VieAMaggi.com

Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

Month: May 2015 Page 1 of 2

The Keefer Bar

I said I would return to try their food menu, so here we were looking for a little more food and a lot more drinks; after already having a light dinner and a shared dessert. This is one of those places I recommend for that sort of thing. A place to hang out at in between plans. A quick stop to nurse a drink in and to kill some time at. With small plates and craft cocktails, our destination was an easy walk from Tinseltown theatre at the International Village.

IMG_4827IMG_4830

I like the vibe of the place. The dark hides away all judgement, and it set you at ease. You make yourself comfortable. The elaborate old school Chinese medicine meets new school technology theme they have cultivated guarantees several topics of conversation. IV bags suspended on hooks, test tube shaped light bulbs hanging in clusters from the ceiling, x-rays on display in the washrooms, and vials of mysterious dried ingredients scattered amongst bottles of alcohol. It certainly gave things that apothecary feel. But it was the live music that really made the place stand out and feel like a treat. It sets the tone. Even on a Tuesday they had a musician playing.

IMG_4860

The night was warm so their casual patio was seated. We however floated right to the bar. Where there were actual hooks for hanging our coats and bags on. Located under the counter and pointed out by our bartender. Having to keep your belongs on your lap the whole night is an inconvenience that often gets overlooked at a bar. Our bartender was friendly. He kept busy rinsing and drying glasses, but kept engaged in us enough to contribute to our conversations regularly.

IMG_4825IMG_4826

Their list of artisan cocktails are always a fun read. I go for the name or a unique ingredient. Here it was the use of real maple syrup in their “Northern exposure”. Collingwood whiskey, pineapple, maple syrup, lemon, and lapsang tea tincture. Surprisingly this was stronger than it sounded; and tart given the use of pineapple, syrup, and tea for its base.

 My guest likes egg whites in her cocktail and what better a cocktail than one named, “Haokan”. Translated to English it means “good looking”. Made with Hendrick’s gin, aperol, pomelo rose syrup, lemon, egg white, and Shanghai rhubarb bitters. It was as refreshing as it was potent.

IMG_4828IMG_4829

The “Peking duck sliders” were a little disappointing visually, I don’t know what I was expecting from bar food. Made with cucumber, cilantro, spliced pineapple, and plum sauce; but it just looked like not enough brown meat stuffed into too much bread. With a sad strand of pickle on the side. They tasted better, but hardly worth the price I had to paid for them. $4.50 for each bun. The fluffy and buttery dinner buns paired well with the sweet and salty seasoning of the duck. Served in shreds the duck was slightly dry. It wasn’t tender and you could tell it wasn’t made to order. The pickled tang of the condiments helped bring some excitement to each mouthful, but once again it was not worth purchasing. And this was the most elaborate thing on the menu. If this was how the other dishes compared, I wasn’t about to try any more.

IMG_4831IMG_4833

Still hungry, we played it safe with their “Meat and cheese plate”. Nothing was cooked, just assembled, and the saltiness off all the ingredients would pair well with our potent cocktails. At $18 the price  was a little steep, but at least it was more satisfying than the above, at double the price. Though this point I was just looking to cut the edge off my buzz. An assortment of cured meats, aged cheese, assorted olives, grainy mustard, and herbed crackers sure did the trick. A simple presentation on a leaf shaped slate board allowed you to pick and choose, and to eat with your hands.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
We would have stayed longer and perhaps tried some of their desserts, had it not been the need to catch our 10:45pm movie. Their cheesecake bites made with rosemary gimlet, milk, and honey sounded good; as did their Chinese churros made with dulce de leche. I would definitely be back for more after dinner or before movie drinks when in the neighbourhood, however I think I have a good idea of the food and won’t be needing another go at it. If I want Asian fusion I can find better for less around the area. Don’t deny your cravings.

KEEFER BAR
135 Keefer Street, Vancouver BC, V6A1X3
604-688-1961
thekeeferbar.com
The Keefer Bar on Urbanspoon

Dockside Restaurant

IMG_4753IMG_4760

Their patio has been voted the best patio five years in a row, and they have recently won a golden plate award for it as well. So today we were here to celebrate those achievements and to celebrate the launch of the spring time patio season. And what better a day, the sun was out and it was definitely sunglasses and dining out doors weather.

IMG_4795IMG_4796

Located at the back of Granville Island, parking is relatively abundant. The restaurant is attached to the Granville Island hotel, you walk through it in order to reach their patio by the water.

IMG_4777IMG_4801

Dining area, lounge, and patio. Depending on the weather you are able to choose where to sit for the sake of ambience. The soft spoken stillness of the dining area, the laid back feel of the lounge, or the high energy vibe of their sun filled patio. Each with its own unique view. Most notable, the kitchen counter in the dining room that also served as a fish tank. However today we passed through the lounge with its own multiple taps bar, to each the patio entrance.

IMG_4761IMG_4762IMG_4754

What a view, I never knew such a patio existed. You are able to take in so much from any seat. The foreground is Pelican Bay marina where eight boats are docked, apparently these are the same luxurious eight boats that dock here all year round. The “Monopoly II” certainly caught my eye. Further out towards the water you could see the sea buses travelling back and froth, and the stand up paddle boarders grazing the calm waters. And beyond that, you can make out the tiny blurs of runners jogging the sea wall, and the cyclists taking it by bike. This view is not exclusive to diners, a few couple strolled past the patio, threading on its boardwalk, they all seemed just as surprised as I was to see a restaurant here for the first time.

IMG_4756IMG_4763IMG_4764

The patio itself was spacious, it provided many seating options. Recliners and couches for those looking drink and relax with their company. Tables by fire pits created a certain formality, and it allowed patrons to stay warmer as the sun began to set past the building. Most impressive was their large cabana that centred it all. It gave the patio a Miami feel with its horizontal stripped curtains. It also allows for some shade during sunnier days, no one wants to sit down and eat in direct sun light. Nothing takes away the appetite more than constantly squinting and sweating over your plate.

IMG_4771IMG_4772

Our meal began with their gluten free and ocean wise “legendary chili squid”. Tender cooked tubs of squid prepared with ginger, lemon grass, garlic, and cilantro. Each bite was as good as the last, flavourful from all the seasonings and crisp from its soak in the deep fryer. I am craving these just as I am writing this, definitely my favourite calamari like dish to date.

IMG_4773IMG_4774

By comparison their “Vegetable spring rolls” were just as crispy and just as flavourful. Each roll was tightly packed with various shreds of vegetable. I made out carrots, cabbage and vermicelli noodles. Each roll was served cut in half and topped with a red onion, mango, and cilantro salsa. This matched the ginger papaya mango coulis prepared on the side for dipping well. Another very well done classic appetizer I found better than most other interpretations, that I have tried.

IMG_4769IMG_4770

For entrees we were able to try various slices of their “forno pizzas” made in house using their own tiled pizza oven. Each was served on cutting boards, under heat lamps. It was a self serve affair.

