As you tour the farms, wineries and distilleries, buy locally. The honor system is in place at roadside stands. Artisans sell their original pieces in the small town of Sooke and The Sooke Country Market is the spot for local produce and crafts.
In downtown Victoria indulge at Rogers’ Chocolates or buy a homemade sausage at Choux Choux Charcuterie to eat as you walk along. Lower Johnson Street features more than 40 locally owned businesses – including the latest in fashion, cosmetics and restaurants. Chinatown is a mix of traditional Asian markets and contemporary stores. Wander down Fan Tan Alley, Canada’s narrowest street and check out the shops that line the tiny way. You’ll also find a downtown public market throughout the year .
It’s hard to go wrong when eating on Vancouver Island. At the Sooke Harbour House Restaurant enjoy fabulous dinners in the candlelit dining room and sumptuous breakfasts in the privacy of your room. The menu changes daily so whatever the fishermen catch, the farmers produce and the chef forages and picks from the kitchen gardens, you’ll find on your plate. The extensive wine list boasts nearly 700 BC selections. For dinner we you may start with the halibut and mable grey broth with seared scallop, stinging nettle and mascarpone ravioli and butternut squash and a chervil and nasturtium purée. And finish with the smoked Otter Point rabbit leg served with brandied rabbit liver mousse, spiced chickpea and potato roesti, pickled purple cabbage and roasted carrots with a yellow plum and meat stock reduction.
At the Point-no-Point Resort, about 30 minutes west of Sooke, relax with a leisurely lunch overlooking the Juan de Fuca Strait and the mountains. Spy on the birds and other wildlife (binoculars are on every table). The creamy homemade seafood chowder with scallops, whitefish, salmon, shrimp and clams was some of the best ever. And the steamed clams and mussels with roasted tomato, chorizo, chipotle and orange with a BC Merlot were perfect.
For a cozy, area favorite, try Markus’ Wharfside Restaurant. Chef Markus infuses the local ingredients (many from his own garden) with his Euroopean training to produce spectacular dishes. Seared scallops with double smoked bacon, orange reduction and marinated beets was an amazing starting as was the grilled lamb sirloin with peppered balsamic glaze and pan seared polenta for the main course. Don’t miss the decadent panna cotta with caramel sauce.
The Fairmont Empress has interesting places to eat and drink. For a cozy, area favorite, try the plush surroundings of the Tea Lobby to celebrate Victoria’s afternoon tradition. Sip specialty tea, nibble on savory and sweet treats and watch the Inner Harbour activity. Later that night, have a brandy at the hotel’s richly appointed Bengal Lounge.
One of Victoria’s hottest spots is Café Brio. Dinner is lively and delicious. Everything on the ever-changing menu is made from scratch and served in half and full orders. The patés and salumi are great openers before caramelized onion and gorgonzola ravioli and pan roasted halibut with sautéed spinach, potato gnocchi and red wine butter sauce. Pair each course with a favorite BC wine and you’re set for a memorable evening.
On the way to the airport the next morning, grab beautiful cappuccinos and warm baked goods from Habit.
Tourism Victoria; Capital District Regional Parks; Sooke Travel & Tourism; SaanichPeninsula; Farm Information; WineIslandsVintners Association
Patty Burness can be found on Twitter at @pattygb.