Category Archives: British Columbia

Chuck Out This Great Victoria-Area Burger Bar

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The bountiful burgers at Chuck’s Burger Bar, in Sydney, B.C., are juicy and flavourful

All too often in Canada, restaurant burgers are cooked to the edge of shoe leather. It’s no doubt the result of kitchens not wishing to violate government health regulations that stipulate burgers must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 71 C. (160 F.), eight degrees Celsius above medium rare.

So it’s a pleasure to discover a place like Chuck’s Burger Bar, in an industrial area of Sydney, B.C., near the Victoria airport and ferry terminal. Chucks manages to walk the fine line between burgers that are regulatory acceptable and still juicy and flavourful.

As the name suggests, it’s a spot owned by a guy named Chuck, and the predominant, half-pound burgers (about $9) are from fresh-ground Angus chuck, “grilled to medium.”

From a plethora of complimentary toppings, I choose pea shoots, sautéed onions and roasted garlic mayo, along with some sautéed wild mushrooms ($2.50 extra). It’s a delightful combination, with a shared mountain of Yukon gold fries ($5) and a local pint.

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Chuck’s is in an industrial area near the Victoria airport and ferry terminal.

Chuck’s is a small space that usually fills up quickly, this night with young locals. It’s a great, affordable place to get a last-minute bite before boarding a ferry or airplane.

Chuck’s Burger Bar
2031 Malaview Avenue West, Sidney, B.C.
Monday to Saturday 11 am-10 pm. Closed Sundays
778-351-2485

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Get Sartori Harvest IPA Before It’s Gone. Oops. Might Already be Too Late

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Sartori Harvest IPA is a once-a-year fresh-hop beer

There’s nothing like scarcity to help sell a product. Just ask the single-malt Scotch industry, always happy to roll out a “one-time-only” cask of a peaty 12-year-old. Craft beer companies certainly play their part, with a roster of seasonal brews and one-off concoctions.

But when you can marry scarcity with a good story, you’ve really hit marketing gold.

Take the case of fresh-hopped beers, also known as wet-hopped or harvest ales. Typically, hops added to the fermentation process have been dried. But fresh hops are usually added within hours of being picked in the field. So by definition, fresh-hopped beers are only available during the late-summer or early-fall hop harvest.

Victoria’s Driftwood Brewery, perhaps best known for its fine Fat Tug IPA, has an entry in the fresh-hopped market: Sartori Harvest IPA. During the hop harvest at Sartori Cedar Ranch, near Chillwack, B.C. (just east of Vancouver), bags of Centennial hops are rushed to the brewery.

“It’s vital to get the hops into the brew kettle within hours of picking, while their oils and resins are still raw,” says a breathless video on Driftwood’s website. “This is our one chance to brew with the flower in its most natural form.” And, to rub things in: “Sartori’s fresh hops have a delicious profile unique to the patch of land they cultivate in the Columbia Valley, making this limited release singular and remarkable.”

I was already sold on this story, when a beer specialist at a Cascadia Liquor outlet in Victoria told me that Sartori Harvest had just hit the store shelves and would be sold out within days.

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Cascadia Liquour has a great selection of other 22-ounce bombers

$7 for a 22-ounce bottle? I’m in. I spent a good half hour letting the complexities of this ale roll around my mouth. And the next morning, I rushed back to Cascadia to pick up a couple more Sartoris to take home.

So what does Sartori Harvest IPA taste like? Guess you’ll have to wait till next year.

 

Fabulous Focaccia at Victoria’s Fol Epi

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Good luck not devouring this stunning focaccia—from Fel Epi in Victoria—in one sitting

I have a new favourite bakery treat.

It’s the focaccia bread at Fol Epi, a fabulous little organic bakery in Victoria, B.C.

It kind of resembles a little pizza—puffy and blistered and, when I ordered it, adorned only with slices of roasted chanterelle mushrooms. Anything more would be a distraction from this soft, chewy delight with its complex flavours.

I kept tearing off chunks of this simple masterpiece and stuffing them in my mouth. I wanted to save some for my host, but gluttony was getting the better of me. At $7, it’s a nice-sized lunch for one or snack for two… but, really, you don’t want to share this.

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Fol Epi is on a little Victoria harbour, next door to Caffe Fantastico Coffee Roasters

What makes the focaccia and Fol Epi’s other breads and pastries memorable is the attention to quality. Their heritage red fife wheat and rye grains, from Saskatchewan, are stone ground on site and the resulting loaves, baguettes, croissants, cookies and other treats baked in a wood-fired brick oven.