IMG_4766IMG_4776

“Prosciutto and Arugula”. Italian prosciutto, arugula, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and rosemary oil. The prosciutto wasn’t too overwhelming for the light arugula. Instead the salty meat and the peppery vegetable balanced each other out well, while the herbs used offered more dimension in flavour. I didn’t get as much buffalo mozzarella as I wanted. You can’t beat cheese this stringy and soft.

“Smoked Sockeye”. Smoked wild salmon, crème fraîche, capers, dill, and red onion. A classic flavour combination presented on an easy to eat, flatbread like pizza dough. The salmon was cut thin as to not dominate the refreshing red onion and the zesty capers. I missed out in the creme fraiche and dill accents. Overall good, but nothing that hasn’t been done before.

IMG_4767IMG_4786

 

“Old Bridge Lager BBQ Beef” pizza. Shaved prime rib, roasted onions, roasted peppers, had banana peppers; with a whiskey bbq sauce drizzle. This pizza ate like a meal. It was heavier with the meat, and spicy with the sauce and peppers. It was definitely the odd one out of all the other pizzas. Made to compliment a full bodied beer and a side of hot wings or fries.

I really enjoyed the “Wild Mushroom” pizza with sautéed BC forest mushrooms, fresh arugula, and Dubliner cheese sauce. There were plenty of tiny mushrooms, I enjoyed their earthy spice and their chewy stems. The cheese was a little salty alone, but went well over the bread like pizza dough.

IMG_4768

The “Margherita Classic” is a classic for a reason. Cheesy and thick buffalo mozzarella, fresh herby basil, and juicy tomato. You can’t beat the classics when they are done like this.

IMG_4788IMG_4794

We were also given the first half of a tour of their in house made beer operation. A tour that would be cut short when our elevator refused to move and we were trapped. That is until a server was able to pull the doors apart and free us at mid floor level. My first trapped in an elevator experience. After being stuck shoulder to shoulder with folks sweating as much as you are, the patio and your beer is where you want to retreat back to. So sadly we did not see how their beer travels 200 feet from start to finish, after fermenting for 24 hours. But trying the outcome was just as good.

IMG_4790IMG_4805

My guest would come back just for their “Jamaican hibiscus beer”. It was that good and would be amazingly refreshing on a hot summer’s day.

IMG_4793IMG_5172

On another night, with another guest we came back to “Dockside” to enjoy dessert with their great view. Having been once I was able to confirm that the location was worth a second trip back to. Though sadly the crisper weather had the patio closed, and the desserts were not as impressive as their appetizers. During this trip we settled for a table in their dining area. On one side was their island bar, on the other large windows giving us a glimpse of the patio and its view that we were missing.

IMG_5162IMG_5164

The desserts came fast, clearly they were prepared ahead of time and dressed to order. Both looked equally impressive, but it was the taste that didn’t have me sold. Sadly I will be skipping their $10 desserts in the future. “Dockside lemon meringue” made with an all butter pastry, lemon curd, charred Italian meringue, and a raspberry sauce. I appreciated the gold flakes the most, it certainly elevated the dish. Especially when sprinkled on top of the delicate and fluffy meringue. I found the lemon curd below it abrasive, it dominated the other elements and masked the crumbly crust it sat. And when paired with the raspberry sauce smeared on the plate it all became too sweet to finish.

IMG_5168IMG_5170

“Bailey’s and macadamia creme burlee” with white chocolate short bread and honey roasted macadamia nuts. When will I learn that classics are classics for a reason, and that more isn’t necessarily better? I am constantly being drawn by twists like these, this is the first I have seen a bailey flavoured dessert so wanted to try it. It was another undisputedly great presentation, though taste wise, I preferred creme burlee the regular way, vanilla. I only got through half of the burlee, a bite of the tasteless cookie, and a couple of crunchy nuts before I realized it was far too sweet and I was forcing myself to finish. The fresh fruit was the best part as it was a usually palate cleanser. I wish our server caught on and would have asked if anything was wrong, when he bussed our still relatively full plates. Though with such large portions I guess it is common to have dessert left uneaten.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The view and the setting alone is worth a return trip. Definitely check out the patio with a few pints of their in house made beer. I recommend their lounge menu, but maybe pass on the desserts? Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DOCKSIDE
1253 Johnston Street, Vancouver BC, V6H3R9
604-685-7070
docksidevancouver.com
Dockside Restaurant on Urbanspoon

C’est Si Bon Foodtruck

IMG_4654IMG_4657

A new food truck pulled up for the afternoon and I had to try it. It’s one thing to visit a restaurant, it is another thing to have food come to you. It was well past lunch, but I figured a French food truck listing pastries would have some sweet treats I could snack on. Something to get the blood sugar going and to take home for later.

Driving around town the truck stands out, all white with a thick and volumous moustache on its hood. Turning the corner I was surprised to see that one of the two men working in the truck, had the same full in the centre and pointy at the ends moustache. And they both had the rich French accent to match their wares. I was ever so embarrassed to order in front of them. Was I saying “crepe” right? How was my pronunciation of “croissant”? They didn’t winch and understood what I wanted so that was a win.

IMG_4655IMG_4658

The menu is a listing between sweet and savory. Laminated pieces of paper Velcro-ed on to a wooden rod. This allows them to update regularly and remove options easily when they sell out of something. They had chicken and tuna sandwiches made with their homemade ciabatta buns. The Parisian sandwich was lettuce, ham, and butter on a homemade baguette. Their veggie option with seasonal vegetables was served on a homemade herbed focaccia. And all of the above was also available sandwiched between their in house made butter croissants instead. The same croissants were also offered as is, stored behind a plexi glass on the counter. Or you can have them dressed for dessert with Nutella. Looking for more sweets? They also made crepes on the spot, but unfortunately away from your line of view. And other tarts and pastries are available behind plexi glass.

Truthfully, when looking at the menu I couldn’t decide what to get because nothing jumped out. Nothing seemed any different. Where were the macarons and beautiful petite pastries that I was expecting? Instead these all seemed like things I could get from any cafe or bakery. I wanted to try something that made this truck unique. What made them different than anywhere else I could get a croissant, a crepe, or a premade sandwich at? Luckily I was still open to trying a few things and ended up being pleasantly surprised by them all. Nothing I had disappointed, even after many hours when I got a chance to finish it all. They kept well. Truly, this was a lesson in not judging a book by its cover. I am so caught up in elaborate presentations and the extra bells and whistles that I almost missed something simple and warmly delicious. Shame on me.

IMG_4677IMG_4678

The croissant themselves are something to write about. You can taste all the real butter they use. Flaky and crisp, they almost melted in your mouth. I had mine as part of a “Veggie croissant”, and found it the best croissant sandwich I have had to date. Though honest truth: I don’t eat many croissants, nor do I use many to make sandwiches. None the less, it was the ingredients that set this one apart. Filled with a leaf of fresh lettuce, a juicy tomato slice, roasted red peppers, and their  homemade flavourful pesto. I also paid more to add shredded mozzarella cheese to the mix. I never say no to cheese, especially when it’s freshly shredded from a block. The rich cheese went great with the other lighter ingredients, but it was the nutty pesto paired with the char of the peppers that highlighted this snack. I would go back for more, especially as I found one too small for a meal. Though at $7 each you will be looking at $21 just to be full.

