With June it’s all about fresh garden produce, outdoor food, summer cocktails, and adventures here in the cornucopia of the greater Comox Valley – Campbell River region – and, of course, the Sixth Annual BC Shellfish Festival. Touted as “the largest on the West Coast.”
Lots of special events taking place in June in our region, with the BC Shellfish Festival [250-890-7561 bcshellfishfestival.ca +FB @BCSFestival] having several events rolled into the week of June 12-16. First, BCSF is hosting the screening of “Shellshocked: Saving Oysters to Save Ourselves” on June 12 at North Island College. Two days later I’ll be part of a crew judging the “Best Caesar in Town” event at The Flying Canoe Pub [1590 Cliffe Ave, Courtenay, 250-331-4006 www.flyingcanoe.ca +FB @FlyingCanoePub]. On June 15 it’s the annual 6-course Chef’s Dinner event. From noon-6pm on June 16 it’s the day-long festival devoted to BC seafood at Marina Park in Comox. Check the website at bcshellfishfestival.ca for more details.
On June 20 Blue Moon Estate Winery [250-338-9765, 4905 Darcy Road, Courtenay www.bluemoonwinery.ca] and Locals Restaurant [250-338-6493, 364-8th Street, Courtenay www.localscomoxvalley.com + FB + @eatcomoxvalley] present A Medieval Feast with Chef Ronald St. Pierre. The evening features fine food, wine, medieval games and dance, and prizes! A medieval-themed dress code (and attitude?) is required. For tickets ($70pp, $90 with wine) and more information contact either Locals or Blue Moon Winery.
Later in the month on June 23 Innisfree Farms [3636 Trent Road, Courtenay 250-336-8768 http://j.mp/InnisfreeCSA] is hosting the Gardens Without Borders [gardenswithoutborders.org] dinner event as a fundraiser for their horticulture therapy program. RSVP by June 15 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On June 24 Barbara Odegard and Marla Limousin (of Bluemoon Winery and Natures Way Farm – it’ll be a busy month for Marla!) are guides to “Expedition 1” in what looks like a series of “r.e.a.l” (random experiences [of] agricultural life) events at Ironwood Farm [8301 Island Hwy. S 250 335 2557 +FB]. The solstice event celebrates “herbs and plants to connect with and get to know on Midsummer’s Day.” FMI contact Ironwood.
Blue Moon Winery is also the venue for a series of 4 cooking classes in July for lovers of the French language. Chef Gaetane Palardy of Island Gourmet Trails [250-650-1956, www.IslandGourmetTrails.ca] and French Second Language teacher Edith Jacob have a menu that includes dishes from France, North Africa, and from “our own bountiful Nouvelle Province!” Each workshop ($85pp, ) includes an interactive cooking class, a gourmet dinner, recipe package, wine tastings … “et tout ça en français!” FMI and to register, contact Edith at email@example.com or at 250-338-9789.
Out of doors…
One of my favourite outdoor eating places is the deck in the garden at Tita’s Mexican Restaurant [250-334-8033, 536-6th Street, Courtenay +FB]. It’s spot prawn time and that means I’ll soon be grazing on prawn tacos with a garden fresh margarita on the side. The warm Aztec chocolate cake is a great way to finish – or reason to stop by!
A picnic spot I plan on checking out this season is Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery [250-338-1357, 5854 Pickering Road www.beaufortwines.ca] in Grantham (just north of Courtenay). Congrats to Susan & Jeff Vandermolen – their “Black Solera” recently won a Gold at the “All Canadians!” That makes 43 medals Beaufort has gathered in its relatively short history (6 years?).
Another place on my “must visit” list this summer is Coastal Black Estate Winery [250-337-8325, 2186 Endall Road, Black Creek www.coastalblack.ca FB+ @CoastalBlack]. When I dropped by they were working on a big patio with wood-fired pizza oven. Nice place to host the late summer Flavour: The North Island’s Gourmet Picnic event (September 23; watch for it on Twitter by searching #FlavourSept23).
By the time you read this, Kathy Jerritt and the Tria Fine Catering [250-871-8716 www.triafinecatering.ca @triaculinary +FB] team will have probably hosted the first of their summer “Full Moon Feasts” on June 4 at the Filberg Lodge grounds in Comox. Visit the website for upcoming feast dates and more information on other Tria activities (there a lots!). I get my weekly taste of Jerrit and Co’s outdoor fine foods at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market [www.comoxvalleyfarmersmarket.com +FB] when I enjoy their delicious savory breakfast crepe.
