Tofino, located on the far reaches of the west coast, surrounded by ocean and rain forest landscape. A place where dilly dallying means something and where times seems to slow down. Relax and observe, would be a mantra, and fresh eats including wonderful produce, sea food, and great cafes to sit and enjoy a good cup of Joe and some sweets, prepared by chefs and bakers with deep respect for organics and their location.
Life has been ever so busy working a full time job and doing a food blog. Sometimes a getaway is necessary to calm the waters of stressful shores. I think Nicoletta and I have found the perfect place to put our feet up and enjoy a well deserved vacation.
Having been to Victoria, Vancouver, and wine country in the Okanagan Valley, including Kelowna, Penticton, Nelson, and a nice stay in Osoyoos. We find the west definitely beautiful and we have enjoyed our travels there immensely. After some thought on where to go, and a few air miles to help us get there, we decide on somewhere we have never been to, and one that will add to our roster of tours to the coast.
Tofino the Journey begins!
This time we are going to the end of ends of the west coast, Tofino and Uclulet. We have heard the area is beautiful with lots of beach and ocean, which is what I love the most. I remember being a child, loving our family trips to lake beaches as we were far far, from ocean. I would be in the water most of the day and come out only when startled by my mother screaming for me to come and eat.
July 15 2016
Early morning 3:25 am I am up doing some house chores. and blog work. I think the excitement of going on a holiday has me anxious to go, and sleep is filed far far away from my mind, as imagination has me creating pictures of what Tofino may be. As not wanting to disturb Nicoletta, I decide up and at ems is the way to go. I had a morning meeting at work, then rushing home to Nicoletta for us to get ready for our flight leaving YEG international airport and arriving in Comox later in the day. It is always a stressful morning the day of leaving. So much to think about, what to bring, what has to be done in the house. Is there enough cat food etc. Sometimes I wish I could just leave no attachments, no responsibilities, wouldn’t that be nice.
I don’t know about you, but going through an airport is always filled with anxiousness. Well not all of the airport just up until you get through security and to your gate. There is always the thoughts; are they going to pat search me, did I take all my metal articles off, do I have my passport, boarding pass, am I going to make the flight if there is a huge line up at the airline check in. I know you are probably thinking “holy Sh___t”. I am a work in progress but I don’t believe I am the only one.
Well we are finally on the plane, and a deep sigh as we are on our way, and my only thoughts are can’t wait to hit the beach.
I love planes, I love the lift off and landing. As a child when we were at the airport, I would love to go out on a balcony they had, yes a balcony where you could sit or stand out on the tarmac and watch the planes come in or take off. I was in awe at the size of these man made birds and the sheer power it took for these planes to take flight. Absolute enjoyment for a child like me. I also liked watching the hustle and bustle of people coming going. The excitement of traveling, one that I still enjoy. Combine this with Nicoletta’s passion for travel and we have a match made in heaven.
We have landed Comox, BC, Canada. The sun is shining and it is warm so we are thinking great start to our vacation. We spot the National car rental place and proceed to the counter. After introductions and reservation numbers we proceed to get the car that will take us to Tofino about a 3 hour scenic drive along the coast and all the planned stops for pictures. Then the bomb drops and it seemed like dark clouds are closing in around me as my heart drops. The girl at the counter says, “your drivers license is expired”. Sweat begins to pour down my forehead and I looked at Nicoletta who has this look on her face like I can’t believe this. We think well no problem Nicoletta has her International license. We could use that, and a sigh escapes my lips, thinking okay that was a nice catch to the bomb. Then the second battalion comes in full force and she says I need a credit card that matches the drivers license. Well as luck would have it at this point Nicoletta left her credit card at home, that is her home in Rome!. Now I am in the fox hole taking cover to many bombs and not enough back up. We plead and plead for a resolution, like please take my credit card and Nicoletta’s license and we can be on our merry way. No way policy is policy "she says" and unfortunately we are stuck.
