Thursday, September 13, 2012

Moveable Feast Part 2: Merridale Cidery

This is part of a series of posts chronicling a recent food adventure in the Cowichan Valley organized by the lovely and talented Doug Grant

Part 1: Unsworth Vineyards
Part 4: Cowichan Bay


We rolled into Merridale just in time for an early lunch. I have had Merridale on my 'to do' list for a very long time now, but somehow never realized how easy it would be to stop in on a trip up or down the Island. (This will clearly have to change in future...!)

The Merridale Cidery property is quite large, and clearly well established. The main restaurant/shop area is quite large and airy, with a beautiful glass-enclosed dining area. During the summer, they close up for weddings and special events. They even have some yurts in the garden where they usually offer spa services, but they convert them into honeymoon suites for weddings.

Inside the building with the restaurant is also a small shop with everything from deli goods to take-away bottles of their liquor, including stuff you can't easily find in liquor stores in Victoria. That day (for whatever reason) they were going away 2-for-1 bread, and the kids in front of me were stoked because it meant they got to take home the breads they both wanted. I always love seeing kids excited about food... and these kids were really excited!

We took a mini walking tour of the property, walking past the stage area, a beautiful pond and up through some of the orchards to the self-guided tour of the cider-making area. There was educational video and photographs of the cider making process, but after some wine for "breakfast" and more spirits at the cidery I have to confess that I didn't pay as much attention as I normally would. Er, I mean... I decided to save this for my next visit!

Pulled-pork Pasty
Cornish Pastie with Cider-Pulled Pork

There were many tempting items on the menu, including a five-spiced duck burger special as well as a smoked piece of beef cheek that had an incredible melt-in-your mouth texture (I had a bite of both and they were phenomenal!). I decided that the pastie sounded amazing, especially with cider added into the pulled pork! The meal looks on the small side, but it was very filling... so much so that I didn't have room for the dessert I was so looking forward to of brick-oven pie (saving that for next time, too). 

Apple Eau de Vie

I am fascinated by eau de vie, and was excited to see they had several varieties on the menu, although only the apple ended up being available. Essentially eau de vie is the result of taking things like wine or cider and running them through a still (this same is used for grappa and schnapps). It was very strong, but I quite liked it! Something a bit different.

I also ended up taking away a bottle of winter cider. It reminded me a lot of the original bottles of rumrunner from Sea Cider, but instead of sparkling and low alcohol it is more of a port or ice-wine style serving. I haven't broken into it yet, but am greatly looking forward to doing so!

The service was friendly and attentive. We also got some really fast twitter response welcoming us and wishing us a good meal, which was lovely! They even put up with my annoying request to use up my expired Couvon with finesse. Lovely!