food

Get Better at Giving.

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 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.  

How to Beat Market Melancholia

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 will wrap 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.  

 

Make sure to check out the Moss Street Market website! Your essential guide to the market, its vendors, entertainers and even a handy list of in-season produce to help you plan your visit!  

Top 10 Fall Activities in Victoria

The Salmon Run

This natural phenomenon happens every fall, right up the road at the picturesque Goldstream Provincial Park. Watch as thousands of Chum Salmon battle their way upstream to spawn and die - which is kind of a bummer when you think about it. But because the estuary is protected its also an incredibly pristine ecosystem, so even if you miss the Run, you can always come to check out the insane amount of bald eagles that come later in the season. But for now you can watch the Salmon Run until the end November – just make sure to bundle up!

 

 

The Royal BC Museum

As a kid, we would go to the museum in the fall and it is as awesome now as it was then. Make sure to experience Totem Hall in the First Peoples Galleries – the way the totems are lit in the otherwise dim hall is so powerful – get ready for goose-bumps! From the Natural History Gallery to the Old Timey Town the museum is hours of indoor warmth and a surprising amount of fun for kids of all ages. Yay learning!

 

 

The Buchart Gardens 

Built over a century ago on the site of an exhausted quarry, the Butchart Gardens are now one of the world’s premier floral show gardens. Open all year round, the gardens showcase the best flora each season has to offer. The Autumn brings a riot of colour that is not to be missed!

 

 

 

 

Hit a Spa

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What better way to spend a chilly, rain-soaked, wind-swept weekend than by basking in the luxury of one of Victoria’s many incredible spas? If you’re looking for a funky, organic experience, look no further than Silk Road to melt your fall chills. Be sure to pick up some goodies to make your own at-home spa and keep the cold at bay. Or book yourself into The Spa at the Delta Ocean Pointe for a purely pampered experience. Whatever your speed, Tourism Victoria’s great list of pure pampering havens will help you chose the best one for you; or you could work your way through them all! You know you deserve it.

 

Catch a Show 

Dan Mangan. Nov 19th. I hope you got tickets. That is all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ogden Point Breakwater 

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On a sunny fall day grab your warmest touque, a cup of coffee and head to the breakwater. Stroll out to the end of the pier and keep your eyes peeled for our marine locals, get buffered by chilly, clean sea air and take in the breathtaking view of the Olympic Range. On your way back to Dallas Road make sure to check out the Na’ Tsa’ maht (The Unity Wall). The history of Esquimalt and Songhees Nations is beautifully interpreted in this public art project. 

 

 

Pub Crawl 

What better way to manage a chilly fall afternoon than gather a few friends and head out on a pub crawl? With the amount of Victoria establishments who have incredible craft beer options, you’ll be spoiled for choice! Map out your route and go to! There are also awesome brewery tours that will pull back the curtain on Victoria’s craft beer and cider scene for those into like to mix education and drinking.

 

 

Coffee Crawl 

Think pub-crawl, but with coffee! Victoria has kick-ass, locally owned coffee shops that use locally roasted (sometimes even on-site roasted), fair trade beans - and if that doesn’t get your motor running, the caffeine will.

 

 

Do Fine Dining 

For a small city, Victoria packs a punch when it comes to high gastronomy. Find delicate French fare at Restaurant Matisse or try elevated West Coast cuisine at Bella Montagne in Bastion Square. Plus any excuse to get out of that sweater and touque combo and take the ol’ Sunday best out for a spin is a good thing this time of year. 

 

 

Go for Brunch 

Weekend tradition, hangover helper, brunchkins, bro-brunch – whatever you call it, brunch is a Victoria tradition, and it’s no wonder with the amount of places serving up brilliant bennys. Eating with a group of people who all have different dietary needs? Mo:Lé is the place for your gaggle. There is literally something for everyone on the menu – no need for a million mods! Fancy a slice of history with your benny? Willie’s Café & Bakery is the place for you. Founded in 1887, this little bakery is BC’s oldest and is still serving up sumptuous dishes and fresh bread. AURA and LURE offer awesome brunch menus with breathtaking views and The Guild Freehouse has cozy brunch dishes in an elegantly revitalized heritage building. Or check out North 48 for fun, whimsical comfort food – it’ll make you feel like you’re a kid again! 

Make, Bake, or Grow: Why you can't miss the Esquimalt Farmers Market

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

 

An Interview at Heron Rock Bistro

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 Down with ICC? How Vancouver Island’s Chefs are keeping it Regional

Recently, the global community celebrated Earth Day – an event that attracts everyone from idealists and empty-gesturers to activists and bona fide eco-warriors. But agendas aside, the perennial message remains consistent: it’s time to take responsibility for the wellbeing of our planet!

If we’re being completely honest, involvement for most is relegated to well-meaning posts, tweets and likes (spread the good word, right?) and of course, semi-vigilant domestic composting and recycling. Bottom line? Most of us go to bed at night, safe in the knowledge that in some small way, we’re doing our part.

Sure, some Vancouver Islanders are doing more than others. Salt Spring Island Coffee’s multiple conscious, sustainable programs, or the City of Victoria’s Sustainability Action Plan. Then there are the green minded merchants like The Good Planet on Fort Street – but one of the biggest shifts in the Capital Region over the last few years in the proliferation of the sustainable food movement – a philosophy that has evolved into an industry standard. Where did this delicious green groundswell start? Let’s rewind to the late 1990’s…

Once upon a time, a group of top Victoria chefs came together to create the Island Chef Collaborative or ICC. The common denominator? A commitment to regional food security, the preservation of farmland and the development of local food systems – a vision that would grow into Vancouver Island’s booming sustainable food system. Fast-forward to the present and the ICC are raising funds to generate microloans that enable local farms to grow more food and better connect with local merchants. How have they become so effective?

By maintaining a broadly based membership of chefs, food industry professionals and individuals who share their values and concerns, the ICC achieves a collaborative working style that empowers those committed to actively accomplishing their goals. In doing so, they have succeeded in increasing awareness of locally produced foodstuffs by promoting them in the city’s businesses and featuring them on local menus, while also educating the public about the ecological and economic benefits of buying locally.

Now more than ever, people are recognizing the importance of locally sourced food – something that’s reflected in the ever-increasing demand. But there is a downside: many producers are finding it more challenging than they’d anticipated. Storage, processing and distribution make up one tall order and small operations simply don’t have the bankroll to stay in the game.

The Victoria Food Hub will change all that.

As early as this year, the ICC aims to provide a physical infrastructure for local food banks, farmers and distributors. The Victoria Community Food Hub Society will create the inertia (and resources) required to create locally sustainable food systems on the Island.

But there’s more to the big picture: the ICC is investing in tomorrow’s ecologically minded gourmands by teaming up with the Vancouver-based Growing Chefs! Chefs for Children’s Urban Agriculture program. Since 2005 Growing Chefs! has been educating children, families and communities about healthy, sustainable food practices.

Not only does Growing Chefs! provide an in-class, hands-on environment to teach children about growing and cooking food; it also provides an avenue for chefs and growers to engage more of their community in the promotion of urban agriculture.

Earth Day might be just one square on the calendar, but it serves as a good reminder to keep it green the other 364 days. And no one’s leading the charge quite like the ICC.

Bravo!