We were in Victoria for a week without the kids this time, but we've gone several times in years past and will continue to go in years to come. It's a lovely city with an amazing climate, friendly people, local food, and gorgeous architecture. Not to mention, of course, that we have family there- and the ocean. The ocean is a big draw.
Without further ado: Here's the list of Things to Do! And these aren't in any particular order. Some are better for the kids so they will be marked accordingly. If we feel kids would be bored then we'll mark them "adult".
Bear in mind even if an activity is marked as a half day, at the very least you will need to plan on finding something to eat or drink after, and be flexible with your timing. We have learned the hard way not to make commitments to get somewhere right after a day trip- either it takes longer than we think or the traffic doesn't cooperate. When you're on vacation, just give yourself the freedom to take your time.
1. Butchart Gardens
-Plan for a day away! I went as a kid and hated it- got very bored very fast. (Adult)
2. City Tour, including Craigdarroch Castle
-Plan for a half day! (Adult)
-We went with CVS Tours, so that's who I linked you to. We enjoyed the tour so much- the bus was air conditioned and with tinted windows we could sit in comfort. The driver was fun to listen to, a good driver, and had so much to tell us. The Castle itself only takes about an hour/90 minutes or so to get through, so the half-day tour is mostly driving through interesting neighborhoods, hearing about the history of Victoria, and seeing places you probably wouldn't get to really see if you're focusing on driving.
-We highly recommend it as we learned so much about the city and saw so much of it.
3. Historical Food Tour
-Plan for a half day! (Adult)
-You start at the Victoria Public Market and explore the interesting local businesses, hear their stories, and sample their food...and then you walk. We enjoyed tasting everything from Olive Oil to Macarons to Peroghy.
-You will hear fascinating stores about Victoria- just like on the CVS tour- but from a street level. It was so much fun and we enjoyed the tastings tremendously.
4. The Bug Zoo
-Plan for a half day (Kids)
-The Bug Zoo is located downtown and housed in a small space with an amazing collection of bugs. If you and your kids like the wiggly and crawly, hairy, tiny, or huge bugs, this is the place to go. They offer tours- the staff will take small groups of people from habitat to habitat, often with the opportunity to touch and hold bugs.
-My kids were enthralled. It can take as short or as long as you like- we had to leave early once before my kids were ready, which resulted in an epic meltdown. Be sure to give yourself more time then you think you'll need.
5. Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
-Plan for a full day (Kids)
-So much for adults as well, if you love the ocean as much as I do. The exhibits are phenomenal, so beautiful and so important. Like most aquariums, there is a huge element of education involved. They have worked hard to educate and teach the public about the Sea and all that lives within and depends on it to live.
-I've only been there once, several years ago, and we are definitely going to revisit when we return next time.
6. Willows Beach
-Plan for a half day- but be prepared for a full one (Kids)
-So much for the adults as well. This beach has easy parking, food, washrooms, and a playground. Lovely sand to play in and water easy to wade into. Hit up the dollar store to pick up some sand toys to enjoy and gift to another family when you leave :)
7. Gonzales Bay
-Plan for a half day (Adult)
-This is great for kids too, but with no on-site parking, washrooms, or food available it's less family friendly. You will definitely still find sand that's playable and ocean that's walkable, and the views are amazing.
8. Whale Watching
-Plan for a half day (Kids)
-Our tour was with Prince of Whales, so that's who I linked you to- but I think all the companies in Victoria are driven to promote respect for the ocean and its inhabitants. I know they work together to help watchers see whales. There's never a guarantee because ocean creatures are free to go where they want to, but we've now been on 3 different tours (one in Southern California, and twice in Victoria) and we have always seen whales- Humpbacks twice, and Killer Whales once.
-You never know what the weather will be like out at sea- it's best to bring a light jacket, a hat, and sunglasses. One whale watching tour we did in July when my second was an infant was so cold we almost needed a toque and gloves, so be warned- it's very different on sea then on land.
-If you think you or the kids might be prone to seasickness, it's best to bring Gravol (motion sickness medication) with you. You may also consider a day pack with bottled water for each, a battery charger for your phone, and a good camera that snaps pictures quickly. The whales will appear (often without warning) and then are gone, and if your camera takes its time to load you may miss capturing the experience on film.
-Many companies offer photographs taken by their staff during the tours, so ask about that option so you can just enjoy the day without worrying about what photos you may be missing.
I'm sure you'll enjoy Victoria as much as we did. Drop me a line and let me know what treasures you have discovered there!