IMG_4679IMG_4681

I ordered a crepe to try. Just a simple one with sugar for $3. My partner often makes crepes from scratch for me, so they aren’t something I am too excited to buy. But the other customer with me, using her hands to eat her crepe off a paper plate seemed happy with what she was having. Even enough to take a photo with the owners of the truck. So I didn’t want to miss out. I have tried other crepes with filling before, but seeing as I enjoy the dough the most, I prefer to have my crepes plain. Made fresh, it was served steaming. I was surprised by the weight of it. Hands down this was the largest and heaviest crepe I have ever had. I have always found the normal ones too little and too light. They weren’t filling, this one was made for me. There was something to sink my teeth in to. It was a chewy eggy batter fold, stuffed with sugar crystals. Each bite into sugar gave crunch and a change in texture, to an the otherwise soggy crepe dripping with melted sugar.

IMG_4683IMG_4684

I have seen a “Mille-feuille” before so thought to try it for the first time now. This was alternating layers of crunchy puff pastry and custard-like pastry cream. The top layer is fondant, a blanket of icing sugar and chocolate swirl. Each bite was better than the last, I instantly fell in love with this dessert. It wasn’t too sweet and had both a crunchy and a smooth texture that I like. It is best eaten with your hands, taking bite after bite like a sandwich. And like a sandwich the filling tends to spill out, but it is difficult to eat with utensils. The top fondant layer is a little stiff and a plastic fork or knife struggles to pierce into it. But that’s okay because it is best when you get a bite full of everything, instead of picking it apart layer by layer.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
No complaints here. I recommend them for light bites, in between meal snacking, and as a quick on the go morsel. It was a little on the pricy side, when compared to the amount of food I got. But I was paying for quality and given the level of it, I was okay with that. I just wish they also sold macarons. We need a macaron food truck roaming the city. Travelling where early to rise and early to close bakeries can’t. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

C’EST SI BON
cest-si-bon.ca
Click to add a blog post for C'Est Si Bon Food Truck on Zomato

Bistro 101, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts

IMG_4481 IMG_4480
Molson Canadian Cider launch in BC

Tonight I was at the Pacific Culinary Institute, in celebration of the Molson Canadian cider launch. The cider is already available for the market out East, but this was its first time on select selves in Western Canada.

The venue is home to a very special restaurant, “Bistro 101”, where students enrolled are able to hone their skills, with patrons paying to taste the outcome. Think “Hell’s Kitchen”, but without the yelling. Though similar to the television show you have a charismatic head chef/instructor, and are able to enjoy your dinner within full view of all the cooking action. Soundless you are able to watch young chefs in white smocks with Royal blue detail shuffle around their kitchen. Mixing, stirring, and chopping. A unique dinner with an even more rare show.

IMG_4484IMG_4487

Our table for the evening was elaborately detailed. An apple theme to match the Okanagan apples in the cider. Miniature trees with apples glued on; wooden chargers branded with the “Molson Canadian” logo; and everyone had their own apple place holder, personalized with their names in white. It was a light hearted and equally stunning setting. At the back of each chair an apron was tied. We would later be pulling them over our shoulders to cook our own meal.

IMG_4482IMG_4486

As we waited for all the guests to arrive we were given reign of the bar and dining area, and encouraged to mingle. As we took photos and got refills of our cider, lovely canapés were being offered on trays. These and everything else we had tonight were well conceived, to pair elegantly with our feature beverage of the night.

IMG_4496IMG_4498

Interestingly we were told that the cider we were enjoying included not only the apple juice, but the skin and the pulp of the apples as well. All its flavour comes from only apples. Types of food that would match such a cider are pork tenderloin, sausage, cedar plank salmon, and grilled cheese. Essentially anything that would go well with apple.

IMG_4489

A cucumber slice topped with a goat cheese cream and a cherry tomato half.

IMG_4491

Cheese and mushroom stuffed tortellinis dressed in a tomato sauce, and topped with basil. It was easy to take and slurp from the spoon, but finding the proper place to discard the used spoon proved to be more of a challenge.

 

IMG_4494

Pakoras with a creamy dipping sauce. “Pakoras” are fried fritters originating from India.

IMG_4493

Smoked salmon bruschetta with cucumber and dill. The delicate presentation was like a garden in bloom.

IMG_4508IMG_4506

 

Our first lesson began with spot prawns. We were lucky to be able to have some a day before the start of the actual spot prawn season. Our chef had is ways. Julian Bond was our Chef instructor for the evening. As mentioned he was very charismatic, he used humour to keep the room engaged. We learned that the best way to prepare spot prawns is simply with a good searing in hot broth. In this case, boiled cider. And that you don’t need to de-vein your prawn when they come from clear waters and only feed on natural vegetation. And these prawns were so fresh that a couple of them made attempts to free themselves of their bowl-ed prison.

IMG_4515IMG_4516

The finished product was cider poached BC spot prawn over an micro kale and apple salad, with a citrus caviar. We learned how to make easy vinaigrette. And that the stem of a leaf is its butt, and you should never have the butt stick out when considering presentation.  After we each had our own appetizers were tied on our aprons and in to the kitchen we filed.

IMG_4520

Though we filled up on some bread first.

 

IMG_4524IMG_4534

We were split into two kitchens, where we were further divided into pairs to tackle our own projects.

IMG_4525IMG_4529IMG_4545

My partner and I were on pasta patrol. After a tutorial we rolled the dough and made our noodles from scratch, using a pasta machine. I have always wanted to try this.

 

IMG_4535IMG_4542

The seasoning and sautéing of the halibut cheeks.

IMG_4547IMG_4546

The sautéing of the halibut cheeks.

IMG_4533IMG_4559

The stirring and boiling down of the cider reduction.

IMG_4548IMG_4552

The apple fritter mixing.

IMG_4557IMG_4556

The apple fritter deep frying.

Sadly our lack of cooking ability had our dinner delayed. With only a little of everything being completed by all of us. At the end it was the culinary students who fixed and finished off our plates. We only had ourselves to blame if we didn’t like what we made. Everything was amazing.

IMG_4564IMG_4565

Sautéed halibut cheeks over tagliatelle in a cider reduction, with a side of ancho chilli and sweet pea. The fish was flaky and moist. The chewy noodles were cut thick, they made an excellent platform. The peas added freshness and sweetness; and its shoots gave the plate some flavour symmetry.

 

IMG_4571IMG_4575

Rhubarb and apple fritter injected with cider and vanilla custard, served with a lemon creme. The self injection using an eye dropper made the dish interactive and dynamic. Deep fried it was crispy on the outside and spongy on the inside. With double the cream stuffed into the fritter’s centre and more smeared on the plate, it guaranteed you had some in every doughy bite.

