Qualicum Bay to Victoria - Barb's Fish and Chips

Today's early morning walk led me past some beautiful views in the little village of Qualicum Bay including a tiny takeout that we would return to for breakfast.

Breakfast came of course, after my freezing shower under a tap at the campground and our packing up our gear in our sort of amateur campers inefficient manner. This is Tam's Takeout btw (I cut the name off!).
Seems to be a popular spot as probably a dozen people came and went during the time we enjoyed our breakfast sandwich and decent coffee.
Bacon, egg and cheese so nothing startling, just made to order and nothing like preshaped and cooked eggs. Just all put together on a portable flat top. Tasty!
Chilli is an odd breakfast choice, I know but it was also made by Tammy and quite good. Our whole breakfast including a couple of coffees and a piece of banana bread was only $11. Nice!
On our drive down to Victoria, we stopped at a few places just to enjoy the view.
Parksville Community Park has a beautiful public beach and a rather extensive display of what people do when they have time on their hands.
Cowichan Bay is another nice community worth exploring. It has an extensive houseboat population and an interesting small boat museum.
We got to Victoria in time for a late lunch and walked down to the Fisherman's Wharf for fish and chips (as you do when in Victoria). I had heard good things about Barb's so that's what we tried.
We had a cup of Seafood Chowder which was creamy and rich. I was not overwhelmed by the amount of seafood.
The two-piece Famous Fish and Chips Dinner had a generous amount of cod. It was nicely cooked and tasty. The batter was not as impressive being a bit on the soggy side. We ate the fish and left a little pile of batter behind. Fries were ok as was the slaw. 
The Clam Strips were quite a bit better than any we have had in recent memory. They were crispy and provided a good vehicle for cocktail sauce or tartar or whatever. I'm not sure why I always think that clam strips are a good idea though. The actual clam is never going to taste like much in this form. I think that we'll make this the last time I order them from anywhere. 
I liked the Oyster Burger while Mharie was less enamoured of it. There were two large oysters which you have to be prepared for. These were not the dainty little oysters we dream of and the taste was quite strong. The bun was quite good and the tomato and toppings rounded it out nicely. Messy in a good way!
Food            3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort       4 1/2 out of 5 (at a picnic table on the wharf!) 
Service        4 out of 5 (not super fast but fresh)
Value           3 out of 5 (tourist pricing)
We enjoyed a leisurely stroll and around Victoria in the afternoon, taking in the usual sites. We even had time for a little nap. Luxury! Not wanting more fried food we ended up and Green Cuisine about dinner time.
G.C. is located in Market Square and is a buffet-style vegetarian joint where you pay by weight. We like that because it means you can try a bunch of different things!
North African Chick Pea Stew was nice. A little spicy (not really) but rich with tasty stuff.
A little healthy kale, a quinoa patty, nutloaf, tempeh with lemongrass curry and tofu with chipotle lime. I loved this! Everything healthy and nothing had to die. And yes, pretty tasty. 
Our other plate had some tasty noodles, slaw, a falafel patty and a slice of vegan pizza. All was decent but I wouldn't bother with the pizza on another visit.
The dining room was just what you'd expect at Market Square. Loved the brick walls and comfortable booths. Friendly service and while none of the food really blew our minds, it was all tasty and comforting. It all came to about $20. Is that even possible?
Food                3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort           4 1/2 out of 5
Service             4 out of 5
Value                5 out of 5

Stay tuned for more Victoria food and adventures.

Green Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Port Hardy to Denman, Hornby and Qualicum Bay

I started my Monday with my usual early walk and did a little more exploring of Port Hardy. It is a charming little real town with naturally beautiful environs.

The sky looked a little dicey but we were heading south and the forecast was decent. We took a quick peek at Port McNeill also which is a similar type of small town. 

