Off-leash and delicious Dogfish at The London Chef, Tim Pawsey photo

 Taste 2012 runs July 19-22. Read about last year’s below—then book this year’s here!


We’re just back from Victoria, where we took in a couple of days at Taste Victoria—the very successful food and wine celebration organised by culinary tourism maven Kathy McAree, who runs Travel with Taste. It’s good to see this event really taking hold, to the point that it looks set to become the summer food festival of record for the capital city.

The Main Event tasting at Victoria’s Crystal Garden, Tim Pawsey photo

It was also good to be back atThe Inn at Laurel Point—a superb oasis of a place, just a couple of minutes walk from the Legislature, The Empress and Crystal Garden, which is home to the Main Event kick off tasting. (You can find some more thoughts on this and wine recos in the North Shore News).

We packed a lot into a couple of days, thanks in great part to one of Travel with Taste’s walking tours that introduced us to The London Chef, the quite dynamic Dan Hayes, from whom we suspect we’ll be hearing plenty more.

Dan Hayes gives Red Snapper its due, Tim Pawsey photo

We thoroughly appreciate Haye’s take on sustainable seafood (and his stance on the abuses wrought through by-catch)—and came away with a wealth of tips on cooking everything from Dogfish to Grey Cod, Snapper, Sole and Skate. He and his wife Micayla have come up with a unique concept that blends storefront cooking school with a casual dining room, highlighted by a stunning old growth 450 year old cedar table from Carmanah.

Hayes says it’s past time we appreciated ‘lesser’ species, such as dogfish

“Let’s use them, they’re delicious…”

Dan Hayes filets dogfish, Tim Pawsey photo

This how you deal with a dogfish,” he says, as he first slices the spines off and then the dorsal fins (“Why not use these instead of shark fins?”, he suggests). He feels the flesh on the body to find down to the gut; and then cuts a clean, very meaty fillet that he can easily skin.

“There it is: a beautiful piece of incredibly cheap fish that’s far more versatile and much easier to cook than halibut.”

Dan served it as panko battered fish ‘n chips with super tartar sauce, and also Spanish-styled, with anchovy, saffron, garlic, chili, and olive oil and more in a zarzuela style—both delicious.


Kathy McAree, the dynamo behind Taste: Victoria, Tim Pawsey photo

Kathy, meanwhile, is a tad mad at me (just kidding!) because I tweeted:

@hiredBelly is wondering when #TheLondonChef is going to open a resto in #Vancouver #sustainable #seafood #VictoriaTaste

Anyway, I wouldn’t expect (or want) them to leave Victoria but it would be great to see them collaborate with somebody worthy in Vancouver in a similar venture…

Lots more to come on these guys.

Hilary’s Cheese comes to downtown Victoria, Tim Pawsey photo

Other stops on our tour down Fort Street (where food is threatening to take over from antiques as the principal concern) included:

Hilary’s Cheese (1034 Fort St., 250-388-5810),  the downtown outpost of Hilary’s in Cowichan is a tiny gem of a store that in addition to offering plenty of things cheese-ish (such as ceramic name plates, and Brie-friendly fleur de sel chocolates) also carries some specialty organic baking supplies and not a few treats.

Choux Choux: superb house made charcuterie, Tim Pawsey photo

Choux Choux (830 Fort St., 250-382-7572)  is a meat lover’s paradise, whose smoky aromas offer no uncertain clue as to what’s going on here. A former shoe store, it’s amazing just how much is packed into this little space, which has its own smoker parked on the back deck and a butcher’s block just big enough to accommodate a whole hog—and not much more!

Go for the superb house-cured meats, sausages and the like, with free-range animals sourced from Sloping Hill and other notable locals. Grab some Mortadella, or beef and fennel salami cotto, and hunker down in one of the shop’s cosy front booths, where you’ll be the envy of everyone walking by.

Dutch Bakery Dollar Rolls. Dangerously delicious, Tim Pawsey photo

It’s just as well we don’t live within daily striking distance of the Dutch Bakery (702 Fort St., Victoria, 250-385-1012). This fifth generation bakery-café makes the most impossibly delicious vanilla slices (with puff pastry and extraordinary, creamy custard) and dollar rolls—butter cream and sponge cake wrapped in wafer thin marzipan, decorated with dollar signs …)

Silk Road owner Daniela Cubelic shows off the ‘perfect’ tea timer, Tim Pawsey photo

From there it was over to Silk Road Tea (1624 Government St., 250-704-2688)

for an intriguing tea and chocolate pairing session with owner Daniela Cubelic.

In addition to being a self-confessed tea freak, Cubelic is also a chocolate devotée, who often serves tea and chocolate instead of dessert—and loves playing with a wide assortment of flavours.

A passionate authority, who’s truly steeped in tea culture, she took us through three pairings that matched different teas with artisan chocolates.

First up, a quite tart herbal tea of rose-hip hibiscus citrus and cinnamon, paired with dark chocolate made by Camille’s restaurant owner David Mincey.

Silk Road Tea pairing with partially researched chocolates, Tim Pawsey photo

Next came Tropical Lagoon, a white tea (made from young buds) mixed with kaffir lime and tulsi (holy basil): perfect with a white chocolate filled with green tea truffle and a touch of ginger (made by Spinnakers). This was the most intriguing combination (and the truffle was also delicious). We’d be tempted to drink this tea chilled, as Daniela suggests.

Finally, Summer Shangri-La, a black tea with peach and vanilla and lavender, fruity and slightly sweet, that went very well with a dark chocolate truffle filled with caramel and smoky Lapsang Souchong (also made by Spinnakers).

Tim Pawsey photo

The best thing, Cubelic says, is that because tea cuts down on the sweetness and elevates the flavour— you can eat more chocolate!

Silk Road Tea is a wonderful emporium, not to be missed, with a fantastic array of tea accessories and quality paraphernalia.

Victoria’s food scene—well, make that Vancouver Island as a whole—is really blossoming these days. We’ve long felt the island to be well ahead of the Lower Mainland in appreciation of its local producers. The growing success of Taste well underscores that fact …