There are days which are terrible, but this is catastrophic. We are in a place we are not familiar with, and don’t even know if there are taxi’s or a bus service. I am holding Nicoletta at this time and we are looking at each other, Me feeling really terrible I didn’t even realize that my license was expired. Just a month prior I had renewed my plates at motor vehicles and they took my driver’s license to verify it was valid and to see if there were no violations. It cleared and my plates were renewed. Strange maybe the universe was trying to tell me something like you’re a terrible driver and we would much rather you and Nicoletta arrive safely and return safely. I don’t know, but at this point I am looking for solutions.
The assistant manager of the car rental place comes to Nicoletta and I, and tells us that if we go to the government service center I could get a temporary license. From there, we could go to the car rental office downtown Courtney which is about 30 minutes away and pick up the car we so needed. He also directed us to where we could call a taxi and they could get us to the service center and car rental place in time before they close.
Another sigh escapes my lips, and another thought of wow that was close. Great taxi driver takes us to the government center. He tells us about the area and I flood him with questions as is my nature , curious. We tell him our story and what the plan is and he says” are you sure this place can give you a temporary license?” My heart drops for the third time, I feel like Jesus carrying the cross, but optimism carries me forth and I reply with a confident, “well, the manager at the car rental place said it was possible”. So it must be right, I am thinking.
We enter the doors of this office, time stands still and I approach the reception counter hesitantly as if my soul already knows the answer and I ask the QUESTION! “I need to get a temporary license, but I have an Alberta license”. The lady smiles and I am thinking this is good, then she says we can’t do that we can only issue a temporary license to a resident of British Columbia. At this point I am numb, too many strikes and not enough retaliation as far as positives to negatives. I feel like falling to the floor but I can’t I have to be strong and let Nicoletta feel that I will rectify this mistake I have made.
I ask the lady if there is a bus that could take us to Tofino, and she replied that there is a greyhound station just a few blocks away and they have a bus going to Tofino. So bags in tow, off we go on yet another excursion to resolve our dilemma. At this point I am feeling that Nicoletta is not as assured about being with me and I am falling into a bit of a downward spiral, but my inner voice says keep going and don’t fall apart. We trek our luggage and things to the grey hound station, we are somewhere in a grey hound station Courtney B.C. We enter and I ask the attendant there if there are any buses going to Tofino, and he replies, “you just missed it", and life lands a left hook to my jaw and I fall to the canvas, well not really but that is the visual I am getting at this point. I quickly ask the attendant if there are any other means of getting to Tofino today and he says yes there is a shuttle service. I search quickly the on the internet and find the number. I call and the person from the shuttle service, he says yes we do have a driver going to Tofino around 6:00 -6:30pm. I ask how much , and he replies with a dollar amount that, well let’s say it wasn’t cheap. In my head I am calculating numbers. Would it be better if we got a hotel room and stayed the night, then take the greyhound in the morning, But looking over at Nicoletta, the only option is to get to Tofino and get this vacation under way. My face is soaked with sweat, I feel as though I have lost 20 lbs of water at this point.
We decide to go to a café close to the Government center and just sit and relax a bit. I call the shuttle service back and he tells me the driver would not be able to take us till 11:00 pm. I am sweating bullets. 15th round I am back down on the canvas. I feel just like rocky Balboa looking at Adrian. I look up at Nicoletta and want to yell out just like Rocky yelling for Adrian, and I slowly get myself back up and I see the eye of the Tiger. I ask the driver to see if there is anything he could do to find us an earlier time , and we end the conversation with him saying "I will try". I am thinking okay how do we make the best of this situation with so many negatives in the mix and very little positive to build on. Then an idea hits. I tell Nicoletta, let’s find a nice restaurant, we have some time to kill and would be nice to start tasting some of the local fair, and maybe a nice stiff drink to drown the sorrows of the day. We search and find a place well recommended. We make the reservation and sit and enjoy a coffee. I am putting prayers out there for the universe to help us turn this vacation around, chanting a few mantras that I had learned in my mid life search for meaning. I glance at Nicoletta and my heart swells with tears as I don’t like to see her this unhappy. She means the world to me and has brought so many beautiful things in my life, and I am so grateful.
The phone rings and I am taken out of my meditation. It is the shuttle company. He has a driver and he will be here to pick us up in about 15 minutes. I thank the guy tremendously, and tell Nicoletta the news. I am thinking wow this prayer thing works sometimes. Reservation cancelled, and driver is here with a co pilot, his wife. All paid up and finally we are off to Tofino.