IMG_4576IMG_4578

And to end our meal on a high note, we shared a platter of chocolate truffles, fruit jellies, and dried fruit and nut nougat. This was made by the real chefs.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Understandably, my next visit would not include dawning an apron and making my own dinner, though I think the experience would be just as memorable. And if the recipes prepared to compliment cider, made by tipsy amateurs was this good, I can only imagine how delicious their regular menu is. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BISTRO 101
Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts
1505 W 2nd Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6J1H2
604-734-0101
picachef.com/bistro-101-restaurant
Bistro 101 on Urbanspoon

Small Victory Bakery

IMG_4452IMG_4453

I was here today meeting with a manager of Zomato. And what better place to meet a fellow food lover than at a place serving artisan drinks and gourmet pastries. My guest boasted how this was her favourite bakery and how she is here multiple times a week, or even multiple times within the same day. And even as one who doesn’t like sweets, she did like what they served. She wasn’t kidding about her being here a lot. The staff recognized her and a few even stopped to highlight that fact. A few asked her, her name and many made small talk. If this was any indication of the level of service, I would say they were successful at delivering.

IMG_4459IMG_4458

The bakery is simple inside and out. No flashy signs, no bold colours. Not even a sandwich board on the sidewalk in front. Just a white veneer and gold type face on the windows. You could definitely miss it, if it weren’t for the hoards of patrons lining up and the rotating of bodies in and out of tables.

IMG_4460IMG_4477

Vaulted ceilings, birch wood floors and cabinets, white walls, and their name in gold script at the back. What was most striking was the abstract wall art by the seating area. Geometric shapes constructed out of metal rods, spray painted in gold. They jutted out of the wall in a three dimensional fashion. Their shine matched that of the golden tap at the help yourself utensil, condiment, and water counter adjacent. There aren’t many small tables and there isn’t much room by the counter, but we managed to wrangle a seat after ordering.

IMG_4456IMG_4461

You start by the window, where their glass counter showcasing all their cakes and pastries was on display. Savoury croissants and cheesy scones. For something sweet: slices of double chocolate, layered coconut, and assorted cheesecakes were available by the slice. For something more compact they also had miniature desserts to try. Salted caramel cheesecake, pistachio and  pecan cake, lemon tarts, and hazelnut espresso bars. And something more filling sandwiches, salads, and pot pies are available for ordering. Something not easily advertised, but instead, self read off a written menu by the till. They also sold loaves of in house made bread that their sandwiches are served on.

IMG_4455

You ordering at the register. If your order is to go you pick it up at the counter when they call your name. If it is for here they deliver everything to your table on a hexagon shaped board, carved with their cafe’s name.  Clever, from a social media stand point. You take a photo and post it, whether you geotag or say where it is from, your picture shows their bakery’s name.

IMG_4464IMG_4465

The truth is I don’t blog about many cafés and coffee shops because I don’t actually drink coffee. The fine roasts and the expensive brews with their nutty under tone is lost on me. So today I opted for a “Matcha latte”. The presentation was similar to that of a coffee. A warm cup with some foam and milk art on top. It was a nice touch using a Japanese style tea cup. The drink itself was warming. Not sweet like I imagined, but instead a deep matcha powder flavour mixed with milk.

IMG_4470IMG_4471

I grabbed the last “sweet and salty, peanut butter pretzel bar”, believing if it is the last of something it is a good sign of its popularity. With the nuts it was both filling like a meal and sweet like a dessert. The chocolate in this was more an after note, peanut butter and salt were the stars of this bar. I love my peanut butter chunky so appreciated the extra crushed peanuts in top to give it that similar texture. Overall it was good, but U would have preferred the peanut butter paired with the more traditional sweet jam then the salty coating of a pretzel. I was also missing more crunch. Perhaps a graham cracker layer, something to sink your teeth into and to hold the bar together. With the amount of oil present this easily fell apart.

IMG_4474IMG_4475

The “salted caramel cheesecake” is a fan favourite. A popular twist on the classic New York style cheesecake. The sticky caramel heightened by salt is defiantly the star of the dish, it is what differentiates it from any other cheesecake. And the reason why I ordered this.

IMG_4467IMG_4468

The “s’more cookie” was a little disappointing. With its name I was hoping to liken it more to a campfire s’more. Crisp graham cracker wafers, melted chocolate, and gooey oozy marshmallow. Instead this was a hard oatmeal-like cookie with a crumbly texture and a chewy marshmallow centre. I guess it was an interesting remix of a classic. And you even got the campfire charcoal blackening on it. A decent interpretation on familiar flavours made for a grown palette. Though I still wanted it more gooey s’more.

IMG_4472IMG_4473

The “Lemon tart” was like a miniature lemon merging pie, especially with the twirl of toasted meringue on top. As the balance of sweet to the natural tartness of lemons, it was my favourite part of the dessert. I wanted more than just a dollop. The crust was equally good, so buttery that it crumbled apart under the pressure of a fork, it was almost flaky. Overall I naturally gravitate to a good lemon desert, this one in particular made for a nice break from the chocolate and cream above, and offered itself as an easy palate cleanser. Such a dessert will often be designated as my last bite, the bite to end my meal on.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wouldn’t mind returning, though given the area, the travel traffic, and the more challenging parking situation it won’t be any time soon. This was a nice addition to the area. The local’s coffee shop. The spot to grab a good beverage at and some fine treats from. Though given its popularity, not the ideal place to study at. More the place to meet your friend for coffee and a catch up session at. Don’t deny your cravings.

SMALL VICTORY
1088 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2W9
604-899-8892
smallvictory.ca
Small Victory Bakery on Urbanspoon

Tacofino in Tofino

IMG_4372IMG_4379

I couldn’t leave Tofino without trying “Tacofino”. Having “Tacofino” in Tofino just seems right, they did originate from here after all.

The truck felt like a tourist attraction itself, instead of just a stationary truck to feed tourists with. It was permanently parked at one of the busiest squares in Tofino. It lived amongst surf shops, apparel stores, and other food stalls. Like most places in Tofino, the area too provided free parking. You stopped between one of the many stall lines and travel on gravel and stone towards the back of the complex. It was raining and no one paid any mind. The line was growing and customers were patient in waiting for their turn. The truck opens at 11am everyday, and at 12:30pm we were here at peak time. Everyone gravitated towards the orange and metal food truck. Most were dressed in shorts and sandals for the sun that the weather reports promised, the sun that the clouds refused to deliver. The sounds of condiment bottles squirting and the hot grill sizzling, coupled with the smell of hot oil cooking was enough reason to stay in line. Once again the cold was no deterrent on fresh local tacos.

IMG_3967IMG_4381

The seating area was similarly coloured like the truck. Long share style tables paired with orange chairs gave patrons the option to stay and eat outside. However with the trickling of rain and the gathering precipitation on top of the well waxed tables, most opted to eat in their cars, like us.

