This column is about all kinds of food stuff that happens in the geographic (and gastronomic) heart of Vancouver Island: the greater Comox Valley – Campbell River region. It’s a rich region. If you’ve got news, be part of the conversation. Share this information. Join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter.
Chef/owner Chris Zmeis hails from Greece and has 25 years in the rest industry before opening the doors to Yiamas Greek Taverna [75 - 8th Street, Courtenay 250-871-8552 +FB]. It’s in the newly renovated space that used to be home to my favourite Indian restaurant in my town, Go Mango. Rumour has it that owner Rikhi Datt is, like the owners of La Cabana De Marcos (also “closed until further notice”), looking for a new location. I keep thinking the glassed-in, blue-tile bit of modernism overlooking 5th and in the same courtyard as Delicado’s [180 - 5 Street Courtenay 250-338-8885] and #1 Hana Korean Restaurant [250-334-0868, 526 Cliffe Avenue, Courtenay] would make an excellent venue for a hip downtown restaurant or bar…
In the meantime, south Asian fare can be had at Kinaree Thai Cuisine [526A Cumberland Road, 250-898-8639] where some of the Girls Who Love Good Grub Club (“GirlsWLGGC”) recently enjoyed a large and sumptuous dinner with “excellent service.”
South of town the Kingfisher Resort [4330 Island Highway 250-338-1323 and 800-663-7929 +FB] and Chef Troy Fogarty are celebrating the resort restaurant’s new name with a new “West Coast inspired/local ingredients” menu. The name for The Breakwater Restaurant may have come from a Facebook contest, but it also reflects Chef Troy’s interest in local marine history and the resort’s tranquil nature. Stay tuned to our Twitter and FB feeds as I’m hoping to test the new menu soon.
Downtown, Atlas Cafe [250-338-9838, 250-6th Street, Courtenay +FB] just celebrated a birthday on April 24 – thanks to owners Sandra Viney and Trent McIntyre for helping to change the face of the local food scene with their bold step 17 years ago! Atlas will be releasing an updated Spring/Summer menu mid-month. A couple of Chef Jon Frazier’s Asian-themed items are piquing my interest. (What I’m really interested in though is what mix-master wizard Torrie Howlett is going to be doing with the new drinks list, especially after talking to Connie about their recent trip to Victoria for wine – and various other tastings.)
The birthdays continue with Thai Village Restaurant [2104 Cliffe Avenue, Courtenay, 250-334-3812 + FB] celebrating its 7th in May with “the most flavour molecules for your dollar.” These flavours include fresh-from-the-patio Thai herbs and $3.95 beers from Granville Island Brewery [@itsgoodtobehere], Tree Brewery [@treebrewing], and Phillips Brewery [@phillipsbeer]. New hours: no lunch but extended evenings hours through the summer.
The “Big Bike” menu continues at Crown Isle’s Silverado Grill [Crown Isle Resort, 399 Clubhouse Drive 250-703-5050]. Chef Andrew Stigant and crew are offering a $26 3-course menu, with $1 from each meal donated to the resort’s Heart & Stroke Big Bike Campaign: Crown Isle employees take a turn on the 30 person fundraising bike ride in Comox June 16th. In addition to personal fund-raising, the Big Bike menu earned $300 by mid-April, with a dining goal of $500 by April’s end. The team’s overall goal: $2000.
About 5 minutes outside of Courtenay, Blue Moon Winery [250-338-9765, 4905 Darcy Road] is starting a monthly feature, working with local chefs for a series of Blue Moon Farm Dinners paired with Blue Moon wines. Local food, from local farms, created into amazing dishes and an incredible menu by our local talent. It may be over when you ready this, but the kick-off is a great one: On May 5th, Chef Ronald St. Pierre of Locals Restaurant [250-338-6493, 364-8th Street, Courtenay + FB + @eatcomoxvalley] makes a farm feast in an intimate setting for 20 people. For ticket information and menu details on this and upcoming Blue Moon Farm Dinners visit the website.
As I write this I’m preparing to enjoy another of Chef Aaron Rail’s One Big Table events at Avenue Bistro [250-890-9200, 2064 Comox Ave, avenuebistro.ca +FB + @AvenueBistro]. I wrote about it recently because these are very tasty, very social, very fun events. They happen on the last Monday of the month and are well worth a visit. May is also the month when the region’s growing season really gets started and this will be showing up on Chef Aaron’s nightly fresh sheets. AveB staff join with staff at sister Atlas Cafe to thank Jeff and Susan Vandermolen at Beaufort Wineries [www.beaufortwines.ca] for hosting the “Spring Release Wine Tasting” and showcasing what AveB’s Connie Earl says is an “amazing line-up this year!” Both restaurants are offering Beaufort’s red and white wines on their lists, as well as featuring them in a series of special events over the coming year.
On May 5 Chef Greg MacDonald is hosting a “special menu night/date night at the Waverley Hotel in Cumberland [2692 Dunsmuir Ave. 250-336-8322 waverleyhotel.ca +FB]. At $25 a seat they’re selling out. I’ll be checking out Chef Greg’s weekly Sunday Bluegrass Brunch this month with some of the GirlsWLGGC. Watch for Chef Greg’s bi-monthly Chef Table events (5 courses $38 without wine; $50 with wine).
I recently dropped into the Wandering Moose Cafe [250-400-1111 2739 Dunsmuir Avenue Cumberland www.wanderingmoose.ca +FB] in the old post office on Dunsmuir. My coffee was great, and even though I’d already had lunch I was tempted. Right across the road is Tina Willard-Stepan’s Seeds Natural Food Market [250-336-0129 2733A Dunsmuir Ave www.seedsfoodmarket.ca +FB] – watch for daily specials posted on FB. Kitty corner is Riders Pizza [250-400-7433, B-2730 Dunsmuir Ave. www.riderspizza.com +FB]. I’ve not been yet but have heard great things about the pizza (I also like that they’ve taken a few steps into the local tango Argentino community, always a good thing in my books!).
A couple of great recent food experiences in this town include the annual Campbell River Rotary fundraiser Dancing and Tapas (at North Island College, featuring the talents of NIC’s Culinary Arts program students (who also show their stuff via the seasonal Third Course Bistro at North Island College, 1685 South Dogwood St, 250-923-9708 Thurs & Fridays 5-8pm http://j.mp/3rdCourseBistro).
The second great CR food experience was a wonderful brunch at Anglers Dining Room [at Dolphins Resort, 1-800-891-0287, 4125 Discovery Drive / dolphinsresort.com +FB @DolphinsResort] thanks to “breakfast chef” Tanya Kuster. May 25-27th marks the beginning of monthly wine pairing dinners with partner Beaufort Wineries [250-338-1357, 5854 Pickering Road, 10 minutes north of Courtenay www.beaufortwines.ca]. With Chef Joe Volk (NIC Culinary Arts alumni) at the helm the dinners have a “100 mile” theme. Dolphins Resort (parent to Anglers) is offering special 1-night rates for all wine pairing diners not wanting to travel after eating and drinking. What’s cool is that there’s also a “by donation to the Campbell River Food Bank” shuttle as far south as the Oyster River.
About a half hour drive north of town, I found delicious (and enormous) cinnamon buns thanks to baker/owner Lorna Duncan at Roberts Lake Resort [Island Highway, Roberts Lake 250-287-9421]. Note: There are lots of great hikes nearby to help discount the caloric impact of these beauties.
- What the food and dining conversation looks like on Twitter, 80km around the Comox Valley (hanspetermeyer.com)
- One Big Table, the monthly social feast at Avenue Bistro (bonvivantvancouverisland.com)