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!!