Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Culinary Tour of Salt Spring Island

In British Columbia and along the west coast, the gulf islands are our little, stashed away gems. Whether you go for a day or a weekend getaway, travelling to a nearby island is one of the most specular and relaxing things you can do.

Salt Spring Island is a culinary treasure and is home to the renown Saturday Market. Lining Centennial Park are about 150 vendors selling artisan cheeses and chocolates, produce, chutneys, pottery, crafted jewelry, clothing, flowers, and a lot more. The market has been a seasonal tradition for the past 15 years and is nearly the same as the last time I visited (seven years is far too long).

Aside from visiting the market, you can visit local cheese makers and wineries. You can go swimming in the lake and walking through beautiful Ruckle Provincial Park or picking wild thimbleberries on Mount Maxwell. My sisters and I had a fabulous time and I suspect we may do it again next time we all have a few days off together.

Salt Spring Island Cheese Company
Proprietors David and Nancy Wood have been making artisan goat and sheep cheeses from their home on Salt Spring Island since 1994. Their signature cheese is the soft goat cheese, chevre, which comes flavoured with basil, roasted garlic, edible flowers, lemon, chili, white truffles or pepper.

With a visit to the farm, you can walk around the outside of the building and see the cheese being made. There are informative little displays next to each viewing window that describe each stage in the cheese-making process. At the farm's shop, you can sample all the cheeses that they make and a spread of olives that they import. My sister's bought some fresh soft goat cheese, simply packaged with no additional flavoring, which we enjoyed with some crackers out on the patio.

Moonstruck Organic Cheese is also on Salt Spring Island. They make very good blue cheeses and one of my favorites is the ash-ripened camembert.

Garry Oak Winery
My sisters and I stopped at the Garry Oak Winery and visited the wine shop. They are welcoming and have a nice tasting system set up. We got to sample four wines (two whites and two reds) for a nominal two dollars, which is deducted if you make a purchase. My favorite out of the sampling was Fetish, a red blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. While the wines were all refreshing, they still tasted a little young. The staff were friendly and it was well worth the stop.

There are two wineries on Salt Spring Island - Salt Spring Island Vinyards is right next door to Garry Oak and I regret that we didn't stop. Next time!

Salt Spring Island Coffee
This may have been our favorite stop during trip. Not that it's any indication of favorites, but this coffee shop was the only place we visited twice. It's organic, fair-trade and carbon neutral coffee that's roasted on the island. And their lattes are amazingly delicious. Just the thing you want to wake up to.

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