After breakfast at our air bnb we joined in a Historical Food Tour (with samples!), starting at Victoria Public Market. It was so great! There will be more details about this in a future blog post. Suffice it to say if you enjoy sampling local food and hearing stories from the purveyors, this is an activity you want to take in.
For lunch we wandered up to the Irish Times Pub. I ordered a lamb burger with a side house salad while Mike ordered the Times Cheese Burger with an Irish Flight of beer. We sat outside under a big red umbrella and enjoyed the activity going on all around us. For dessert we shared a Guinness Chocolate Brownie.
The lamb burger was delicious. I wasn’t sure if the apple chutney would be too sweet for the burger but it was, in fact, a perfect complement, even though it was a bit messy and "slidey"- it kept sliding out of the bun. And I highly recommend their house salad. If you’re going for beer, the Smithwick’s Red Ale was the right pairing with the lamb burger out of those 4 beers.
Mike enjoyed his Cheese Burger but it was the different kinds of beer that he enjoyed sampling the most.
Dessert was another story, however. We were rather disappointed and didn’t even finish it. The brownie was good, absolutely, but the whiskey toffee sauce was so granular it felt like we were biting into chopped up sugar cubes, and there was so much of it (the sauce) there was no real way to avoid it. It could have been amazing, but it wasn’t.
This was our actual 20th anniversary, and we enjoyed some time walking along Willows Beach. I think I could stay there forever- in fact, I found my next house- just $2.5M! It’s going to take a little time to save for that, right? I would love to live right there on the beach and have that kind of day every day. Who’s with me?
For our anniversary dinner we enjoyed dinner at “Lure”, the Delta Ocean Pointe hotel in-house restaurant. The view from the windows was amazing, the staff attentive, and the tables large enough that none of us felt crowded in. We were able to watch the float planes fly in and see Victoria from an angle we don’t normally see it from.
We shared a starter of mussels with my brother and his family and I ordered the Columbia River Steelhead. What caught my attention (besides the fact that steelhead trout is my favourite fish) was the bacon jam and duck-fat roasted potatoes it came with. Mike ordered (halibut) fish and chips. For dessert we shared an ice-cream sandwich.
The mussels were delicious and the broth spicy. There wasn’t enough bread to soak it all up with though, and they happily provided more so that none of that goodness went to waste. It’s definitely a starter dish meant to be shared as there was a lot served.
Yes to the Steelhead! It came with corn succotash which was ok, and the duck-fat potatoes were nothing to write home about (I like my roasted potatoes way more, in fact). But the trout was cooked perfectly, a lovely crispy crust even, and the dollop of bacon jam was to die for. I actually put it on my list (well, my husband’s) to learn how to make.
Mike thought the fish and chips were good. They would satisfy anyone who doesn’t like a “fishy” fish because Halibut is nice and mild. It was cooked beautifully, not overdone and dry, and the fries were good as well.
I think we’d both say “no” to the ice cream sandwich again. I fully appreciated the level of imagination that went into creating it, but the cookie was so rock hard it was difficult to actually get a piece of cookie to eat with the ice cream, and I didn’t fall in love with the flavour or texture. I actually think I would have preferred the cookies my nephew and niece got to enjoy after their dinners instead.
Our last day of Island Life was spent wandering the beach in Gonzales Bay. We even got to see a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish that had washed up on shore. My absolute favourite thing about Vancouver Island is hanging out with the ocean. There is something magical about how the water pulls away anything negative and just replaces it with calm. I will always love the ocean- I'm pretty sure it's in my blood.
For lunch we returned to Bin 4. This time I ordered the “Chicken of the Sea” with house potato chips and Mike ordered the Pre-Season Favourite and fries. We ate at the location that’s right in Victoria. Same great service and food as the other we visited our first night.
Oh, for all that is wonderful and good, eat the Ahi tuna burger. It was so fresh, flavourful, and satisfying. I think I will probably go back to eat that burger every time we go to Victoria: it was that good.
My husband knew exactly what he’d order because he tasted my leftovers our first night there, and he was just as impressed with the Pre-Season Favourite hot and fresh as he was when it was day 2 leftovers.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my food adventures as much as I enjoyed eating and experiencing them myself. If you head to the Island, be sure to drop me a line and let me know where you ate and what you ate- and what you thought about it!
Next time I post I will tell you about some of the fun stuff you can do in Victoria. Until then, ciao, friends.
