We’re fresh off a hybrid work/fun trip to BC — Tofino and Vancouver, specifically — and have yet to come to grips with the fact that we can’t smell salt air. That aside, here’s how it went:
We had a fairly early flight, but timed it perfectly so that we walked right on to the plane with no waiting. After some screen issues I watched Captain Marvel (imdb | rotten tomatoes) and did some work while Lindsay fended off a brutally entitled family who crawled everywhere and kept their seats in her face the entire flight, poor thing.
We landed in Vancouver and had a few hours to kill before our transfer. We did the apparently very traditional BC thing of visiting White Spot for burgers, a milkshake, and some local wine. After that, we shuttled over to the south terminal and took a very tiny Pacific Coastal flight (the plane held 16 people, maybe?) to our destination for the next few days: Tofino.
I’d heard about Tofino — all rugged beauty and beaches and ocean surf and trees leaning into coastline — but I’d never been. Nor had Lindsay. Anyway, a few minutes out of the airport we saw what all the fuss was about.
A few more km down the road we pulled into our temporary home, the Wickaninnish Inn. After a brief orientation we settled into our room, and were immediately greeted with a jaw-dropping view.
We didn’t do much for the rest of the afternoon except enjoy that view and the smell of the sea, and wait for dinner at the in-house restaurant: The Pointe. Turns out the restaurant is pretty g-d spectacular.
- charred albacore tuna w/ daikon, pickled kelp, oyster tonnato, apple dashi
- elk tartare w/ pickled mushrooms, wild onion, spruce, black garlic bread
- Blue Mountain sparkling wine
- roasted ‘Yarrow Meadows’ duck w/ sunchoke pavé, swiss chard, cranberry, port jus (Dan)
- pan seared scallops w/ miso leek & radish, grand fir, crab velouté (Lindsay)
- Domain Michael Gros Bourgogne Rouge
- Thombury semi firm raw cow cheese (from Duncan BC)
- churro w/ preserved plum, roasted strawberry, buttermilk ice cream
We willed ourselves out of the perfect bed to get breakfast (smoked salmon rosti; fresh fruit crepes) and enjoy the view from the dining room now that it was light out. (If a little foggy.)
We were determined to do as little as possible that day, so we went for a stroll on that very beach (which is called Chesterman Beach, FYI), chilled back in the room for a bit re-watching Fargo, then took a bit of work down to the bar & lounge.
We had some lunch (west coast clam chowder; fish & chips) in the bar, ogled their new wine cellar, and did…nothing, basically? Like, aggressively did nothing. Not until dinner, when we drove in to Tofino for dinner at Wolf in the Fog.
It was a cool space — we were sat right next to a wolf sculpture made out of driftwood, which is the most Tofino thing ever — and the food was as good as we’d heard. Here’s what we consumed:
- Dan: The Sun Has Reached The Yard Arm (Nicaraguan rum, apricot, allspice, ginger, honey, lime, sparkling wine, black walnut bitters)
- Lindsay: Nocino Negroni (Wayward Distillation House ‘Unruly’ gin, Odd Society bittersweet vermouth, Ampersand green walnut nocino)
- potato crusted oyster w/ leek, truffle
- seafood gemelli w/ pacific shrimp (special)
- baked Tofino halibut (for two) w/ clams, white beans, fennel sausage, spring onions
- Checkmate ‘Knights Challenge’ 2014 Chardonnay (Oliver, BC)
- Bergamot curd w/ yellow chartreuse mousse, thyme waffle, chamomile sorbet, honey
After having some breakfast in bed sent up, we got ourselves ready for our one and only activity (other than eating) whilst in Tofino: whale watching. We drove into town and geared up at Jamie’s Whaling, completely swaddling ourselves in orange flotation suits.
The trip, though very foggy, was even better than we’d hoped. We saw:
- grey whales — lots of them, including a young whale named Lasso who swam right by our boat;
- sea lions, including a giant male who our guide said was the biggest he’d ever seen;
- sea otters, all floating on their backs wrapped up in kelp, including a few babies with pups on their chests, all of which made me completely melt (I’m obsessed with otters);
- harbour porpoises, which appeared to us only as fins swooping in and out of the water.
Then, as if Tofino was just showing off, on our way to lunch we saw a bald eagle just hanging out on a telephone pole. WHERE WERE WE?
Anyway, we grabbed a surprisingly excellent lunch of burgers (chicken; tuna) and beer at The Shed before driving home, stopping along the way for some beer courtesy of Tofino Brewing. After all that adventure, food, and drink, we had a hard nap in the room right up until the very last minute to get to the very last reservation at The Pointe. Our server assured us it wasn’t too late to order the tasting menu, and we trusted him. Thank goodness we did; it was one of the culinary highlights of the trip.
- Lamb tartare w/ yogurt, mint, pita (Sage Hills Gewurztraminer, 2016)
- Morel mushrooms w/ foie gras, maple blossom, truffle butter (Roche ‘Tradition’ Pinot Gris, 2016)
- Poached salmon w/ sake lees, clam beignets, tomato dashi (Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir, 2015)
- Beef ribeye w/ baked potato pave, grilled zucchini, black garlic jus (Domaine de Cause ‘La Lande Cavagnac’, 2014)
- Nectarine mousse w/ salted almond caramel, croquante, citur sponge, ginger (Quail’s Gate Optima, 2015)
It was all superb, but the salmon w/ clam beignets was phenomenal, and the ribeye w/ black garlic jus will 100% be on the list of the best things I ate in 2019.
