Admittedly I have frequented “Water St. Cafe” a handful of times, but on each visit it was for an event and during such an occasion the experience is much different. A full house with standing room only, and nibbles to graze on, as you sip on glasses of bubbles and wine. So tonight my guest and I were excited to join them for a simple dinner for two, in Gastown.
The restaurant is better known for their fine dining vibe, a modern upscale spot with dim lights, flickering candles, and white table cloths. The best seat in the house is definitely the corner table on the first floor. It over looks the cross section of Cambie and Water Street, with a clear view of the iconic steam clock. Not to mention all the folks taking photos of it, as it bongs and releases plumes of smoke into the night sky.
We were given a table upstairs, to be able to take in the live music they were promoting on this Monday night. That, and the restaurant was fairly business on what others deem a “slow night”. The server led us through a maze of large parties, past their marble counter bar, ascending up the carpeted staircase that spiral. On the second floor there are individual rooms for group events, as well as some pocketed seating that gave you seclusion for your party.
We were seated at a table for two with a view overlooking Gastown’s streets, right in front of the lit “stage”. A curtain of LED string lights set the stage literally. We arrived just as our local and live entertainment were setting up for their set. Across the evening they would perform melodic covers and their own music played across a guitar, base, and drums. I found the live music element a wonderful surprise, and was delighted to be able to take this in. It definitely elevated our evening and experience. That, and the food to come.
We enjoyed wine with our five dishes below, including the amuse bouche that came first. Instead of it being something the chef whipped up with left over ingredients, our amuse bouche was actually available for ordering off the regular menu, but in a more compact size for sampling. Instead of the “Smoked BC salmon plate, this was a bite each of smoked BC salmon served over a crostini with dill cream cheese spread. This was a great treat, a crowd pleaser elevated with the inclusion of red onions, crispy capers, and a sweet balsamic vinegar drizzle. All together a classic flavour that doesn’t disappoint. The balsamic lent sweetness to the assembly, the capers a sharp tanginess, and the radish some crunch.
Next we had the “Bison carpaccio” for our appetizer. Pink pepper corn crusted canadian bison, sliced thin as tracing paper, topped with shaved parmesan, truffle aioli, and crispy capers. This was a dish that had you choosing your own perfect bite. The truffle elevated it, and the freshness of the raw onion and the pepperiness in the greens came together, offering layered depth. Everything was wonderfully paired. Except I wanted a base with it, something to make this a heartier bite. Although at the same time, I didn’t want to dilute such an interesting flavour combination with a starch. In short, I wanted a meatier bite to the wafer thin bison I was enjoying so much.
For our vegetable course we had “Lamb lollipops and kale”. The perfectly prepared lamb made this salad a lot more approachable. Rosemary marinated, grilled lamb chops with charred radicchio, baby kale, and salsa verde. The lamb was good on its own, but the leaves it sat on offered freshness and a nice citrusy seasoning for the savoury meat. Alone, the kale salad had points of bitterness, and hints of mint.
The “West coast crab cakes” were declared a “Café tradition!”, so we had to give it a try. A blend of pacific rock crab, baby shrimp, and preserved citrus with fennel, arugula, and a saffron aioli. It was fragrant with the diced peppers, a notable taste paired with the sweet crab meat. As for the sauce you smear your crispy crab puck in to, it was mild enough that it doesn’t over power, but rather accented the lot with notes of marmalade on the tongue and in the nose.
And for our entree we had the “16oz Ribeye steak and frites.” A grilled 16oz bone in AAA canadian ribeye, prepared medium rare. Smothered in a three peppercorn mushroom sauce and served with cajun seasoned frites on the side. We well received this classic. The perfect amount of fat to lean beef, with a pink centre. Easy to slice through with a peppery sauce that perks it and the fries up. Fully satisfied with this one. No complaints.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
In conclusion this was an amazing night. Everything was on point from the one or a kind view, to the cozy interior decorated with Christmas flourishes, to the live music surprising and delighting. And most importantly the food that was amazing, a classic menu prepared well and as expected on what typically isn’t a peak night. “Water St.” did not disappoint! Don’t deny your cravings.
WATER ST. Cafe
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
There are a handful of cafes and tea salons offering a Christmas themed high tea this season. But “H Tasting Lounge” is setting itself apart with their Ferris wheel display, the ability to have mulled wine with your finger sandwiches, and to enjoy live music with it all.
Their festive tea is only available on weekends, from November 30th to December 29th, from 11:30am to 4:30pm. The cost is $55 per person. After reading the press release, I ventured down to be the first person to try it, on what should have been its release date. However, due to complications with the menu, it was delayed for the following week. So I ended up dining with them the first day, tasting from their new winter menu instead; and then returning a week later to try the official winter tea service. This post will be an accumulation of the two visits.
I am a huge fan of “H Tasting Lounge’s” modern space. It speaks to luxury with velvet furniture in soft pastels, metallic throw pillows, and gold panel detailing with a 20’s flair. The latter, a remnant of the aviation themed bar they originally launched as. We grabbed my favourite seat, within the open space. One of the two c-shaped booths in the corner, by the patio entrance. A crushed blue velvet backdrop in your very own booth. It hugs you and your guests, whilst offering just the right amount of intimacy for two.
High tea starts with a box of loose leaf teas to sort and sniff through. You un-lid each vial and make your choice based on smell, much like a sensory menu.
Given that I was the very first person, during the very first service of this, they were still working out the kinks. Meaning we weren’t given the option for either of their two seasonal teas; which we would have ordered. The “Tealeaves Nutcracker Black Tea Blend” and/or the “Tealeaves Organic Herbal Sugar Plum Fairy”. So in the this case, I went for their “organic vanilla rooibos” instead.
Teas is served in a modern white and gold gilded tea pot that matches with your cup and saucer. It comes with milk and sugar, should you need it.
Although, I am more partial to their alcoholic drink options, and highly recommend either their “Mulled Wine” or “Miracle on Bayshore Dr.” cocktail. The latter a mix of rye, brandy, gingerbread syrup, milk, whole egg, and marshmallows. But today I went with the mulled wine, because where else can you get mulled wine (not at an outdoor market)? Here it is made with red wine, holiday spices, brandy, and peach schnapps. The wine is steeped with sugar plum tea leaves, and infused with clove cinnamon and star anise. After one sip, I concluded that I much rather a glass of mulled wine indoors, with each sip furthering my warmth.
Looking for another hot beverage to get tipsy on? They also have a lovely “Rye chai”, served warm in a tea pot. Made with rye, mezcal, apricot, falernum, lemon, and chai. It was a strong sipper, but I didn’t get much of the chai flavour I anticipated. Good hot or cold with the natural burn of the alcohol fuelling things.
For something just as festive, but packed with ice, their “Cranberry cobbler” offers dessert in a glass. Gin, cranberry, all spice dram, and lemon. This was refreshing and effervescent, with the cranberry offering its unique blend of sweetness and tartness.
As for the actual food portion of the tea service, it is a combination of savoury and sweet bites swinging back and forth on their precarious Ferris wheel. Take it from first hand experience, it is best to remove all the elements from the tower before you start eating. Emptying one glass plate throws off the balance of the entire apparatus, and spinning it has plates catching on to one another. Worst case scenario, everything falls and you have mashed cake on the table.
The follow is what we had, in the order in which we ate it. From lightest to heaviest, savoury to sweet, starting with the soup. Served in a shot glass, the “Squash Soup” with an herb and cheese crisp was a sumptuous start. A thick and creamy soup, so rich that it could function as a sauce, especially when dipping the crispy flaky cheese twist into it. I wanted a larger bowl of this, to enjoy alongside the sandwich I liked below.
This was a savoury bite reminiscent of the season: “Confit Turkey Sandwich” with apple butter and cranberries. It reminded me of a classic turkey dinner all in one easy to eat handheld. Juicy, pulled, white turkey meat, sage and thyme seasonings, and pops of sweet cranberry. The only thing that was missing was a cup of gravy to smother it all in, thanksgiving turkey style.
My favourite feature of the set was the “Tourtière”. A savoury ground meat pie with a golden brown buttery crust, topped with a crispy fragrant sage leaf. This was just beautifully done. I have had my fair share of this Québécois classic, and to date this is my favourite.
Not winter specific, but familiar to any high tea tower is the “Smoked Salmon & Cucumber sandwich”. The “H Tasting” version is served on rye bread. This is a classic that tasted exactly as you expect it to.
Similarly, there were scones included, scones being another staple to any good tea tower. Each was a perfectly crafted raisin scone: crispy, flaky, and crumbly all in one. It was just as shame that they didn’t make them with the cranberries and thyme that was used to decorate the plate. This would have spoken better to the holiday theme. Though it didn’t stop me from taking a bite of the scone and popping thyme and cranberry into my mouth after it. The scones also come with a jar of orange fruit spread and clotted cream, though the former wasn’t necessary given how much dried fruit there is already on the plate and within the scones themselves.
The menu described this as the “Festive Cotton Candy Bonsai Tree”. I understand the “tree” part, with the mental object being the “trunk” that the round of green and pink cotton candy sat on. However, I was still missing the “festive” portion of it. It could have been flavoured like peppermint, or given a sprinkle of powdered sugar for snow. It didn’t speak to Christmas, but instead spring. Nonetheless it was fun to eat, we enjoyed pulling tuffs from this impressively spun cloud of sugar.
Next we moved on to the dessert portion of our high tea service. Here, we learned that all the restaurant’s pastries are outsourced by “Faubourg Bakery”. They were okay, but I wasn’t expecting this from a hotel property of this caliber. And maybe if it was all made in house, I might have liked them more.
The “Yule Log” was the visual show stopper, it immediately spoke to the holiday with almond jaconde, praline, and ganache. It had a nice chocolatey hazelnut flavour, but a little too sweet for my taste. My guest on the other hand was not only enamoured by this visual, but liked its taste as well.
I couldn’t taste the gingerbread mousse or cranberry compote from the “Festive Profiterole”. The shell was a little soggy and the spices lacking. This wasn’t as memorable as I had hoped.
I preferred the mild flavour of the “Frangipane Cake” with spiced pear and almond. A dense cake that is a little on the dry side. Though the pear in its syrupy coating helped to moisten the two bite treat, flavouring it with hints of cinnamon and apple.
I also didn’t get any gingerbread in the “Gingerbread Cake”. The sponge was chewy with a burnt caramel flavour, and the black currant mousse tasted more like raspberry with its tartness and colour. Sadly, it was bolder in hue than taste.
Overall, I preferred the savoury options to the sweet. None of the desserts, outside of the Yule log, felt or look all that seasonal. Much like the restaurant’s decor, there wasn’t much in terms of Christmas flare. A tree or two outside the restaurant and the ability to cozy up with one of their fur blankets if you get cold. I wanted peppermint, more gingerbread, and/or eggnog. More embellishments and more red and green as the holiday is known for. The Ferris wheel wasn’t even decorated in tinsel. It could have been hung with metallic balls. And the cotton candy bonzai, could have easily been reinvented into a cotton candy Christmas pine with coloured sprinkles and a candied star topper. I am still glad I got to try it, and can’t hold the pastries against them, considering it wasn’t prepared by “H Tasting” go begin with.
But if you are looking for something more heartier, they do have their new winter food menu out as well. The following is what we tried from it.
Their new persimmon dish is the fruit sliced thin like carpaccio and topped with kohlrabi and a sesame praline, then drizzled in a mint and orange blossom vinaigrette. I was surprised by how satisfying this was, and how much it ate like a fulsome dish. Everything came together for a complimentary collection of flavours and textures, with the candied granola being the standout. Tangy and sweet, crunchy and refreshing, and altogether one worth trying, during your next visit.
Something just as light and refreshing, yet satisfying is the new “Burrata” dish. Fresh Burrata from California, topped with Northern Divine caviar; sitting on top of a creamy pea purée, with a fresh pea shoot salad. You eat the cheese like a spread, smeared on top of crispy crostini. The greens add some pepperiness, the purée some sweetness, and the caviar a certain level of elevation that I expect from the setting. Wonderfully simple, yet indulgent.
We also ordered their seafood platter. It is available in three sizes. Small, medium, large; each incrementally giving you more food, although not more variety. So I advise ordering the small version, like we did; and supplementing it with appetizers like we had above. The result, a beautifully fresh collection of kusshi oysters, poached prawns; and halibut carpaccio with a house made carrot kimchi. All served with fresno oil, mignonette, and a cocktail sauce flavoured with gin for dipping. I wouldn’t recommend pairing the kimchi with the gentle white fish, the former was overpowering, and you want to taste the natural flavour of the halibut. In fact, I am not m sure why one is put over the other. I did like the substitution of carrots for cabbage in this spicy fermented mix. This change gave a dish I tend to avoid, a new texture profile I actually like. (I am not a fan of the texture of wilted greens).
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I honestly wish that the property was closer to a skytrain station, so I could and would frequent it more often. And with continuous updates to their menu like so, they are giving me multiple reasons to take the commute. Highly recommended for a good time. Don’t deny your cravings.
H TASTING LOUNGE
1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver BC, V6G 2V4
Today I was back at Richmond, in town for another “Feast: Asian Dining Festival” destination. This is the annual event that gets diners down to Richmond, with the goal of seeking out over 30 participating restaurants. Running from now until November 18th, “Feast” offers you a chance to try somewhere new, at a price that doesn’t break the bank.
For my journey to the island city, I was loaned the use of the 2020 “Subaru Ascent”. And although Richmond is convenient to get to via the Canada skytrain, nothing beats a comfortable ride in a well build vehicle. And it got us safely to “West Coast Poke”.
There are a handful of poke places vying for your attention, but this one focuses on ingredients from the west coast and themes their bowls as such. And with the “Feast” menu you are able to try two of them, with 2 of their house made drinks, and a side of your choice, all for $25. And truly this is such a great deal. More than enough food for leftovers, and a drink that compliments all of the above.
You are able to choose between 1 of their 5 classic bowls and have it assembled to your specifications. You choose your base from brown rice, white rice, or greens. And how spicy you want things, then what crunchy toppings you’d like to finish it off with.
I choose the “Tidal” poke after noticing the “fresh-in” tag beside its name, but regret not getting any tuna or salmon because of it. Prawn, togarashi, scallion, pickled red onion, cucumber, pineapple, avocado, jalapeño, gochu garlic aioli sauce, and a citrus ponzu sauce. I enjoyed all the flavours, but would have liked them with fish instead.
My guest had the “Smoke” Poke, a spicy bowl with a warning of a chilli pepper logo by its name. This one featured albacore tuna, a burnt miso chilli oil, Thai chilli, scallion, jalapeño, cucumber, radish, ginger, spicy crab salad, pineapple, and a miso ginger glaze. Minus the heat, I preferred the flavour and the fish of this more.
But what really stole the show for me was the side salad. You had your choice between a fruit and seaweed salad, but when you see the name “crack salad”, that is clearly the one you get. It did not disappoint, this crab based salad had me going back for more. And I thought of mixing it to my shrimp bowl to give it more depth. The “crack salad” is made with crab, mango, avocado, cucumber, fried onions, a miso ginger soy, a maple soy sauce, and chopped nori.
For drinks we got one of each of their options, a nice mild peach tea and a sharp and refreshing lemonade. Made in house ahead of time, and poured into individual plastic cups for each dispensing.
Worth noting is how friendly the staff on shift were, we closed the shop down and told them we would rush as to not keep them later than necessary. However, they reassured us that it was quite alright, as they would still be here cleaning up anyways. They even offered us additional slices of avocado and portions of miso soup, as to not have to waste any of it at the end of the night.
The “charred nori miso” was brilliant. You got a nice umami flavour from the mushrooms they used. It warmed you up, which is a nice contrast to the served cold chilled seafood rice bowls before it.
We enjoyed everything so much so, that we decided to order two more bowls to go, to be able to try more of their menu. My guest ordered the “Pacific” bowl, as she was toying with either this or the smoke bowl earlier. This is their most popular bowl and a lot less spicy with albacore tuna, cilantro, cucumber, pickled red onion, crab salad, pineapple, mango, and a green mango curry sauce. It was fairly light and citrus forward, whereas I prefer punchier flavours like the feature bowl below.
I was intrigued by their “Hola Hola” poke bowl, it read like and tasted like nachos. Hot chilli cheese over a taco salad. Made with albacore tuna, pickled red onion, radish, black beans, blackened corn, avocado, a smokey sriracha aioli, and a tortilla chip crunch. Definitely a heavier bowl, and one for those who like the flavours of tex mex.
Glad to have been turn on to this poke franchise by “Feast: Asian Dining Festival”. For more of the other participating restaurants, check out their website below. https://asianfeast.ca/
The reviews have been only so-so for this place, but the decor alone is worth visiting for. They are the newer dining option attached to the “Exchange Hotel”, in downtown Vancouver. This space was design specifically for their Mediterranean restaurant.
You are in awe walking in and climbing their spiralling staircase, up to the main dining area. They do have a secondary bar/lounge space downstairs, but the second floor with vaulted ceiling is the place to be.
I had arrived early and my girl friend was running late, so I was more than happy to spend the additional time waiting for her, by their bar. A handsome arch framed their tiered assortment, well stocked and well presented before a back splash of half circles, layered like scales. This spoke well to their aquatic theme. A chandelier of plastic fish floated over a table, large paintings of wild waves in varying degrees of blue drew your eyes to the wall, and a television screen broadcasting picturesque scenes of the Mediterranean furthered the mood. Turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and not a cloud in the sky. The music, upbeat and lively, like at a tropical resort night club. All this made them a great place for a drink, or to begin a bar crawl at.
On the way to the single stalled washrooms, be sure to take in their raw bar. Back lit mirrors hang over a trough of ice. In it whole fish peak through, speaking to the freshness of their seafood assortment. We were sure to sample from this with their “chill platter”, but more on that below.
By the hotel entrance to the restaurant is a living wall, greens crawling around the name of the restaurant in white LED. Under it a Möet branded tub and life persevere, that I had to take advantage of as a photo op.
Back at the bar, I order my first cocktail of the night. The name spoke well to the drink: “holiday”. Made with summer fruits and bright flavours, this play on the margarita featured fresh watermelon purée, cazadores reposado, martini bitters, ginger, and fresh lime. It was finished with a coconut sugar, and a maldon rim.
My next cocktail was at our reserved table, the “Fig” was a strong drink, that delivered on its name. A smokey sipper with fig at its core, and an extra bite as garnish. Dewar’s white label scotch, fig syrup, angostura bitters, citrus oil, and fig garnish.
The cocktail after that was “Tart”. And unlike the “Fig”, this was a name that did not perfectly describe what you were getting in a drink. Like its colour, it tasted like lavender and flowers. Bombay sapphire, cassis, kefir, fresh lemon and lime, honey, egg whites, and black toasted sesame.
We then decided to try a Greek wine, for drinks 4 and 5. We reasoned out that it would be more economical to get a bottle to share, as opposed to ordering it by the glass. This was “Monograph” from Peloponnese, Greece; it is an Assyrtiko. This was what was suggested when we asked for something similar to pinot gris.
And although it is ill advised, we ordered a “Chill Platter” to accompany all our drinks. Normally you’d want some carbs or something more solid to balance yourself with. But my girl friend and I have an on going thing where we aim to try all the seafood towers in the city. This one comes with prawns, oysters, ceviche sashimi, pickled octopus, tartare, and accoutrements for $105. For those who need even more, you can add on a pound of crab for $45.
The prawns were large and juicy, but plain. They needed a dip, and we found it in the sauces for the oysters, on the top tier.
These were Kushi and Royal miyagi oysters. And normally I can barley tell the difference between types of oysters. But the Royal miyagi oysters were deliciously sweet, the sweetest I have ever had. I chased it with a very clean and crisp tasting kushi oyster.
The ceviche sashimi was very dill forward, it over powered the herbed paprika, salmon and celery for crunch. This is the type of seasoning I would expect in a potato salad.
I liked the tanginess of the pickled octopus, I just wish it wasn’t served cold. Its already chewy texture would be butterier if warmer.
The tartare was bland by comparison, especially when eating it with the cucumber. The caper gave it some salt, but it felt lost amongst the others.
The crab was very water logged, shredded and soaking in olive oil with tomato and parsley. It was also too acidic and vinegary for me to enjoy the natural sweetness of the crab.
The broad beans were a nice little palette cleanser. Served chill with feta for a sandy texture. It was best enjoyed with the hard pita points, made harder with its time in the ice.
Overall, there was quite a bit of food on these two tiers. Plenty to keep you causally nibbling for an hour plus. And when anything got too dull, the sauces and minuet served with the oysters, as mentioned earlier, was enough to do the trick.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Given how much we spent on a seafood tower, I felt it should have lived up to the cost. And for that I wouldn’t necessarily clamour to visit again, but can safely recommend them for an amazing hotel bar to see and be seen at. Don’t deny your cravings.