IMG_4375IMG_4374

When in the line you can only begin to decide on what you want, when you get close enough to the chalkboard menu to do so. Your choices are between burritos, tacos, gringas, and fresh fruit beverages. The burritos gave you the most options for filling: chicken, pork, beef, fish, breakfast, Vegetarian, vegan, and crispy chicken. For tacos you were limited to fish, tuna, beef, and black bean. Gringas were stuffed tortillas; flavours available included chicken, pork, black bean, just cheese, and even pork and kimchi. Under the menu was a FAQ board explaining what each of the above was. Useful for those not in the know of their Latin food terms.

IMG_4373IMG_4377

You order with the man working out of the passenger side window. It was a tight fit and an awkward strain for him, but he made it work. Next to him hung their Vancouver magazine award in recognition. He passed all orders to the three chefs working out the back end of the truck. After the line to order and pay, we now waited in a second line to claim our food.

The man working at the front pleasant and patient, especially given that he must get the same questions to answer day in and day out; as their clientele shifts with the rotation of tourists season to season. His demeanour is a point I need to note, given how in contrast the kitchen staff communicated. I understand those in the kitchen are frantic, they are forced to turn out food in top speeds, while being trapped in a hot sweat box. However the career they have chosen is in the service sector, where the customer comes first and patrons expect a certain level of courtesy. While trying to claim our meal I made an attempt to talk with the gentleman calling out completed orders. He made no attempt to bend down so that he could hear me, and I could not stand any higher on my tippy toes, yet very impatiently he announced he couldn’t hear me so simply walked away. I was left dumbstruck. Not a big deal, but you could tell he honestly didn’t care about me, knowing there would be more customers if I choose to never return because of this encounter. Sadly I reflected on a similar experience I had with their Vancouver food truck. Where the staff preferred engaging on their phones than with their potential repeat customers. Service aside, at least the food was good.

IMG_4382IMG_4384

Given where we were, I went for the tuna taco. Surrounded by water, eat what is from the water. Seared sesame and soy albacore tuna, with wasabi mayo, shredded cabbage, salsa fresca, and seaweed salad. Served on a fire roasted 6 inch flour tortilla. The taco was a mess from the start. They did a disservice to it by serving it with the toasted gringas below. As a result the heat from the gringas caused condensation on the tuna and it’s other juice filled ingredients. At the end they were both forced to sit in a pile of pickled juices. The tuna was tasty, it was seared to perfection and still a little raw in the middle. It’s accompanying ingredients gave it an zesty Asian feel. You got different textures and complimentary flavours.

IMG_4385IMG_4386

“Gringas” are 6 inch flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, meat, or beans; fresh salsa, and sour cream. Then grilled to “gooey perfection”. They were recommend for kids, but as delicious for all ages. We ordered the pork and were only disappointed that we didn’t order three. Once again, given that it was sitting in a pool of the liquid mentioned above, we thought it best to eat this one first. By doing so, each bite was still crispy and light, with hot melted cheese oozing from the centre. I likened it to a very grown up version of cheese and crackers. So much cheese that it looks like the tortilla is made of just melted cheese.

IMG_4389IMG_4391

My partner still speaks of their “Chicken burrito”. A tortilla filled with rice, beans, cheese, and slaw.  It was a heavy hearty snack both in weight and substance. It was packed full, like a meal wrapped up to go. Rich in flavour thanks to sauce, but you could still make out the subtle char off the grilled meat. Not recommended for those with a small stomach.

IMG_4400IMG_4398

Their “Chocolate diablo cookie” was served right away. Handed to me in a brown bag stamped with their truck’s logo: hands clasped in prayer  between a hard taco. This was a savory dessert that made for a good palette cleanser. The cookie was baked moist and chewy cookie. The globs of melted chocolate gave certain bites am extra pop of sweetness. The coarse salt was used to heightened the cookie’s over all flavour. However it was too salty if you bite into a large crystal. The most unique feature was being able to taste the hot sauce as an lingering spicy after note. It warms your throat, belly, and soul.

IMG_4378IMG_4388

Today it was too cold for drinks other wise their “freshies” would have been tempting. Lime and mint, watermelon and basil, and pink lemonade. Perfect for the sun and after a day of surf. For soda, you pay for the bottled beverages and pull your choice from an indented troth. It’s by honour system with a common use bottle opener at the ready.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
From the masses of people and the merchandise they sold, you could tell they were doing well for themselves. It is probably why they were able to easily expand into Vancouver. The Vancouverites who travel to Tofino for surf, discover and fall in love with “Tacofino” during their stay. So when the first “Tacofino” food truck popped up in Vancouver, we were excited to try them for the first time all over again. This was the best thing we had this weekend, though sadly they do not offer the same menu items in any of their location in Vancouver. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TACOFINO
outside break plaza
1184 Pacific Rim Hwy, Tofino BC
250-726-8288
Tacofino Cantina on Urbanspoon

Big Daddy’s Fish Fry

IMG_4150IMG_4128

According to our host, this may be the best place for fish and chips in town. I was here to find out.

One thing I love about a small town is the parking. Locals tend to walk or bike everywhere so parking is abundant, and often without a fee. Even in the core of the town, like we were today, there were no meters and no need to pay. There was hidden parking stalls in the back, specifically labelled for the restaurant, but there wasn’t a need for them. There were plenty of available parking even closer to the entrance. We pulled over at the adjacent park.

IMG_4140IMG_4141

I always think, a place must do well for themselves if they are able to sell their own apparel to a willing market. Not only do they make a profit, they now have people advertising for them. Walking billboards. The cashier was wearing their branded bandana. And around her hanging off the counter were their similarly branded toques, hoodies, wind breakers, and anything else you would need in the varying climate of Tofino. Each with their name and some with their logo stitched on. There logo was an animated fish skeleton flexing his well defined bicep.

IMG_4138IMG_4133

As is the case with many smaller restaurants here, “Big Daddy’s” only offered outdoor seating. We ate on the patio, choosing between a covered area with picnic benches or an uncovered few tables with an umbrella for shade. I wonder how well they fared during the rainy and colder days? Did the lack of indoor seating hurt their business?

 The space had a back yard feel to it. Its perimeter was gated up with a wall separating it from the home on its right. On this fence were fake portholes, like that on the hull of a ship. Instead of a pane of glass the circular wood and metal bits surrounded a mirror. Christmas lights, colourful reflective glass, and Canadian flags also decorated the scene. Amongst all this music from an old radio, crackled. It reminded me what you would hear at a hut on the beaches of California on a hot dry day, or anywhere equally warm and even a bit more tropical. The country twang and classic rock ballads, reflected the slower paced life. It set the tone, even though the cloud and sun on this less sunny day wouldn’t.

 IMG_4129IMG_4137

You approach the hut, walking along a planked path, to order. This isn’t the place to come for those who don’t like seafood. A body length menu listed all the various fish they fry up and how they are able to serve it to you. Cod, halibut, salmon, and tuna. Fried on platters, fried in burgers, and fried and cut up in tacos. Of course the classic fish and chip combo was ever present, giving you choices between pieces and type of fish, but in addition offering oysters and prawns in various preparation as well. From butterfly to coconut crusted, and in popcorn sized bites. If you are looking for something more heartier, you can have your deep fried fish in tacos or sandwiches, or in between burger buns with various condiments. But the regular veggie, beef, and chicken fillings were also available for your chosen platform as well. They even have a surf and turf burger with beef and tempura shrimp for those who wanted their burgers with a twist. For snacks they have sides like French fries, deep fried pickles, and onion rings; and their take on poutine is called “messy fries” with the same cheese and gravy recipe, except the gravy is on the side. Something I noticed off another diner’s plate.

