Dive for your dinner? Forage for your frittata? Across Vancouver Island, you can choose from a variety of new experiences that take you right to the source of your food and drink — these are a few of our tastiest finds.
Foraging and Feasting in Victoria
As a girl, Danielle Prohom Olson accompanied her grandmother as she foraged for wild foods. More recently, Olson began exploring the potential health benefits of edible plants. Through her company, Gather Victoria, she now teaches others how to hunt for and prepare indigenous produce, like dandelion greens, peppercress and a variety of berries that grow throughout the Victoria area.
On Gather Victoria’s private wildcrafting tours, you’ll learn about what’s edible, where to find it and how to prepare it. Opt for a tasting or full meal, with foraged ingredients turning up in dishes such as dandelion pesto, a wild green-filled Greek pie or wild rose petal couscous with fennel.
You don’t have to get your hands dirty when dining at 10 Acres Kitchen. The staff harvests many ingredients directly from the restaurant’s own nearby organic farm. Whether you choose a multi-course tasting menu or simply order à la carte from the kitchen, you might enjoy local Humboldt squid with a Thai-style peanut sauce, Pacific halibut with butter-braised radishes, or gnocchi with mushrooms fresh from the farm.
Exploring the Farms on the Saanich Peninsula
For another taste of what’s growing on Vancouver Island, come to roost on the Saanich Peninsula, a short drive north of Victoria. Plan a pit stop at Roost Farm Centre, a 10-acre, family-owned estate, with a vineyard, a bakery and a bistro.
Start in the bakeshop with a fresh scone or cinnamon bun, then tour the farm or go for a wine tasting. Roost’s flagship white is made from Siegerrebe grapes, and the unusual Ginger Sweetheart, with fresh ginger steeped in Siegerrebe, is definitely worth a try, too.
While you’re on the property, check out the owner’s collection of classic cars, and ask to see the dungeon — no, really.
For more unusual fare, head eight minutes north to Snowdon House. At this Saanich farm you can sample products made from evergreens that grow on the property. Stop by the estate’s gourmet shop to taste berry- and fir-infused vinegars, a spicy Fir and Fire dipping sauce, a West Coast bread mix flavored with the tree’s tips and juniper berries, as well as Douglas fir essence that makes a great soda or cocktail mixer. Book a cooking workshop to learn how to use these fir products in your own kitchen.
Another way to get back to nature on the Saanich Peninsula is with a tour of the organic Healing Farm, which showcases the diversity of crops cultivated on Vancouver Island. Owners Sharyn and Mike Romaine grow more than 850 fruit and nut trees, along with berries, grapes, and a number of different vegetables, raise chickens and sell eggs, and produce honey and maple syrup, all on their forested 18-acre property.
A variety of farm tours include activities for kids, lessons about local ingredients, sustainable farming, beekeeping, ways to reduce your carbon footprint and more.
Cocktail Crafting in the Cowichan Valley
Located on an orchard-lined Cowichan Valley farm, about an hour’s drive north of Victoria, the island’s first cider maker, Merridale Cidery & Distillery, is always worth a visit to sample its traditional European-style sips. The venue is producing craft spirits, too, which are the base for an entertaining “mixology experience.” Staff will set you up with samples of Merridale’s gin or vodka, along with tonics and a variety of local garnishes, and let you play bartender. Ask about this option at the distillery’s tasting bar.
Edible Ocean Adventures in Tofino
Across the island on the Pacific coast, you can harvest your own food from the sea with new adventures in the oceanside town of Tofino.
The Wolf in the Fog, one of Tofino’s most innovative restaurants, and local outfitter Tofino 1st Class Fishing have partnered to create a boat-to-table Catch and Cook adventure. Venture out on a guided fishing tour and try to reel in a few memories. Upon your return, chefs from the renowned local eatery will prepare what you’ve hooked as part of a four-, five- or six-course meal that comes complete with optional wine and cocktail pairings.
Want even more Pacific thrills? The recently opened Tofino Resort and Marina is offering a tide-to-table free-diving adventure, where you learn to dive without scuba gear then use your newfound skills to harvest local seafood. Follow resort chef Paul Moran, an avid forager and free diver, as he points out crabs, urchins, mussels and other sea creatures that you can find under the waves. Once you resurface, he’ll transform your catch into an elaborate feast.
The Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Wickaninnish Inn Tofino is another excellent base for exploring the city and sampling the region’s edible bounty. And if you’d like to bring a taste of the retreat home with you, check out The Wickaninnish Cookbook, a recently released culinary tome featuring many of the property’s signature recipes.