This year I was invited to attend the 13th annual BC Seafood Festival. One weekend out of two where the bounty of BC is celebrated across multiple dinners and various behind the scenes look at local seafood operators.
To skip the reading, check out my latest travel vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.
An early ride on the ferry got us to Vancouver Island quick. And from Nanaimo we drove to the Comox Valley. Stopping at Holiday Inn Express to check in. This is one of the designated hotels with regular shuttle service by “Ambassador Transportation” to festival grounds and various event site and back again. This would especially come in handy during said events that featured drinking.
As was the case for our 8 course dinner at “40 Knots Winery”, which included 7 wine pairings. This was a ticketed event held amongst the winery’s grape vines. For the full review of this spectacular out door dinner visit the link below.
We got shuttled there by bus, and to kept the jovial mood going, got driven back to our respective hotels via limo bus. Leather seats, neon lights, cup holders that fit bottles, and stacks of plastic cups. Just one of the many options of transportation available for regular travel, or one of their guided tours. The latter includes a cocktail tour that brings you to 3 different surprise places, three different backdrops to eat and drink at. And best of all, you get picked up from your home or hotel and dropped back there. So now one has to drive and everyone gets to drink! I didn’t get to experience one this time around, but will have to look into this appetizer and drink tour if/when I return.
But on this trip I did drink plenty. The following were offered as a ticketed events or behind the scenes tours, all of which I participated in.
At “Fanny Bay Oysters”, in Fanny Bay we were treated to an oyster freshly grown and picked from their farm. Then given a tour of their facilities. “Fanny Bay Oysters” is 1 hour north of Nanaimo. They do not own the land on which they operate, but instead lease it from the BC government to farm shellfish. Here, we learned the life cycle of their oysters from the General Manager himself.
Oysters start in their hatcheries, located in either Washington or Hawaii. Hawaii being the most optimal, as it is easier to to grow the algae they need to feed the oysters. As well, it is easy to generate the heat needed to keep the intake of the water warm. Once the oysters are small seeds, for the next stage of their growth they get flown to “Fanny Bay”, where they are planted. If the oyster shells are not attached to each other, they will grow singularly. Attached shells grow into oysters that require shucking. Once matured, they are all harvested by hand, as per the government and wildlife and forestry’s requirements. It takes 6-8 months for smaller oysters to mature and 8-12 for the larger ones. Sun Seaker, Kusshi, Olympia, and Kumamoto oysters are grown on tubes, hung in the water in parallel lines. Doing this allows them to grow more on the same foot print. And the advantage they have operating on the inlet is that it is protected by the land formation, and the waves bring more nutrients into the water.
“Fanny Bay Oysters” are known for their consistent product with no barnacles. Specifically their “Sun Seaker”, grown in a bag that floats on top of the water. Hence, the name. There is more food for the oyster on the top, with the sun and the waves. Therefore the meat is in better shape. Similarly oysters grown on the beach are heartier because they are tougher, having to learn how to survive out of water. Whereas ones grown in trays are always in the water, and in theory weaker.
We saw large bins filled with them, submerged in ever running water. Which also included bins of scallops, mussels, and clams. And marvelled at the speed of shucking, in which 5 men before a troth committed to. The tour ended with us staring out at the Georgia Straight and wondering how many shellfish contributed the mountains of bleached white shells in their backyard.
#1-6856 ISLAND HWY S., FANNY BAY BC
I got more than enough oysters in during the ticketed “Shucked!” Happy hour event. All you can eat oyster from 7 local producers; and the wine, beer, and shots to chase them with. More more on the slurping and burping visit the link below.
We learned more about local spirit producer, “Wayward Distillery” with a tour of their operations, and a tasting of the end result. They are better known for their use of BC honey in their liquor. Currently they purchase vats of the stuff locally, but have begun farming their own hives in their back yard.
The tour began and their behives, one traditional build and another that allowed you to look into their inner workings.
And ended at the bar with micro shots. First the “Krunkik”, a spiced honey liquor, steeped with mulling spices and mixed with citrus peel. One of their signature bottles, as “Wayward Distillery” are the firsts to make clear spirits out of honey.
I really liked the creativity of the “Caesar’s ghost” vodka, flavoured with ghost pepper. This would make a great base to any savoury cocktail.
We also got a sneak peak and taste of their new “Drunken hive rum” to be released on June 28th, 2019. A new direction they are taking with their distillery, this too is made with their trademark caramelized honey.
At “Natural Pastures” we learned how they made their cheeses. Dawning a lab coat, loaner crocs, and a hair net we made our way through their factory and the cheese making process step by step. We started in the aging room where it was ceiling to floor rounds of firm cheese. The dark skinned ones were noted as being smoked. And the speckled ones where flavoured with either pepper, garlic, or chilli. The aged farm house cheese was the oldest, aged for the longest, and the extra effort has made it their best selling firm cheese.
We learned about the cultures and various bacteria that go into the making various cheeses. Then how enzymes are added to help lock protein molecules together, and when ready its consistency is like a thick yogurt. We saw “the harp” and learned how it cuts the curd. Which is then placed into moulds and pressed. All the soft cheeses are kept in a humid room to keep them from dying out. Brie, camembert, and buffalo Brie. Greater than 8 days and it grows mould. So next it needs to be wrapped. This is done in a special room with a machine that is capable of wrapping a round of cheese in 1.8 seconds.
We ended our tour at their shop front, where we able to taste a few of their favourite hard cheeses, and a handful us liked what we tasted enough to buy some for the road. I had to get a bag of their squeaky cheese curds, but their best seller cheese is their Comox Brie.
My next tour started bright and early and required a plane ride from the Comox Harbour. “Harbour Air” shuttled us to Harwicke island, the most North I have ever been. A scenic flight, but one that noise cancelling headphones were made for.
We flew past green meadows and snow capped mountains, to what seemed like the middle of no where. This was “Mowi salmon farm”. Entry required a sanitizing foot bath for disinfection, and a life vest for safety.
Here, we were greeted by the farm manger who toured us around the property, including the 10 live pens with 52-62 thousand fish in each. You don’t really get a good look into the netted enclosures from the metal walk ways. But you do from their control centre. From televised screens, you get to see what the multiple cameras dropped into the base of the pens see. The farm uses them to gauge the fish’s response to the food pellets they are feeding them. These pellets are a mix of carbs, protein, and oils; sourced from sustainable avenues: Fish meal, fish oil, marine content, grain, wheat, chicken meal, and omega 3 oils. Thus making their salmon the most economic source of protein grown for humans. It takes 1.1 kg of feed to grow 1 kg of fish. And here, the salmon stay in these pens, waiting for 18 months to 2 years, until they mature to 51/2 kilos, the ready for selling weight.
Seeing as salmon only spawn in autumn, having the farm allows them to regulate temperature and light, and gives them the ability and to save their eggs, so that the consumer can have salmon all through out the year. They basically use light to trick salmon into thinking it is time to spawn.