A nice scenic drive, relaxing, a nice break from the mass amount of stress endured that day. As usual I strike up conversations with our driver and co- pilot asking many questions and also doing some promo work for our blog. We see many things along the way. Our driver gives us a guided tour and tells us of this enchanted forest where trees are huge and majestic. As we drive through this area I am calmed to a point where my heart is not existent. I see these magnificent creations of nature. Trees with stumps as big as a house, a feeling of protection enters me and a stillness I can’t describe. Cathedral Grove was the name of this place. I had studied some native traditions and learned that trees are our grandparents in a symbolic way. I love that period of my life, searching for answers and faith. A child starving for something, and a passion to search every crevice to find it. Our drivers were magnificent. They even gave us a taste of the ocean, stopping at Long beach one located close to Tofino, so we could just walk a bit to see the magnificent waves and sandy beaches. I love water and for a second time of our trip I feel that calming and stillness and I hold Nicoletta, we marvel at the landscape and sounds of nature. Things are looking up! Tofino is in the distance and I am excited to see our room and sit on the balcony and watch the ocean.
Duffin Cove Resort - 8:15 pm, July 15 2016.
We are finally here, the view from our room spectacular, a nice balcony right over the ocean and a nice wood walkaway to get to our room. Just a quick snag to take care of. The room was not cleaned properly. A quick call to the office and they come to clean while we walk, get our bearings, and find a place to eat. A bit hungry after this series of most unfortunate events. I have learned over time that when things like this happen they tend to snowball until momentum is stopped.
Nicoletta and I are looking forward to a nice meal and a good night’s sleep. We decide on sushi thinking it should be fresh we are right on the ocean. A scan of our map shows a place close to the harbor just off main street. A place called Sushi Bar, 350 Main Street, Tofino. Entering the restaurant you right away feel the almost whimsical antique ambiance of the palce. There are endless antiques everywhere. Huge model planes hanging from the ceiling, and a real small town feel to the place. We order some maki and sashimi , and to start , we nibbled on some steamed edamame with sea salt. I have to mention some well warm sake,so needed after a day like today, as we sit and eat, drink and enjoy the sunset watching the harbor and boats coming in. It was not a spectacular sushi meal but one that was enough to suffice our appetite. The scenery is lovely and that holds us more than the quality of the food. Tomorrow, learn the bus system and how to get to the beach! Tonight sit and watch the sunset then off to bed, with the sounds of oceans heartbeat lingering in the back ground. Lights out……………….
Tofino and the beach scenes - Day 2, Saturday July 16
We are up early as usual. The is a mist in the air, sky are dreary, but there is a calm. We sit on the balcony a bit and watch as the mist lifts very very slowly. Our plan today the beaches of Tofino, but first breakfast and a prayer for Sun.
Looking over our map we see there are quite a few places for breakfast. But this morning we are going to the Tofino Coffee Roasting Company, great reviews have us excited to try. A nice 10 minute walk in barren grounds. I guess people are not as early risers in Tofino as we are. It is true though what they say, very laid back here. My navigational skills get us to this very cute small place, located 112-605 Gibson Street. The smell of the coffee like music to our ears and a quick scan of the sweets and we are good to go. Two Americanos and a cinnamon blueberry muffin for Nicoletta, and a chocolate croissant for me. The Americano smoky, strong with that bit of caramelized froth on top, wonderful taste and the aroma beautiful (we actually brought home a package of their roasted coffee beans). The croissant flaky with chocolate oozing out. The combination of the buttery pastry and the dark dark chocolate is amazing. The muffin had a nice crystallized crispy top, and inside moist and bursting with juicy blueberries and hints of spice from the cinnamon. After devouring our goods I was gawking at these cookies and my will of thinking moderation is abolished and I succumb to the urge of trying the Sea salt dark chocolate chunk cookie. I said to Nicoletta that we could save it for later, ya right, we dug right in and it was heaven in a handful. The chocolate dark crimson, creamy delicious, and those quick hits of sea salt with a chewy to the point that you could bend the cookie in half and it does not break off. Nicoletta who was somewhat opposed to the cookie idea had a kung fu grip on it and the chocolate on her lips said everything, lol.