My husband and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage this year. We took a week off from real life to head to Vancouver Island to celebrate and to jump start some new creative thinking for my cooking.
Our host city was Victoria, British Columbia. We opted to stay in an air bnb because I wanted the option of an entire suite with a working kitchen. My goal for our journey was to enjoy as much fresh seafood as possible. Living in landlocked Alberta, fresh fish isn't something we see often.
We wanted to eat out and enjoy food from places we haven’t been to before, but also do a good amount of cooking at our home for the week- breakfast and lunches for the most part, but a dinner or 2 as well. We also planned on eating in with family since they live in that beautiful city and surrounding area.
I thought it would be fun to document our food journey so that the next time YOU are in Victoria, BC, you will have some suggestions on what to eat and where.
On our day of arrival, tired from travel, we opted to eat out. All we ate for breakfast and lunch before boarding was a handful of nuts, so by the time we arrived, rented our car, and hit the road we were seriously hungry. The first place google maps suggested was closest to the airport- about a 90 second drive or something- called The Spitfire Grill. Mike ordered the West Coast Tacos and I ordered the Blackened Sockeye Salmon Sandwich, which we then divided and shared. This way we both got to try both menu items.
The Sockeye Sandwich was amazing, and that’s all I have to say about that. There was just enough blackening seasoning to complement- NOT overwhelm with too much spice. It was filling, flavourful, stuffed full of goodness.
The Tacos were good, but not really lunch sized. An order comprised of 3 tacos, and they weren’t very big. The corn tortillas were delicious and I suspect freshly made. They were topped with mostly baby greens and a little bit of mango and fish (Alaskan Halibut). If I had to choose again I’d order the sandwich for sure, and so would my husband.
Our hostess at the Air bnb, Marianne, suggested Bin 4 for dinner. They are known for their gourmet burgers- from bison, ahi tuna, chicken, and lots of beef. Almost anything you can imagine topping these burgers, and completely customizable. Mike ordered The Dirty Bourbon with a side of red onion rings. I ordered the Pre-Season with a side of their seasonal Almond Praline Blue Cheese Salad. We each drank mint lemonade, ordered their house-spiced potato chips as an appetizer, and shared a sour cherry cheesecake for dessert.
The Pre-Season burger was delicious- all the flavours combined to make one seriously tasty and amazing burger. You wouldn’t think that jalapeno guacamole and bruschetta are food matches made in heaven, but they were on this burger. The salad was disappointing, though. Too much blue cheese and praline, and I didn’t even notice the almonds, to the point where I’m not actually sure they were in there.
Mike thought The Dirty Bourbon burger was “ok”- a little too sweet, with some of the flavours a jarring combination. He enjoyed the onion rings and I tried a bite, but to me they were nothing special- onion rings are onion rings, and these didn’t surprise me or wow me. If we were to eat dinner here again, we’d both order that Pre-Season burger, and I’d probably stick to the house salad or fries.
The lemonade was tasty but sweet, and the fresh mint added another layer of flavor which we both enjoyed. The sour cherry cheesecake was rich, decadent with chocolate shaving, and perfect for sharing.
We enjoyed a coffee down at The Nest, a neighborhood coffee shop. Here we got to enjoy the main show- #eclipse2017. Got some great indirect photos of it, too.
The Halibut from Nautical Nellies came highly recommended, so we ordered the Halibut Burger for lunch.
Situated down where Wharf Street meets Broughton, the outdoor patio was a lovely place to eat, with tables situated in both sun and shade.
Yes, order this!
The other halibut choice was fish and chips, and to be honest we’ve already enjoyed some great fish and chips near home. Ordering the burger was the only real choice here.
Both Mike and I ate the same thing. It came topped with lettuce, bacon, and tomato, as well as a balsamic honey vinaigrette. It was a bit sticky and drippy and slightly too salty for everyday enjoyment but worth every bite. The halibut was cooked perfectly.
Sidebar: the only place I’d fly to enjoy fish and chips is Scotland…unfortunately I have no idea where we were when I enjoyed those there.
End Part 1
Technically, a fruit has to contain its seeds to further propagation. We typically consider fruit to be sweeter than vegetables, although tomatoes, pumpkins, and zucchini are also fruit. As are those weird little maple “helicopters”.
Which are edible, by the way, so if you’re excited to try something new…
Tomatoes are high in Vitamin C and Beta Carotene (Vitamin A). According to one article, even better for you then apples! I haven’t compared apples and tomatoes myself, but I can agree with what they say about heirloom varieties. I have one of those growing in my garden right now and it is producing the most deep red fruited tomatoes that I’ve ever seen.