From there we headed down island as far as Qualicum Bay. We had found a campground that was first come first serve and our intention was to grab a spot and then go explore Denman and Hornby Islands. Here is what you should do if you want to do the same. Start early! I take full responsibility for poor planning as I have only been to these small islands in the offseason. Apparently, a lot of people like to visit in the summer and if you are going to pay the $76 ferry fare (both ways to both islands with 2 people and vehicle) then you don't want to rush like we did (rushed and then waited in ferry line ups).
My goal was for us to picnic at Tribune Bay Beach. It is for sure one of the most beautiful beaches in the province and actually puts me in mind of Hawaii minus waves and coral. These 2 little islands offer much more to see and if you can stay a couple of days that would be an even better plan but I kind of blew it on this trip.
Wee ferries shuttle everyone back and forth. The ship from the main island to Denman is drawn along a cable. The last ferry leaves Hornby at 6pm which means if you are in line, you will get off the island. The problem is that the line can be long. I was told on one summer evening, 110 cars were waiting and it took until 10 pm to get everyone ferried. That's what I mean by starting early!
Back to our campground which had some good things and some less impressive things to be said about it!
First of all, right on the Strait of Georgia so it was beautiful. It was not expensive for a no service tent site at $25 and wasn't booked up like every other campsite on V.I. Less impressive was the fact that the main building, the only place with showers, was closed from 7 to 11 (no, not 11 to 7) which meant I took my morning shower under a cold water tap in the middle of the campground. Secondly, a no service site did not even come with a picnic table!
We suck at camping and for your amusement, here is a partial list of things we forgot for our one-night tenting adventure; pillows, disposable plates etc., batteries for the air mattress pump, a table (to be honest, it never occurred to me) and enough blankets (it was cold). If you camp fully self-contained, this would be a great place. Somehow we survived and when we both had to get up and use the washroom at about 3 am, we had the most amazing view of the Milky Way possible. 
Surprisingly, this is a post with no food pictures! Before we left home, we grilled up some Filipino style pork skewers which we ate with rice or pita. We also grilled up some mushrooms and broccoli and made a sort of salad with them. That ended up being what we ate for our rushed picnic and our dinner. We did remember snacks!
I promise more food pictures tomorrow!

Aldergrove to Port Hardy - nax'id' Pub in the Kwa'lilas Hotel

Like everyone else, we are vacationing at home this year. I have never been north of Campbell River and this seemed like a good time to make a run to finally see that end of the island. We reserved a spot on the 7:46 Tsawassen to Nanaimo ferry on Sunday morning. We might not have needed a reservation but it's worth the $17 in terms of peace of mind.  

Little did I realize that we would be subsisting on gas station coffee for the next 48 hours (poor us). We love BC Ferries and were happy to wear our masks even before they became mandatory on Monday. We started up the coast and got as far as Courtenay before food became the priority in our lives.
Courtenay doesn't seem like a food Mecca (I'm sure there are decent places) but we did find the Beachwood Cafe where they make homemade Ukrainian food among other things. Mharie has never had a good Ukrainian feast so this seemed like a good idea.
So we ordered one Ukrainian Platter which included a cabbage roll, three perogies, Ukrainian sausage, borscht, sauteed red cabbage, fries and of course, sour cream. This was a delight! Homemade perogies and frozen perogies from the store may contain similar ingredients but the similarity stops there. My late brother-in-law was a master perogie maker and these were comparable. I'd forgotten how tasty Ukrainian sausage can be when sliced up and nicely seared. And we got our vegetables (more difficult when travelling) as the borscht was rich and flavourful as was the cabbage.
The cabbage roll was a work of art. Nothing too fancy, just rice and beef rolled up in cabbage and topped with tomato sauce. 
We also ordered a combo plate which was basically more of the delicious same.
A comfortable, family-style of place that we would recommend if you are in or passing through Courtenay, but don't be in a rush as the food was surprisingly slow in arriving at our table. The staff was very friendly but while they did seem to social distance us well, there was no mask-wearing by the staff or contact tracing information taken.
Food              4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort         3 out of 5 ( I think that pandemic handling measures count here)
Service           3 1/2 out of 5 ( slow food is not the fault of your server)
Value              4 1/2 out of 5  

After lunch, we took a quick look around Courtenay and Comox, including a little walk on the beach at Goose Spit Park.
Then we carried on, gasing up at Campbell River and then tackling the 250 KM stretch to Port Hardy.
Port Hardy is a picturesque little town with a fishing fleet and forestry being its main concerns. Everyone we met was friendly and helpful.
We stayed at the Glen Lyon Motel which had a couple of things going for it namely mid-range price (I think $170 including taxes) and every room faces the inlet. On the downside, it seems to have been built with extra squeaky and thin grade lumber, meaning that we knew every step our neighbours above us took. Fortunately, there was no nookie taking place up there so we were merely annoyed but not traumatized. Take my advice and spend the $50 or so extra to stay at the Kwa'lilas Hotel, a beautiful relatively new First Nations lodge.
We ended up there for dinner and enjoyed ourselves a great deal. They were conscientious as to social distancing and took our contact information. They have a pretty typical pub menu (the main restaurant remains closed for the moment) but we tried to lean our order to whatever indigenous type dishes were available. Unfortunately, their Salmon plate with a selection of cold and hot smoked salmon was not available so we started with their Salmon Chowder which came with Bannock.
This was a spectacular soup that should not be missed. With a generous amount of salmon and potatoes, it was very rich and enjoyable.
Next up were Bannock Tacos with Spiced Beef. These were not bad but bannock while interesting and tasty enough is something that can fill you up quickly. The beef and salsa were tasty enough. We ended up packing these to go as we ordered a bit too much as usual. 
We tried their Rice Bowl with Grilled Salmon which was also worth the price of admission. I may be mistaken but I took this to be sockeye (but didn't ask). I am not a big fish skin guy but this skin was crispy with nice grill marks and yet the fillet was moist and tender. They used basmati rice for the bowl which we both liked.
A little more regular pub foodish was the Calamari which we ordered just because we felt like it. Once again (like the last time we had squid) someone forgot to salt when it came out of the fryer. So we salted it ourselves! The accompanying tzatziki was refreshing.
This is a very nice pub with very friendly staff. You can watch the game or play a game of pool while enjoying your beverages and food!
Food                     4 out of 5
Comfort                4 out of 5
Service                  4 1/2 out of 5  
Value.                    3 1/2 out of 5

nax'id Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Beachwood Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Zugba Flame Grilled Chicken