A much long walk needed to help diminish the full bellies. We strolled the streets of Tofino, doing some window shopping and menu scanning. Went to some of the harbors watching people getting dressed for whale, bear and general wild life excursions. When coming up a hill there was a group going down to their boat and I commented to them they looked like the shuttle crew going to the space ship for take off and going where no man had gone before. We all laughed and I felt good as the laughter filled me also. Who needs anti depressants when joy works so well.
Our Plan: We went to the bus station to get our bearings for the day and to see if we could see some sights that we had planned to see. Joy comes once again and there is transit to many of the beaches and Places to visit. A little walk in downtown Tofino reveals a farmers market in the park. I felt like I was back in the 60’s Woodstock. Not a bad thing kind of neat stepping back in time. Strolling around we visit vendors and stands. Lots of artists from photographers, crafters, to painters, and a lot of produce and foods. Nicoletta and I stop off at a vendor who makes wind chimes with shells and using very beautiful stones. I thought of it as very Asian influenced and one will make its home in Rome. We found an organic fruit and veggie stand where we met a woman, Leah, who owns a bake shop specializing in beautiful ornate cakes. She told us that there would be a edible garden tour on Sunday.
We are in and part of Sunday is booked. Back to the room for a quick rest on the balcony marveling at natures creations and imagining stories that fisherman would be telling on their way to today’s catch. We have decided that we are taking the bus to a stop where a food truck called Tacofino is. Located at 1184 Pacific rim highway.
A cute little rest stop and another place we will come after some tacos. Tacofino was lined up, the aroma of chilies and spices filled the air and people’s eyes fixated on the abundance of menu boards, visible from any angle, and an idea I thought was well planned out for a reason. I think success was prominent and lineups expected. After reading the menu Nicoletta and I decide on a Tuna ta taco and a Black bean Gringa. To drink, Watermelon basil freshie. We sit and wait for my name to be called. The tacos look absolutely delicious, the sear on the Albacor tuna, perfect, combined with the seaweed slaw and wasabi and homemade corn tortilla was so good. The order came with two hand size tacos but if there is anything I could share with you is get more. The gringa was a corn tortilla filled with cheese and refried beans, and a bit of salsa. The crunch on this gringa spectacular, the cheese mixed with the salsa and re fried beans a beautiful pairing to that crunch on the tortilla, and yes gone in just a few minutes, get more of that too. The watermelon freshie was just what the doctor ordered cleansing our palate with the freshness and quench of the watermelon and basil. Slurp after slurp feeling soulful and looking as the lineup was growing probably 50 strong. Amazing lunch and things are looking up for Nicoletta and I.
For dessert we go over to an ice cream place we had seen before going to Tacofino. This place came highly recommended, so we had to see if the rumors were right. The place is called Chocolate Tofino, 1180 Pacific Rim Highway, an ice cream and chocolate place. We ordered a white chocolate raspberry single scoop on a regular cone, gotta watch those calories heading to the beach next. The ice cream was amazing and delicious. Creamy and rich with that smooth vanilla caramel flavor of the white chocolate, and the sweetness of the raspberries all swirled in that amazing churned cream. Nicoletta and my favorite part, the cone. I love the simple cones, old fashioned we may be but that simple not too sweet cone with its crunch is perfect to the delectable ice cream. Another hit and we are at a hat trick.
Bellies are full and a much needed walk to Chesterman beach is in the works. The weather is not that bad, some sunny breaks, but people from these parts tell us cloudy and rainy is the norm for this region. It reminds me of the tropical rain forest. It was a nice walk to the beach. A nicely paved walkway leads you to the crossroad to the entrance of the beach and the part I love the most is that smell of ocean air wafting in our nostrils and my body beginning to relax as I hear the waves. The beach was sandy with markings of the tide. I always thought that was amazing that tides come in at night covering all the beach sculpting it with its currents then reside back. The beach was long and Nicoletta and I enjoy the sites of people surfing, not huge waves but enough of ones to get you going. The houses along the beach were amazing and the ones on these little islands were mysterious yet beautiful. I always imagine who lives there, maybe an artist or writer, yes, this creative mind of mine. There had been a surfing competition earlier. I remember this morning on the bus a lot of those surfers getting on and strapping their boards to the back of the bus. It looked like a scene of a Norman Rockwell painting.