Tomatoes are savoury rather than sweet, so when we cook with it we consider it a vegetable. It tastes amazing with other typical savoury foods, like cheese, meet, and herbs. But it works surprisingly well with other fruit as well. I've got a salad in my brain that I'll be sharing with my private members group next Friday. Come join us! We'd love to have you.
This week I tried grilling grape tomatoes with gruyere cheese and fresh basil. While I enjoyed the taste, it lacked the “zoom” I was looking for- perhaps this week you can play with similar flavours and come up with your own new recipe.
All the best this week, friends.
A few weeks ago I posted about why I like to use romaine lettuce in a different way than just a salad- and this is true of swiss chard, too. I really enjoy my weekly test kitchen because it challenges me to think about food in a different way than I usually do.
This summer I’ve used swiss chard as a topping for my burgers, in a salad, sliced up and cooked into a Vietnamese Noodle Soup, and now as a rolled appetizer, stuffed with strawberries and fresh cheese, and served with a balsamic reduction for dipping.
I know it may sound complicated to try new things. It can be scary, and maybe (like I used to be) you’re a little bit worried it won’t turn out and you’ll be wasting food by throwing it away.
While that IS a possibility, I would like to pose another perspective: trying something new is never a waste, even if you have to throw it away (and that’s a rare occasion!)
Most of the time the finished outcome will not be so bad it has to be tossed, and consider the alternate outcome- you may discover something new you love!
When testing my swiss chard appetizers, I started small, making just 2- one for my husband to try, and one for me. Both of us enjoyed them, so I plated a few and brought them to a family event so I could test them on other people too.
The overwhelming consensus was “these are really good”. And if they weren’t good? I would have known before I made a bunch and brought them to the party because I started with just 2. A few ingredients and a little time means it's not a big deal if it doesn't work out.
Here are a couple of ways to introduce something new to your cooking repertoire:
Hopefully you’ve got some interesting ideas cooking up in your head now! Enjoy your day, friends.
We’re using Nasturtiums in our house this week to help make our food taste good and look pretty, but the question that I hear from people is “why?” What difference does it make HOW your food looks? Isn’t taste the important part?
Well, sure. Taste is a HUGE part of your meals. But it is not the only consideration.
Something as plain and simple as a bowl of oatmeal can look appetizing or unappetizing, depending on how you dress it up. If my kids finally eat oatmeal, I know it’s going to be because it looks like it might taste good. There’s no way they’d be willing to try a bowl with oatmeal just slopped into it. But if I top it with some delicious blueberries, a sprinkle of cinnamon and toasted pecans, and maybe a drizzle of maple syrup, I’m almost willing to bet at least one of them would be willing to give it a try. And of course, my ultimate goal is to get both of them eating it.
There are differences of opinion, of course. This is strictly mine. But I find it a fun experiment to play with in our home. My oldest son in particular appreciates how good a food looks before he tells me how it tastes.
Think about the presentation between McDonalds and The Canadian Brewhouse. Both places serve burgers. But one is wrapped sloppily in a paper wrapper or cardboard box with fries spilling out of their wrapper on a plastic tray, and the other is plated nicely with a gently arranged salad or interestingly wrapped fries. They even have their signature Canadian Flag toothpick stuck into the top of the burger. You know which one looks more appealing and which one you’d rather eat, right? Most of the time the difference in price is overlooked because the perceived value is higher, in part due to how it looks when presented.
The next time you serve dinner, consider plating it in a way that makes it look visually appealing. You might be surprised at what your picky people are willing to try if it looks nice.
For an interesting article about this with more viewpoints and discussion, click here.
Have a great day, friends! If you haven't started following me on Facebook yet, please hop over there and "like" my page. I post interesting food and nutrition stuff on a regular basis and I'd hate you to miss out on my test kitchen recipes each Friday!
This week I'm playing with the Thai Basil that I am growing in my herb garden. We're going to run a late #testkitchen this week (today rather than yesterday if all goes well!), making Thai salad rolls for dinner tonight and a Vietnamese noodle soup with chicken and vegetables for dinner tomorrow.
But why bother? Why change to a different kind of basil? Why not stick with the old one that is known and loved?
