“FieldTrips” is either a day trip or a few days where I visit food areas of interest which may include farm visits, producers, wineries, restaurants and/or other places that people can visit. This is about offering Vancouver Foodster readers a chance to get out of town and take a “Field Trip” for the day or a few days to explore, learn, taste and experience.
Field Trip to Courtenay
Leaving Vancouver, driving Highway 1 to take BC Ferries over to the island from Horseshoe Bay, sailing on the Queen of Oak Bay (100 minutes) to the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal in Nanaimo. There is a lot to do once on board the ferry.
From Nanaimo, drove North to Courtenay which was about a 75 minute drive.
Arrived to the beautiful King Fisher Resort & Spa in Courtenay which was home for the next few days, situated overlooking the Straight of Georgia, this beachside resort features 64 luxury Beachfront Suites or Ocean View Rooms. The resort features the Pacific Mist Spa, a nice fitness room, a yoga studio, an outdoor heated swimming pool and hot tub, a couple of restaurants, and more.
I stayed in a beachfront suite that featured a king bed, a living room with fireplace, a kitchenette, dining room table, bathroom with turbo jet bathtub, heated floors in the bathroom and a beachfront view.
The next morning visited the fitness centre for an early workout, the fitness studio has a good selection of machines and such and is open daily. This was followed by a walk outside, as it happened the weekend that I visited the area, they just received their first snowfall of the season and it came earlier than usual.
The next day, drove into downtown Courtenay, less than a 10 minute drive, to visit Hot Chocolates, a local café that featured house-made chocolates on one side and a cake and bread bakery on the other. There was a large selection of baked goods on offer, here I enjoyed a Spinach + Feta Croissant.
Every Saturday morning from 10am – 1pm the Comox Valley Farmers Market is held at the nearby Native Sons Hall. It is all about local at this farmers market, I was excited to see my favourite brand of tuna for sale, Estevan Tuna, canned nearby on Vancouver Island. Some of the other vendors included Mccintoks Water Buffalo yogurt, which I have had a chance to taste. Honey brother bakery specialized in breads and wholewheat muffins, plant-based butcher, and a produce stand offering Kuri Squash which looked like a version of a pumpkin.
Back at the hotel, we visited the spa to experience the Pacific Mist Hydropath, this was an incredible experience. Upon entrance you are seated in a waiting lounge to enjoy a cup of hot Lemongrass tea. Each of the stops from here are at various stations from warm showers with jets spraying you where ultimately water massages you to warm and cold pools of water; towards the end you get to enjoy a turbo jet minerals bath and then a sea salt rub, rinse and relaxation to end the session in the lounge with more herbal tea. Throughout the hour long experience you are served lemon water to keep hydrated. I felt so relaxed after this spa experience, this is one of the highlights of staying at King Fisher Resort and Spa.
In the afternoon, we visited Wayward Distillation House for a tour and tasting with Dave (co-owner) and learned a fair bit about their distillery process and their Unruly Gin, vodka, the depth charge and the Kuprinik. Wayward Distillation House toured with Dave (co-owner) and tasted some of their various spirits.
After a rest at the hotel, it was time for dinner at Ocean 7 Restaurant, a fine dining experience at our resort. With white tablecloths, an elegant dining room, we were in the moment for our dinner. Prior to eating I had interviewed Executive Chef Nyle Petherbridge who had launched his new fall/winter menu the weekend that I was visiting.
To start dinner, I had the Havana Caffeinated Cocktail made with Wayward distillation Depth Charge (espresso and cacao bean liqueur), coffee orange rum, bourbon, white chocolate.
For dinner, Lawrence and I shared the delicious Foraged & Domestic Mushroom Risotto with arborio rice, locally foraged mushrooms, mixed farm mushrooms, grana Padano; along with the Seared Sea Scallops with a butternut squash risotto, Green coconut curry, thai chili puree, vegetable slaw, passion fruit gastrique.
Our mains included two standouts, the Wild Pacific Salmon with preserved lemon, crab risotto, sea asparagus, pickled vegetable salad, citrus emulsion ; and the Pan Roasted Rack of Lamb with Marquez crepinette, balsamic fig puree, chickpea fritter, sautéed greens, ratatouille, salsa verde, red wine jus. We enjoyed a glass of the Kanazawa 2013 Merlot to pair with our dishes.
Ended off our meal with the Date Cake with espresso pot de creme which was heavenly and the Sea Escape chocolate mousse, salted caramel ice cream.
On Sunday after a workout at the fitness centre, we walked the snow-covered beach before sitting down inside the comfortable Aqua Bistro for a casual lunch.
The French Onion Soup was delicious with caramelized onions in a beef broth, red wine, five cheese blend, garlic crostini, delicious and perfect for the cold day. Lawrence and I then shared the healthy Pacific Mist Rice Bowl with salmon, sticky rice, Ahi tuna, cucumber, marinated kale, carrots, beets, hemp hearts, house pickled vegetables, tahini dressing.
The next two dishes were outstanding, comfort oriented for a cool fall day, the Steak Sandwich grilled flat iron steak, garlic confit, cultivated mushrooms, melted sweet onions, arugula, oven dried tomatoes, garlic toast and the Duck Confit Macaroni & Cheese house cured duck leg Confit, Mozzarella, manchego, gruyere, cheddar, herbed butter crumb crust.
It was a nice weekend visiting the Courtenay area before heading back to Vancouver.
Stay tuned for my next Field Trip outside of Vancouver.
By: Richard Wolak
Disclosure: The King Fisher Resort and Spa provided us with complimentary accommodation, spa experience and meals. BC Ferries provided me with the ferry transportation.