As the day progressed we decided to rest a bit on the beach and just lay in the sand. Relaxation has been difficult as of late so taking that time to just unwind and watch time go by was very important. Nicoletta even said how wonderful it felt to just be. I call it the art of nothingness, and hours pass. Feeling a bit hungry we decided to head back to town and see where we will dine tonight. A choice of either Kuma a Japanese comfort food place, Wolf in the fog known for their seafood, or Sobo with its interesting cutting edge dishes using local ingredients. After much deliberation we decide on Wolf in the fog. Craving some good seafood from the area helped lock in the decision and we dine. Nicoletta on the Moroccan spiced Octopus, and I the cod cheeks and clams. The flavors of the Moroccan spiced Octopus, beautiful spicy hints of turmeric and cumin settled in a slight tomato broth. The octopus tender, the ocean coming through in every bite, and a good rustic bread to sop up all that tasty sauce. The cod cheeks, in a beautiful fish and clams broth, intense in the reduced ocean goodness, so flavorful. The cod melt in your mouth delicious, the smell intoxicating, the freshness prevalent.
The nice thing about Nicoletta and I is we share our food with each other and most times we order one plate and share. It is a beautiful way to express love and selflisness to each other and we enjoy it so much. The waiter suggested a lemon curd cheese cake and we agreed sharing one portion of course. It was absolutely delicious, the lemon nice and bright with hints of sugar to ease the tartness and the cream cheese, silky, smooth with a back drop of butter coming through in the crumb crust. An amazing dinner and things are starting to flow.
Sunday July 17 2016
Mornings in Tofino seem to start with this low lying fog and cloud. It always looks like it is going to rain. As the sun starts to rise, the fog dissipates and the clouds begin to separate, it is beautiful just to sit on the balcony floating over the ocean watching the orchestration of nature. Time seems to just sit still, and I have to say it is welcomed truly and much needed as the hustle and bustle of everyday life leaves my mind and body.
Tofino and the decision process:
I would have to say deciding on where to have breakfast is probably the most effort that is exercised among the walking and trying to take in all the jewels of this place. Breakfast was decided. A bakery close by, called Loaf bakery and Restaurant, 180-1st street, Tofino, specializing in baked goods such as scones, breakfast pizza and other delights. Our breakfast consisted of the breakfast pizza for me, a blueberry muffin to share, and Nicoletta had the ginger scone. The pizza was good a nice organic multi grain crust crispy, and substantial, lots of vegetables like onions, peppers, tomato, and eggs scrambled. I have never had scrambled eggs on a pizza but I have to tell you it was really good and filled my mind with all kinds of creative ideas. It also had nicely roasted potatoes on it . So to sum it up a skillet scramble on a pizza crust, ingenious. The scone elongated with a crispy crust and soft crumbly interior, with morsels of ginger tantalizing your tongue with its spice. Truly a very good scone. The muffin was ok, nothing outstanding.
Having had a wonderful breakfast and the fog and clouds disbursing a bit we are ready to see how "Tofinians" and "Ucluletians" grow their food. We hopped on the Tofino express taking us to Tofino Botanical Gardens where we met up with Leah and we were off to start the tour. We visited quite a few home gardens and everyone unique in their own right. The amazing thing was how they got vegetables and even flowers to grow in the rocky soil. What came to mind for me was the feel that we were in some tropical rain forest. The community gardens were amazing, people expressed their passion for organic gardening, teaching children about growing their own food which is such a beautiful thing to see. The highlight of the tour, some wonderful tea calming and soothing and fresh blueberries that were so juicy and sweet, locally grown of course. It was a great tour to be a part of and one Nicoletta and I are very grateful for.
