Happy Pi Day!

Hi Folks:

It’s that one day of the year again (3-14) where we celebrate all things irrational by honouring the most famous of their brethren, pi (π). And as any mathematician worth his or her salt with tell you, nothing associates better with pi than pastry! It may be the perfect alchemical blending of flour and lard, egg and vinegar… or it may just be the homonym. No matter.

pi-blue-2400px

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Eating Our Way Through Victoria – Terroir Tea Merchant

Hi Folks:

As mentioned in our last post, the end of February marked Victoria’s “Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown” for 2016. It’s a great opportunity for locals to get out to places they may not yet have discovered in the greater Victoria area. We had loose plans to visit a few places on the Friday afternoon, but they pretty much evaporated when we crossed the threshold of Terroir Tea Merchant (on Fort, between Quadra and Blanshard).

Terroir Tea Merchant

Let’s begin with what Terroir is not: They don’t sell coffee, bottled water, fruit juice, cookies or doughnuts. What they do offer are more than two dozen different teas from the various tea-growing regions, sourced wherever possible from the growers themselves. Our tea was carefully prepared by a tea master, a woman so warm and engaging we abandoned our loosely-knit plans and took up far too much of her time instead. Charity is a certified tea master with accreditation from Australia and her partner (in tea and in life) Jason is a tea specialist with a science background. They are equally open, incredibly knowledgeable and wonderful to talk with. Terroir comes from the French language and encompasses not only the soil of a region but also the climate, rainfall, sun, as well as the culture and heritage of that region as all of these and more impact the plants growing there. An Oolong tea from Taiwan and an Oolong tea from Nepal are not the same by any means. Even plants from the same region, growing at different altitudes or picked at different times will have different flavours to offer.

Charity and Jason also understand the true nature of the word ‘competition’: to strive together. If they don’t have what a customer is looking for, they’ll refer them to someone who might. They have and will continue to incorporate tea pairings with other local businesses, combining their tea offerings with chocolate, perhaps, or different cheeses. More information on upcoming events is available on their website. They’re also developing and offering courses and workshops for those interested in learning more about the art of tea.

We’ve already told several friends about Terroir, and their responses can best be summed up by our friend A. who replied, “Yes! Their tea is amazing! I’m glad you’ve discovered them too!”

Do drop by their store on Front Street, and while you’re there take the time to watch the tea being prepared in what may be the coolest tea-making machine in Victoria. It looks like a French press on steroids and is controlled via an Android tablet. The software allows the simultaneous preparation of four different teas, each brewed for a specific time and at a specific temperature. If a customer has a certain preferences – longer steeping time or difference in temperature for example, custom recipes can be programmed into memory. They wouldn’t say, but we’re reasonably confident it can also monitor and track several small satellites… 🙂

Do drop by; you’ll be glad you did!

Hugs,
M&M

P.S. If you really want to know about the gummi bear tea (no, they do not sell it) well, you’ll have to ask. 😉

Dine Around & Stay in Town, 2016

Hi Folks:

One of the challenges with living in Victoria is that there’s always so much to do! Often one has to choose this instead of that (heavy sigh.. 🙂 ). As example, starting last Friday (February 19) and running until March 6 is the 2016 Dine Around and Stay in Town event. It’s an invitation for both residents and visitors to check out over 60 different local restaurants and try one of their prix fixe menus, with prices ranging from $20-$50/plate. Many places also have suggestions for wine or beer pairings. In addition to the food choices, a dozen hotels are offering rooms at rates beginning at $79.

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Eating Our Way Through… Portland!

Hi Folks:

Well, in a fit of madness (spurred on by our son’s wedding at the end of June) we came home from Vancouver, changed clothes and escaped Victoria for a few days… going south to Seattle and Portland. We’d promised ourselves an adventure for the summer, and this was it! Most of our food posts have covered local restaurants; this will combine both food and travel information into one. Continue Reading →

Happy Pi Day!

Hi Folks:

For those in the know, today is Pi ( π) Day (3-14). Today however marks a Pi Day that comes by only once a century because we have 3-14-15 9:26:53! Twice in one day! How cool is that?

As with our previous Pi Day post, in a moment of non-rational thought we thought we’d post a recipe! A pie recipe, of course. This one marks a favourite of Mike’s dad – a French Canadian tradition called Sugar Pie (or Tarte au Sucre in French).

To make this pie you’ll need a pre-baked pie shell. If you need a good pastry recipe, see our previous post!

