that cool, crunchy, yogi in your life. And audiophiles will love a gift from The Turntable...well maybe a gift certificate. Mosey outside downtown for the littles in your life and check out Red Rover for quality consignment kids clothes and accessories – you’ll find seriously cute stuff for seriously cute prices. For the gourmands on your list, create your own gift basket chock full of local goodies! Maybe some hand crafted charcuterie from Whole Beast Meats, a great Sea Cider, local beer – think Phillips, Driftwood, Hoyne, C12 and a chuck of cheese or two from The Little Cheese Shop – et voilà!
In the summer, Farmer’s Markets are as much a staple in Victoria as fixed gear bicycles and mustaches. Now, every municipality hosts a Market Day, where droves of Birkenstock and Blundstone-shod feet pound the pavement as eager hands appraise produce with tentative squeezes. These markets are an essential slice of the city’s pie - connecting local farmers and artisans with urban populations, and business is booming! But then, the rains and winds come and the tents get packed away to return with the warmer weather. All except one: Moss Street.
In the early days, the Moss Street Market was no more than a few vendors with a handful of stands bearing the fruits of their labor, vying for the attention of the scattered shoppers, most of whom happened upon it by accident. And each Spring, the vendors would return, diligently set up their tents and tables and do it all again – and each year, more and more people would come to that little market ‘just up the road, near the castle’. Now, the Moss Street Market is a Victoria institution. So much so, that this little market runs year round bringing Victorians the best of what each season has to offer.
One of the market’s first vendors was Madoka Yasumura of Umi Nami Farms. The winning combination of Madoka’s passion and positivity has helped drive customers to the Umi Nami stall and they’ve kept coming back. “The questions (I get) are usually intelligent and well thought out and demand honest answers,” she says “Stallholders like it because they get appreciation for their efforts. It is amazing to watch how quickly the rapport is built up with their regular customers.” Vendors like Madoka who’ve been a part of Moss Street Market from the beginning are, perhaps – without knowing it – at the epicenter of something bigger; an entire ideological shift. Welcome to the Locavore Movement.
Today, everyone is thinking local. From the food we eat to the goods we buy, knowing its origin has become paramount. What better way to get information than going to the source and asking? Farmer’s Markets aren’t just quaint weekend affairs. They’re essential cogs in the sustainability movement. And this conscientiousness doesn’t end with the changing of the leaves. Victorians want to be able to access local goods year-round. Where else can you gain access to farmers, artisans and craftspeople in one location, ready and willing to answer your questions? Maybe queries about carrots don’t keep you up at night but if they did, the person with the answers is likely standing right in front of you.
This year, Moss Street wrapped up their regular outdoor market on October 31, ushering in the Winter Market, held every Saturday from 10am until noon in the Garry Oak Room at 1335 Thurlow Street. Here, you can still find local produce, crafts, food and entertainment – enough to sustain you until those white tents are set up outside again, welcoming Spring.
There is so much to love about this time of year, from cozy sweaters and glowing pub windows to pumpkin pie and crunchy leaves. But there is one thing that the cold weather brings that isn’t so great - the dreaded fall cold. And man, it hit us hard this year. Red noses drip like leaky faucets, pounding headaches and endless hacking plague Victorians as the chilly season sets in. I’m no exception. I might be over the worst of it (cross fingers and toes), but the cough is hanging around like a one-night-stand that hasn’t got the memo – and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere…awkward. So I bundled up and went to get the supplies for my anti-cold arsenal. First stop: Silk Road.
I love this shop. Not only does it have all the bagged and loose teas that you could ever want but add the lovely merchandise, the organic beauty and wellness products and the adjoining spa, it is a veritable Valhalla. But today is a get in, get out, get better kind of trip. After perusing the teas and wellness products and asking the incredibly helpful and knowledgeable staff a few questions, I made my purchases and bustled home as fast as my sore body would allow. Now I have to admit, it’s only been two days so I’m not 100%, but I do feel a lot livelier and the rattle in my lungs has subsided considerably. Success! Here’s what I tried:
There is a reason this tea is at the top of my list, it’s a life-saver. It’s soothing and peppy all at the same time. With ginger to boost immunity, lemongrass and citrus peel for a gorgeous zing, green tea for a smooth boost of energy and rooibos to help soothe that headache it’s a winner and I can’t stop brewing pot after pot. The awesomely wise people at Silk Road also shared a few recipe ideas with me: make a Ninja Twist by adding a teaspoon of honey and a ton of fresh lemon to soothe that sore throat and eliminate that icky mucus. Or add equal parts of apple or pear juice and a cinnamon stick to make it a sweet and spicy treat dubbed The Fortress.
Sleep is an essential part of the healing process, and lets be honest, hacking a lung every 15 minutes isn’t really helping. This lovely floral tea is a blend of soothing peppermint, calming chamomile, lovely lemon balm, lavender and rose petals. Two cups of this bad boy with a book and a blanket and get ready to zzzzz; plus keeping this blend on hand is a good idea to combat those non-cold related stressful days and sleepless nights.
Ok so we’ve got the tea, awesome. Insides are all warm and taken care of, but I wanted to kick this cold and kick it hard so I decided to also give their Cold and Flu roll-on a try. With powerful and pungent eucalyptus, tea tree, conifer and bergamot balanced with calming lavender and peppy citrus this little roll on packs a huge punch. I rolled it on my temples, forehead and sternum and ka-pow! Breathed freely. Plus the cough subsided, which made me feel like less of a leper when I was out running errands. Silk Road also carries a Cold and Flu diffuser oil which would be incredible beside the bed for easier breathing during the night. If you don’t have a diffuser (I do not) you can add a few drops to a carrier oil, I use jojoba but grapeseed, avocado, olive and many others work just as well. Then add your concoction to a bath or rub it into your chest or on your shoulders…aaahhhhh.
Make sure to also check out the Sweet Dreams roll-on and diffuser to help boost the potency of the Lullaby Wellness Tea and get some much needed shut eye. With lavender, ylang ylang, spearmint and clary sage essential oils you’ll be well on your way to dreamland. Plus, you can keep it on hand for the more stressful times to make sure you stay balanced, rested and healthy!
Make sure to check out Silk Road to explore their entire collection of teas and wellness products and don’t forget to try their limited edition blends!
Photo credit: Isabelle Archibald. Follow Isabelle on Instagram