 

IMG_4134IMG_4136

You help yourself to a bevy of condiments on the side or grab any bottle from the tool box caddy at each table.

 

 IMG_4147IMG_4149

My partner was forced to have a hot dog with ketchup and mayo as he doesn’t eat seafood and has been having burgers for his last few meals.  It was pretty standard. Tried and true. They cut the wiener in half to get an even cook on each side.

 IMG_4144IMG_4142

I had the one piece cod fish with chips. It came with a bonus deep fry pickle chunk. From the temperature and the need to blow on your food before eating it, you cold tell this entire basket was fried to order. I was most impressed by my piece of cod bring severed as a singular long rod. There was a lot here, more value than what I was expecting. I can only imagine how it was dipped into the deep fryer with a slow ease. I had plenty of time to admire its impressiveness. It was so hot that I had to wait to eat, or else burn my tongue. For one piece they were generous with the tartar sauce, which in my opinion is what makes a good fish and chips dish. But I somehow still ran out. The fish was crisp with its light batter, and only slightly oily. The grease was well tempered by the chunky and tangy tartar. You could easily make out the pleasant picking in it. The chewy chips were less fried, they offered a nice break from the moist and crunchy fish. The deep fried pickle segment was battered in the same herbed crust as the fish. It was hot and juicy at its centre, but I found it too briny for my liking. Too much pickle to batter ratio.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.

Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
It was good. The fish was fresh and the novelty of having seafood caught by those living and working in town, from just off coast is a unique experience. It made things all the more enjoyable. I enjoyed what I had, and would not be opposed to returning to try their other catches deep fried and dipped into tartar. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BIG DADDY’S
411 Campbell Street, Tofino BC
250-725-4415
Big Daddy's Fish Fry on Urbanspoon

Tofino BC, 2015

IMG_4152IMG_4126
Our latest trip took us to Vancouver Island. We stayed in Tofino with the Pacific Rim as our weekend backdrop. Here are some of the things we learned, the photos we took, and the experiences we earned. May they inspire you to explore all that British Columbia has to offer. They don’t add a “beautiful” in front of it for nothing.
 IMG_3922
Enroute to Tofino we stopped at Cathedral Grove National Park. Most of the trees here are either cedar or Douglas fir. Douglas firs are one of Canada’s largest growing trees.
 IMG_3936IMG_3932

This is the largest tree, it is over 800 years old and taller than the leaning tower of pisa.

IMG_3907IMG_3921

Unfortunately many of these great giants have fallen due to root and stem diseases like butt rot, which are a growth that look like portobello mushroom caps. None-the-less these trees are still quite the sight to see, even in their horizontal state.

IMG_3947

Our first stop was at Wickaninnish beach. With the sun out this afternoon, it felt like summer already. Water as far as the eye can see.

IMG_3951IMG_3958

You need to pay for admittance to the beaches. It is more a parking pass. Seniors, kids, adults and families had their own price. A one day pass that opens all the beaches to you, you just need a vehicle to travel between them.
IMG_4228IMG_4402
Rain or shine, Tofino is about the surf. The Pacific Rim with its underwater dips and valleys creates the large waves needed. I can’t believe we have surf country in our backyard. #beautifulbritishcolumbia
 IMG_3962IMG_4156

The bluish-purple lumps in the sand are dead jelly fish. Their presence is a phonomenon that started happening many years ago.

IMG_4160IMG_4161

They are called velella velella, “sail jellyfish” or “by-the-wind sailors.” They start out jelly and royal blue, but eventually dry out and become rice paper thin. They can’t actually swim, so are washed out of the water by the waves, and end up on beach to die.

IMG_4009IMG_3998

The wild life here is unlike anything in Vancouver. Colourful birds and vibrant sea life. This little blue bird and his friend joined us for lunch. It helped that we shared out fries with them.

IMG_4172

Even the daisies are more animated here. Look how large they grow with the vibrant sun and the fresh air. They even seem to have more petals.

IMG_4083

The first night’s sunset was the one to see. A few clouds didn’t matter, it couldn’t hide the intensity of the light and the neon of the sky. The hardest part was choosing what background we wanted. Islands, mountains, trees or rocks? Here are a few we liked. The sun sets at 8pm, so begins the walk across the beach to find the best place to watch it all happen. Out here, facing the Pacific Rim you get a clearer view of the sun setting behind the world. In the city sun sets are obstructed by buildings and mountains. Here you can see it disappear and tell that the world is round.

IMG_4024IMG_4055

The streaks in the sky really add that feeling of life. You imagine the plane that once flew past the horizon.
 IMG_4064IMG_4086
And once the sun ducks into the water, the sky becomes a gradient of colour, as if in celebration. In elementary school when you had to paint those sun sets and sun rises paintings, mine looked nothing like this. #canadiankids
 IMG_4371IMG_4089
Our accommodations for the weekend was a flat within walking distance to the beach. We could even see it in the distance from the patio. Stella Maris is the home of a local shop owner. She rents it out for the weekend and we scooped up the chance. The flat is in Rosie Bay, one suite in a town house complex. We later found out that everyone staying this weekend was from out of town too.
 IMG_4092IMG_4093

She dressed her home like a hotel with embroidered pillows: “Stella Maris”, miniature bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and the fluffiest of towels.

IMG_4105IMG_4107

When it came to it, we were too lazy from the drive up, to dress up, and set up for campfire s’mores: so improvised. I have done this on the stove before, but never over a stove like this.

IMG_4119

We then started to get creative. Candied some bacon to make breakfast s’mores, since it was closer to 5am then 12am.

 

Sadly our second day proved to be a cloudy one. The shadow they cast made the air feel crisp. A little too cold for us to try our hand at surfing. We agreed to come back and have our first time during summer.

IMG_4211IMG_4174

We visited Ucluelet, the southern most point of Vancouver Island. It was a quick drive from Tofino. It seems more like a fishing town when compared to the surf town of Tofino.

DSC_0116DSC_0106

We approached the dock by the Ucluelet aquarium. It was here we got a good look at friendly sea lions. At the neighbouring Ucluelet seafood factory, fishermen were being hounded by three barking sea lions and a flock of birds, including a baby bald eagle. They all wanted access to the fish that manage to wiggle themselves free from the nets. We captured this photo of a sea lion under the dock. He was on his way to join the others.
 IMG_4201

Jelly fish in their natural habitat.

IMG_4213

I missed the first day’s sun. Wishing it would feel more like summer, I added a popsicle to the mix. What screams summer more than fresh watermelon slices?

