This food news column is about what’s fresh and tasty in my “home region” – the greater Comox Valley / Campbell River area. My biases: local food, local beverages, great service. We’re hosting a #localfoodhero series of contests to celebrate the growers, chefs, bartenders, servers, flavouristas, etc who sustain us and tantalize our palates. There’s mention of our contests at the foot of this post, but first the news…
On the 5th anniversary of opening the doors to Bisque Restaurant [14th and Cliffe Ave., Courtenay 250-334-8564 + FB @eatatbisque], congratulations to Maralee and Chef Steve Dodd! I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch there recently and I’m impressed they’ve made this off-Cliffe venue work so well. Lots of local food on the menu. Secondly, congrats to Chef Jonathan Frazier of Atlas Cafe [250-6th Street, Courtenay 250-338-9838 +FB] as one of the “40 under 40” selected by the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce. He’s a local food champion in the Atlas kitchen and via the Edible Valley Podcasts [ @EdibleValley +FB] he’s producing with collaborator Blayne Powse. Finally, congrats to Jeff Lucas, Manager, on opening the new Cascadia Liquor [200 - 444 Lerwick Road 250-871-8171 +FB] store in Courtenay. We’re looking forward to wandering the aisles (looking for local brews for sure).
Dark Side Chocolates [2722 Dunsmuir Avenue, Cumberland 250-336-0126 +FB] is hosting a month-long “Movember” promo. Owner Allison Mackenzie is donating $1 of every chocolate “moustache-on-a-stick” sold in November to prostate cancer research. Plus, if you let her put your pic (with your real or choco ‘mo) on the Dark Side FB page it’s entered into a 2-part contest. More details coming via the FB page. I’ll be interviewing Allison about this for EatDrinkComoxValley.tv
The biggest and broadest wine tasting event in our region takes place on Nov 3. The annual Crown Isle Winefest [399 Clubhouse Drive 250-703-5050 ] features wines from around the world, including BC and Comox Valley vintages. Gregor Mowatt, Crown Isle’s Director of Operations was a “wine guy” in a previous life before coming to the Valley late last year. There’ll be an EatDrinkComoxValley.tv interview with Gregor about Crown Isle, WineFest, and wine later in November.Chef Jonathan Frazier and Edible Valley Podcast collaborator Blayne Prowse preparations with land-locked perch ©Jonathan Frazier/EdibleValley
Crown Isle also hosts the Aquaculture Innovation Workshop on Nov 5-6. Sponsored by The Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute, Tides Canada and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, this is 4th in a series and focuses on “land based” aquaculture. For more information contact Tides Canada [TidesCanada.org 1.866.780.6611].
Healthyway Natural Foods Market [55-1270 Dogwood Street, Campbell River 250-286-6011 +FB] is one of the hosts of a Community Forum on Genetically Modified Foods at North Island College’s Campbell River campus [1685 South Dogwood St], Wed Nov 14 7-9pm. Lucy Sharratt, of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (Ottawa) will be speaking on GMOs and their impact on our health and environment. FMI: email karen.baily (at) sd72.bc.caCandlelight Conservation Dinner at Union Street Grill in downtown Courtenay
The PowerSmart-inspired “Candlelight Conservation Dinner” of late October was so popular that Union Street Grill [250-897-0081, 477-5th Street, Courtenay +FB @UnionStreetGril] is reprising it with a “Candlelight by Moonlight Dinner” on Nov 17 as part of the downtown Courtenay’s “Moonlight Magic” weekend. I’m also a fan of the regular USG Thurs evening “Neighbourhood Night” mixers and specials.
The Comox Valley Beekeepers will be hosting their last meeting & potluck of 2012 at Dove Creek Hall on November 27th at 6pm. New and experienced beekeepers, and those just interested in all things bee & honey related are welcome to attend. FMI: www.cvbclub.com
It has just been confirmed: in the wake of another wonderful end-of-month feast in October, Chef Aaron Rail and Connie will be hosting a 4-course, wine-pairing One-Big-Table type event on Nov 26 at Avenue Bistro [2064 Comox Ave 250-890-9200 +FB + @AvenueBistro] in Comox. Until then, AveB is featuring local Beaufort Winery [250-338-1357, 5854 Pickering Road, 10 minutes north of Courtenay ] Ca Beautage, an estate grown blend of Leon Millot, Cabernet Foch, and Merechal Foch.
On Dec 4 Comox Valley based Fertile Ground “east/west sustainability network” will be hosting their AGM. With partners in Assam, India FG has a mission of “bringing people together to care for the soil, grow healthy food, and celebrate cultural diversity.” I’m assuming that means good food whenever and wherever they gather… FMI: www.fertile-ground.org
Chef Catherine Berg former Executive Chef at the Heriot Bay Inn is now at the Black Creek Diner [8268 Island Highway 778-428-5680]. Watch for Chef Catherine’s “Fall Features,” including schnitzel, spatzle, and red cabbage. All of it appropriate for this historically German-speaking Mennonite community (and my hometown, btw, so the flavours look very appetizing… ). Chef Catherine is working on a collaboration with several local chefs for a fundraiser feast on Dec 8 – given her commitment to Danish food, it’ll be a distinctly festive European meal celebrating the season and inspired by local ingredients.
Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt is a local producer we’ve been watching with great interest for a little while now. The samples of their “Cream-top” yogurt are the best I’ve tasted since I strolled the streets of Athens 33 years ago. An “artisan yogurt company,” Tree Island uses whole milk from grass-fed cows and traditional kettle cooking. Watch for their November launch to retailers. Our cover photo this month features Sadie Hodson trying her first spoonful of Tree Island Yogurt (Sadie won their Facebook “month-of-yogurt” contest in October).
Watch for some food-related news coming from Courtenay’s Bridge Lounge [#90-5th St 250-871-7277 www.thebridgelounge.com]. It’s primarily a dance/entertainment venue, but rumours are flying about a chef we like making this his new home.
The Comox Valley Farmers’ Market [+FB @CVFarmersMarket] has, as of Oct 27, moved indoors to the “winter market” location at the Native Sons’ Hall on Cliffe, downtown Courtenay. It’s a warm venue that I love. Manager Vickey Brown notes that fresh local vegetables were available into February last season. Drop by. Even buying a few items (coffee? best cinamon buns in the world?) helps keep local small-scale producers and vendors going.
Warm and busy, the indoor winter Comox Valley Farmers’ Market in downtown Courtenay’s Native Sons’ Hall
With the cooler weather the Comox Benino Gelato location closes for the season. They’ve let us know, however, that in case of “gelato emergencies,” their product is available in handy take home tubs at Comox Videos ‘n More. [264 Anderton Rd]. In Courtenay, gelato emergencies (as well as chocolate and amazing baked goods’s emergencies) are handled year ‘round at Hot Chocolates / Cakebread Bakery [368-5th St, Courtenay, 250.338.8211, www.hot-chocolates.com].
More news from Cumberland’s “Mainstreet Food Row” – every time I visit Dunsmuir I’m impressed with how much good food is packed into 3 blocks of this little town. This time we’re talking about Crystal’s Place [Cumberland Hotel, 2714 Dunsmuir Ave 250-336-8844 +FB @InCumberland]. Owner Crystal Todd emphasizes an “East meets West” fusion with creative takes on sushi, flavour-rich vegeterian dishes, as well as “gourmet pub fare.” Lots of fresh seafood and Island produce. Specials all month: big bowls of Ramen soup on Weds, fish ‘n chips on Thurs.
In Campbell River I’m always watching what Chef Joe Volk is up to at Anglers Dining Room [at Dolphins Resort, 1-800-891-0287, 4125 Discovery Drive / +FB @DolphinsResort]. He sources his food from some of my favourite producers – like Pattison Farms in Black Creek – and his menu is loaded with lots of local seafood. November’s menu will emphasize the bounty of fresh-picked mushrooms, as well as blackberries Chef Joe picked with his kids over the summer. There’s a standard “3 courses for $30” fixe prix menu available Mon-Wed. Then it’s “Tapas Thurs” – an opportunity to sample a wide range of tastes. Looking forward to it!
We’re very sorry to report that one of our “must visit” spots in Campbell River – Cheddar and Co. – has closed it’s doors. A one-of-a-kind place that has no match in our region.
South of my town, and new to me, is Weinberg’s Good Food [6856 Buckley Bay Rd, 250-335-1534 +FB]. A Buckley Bay source for espresso, gluten free treats, organic produce. Located next to the Fanny Bay Oysters Seafood Shop [250-335-1198].
Klassic Kaffee Klatch fare on Denman Island ©KaffeeKlatch
Across the water, a short ferry ride away, is the Kaffee Klatsch Bistro [3646 Denman Road 250-335-2299 +FB]. KKB is about local food and building community. Check out monthly full dinner options during these fall and winter months, with live music on occasional Thurs. I’m told they’re also making Tourtière, a rarity on the West Coast.
Thanks to Union Street Grill in downtown Courtenay for sponsoring the first of the #localfoodhero social media contests. We got some wonderful stories from readers – thank you. Some of these, as well as the October winner, will be posted in early November at EatDrinkComoxValley.com. For November, we’re asking you to tell us about your favourite local food or beverage producer/grower on Vancouver Island. The winner will walk away with a $100 gift certificate to Avenue Bistro in Comox. For more information visit EatDrinkComoxValley at the blog or on Facebook.