The 2013 West Coast Expedition
We arrived on the west coast of Canada and apparently came upon the worst weather of this year’s winter. We experienced a plethora of weather including very high winds and torrential rain which was interrupted by intermittent clear blue skies. We were visiting the beautiful city Victoria B.C., Canada. The city is located on the southern tip Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada.We spent most of our days in Victoria exploring some wonderful neighborhoods. One thing that struck us was the abundance of local artwork and paintings on display at every restaurant we visited. It was a wonderful thing to experience.
The Flying Otter Grill
A bit tired from our all-day trip from Toronto, we needed some light and easy fare. A hotel staff member recommended the Flying Otter, which seemed to fit the bill. The Flying Otter Grill is a quaint spot located within walking distance of our hotel, right on the water, near the seaplane dock in Victoria’s main harbor. The Flying Otter has specials every night of the week and Thursday (the night we arrived) is Steak Night. For about $11.00, they serve a 6 oz. Angus cut New York Steak, 3 sautéed garlic prawns, a fully-loaded baked potato and a garden salad, yup, only 11 bucks! The only catch is they’d like you to purchase a drink, any drink. The steaks and prawns arrived as ordered, spiced perfectly and cooked exactly as expected. The flavor and quality of the meat was a pleasant surprise. We’d definitely recommend The Flying Otter!
James Bay Tea Room
One thing that is evident about Victoria is it’s English heritage. The English culture is definitely in the foreground here, pronounced and celebrated. High-Tea at the grand Empress Hotel was recommended as an activity we should consider. Another place that was recommended and deemed a bit less pretentious (and more reasonable / cost-effective) was the James Bay Tea Room. We decided that a full High Tea was not really something we needed to experience but a good cup would fill the spot. So, off we went to the James Bay Tea Room for lunch and a spot of tea. I have to say that the kitschy-decor was fun and the tea was simple and delicious. The chicken and meat pies weren’t as uplifting. The meat pie was very lack-luster in flavor and texture (it also tasted of freezer burn). Oh well, at least we had some fine tea there. James Bay Tea Room
The Black Olive
This small restaurant located in the downtown core on Pandora Avenue was a great find. The owner/operator of this establishment is a Greek immigrant from the island of Crete. He greeted us with a wonderful warmth an sincerity that we quickly felt at home. His staff was equally friendly and welcoming. After a few minutes, our conversation with the personable owner turned to food and culture. It winds up that Paul (the owner), is also a manufacturer and importer of quality olive oil. To say Paul is passionate about his olive oil does not do him justice. It was nice to witness the passion he has for food as in Meade us feel quite at home. The Black Olive is highly recommended!
With all the hype and recommendations we’ve gotten for the italian restaurant Fiamo, I’ve gotta tell ya, it ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. I was looking forward to a good plate of Linguine del Mare which they call Marinara de Fiamo. What struck me as a bit odd was the inclusion of cheese, as most Italians shy away from grated cheese on seafood dishes and opt for seasoned breadcrumbs. Fiamo, in my opinion is less than stellar.
Improvisational Cooking Night
One challenge that we occasionally give ourselves is to cook a meal where we are visiting. On this particular journey we had stayed at an inn that had a fairly usable kitchen. Since we were on the West-Coast, we decided to try our hand with some west coast seafood. Off we went to the local grocery store to get some supplies. We bought some Sockeye Salmon, pre-marinated prawns, white sweet potatoes, Cremini mushrooms, onions, garlic and Roma tomatoes. All we needed was to pick up some wine and Dungeness crab.On one of our walks we found the Red Fish Blue Fish snack bar and fish store. Since it was off season they were in renovation mode and the main store was closed. To our delight, they had not abandoned the fish-mongering business (which operated from the snack trailer). We bought some Dungeness Crab, which was prepped for us by the staff, and we were on our way.
The wine we chose for dinner was an organic red wine, a Nerello Mascalese by Rilento. It’s a great Sicilian wine that doesn’t seem to be available in Toronto
Red Fish Blue Fish
The next day we went back to The Red Fish Blue Fish trailer, but this time we were there for a Halibut Burger and a Salmon/Corn Chowder. The day was cloudy and cool, but the Chowder helped keep us warm as we ate at the park across the street. It tasted different from East Coast chowder which was great! I’d like to call it a West Coast Jive.
Craig Street Brewery (Duncan, BC) – Just Jake’s
On our travels we stumbled across the Craig Street Brewery in Duncan B.C. (The city of totem poles). Part of the Jake’s restaurant chain, this micro-brewery cooks up a mean pint to help wash down some really good food. We stopped in for lunch which included a Chorizo & Lentil Soup, a healthy House Salad (topped with glorious fresh B.C. salmon and Sweet Potato Fries). If you happen to be in the area, stop by and get them to pull you a pint or two
Heron Rock Bistro
The Heron Rock Bistro was recommended to us by a few locals we spoke to on the island. It was definitely worth the try. The Prix Fix menu they offered looked interesting. The starters of the meal were the real surprise. My meal began with two delicious Smoked Alaskan Black Cod Brandade Croquettes with Romesco sauce. My wife had chosen the Spinach Salad (spicy roasted hazelnuts, stilton and pears with dijon-shallot vinaigrette). Unfortunately, we were less than thrilled with our mains. The Pan Seared Arctic Char with chimichurri sauce, warm marinated vegetables and crispy potato strings was good, but not great. My wife appreciated the seasoning of Roasted Island Chicken Breast, braised red cabbage, winter squash and baby carrots. We felt the chicken was over-cooked and a bit tough.
Through Port Refrew and Lake Cowichan
Arriving at the small town of Port Renfrew we quickly realized that lunch would have to be had elsewhere. We stopped in at the local convenience store for some advice since everything else was closed. We decided to drive through to the town of Lake Cowichan, so off into the forest we went. The drive through the rain forest was awesome.Jake’s (once again)
This time, we chose to have the special that day, Halibut Battered Fish (sans the Chips) and Seafood chowder with fresh cut slaw.
Back to the Flying Otter Grill
Ah, our favorite Victorian casual food-spot. After a long day of exploring, we were set for some good, reasonably priced fare… back to the Flying Otter Grill. We had a tasty Wild Mushroom Tartlet served with Arugula Salad and Cured Beef (biltong), Blackened Snapper Salad with Roasted Potatoes served with Creamy Herb Dressing & Stone-Fruit Compote and finally a Traditional Boeuf Borguignon with Roasted Potatoes. Oh, we were satisfied.
Our last evening in Victoria brought us to Pescatores, a highly recommended Italian restaurant specializing in seafood. I must admit, they’re pretty good. Calamari – Flash fried with sea salt, red onion and house made tzatziki started my evening followed by a green salad and finally, a Linguini di mare (clams, mussels, seasonal fish and prawns tossed in a herb garlic oil). Oh, it was good. My wife had the Cedar Salmon, which was wild salmon with a sweet soy glaze, risotto and seasonal vegetables. All I can say is… fantastic! I washed the meal down with a Gray Monk Estate’s Gewürztraminer.
Final Walk About
On our final day we decided to walk around the Oak Bay Area of Victoria. One discovery we came upon was the Village Patisserie, a small shop run by a Persian immigrant whom specializes in conjuring traditional Persian food, pastries as well as some of her own concoctions. We spoke with the owner, Mojdeh, for a few minutes as we sampled a couple of her delectable pastries.
The Grape Gourmet
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