IMG_4249IMG_4265

Maple beer grilling sauce, how very Canadian. We were adding it to our steaks on the barbecue. One of the ingredients we purchased at the local grocery store, “Co-op”, for dinner.
IMG_4251

Dinner ready, we ate out on the patio  with our view of the beach in the distance.

IMG_4268IMG_4274

Despite the lack of sun to see set, we headed to the beach to enjoy what little light was left. The blue skies and rippling waves were still worth admiring. Even the mountain tops hidden behind fluffy white clouds were a wonder.

IMG_4294IMG_4288

We finally built a camp fire on our last night. Or rather my partner built the fire as I sat and drank wine. The sun set at 8:45pm and things got dark quick. Luckily we had gathered all our dry branches and the wood we would need well before. This was a roaring fire helped along by toilet paper. It didn’t help that the sand was wet and the branches were damp. Both had to dry before they could burn freely in our fire. When the sun has gone out and the world goes dark, it is a whole other world. You cannot see much, but clearly hear the fire crackle and the waves roar in the background. Here in pitch black darkness we huddled. So dark that we couldn’t even see the fingertips on our extended arms.

IMG_4321

We got hungry so started cooking over our camp fire. A stick was sharpened, and we speared a cheese stuffed wiener with it. The hot dogs cooked over fire, when almost done they popped from the heat. The cheese squirts on to the fire and it hisses. We both have never had a wiener so good.
 IMG_4318

For dessert we had marshmallows. My partner perfected the process. With a slow rotation he got an even burn on all sides. The perfect crisp shell and the perfect melted gooey centre. It stuck to our fingers and clung to our teeth.

IMG_4302IMG_4301

And what wine pairs well with campfire s’mores? I recommend this one.

IMG_4348IMG_4354

I love a good campfire. The sights and the sounds, it smells so good. But the scent of smoke never leaves you. For me, a soak in the tub helps. They didn’t have a hot tub so I improvised.

 

Last day, heading home. Gas was 122.9. We filled up at the “co-op” gas station, which is the same name as their largest grocery store. Here cables on the ground signify that a car has approached the pump. It calls attendants over to help. They squeegeed the splattered bugs off both the front and back windshields, while we went in to pay for the gas that we were to pump. He did a thorough job. We were ready to go. Cautiously we headed back home. Two of our tires’ exterior had ripped driving down here. We suspected it was due in part to the winding roads of Vancouver island and the speed in which we were barreling down them. My partner is an amazing driver, he was practicing his touge and hugging every curve, While other drivers attempted to maintain their speed, but ended up steering straight. The red of their break lights were all we saw. Therefore a pain point for me is when slower drivers refuse to pull over to the side or over on to the shoulder, to allows those traveling faster to go ahead. Not doing so slows everyone down and inevitably results in risky drivers doing stupid things. Some drive on the other side of the road when it is a double line, others cutting some off in order to get ahead. Other than that I love driving on and being passenger on a longer road trip. Frequent gas station stops, winding roads, and a great scenic view, and this trip had it all. White topped mountains, glistening bodies of water, and green as far as the eye can see. West coast nature I love you. For those who don’t  do so enough, please go out and explore all our province has to offer!

 

Wildside Grill

IMG_3971IMG_3975
Rain or shine, summer or winter, surfing happens here all year round in Tofino.

The woman’s home we were renting for the weekend owns the “Live to Surf” shop in the area. Upon our arrivals we went straight there to meet her. So after checking in, we explored the area to find a suitable dinner solution. We followed the bodies and found out sieves at “Wildside Grill”.

IMG_3979IMG_3982

Tucked in the corner like a hut in the woods, it was their seating area that caught my eye first. Seating is available in front of and to the side of the ordering hut. Red wooden picnic tables out in the open, and plastic chairs paired with repurposed cuts of wood for tables under cover. A makeshift shelter crafted from sanded down drift wood, planks, and Christmas lights. I was most amazed by the wooden fish skeleton gracing its roof, it certainly demanded your attention with its spiny bones.
The place was busy, no much else in the area still open so people were willing to line up, pay first, and then wait ten minutes for their order. The area had a youthful energy to it, school aged children playing hide and seek, young families taking their time on vacation, and teenagers loitering with a relaxed attitude. We stood out with our impatient demeanour and or faces glued to our phone screens. We were from the city and it showed.

IMG_3972IMG_3974

As you wait in line you are able to look through their menus. A list of tacos, burger, bowls, and sides. Below the counter were three additional white boards advertising their specials. Considering they had “grill” in their name we made sure to order items that were prepare using that feature. Sadly my partner does not eat seafood, so despite being surrounded by water and the abundance of fresh seafood from it, he shied away from the fresh salmon or cod offered grilled and battered.
 IMG_3985IMG_3993
Instead he had the “Chicken burger” with grilled chicken breast, bacon, cheese, smoked relish, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo. However it was one of the better chicken patties we both have ever had. Juicy white breast meat, moist with flavour. The bacon was smokey, almost sweet; it paired well with the tang of the homemade relish. The crisp lettuce and luscious tomato offered each bite a light freshness to it. The fries were the crisp on the outside and full of chewy potato goodness on the inside. It was good, but truly nothing special when compared to tacos below.
 IMG_3986IMG_3992
“Squid taco” made with pacific humbolt squid seared in their house made guajillo Chimichurri marinade. Served with cabbage, avotillo, fresh salsa, and a lime. I couldn’t commit to 3 for $12 so got one for $5. The squid was the best kind of chewy, a distinctive texture that was both enjoyable to eat and easy to bite through. You could taste how fresh the anthropoid was, and how long it sat on the grill to earn its smokey char quality. It also had a hint of curry to it, a warming musky spice that used the juicy tomatoes to balance out its particular heaviness. If you don’t like cilantro you can’t avoid it here, it is mixed in to the fresh salsa. Though it isn’t very obvious, in fact, here is one of the few times I found its herbaceous quality helpful in adding zest; as appose to being overwhelmingly distracting, as I usually find it. The single taco was packed full, I expected as much for $5. I lost most of the filling on my first bite, and needed a fork to finish it off. The first swallow was the best, and one taste of one taco was the perfect serving. I personally would have found three of this particular flavour to be too much. Whereas the pork ones below, I could go back for more of, luckily you get three to an order.

IMG_3989IMG_3994

Because once again, but my partner doesn’t enjoy seafood, despite it being incredible here, so I just had the squid to taste and we shared three “Taco Carnitas”. Each is made with braised pork, salsa roja, cheese, avotillo, and fresh salsa; and served on 100% corn tortillas, topped with cilantro and green onion. These were one of the most exciting and flavourful tacos we have ever had. A squeeze of the lime added some needed zest to things. Tender pulled pork thoroughly coated in a juicy sauce, slightly spicy and well seasoned. I advise eating this fast, for as soon as the tortilla absorbs too much BBQ sauce it falls apart, and your taco becomes a meat salad to be finished with a fork.

IMG_3983

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.