During the tour viruses were brought up, along with the conditions of the fish in the pens. To which our tour guide and the farm manager went into detail regarding their use of vaccines. Thanks to their vaccination program the need to use antibiotics on the fish have dropped by 5%. Each fish gets 3 individual injections during their juvenile stage. Each injection requires a team of 12-18 to administer. All to ensure that all their salmon are well looked after. And every week the farm team checks every pen for the slightest hint of lice.
Ned Bell, Oceanwise Chef was co-hosting this tour. He was present to speak to his support of farmed fish. Acknowledging where fish aquaculture is now a lot better, but there is still work left to do, work to become Oceanwise certified. As resources dwindle we can’t only rely on wild caught fish. And for the critics, when was the last time you had “wild chicken”?
MOWI FISH FARM
#124-1334 Island Highway, Campbell River BC, V9W 8C9
And the last tour I attended echoed the same sentiment: Sustainable seafood though updated aquaculture practices are necessary. At “Manatee holdings LTD.” we were given a limited look at their operation, 10 years in the making.
They specialized in geoduck on their 8 acres of non-commercial land. Which includes a backyard pond that they use as a nursery system, testing ground for them to see how their “crop” will do in nature. Results they won’t actually get to see for at least two more years. Therefore, we weren’t actually able to take a look at their cultured geoduck stock, which they cannot shown due to proprietary reasons.
Instead, we were gathered around a kiddie pool and were given the opportunity to touch and hold the various sea life they raise for consumption and profit. Geoduck, sea cucumber, uni, and oyster seeds.
The rest of the tour was a series of videos, how geoducks are harvested and possible solutions to the over fishing of seafood. But most of the information was U.S. based, which is very different from Canada. In the States they use visible tubes to grow their geoducks, which only takes 5-6 years. Whereas in Canada, the government requires that geoduck farming operations not be visible. Therefore here at “Manatee Holdings” their aquaculture happens 30-60 feet deep in water, and takes 10 years.
Currently “Manatee Holdings” only has their geoduck licence, and they have been working on getting one for sea cucumber farming, but have been left waiting for over 9 years. They are also looking into selling oyster seed in the future. One geoduck goes for $300 in Japan, with cultured products being more expensive due to their controlled quality. For example, ensuring no pollutants are in the water as they grow. This thus controls the market, which has a great appreciation for white neck geoduck, deemed as “Grade A”, whereas the darker necks are less desirable.
Overall I felt the tour was a steep at $10, considering 2/3 of it was a video, and the only thing we really saw with a pool full of water. I suggest doing as our owner/guide suggested, and check back in with them in 2 years time, when they can actually review their operations to the public, as it was proven successful and is no longer under proprietary legislation.
All this led up to the BC Seafood Festival Signature weekend, a festival in the park with food and drink booths, live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, and plenty of activity to engage the whole family in. For more details visit the link below.
The BC Shellfish Grower’s Association Gala was my favourite event. A way to learn more about the seafood through the super star chefs that prepared them. Everything was prepared by the water, under tented booths, right before your eyes. You visited each table, trying each tasters, and coming back for more of your favourite. For all 15 dishes and the BC chef that brought it to life, visit the link below.
In short, the BC Seafood Festival is more than just eating seafood, it also gives you the opportunity to learn more about what you eat and where it comes from. I would definitely like to explore more tours in the future. Including whale and big game animal sightseeing. And revisit all the events and dinners again. But for now, like you, all I can do is get inspired for next year’s festival by visiting the link below, and plan to go!
All the tours and dinners I have been enjoying in Comox Valley were leading up to the “BC Seafood Festival Signature weekend”. A two day celebration, set up “Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park”. On Saturday June 15th and Sunday June 16th from 11:00am to 5:00pm, ticket holders came down to explore the extent of the seafood festival summarized into booths, tasting stations, cooking demonstrations, and activities for kids and adults alike.
There was so much to see and do that I visited both days, to be able to take it all in. The following are the highlights of the weekend.
The main draw is definitely the food and drink vendors. All food and wine tastings required tickets in exchange for money. A dollar a ticket with a difference between food and drink tickets.
Local wine vendors were on site offering plastic cups of red, white, or rose. “Lake Breeze”, “Joie”, “40 Knots”, and “Gold Hill” to name a few.
And breweries had their pressurized taps to go. For locals this was a great way to support the community; for visitors, a great way to try something new and find that perfect souvenir to take home.
Local spirit vendor, “Wayward Distillery” was also available for stronger pours.
And for those looking for libations without the booze, the folks at the “Shrub & Soda” were mixing their flavoured syrups with club soda. Although their product can also be used for cocktail mixes as well.
For food, there was plenty of seafood, naturally. But for those who don’t like fish or shellfish, or for little picky diners “The Pickled Carrot” catering food truck was on site offering popcorn chicken, fires, and poutine. And surprisingly they were popular.
At “Summer Kitchen”, the regular in-park concession, there was candied salmon mousse, cold smoked salmon tacos, tandoori tuna, prawn bisque, and a double salmon pasta salad.
The “Fanny Bay” team was shucking oysters to order.
But if you like them cooked, “Mac’s Oysters” had them battered, fried, and seasoned.
The “Cod Father” too were offering fresh shucked oysters, but these were from “Effingham Oyster”. So instead, I would recommend their smoked oysters or smoked salmon
There were smoked and barbecue scallops on the grill, at the “West Coast Wild Scallops” booth. They were plated in shell with pickled vegetables.
The “North Vancouver Island Chef’s Association was asking 5 tickets for their panko crusted wild halibut with basil aioli coleslaw, and berry coulis.
There was smoked steelhead, sockeye, and ling cod to nibble on cod.
I enjoyed watching all the kettle corn stir to life in a kettle drum.
And for dessert they boys at “Slopes” we’re scooping their small batch ice cream and hand made waffle cones, for a cold treat. Their ice cream is made with grass fed milk and you had your choice from sea asparagus with gin and lemon zest, salted caramel made with salt from “Vancouver Island Salt Co.”, a dark chocolate sea salt, or an ice cream made with infused kelp oil and topped with more kelp oil. I went with the first with no regrets. It was like a lemon spritz, very refreshing.
Non food vendors offered information on sustainable fishing and a had visitors learning through diagrams and games. But my favourite booths were the ones that allowed you to connect with the local wild life.
At the “Mars rescue centre” there was a smaller owl to get close to and take photos of.
At the “Deep Bay Marine Field Station” you got to pick up and poke leather sea stars, hermit crabs, sea cucumber, and spiny green sea urchins. I definitely was the oldest “child” enjoy the water play.
But the most popular showcases were ones held at centre stage. There are seats to sit and enjoy the show from, but be warned, they filled up fast, and it was hard to see past the crowds. It is best to check the schedule and stake out your ideal spot for your favourite presentation. Like the oyster shucking master class, the chef’s black box cooking challenge, and various cooking demonstrations hosted by Chefs from all over BC.
There was even a cooking workshop for kids, where they helped to prepare shrimp tacos.
In short, the “BC Seatfood Festival Signature Weekend” is a great place to take the family, or a unique setting to enjoy with friends. There was much to eat, much more to drink, and even more to look at and explore. To be sure that you don’t miss out on any of their future events, visit the link below.