Without further ado:

Sugar Pie

Ingredients
1 baked pie shell
3 cups (750 ml) pure maple syrup
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (125 ml) demererra brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. (30 ml)  unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. (5 ml) vanilla extract

Reduce/thicken the maple syrup by ¼ to ⅓ by placing it in a pot on the stove and boiling it for about 10-15 minutes or so. Set it aside to let it cool before continuing. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).  Mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl then add the maple syrup and combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and bake for about 35 minutes until it has risen slightly and is somewhat firm to touch. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool before serving.

NB: As the name implies, this pie is very sweet. You may wish to balance it with a nice dark roast coffee and/or some vanilla bean ice cream.

Enjoy!

Hugs,
M&M

Eating Our Way Through Tofino… Again!

Hi Folks:

Back at the end of March we decided to indulge our fascination for beach walking and combine it with a little winter storm watching by heading across the island to Tofino. We’ve stayed in Tofino three times now; as it happens each time was at a different location. We wanted to wait until after the Whale Festival to avoid the crowds, but we weren’t aware that many B&Bs and the like don’t generally open before April. We ended up staying at the African Beach Cabin, and were very glad we did! Continue Reading →

It’s Pumpkin Time!

Hi Folks:

Last year we did our Food post on pumpkins (A Plethora of Pumpkins) after Hallowe’en but we thought maybe this year we could be proactive.  With Thanksgiving recently behind us, what better time to talk about pumpkins?  In last year’s post we offered up some of our favourite pumpkin recipes; we’re going to add some more this year but with Hallowe’en still before us we thought we’d also add in some links to sites that offer free pumpkin carving templates.  In the past several years pumpkin carving has evolved into an art form unto itself and none of these templates approach that level of intricacy, but they do give you an opportunity to get creative and messy with your kids (or just you, if you don’t have kids):

Have fun with them!  Remember too that if you’re going to be cooking your pumpkin(s) after Hallowe’en, use a beeswax or non-toxic candle inside.

Okay, on with the recipes.  I like to give credit for recipes where I can, but I also think it’s fascinating that recipes are like stories, passing from friend to friend, from generation to generation, sometimes getting modified/adapted along the way.  I’ve had these recipes for a very long time and I don’t know who the authors are, but our thanks to you, whoever you are! Continue Reading →

Eating Our Way Through… Tofino!

Hi Folks:

Well, in a manner not unlike running away to join the circus, last weekend Marcia and Mike decided to escape for the weekend.  Knowing that summer is the height of tourist season and that it was a long shot at best, we began contacting a few B&Bs with the question, “Is there any chance you’re not completely booked this weekend?”  We were lucky, both in that we found an opening for Friday and Saturday nights, and more so in that we had the opportunity to meet (head chef) Duncan and (sous chef) Robin and stay at Gull Cottage.  Located on Lynn Road, almost directly across from an access trail to Chesterman Beach, Gull Cottage was perfect for us.  We stayed in the Spruce Room, with a wonderful bay window looking toward the ocean and a private bathroom next door.  Next time we’ll look into booking the Rainforest Room, probably with a little more than three days’ notice!

Gull Cottage

Gull Cottage

We left Victoria at 4:30 hoping to beat some of the weekend traffic, but even so it was six hours later that we finally pulled in their driveway.  The last time we were in Tofino was in 2007 for our son’s wedding, and were pleased to see that the road has undergone some upgrades since then.  Still, it’s a long and winding road and driving at night, in the rain is not something to be undertaken lightly – even if you do have over a million km of driving experience.   There is Tofino Air charter and a private, walk-on ferry that will take you from Port Alberni to Ucluelet, but if traveling by car there’s only one way in/out.  By the time we arrived everyone else in the house was already in bed but Duncan had kindly waited up for us, gave us a quick tour and took us to our room.  We slept like the dead and awoke early the next morning.

After a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, orange juice, coffee and curried eggs we headed across the road and down to Chesterman Beach.  The tide was slowly coming in, but it didn’t matter.  We walked, watched, played in the sand and made photographs; some of those will eventually make it to our Flickr site.

After we returned to the B&B and cleaned up a bit we headed into Tofino proper to take in the Saturday Market.  We stopped at the Tofitian Internet Café on the way so Marcia could get her Americano fix (strictly Earl Grey for Mike), and she pronounced it very good!  Held in the Village Green, the Saturday market is a ‘bake it or make it’ market, so everything for sale is created by the vendors themselves.  While we were there we picked up a loaf of bread from the 600 Degrees Bakery; it was hard to choose just one!  There were also plenty of games and exercises for kids (and adults) to play, and a couple of local elders were teaching kids how to weave cedar baskets.  While we were downtown we also perused several of the galleries, had ice cream at the local candy store (next time, Chocolate Tofino!), and stopped for lunch at Breakers Deli.  Mike had a pork roast and cheddar sandwich and Marcia had a great salad of mixed greens and seeds with added avocado to give her some protein.  Very tasty!  While we were downtown we also stopped at Schooner Restaurant (NB: clicking on their website link automatically plays not one but two videos… :-P) to see about a dinner reservation.  We were told that their tables were pretty much all booked for the evening but that if we came by we could wait.  We opted to do that, and returned to Chesterman Beach for the remainder of the afternoon!

The Schooner Restaurant is on Campbell St. in downtown Tofino – casual enough to accept the entire family, and yet upscale enough to celebrate the eve of your 225th Monthaversary (or whatever else you might have to celebrate).  We timed our arrival for about 7:00 and as luck would have it we were shown directly to a table overlooking the patio.  We began with a virgin Caesar for Marcia and iced tea (unsweetened – yay!) for Mike, and by sharing the warm ‘Goat’s Nut Salad’, which is a combination of chèvre cheese and toasted hazelnuts, served on top of a bed of mixed greens, with a pear fan for accent and a balsamic vinaigrette.  As we had discovered at both breakfast and lunch, eating fresh and local has hit Tofino in a big way, and we were very pleased to see it!

For the main course, Marcia opted for the ‘Long Boarding Salmon’ – locally caught salmon baked on a cedar plank, drizzled with a raspberry ginger coulis and served with local prawns, garden vegetables and rice.  Mike went for the ‘Naked Steak’ – an 8-oz. New York steak, covered only with sea salt and black pepper and grilled (rare, in this case).  It was served with mashed potatoes and a selection of vegetables as well.  Both were well prepared.

For dessert Marcia opted for the fresh ‘Blueberry Crumble’, served with handmade Chocolate Tofino ice cream.  Mike’s initial request – the ‘Three Generation Chocolate Cake’ was sold out, so a tasty goat cheese cheesecake made up the difference.  All in all, very enjoyable!

Sunday morning, after another excellent breakfast of fresh fruit with homemade muesli, bacon, egg and toast we gathered our things, checked out of our room and said a temporary good-bye to Robin and Duncan.  We had a few thoughts on what to do for the day but decided to head to Tonquin Park and Beach.  We arrived early enough that there were a few people but no crowds, which suited us perfectly.  After several hours of walking and making photographs (and with great reluctance) we left the quiet of the beach and the trees behind and began our journey back to Victoria, with one last stop along the way.  Okay, there were two as Marcia had to pick up some earrings she’d been enchanted by the day before.  The second stop was at Shelter Restaurant for lunch before heading out.  Shelter Restaurant is also on Campbell St., a little bit south of downtown.  As we’d discovered elsewhere, Shelter places great emphasis on local, organic and sustainable.  In their case they augment this with their own herb and vegetable garden, a two-tier composting system and a rainwater catchment system.  Within Shelter’s walls are a bar side and a restaurant side, and we chose a table by the window within view of the fireplace.  Being lunchtime and with a long drive ahead of us, we opted for slightly simpler fare.  Starting with water served in an reused wine bottle, Marcia had the ‘Shelter Salad’ – a combination of greens, peppers, cucumber, seeds, dates, feta cheese and chicken breast and Mike had a Club sandwich with a side green salad.  Both were delicious!

With that we turned our noses into the wind and headed for home, arriving in Victoria 4½ hours later.  Our return trip was much faster, but it was daylight, it wasn’t raining, and Marcia did more of the driving! 😉

We’re already looking forward to our next visit!!

Hugs,
M&M

Eating Our Way Through Victoria…

Hi Folks:

We haven’t written one of these for a while, but we have been continuing to sample some of the best culinary experiences Victoria has to offer and we thought we’d suggest a few more.  If you’ve read our previous ‘Food‘ posts you’ll know that we don’t write about places where we’ve had a bad experience; many things can contribute to that – the chef’s day off, server having a bad day, etc.  However, with every recommendation our reputation goes with it, so we only write about places we’d be pleased to revisit.  Without further ado, and in no particular order:

1) My Thai Café

On Cook Street one block south of Fort, the My Thai Café is a little far north to be considered part of Cook St. Village, but it belongs in spirit at least.  At first glance the café doesn’t seem to offer much – it’s very small, and it’s certainly not fancy.  Don’t let looks deceive you, however.  The food there is excellent, and according to friends of ours who visit Thailand with some frequency, the My Thai Café has the most authentic Thai cuisine in Victoria.  We’ve been there a few times and have never been disappointed.  Thai food is spicy by nature, but they are more than happy to accomodate those who prefer ‘mild’ to ‘hot’.  Open for both lunch and dinner, the prices are reasonable, the service is open and friendly… well worth a visit!

