We are just back after a wonderful trip to the "wet coast" where we enjoyed ten days that passed too quickly in Tofino along with stops in Kamloops, Nanaimo and Victoria.
En route to Vancouver Island we stayed overnite in Kamloops where we ate at Ric's Grill in the 4 Points Sheraton. I appreciate that chains like Ric's are not usually written about here but we have found the fare here solid in the past.
I had intended to try another place that had been recommended but in the end decided I to go to some place I knew from a past visit that was close to where we were staying.
Again, the steak and in my case, rack of lamb were good value and cooked to order.
The wine list is quite good featuring a number of good wines from the Okanagan as well as other parts of the world. We had a decent bottle, the Meritage from Black Horse Vineyards. One thing they do have is nice stemware, no clunky little glasses. Everything from the house to the more expensive wines appear to be served in "Riedel like" large glasses.
The next day we headed to Nanaimo where thanks to a number of fellow Chowhounds, especially Dave and Penny, we ate at Glow World Cuisine in the old Fire Hall. Lots of brick and wood set off with colourful booths and tables. [www.gloworldcuisine.com]
Fun looking place with "serious" food. As David and Penny have already attested this is a good place to dine. Varied cuisine and clientele...people celebrating, dressed up, in my case "down"...suits as well as "clubbers" downing colourful drinks purporting to be martini's....
Had earlier walked about the old city quarter and noted the menu posted at the Wesley Street restaurant in that quaint restored section of Nanaimo. Would give it a try on a return visit.
The following day we ventured across the island. We made the trip in quicker time than we had anticipated and as a result could not get into the accomodations we had arranged.
We headed off to the On The Rocks Lounge of the Pointe Restaurant in the Wickaninnish Inn. There we had a bottle of Alibi, a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon from Black Hills. This is the same winery that produces our current favourite B.C. red, Nota Bene.
Crisp with lots of fruit. I think that this wine, their first release, may replace the dessert wine Sequentia that they currently produce.
Over the next 10 days we had a few lunches and some drinks and nibblies at the Wick [www.wickinn.com].
My impression is that the food has improved under the direction of Andrew Springett who I think was formerly at Diva at the Met. The chef was off at the culinary olympics in Germany but the kitchen was operating smoothly.
The service was good and as always friendly. We did manage to see Chowhound contributor "Tofino" and renew acquaintances with a number of others who we had met during past visits.
The lunch menu is relatively limited but the daily features were what I usually ordered. One lunch I had some delicious veal loin roasted rare served over a roquefort/ricotta ravioli and on another occasion stuffed pheasant. The smoked salmon sampler I tried in the lounge was terrific.
The Wick has an extensive, albeit expensive wine list. It also has the services of Heather and Chris Mustard when it comes to wine service.
Apart from the aforementioned Alibi we also tried the Foxtrot and Reserve Pinot Noirs from Kettle Valley, my first zinfandel from B.C., the Bear Cub Vineyard produced by Inniskillin and a delicious port-like fortified wine from Alderlea called Heritage Hearth.
You cannot beat the views from the Wick's dining room. A panoramic scene of the roaring surf coming onto Chesterman Beach complemented this year by "rafts" of cavorting Californian and Stellar sea lions and soaring eagles.
Apart from the lunches at the Wick we generally cooked our own meals. One nite we did venture into the village to try Shelter [www.shelterrestaurant.com] which we missed after its opening last year.
I believe that it has gone through a number of changes in the kitchen with Jesse Blake now in charge. It is a beautiful physical plant. We sat at a small table on its second floor which afforded us a view of Tofino Harbour before the sun set.
My wife started with their goat cheese salad and had one of their appetizer features which was Cowichan Valley Lamb Sausage served over gnocchi in a peach flavoured jus. She commented that both were good although the latter suffered from sitting in the jus so that the gnocchi went soft and became sweet.
I began with an appetizer of the dungeness crab fritters served with a lemongrass/soy dipping sauce and then had a main of the proscuitto wrapped halibut fillet over local spot prawn risotto.
The fritters were a little doughy with some raw flour taste and did not contain as much crab as I would like. The halibut was good. I would classify the food at Shelter as "solid". I would not rave about it but at the same time left contented.
Service was friendly and good. We were persuaded to try the Chocolate Mousse and although neither of us are big fans of mousse it was delicious. Dark espresso flavoured chocolate, light as a feather.
Shelter's wine list is not as extensive as the Wick's but it is good. We had a nice bottle of Syrah from Nichol. Not as dense as the bottlings from for example Mission Hill or Burrowing Owl so this varietal did not overwhelm either of our dishes.
Did not get to Cafe Pamplona this trip. It was not open for lunch but was told that they have an excellent set dinner menu.
After 10 days that whizzed by too quickly we headed for Victoria.
Once again we enjoyed Brasserie L'Ecole [www.lecole.ca]. This restaurant has never disappointed. Good wine list dominated by well priced French selections, excellent bistro-styled fare. We had excellent duck confit and braised duck legs, halibut, steak frites and delicious salads along with lovely cheese.
I could regularly go to this restaurant just to have their onion soup and frisee salad along with a glass or two...ok, three or four...of good red wine.
An added bonus to the excellent food and service was with meeting another Chowhound, Janna after our chance encounter during the summer at Calgary's Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro. Janna, sorry we did not get more time to chat. We'll have to link up when we come out again next March or April.
We happened to share the hotel mini-van with some people including Kathy McAree of Travel With Taste when they were en route to the Brasserie on Thursday and we to Brio. She quickly "sussed us out" and suspected we were foodies. I see her web-site refers to the Feast of Fields event that you spoke so highly of.
She too recommended Paprika. One visit we'll get out there.
Two of the three nites we ate at L'Ecole. In between we ate at Cafe Brio [www.cafe-brio]. Another favourite. Did not disappoint. Good food and wine, this time a cab/syrah blend from Kettle Valley called Rock Oven Red.
My serving of a daube of lamb shoulder with pan-roasted root vegetables seemed a little small for $28 but I left full and did not find [unlike those days of minute portions of nouvelle cuisine]myself tempted to order a pizza after getting back to the hotel.
Brio is a fun spot. Good food with an excellent wine list particularly if you are interested in hard to find B.C. selections but with many American and "Old World" wines if that is your preference.
We also had lunch at Zambri's. It is a small restaurant in an unusual strip-mall location. Operates in semi-cafeteria style during lunch and as a full restaurant at night.
You order off the chalkboard, get your number and sit at a table after ordering the wine or other beverage you want. You get your own cutlery and they deliver the meal.
I had one of their specials which was duck ragu with green olives served with polenta. It was terrific winter comfort food. Very good value in an informal setting.
We then headed back home after "surviving" an adventure on the Coquihalla...you know that sign west of the toll booth that reads, "Critical Accident Zone. Next 20 kms."...well, what an understatement. Fog, sleet, rain, snow and ice...jacknifed trailor tractors...people with summer tires skidding sideways...it was not a lot of fun.
The double Grey Goose on the rocks helped once we got to Kamloops [grin].
We are happy to be back home but are looking forward to returning to Vancouver Island sooner than later.