In this post I was visiting Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Here, to take in the BC Seafood Festival’s signature weekend. And on the night before, was fortunate enough to attend the sold out Gala dinner. And having experienced a handful of events now, if you have to choose just one, this would be the one not to miss.
The gala is set under a tent at “Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park”, with lights and lanterns strung up over head. Metres away is the water of the Straight of Georgia, and the green that surrounds this inlet. Guests are seated around tables covered in either a seafoam green or an ocean blue cloth. But here, the food is not served, instead it is for you seek out and bring back to your table to enjoy.
A few of BC’s top Chefs and their teams man booths, preparing and assembling fresh and frozen seafood tastings. A fast paced assembly line that has them cooking out of pans and pots heated on portable stoves, and even using blow torches. As guests you travel from one station to the next trying them all, then revisiting your favourites. The best part is being able to meet and mingle with the Chefs behind your favourite restaurants and becoming fans of others when you taste their offerings.
Appetizers and specialty cocktails were served first, then all the small plate entrees, followed by the only dessert option. Coffees and teas were complimentary, and wine and spirited cocktails came at a cost.
To start with I enjoyed the “Raincoat gimlet” by 2019’s Van Mag bartender of the year winner, Amber Bruce of “The Keefer Bar”. This was a citrusy cocktail finished off with a generous sprig of rosemary.
Ned Bell, the chef and face of Ocean Wise in BC, prepared two types of fish. The “Gindara Sablefish”, a farmed fish prepared with BC blueberry, hazelnut and venturi. Of the two, majority of the guests preferred this one for its lighter, fresher flavour.
The “Balsamic/Creative salmon” raised in Tofino was a little dry and plenty dense with the topping of walnut cream, chopped walnuts, and heirloom tomato jam.
The following small plates were then made available once opening remarks commenced, carried out by event host and organizer Nathan Fong. He welcomed everyone and invited us all to eat, drink, and be merry.
“Chalaco ceviche” by Shelome Bouvette of “Chicha” restaurant. Albacore tuna, scallop, prawn, salmon, and halibut ceviche with orange and jalapeño. Topped with pickled papaya, and cilantro micro greens. And enjoyed like chips and dips with avocado and rocoto dusted plantain chips. The thick crunch of the plantain was amazing, a nice starch to balance the freshness of the chunks of seafood and vegetable in citric.
“Salad of lightly cured and poached steelhead trout and marinated clams” with fennel, chive, and orange vinaigrette. Prepared by Isabel Chung and Derek Bendig of the “Wildflower” at Fairmont Chateau Whistler. A beautifully done salad that best highlighted the quality of the salmon.
I fully enjoyed the show that Chef Jean-Francis Quaglia of “Provence Marinaside” put on by flambée -ing his prawns Provençal style with brandy from “40 Knots”. It was just a shame that these shrimp were not fresh, but frozen out of a box. However, the amount of butter and sugar they were coated in had me licking the shells clean and taking the time to suck everything out of the head. As this was a time consuming process each diner only got one shrimp at a time, and then went back for seconds through the line again.
I appreciated how Chris Andraza of “Fanny Bay Oyster Bar” switched it up by offering octopus instead of oysters. Especially as there were 2 other oyster offerings, and one highlighted Fanny Bay oysters anyhow. Octopus & chorizo with potatoes, sundried tomato, and saffron aioli. I loved the textures and the chewy char of the octopus, but found the dish too salty. More corn and maybe some celery would have helped to balance this out and give it more freshness.
The “Chilled Manila clams with dashi vinaigrette, cucumber, seaweed, and radish” has a very refreshing dish. The few bites we got reminded me of a light seaweed salad. This was prepared by Bobby Milheron at “West Restaurant” in Vancouver.
I enjoyed the creativity that Lee Cooper of “Coquielle” from Vancouver brought. He and his team served poached oyster with a green apple and dashi jelly. It was a slurp of dessert, utilizing the natural saltiness of the oyster for balance with the subtle sweetness of the apple. Probably my favourite oyster of the weekend… and that says a lot, because I have had a lot.
The “Geoduck ceviche” by Hamid Salimian of “Nextjen” Vancouver was served as part of an assembly. It was the main feature on his crispy shell tortas, but one you couldn’t taste. It was hidden under spicy guacamole, cucumber, radish, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, and pickled onions. But all together tasty, and worth lining up for.
At Welbert Choi of “Forage’s” booth you got a taste of “Fanny Bay’s” sun seeker oysters. These sweet, little oysters served in shell, were topped with “Forage’s” Ocean Wise herring habanero fish sauce and trout caviar. A great way to elevate one seafood by dressing it with two others. I especially loved their thoughtful presentation.
Ricardo Valverde from “Ancora” had his wife and sous chef lightly torching “Black cod sashimi” by the handfuls. Each plate had a couple dressed with a pickled ginger emulsion, and topped with crispy quinoa, and cilantro. They were delicious morsels, almost caramelized with their time under fire.
Of note is the team work of “Ancora’s” chefs. After their plates were all torched and served, they then hopped one stall over to help Hamid build and serve his geoduck sashimi. Serving the longer line for a more complicated product build.
“Kelp cured ivory salmon” with smoked goat’s milk creme fraiche, poached lipstick radish and strawberry mignonette. By Morgan Wilson from “Q” at the “Empress” in Victoria. I was just there two weeks ago and didn’t get a chance to try the food, so was glad to be able to today in this unique setting.
I appreciated the “Miso glazed Atlantic salmon” for the fullness of the whole plate. A dinner brought to us by John Carlo Felicella of the “BC Culinary Team”. This was a dish with plenty of elements to pick through and nibble on. A full prawn dumpling, a shrimp cracker, pickled shimiji, shiitake foam, micro greens, and a yuzu vinaigrette. I specially liked the dumplings and the cracker out of familiarity.
We got a thick cut of “Seared albacore tuna” from Ryan Bissell of “Villa Eyrie Resort” of Malahat BC. Dressed with roasted malt lavash, garlic scape chimmichuri, red pepper romesco sauce, hemp and almond dukkah, and mustard greens.
And the only dessert of the night was the one that stole the show. It was quite the spectacle with its sardine can presentation. This was probably to make up for the fact that it doesn’t actually contain any seafood. Fleur de cao chocolate and sea buckthorn berries with pistachio praline, and a bergamot meringue. Carefully assembled by Dominic Fortin of “Q” at the “Empress “in Victoria. A decadent chocolate filled mousse with crunchy and juicy elements to keep things interesting to the last bite.
In conclusion, this was a wonderful way to get to know your chefs a little more. A way to see your food being prepared and thank them face to face. Overall, a fantastic cumulative meal and showing, and definitely one of my favourite events of the weekend.
In this post I was visiting Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Here, to take in the BC Seafood Festival’s signature weekend. And the event that launched it off was “Shucked!”
This was a literal and figurative line-up of British Columbia’s oyster producing families behind businesses. Participants were set up behind large troths of ice, where they shucked sustainable and perfectly plump oysters, one after another in break neck speed. You as the guest approaches, and picks the oyster half shell calling out your name. Station by station, chatting up the producers.
