Well Halloween is in the bag, the tricks are treated and the pumpkins are smashed. That being said, it’s time to put away that pumpkin beer and start digging into the various seasonal ales Victoria has to offer.
Autumn in Victoria is something special - the fiery colours of the leaves, the salty kiss of the wind, the welcome glow of steamed-up pub windows… and nothing kicks it off quite like Thanksgiving. Unlike its American counterpart (whose date makes it more or less a dress rehearsal for Christmas) Canadian Thanksgiving is an October affair that stands on its own two feet without Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock or American football. There are some commonalities, though: turkey, stuffing, more turkey, pumpkin pie, heartburn; but this Thanksgiving we decided to try something a little different…and very Victoria. Instead of our typical haul of wine and beer, we chose three different kinds of Seacider from our favourite specialty liquor store. Here’s what we discovered…
Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse is a ten-acre operation on the beautiful Saanich Peninsula, boasting a whopping 1,300 apple trees and fifty-plus varieties of heritage apples. The ciderhouse itself, which features breathtaking panoramic views of Haro Strait, is open for tastings and tours year-round, 11am to 4pm. That’s the long way of saying ‘scrumpy heaven.’
It all started back in 2007, when Kristen Jordan purchased the property with the purpose of creating an organic farm and orchard that produced old school artisanal ciders. Fast forward eight years and Sea Cider are producing seven thousand-plus cases of award-winning product each year, distributing in BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Washington, Oregon and Illinois. Why the success? Because beautiful, boozy, apple goodness takes serious talent and Kristen and company have bushels of it. Let’s get down to the scrumptious details…
Here’s the story: Rumrunner was inspired by the bootleggers who ran the illicit booze trade in the waters visible from the cidery. It blends the juice of aromatic apples like Stayman’s Winesaps and Winter Bananas to match the intense oak and rum notes. Rumrunner’s apples are hand-pressed with a traditional rack and cloth press, slow fermented with Champagne yeast and aged in rum-soaked bourbon barrels for the better part of half a year. Semi-dry, this rich, mahogany offering hits you with notes of brown sugar, molasses and rum, pairs beautifully with spice, and weighs in at a whopping 12.5% alcohol volume. Because this amber beauty does have a higher alcohol volume, we found that it’s a great for replacing champagne or wine at the table. Plus, for anyone who thinks cider just tastes like sparking apple juice, this bad boy will turn them around. It was a great pairing with our homemade pepper jelly appies and even killed it as a companion with the proscutto wrapped dates.
This effervescent semi-sweet brew is infused with a cauldron-full of autumn spices with haunting hints of cinnamon, orange, nutmeg and ginger. Combining the best of BC cider apples, the magic in this potion comes courtesy of champagne yeast, cold-fermented to maximize the aromatics of the cider base, pumpkin spice bitters in cider au de vie and a dose of Oaken gin from the good people at Victoria Spirits. Named after the invasive Scotch broom that’s synonymous with West Coast flora, Witch’s Broom is pumpkin pie in a pint glass, pairing beautifully with root veggies and succulent dark meat. This gal went with everything. It was a perfect addition to the entire day and when the last bottle was done there were some seriously disappointed diners! So good it’s spooky!
When a heritage perry orchard was discovered just a few miles down the road from Sea Cider, Kristen Jordan and company knew there was only one thing to do: make a small batch of perry in the traditional Herefordshire style. A perennial favourite, this straw-coloured, beautifully nuanced sipper is made with champagne yeast, and features dry pear flavours and a light tannic, sharp finish. Perry pairs excellently with rich or creamy dishes. Think creamy pasta, green curry, or gooey cheeses. This was a favourite with the ladies at my house. It’s nice and tart so a little goes a long way and went perfectly with Thanksgiving fare cutting the richness of the creamed potatoes, gravy and turkey. It’s a great standby that I’ll be picking up again and again (as long as the stock lasts!)
Sea Cider is a certified organic farm in compliance with Canada’s National Organic Standards through the Pacific Agricultural Certification Society (PACS).
If there’s one thing you absolutely MUST do before the summer ends, it’s visit a local Farmer’s Market. Picture this for a moment – it’s the (late) morning after the (late) night before and for better or worse, you’re nursing a much-needed coffee. You wander through the lazy crowd, giving the peaches an appreciative squeeze as you peruse stall after stall bending with organic produce, while children laugh and the strains of an acoustic guitar gently sweep the cobwebs away. Sounds like the opening scene to a Gilmour Girls episode I know, but rest assured… this is Victoria.
The newest addition to the list of markets on the Times Colonist’s interactive market map is the Esquimalt Farmers Market. Located behind the Library in the Esquimalt Town Center, this little neighborhood market opened in March 2015 and the response was incredible! The core tenants of the market are simple: Make, Bake or Grow. Supporting local growers and producers who adhere to environmentally sustainable practices, opens up the market to neighbourhood farmers and artisans whose yield is limited by the size of their home, which is awesome, if not ridiculously quaint. Not only is the economy being stimulated internally but those is search of great produce and a neighbourhood market vibe sans touristy chinz will be more than impressed. Esquimalt has become a model of Sustainable Market Culture – a progressive method of creating and strengthening the bonds of community.
But this wholesome, community-driven image is somewhat new for the Esquimalt area. Esquimalt has long had the stigma of being Victoria’s little cousin from the wrong side of the bridge - rough and tumble with more than a few dodgy friends. But things have started to change in the last few years. A recent crime report from the Victoria Police Department shows that Esquimalt is on par with Fairfield and Oak Bay, places which have maintained their squeaky clean reputation since…forever. Sure, there was a time when Esquimalt was a rougher industrial part of town, home to blue-collar docks workers and petty criminals but so much about the area has changed for the better. The municipality has focused on bringing community driven, family-friendly events to the area with the Township Community Arts Council and now the Farmers Market. In late 2014, a meeting was held to gauge the community’s response to a proposed Farmers Market, in early 2015 the first market day was held. You don’t get results like that from an estranged community riddled with crime.
With live music, artisans, farmers, food trucks and the Esquimalt Little Free Library exchange this market has become more than just a place to wander and buy local produce. It’s the hub for a community with a hell of a lot of heart.
*The Esquimalt Farmers Market season has been extended to September 24th!
Video credit: Gabe from Esquimalt Parks and Recreation
Photo credit: Vanessa from Esquimalt Farmers Market
Poster design: Tara from Digitally Crafted
There’s something magical about ambling past a busy restaurant at night – the dark street a perfect contrast to the glowing, bustling atmosphere, and you, the unseen voyeur peering into a private world. TASTE MAG cordially invites you to join the festivities with our TOP SHELF features.
Heron Rock Bistro is a Victoria staple. And for TASTE MAG’s inaugural TOP SHELF, we couldn’t have picked a better establishment to spotlight. Tucked away in the heart of picturesque James Bay, this little bistro has been serving gorgeous food and pouring top quality drinks for almost a decade. We sat down with proprietor Andrew Moffatt for a chat.
TASTE MAG: I hear you’ve got some exciting things happening, tell me about them!
ANDREW MOFFATT: “Well, we’ve had quite a busy season so far! We’ve just completed a major renovation to the front of house and it looks awesome. Plus we added six more taps to the bar so we now have nine local craft beers to offer. It’s perfect timing because we’ve just introduced Happy Hour at the Heron Rock every night from 8pm-close – we’ve already been so busy! On top of all that, we’re celebrating our ten year anniversary of being in business in May!”
TM: What makes Heron Rock Bistro so unique?
AM: “We’re so proud to say that after ten years of being in business, we’re still serving quality breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Sure, we’ve changed the menu through the years as we’ve evolved, using amazing, locally sourced products – but to be able to say that after a decade, we’re still successfully doing the same thing as day one, is pretty unique.”
TM: Your Snapper and Bacon Po’ Boy sounds dangerous! If you had to choose, which menu item would be your favourite?
AM: “Good choice! The Snapper and Bacon Po'Boy is so popular! But to kick it up to the next level, you’ve gotta have a side of our homemade chokeslam hot sauce with it. If you were visiting Heron Rock for the first time I’d have to recommend the Croque Madame though. With a side of our house cut kennebec fries, it's a winner, a knife a forker, rich and always satisfying.”
TM: What charities do you support?
AM: “The organization that we've been working to promote and support the last five years is the Together Against Poverty Society of Victoria (T.A.P.S). It’s an organization that provides free face-to-face legal advocacy for people with income assistance, disability benefits and tenancy issues.”
TM: Why is T.A.P.S important to you?
“We’re true Victorians so to us, the most important thing is to make sure every person in this great city is represented. Victoria is a town that takes care of it's own and we want to keep it that way.”
TM: Tell us something not many people about you:
AM: “Most people already know that I'm not on Facebook and that I’m not big on the whole social media thing personally. Our Chef and co-owner, Ben Peterson, is our savvy social-media guy and is Heron Rock’s online presence. I know how important online engagement is to access a larger audience, but I’m a people person and know that my time is better spent engaging face to face with staff, guests, neighbours and suppliers. Good thing I have business partners!”
TM: How long have you been a part of the Victoria community?
AM: “I grew up in Winnepeg and moved to Abbostford to go to school. After three years there, I returned to my hometown. I had a brief go at Vancouver in my early twenties, but it wasn't for me. I came out to Victoria on a spring rugby tour in 2001 and it totally felt like home. I moved later that summer and never looked back!”
TM: You have the day off, what are your favourite things to do in Victoria?
AM: “I really enjoy trying new recipes so making my wife dinner at home is my standby. But to mix it up, we’ll head out for a night on the town. Victoria’s food scene is so vibrant, we always have a great time. That, and she has an amazing sense of humour so really, even eating fast food with her is pretty great. If she’s busy though, and I have the time, playing golf at Gorge Vale is a great way to spend the day.”
TM: Who is your foodie guru?
AM: “Not entirely sure what a foodie guru is exactly! But, Tommy Douglas (of Lola fame) in Seattle is someone I have and followed over the last six or seven years. Also, Thomas Keller (Bouchon and The French Laundry) in California, has been a huge influence to our Bistro. I was fortunate enough to experience Bouchon about five years ago and was absolutely blown away by the service. The food of course, was amazing, but the service was impeccable. I can easily say that it was the best I’ve ever experienced and I’ve since tried to implement the same kind of service at Heron Rock.”
TM: How does Victoria inspire your restaurant?
AM: “I’d have to say that Victoria's beer scene has been the biggest local inspiration for us at Heron Rock. Ben and I, along with our partners Steve and Gina Watson at the Crooked Goose in Saanich, recently introduced a Brewmaster's Dinner Series. It’s a really exciting opportunity to pair incredible, local, craft beer with delicious food and showcase how flexibly beer and food are paired. Because Heron Rock and Crooked Goose are neighbourhood bistros offering great food and craft beers on tap, this dinner series was a no-brainer for us. Maintaining our relationships with local craft brewers is a continued priority for our ownership team – I mean, it’s no secret that Victorian craft beer is becoming a real competitor on the North American stage – we want to make sure that we’re supporting and growing with it.”
TM: What do you love about being a part of Victoria dining?
AM: “I love that Victoria has so many quality restaurants where locals and visitors can dine. Good food is easy if you are using good quality ingredients, and where better than Victoria to find such an incredible variety of top quality, local products? Both Heron Rock and the Crooked Goose believe that quality food and drink are what our customers really visit us for, so keeping the quality up is our number one priority!”
TM: What has changed in the Victoria dining scene in the last 10 years?
AM: “I’d have to say that the biggest change I’ve noticed in Victoria is the growth of and appetite for culinary knowledge amongst consumers. People are so much more aware and want to know what the ingredients are and where they came from. It’s great because it forces us to think locally and sustainably for each menu item. People now want to know even more about how the dishes are prepared and they’re getting almost as excited as we are about really great food.”
TM: What do you picture the Victoria dining scene looking like in the next 10?
AM: “Great question. I suspect sustainability will figure even more prominently in our local food scene. And I think the systems are in place to make sure that happens. My biggest hope for the future though is a continued strong human element in our dining scene. I know I’m a self professed Luddite to a degree, but I hope I never find myself punching my own order in at a restaurant using some expensive smart phone that is going to need replacing when thebigger faster stronger X87 comes out. Mainly though, in ten years I can picture Heron Rock celebrating twenty years of great service. I’m living the dream and I don’t plan on waking up any time soon.”
You know that moment when you walk into a holiday party and as you’re exchanging obligatory greetings, you’re simultaneously shooting surreptitious glances around the room for the food table? Yeah, us too. You discreetly sidle up to the table, sizing up the victuals; yup, the hummus and veg is present and accounted for, devilled eggs? Check. And then, just beyond the breadbasket, you spy your target - the charcuterie board. Now, there are some gatherings that don’t quite get the importance of a great artisanal cured meat selection. There have been times when I’ve suppressed the urge to lunge across the table and attack it like a wild animal, and instead, gracefully sidle up to the meaty target, all the while maintaining a conversation with the IT guy only to find that the board consists of cheap pizza pepperoni and garlic sausage slices speared haphazardly with toothpicks. Nooooooooooooooo! Oh the humanity! Enter: The Whole Beast Artisan Salumeria.
It’s no secret that Victorians go the extra mile to seek out local sustainable food products. So when Cory Pelan opened The Whole Beast Artisan Salumeria in the summer of 2011, it was a calculated move in response to the growing desire for all things local. And it’s no surprise that Pelan has helmed this venture, given his passion for and involvement in local, sustainable food practices. As a former president and treasurer, now board member of the Island Chefs Collaborative, board member of the Slow Food Vancouver Island and stewardship team member representing Vancouver Island for Farm Folk City Folk, Pelan lives, breathes, eats and makes sustainable food a practice in the Capital Region.
But this little salumeria is far more than cured meat counter offering local charcuterie, run by a passionate foodie – it is an artisanal workshop where local heritage meat gets transformed into high quality, handcrafted, cured delicacies using traditional techniques with no additives, preservatives or fillers. So if you haven’t already checked out this little slice of spicy, savoury, meaty heaven you really need to. While you’re browsing, check out their selection of preserves – think kimchee, sauerkraut, mustards, pickles, vinegars and sauces, yum! They’ve also formed awesome relationships with restaurants all over the city, so while you’re tikiing on Tuesdays at North 48, or grabbing some grub at The Guild you’ll be getting incredible quality cured meat from right up the road.
So here’s the take away folks: when it comes time to host a holiday party or when you’re headed to a Christmas potluck, make sure that you aren’t the shmuck with the wheel of supermarket garlic sausage. Instead, be the babe with the kick-ass plate of artisanal charcuterie - just try not to eat it all before the party starts.
Here’s a fact: Victoria’s Inner Harbour is gorgeous. Follow the waters edge and you can walk through heritage James Bay, check out the Parliament buildings, snap a few selfies in front of the world famous Empress, check out LoJo and Chinatown, walk across the iconic Blue Bridge then look back and marvel at the Inner Harbour from the picturesque Songhees walkway. Now imagine a beautiful restaurant where you can rest from your walk, taste some of Victoria’s finest fare, sample craft beer, scan the impeccable wine list or imbibe on some hand crafted cocktails – all with the backdrop of that incredible view. Welcome to LURE.
We spoke to General Manager, Randy Burla and Executive Chef, Dan Bain about what it’s like working in such a beautiful place and what they’ve got up their sleeves for the fall at LURE.
TASTE MAG: Now I know we have to say goodbye to the Victoria’s Hottest Patio event as the summer has come to a close, but I understand that you’ve got some really great weekend parties planned for the fall!
RANDY BURLA: Yeah, this summer for Victoria’s Hottest Patio: Sunday Sessions we had DJ’s on the patio every Sunday afternoon and it just took off! The response was so incredible that we wanted to keep the party going so-to-speak. So we’ve moved the event inside and now we’re hosting Weekend House Party every Friday and Saturday night from 6pm-11pm. We didn’t miss a beat and neither did our guests! We’re packed and they’re such fun nights!
TM: I can imagine! LURE is such a great space! But I understand that as well as hosting Weekend House Party you’ve also got a new fall menu rolling out. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
RB: Sure! Our Fall Menu is really about taking our current menu and re-creating the dishes to be heartier. We’re going for a menu that really says comfort – exactly what you crave when the weather gets cold. Chef Dan is going to be working with root vegetables a lot. They’re so abundant, plus they only get sweeter with time! We’re also bringing on new local suppliers and adding new products to enhance our menus for the fall. Our goal is always to be as local, sustainable and seasonal as possible.
TM: That sounds like a perfect fall menu! Victoria certainly is in for a treat! Lets talk about the restaurant itself for a moment. I’ve been here a few times and with each visit I’ve left feeling the same way: LURE really has something special about it. What do you think gives it that je ne sais quoi?
RB: LURE is unique for so many reasons. First, I’d have to attribute that ‘something special’ to the view. You just won’t find such a stunning, un-impeded view of the Inner Harbour. Then there is the patio. It really is a ‘wow’ factor. It’s large so it accommodates lots of guests, which means that everyone gets to enjoy the incredible view. The size of the restaurant itself is also a huge draw for people. We can accommodate almost any size of group because of the sheer size of the space. Our menus are so well thought out and our food made with such care, our guests are always impressed. Plus, because we work in such high volume, our menus are designed to cater to any party size. We’ve hosted everything from birthday and office parties to pub-crawls, so if you’re looking for experts when it comes to large groups – you know who to call!
TM: Thinking local is obviously so important for you at LURE, does that extend beyond the food to any local charities?
RB: Yeah! We’re very committed to supporting our community, which is why we utilize as many local products as possible. But, how could you not?! There are so many amazing local producers; from farmers to breweries, we’re very fortunate here in Victoria to have access to such high quality products. Besides our support of local suppliers though, since our re-opening, we’re really proud to say that we’ve been involved in and supported, many local charities and charity events and will continue to do so in the future. In July we were really proud and honoured to have a float in the annual Victoria Pride Parade. It was a great event, a fantastic turnout and it gave us the opportunity to support the Victoria Pride Society and promote and celebrate diversity in Victoria. Plus, we had a blast!
TM: Pride is one of my favourite events. It’s totally a summer must! Now it’s time to get personal guys. We want to know more about you two! Tell me something not many people know (or would suspect!) about you. Dan we haven’t heard much from you, why don’t you start:
DAN BAIN: Ok…well I originally wanted to be a marine biologist!
TM: No way! That’s awesome! Randy?
RB: Hmm…I used to own and operate my own restaurant. That counts right?
TM: Totally! It makes that sense LURE is so successful; you’ve got lots of experience under your belt! So how long have you both been in Victoria?
DB: I’ve been here for about 15 years now. I grew up in the Cowichan Valley though, so I consider myself a long-time local.
RB: It’ll be about 3 years now. I spent last fall and winter, about 7 months in all, opening a new restaurant at our sister hotel in Toronto. Before that, I spent 3 years in Vancouver but I’m from Winnipeg originally.
TM: You find yourself totally free on a day off, what are you most likely to get up to?
DB: When I can, I love cruising around North Saanich looking for Farmers Markets and little stands to buy local produce and products from. I’ve found some great stuff on my hunts!
RB: I love just rambling around Victoria and soaking it in, it’s such a beautiful city. I also love having dinner parties with my friends. There’s nothing better than cooking, eating and drinking with the awesome people in my life.
TM: Who inspires you?
DB: Steve Jobs, because he thought outside the box
RB: There are so many people who inspire me for different reasons, so I wouldn’t be able to choose just one! But I do love the saying “always leave things better than you found them” which is what I always strive for.
TM: Thanks for the honesty guys, no more personal stuff I promise! Let’s get back to LURE; how does being a Victoria restaurant inspire LURE?
RB: Hands down, the location and the view. It just doesn’t get better than this. Victoria is such a gorgeous city and we have arguably the very best view of the best part of the city, the Inner Harbour. Our customers can’t get enough of it and our staff loves it too.
TM: What do you love about working in the Victoria dining scene?
RB: It’s a pretty tight knit community so it’s really great to have so many familiar faces coming in. Everyone really knows everyone, it’s like our own little support group!
TM: What have you seen change in the Victoria dining scene in the last decade? And what do you see changing in the next decade?
RB: People have become more aware of the importance of buying and consuming local products. Not only does it stimulate the local economy and support local agriculture but buying local means that the produce is so fresh and flavourful, our dishes are just that much better. In the next decade? Wow. I dunno, probably more casual dining and more socially inspired food.
TM: How would you describe LURE if it were a person?
RB: LURE is that awesome, loyal friend that knows the community like the back of their hand. They’re smart but never pretentious and are awesome at meeting people and making friends – they make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. They’re that friend that you always call whether it’s a huge party or just the two of you, they somehow know exactly what you need.