Category Archives: Salt Spring Island

Superlative Salt Spring Island

The Blue Horse Folk Art Gallery is what Salt Spring Island is all about

The Blue Horse Folk Art Gallery is what Salt Spring Island is all about

Salt Spring Island is the largest and most populous of the Gulf Islands, with 10,000 somewhat itinerant residents and this lovely description: “An argument surrounded by water.” No surprise, it’s home to an abundance of artists, witness a 30-studio tour spanning the island. The tour includes such epicurean delights as Salt Spring Island Cheese, Gulf Islands Brewing and Heather Campbell’s Salt Spring Island Bread. All the fixings for a great, waterside picnic.

To sample the many good eats without the driving, head to Ganges (the island’s biggest community), park your car and amble around. The spring-to-fall Saturday Market—vendors must “make it, bake it or grow it”—is famous but mobbed with people and cars. I prefer the smaller Tuesday version, which still features plenty of fabulous produce, such as Foxglove’s bursting-with-flavour orange cherry tomatoes and strawberries.

Perhaps the most colourful place for a meal is Tree House Café, where the outdoor tables are wrapped around an enormous plum tree, with stacks of blankets to stave off the harbour chill. Somewhat pricy lunch highlights include the veggie burger and lamb meatball stew.

The tables at Tree House Cafe are nestled beneath the branches of this huge tree

The tables at Tree House Cafe are nestled beneath the branches of this huge plum  tree

Tree House Cafe
106 Purvis Lane, Ganges, Salt Spring Island
Daily 8 am-10 pm
Tree House Cafe on Urbanspoon

In artsy Ganges, you’ll find good coffee shops on nearly every block. My aesthetic picks are Cafe Talia, in a lovely old, wood-sided telephone exchange, and Blue Coffee Can (aka Slow Espresso), a mini-shipping container, owned by Mt Maxwell Coffee Roaster (“We roast coffee as an excuse to drink more coffee”). Salt Spring Coffee‘s roasting operations have been kicked off the island, but they still run a shop in town, featuring a killer apple-blackberry pie. In a nod to islanders’ health consciousness, many of these coffee emporiums serve power spheres, delectable little uncooked treats featuring carob, peanut butter, coconut and the like.

Cafe Tali is in an old telephone exchange building

Cafe Talia is in an old telephone exchange building

Mt Maxwell Coffee is served at this little Ganges shack

Mt Maxwell java is served at this little Blue Coffee Can shack

All hands on deck for this luscious blackberry pie at Salt Spring Coffee

All hands on deck for this luscious apple-blackberry pie at Salt Spring Coffee

At Jana’s Bake Shop, the wonderful smell that greets you at the door makes you want to order pies, butter tarts or chocolate walnut brownies. It’s small-batch baking, so get there early before it’s all gone. Just south of town, El Loco Taco is a Mexican food truck, in the Seabreeze Inne parking lot, serving up bountiful burritos like a marinated pork with lime-pickled onions, pineapple and a Baja sauce that packs a punch.

At Jana's Bake Shop, this fragrant fruit pie has already been sold, alas

At Jana’s Bake Shop, this fragrant fruit pie has already been sold, alas

In Gulf Island communities like Salt Spring, folks must often pursue two or more occupations to make ends meet. For Fernwood Road Cafe co-owner Jennifer Shaw, it’s more about the lives she left behind, including one as a corporate lawyer, to fulfill a dream of running an eatery with husband David. Sure, it means 16-hour days, but she still gets to practice her cake-decorating skills, wear shorts and Crocs and enjoy an “office” view overlooking a seaside pier.

Co-owner Jennifer Shaw is running the espresso machine and tiny kitchen at Fernwood Road Cafe

Co-owner Jennifer Shaw is running the espresso machine and tiny kitchen at Fernwood Road Cafe

Good, reasonably priced breakfasts here include baked egg dishes and thick slices of whole-wheat French toast. Oh, and if you see a regular without a shirt, don’t worry. It’s just one of the island characters.

Whole-wheat French toast at Fernwood Road Cafe

Whole-wheat French toast at Fernwood Road Cafe

Fernwood Road Cafe
325 Fernwood Road, Salt Spring Island
Daily 9 am-5 pm, except a 10 am opening on Saturday
Fernwood Road Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Beautiful B.C. Coast Road Trip

A dusky sunset along Vancouver's Jericho Beach.

A dusky sunset along Vancouver’s Jericho Beach.

Here are some photos from a great summer road trip to B.C.’s coast, including Vancouver Island and its satellite Gulf Islands. Blog posts on specific great eateries along the way will commence next week.

At Vancouver's Jericho Beach, the sand is just across the water from the downtown skyline

At Vancouver’s Jericho Beach, the sand is just across the water from the downtown skyline

Filling growlers at Vancouver's Brassneck Brewery

Filling growlers at Vancouver’s Brassneck Brewery

Brassneck Brewery co-owner Conrad Gmoser.

Brassneck Brewery co-owner Conrad Gmoser

The guys behind uber-cool Timbertrain Coffee Roasters in downtown Vancouver

The guys behind uber-cool Timbertrain Coffee Roasters in downtown Vancouver

Coffee and a muffin at Terra Breads in Vancouver's Olympic Village

Coffee and a muffin at Terra Breads in Vancouver’s Olympic Village

At Stick in the Mud coffee-house, in Sooke on Vancouver Island, these friendly, caffeinated guys are anything but that

At Stick in the Mud coffee-house, in Sooke on Vancouver Island, these friendly, caffeinated guys are anything but that

Stick in the Mud owner with a vintage sculpture

Stick in the Mud owner with a vintage sculpture

Bear sign near Sooke, B.C.

Bear sign near Sooke, B.C.

In lieu of a Mayne Island taxi service in perfect Gulf Island lingo

In lieu of a Mayne Island taxi service—in perfect Gulf Island lingo

Exploring tide pools on Salt Spring Island

Exploring tide pools on Salt Spring Island

I've always seen "Closed" signs on stores. But on Salt Spring Island, "Shut" was all the rage

I’ve always seen “Closed” signs on stores and restaurants. But on Salt Spring Island, “Shut” was all the rage

Sponge Bill’s Road Trip

Overlooking Strait of Georgia on Mayne Island

Overlooking Strait of Georgia on Mayne Island

Normally on a road trip, I overnight in Walmart parking lots, quiet campgrounds, government forest lands or fleabag motels. Anywhere, really, where I can lay my head, and it’s free or sufficiently cheap that I can focus my resources on what matters most, namely good food and drink.

So it’s nice, for a change, to take a summer’s journey where aesthetics are paramount, as are lingering, poignant conversations and much laughter. In other words, landing on the doorsteps of friends and relatives and not paying a cent for accommodation on a two-week holiday from Calgary to Vancouver Island and all the way back again. Let’s call it for what it was: Sponge Bill’s road trip.

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British Columbia’s Exquisite Summer Produce

Super sweet mid-July corn from Silver Rill Farm in Saanich, B.C.

Super sweet mid-July corn from Silver Rill Farm in Saanich, B.C.

There are numerous reasons people buy property on, or retire to, B.C.’s west coast. It rarely snows, a big consideration for winter-enslaved Canadians who have ruined their backs shoveling sidewalks six months a year. An oceanside view is generally no more than a saunter away. And for food lovers, fruits and vegetables not only ripen much sooner than on the windswept prairies (think mid-July) but are generally so superior you’d gladly forsake the local farmers’ market back home.

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