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Trip Report, July-August 2014: Vancouver, Nanaimo, Esquimalt/Victoria, Salt Spring Island, Ucluelet/Tofino, Duncan

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Been back for almost a week now and my trip report is due! Had a great time on Vancouver Island and SSI. It won't be our last trip to this fantastic place (it was my 3rd time in Vancouver but 1st extensive trip to the Island).

Thanks to all the BC hounds who chimed in to my original inquiry, linked here. Guess we never did make it off-the-beaten-track, but we will try harder next time:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/981395

A lot of meals were self-catered but we ate out plenty of times, too. Amongst the highlights, there were some low ones, but I like to keep things on the positive tip, so this is not an exhaustive report. And it goes without saying that my partner-in-crime, "B," had fantastic B.C. beer everywhere we went, in restaurants, brown-bagging beer at our picnics (I, unfortunately, am not allowed to drink for another 4 months or even longer but I had some small nips..a favorite of both of ours was the Hopnotist from 49th Parallel).

Vancouver:
-Lunch at Guu with Garlic: Teriyaki chicken for B, which he liked and deliciously homey curry udon for me, which despite the ground beef (my usual diet consists of veggies and seafood), I devoured.
-Poked our heads into Save on Meats, which I didn't know anything about beforehand...we were drawn in by the intriguing exterior and were greeted by friendly hipster-types (who knew - I thought hipsters had to all be dour as a requirement). We vowed to return.
-Dinner at Phnom Penh: B had the requisite chicken wings, of which I had a nibble-man, that sauce really IS all that; pan-fried rice flour veggie buns/pancakes (bland on their own, but with the spicy sauce, quite good), adequate garlicky gai lan (we needed something green), bland shrimp fried rice (we had read something positive about the rice on-line). In our little kitchen the next morning, I crisped up everything in a scorching hot skillet, improving them all, even the rice, which became socarrat-like or Korean nurungji-like
-Coffee at Musette (Burrard location) – As we are cycling enthusiasts, we both loved this place, especially since, when we walked in at 7:30 am-ish, a small crowd was transfixed by live Tour de France coverage and they weren't your typical, testosterone-driven cycling snobs we're used to on the US east coast; buttery banana bread and coffee both hit the spot.

Nanaimo:
-Lunch at Gabriel’s – Quick lunch after getting off the ferry in Nanaimo. Another place we both loved. B had the hearty veggie burger, we shared bread with kale "butter" (more like a spread or tapenade braised in balsamic), and my peanut sauce with tofu over brown rice was huge, rich, and filling.

Esquimalt/Victoria:
-Wild blackberries at Macauley Point were fun to pick and so plentiful. I ate my weight in kg. (To answer a B.C. hound who wondered where we were staying in Esquimalt - yes, it was with Nancy and Andrew Paine at their great little carriage house. Being within walking distance of Macauley Point was a great surprise!
)-Spinnakers – Food was just ok, but we still enjoyed the atmosphere here. Salmon pizza was a bit dry, green salad with sprouts and veggie soup were adequate. Friendly bartender at the upstairs bar and walking off dinner on the waterfront, in the direction of Esquimalt was really pleasant.

Salt Spring Island (We were amazed by the number of farm stands. Martha's Vineyard-esque to the nth power):
-Ganges Street Food – Got take-out veggie dal, curry chicken poutine for a Ruckle Park picnic straight from the ferry based on someone's recommendation on the trip over...she was SO right!
-Forgettable pizza from Uptown and beer at Southey Point at sunset, which made up for the pizza.
-Saturday market – Had a lot of fun here, despite the large, but polite crowd (guess we're used to crowds here). Foxglove tomatoes; tofu jerky; lovely crusty olive boule; huge, crisp lettuce for only $1/head; David Wood herb and garlic goat cheese for yet another Ruckle picnic, just past the very orderly campground and on some rocks at the ocean's edge.
-SSI Brewery had a small but cozy sampling room and the beer was fantastic.

Coombs – Goats on the Roof is insane! Fun to just gawk at the number of food items from all over. How can they possibly turn-over everything?!

Ucluelet:
-4 Spice – Take-out fish and chips, vegan curry for a great picnic near Blackrock Resort, on the fabulous West Coast Trail
-Jiggers – Some of the best fish and chips we've ever had (vinegar in spray bottle is a simply genius idea)

Tofino:
-Shelter – A great salmon burger for B, salmon surf bowl for me, which I loved - enough contrasts in flavors and textures to keep my interest.
-Tacofino - B's fish burrito was definitely better than my vegan burrito - I panicked and went vegan when I should have gone with fish tacos with kimchee. Grrr!
-Kwisitis Feast House - The small snack we had here was nothing to write about, but what a great place to watch sunset over drinks, overlooking Wick Beach. You can get 2 hours free parking from the restaurant if you don't have a park pass.
-Duncan – We stayed at Fairburn Farmstay, where they keep water buffalo. They are producing milk and mozzarella.

Last night in Vancouver:
-St Augustine – Salmon burger, tomato + boccocini salad with salmon - both were just ok...stingy over-cooked salmon in both dishes, but B was quite happy with the beer selection and we had good company at the bar.
-Tai Sho Ken – Tsukemen was a revelation and my spicy ramen was superb as well; we skipped Santouka our first time through since we had eaten at the Singapore location, but I needed my ramen fix! The unseasoned broth at the tables is a brilliant detail - just a touch magically transformed both my and B's broth.
-Alibi Room – B went with the veggie burger on the bartender's recommendation iover the pulled pork sandwich (B was quite happy). My tofu rice bowl was just ok. It was huge and after a while, I tired of the same flavors. It generally needed some oomph, some umami. But we both loved the feel of the room and the happy, after-work, Friday before a long weekend (Civic Day) crowd.

Til we meet again, B.C....Cheers!

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  1. Nice writeup, and I know what you mean about not including the lowlights. I always hesitate as I know how hard it is to make a living and produce consistently good product in the food/resto world.

    Love the idea of spray bottles for vinegar, totally stealing that!

    Such a shame about the food at St Augustine's as I rather like it as a bar and the beer is good. I don't even think they do deep fried well which irks me at a pub :-).