Time together

Martin and I just returned from a week away on Vancouver Island. October is the anniversary of when we met, and also when we got engaged so I decided to surprise him with a mushroom picking adventure as a present. It was a wonderful time together and I thought I would share some of the food exploits with you.

We have a dear friend in Victoria who was kind enough to loan us her turn-of-the-century apartment, so we had the perfect home base. Our first day dawned bright and sunny, so off we went to explore the city. Chinatown is a must-see part of town, so we started there. Martin delved into the culture right away and bought some fresh BBQ pork to enjoy as a snack later. (If you are not a purist like my chef, you can also enjoy a bun with the pork inside as a filling – the perfect wandering snack in its own package.) We dodged our way between the delivery trucks on the street and the hustling shop owners to enter Fan Tan Alley, a tiny walkway between some of the oldest buildings that also houses some of the coolest shops. This is one of the best places to find stocking stuffers that I have ever encountered in my travels.

We wandered a bit more but our real focus that day was the afternoon’s activity – a kayak tour in and around Victoria harbor. We could not have picked a better day, or better guides to take us out on our adventure. I highly recommend Brad and Katherine at Kelp Reef ; they are experienced, relaxed and very informative. They have all the gear – hats, gloves, and warm jackets. They even have a special dock so you don’t get your feet wet! Brad, our guide, was so knowledgeable that when he found out that Martin was a chef and I was a food geek, he took us to a special spot to enjoy an ocean treat – rock weed. It is a sort of kelp that is very flavourful and actually sweet. We asked about bull kelp too, which he told us was good to eat in the spring when it was fresh. (We giggled afterwards that perhaps he might have been leading us on, two gullible landlubber foodie types who would eat anything if you told them it was a delicacy.) Brad informed us about Victoria past and present, he pointed out sealife and regaled us with tales of their antics, and he guided us to having a relaxing and enjoyable paddle. He recommended that we end our afternoon on the dock at The Fish Store with some fresh oysters, which we dutifully did. They were beautiful with the ginger mignonette. I was surprised to learn that this was the only 100% Oceanwise restaurant on Vancouver Island but was glad we took in their fare.

That night we had a lovely light dinner at a place called the Heron Rock Bistro in James Bay. I had lovely mussels in a leek, tomato and bacon cream broth with Dr. Loosen Riesling and Martin had a duck confit salad with toasted pecans and cranberries that he enjoyed with a Pfaffenheim Pinot Gris. (They did have BC wines on their list as well.)

The next day it was pouring, so we started the day with a cozy breakfast of waffles at West Coast Waffles. It’s a cheery place where they do a great job focusing on one food in all its forms. Just don’t let the manager make you feel guilty if you order coffee – he just kicked the habit, and was quite cute about sharing his success. For dinner, we met our friends at a fun bar and restaurant called Glo – they had a big screen for the guys to watch the final game of the World Series, but enough ambience for us girls to still enjoy the evening. Thanks to Gavin, the bartender, for looking after us so well. The special Chef’s Menu they had was a steal, and the wine he offered us as a pairing (Wallace Shiraz Grenache) was most enjoyable.

With our catching up done, we headed to the country for “the hunt” – mushrooms, that is. We spent the day with Bill Jones at Deerholme Farm in Duncan, taking part in his fall foraging class. Martin knows quite a bit after his years of foraging and cooking, but they compared stories and preferences for the many types of wild fungi that are available. I learned a huge amount about what the best edible mushrooms look like and how to tell them apart from others, where to find them and how to pick them. Bill cooked us a 3 course lunch amidst our learning and hiking around his farm. The buckwheat soba noodle salad with pickled morels was the most unusual dish, but it was all lovely, and fun to meet the other aficionados that hailed from far and wide to take in the autumn bounty. It is always a shot in the arm to meet with other food enthusiasts and share the passion of sharing a meal.

We wandered in the funky town of Cowichan Bay and found a great bakery that certainly embodies their Citta Slow emblem (Naramata has the same designation from Slow Food). True Grain Bakery has very tasty ginger cookies! (It all looked good.) The next morning we meandered our way up the road to Parksville, our next destination, and found two great highlights: Saison Market Vineyard and the Teafarm. We didn’t get a chance to chat with Frederic or Ingrid, the owners at Saison, as their little café was packed only 15 minutes after opening on a Sunday morning. The chocolate brioche was divine, though. We did enjoy a wonderful visit and tea sampling with Victor and Margrit at the Teafarm, and that was also an experience to remember. The whole drive through the valley is magical – it is different terrain and experiences than the Okanagan, but it has the same sense of adventure.

We stayed at Tigh-na-Mara Resort in Parksville, which was the perfect end to our week. The bungalow was in the trees, and the easy walk to the beach was a great way to start the day (the sunrise picture is posted this week). Their breakfast was just what we needed before our mushroom picking hike in the hills. We enjoyed some of the snacks we had picked up along the way in our room later – micro-beers, cheese, bread – a perfect autumn picnic.

Now we are home, all refreshed and full of vigor for the fall season. I hope if you get over to the island, you will try some of our finds for yourself!


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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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