Congrats to Allison Mackenzie – she just celebrated “one whole crazy year as Cumberland’s chocolatier“ as owner of Dark Side Chocolates [2722 Dunsmuir Avenue, Cumberland 250-336-0126 www.darksidechocolates.com +FB]. Welcome to Amara Farm [2641 Kirby Rd, Courtenay 250-331-0543 +FB @AmaraFarm], joins the ranks of local, organic food producers in the region. Arzeena Hamir and co. are their first year of certification, with a focus on selling garlic & winter vegetables. Where does the bison come from in our local restaurants? Take a drive down Hamm Road in Black Creek and you’ll see big shaggy meat-on-the-hoof eating grass at Island Bison [3100 Hamm Road islandbison.com]. Visit the online store for cuts of meat, smoked products – and deliveries right to your BBQ! I’m thrilled to see that Catherine Keylock is re-opening a personal favourite, the former Comox Valley Bakehouse, as Sweet Revenge Bake House [12-2998 Kilpatrick Ave, Courtenay, 250-871-8855 www.sweetrevengebakehouse.ca]. Patrons will be happy to know that the famous Sonya is returning to create her baked goodness. I’m hearing good things about breakfast at the Zocalo Cafe [250-331-0933, 208 A 5th Street zocalocafe.ca +FB]. They also do lunch and dinner daily with live music Thurs-Sat evenings. Watch the FB page for daily specials.
Torrie Howlett’s new drinks list is starting to take shape at Atlas Cafe [250-338-9838, 250-6th Street, Courtenay www.atlascafe.ca +FB]. We test drove a recent gin/lime/rosemary refreshment – thumbs up on that one! Chef Jonathan Frazier will be hosting a cooking demo at the BC Shellfish Festival featuring Qualicum Bay Scallop Ceviche. I’m hoping this shows up on the Atlas fresh sheet soon – and often! Union Street Grill & Grotto [250-897-0081, 477-5th Street, Courtenay www.unionstreetgrill.ca +FB @UnionStreetGril] has upgraded their website with links to weekly lunch and dinner specials. Watch for street food every Sunday (yes, Car Free Sunday is good for downtown business) this summer. Lots more going on at one of the most adventuresome eateries downtown. Check the blog (more smart stuff). Nice to see that Mark and Danielle get out with family to enjoy themselves and some local bubbly, Beaufort Wines Sparkling Rosé.Summer menus will soon be in place at Avenue Bistro [250-890-9200, 2064 Comox Ave, www.avenuebistro.ca +FB + @AvenueBistro] and I’m looking forward to what Chef Aaron Rail has in mind for the Glen Alwyn Farms [www.glenalwinfarm.net/ +FB] lamb… I’m thinking the BC Shellfish Festival will also have an impact on AveB’s summer offerings: bartender Victoria Mearns is collaborating with Chef Aaron on a special caesar for the #CaesarJun14 competition, Aaron is in the chowder competition, and Devon Shute is planning to reprise last year’s “first” in oyster shucking. Great to see this level of participation! Enjoyed the best cup of coffee in a long time recently at Baba Gannouj [250-286-3899, 465 Merecroft Road, Campbell River +FB] – a generous cup of Turkish. It was so good we stopped in delish takeout on our way back from visiting the Discovery Islands. My favourite breakfast and dinner spot in Campbell River, cozy Angler’s Dining Room [at Dolphins Resort, 1-800-891-0287, 4125 Discovery Drive / www.dolphinsresort.com +FB @DolphinsResort], is adding space and extending hours of operation to 7 days a week for dinner. They’re also offering their great value 3-course $30 menu 3 nights a week (Mon-Weds). Heron’s Restaurant [at Heriot Bay Inn, 673 Hotel Rd, Quadra Island 1-877-605-4545 www.heriotbayinn.com +FB] welcomes long-time islander Chris McCallum as their new Chef. A new pub menu (also the Heron’s lunch menu) features summer salads, wild-caught west-coast fish, and a selection of appetizers and savory burgers. On the next island east, the dining room at Hollyhock [Cortes Island, 800-933-6339 www.hollyhock.ca +FB @HollyhockLive] is well-worth a ferry or two: inspiring and delicious vegetarian buffets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with much of it grown in the amazing garden on the property.
Tis the season for weddings (and all kinds of outdoor parties). Here’s a short list of recommended (organized A-Z) caterers in the region: As You Like It [www.unionbaycatering.ca 250-335-2625], Carmie’s Catering [carmie.jigsy.com 250-336-2667], Clove’s Catering [www.cloves.ca 250-334-9444], Custom Gourmet [www.customgourmetchef.com 250-898-4759], Plates Eatery & Catering Co. [www.platescatering.com 250-334-8087], Tria Fine Catering [250-871-8716 www.triafinecatering.ca @triaculinary +FB].
The big centres are seeing lots more of this. Locally we’ve had Buns on the Run (though I’ve not seen them in some time), and there are always lots of mobile vendors at festival sites. I’m thrilled to see we’ve got our own Japa Dog vendor (no name, but usually spotted near the Midas at 2275 Cliffe in Courtenay), and Sam and Pete’s Gourmet Hotdogs [+FB @samandpetes]. Like their big city cousins, Sam and Pete’s are using Twitter and FB to let us know where they are. I like that. Surfside Fish & Chips, on the other hand, is off-line, serving a loyal following in Marina Park (Comox). My source says to check out the fish po’boys.
1 June 2012
- Mid-Island Food News: May 2012 (urbandiner.ca)