Hey, we’re back. Sorry for the radio silence – my laptop decided awhile ago to be wireless intolerant, and won’t pick up any signals, let alone connect – so I’ve been unplugged since we left Tofino on Friday. (I would have been really hooped had it been last year.) Oh, we have so much catching up to do.
As beautiful a place Tofino is, it’s nice to be home.
I don’t usually backtrack on this blog – it’s all real time – but I feel the need for a recap in order to cover the edibles of our last days there and wander-through the BC interior en route to Calgary. Looking back, we ate a lot. The red huckleberries, for example – they turned into a mighty fine jam. I’m not going to even touch on the subject of how easy jam is to make – wait, I just did – but seriously, you don’t need pectin, you don’t need a chemistry degree, you don’t even need as much sugar as you think you do. I made one batch straight-up and it was wonderfully runny – I soaked the last half of grainy baguette in the last egg and cup of milk and made French toast to eat before making the early-morning run for the ferry, then used the wee toasts like dip lovers use those little corn chip scoops to load as much sweet-tart ruby red jam as they would structurally tolerate. It was like scooping as much summer as I could fit into my mouth before leaving the beachy place and going home to the tax audit, overgrown garden and messy office.
You’d be proud of me for how I managed to use up almost everything perishable before we left. (If you ever go grocery shopping in Tofino, you’d be thrifty too. It’s actually a deal to eat out.) At the very back of the fridge sat a tub of cottage cheese. My Mom loves the idea of cottage cheese – her good friend eats a dish of it every day for lunch with fruit, and she is the type I aspire to be – but whenever she makes up her mind to take cottage cheese on, the two of them don’t get along. She manages to down a bowl of the stuff and the rest goes soupy and eventually gets tossed. Such was the case with this sad tub.
On the day after we arrived, my parents’ next door neighbours popped by, and brought with them an immense, maroon leather-bound copy of The Gourmet Cookbook circa 1956 that her mother had given her. Talk about summer reading – it sat on the coffee table and we all thumbed through it throughout the week, pointing out gaudy-coloured photos, aspics and recipes like Cold-Glazed Ox Tongue, Marinated Brains Paysanne and Pigs’ Feet in White Wine Jelly, and noted that there is an entire section titled Innards. I decided that if any recipe book were to include recipes using cottage cheese, this would be it. I was right. It had a lovely recipe for Cottage Cheese Pancakes Brittany that turned out 6 dense, cheesy pancakes, which we topped with runny huckleberry jam, which made them sort of reminiscent of cheesecake. If and when I make them again, I’ll add a teaspoon of baking powder to lighten them a little (I’ve added it to the recipe below, but didn’t have any there). The original recipe also called for a few grains of white pepper and to sieve the cottage cheese, which I didn’t bother with.
Flipping through my photos I just realized – could it be I’ve forgotten to tell you about Chocolate Tofino? The teeny little offshoot of a building tucked away beside/behind Groovy Movie, it’s the epitome of Mom n’ Pop shops, with Mom and Pop back there making waffles, then wrapping them around a little cone mold and twisting the tip ever so to prevent drips – one at a time. I’ve never had such good waffle cones – light, thin and crispy but never breaking. I had heard the ice cream was fantastic. You guys- there are no words. (They make it all themselves – when I inquired about this, Mom replied “I crack the eggs and simmer the cream!”.) Their maple pecan praline is near the best thing I ever ate. Besides their pecan turtles, that is, which are so much better than any other version I’ve ever eaten – I can’t figure out why (besides the obvious crisply toasted pecan halves and some sort of buttercrunch underlying the soft caramel) but I’m determined to keep up the research.
On the way back, we stayed overnight in Kamloops (rather than making the mad dash home) and had time to dawdle through the Shuswap on Saturday. This never happens. Usually we’re in a hurry to make the ferry, or Mike wants to make good time, or W is sleeping and we don’t want to stop the car at all the enticing fruit stands and U-Pick farms. Plus I’m a little gunshy, having stopped at one or two overpriced tourist traps. Yesterday we hit the jackpot.
