Wednesday, September 7, 2011

STAMP #1: Victoria, BC

An early morning start to the ferry for Vancouver Island and Victoria. A glorious summer day, and as I drove through the farmland south of the Fraser River, mist was rising from the fields. First on the ferry for a magnificent cruise across the Strait of Georgia and amongst the Gulf Islands to Schwartz Bay, 17 miles north of Victoria. Sea was flat calm and I could see the snows on Mount Baker in Washington State lit by the morning sun.
Had two visits planned: first at Victoria Spirits, a small family distillery, in the heart of the Saanich Peninsula. Wound down a leafy lane with the odd small vineyard and then to the barn-red home of Victoria gin, the best gin I've ever tasted. Peter Hunt, the distiller, gave me the tour and explained in detail how his gin is made. The German still looked as if it came from outer space and is wood-fired. Inside there was a veritable witch's brew heating up - smelled delicious. Juniper berries from eastern Europe and ten botanicals + one secret ingredient. Then for the tasting - I had to spit out every sip as I was driving - the  spirits were 46% (and up) alcohol. I tasted Wet Coast Hemp vodka, merlot eau de vie, Victoria Gin, Oaken Gin, and their orange bitters in tonic water. Everything is simply delish!!

Then on to Sea Cider Farms owned by Kristen Jordan. The Cider House, only five years old, has a magnificent view of an island and Mt. Baker. It is surrounded by 1500 apple trees of 60 heritage varieties, all heavy with fruit that will be picked starting next week. They make many different ciders; some like champagne, some dry, and some sweet. I tried the dry flight, which comes with cheeses and charcuterie, as well as a tiny baguette. Kristen added the Pommeau, a fortified cider, that is drunk like port. Vic Spirits distills the apple juice for it for Sea Cider to add to add to the cider. Distinctly different from any cider I had tasted before.

Checked into the Beaconsfield Inn. Built in 1906 for a wealthy citizen who became the mayor of Victoria. It has been exquisitely restored and I am in the Beaconsfield suite right at the top of the house. There is a secret staircase up to it and I have a four-poster bed. The south window looks over the treetops to the Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Sherry is served for the guests before dinner in the library and tomorrow I'll indulge in a three course breakfast. The inn is elegant and gracious and on a quiet street within ten minutes walk of the Inner harbour.

I walked to Pescatores oyster bar - fifteen different local species. I saw today's catch arrive in time for dinner. Very reasonable prices in the bar, and delicious desserts. Local wines mostly. The dinner rush is over by 7:30pm.

Victoria is still full of tourists even though it's past Labour Day - boomers mostly. Those jangling with gold bangles and necklaces are off the cruise ships; several Japanese males in dark suits and ties; a few students at U of Vic laden down with backpacks full of newly bought text books, and a handful of families with kids under five.

Tomorrow: I will be visiting some foodie outlets and staying in the Abbeymore Manor across the road from the Lieutenant Governor's residence, which I hope to visit. Dinner at Paprika, a highly acclaimed restaurant whose chef is the daughter of the owner of Victoria Spirits.

Images: (c) Julie H. Ferguson 2011

STAMP #2: Victoria, BC
STAMP #3: Victoria, BC

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