Picture Top Chef at several receptions, amazing seafood and a group of travel writers and you have the premise for what we have experienced these past few days. On a hosted trip to Vancouver Island, I have learned about the amazing sea life that lives around the coastal waters of British Columbia, and best of all, I have had a chance to taste much of it!
Off the coast of BC, there are over 100 sustainable seafood products that are exported to both domestic and international markets. The BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival embraces the sea life and serves it up on a plate by the best chef Canada and in some cases beyond, have to offer.
The event took place June 9-18, 2017 offering ten days to taste and explore, I arrived on June 9th and stayed until the 14th, so I attended most of the great events that even have a proclamation by Queen Elizabeth The Second declaring June 2017 as “BC Seafood Month”!
The first night of my arrival, there was a meet and greet BC Seafood on Your Plate event at Local’s restaurant in Courtenay and Chef Ronald St. Pierre made us an amazing spread. I had scallops and a portobello mushroom bake and shared some spectacular Cream Brûlée.
Saturday night, the 10th, we attended Fresh Fest. Held at the Coastal Black Esate Winery we first had wine sampling and learned the dairy farm history of this lovely place. Fresh Fest is one of the signature events that showcased farm-raised seafood offered at culinary tasting stations with wine pairings. The chefs were some of the country’s top rated chefs.
On Saturday in Campbell River before heading out to tour a BC Salmon Farm, we had a wonderful lunch at the Salmon Capital Seafood Taste at Spirit Square. All proceeds went to the Campbell River Hospital. Four Chefs offered a variety of fresh farm-raised fish. All the samples were delightful, but I admit to having a favorite in Chef Xavier Bauby’s offerings. Chef Bauby is an International Chef and Culinarty Instructir at North Island College.
While you would think these events would be the topping on the cake, the best was yet to come withthe Chef’s Shellfish Showdown held at the lovely 40 Knots Estate Winery. The event offered eight courses paired with 40 Knots clean crisp wines. Everyone tasted then voted on their favorite meal.
We sat with locals that had come to the event and I was blessed to be at a table with a fun couple and their friend who kept us laughing all evening long. Being from the Midwest, my seafood palate is a bit on the inexperienced side, and I had a few things like quail eggs and octopus that I had never had before. I found the Vancouver Island Sea Salt Cured Wild Pacific Salmon, Crisp Latke with fresh asparagus and lime hollandaise sauce to be my favorite entree. The Pinot Gris that went with it was also top in my book.
- The last big food hurrah was the International Buyers & Media Reception where literally “surf meets turf”! This event brought buyers, chefs, industry and media all together for a fun night of food sampling with 10 plus Chef Stations to sample from. Besides Canadian Chefs, there were also International Chefs, Chindits Varadarajulu from India, Freddy Raoult from Shanghi, Michael Reidt from Florida and Brian Archibald from Arizona. After touring a farm where they raised geoduck earlier in the day, I had to try some of Chef Reidt’s geoduck and found it quite tasty.
All samples were great and the great weather helped make the evening a huge success. My favorite of the evening was Chef Nigel McMeans of Blackfin Pub. He prepared a sable fish, which during my time here I learned is a Black Cod fish. The tasty fish was paired with a gingered yam sauces and I must say was quite yummy.
I have learned about seafood sustainability, sea farming (look for an upcoming article in Farm World!) and a bit about the different types of seafood and how they are prepared. All in all, I have a huge appreciation for fresh seafood and the wonderful bounty offered in the Vancouver Island area.
If you have a chance to visit and attend some of these marvelous events, take the time to book a hotel and plan your trip in advance, because this is a festival of a lifetime. Like one fellow travel writer, Mona Day, said, “We are making memories,” and so can you!