We got a ride back into main street Uclulet and one of the girls in the tour told us to try the fish and chip place serving out of a food truck called Jiggers 1648-1682 Peninsula Road, C. We ordered the halibut and some fries which Nicoletta and I shared of course. I love that because we don’t consume large quantities of food, saving us from some unwanted pounds and feeling too heavy and lethargic. That would be a shame as the walking and sightseeing is something we love dearly. Some interesting antique shops, the dock and aquarium are among some of the sights and a surprise visit from a bald eagle soaring over our heads spreading its wings to at least a six foot wing span. On the way back to the greyhound bus station we spotted another food truck called Raven Lady, 1801- Bay Street, Uclulet, specializing in oysters. Our thoughts, ocean only a few meters away so they must be so fresh. It smelled so good that we could not resist. So after pondering the menu decided on the Panko fried oyster tossed in sour cream and onion flavored with shallots, chives and garlic aioli. All I can say is WOW. I always laugh when I give my name for an order and someone sings a song or makes old western movie sound effects. I guess it comes with the territory with a name like Loreto, lol. Another great day with sights and sounds of Uclulet. A relaxing bus ride to our room, and back to the sounds of the ocean, lights out.
Monday July 18 2016
Today we are going to go on a whale watching excursion, but before we book that, breakfast, and many have said Rhino Coffee House a place where decadent doughnuts are created and enjoyed truly. I love the rustic nature of Tofino, the smell of wood deco, the people. It is like stepping back in time. As you walk into Rhino coffee house you smell the scent of coffee, always a blessing in the morning. Then you see the display case of doughnuts with so many flavors. I don’t usually have a problem deciding, because I see it like this: I can always come back and try different things or if I wanted to really I could have two doughnuts which would not be a crime. So I decided on the maple bacon doughnut and Nicoletta had a simple sugar doughnut. They were delicious and the greatest part, we tasted each other's. Bacon has evolved tremendously. Think if we were in the 1920’s and people would talk about bacon done in a dessert. Chocolate covered bacon, or maple baked bacon on top of a doughnut. They probably would have burned us at the stake thinking we were some kind of witch or instrument of evil. Well it is the future and things have definitely changed as far as food and cuisine. The maple bacon doughnut was amazing. The saltiness of the bacon soothed by that caramelized, sugary maple syrup and the airy dough of the doughnut, not at all greasy or tasting like deep fried oil. It vanished in minutes. I started wanting to savor it but then I don’t know what came over me. Thank God for our sharing moments trading doughnuts. Nicoletta’s was wonderful light and airy and crispy. The coffee an organic blend, with a bit of smokiness. So smooth a perfect thing to accompany the doughnut and the combinations, addictive. I left a little coffee to finish breakfast lazily and calmly. I don’t know about you but just sitting and relaxing sipping a cup of coffee just relaxes me and also caffeine does the complete opposite to me, it relaxes me and even at night an espresso will put me to sleep, strange!
We booked for a whale watching tour in the afternoon. Really excited to see some whales. I have always been fascinated with Orcas. I even had a dream once about a large Orca that swallowed me and took me to this deep sea cavern, where a sage was sitting. It was such a serene experience and feeling the water all around me but not being afraid that I could not breath. The dream ended with a great grey whale bringing me to the surface and me waking up feeling quite refreshed.
Our captain was great he was on the radio with other whale watching companies and I love when people work together. There were many sightings and we headed for an area where they said 3 or 4 Orca whales were. My heart was pounding and Nicoletta was so excited. The smile on her face and the gasps from her breath were beautiful. The captain shut off the engine and there was this stillness. The water trickling on the side of the boat then the captain yells “There they are" and in the distance you see this huge fin come out of the water black and white. A spray of water shouts up as the Orca clears the spout. I am in awe! The male huge with three other Orcas, maybe females or even young ones. The size of the male immense with just a curl to the top fin. We watched this pack for a while, they would emerge about every 20 minutes. Even a sun fish came swimming by the boat about 6 to 7 feet long and very wide. Not the prettiest thing I have seen, but very grateful just the same. It swam just like an eel and the captain said that the Orca’s love eating them. The captain hoped that we would see the Orca’s eat. He said that they are quite playful and throw their prey all over the place, jumping out of the water and especially because there were young ones, they teach them to hunt. We didn’t see this at all maybe they had eaten already. I don’t know if I would want to watch them eat. Especially a seal, they are so cute. We also saw a grey whale probably twice the size of the large male orca and even a hump back whale. Wow talk about a great day of whale watching. The captain also commented that he had never had a day like that seeing so many whales. He also said that Orcas are transitory and they come and go, very seldom do they stay for long periods. I am truly grateful that Nicoletta and I had this opportunity. It was definitely an opportunity of a life time, and a big thanks to the captain ,a Tofinian with a passion for the ocean, and I will never forget the amount of oh my god, and did you see that, coming from Nicoletta, truly inspiring, and we have a small video of it that I am sure we will go back to as we remember our trip to Tofino. As we headed back to shore the captain stopped at this island and we saw two baby bald eagles and the mother on the shore. The babies were just learning to fly, flapping their wings. Talk about a stupendous day, I am so glad we decided to do this, so so happy. It may have been a rocky start but Tofino has a way to smooth those bumps out.