Over the years I've observed there are 2 basic kinds of eaters in the world: people who can eat the same thing all the time and be perfectly content, and people who want to eat different things all the time and rarely eat the same thing twice. I don't think either extreme is healthy or sustainable. In our family, we encourage a bit of both for a few different reasons:
By now you all are used to me talking about incorporating a variety of different colours into your food but we don't usually emphasize reasons for different flavours. I'm going to hone in on one reason this morning: "...waking up your taste buds".
Raising a family of picky children with a husband who came pretty picky himself has been a journey for us. At the beginning of parenting small children I was completely unprepared for picky eaters. The idea of it was as foreign to me as living in full darkness half a year. When I was a child, if my mom put food in front of me, I ate it. To be suddenly faced with gagging, vomiting, tears, and the rest was bewildering.
However, I firmly believe food should not be a fight. Ever. We determine what foods go on the table so we fully control what response we will get. We can talk more about this a different day.
Suffice it to say, providing different flavours to ourselves and our families can allow us to enjoy different foods while we are out and about at various times in our lives. Like it or not, most of us enjoy meals at places other than home. We can't always control what's for dinner, and so it makes sense to train our taste buds.
And that is it for today, friends. If you enjoyed this post, share it! Help me grow my business by getting my name and brand known! Tune in tomorrow on Facebook for a discussion on reverse meal planning and if you haven't "liked" my page yet, please do so- I don't want you to miss anything!
All the best!
We're talking about Romaine lettuce this week on my Facebook page, The Meals Maven.
A long, long time ago- before we had kids and were learning how to keep guinea pigs alive- we found out that feeding romaine to guinea pigs was a good idea, and feeding them iceberg lettuce was not.
The reason you start your piggies on romaine when they're young is it's full of nutrition. It turns out that piggies love iceberg lettuce, but there's not enough nutrition in it for them and they will eat it rather than romaine if they develop a taste for it.
This might be true for people too. What do you think?
It isn't that iceberg doesn't have any nutrition, just not as much. Here's a comparison of these 2 types.
On #foodiefriday I will be releasing the recipe I cooked last night for #testkitchentuesday- a ground turkey stirfry that incorporates stir fried romaine as one of the vegetables. It's new for me and something I will continue to do. I really enjoyed eating it as something other than salad.
And to successfully use last week's failed peanut and rosemary combination made the dinner perfect.
As discussed on #marinatingmonday, romaine is wonderfully nutritious and not an energy-dense food. As such, it's tempting to think it's the perfect food to eat a lot of when you are trying to lose weight. I want to encourage you, however, to consider colour as your guide. Eat the rainbow, whether you're trying to lose weight, gain, or maintain. A diet of romaine and not much else will quickly leave you with nutritional holes and diminished health. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen.
I leave you with what I seem to say all the time but can't stress enough: Too much of a good thing is still too much.
All the best today, friends!
In the future I hope to see, people are cooking together and eating together.
People eat meals around the kitchen table and invite friends and not-yet friends to enjoy a meal with them.
Parents teach their children and children teach their friends.
Recipes take on a treasured life of their own, cultivated and shared between people to demonstrate love and commitment to the places their history intersects. They are renewed and remade to bring traditions together, and thus different versions of the same recipes make their way across generations and timelines.
In the future I hope to see, food is valued and not wasted. We practice gratefulness and appreciation. We use only what we need and give what we don’t. Food is recognized as a sacred gift that provides us with life and allows us to bless others with it. It is respected and cherished.
In the future I hope to see, the world is a place where people aren’t frantically filling their mouths because they don’t know what else to do. They aren’t eating just because they have to just to stay alive, but because it makes them the best version of themselves. There is enough food to go around no matter where you live, and no one goes hungry.
This future is important to me. I see our health and wellness at a crossroads of incredible significance. The less connected we are to recognizing the importance of the food we eat, the less nourishment we give ourselves.
We are overworked, at times both undernourished and overfed, and our society is suffering with more disease and overall unwellness than ever before. This, at a time when we know more, understand more, and research more about food than ever before.
It’s my dream to change this, from one person or family at a time to entire groups of people. I see myself speaking this vision and bringing it into fruition, helping people to understand that they can affect this change in their own lives. They are not slaves to commercialization. They can learn how to eat, what to eat, and when to eat. They can begin to view food not only as nourishment for their bodies but also for their souls.
I believe this is a future that’s possible. When my boys grow up and have families of their own, I believe the seeds of promise will have already been planted. I believe that my generation can stand up and be counted to make a difference not only in their lives but in the lives of their children and the children to come. Will you take the next step with me? Will it begin with you?