Posts Tagged: Victoria


19
Nov 14

Get Your Skates on to Victoria

It’s winter in Canada so what are you going to do but enjoy the great outdoors? This year, Victoria’s Fairmont Empress hotel is hosting an outdoor skating rink on its front lawn, which faces out towards the harbour all strung with festive lights. There is something rather magical about skating outdoors and it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful background than the Empress. Special events include a Christmas Eve skating session with elves, hot cocoa and cider and Sunday skates with santa. Tickets are $10/$5 per session and skate hire is $5. The rink opens on Friday 20th November and runs till mid-January. Open from 5-9pm weekdays and 1-9pm weekends.

So, now you’re in Victoria, what else is there to do?

wiv2BREAKFAST:  Usually I’m not a doughnut fan, but Yonni’s Doughnuts at Discovery Coffee could be the one which changes my mind. I had a Honey Crueller, all eggy sweet and delicious, it matched perfectly with their Gob’s Magical Espresso blend. I took a bottle of the Cold Brew coffee home and had it for breakfast the next morning. Sure Cold Brew coffee may have more than a whiff of needless hipsterism about it but when it’s as buttery and chocolatey as this, well, call me a hipster and be damned.

wiv1LUNCH:  Oh hurrah! My all-time favourite Vancouver sandwich, the Meat & Bread porchetta is now available at their beautiful new location on Yates Street. Taking the idea of doing one thing and then excelling at it, Meat and Bread’s empire is gradually spreading and you know what? Good. They do things right: the bread is a custom-made ciabatta roll and the meat in their legendary porchetta sandwiches is the finest grain-fed, free-range pork from Two Rivers Meats. If businesses must become chains then at least let them operate on an ethical basis. And yes, I know that Meat and Bread also do other daily sandwich specials but after two years I’ve still not managed to go through the doors and say anything other than ‘Porchetta with extra crackling, please’.

WIV6TIME FOR TEA:  Silk Road Tea are based in Victoria’s Chinatown (the oldest in Canada! Take a look around on this Vine clip.), the creation of Tea Master Daniela Cubelic. I cannot say enough great things about this store! Going far beyond what you’d imagine a tea shop to sell, Silk Road have a wide range of beauty products (and an in-shop spa), shelves of wildly desirable tea paraphernalia –try going in and not immediately needing to own at least three tea pots, infusers and assorted pieces of cocktail ware – and best of all a long tasting table with comfy stools. I went to an iced tea event in the summer which was a blast and gave me so many ideas. This winter their free-to-attend workshop events include Winter Wellness classes, a tea jam-making event and learning about immune-boosting tea blends to ward off colds and flu.

wiv4DINNER:  Sure, there are plenty of great restaurants in Victoria but right now I am OBSESSED with the ambrosial brisket at Hanks Untraditional BBQ. This place is a tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it barbecue joint but oh my, it’s worth stopping in. All the meat comes from those super-ethical Two Rivers chaps and you can taste the quality in every bite. My recommendation? Have one of the platters with the cornbread, all warm and buttery from the oven. The pulled pork is amazing and the potato salad superb. Damn, I am actually drooling just writing this.

wiv5STAY:  With Veneto, one of the finest bars and restaurants downstairs and boasting a pole position slap bang in the heart of town, it’s hard to better the location of the Rialto. The rooms are both spacious and spotless and best of all, come with a pleasing raft of extras including free wifi, vouchers for coffee and pastry from the lobby cafe, and best of all, a voucher for a cheese plate at Veneto. Very cool! Oh, and the one thing that won me over completely? Ear plugs. Acknowledging that yes, they are a central hotel and so the street can get noisy is honest, but then immediately sorting that issue out is smart. I love that.

wiv3GET THERE:  I am obsessed with the float planes which whizz across the waters here in BC. I can see them soar above Stanley Park from my window and it’s always a fantastic day if I know that I’m going to be onboard Harbour Air. My advice? Don’t hang back and be polite. Immediately ask the pilot is there’s a chance that you could sit up front, as sometimes there is a spare seat and it’s the best view in the house! If not, don’t fret, you’ll still be amazed by the view from the windows. Top tip: at the Vancouver terminal downtown you can score free espresso-based drinks and tea, as well as a muffin or fruit when you present them with your boarding pass. Also, the Victoria terminal seems to have a penchant for playing excellent 80s music. Prepare to rock out before take off.

MORE INFO:

Tourism Victoria

 

 


20
Oct 14

Art Of The Cocktail Festival 2014

PA041115For  relatively small city, Victoria punches well above its weight when it comes to its cocktail scene. Talented bartenders like Veneto’s Simon Ogden and Little Jumbo’s Nate Caudle and its manager Shawn Soole are leading the way in innovative cocktail creations. The city’s annual Art of the Cocktail festival brings together like-minded boozehounds and bartenders alike for three days of seminars, parties and tastings.

PA041140The Grand Tasting event is always an excellent opportunity to discover new spirits and learn more about old favourites too. For so many cocktail fans it’s the stories behind the spirits which are part of the attraction, and there was one which really stood out for me this year. It’s a truly Canadian spirit Ungava gin, made in NE Quebec. Covered in snow and ice for nine months of the year, with the aurora borealis shimmering overhead, this remote part of Canada produces the botanicals which give the spirit its sunny colour and herbacious taste. Hand-harvested by Inuit on the tundra, the gin contains: Nordic juniper, Labrador tea, crowberry, wild rose hips, arctic blend and cloudberry.