On the way out, I grabbed a lovely loaf of boule, a French country bread, to take back to my friend. Because the only thing left of the focaccia was crumbs.

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The boule was also exceptional

Fol Epi
101, 398 Harbour Road, Victoria B.C. (one other Victoria location)
Daily 7:30 am-5 pm
250-477-8882

Scenes From a West Coast Road Trip

 

Early morning light on Mount Temple near Lake Louise

Early morning light on Mount Temple, near Lake Louise

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The kiddies may be back in school but fall road construction in B.C. carries on

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Taken to its logical conclusion, doesn’t this mean no one should pass?

La Baguette muffin

How fruit muffins should be stuffed. The incomparable La Baguette in Revelstoke

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Only in Tofino

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No words required

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Must have arrived in the dark

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The best coffee shop mugs in the world: By Katy Fogg, at Tin Town Cafe in Courtenay

 

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Why I go to Vancouver Island’s west coast in the fall

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Beats this October 4 return to Calgary

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It’s been a strange fall

Huge Bites in Chilliwack, B.C.

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Gee, I wonder why they call this the Oinker? At Bubba’s Big Bites in Chilliwack, B.C.

I walk into Bubba’s Big Bites, in Chilliwack, B.C., with a deer-in-the-headlights look as I survey all the lunchtime dining options.

“Your first time here?” co-owner Julie asks after a glance at my slack-jawed face.

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Julie and Sascha are the fun-loving couple who own Bubba’s

“Yeah. What’s your signature sandwich?”

“The Oinker.”

Let’s see: pulled pork, ham, crumbled bacon, a couple kinds of melted cheese, bbq sauce—all squeezed inside a thick, half loaf of bread and, if that’s not enough carbs, served with a side of potato wedges. Having just backpacked about 100 kilometres, I’m feeling rather piggish, so let’s go.

Sadly, I’m still not up to the task. The five wedges, from a rather large potato, are a meal in themselves. And thank goodness there’s a hefty serrated knife thrust inside the sandwich, because there’s no way I’m getting my jaw around the whole thing.

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Half the fun is reading the big board

It’s all great, fresh stuff. Still, I take half to go, and that wonderful sandwich is still feeding me a couple of days later.

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This is about all the seating at this hole-in-the wall spot

Bubba’s is a fun, lively place, thanks to the energy and personalities of its owners, Julie and Sascha, who run the whole show. It’s only about five minutes off the Trans-Canada Highway, traffic willing, and is a great, tiny place for a quick bite, or a hundred, before hitting the “don’t want to get off the highway” mob scene of greater Vancouver.

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Here’s the diverse menu; many of the meats are house prepared

Bubba’s Big Bites
101, 5885 Vedder Road, Chilliwack, B.C.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 11 am-7 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am-8 pm. Closed Monday
604-858-0020

Sinful, Toasted Cinnamon Buns

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Toasted cinnamon bun from motel restaurant in Beaverlodge, Alberta

Over the years, I’ve eaten a lot of cinnamon buns; that’s cinnamon rolls if you’re American. Indeed, I have recipes for two classic Edmonton cinnamon buns—the Tuck Shop’s and Mayfair Golf Club’s—which perfected the mix of gooey goodness, without being overly bready, and without any of that nasty icing.

But en route to a recent backpack in northern Canada, I twice encountered something I hadn’t seen before: toasted cinnamon buns. These were both offered at hotel restaurants, one in Beaverlodge, Alberta and the other in Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

I can see how toasting could improve a cinnamon bun that was a day old or a little doughy. And it’s one way of reheating them without resorting to a microwave. I didn’t see how these ones were prepared, though I assume they were sliced horizontally and toasted in some kind of oven.

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Despite all the packaging, our favourite toasted cinnamon bun, at Tumbler Ridge Inn Restaurant

We got them to go, which may not have been the friendliest thing for the planet. They emerged from the kitchen each in large white plastic bags containing a cinnamon bun in a Styrofoam box, four packets of butter and, in one case, several packets of cream cheese. They were then attacked with plastic knives and forks, as well as fingers.

I’m not sure how many calories were consumed in this starch-sugar-fat feeding frenzy. It’s a good thing seven hours of hiking ensued.

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Regular cin buns at Soups in Beaverlodge