It’s hard to top that experience with anything else. Supper we decided to go to Sobo, 311 Neil St, Tofino. A restaurant dedicated to using fresh unique ingredients from the area. We wanted something simple and decided on their mushroom pizza. Seeing it come out sealed our decision. Thin crust, the smell of the mushrooms heavenly. It was delicious the crust crispy and softer as you went to the middle. The mushrooms handpicked from the area beautifully roasted in that oh so hot pizza oven with olive oil and some herbs, onions and garlic. For dessert a suggested key lime pie. The crust buttery and crumbly, a great back drop to the zest of the lime cream and just to make it more spectacular some fresh cream whipped with icing sugar, vanilla and some lime zest to just add that color to this dish leading you in at every bite. We looked through a cook book that they were selling, such amazing recipes, and as you probably guessed, it has joined the collection in our kitchen and was signed by Chef Lisa Ahier. I love Chef Lisa's use of local family grown and operated organic produce farms, ocean ingredients such as algae, and sea urchin, and using seasonal ingredients ensuring freshness and elevated tastes. Things we aspire to believe in. I hope we can do these recipes justice and will definitely share them with you in the near future.
This was truly a great end to a fabulously inspiring day, for Nicoletta and I, and closing our eyes, calming, floating in the sounds of the ocean moving in, moving out.......
Tuesday July 19 2016
This is our last day in Tofino, and a few more sights to see. On our list today The Botanical gardens, an art gallery and just some shopping in downtown Tofino. Tuff Beans is a place we had walked by so many times. It was on the list of great places for breakfast. Upon walking in you get a sense of a diner feel, banquets and tables a counter where to order, a board with the specials of the day. I decide on an omelet plain with cheese, some multi-grain toast and some hash browns. Nicoletta, a maple walnut muffin and of course their coffee. I love trying the different coffees, all roasted in individual ways, some more smoky, some really smooth, others quite organic with backdrops of some lavender, chamomile, or other herbs. The omelet was good, moist and fluffy with some cheddar melted inside. The toast nice grainy and I love that bit of salted butter just to moisten the toast experience. If I do have toast I usually take it buttered and eat it like that. I remember being a kid and loving toast with butter. The hash browns were good, simple with just a bit of crispiness to them and that billowy softness inside, some sea salt and black pepper, and chives. On the table there were three different hot sauces. I tried all of them and I decided on the green chili one. A somewhat of a chimi churri sauce. It was really good with the eggs and hash browns. A little heat to get the circulation going. Nicoletta's muffin, rich in maple flavor and distinct walnut nutty. A nice crunchy crust leading you to a most moist inside, a great pairing with the coffee.
We stopped off at a gallery located on Tofino main street featuring a local artist Roy Henry Vickers. Nicoletta and I really enjoyed his exhibit there and especially his books telling great stories illustrated by his art. I have a fondness for this type of art. Many years ago I studied Shamanism and was introduced to the native culture and many talented artist like Roy and also Susan Seddon Boulet, creating wondrous spirit animals, encompassed by nature. Yes, if you are curious, we bought a print and it is coming home with us, one that I and Nicoletta connected with strongly.