But sadly, with all the sold out ticket holders, the constant moving in and out, and the promise of all you can eat oysters; I didn’t get much of chance to chat or really stop to think on the flavours of each individual slurp I took. And I slurped a’many.
At “Silent Harvest” there were 3 women shucking on specialized wooden platforms. As the first station they were so popular that they couldn’t keep up with the hands reaching out for their oysters. Their oysters are from Gorge Harbour on Cortes Island, BC. And the sizes of them ranges from extra small to medium.
“Effingham Oyster Inc.” had a similar oyster shucking platform, but made out of metal. Their oysters come from the deep water fjords of Barkley Sound. The result is deep cups, a cornucopia shape, and beautiful, polished pink-and-purple shells.
“Sawmill Bay Shellfish” is from the pristine, glacier-fed waters off Read Island. All their shellfish come to you, the consumer, direct from one of their two family-run farms.
“Stellar Bay Shellfish” supplies oysters from the pristine waters of Baynes Sound, in the Strait of Georgia. With ideal growing conditions their oysters come out crisp and clean. Today they were shucking kusshi oysters for the masses.
At the “Fanny Bay” booth they were offering their petite “Sun Seaker” oysters, which are grown in a bag that floats on top of the water. Hence, the name. And with them a bucket of mignonette as a flavour additive, on top of lemon chunks, also offered at the other stations.
“K’awat’si Shellfish” was serving gwi gwi oyster cultivated from the cold waters of BC’s central coast; the unceded waters of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation. These oysters are known for their creamy sweet after taste, described as “a salty seaweed cashew of the sea”.
“Mac’s oysters Ltd.” packs and sells both wild and farmed shellfish from distinct areas spread out over several hundred square kilometers. All of their farming areas are regularly monitored for both water quality, and animal and human health by government agencies, and by a third party lab.
To help wash all the oysters down there was beer, wine, and a bevy of highballs for purchase. All the while a live band performs and the event emcee teaches guests about oysters, including trying it for itself, before adding any lemon.
This event preceded the main gala, setting the tone and pace for the night. A fun way to enjoy happy hour, on a larger scale
In these series of post I was on Vancouver Island, visiting Comox Valley for the annual seafood festival, including taking in some of their ticketed events. This was one such.
For $150 you are invited down to 40 Knot’s winery for a long table dinner amongst their grape vines. An intimate occasion with other wine and food enthusiasts, seeking to “experience Old World elegance with the finest preparation of their “New World local products”. Winery owners Brenda and Layne are your hosts, and in their serene backyard, they take you on a tour of their winery through their wines, paired with canapés and courses. The latter of which was prepared by Chef Alain; who has expertly paired each course with one of 40 Knot’s award-winning wines.
As soon you step foot on the property you are greeted with open arms: one pouring 40 Knots rose into another holding the glass. Now that is the way to welcome you to a winery. The rose was crisp and fresh, without any flavours that lingered on the tongue. They paired well with the similarly clean flavours below.
As you explores the vineyards, walking betwixt the rows of blossoming grapes, the roving appetizers are brought to you. The “Dungeness crab salad gougeres” are like crab rolls stuffed into a spongy and slightly cream puff. What a fun was to present a familiar concept.
I really enjoyed the visual of the “Smoked salmon mousse, devilled quail eggs”. Not only were they adorable, but tasty too. Another one well thought out as a one bite snack.
The “Albacore tuna and compressed watermelon skewers” was a refreshing protein on stick combo. The sweetness of the juicy watermelon brought out the flavours of the slightly salted tuna and visa versa.
When it came time for our meal to begin we all took a seat around the long table, under the covered terrance. The cloth covering it flapped in the gentle breeze, allowing streaks of sun to shine in. In the distance, two bald eagles hovered in the air. These serene views, amongst nature’s greenery, to the tune of melodic music, put you at restful ease. And attentive wait staff ensured you were throughly pampered. Not to mention our glass was never empty, and we were treated to a few extra wine tastings off script. Including a mystery vintage and a $100 bottle.
We were also rest assured that if we had too much to drink, any driver could leave their car on the 40 Knots property and it would be locked in safe. And in addition, staff would help you find a safe way home. All this elevated service in their one of a kind setting, would foreshadow the fabulous, 8 course dinner to come.
Of note, if it gets too cold dining outdoors, they do have branded fleece blankets for use.
Before each course we were given a lesson on what we would be drinking with it, from Layne. He spoke with so much passion and conviction for what he does and what their wines offer. 40 Knots are better known for their clean and crisp ethical wines. This mission guides them in every step from their farming practices, to the management of their cellar, their crush pad operation, the running of their store, and the products they delivery to customers. All while promising to protect the environment in their undertaking. Like looking at alternative ways to fertilize their fields. Here, the use of kelp is both practical and economical, given that they are by the ocean. And the sprays they use to negate disease on their plants are also different. Not you run of the mill pesticides, 40 Knots uses ones made from natural ingredients like mustard seed oil and more kelp. They are developed by a local company looking to do things differently with sustainable alternatives.
The first course was my favourite dish of the night. “Natural pastures ricotta gnocchi” with Dungeness crab and side stripe shrimp, sorrel, snap peas, and confit tomato in a buerre Blanc. The flavours of the vegetables were so clean and so fresh that it felt like I was eating them right off of the vine, but fully coated in delicious butter. Crisp peas, juicy tomato, and sweet crab chunks, the side kicks to a and chewy herbaceous gnocchi.
This was paired with the 40 knots Pinot Gris, which came with the lesson that you get what you pay for when it comes to wine, and the price is reflective of its ingredients. This is a cool climate gris, a dry and zesty white that was gripping with honeysuckle.
And as we waited for the next course, we were surprised with an additional tasting. A little sip of a Champagne-style sparkling. So under ground that it didn’t even have a label. A mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that was incredibly effervescent. An extra dry brut that was prepared traditionally (Old World style), with hints of lime stone.
Next course was a “Marinated seafood salad” with Gallo mussels, Manila clams, local greens, fennel, and 40 Knots’ Chardonnay sabayon. Admittedly, I don’t like salad, but the the creamy dressing and fresh seafood of this had me eating my greens. This was real food. You know it is quality when you can taste everything and altogether they work as something new.
The salad course was paired with more 40 Knots Chardonnay. An oaky white with a deeper hue. It was buttery, soft and oily from the tannins: a milk lactic acid. It also has a hidden bright lemon flavour, allowing it to pair well with any seafood.
Our third course was a “Sablefish mi-fume”, with a mushroom fricasse, local beets, and poultry jus. Everything on this plate was from the island, harvested on Commox or caught off the straight. The white fish was lean, a gentle flavour that wasn’t masked by the equally mild sauce. The mushroom offered a hearty element, with the beets as a refresher.
It was paired with 40 Knot’s Pinot Noir 115, their new batch with labels that include a list of ingredients; something that is not commonly found on a bottle of wine. Their goal, to show the consumer, exactly what it is they are getting and that 40 Knots has nothing to hide. No added chemicals go into their wine, or sugar. This batch is not set in oak, but in Italian terra cotta instead. The resulting earthy notes went especially well with the mushrooms.