Soon after leaving Kamloops (heading east on highway 1) I was lured in by handpainted signs on weathered wood scraps nailed to poles starting a couple kilometers away – they said things like “Eat Well”, and “Coffee and Pie $4”, and went by too quickly for me to reach my camera. But when I made Mike pull in I found pies – freshly baked and frozen in stacks ($10) with fillings like blueberry, apple-raspberry, peach and strawberry-rhubarb.
There were still-warm rustic loaves made by their new baker out of organic locally milled flour. Besides the obvious produce (cherries, corn, apricots) there were coolers with local cheeses, beef and bison, paper bags filled with flax and hemp granola, local honey and preserves. Luckily we had limited car space.
Further down the road we hit Sorrento, and their Saturday morning farmers’ market, almost like we planned it that way. I left with golden beets, beautiful lettuces, a roasted garlic and cherry tomato focaccia from a company called The Little Red Hen, a bag of the sweetest peas I’ve ever eaten – one honestly reminded me of vanilla ice cream – to eat out of the cup holder in the car, and jars of blackcurrant jam, organic hazelnut honey and black raspberry honey that rattled around by my feet for the rest of the drive.
Further down the road we found peaches – finally from BC! – but missed the U-pick cherry farm we saw on the way out. We stopped by a lake in Field and the boys swam and we ate focaccia, peaches and peas.
And for those of you who may be planning a trip out to Tofino – I highly recommend it, any time of year – here’s a recap of where to go and what to eat (in no particular order) in response to all the requests I’ve been getting:
Anywhere on Long Beach – Chesterman, Cox Bay, McKenzie Beach – they all sort of run into each other, are all different and worth a visit. Check the tide tables – when the tide is out you can see some great tidepools and living things up against the rocks, especially at the north end of Chesterman (where we saw the barnacles and starfish above). Further down you’ll get into Pacific Rim National Park, and you can go in at Incinerator Rock or the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre.
Tonquin Park (photo above) – access through the town, only a few parking spots and a nice short walk through lovely forest, it’s nice and protected – not too windy – nice sand for playing in, and cool caves.
Schooner – a stunning walk through the rainforest (about 1k, lots of stairs but totally doable even with young kids) brings you to an equally stunning beach – this is where we saw the whales.
SoBo – no duh.
Tacofino – the adorable orange bus at the very back of the cluster of shops around Beaches Grocery.
Wildside Grill – straight from their boat to their kitchen – also to the left of Beaches – Crispy Cod Club!
Jupiter (look for the signs – it’s sort of in-between buildings and sometimes hard to find) – the very best muffins – haven’t tried the coffee.
Tuff Beans – we go here for coffee; like it better than the coffee at Tofitian (sorry Tofitian!) – the muffins are huge and cakey, but they have really good breakfast.
Chocolate Tofino – the best ice cream, made on the premises and if you opt for it, scooped into a handmade waffle cone (Sugar Shack in town is great too, but they use Foothills Creamery Ice Cream). Also try the pecan turtles (they have another name – but essentially the same thing).
There are a ton of surf shops and surf schools in Tofino, but we found a really great guy named Jessro who taught Ben (6) and Emily (11) to surf one afternoon, and was patient and fun and wonderful, and not even expensive, and gave them a really cool Tshirt and hat, even. You can find him in the little surf school with the yellow awning on the right hand side on your way into town.
Every Saturday morning there is a market in the park from 10-2; I’m not sure if this is just a summer thing, but definitely worth checking out.
There is an 800 year old Western Red Cedar tree as you come into town – can’t miss it on the right.
There are lots of trails: The Wickaninnish Trail (6 miles/10 km return) runs between the beaches on Wickaninnish and Florencia Bays. There’s also Shoreline Bog Trail (0.5-mile/0.8-km loop), the Rain Forest Trail (two 0.6-mile/1-km loops), and the Spruce Fringe Trail (1-mile/1.5-km loop)
Ucluelet is worth a visit- don’t miss the tiny aquarium! And the Wild Pacific Trail is spectacular.
Tofino Time is a great resource if you’re looking for more info. (Or email me!)
Of course if I’ve missed something, please let us know!
We now return to our regularly scheduled program.