Next stop in Tofino, the Botanical gardens. I love places like this especially one that is very rain forest like and is edged by the ocean. Nicoletta and I trecked through the paths enjoying many art installations both historic and modernistic. My favorite part was when we found ourselves in this quiet little ocean cove. So quiet and tranquil, a place truly of peace and harmony. The sound or the water reminiscent of a trickle as water dripped from the tap of a bathtub one of the things I loved as a child endless time lost in that metal encased pool of water. The slow moving ripples in the water meditative and mesmerizing. Another great find, the gardens offering many lovely organic products such as kale, tomatoes, artichokes, strawberries, blueberries, onions, garlic, etc. I have noticed in this neck of the world organic production is a very important thing, which I think is great to. Nothing like good clean fun, pardon the pun!
Heading back to the room after a few hours spent at the botanical gardens, we stopped for a quick snack at the local pizzeria, Tony's Pizza located 4-131-1st street Tofino. A slice of their vegetarian a nice crispy wholewheat crust and a generous amount of toppings and three cheese which hit the spot, and could keep us till dinner, was it true Italian pizza, no, I would call it pizza meets Woodstock organic, and it was a good snack that would keep us till dinner. We had the restaurant picked out: Kuma, a fusion Japanese meets comfort food restaurant that had rave reviews. The restaurant is well put together offering comfort and warmth and a personal intimate and interactive affair with the chefs. Seated at the high bar, we were able to watch the artists at work, whipping up plate after plate with a confidence and dexterity. For us we chose the Goma Eggplant tempura battered, with spinach and sesame dressing. This is a dish so packed with texture and poise: the tempura batter light, crispy, the eggplant moist, velvety soft and succulent with that wilted spinach edge and sesame dressing adding hints of nuttiness and acidity to the mix. As usual Nicoletta and I shared and if there is anything I can say about Kuma, there are many dishes that are listed as sharing plates, I would say Japanese Tapas is a great way to describe it. The main, a spicy salmon bowl. This was amazing, that slight heat infused in the salmon and the sweetness in the teriyaki a sweet and spicy affair, a nice amount of dikon, pickled ginger, add that bite, freshness and texture to this dish, and the richness of the avocado creates a lavish classiness and decadence. Pair that with the rice, nutty, al dente, that I have to say was perfectly cooked, provided a nice palate for the flavors to come through. Kudos to the people of Kuma. I highly recommend you try this place, you are going to love the atmosphere and food.
July 20 2016
I am hoping that getting back home will be easier than getting to Tofino. We do a few last minute bookings getting our bus schedule details to get us to the airport. By Greyhound we are getting back to Courtney, from there a taxi to Comox and the airport. The bus takes us through a nice tour of towns; one we wanted to see but could not stop was the Coombs Old Country market. A well known market known for goats to be on the grassy roof of this market. Stopping here would have probably put us in a predicament similar to our beginning scene at the airport. Not wanting to revive that, we decide not to stop. You see buses come not too often and it would have been about a 40 km walk from Coombs to the next bus station, so on to Parksville. We have a few extra hours and decide to see a bit of Parksville when we get there. We ask a few people what is something worth seeing and by unanimous vote the beach front. A good 20 minute walk from the Parksville Greyhound bus station and we find ourselves in the midst of the beach and a carnival that is going on. Rides and food, some sand sculptures, but something gets our attention. Food trucks, being foodies and all, we check it out and an aroma in particular has our undivided attention. The food truck Farm to Fire. Pizza! Wood fired, thin, a nice spreading of San Marzano tomato sauce, and nice pockets of melted fresh hand made mozzarella. A classic Margherita to take to a beach bench to enjoy, and that we did do, just that, every bite of it, which lasted a few short minutes. These are moments worth keeping, simple things like pizza at the beach with the one you love, another Norman Rockwell moment.
Back to the bus station and airport it’s time to fly home.
If you have not visited this part of Canada, I highly recommend it, but check your driver's license to make sure it has not expired, not a good thing when a car rental is needed, lol.
To sum up Tofino and area, I would have to say laid back people with lots of smiles in an area that is plentiful in land and ocean beauty, arts and crafts, organic produce, fresh seafood, and restaurants dedicated to the pride and quality of the local fair. I would call it Woodstock meets the Food Network documentary. If time and schedules are your thing, you may need to brace yourself and begin to live in the moment as this place will stop time.
Song of the day: "Drawn to the Rhythm" Sarah McLachlan.
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When I am not cooking, I enjoy playing musical instruments, singing, writing. I have learned over the years to live in gratitude and enjoy the moment.