Next was our main, the “Braised local grass fed beef cheeks” prepared with garlic scrape pomme puree, and local carrots and radish; all in a lovely thyme jus. This was a beautiful and hearty plate featuring tender and juicy beef with pops of sweet radish. I found the turnip hard to eat, a half bulb you bite a chunk off of.
With this was enjoyed the 40 Knots Stall Speed Meritage. Similar to a Bordeaux in its marriage of five grapes from Bordeaux. Layne loves Bordeaux, but sadly is unable to grow the big red grapes necessary on Vancouver island; so he works with another wine maker to engineer this vintage. They went to work blending until they got to a laboratory number closest to his goal of a Chateau Margo. The result, the cheapest red wine he has ever made.
Dessert was another hit. A classic done as comforting and as familiar as you had hoped. “Kehler Farms strawberry and rhubarb tart” with French vanilla glacé. It was a buttery tart carrying a not too sweet filling. The melted ice cream became a nice cream sauce for the tart. I tasted the decorative herb, and found that it reminded me of the skunky nature of cannabis.
Our original dessert wine listed with this is the 40 Kots Fallen Apple, but very last minute Layne decided to mix things up. He swapped it out for a sweet port-like wine that he was excited to share. This was named after “Emily”, a women he and his with wife worked with and knew. Here we got a lesson in “Noble Rot” and the necessity to choose grapes with it, to achieve what we had before us. A sweet beverage with the same amount of sugar as ice wine, but you don’t taste it. It ages well, whereas ice wine doesn’t. And unlike ice wines, this doesn’t doesn’t freeze; the acid molecules hang on to the ice molecules for a heavier, more acidic and fluid wine. This was a fun one to try, it reminded me of apple juice in its sweetness and the way it sits on your tongue.
A few of us wanted to purchase a bottle of it to take home, only to change our minds when we heard it was $100. It was delicious and I loved it, but $100 for a smaller bottle of wine is a splurge that needs consideration. Glad we were gifted a chance to taste it at least.
The meal as a whole was very cohesive, it delivered on their promise of a fantastic feast to celebrates the Seafood Festival. This was a great experience and the most satisfying dinner that I had that weekend. You definitely get your money’s worth here.
The start of the recent heat wave perfectly coincided with the opening of “H Tasting Lounge’s” new patio. A classy way to eat and drink outdoors, with all the qualities and comforts of a luxury hotel. I have frequented the spot more as a drinking hole, so was exited to be able to get a taste of the cuisine today.
The patio was sleek with a dark wood laminate floor, made more stylish with the white heat lamps that looked like actual lamps with their shade and pedestal base. Adjacent, tiered umbrellas offered the grey and blue loungers and couches some reprieve from the sun and the heat. All with a view of the water in the distance and the cityscape reaching for the sky behind it.
Today, guests were invited to wander in and out of “H”. The tables were pushed aside and the restaurant turned in to a dance floor. Here, food and drink stations were set up for self serve, self indulgence. The kitchen was offering scaled up versions of food and drink off of their regular menu. Giving attendees a great way to sample the menu for future visits.
Inside the restaurant, were 3 tables worth of cheese and meats; pushed together to form one of the longest charcuterie boards I have ever seen.
The “European cheese plate” with a seasonal marmalade, pickled grapes, and seed crackers.
The “Local charcuterie” board including whole grain mustard, pickled grapes, and baguette slices.
And the “Quiche Lorraine” that was a new one for me. Two rounds of pancetta, goat cheese, and zucchini eaten like a spread.
As for drinks, there was plenty to taste and many more to inspire your next sip by the seaside. Drinks included a welcome glass of sparkling and Moët on ice.
At the bar, cocktails were shaken and stirred to order. Here I had the “Thinner walls”, ordering off a menu that included photos (a smart move, catering to the likes of me, those who love a visual cocktail. Naturally, I gravitated towards the green drink with a pea shoot for garnish. It was a wonderful visual and tasted like a spiked green juice with tequila, snow peas, suze, lemon, and soda. The first healthy drink that I got my buzz on to.
I liked the tea station where premixed tea based cocktails were poured and garnish to order. The “Late blossom smiles tea” is normally served in a tea pot, so to paid homage to this, they were served in Japanese style tea cups today. Vodka, st. germain, lillet blanc, nutcracker tea, honey, lime, and soda; completed with a bobbling flower. I liked how you could taste both the black tea and the spirits equally, they were well balanced.
Similarly in balance was the “Rye Chai”, chai tea meets rye, mezcal, apricot liqueur, falernum, and lemon. A beautiful cocktail that I fully enjoyed, it reminded me more a sweet southern tea with a kick.
On the patio, keeping cool over ice was a collection of sashimi and selfish. You could see it across the room thanks to the two giant “H” ice sculptures marking these ice baths. One was a collection of oysters, being shucked adjacent and slurped up fresh.
The second ice station had two bite servings of crudo and carpaccio.
“Kanpachi crudo” with blood orange, pickled butternut, shiso, and sumac kiwi. A refreshing snack that spoke to the quality of their seafood.
The “Halibut crudo” was seasoned in a yuzu vinaigrette with anjou pear, thyme, and micro kale. Sadly my serving was so very salted, that it made my lips pucker.
The “Tuna carpaccio” was my favourite of the three given some pizzaz with pickled watermelon, fresno chili, and mint.
And as we ate, servers toured the patio offering up for more appetizers on trays. Bites like the “Beef tartare” with egg yolk, shallot, caper, chive, and horseradish. A delicious morsel that you easily popped into your mouth.
The “Salmon tartare” with tarragon, cucumber, lemon, labneh, and hibiscus was a refreshing starter, served on an endive leaf.
The “Lump crab cake” was tasty, a crispy baked shell hiding a creamy, flaky crab filled centre; sauced up with their Old bay aioli.
I liked the “Morel mushroom tartine” made with ricotta, black garlic mustard, watermelon radish, and micro kale. Earthy and saucy, one of the more filling, roving appetizers.
And I fully enjoyed the mini West Coast lobster rolls with much gusto. Sweet shellfish, creamy mayo, and a hint of dill for freshness.
For dessert they had “Uno Gelato & Sorbet” doling out their ice cream on site. A cute cart attached to a bicycle, where you could get scoops of either salted caramel, mango, or their vegan “Midnight chocolate” in small cups. I had the former and found it too sweet for my taste.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes. In truth I have actually have never had a full meal here, my visits typically start and end at the bar, so this was a nice teaser of them and their new patio. And one lavish enough to have me wanting to return for the full experience. I would love to revisit on a separate occasion, to more accurately account for what’s it like to dine-in and drink out on their patio. Don’t deny your cravings.
The Westin Bayshore
1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver BC, V6G 2V4
What goes in to, on to, and around me. This is me and what I see, all my stories in Vancouver BC! A big mouthed food and lifestyle blogger discovering what the world has to offer through dining, travel, and new experiences. Follow along to see the life of Maggi.