This was comfort eating. Fill your belly with simple food made with the freshest and best ingredients. Things were a little pricy for everyday dining, but the cost was definitely related to the quality. A great representation of the area and the community. After all, it was on the food network’s “You Gotta Eat Here”. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WILDSIDE GRILL
1180 Pacific Rim Hwy, Tofino BC
250-725-9453
wildsidegrill.com
Wildside Grill on Urbanspoon

Horseshoe Bay Ferry

IMG_3867IMG_3880

Park and ride on the “Queen of Coquitlam”.

It was my partner’s birthday, I decided to take him away for the weekend. With the itch to travel, a limited budget, and only three days off we decided a road trip was the best option. So from Vancouver we were Tofino bound.

IMG_3870IMG_3871IMG_3875

We woke early and headed towards the ferries at Horseshoe Bay. We intended to make the first sailing at 8:30am, but the call of sleep was too strong and we ended up sleeping in to catch the 10:30am sailing. It is Vancouver, so there was no surprise to see traffic going in the opposite direction of rush hour. Slow moving cars away from the city’s core.

IMG_3841IMG_3845

When we finally approached the terminal, we followed the signs and stayed in the right lanes. Workers in visibility vests greeted us at the threshold. They directed us to the appropriate lane. Are you going to the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver island, or Bowen island? Do you have reservations? For about $20 more reservations ensure you get on the sailing of your choosing. Without it you risk two hour or more waits if the ferry you were aiming for is full. We didn’t realize there was such an option, so never called ahead to make one.
 IMG_3847IMG_3852

The next check point is a booth to pay at. You are charged per person, per car, per way. $80.55 with a $1 fuel rebate and a 30 cent port fee. It is a similar wait and process to that of the border crossing, but without the need to show your passport and explain why you are leaving the country.

IMG_3854IMG_3855

After our money was taken we were warned of a possible wait. There was  no guarantee that we would be on the latest ferry, without reservations. However after 10:30am the ferry comes every hour so the wait would be tolerable. And if you have to wait, at least you have the view of the Horseshoe Bay village to stare at in from afar. Tall mountains with flecks of snow, still blue waters, and a forest of evergreens as far as the distance extends. Though you are bound to a wait in your car. Once in this designated area there is no leaving. Your wait is confined. Though facilities are available to relieve yourself at. A row of cars stretches out in one lane, you can see the white of the ferry from far away. Most drivers get out and walk about to kill time. We were at the end of the line, in the shade, we weren’t going anywhere. Time to lean back and get comfortable.
 IMG_3860IMG_3893
After the cars traveling from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay unload off the ferry, we, amongst others loaded on. We prayed for us to fit, for us to get on to this ferry, for us to not have to wait anymore. And we made it. Under the ramp and into the hull, we joined the already formed row of cars separated by painted lines. We parked with the aid of attends, they regulating the distance between us and the vehicle in front and behind, for maximum hold. E-break up, it was time to head up to the deck. It required a ride up the elevator or a climb up stairs. We were closer to the former, so opted to wait. 5 decks listed, the passenger one was right on top, the only deck worth visiting.

IMG_3879IMG_3878

The level had plenty of seating across various platforms. Majority of which were already sat when we got there. Many passengers walked on without their car, and now they needed a place to rest their legs and parcels at. Though with enough walking around you can find your perfect seat: a secluded corner to nap in, a desk with an outlet and three walls for undisturbed privacy, or a high top by the window to watch the waves ripple by. The only thing we were missing were lounging chairs to recline in. I know this was a resort ship, but we were tired and could have used the space to spread out and rest. In the end we headed back to the car early to catch ourselves a cat nap.
The layout was a circular maze, though with plenty of signs and markers we did alright. Several area and doors were coded with paintings. One area was designated with a starfish, another a sea lion, and where we parked was near a killer whale.
 IMG_3890IMG_3885

In the dining area was a steadily growing for breakfast at the “Coast Cafe”. They served burgers and entrees from “White Spot” and “Bread Garden”. Many deemed it worth the wait. Many small families filled the tables and ate from pirate packs. For those who just needed coffee, a smaller line and a quicker wait at “Coast Cafe Express” was the ticket. They offered expressos and cups of joe, and light snacks in form of prepackaged and premade cold foods. Pastries and sandwiches, fruits and salads. For the travellers, the gift shop offered an opportunity to find souvenirs. And if you missed it the announcement over the PA’s had you considering the above.

IMG_3862IMG_3865

As most tourists do, we sought to get out and up to enjoy the view. Today the “Sun deck” was aptly name. We were travelling with warm weather, it felt like summer. A covered area provided benches and the crisp air, without the glare and wind. We found a place at the stern of the ship (the back), where we were able to lean against the side. There we took some time to enjoy the heat, while gazing out to where we once were. Cloudless skies, hot sun, and boundless waves; with the background of the city and mountains disappearing in the distance. But sadly no marine life, and believe me, camera ready, I looked. You just needed to tune out the children crying, the friends chatting, and the rumbles of the ship to fully enjoy the open sea. Though as I mentioned above our time here was short lived. Both my partner and I are night owls so the 8am rise was difficult for us and we were only know feeling the fatigue of it. So back down we travelled to catch up on sleep and be ready for the day of adventuring before us. 1.5 hour ferry ride to Tofino.

IMG_3887

Though sadly our fatigue cost us the opportunity to see a pod of killer whales travelling to the left of the ferry. An announcement was made over the speakers, by the captain, to call attention to the feat. It was ten minutes after we reclined our chairs and settled into our seats. We were already cozy in the car, so this would be an opportunity missed.

IMG_3884IMG_3895

We were later awoken by the PA again. This time asking all patrons to return to their cars as we would be docking soon. Welcome to Nanaimo.

IMG_4410

On the way back home, taking the Nanaimo ferry to Horseshoe Bay, we raced down the mountain to catch the 5pm sailing. We rushed only to be informed by an electric sign that the sailing was full and the 7pm sailing was already at 53% capacity. It was only 4:30pm. The race  continued until we finally reached the gate and paid the toll. We felt relieved to wait in line 22 for 2.5 hours for the 7pm sail time. At least we weren’t waiting another two hours on top of that for the 9pm sailing. The weekend was over and people were heading home.

IMG_4408IMG_4416

Time was killed at their market place,  an option not offered at the Horseshoe Bay dock. Here patrons boarding by foot and car mingled over snacks. A miniature food court offered pizza, sandwiches, pop, and chocolate. My partner grabbed a bottle of water and a magazine to pass the time. I gravitated to the “Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory”. There they had caramel apples, fudge, chocolate bon bons shaped like minions, and ice cream. I challenged myself to eating their chocolate and peanut coated frozen banana as lady-like as possible. It was frozen on a wooden stick like a popsicle, and not easy to eat. I didn’t consider how embarrassing eating this in public would be. The nuts constantly falling down my dress, for starters.

IMG_3888

At 7pm we started driving into the “Queen of Cowichan” ferry. This time around we decided to stay in the car for the 1.5 hour ride home. The weather wasn’t as nice as on our ride here. There would be no view past the clouds and no warmth on the top deck. So once again reclined our seats and fell asleep. Wake up, hello home.

 

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén