Last night I had the fun opportunity to attend Culinaire Victoria with a group of great friends. A chance to sample local restaurants, breweries, cuisine, and other delicious foodie delights? Um, yes please!
After attending Feast of Fields this past Summer I’m pretty sure I’ll want to sign up for most any food festival that appears in the Victoria area. :)
Since a group of us were attending (Tiffaney, Alex, Ingmarie, Jamie, Chris, Jessica and Justin) we decided to meet up for a cocktail at Clive’s Classic Lounge first. I opted for the Last Word (Tanqueray Gin, Maraschino, Green Chartreuse & fresh lime)…yummy.
After our warm-up beverage we braved the high and crazy Victoria winds and walked down the block to the Crystal Garden at the Victoria Conference Centre where Culinaire was being held. (I apologize now for the mediocre photos…I didn’t want to juggle James Dean all night so opted for my point & shoot camera.)
Our $30 dollar ticket included a souvenir wine glass (which I abandoned at the end of the night) and 10 tasting tickets. More tickets were available for $1 each in packages of 5, 10, or 20. One ticket = one tasting.
I decided early on that unless there was something spectacular I wasn’t going to buy extra tickets. Ten tastes should be more than enough since I wasn’t planning on drinking much. My planned worked. :) We were not provided with a programme for the evening, which is a bit irritating as a food blogger because I didn’t have enough hands to make notes so trying to remember the details of everything was difficult. I suppose most people aren’t documenting every last morsel though! ha.
My first taster and arguably one of my favourites of the night came from The Fairmont Empress. Braised Pork Shoulder with Black Bean Risotto and Savoy Cabbage.
Taste number two was care of Haro’s Restaurant at The Sidney Pier Hotel. On the left was Tuna Tar-Tar which was so-so, but the Chicken Rillette on the right was quite delicious.
A few booths down we encountered these Steam Buns with beef and kimchi offered by The Pacific Restaurant from Hotel Grand Pacific. I loved how the pillowy little bun wrapped easily around the filling, the meat was tender and the kimchi was very flavourful without being too hot or vinegary.
By this point our group had started to separate while some people took in almost every booth and some of us wandered more slowly to see all of the offerings. Originally I was going to wait until the end for dessert options but (predictably) I ended up getting a Pink Sugar cupcake as soon as I passed their booth. Lemon Drop…yum.
Apparently I missed the photo op but after the cupcake I know we happened upon Aura’s booth where they were serving those same incredible crusted tempura prawns we had at our Dine Around meal. This time on a skewer, screaming hot and crispy. Still so good!
As we made our way around the end of the first floor I decided I just had to go back to Nautical Nellie’s. Almost every person in our group had tried their Bacon Mushroom Cheese Slider and claimed it to be fabulous!
This did end up being my favourite bite of the night! I wish I had the proper description, but it was moist and delicious…I think the cheese, bacon and mushrooms were mixed right in with the meat. This alone has convinced me I need to add Nellie’s to my must-try restaurant list.
After I got my burger bite on, Tiffaney and I headed upstairs to see the offerings on the second level. This seemed a good time to get my first drink…and conveniently we were standing right near Saltspring Island Ales where they were serving their Heather Ale which I love.
Next door to them The Oyster was shucking fresh Quadra Island oysters on the spot. I’ve been meaning to go there since moving back to Victoria this Summer so I was quite happy to trade a ticket for a slurp. :)
We actually wandered quite a ways around the top level before finding another place we were excited to try. Pig BBQ Joint convinced me to try another slider as theirs was filled with chicken schnitzel! Super tasty…like a really good chicken burger with creamy mayo and a soft bun.
By now it was time for another drink so we sought out Shawn at the Clive’s Classic Lounge booth where we’d heard he was serving “Grown Up” Floats (Aperol with Campari ice cream & Sprite).
Um, can we say fun and delicious?! Yes we can!! I am pretty much in love with all of the interesting cocktail creations Victoria has embraced recently.
Feeling sufficiently full and quite satisfied we started meandering around to see what we might have passed by on our first round. After bumping into Jamie and Chris getting seconds of this Beetroot & Goat Cheese Terrine from Lure Restaurant I decided their review was good enough that I should try it. Creamy!
The hotel restaurants really brought it at this event. Often I find these hospitality establishments aren’t quite as tasty as I would hope, but last night I really was impressed.
To complete the night I decided to grab a cappuccino from Oughtred Coffee. I kicked myself later for the night time caffeine, but it was a really good cappuccino!! Tiff had extra tickets and bought my coffee for me. :)
As we all milled around at the end of the evening, I decided to spend the extra ticket Jamie gave me on one last sip. I had bypassed the Sea Cider booth earlier on but now I was craving a taste of crisp apple. I opted for the Pippins (crisp and aromatic dry sparkling cider)…a good end to a good night.
By the time we thought to take a photo of the girls, Jamie and Chris had just left…but Tiff, me, Ingmarie, and Jess managed to get in the shot. :)
Overall we had a ton of fun. A lot of really good bites and we’re hoping next year there will be even more. Cheers!
When’s the next foodie festival, Victoria?