Flavour. It was a bit of a “coming of age” party. Over 50 food and drink exhibitors – chefs and growers, wine makers, brewers, soda popistas – mostly from the greater Comox Valley-Campbell River region, showing their stuff at one of our grandest venues. It was a confident statement about the flavours being grown and served in my place. I grew up here. I love food and drink. Am I proud of the Flavour event? You bet.
The best parts?
Lets start with the simple audacity of the event: we’re not a big region, but we’re loaded with local talent and an abundance of great producers. We’ve also got “history.” It’s not often all of us are pulling in the same direction. Somehow the organizers’ chutzpah, vision, and institutional cachet changed that. It was as if we were waiting for this little team – and it really was just the shared vision of two young women that started it – to tell us what we already knew: we’ve got something worth celebrating.
It was an auspicious beginning. The weather was warm, sunny. My car was crowed with a coterie of smart, beautiful, and hungry women – members of the esteemed Girls Who Love Good Grub Club. Turning off the Island Highway in South Black Creek we were immediately in the hamlet’s back lanes. Farmland. Dusty roads and golden fields. The mass of Constitution Hill to the west. And all around us: food. Row upon row upon row of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. A slow moving train of cars, we were making our way through the back fields of Coastal Black Estate Winery, site of Flavour.
We parked, and started to walk up the hill. Flavour was over the crest, but my gal stopped me: “The hum,” she said, smiling with anticipation, “Can you hear it!”
Another friend crested the hill, and “saw the masses of people and the lines. I started worrying that it would be a bit of a disaster. I was thinking, ‘We’re going to be waiting in line the whole time, just for a tiny bite!’ But after about five minutes, it was clear: the eater/supplier ratio was perfect, the lines were little, with just enough time to linger, talk to the producers, relax a bit between bites.”Chef Andrew Stigant of Crown Isle’s Silverado West Coast Grill serving salmon chowder
Best Savoury Bites?
In many cases growers and chefs had paired up to create a kind of “best of the best” that the region has to offer. What did the GWLGG choose as their faves?
Several were wowed by what Crown Isle’s Chef Andrew Stigant did with the scallop and the salmon soup. Another loved the beet gravlax being served by at the Anglers’ Dining Room tent. For one, it was a toss up: the poached oysters in seafoam sauce, or the sausage-stuffed date wrapped in bacon. “Decadent, sweet, fat, salty!” is how she described that one. Another said this morsel was the ‘appy marriage of sweet and savoury.
Another friend raved about what Chef Garrett Schack of Victoria’s Vista 18 was doing with local Komo Gway oysters: the fresh cucumber relish with the light smokeyness – “subtle, mysterious.” And the Hollie Wood oysters? “Salty, awesome, good.”Roberta Stevenson of BC Shellfish Growers’ Association working the Komo Gway oysters with Vista 18′s Chef Garrett Schack
We’re known for our shellfish for sure. With the spectre of a bacon shortage, let it be known that we’ve got a great pork producer in our midst: Tannadice Farms I’ve been loving their product for some time now and it’s put me on a real thing for pig. Sausage. Pork bellies. Bacon in everything I make. The sausage that Chef Aaron Rail and the Avenue Bistro crew prepared especially for #VIFeast was devine. The pate they were serving at #FlavourSept23 – super yummy. One well-travelled friend said it reminded her of eating in France. Talk about an ‘appy marriage: Chef Aaron and Tannadice pork!Allison Mackenzie and Sebastien Woodroffe of delicious Darkside Chocolates
Best Sweet Thing?
A few stood out. My Francophile friend highlighted the meringue ring with berry sauce, ice cream, and flowers served by North Island College students. Kudos indeed as Chef Chris Hansen noted they were less than 3 weeks into the Culinary Arts Program when they delivered 1300+ pieces of this dish.
The most talked about desserts, however, came from The Breakwater (the Kingfisher Resort’s rebranded restaurant) and Innisfree Farms. The Breakwater won hearts for a dish that featured meltingly soft chocolate on a thin, crispy wafer base. The Innisfree Farm concoction was, as a friend said, perfect for the event: “tasty, educational, deliberate, – and weird.” What was it? Golden bee pollen sprinkled over frozen raspberry (thawed) on a Belgian chocolate base. Divided in her love for the two offerings, one of the GWLGG cut the Gordian knot by mixing the two together. That, she proclaimed, was “the perfect dessert!”Union Street Grill’s Huckleberry Lemonade
And there were beverages too. Plenty of them. One of my pals suggested that her favourite beverage – the Philips Longboat Chocolate Porter – was also her favourite dessert. My fave beverage of the day was the Hucklyberry Lemonade from Union Street Grill. On a hot day with a lot of delicious (and often rich) food, it was cooling, not too sweet, and beautiful to look at with it’s swirl of herbs, berries, lemon slices, and edible flowers. Others fell in love with new flavours: An Ortega wine from Hornby Island’s Carbrea Vineyard that “the world needs to know about!” as well as a mead with soda, also from Hornby. On opposite ends of the site I found a couple of special beverage moments: the single grain rye being served by the Shelter Point Distillery gave me reason to give rye another chance, and the gaiety at Mandolyn’s Island Soda Works tent was a lovely way to be introduced to the event.
There is a rich agricultural and maricultural tradition in our region. Vancouver Island Feast of Fields has been celebrating the gastronomic goodness of the south Island for 15 years. We’re a little further north. Blooming a little later perhaps. Flavour was a “coming of age” event for food artisans, growers, and for us as enjoyers of food and drink. I’m hoping that enough of us can connect the dots, that enjoying these rich flavour experiences is a way to actively invest in our community – in growers, producers, restaurants, watering holes, and all the businesses and services related to our “flavour economy.”
Congratulations to the North Island College Foundation team that initiated this long-awaited celebration. Kudos to the North Vancouver Island Chefs’ Association and the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market for their ready support. Thank you to all the exhibitors and sponsors. Now folks, let get out and support these folks so that the flavours of our region become ever more bountiful, rich, and resplendent!
29 September 2012
- Mid-Island Food News for October 2012(urbandiner.ca)
- Matthew Wright talks about shellfish and #FlavourSept23(eatdrinkcomoxvalley.com)
- Mandolyn talks about Island SodaWorks and #FlavourSept23(eatdrinkcomoxvalley.com)
- Gerry Pattison talks about local food and #FlavourSept23(eatdrinkcomoxvalley.com)