Sunday, August 18, 2013

Moveable Feast III: Saltspring Island

This posts chronicles a recent food adventure on Saltspring Island organized by the lovely and talented Doug Grant


Early on Saturday August 3, 2013 a group of brave adventures in search of food embarked on a journey across the water to Saltspring. Our day was plagued with many threats and challenges from ferry times to dark clouds to surly shop owners, but our cheerful band was never phased fuelled by an insatiable hunger for the thrill of previously unexplored culinary delights.

We collected ourselves at the unholy hour of 7am at Discovery Coffee. Three scooters and two vehicles collected with groggy minds and hungry bellies, barely awake but ready for action. After a quick caffeine hit and a quick plan we set off for the first ferry to Saltspring Island. The vehicles arrived first and nervously watched the approach of the scooter gang via GPS as the minutes ticked down to departure. With mere seconds to spare the three Vespas scooted straight on to the ferry and past the first tribulation of the day — the dreaded ferry deadline. The moveable feast was properly underway!

Rock Salt Cafe
Gumboot Huevos

Our first stop of the day was the Rock Salt Cafe, the brightly coloured restaurant that is the first thing to greet visitors to the Island. The restaurant and cafe has recently been taken over by Chef Matt Rissling, formerly the chef at the Oak Bay Marina restaurant. They serve both sit-down meals and treats 'to go', and do their best to accommodate those waiting in line for the next ferry.

We happily tucked ourselves in to a full and delicious breakfast, swapping stories of our recent food adventures in Victoria and making plans for the rest of the day. I ordered the Gumboot Huevos (because I can't not!). It was a small but incredibly filling dish. The eggs were cheesy and flavourful with the addition of onions, tomato and jalapenos. I found the potatoes a bit too crunchy - but not enough to keep me from eating every single one!

Saturday Market
Our main objective for our visit was the legendary Saturday Market! This market really rivals anything Victoria has to offer, with a great mix of food and craft vendors. I, of course, zeroed on the food vendors... but there was definitely something for everyone.

Except dogs - not realizing it was not a dog-friendly market I had brought our scruffy mutt for the adventure. There was doggy daycare available by hourly donation to the SPCA, but the frosty reception at the intake table combined with a 30+ minute wait meant we opted to tie her up to a convenient tree and pop out to check on her frequently instead. Another challenge circumvented (take that, rules and regulations!).

The market was incredibly, incredibly packed. Moving around was sometimes difficult, especially since people had a tendency to stop to shop (or chat, or for no apparent reason) and traffic would grind to a halt. So exciting that this small island can attract such a fantastic locally-sourced following!

donuts at Mt Maxwell Coffee
Our first purchase was at Mt Maxwell Coffee company. We picked up a bag of their Alchemist Blend which has been rocking our mornings regularly ever since! Following the general trend they were serving up some handmade donuts with their coffee. We took the last blueberry one... and it was delicious! 

Raw foods
I had to take a shot of such a quintessentially "Saltspring" booth! I couldn't imagine anything that captures the yuppie-hippie vibe more than raw energy bars served in pyrex bows and perfectly laminated laser printed "made with love" signs. Full of breakfast and donut I opted to pass on any more food, despite the temptation. 

Fresh Veggies galore!
Farmer tables abounded at the market, and this was just one beautiful example! If you wanted to source your fruits and veggies locally while living on Saltspring this would definitely be the way to do it. Produce small and large in nearly every possible variety was present somewhere at the market, and I saw plenty of cloth bags and baskets overflowing with bounty. 

local kimchi
I had no idea that there was anyone producing kimchi locally... and was immediately plotting how I could get more of it over to the big island. Kimchi is a stinky, longterm investment to make from scratch, so I am always impressed when I see someone going that route! I purchased a small batch of the 'hot'. It isn't as red as commercially available kimchi, but it has a good kick to it and tastes much fresher! I've already gone through half my jar...

Roly Poly Rice Ball
Although we had had a pretty big breakfast I found my blood sugar crashing early in the afternoon and decided I needed a quick snack to keep me moving and not grumpy. I opted for the sunshine ball at Roly Poly's stand which served up a Westcoast take on the Japanese snack food. In my flailing state of hunger I failed to open it properly, despite being pointed to the directions by the man who sold it to me. Still I managed to rescue things without too much loss to the integrity of the seaweed wrap. The slight curry spice to the rice and sesame seeds were delicious, and it was just what I needed to keep me going for the rest of the afternoon!

Saltspring winery
Salt Spring Island Winery
"Salt Spring Island Winery" by Winneso (via Flickr)

As the driver, I decided to pass on the wine tasting (which I had done our last visit to the Island) in favour of the upcoming beer tasting (which I had not done before), so took a little break on the lawn with our dog while the rest of the group partook in this part of the experience. Having recently visited the Okanagan, my partner-in-food-and-life commented on how different the wines are here on the Island in comparison! We came home with a bottle of the Aromata grown with all Island grapes and a big hunk of Moonstruck's blue cheese, which was also available at the Market but we hadn't quite made it there. 

Saltspring Brewery
Saltspring Island beer line up
After a few wrong turns and confusing directions (also: never let me be the lead vehicle!) following the mysterious sign for "beer tasting" finally led us to the tasting room for Saltspring Island brewery. Packed with people stopping enroute to the ferry from the market, we hung out in their picturesque yard that crossed over between farm and forest. 

Once upstairs we had wee samples of each of the five beers in their lineup. From lightest to strongest there was the Heather Ale, slightly hoppy with a touch of heather flavour; The Golden Ale, brighter than the heather but still fairly low in hop; The ESB, hoppier again but nice and balanced; The IPA, a full-hop experience produced in partnership with the Snug Pub; and their Dry Porter, my personal favourite that I will be searching out in the liquor store soon! 

Saltspring Island Cheese
Back near Fulford harbour we gave ourselves a self-guided tour of the Cheese factory where all of the delicious goat cheese comes from. You can peek in the windows of their production facility and pet the goats, although we were warned that occasionally fingers are mistaken for carrots! 

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Self-guided Cheese tour

As we were leaving we discovered that the farm also sells eggs... and whole chickens! We came away with a 6 pounder for $30, which was roasted split up over several meals. We've never had a farm chicken before, but I am tempted to seek some out here. The value and freshness were incredible, and we roasted it and used the meat for several delicious meals over the week. 

The vast selection of cheese to sample!

While visiting a discovered their new product, the Ruckles, named after the nearby park. Ruckles are cheese rolled out into long thin rolls, cut into circles and then marinated in herbs and garlic. They would be perfect for serving at a dinner party on top of crackers, but the woman behind the counter also described their use in pasta. I ended up saving that one for another day, but picked up one of the truffle chevre - which also made a delicious addition to some pasta!

We headed back to the ferry terminal hoping to catch the early ferry back, but arrived just in time to see the boat pulling out of the terminal. Undismayed, we split up and wandered around Fulford Harbour. We all came back together with separate stories of the fantastically grumpy owners of the little bookstore/coffee shop — I guess not surprising given that the place is for sale, but we were pretty stunned at the seemingly total distain for their customers. Group consensus was to give that one a miss, at least until there's a change of ownership... 

the bounty

While I was initially unsure how we would ever consume all the cheese in our fridge (especially since we already had some cheese & pate in there from Choux Choux!) we ended up having surprise visitors the next day due to friends from out of town who had a run in with a Seagull with incredible aim. Thanks to the dirty bird we had some good help from good friends... 


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