Zugba Flame Grilled Chicken occupies a tiny corner of the Hen Long Grocery Store on 104th at 144th. They serve grilled chicken (obviously) done Filipino style along with other Filipino favourites and a few fusion versions of dishes that are quite interesting.

We placed an order and then went and picked up a few groceries while waiting for our order to be prepared and assembled. Hen Long was the first grocery store that I know of to mandate mask-wearing and to my knowledge, they have not had to endure a lot of bitching like East-West Grocery in Vancouver. We applaud their position and the cooperation of their clientele!
Take out is the obvious option here although there are two tiny tables shared between a few food stands. We tried their Bulalo which is a brisket soup with emphasis on bone marrow. This was a very good version with a rich broth and a generous amount of tender brisket. This is such a popular soup in the Philipines that there are restaurants that focus on it just like Ramen joints elsewhere. Put it on your must-try list.
Filipinos love their all-day breakfasts (silogs). I ordered the fried dried fish because Mharie loves it. Its a little too fishy for me although I always try it and keep an open mind. These were crispy little fish filet pieces and the breakfast came with garlic rice, a nice sunny side up egg and a couple of tomato slices.
On the fusion side of things was their Smoked Salmon Palabok. Palabok is a sort of chow mein but the addition of smoked salmon is strictly a local adaptation. Although the salmon was more of a finely ground addition, the smokiness and texture came through. I was quite impressed with this!
And finally, we had their namesake grilled chicken and again, this was quite tasty. Just cooked tender with a sweetish sauce and just a bit of char. More garlic rice (and really, I don't think you can have too much garlic rice) and a soy- vinegar dipping sauce. Very good!
Sort of a hidden gem unless you happen to shop at Hen Long.
Food            4 out of 5
Service         4 out of 5
Comfort        3 out of 5...at least you can shop while waiting
Value            4 out of 5

Zugba Flame Grilled Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The American

I've wanted to go to the American and get a burger for a long time. Maybe not for as long as a decade (the American Hotel sat derelict a decade ago seemingly prepared for demolition) but since the sports bar started serving Monarch burgers (part of the Campagnola group). Now they serve DL burgers and chicken and are open for socially distant dining in with a very responsible program for keeping us safe. 

Located at 928 Main Street, the American Hotel once hosted one of a trio of notorious bars that included the Cobalt and the Ivanhoe in an area where respectable Vancouverites might fear to tread. These days, however, the area is not nearly as colourful (well its not yet Rodeo Drive) and the American is a great place to watch a game or play a game (pinball etc).
We ordered The Americana with bacon. The burger is of Two Rivers beef and probably 6 oz. "Beefy" is that term that I don't always apply to burgers but it is appropriate here. Just a bit of pink remained on the inside of this nicely charred patty. Perfect. Cheddar, tomato and lettuce and a very decent bun. At $15 (including the bacon) and another $2 for fries, we found this to be pretty fair pricing.
We knew that the DL Chicken Sandwich was going to be great since that is what they do! Pickle juice brined and deep-fried, you can actually taste the pickle juice just a bit. It also served to keep the chicken moist despite being crispy. We ordered it medium spicy and it is finished off with slaw. This was a treat!
We ordered a side of onion rings and these had a fair bit going for them. The batter included a bit of herb (dill?) and the onion slices were large and flavourful. The only drawback is that they were a little on the greasy side (aren't onion rings often a little greasy?) and I would give them a miss next time. The fries by contrast were small, skin on and excellent!
When I was down in Houston in January, I found out that Queso was a big thing there. I know queso just means cheese but their queso is a sort of a cheese dip, a sort of an upscale version of hockey game nacho cheese. The Queso at the American was very good. It was a little spicy with some chunks of Jalapeno and I'm not sure what else. We loved it for dipping our fries and anything else.
When asked about how they managed social distancing with all the games and fun to be had, our personable host/security guy Alen, laid out for us the program which while it is a little complicated sounded fully doable. Nice!
Complete with an outdoor eating space out the back, The American provides a lot including some great food and room to visit without compromising your health!
Food         4 1/2 out of 5
Service     4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort    4 1/2 out of 5
Value        4 out of 5

The American Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...