2) Hot and Cold Café

Farther south on Cook St. is the Hot and Cold Café.  If the My Thai Café is small, the Hot and Cold Café is tiny – it might hold a dozen people, or a few more if the patrons are willing to get cozy.  The first time we went there with friends we weren’t even sure it was open, although the sign on the sidewalk assured us that it was (they’re open to 7 p.m. daily).  Put plainly, we hesitate to mention this restaurant only because it’s so small and once word of mouth gets out we expect the place to be jammed.  Simple fare – soups, salads, sandwiches, but exquisitely prepared and presented.  Each dish is truly a work of art, and the taste is to die for.  Be sure to try the rice pudding for dessert.  We’ll say no more, and leave you to discover the rest for yourself!

3) Millos Restaurant and Lounge

Located on Burdett St, just east of Douglas, Millos is a place we’ve often walked by and thought, ‘We should go there someday’.  To celebrate our 218th Monthaversary of being a couple, we did just that.  The name ‘Millos’ comes from the Greek word  for ‘windmill’, and it was this feature of the building that originally aroused our curiosity.

Millos has been in Victoria since 1978, and the owners are celebrating 47 years of marriage this month.  Congratulations to them both!  We were seated and served by Dora, one of the owners (her husband runs the kitchen).  A little spit of a thing, she effuses warmth and grace, making our evening a true pleasure.  We shared a Greek salad to start and although we ordered the large to share Dora advised against it, saying that it was a meal in itself.  She was right, and the small was just right for the two of us.  For the main course we both had lamb; Marcia had the roast lamb shank and I had the souvlaki.  Both were excellent, and the vegetables were done perfectly.  I’m a sucker for Greek coffee (unsweetened), and Marcia shared a bit of the galactobouriko I had for dessert.  At the end of the evening Dora came to give us a hug before we left!

4) The Noodle Box

Part of a chain of restaurants, The Noodle Box restaurant on lower Douglas St. is one of five locations in the Victoria area.  In a world where ‘fast food’ often means deep frying and empty calories, The Noodle Box is a welcome exception.  With a generally ‘pan-Asian’ menu, The Noodle Box serves up a variety of satays, sir fry options, soups, curries and more.  Each order is made fresh, using ethically-sourced and healthy options wherever possible.  More nutrition information is available on their website.  Available for eat-in or take-out, even these choices are given a thought to the environment as the cardboard take-out containers can be cleaned and recycled and there is in-store composting for leftover food.  There’s a choice of reusable chopsticks for dining in and bamboo chopsticks for those taking their food away.  NB: the food can be prepared anywhere from ‘mild’ to ‘make my head explode’, but be aware that they tend to be a little generous with their chilies.  If you like hot food, you might want to try ‘medium’ or ‘medium hot’ on your first outing, just to be safe.  You can always add hot sauce. 😉

5) Olive the Senses

Victoria has so many great places to eat; we’re looking forward to exploring more of them! By the time you read this we’ll have taken in one of the free olive oil tastings at ‘Olive the Senses’, on the east side of the Hudson Bldg, something we’re looking forward to experiencing!!

Update: Well, we completed our tasting tour this afternoon… Steve (the owner) was unavailable, but were privileged to attend Annie’s first tasting tour!  She far surpassed our expectations (and our taste buds).  We had the chance to sample a number of single-origin and infused olive oils and both white and dark balsamic vinegars while we were there.  It was, in a word, a revelation.  We really had our eyes opened to both the international and national standards for ‘extra virgin’ olive oils, and what good oil should contain (and not contain), how to store it and more.  Informative, educational and entertaining, this shop well deserves a stop on every tourist’s agenda, and that of every island resident too.  We brought home a blood-orange infused olive oil and an espresso dark balsamic vinegar – quite a heavenly combination. 😀

As Julia Child would say, ‘Bon Appetit!’

Hugs,
M&M

P.S. You can read more of our Food posts and restaurant reviews here.

A Plethora of Pumpkins…

Hi Folks:

Since Canadian Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en have come and gone and American Thanksgiving is just around the corner, this time of year there are a plethora of pumpkins about.  Most often used to make Jack-O’-Lanterns and then either left to rot or offered up in tribute in some form or another to the musical group ‘Smashing Pumpkins‘, pumpkins can be cooked and made into many wonderful treats.  It is a bit time-consuming, but much better (in our opinion) than purchasing canned pumpkin from the store when there are so many real ones laying about. Continue Reading →