PA041148I was excited to see New Theatre Spirits & Tonic, who I’d met on my first visit two years ago back with another delicious creation, this time it’s a ginger ale which was based on a 100-year old law suit which was debated in the House of Lords and concerned an old lady who discovered a snail in her drink. You can read the full story here – and it’s a good one – but more importantly it’s a delicious drink, so look out for their Donoghue & Stevenson’s Dead Snail Ginger Ale – guaranteed to be 100% snail-free.

PA051252From cocktail contests and bar games which pit bartenders against each other in a battle of speed, knowledge and style, to a vintage fashion show and etiquette chat during cocktail hour, your cocktail festival weekend can take in plenty of fun – as well as booze.

PA051190Education is a huge component of the festival and I attended a fantastic seminar with Peter Hunt from Victoria Spirits on Bitters, those mysterious little bottles which are the spice cabinet of any back bar. Bitters in cocktails are similar to acidity in wine or hops in beer; they balance out sweetness and add complexity to the flavour. Peter took us through the history of bitters from their medicinal use in Egyptian times to using Pink Gin (gin with angostura bitters) in the 1800s as a traditional seasickness cure. Until the creation of the FDA in 1906, Bitters companies could – and did – make wild claims about the properties of their Bitters from saying they could do anything from curing the ‘impure state of your blood’  to fixing liver complaints.

PA061336
To be certified as a Bitter the botanical blend used (herbs, spices, fruits) need to be bitter enough not to be able to be drunk by itself. We got to make our own Bitters, but a warning, care needs to be taken with making bitters at home, sure, natural is best, but Mother Nature has teeth and claws: for instance, tonka beans are banned in the US as they contain courmain which can cause liver damage – although it has a delicious vanilla-like smell and flavour, almond kernels contains cyanide, nutmeg can be toxic… the list goes on. However, in the hands of an expert you’re perfectly safe. Bitters can be used in the kitchen as well as on the bar, Vancouver’s Bittered Sling Extracts were created by a chef-bartender combo with the express purpose of creating products which would add a depth of flavour to both cocktails and culinary creations. You can use Bitters in sauces and in salad dressings, in baked goods like brownies or as a marinade for meat, there are some great recipes here to tryPA061323

 

I travelled as guest of Tourism Victoria and Art of the Cocktail, however my words are 100% my own. 

More Info:

Tourism Victoria 

Harbour Air

Hotel Rialto

Art of the Cocktail 

Ungava Gin 

New Theatre Spirits & Tonic 

Victoria Spirits 

Bittered Sling Extracts 

 


17
Jan 13

Welcome back: Victoria’s Oak Bay Beach Hotel

I always used to love popping the label on a fresh jar of hot chocolate; the satisfying ‘pop’ that the spoon made when I jabbed it through the seal. I felt that way when I got to stay at Oak Bay Beach hotel in Victoria before it opened. There’s a real sense of excitement when you stay somewhere that’s on the very brink of opening. Last-minute touches are being made, anticipation is in the air, you get a very real sense of looking behind the curtain and seeing what’s going on.

Glorious views at the Oak Bay Beach hotel

Glorious views at the Oak Bay Beach hotel

The Oak Bay Beach is a short drive from the town centre, nestled on a glorious stretch of ocean. The team have carefully renovated and updated the original Oak Bay Beach and – I must say – have done a superb job. I rather loved it. It has the feel of an English manor house with the warmth of a Canadian welcome. From the cute coffee bar to the deceptively-named ‘Snug’ pub (about five times the size of a British pub snug!) I felt at home. I could imagine long evenings curled up drinking gin and tonic, so just to make sure reality matched the fantasy, I ordered one. Good decision, probably one of the best I’d tasted as they make it with the locally-brewed New Theatre Tonic for an authentic flavour – who knew that G&T wasn’t meant to be clear? Lucky locals who’ve had this place on their doorstep since 1927!

Amazing G&T thanks to New Theatre Tonic

Amazing G&T thanks to New Theatre Tonic

The rooms ticked all my ‘Good Things You Need In A Hotel Room’ boxes – no complicated light switches, full-length mirror, easily-available plugs, simple to operate shower, free wifi and water- it had the lot! All that plus a mini kitchenette – perfect for family stays – and oh wow! what a view over that dazzling ocean and perfectly manicured lawns.

I wandered through the grounds to pay a visit to the Boathouse Spa and enjoyed a skin smoothing seaweed treatment. After a hectic day whizzing around Victoria, my therapist gave me a blissfully relaxing massage and I wished I could  have spent the day there, lazing in a sun lounger, watching out for passing whales. Later I took a dip in the warm silky waters of the mineral pool right next to the ocean. I floated on my back and counted stars in the clear night sky. 

How adorable is the teddy bear? Love those small touches.

How adorable is the teddy bear? Love those small touches.

I’m told that Victoria is meant to be the most ‘British place in Canada’ and maybe that’s why I felt so at home. By now the dining room will be fully open for business, the fun dinner theatre events will be taking bookings and dollars will be raised with the sale of every ticket for the David Foster Foundation.  Six years after the hotel closed its doors to begin its renovations they are finally back in business again and I bet they’ll be a storming success, so cheers to Victoria’s newest oldest hotel, the Oak Bay Beach – here’s to many more happy years.

I was hosted by the Oak Bay Beach hotel/Tourism Victoria – however, my views are 100% my own.

Find out more: Tourism Victoria 

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