The weather was kind enough to clear for our last morning in Tofino, so we enjoyed one last coffee on the patio.
We went for one last long walk on the beach, which is just a spectacular place, full of sea life and surfers and romping dogs and digging kids. It’s as beautiful place as exists in Canada, which is saying something.
Finally, we got one last breakfast in at The Pointe (Rosti again for Lindsay; shrimp n’ eggs for Dan) before packing and heading back to the airport. Our flight back was a little more picturesque (and slightly less nerve-wracking for Lindsay) than on the flight out, and our cab ride into downtown Vancouver was uneventful. We arrived at the Sheraton Wall Centre to find NHL Draft posters everywhere. Apparently this was the home hotel for the NHL draft prospects, their families, and to some degree the NHL teams interested in them.
Anyway, while our room felt very old-Sheraton, the view was pretty solid: we could see all the way from False Creek to the mountains.
We didn’t hang around long though — the weather was too beautiful. We jumped in a cab and got ourselves to The Alibi Room. I hadn’t been in years, and it was Lindsay’s first time, but worthwhile given it’s the best beer joint in Vancouver (as far as my limited knowledge goes, anyway). We sat next to their open windows, sampled BC beer we’ve never tried, and ate charcuterie.
We’d decided to get dinner at St. Lawrence, like a mashup of Vancouver and our old Montreal adventures. It was tiny and bustling, and very delicious.
- Beef tartare, chèvre noire cheese & potato chips
- Braised lamb shoulder, Parisian gnocchi & summer vegetables
- Salmon and scallop pie, leeks, potatoes & Bercy sauce
- Bernard Defaix Bourgogne 2017
We didn’t have much left in us after that, except to take a cab back to the hotel and crash.
My two days of meetings started Wednesday, so we grabbed an early breakfast around the corner at The Twisted Fork, where we found portions so big as to be terrifying.
- Poached eggs and ratatouille served with honey lager pork sausage, green salad, sourdough toast and house made jam (Dan)
- Croque Monsieur with brioche, smoked gouda, cheddar and ham served with fresh greens and house tomato sauce (Lindsay)
After we walked that off, the rest of my day was taken up with meetings and a work dinner at Ancora overlooking False Creek. Lindsay met up with a friend and then, weirdly, got rather ill for about 24 hours.
After another long day of meetings I grabbed a drink at the hotel bar, surrounded by hockey families and NHL personnel (example: Barry Trotz ordered a Stella Artois next to me at the bar), before Lindsay — now mostly on the mend — and I walked down to Sunset Beach and then back to the hotel for a few local beers in the room. Later that night we met up with friends at Hawksworth, one of my all-time Vancity favs. Here’s what we got:
- Various cocktails and sparkling drinks
- I don’t remember what everyone got, but I do know that five years after having a Dalhousie #2 here, I ordered a Dalhousie #3: Lot 40 rye, pineapple, Montenegro, Ginger of the Indies)
- charcoal BBQ octopus w/ kohlrabi, mole, mezcal, burnt avocado
- pacific halibut crudo w/ tomatillo, orange, espelette, crispy fish skin
- foie gras parfait w/ pineapple, ginger, red pepper
- Roche Pinot Gris 2016 from the Okanagan valley
- Yarrow Meadows duck breast w/ rhubarb jam, fava bean, orange gel (Dan)
- salmon w/ cucumber, potato, mussel, dill (Lindsay)
- smoked cod ravioli + aged beef sirloin (friends)
- (wines were by the glass; no bottle would satisfy all those needs)
- Glasses of Sauternes, Cortados
Afterward we went for a drink at UVA, which had somehow shown up on my list of places to try, even though it turned to be really fucking weird. Weird decor, hinky service, long-but-strangely-empty cocktail list, etc. We had one and left.
We liked Twisted Fork so much we went back for breakfast again, and left equally stuffed.
- Well done house-smoked Gouda baked eggs w/ sourdough toast, bacon, tomato, rösti and baked beans (Dan)
- Eggs Benny with toasted brioche, poached eggs, hollandaise, roasted tomato, and avocado salsa w/ sautéed spinach, rösti and baked beans (Lindsay)
We did some work in the room for a while before decamping for Gastown, finding Six Acres a good place to sit and drink craft beer and watch the neighbourhood pass by while getting some shit done.
After leaving there and walking a ways (and taxiing the rest) we got back to the room to do more work and get ready for dinner, while killing a bottle of Blue Mountain sparkling Lindsay’d bought the day before.
Dinner was at Black + Blue, since we were looking for a simple (simple as in easy choices, not simple as in not-nice) dinner, and were tapped out on seafood. So, steak it was. And what a steak!
- Caesar salad for two w/ crisp romaine, lemon & anchovy dressing, Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Two glasses of Chardonnay (the exact one escapes me now)
- 16oz Canadian Prime ribeye
- 6oz A5 Wagyu New York Strip
- Gnocchi w/ Atlantic lobster, tarragon, cream
- Brussels sprouts w/ lemon, capers, parmesan, chilies
- Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Let it be known that the Wagyu was fucking unreal. Every bite was like butter. Maybe the best Wagyu I’ve ever had, and I’ve had lots. Another entry on the ‘best things I ate this year’ list come December, I’ll bet.
And that was it. BC. Tofino, Vancouver. All done. One last breakfast in the room and all that was left to do was pack up, head to the airport, fly home — no annoying families or busted screens this time; I watched They Shall Not Grow Old (imdb | rotten tomatoes) — coo at Kramer, and unpack.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: BC is the prettiest province. Now that I’ve seen Tofino, I know that’s even more true.