Part One: Touring to Tofino
(*NOTE: This the first in a multi-part series chronicling the extreme, sustainable, yumm-osity of Canada’s Pacific Rim. MyWholeDeal.com was generously hosted by Tourism Tofino to attend Grazing in Gardens, the main event of the Tofino Food and Wine Festival, and to experience what Tofino has to offer a clean-eating traveler. Special thanks to Kirsten Soder and the friendly folks of Tofino, BC)
Dateline: June 1, 2012. Time: 9:32pm.
Cue the cleansing breath. After months of taking care of multiple jobs, kids, household duties and those jerks who take up the whole running trail even though they’re going really super slow (ski poles? on a golf course? seriously?), I finally made it to the ever-fabled light at the end of the tunnel. And Tofino, BC, snuggled in the heart of British Columbia’s majestic Pacific Rim, is that beautiful, beautiful light.
So much more than just a pretty face, Tofino, BC, is a bustling city truncated into deliciously digestible tidbits. MyWholeDeal.com was lucky enough to be welcomed into its bosom to see exactly why the Pacific Rim powerhouse is a destination you’d be very silly to miss.
First off, the ol’grey drive to Tofino just ain’t what she used to be. Gone is the winding and perilous logging road of yore, replaced by a delightfully curvy– yet pleasingly smooth– highway that my husband promises he was not demolishing at 140km per hour. Departing Victoria at 5:30pm-ish, we had time to uncerimoniously ditch our children in Nanaimo and still hit Vancouver Island’s most westerly coast well before 10pm.
And what a welcome we received! The Ocean Village cabins freckle the coast of MacKenzie Beach at the northern edge of the Pacific Rim National Park. And they are adorable. Seriously, if architecture could be an animal, these amazing A-frame studios would definitely be pigmy marmosets.
Outfitted in rustic cedar, our loft-style cabin featured two bedrooms, a livingroom area with gas fireplace and a full kitchen and bath.
Beyond the immediate aesthetic appeal, Ocean Village is close to town and provides some super amenities of its own, not the least of which is direct access to stunning MacKenzie Beach and eco-friendly goodies that tickled my gentle, Earth-cuddling soul:
With pounding surf echoing through the cabin and the heady sea air intermingling with the scent of warm cedar, we could have just hunkered down by the fire for the rest of the evening…
But, no. We were here to eat Tofino and, come on! No kids? It was go time! And so we went. To…
Do you watch Top Chef? Of course you do. It’s the gastronomical equivalent of the SuperBowl and it is impossible to resist, no matter how many times you have to shield your eyes from the horrible meaty bits. Especially when it is Top Chef Canada and one of the contestants is a chef at a restaurant you’ve gnoshed at on the Island. So, after watching Chef Joel Aubie represent Tofino on the culinary big screen, we decided give Shelter Restaurant another taste.
We arrived close to 11pm and the place was absolutely packed. Whether it was because of Feast Tofino or because this is the place where the cool kids hang out was of little consequence: Shelter was buzzing with a positive energy that made the somewhat cramped quarters feel like a party rather than a nuisance.
Right off the bat, Shelter endeared itself to me by making it impossible to miss where my food came from:
While Tofino may be considered remote by some, the pride the town takes in being sustainable is palpable (more about Tofino’s extraordinary local food efforts later in this series). But, while I was excited to taste the fruits of their passion, first things first.
Once properly lubricated, I dove into the menu. Now, don’t get me wrong. This restaurant is far from a vegan meca–but the server was enthusiastic and friendly and not at all put-off by my dietary choices. With the wealth of organic and local ingredients stocking their larder, I have no doubt that if you provided advance notice to the chef, you would be treated to some mean, green vegan cuisine at Shelter. But I snuck in via cover of night and I was still perfectly pleased with what I got:
I opted for the Shelter Salad sans feta. I am told that this salad has been on the menu for years and every time the chefs try to refresh the menu with something new, they are met with such a public outpouring of salad outrage that this Tofitian staple invariably remains. And it was good. The greens were fresh, the dates delicious, but the star of this show was most definitely the delicate pappadum garnish:
Light, crisp and spiced to perfection with cumin, coriander and carroway, the pappadum elevates the Shelter Salad from “just a salad” to something truly worth keeping on the menu. Yes, I get it, Tofitians! You gotta fight for your right to pappadum!
After our late dinner, we were very eager to return to our beautiful seaside bungalow. Bundled up tight in the extra duvet so thoughtfully provisioned, we settled in for some serious relaxation in that blissful place where the sea of stars meets surf.
Yes, the first night of Clean-Eating Tofino was a resounding success, but I was right to seek a good sleep, because Day 2 was destined to be a doozy…
Stay tuned for Pacific Rim running, epic adult trick-or-treating and food, food, food!