If you're into food and plan to stay close to home this summer, you picked a good year. There are all kinds of local events and activities that will quickly remind you why our region is such a tasty place to live.
Enjoy high tea - Jane Austen-style
If you're a fan of the famed author, enjoy tea and goodies at Jane Austen Tea in a Country Garden. It's set for this Saturday and Sunday, from 1 to 4 p.m., in a beautiful garden adjacent to Starling Lane Winery, 5271 Old West Saanich Rd.
In the afternoon, you'll enjoy dainty sandwiches, sweets, wine punch and unlimited tea. Organizers encourage you to get into the spirit of the occasion by wearing florals, fancy hats, gloves or actual period costume. While you sip and nibble, you can listen to a violinist, enjoy period songs performed by Elizabeth Bennett and listen to vignettes from Jane Austen novels performed by English actor Jan Hicks. Stroll through the gardens and stop in at the Starling Lane Winery.
Tickets, which sell quickly, are $15 for adults, $9 for those 12 and under, and free for those under five. For an additional $7, adults can add port and Stilton to their tea menu. This event is a fundraiser for the Prospect Lake Community Hall. For more information and to buy tickets, go the hall's website, pldca.ca.
Attend a cooking or gardening class
The London Chef (thelondonchef.com) at 953 Fort St. and Cook Culture (cookculture.com) at 1317 Blanshard St. are offering fun and seasonal cooking classes this summer, including sessions designed for kids and teens.
At the London Chef, classes cover summer fruit pies, al fresco Italian, Spanish tapas and kids in the kitchen. At Cook Culture, they include addictive ice cream, in-depth canning and preserving, and cooking up the local harvest. For dates and costs of these classes and others, go to their websites.
On Saltspring Island, Foxglove Farm is offering a multi-day farm, arts and culinary camp for kids; a workshop on the spirit and fundamentals of gardening; and, in the very late summer, a course on farmstead cheese making.
For more information, dates, prices and accommodations, go to foxglovefarmbc.ca.
Cycle, explore, sip and dine on the MS Society Grape Escape
If you enjoy cycling, beautiful scenery, wine, good food and raising funds for a worthy cause, sign up for the popular Cowichan Valley Grape Escape.
This MS Society pledge based fundraising event takes place July 7 and 8.
At 10 a.m. on Day 1 of the event, participants will gather at Shawnigan Lake School before heading out to discover Cowichan Valley wineries, galleries and farms. The day wraps up with a sunset dinner, including a wine tasting, music and fine Cowichan Valley cuisine.
On Day 2, riders rise and shine to a pancake breakfast and head out to explore the Shawnigan Lake region's apple cidery, glassblowing gallery and more farms and wineries. Things wrap up with a barbecue lunch.
For more information, including how to register, fees, minimum pledge requirements and accommodation options at Shawnigan Lake School and elsewhere, visit cowichanvalleygrapeescape.com.
Eat well and learn about local foods
Chef Bill Jones's renowned Deerholme Farm near Duncan is offering some splendid dinners this summer. Jones's plan is to have you eat extremely well and learn about local foods.
Events include a spot prawn and dungeness crab dinner, June 23; a celebration of Vancouver Island meat, barbecue-style, July 7; and a salmon dinner Aug. 18. The dinners cost $90 per person plus HST.
Call 1-250-748-7450 for details and reservations. To see the complete multi-dish menu for each dinner and get directions to the farm, go to deerholme.com.
Indulge in a Victoria culinary tour
From now to September, on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, Kathy McAree, owner of Travel with Taste, will host a tour of some of Victoria's favourite food and beverage merchants. McAree says you'll sip, slurp and chomp your way on a guided walk, enjoying tea, cheese, meats and pÃ¢tÃ©s, chocolate, special sweets and wine. Tours begin at 9: 30 a.m. and end, with you indulged and waddling, by 1 p.m. Cost is $89 per person plus HST. Advance reservations required. For more information, including information on McAree's group tours to Island wine country and other locales, visit travelwithtaste.com.
The first annual Victoria Vegan Fest takes place July 1 from 12 to 5 p.m. at Market Square in downtown Victoria. The event is described as a showcase for the vegan lifestyle, welcoming all from the curious to long-time vegans. Admission is free for the family-friendly event, featuring entertainers, music, nonprofit groups, vegan-food-related businesses and delicious vegan food samples.
Guest speakers will discuss topics such as vegan cooking tips, vegan nutrition, raw-food diet and more. For a complete list of speakers and more information, visit victoriaveganfest.com.
Taste - Victoria's festival of food and wine
Taste has become the summer's must-attend event for foodies. This year, it takes place July 19 to 22. Events include wine tastings, such as the Pinot Noir Challenge, food and beverages seminars, such as Chocolate Expert and a Tea Master Tempt Your Palate; and wine-and food-themed get-togethers, such as Sips and Seafood and Swine and the Vine.
Taste's signature event is called The Main Event: a Cuisine and Wine Tasting. It takes place at the Crystal Gardens on July 19 from 6: 30 to 9 p.m. It's described as a conscientious evening tasting of more than 100 British Columbia wines and the most incredible array of local and seasonal cuisine. Tickets are $79 plus tax. To purchase tickets and learn more about the festival, visit victoriataste.com.
Boat to Saturna Island and enjoy lamb barbecue
The 63rd annual Saturna Island Lamb Barbecue takes place Saturday, July 1, on the grounds of Hunter Field. This popular fundraising event is described as a joyous celebration of Canada Day, centred on a wood-firecooked lamb meal served with side dishes.
There will also be music, souvenirs and local crafts, along with a dunk tank, bingo tent, country-style golf driving range and allages games with prizes. For those who wish to imbibe, a beverage garden will offer beer, cider and wine. No personal alcohol or dogs are allowed on site.
The grounds open at 10 a.m. and the event runs until 4: 30 p.m. The lamb meal takes place between 2 and 3 p.m. Entrance is free, but you'll need to buy a ticket for the meal, which costs $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12.
Meal-ticket sales start at the site at 9 a.m. Groups (i.e. tours, organizations) can order tickets in advance by calling 250-539-2452 or emailing email@example.com. For details, including ferry and water taxi options, visit saturnalambbarbeque.com.
Take a self-guided tour of local wineries
The Wine Islands Vintners Association, which helps promote Island wineries and related businesses, has come up with a fun way to sample local wine and have a chance to win great prizes.
From now until Oct. 31, the association is hosting what it calls "Passport to the Wine Islands." You can pick up a passport at participating wineries, tourist info centres and many hotels and B&Bs. You can also download and print your own PDF of the passport at wineislands.ca. Click on the icon on the home page.
When you're ready to take a self-guided tour, use the map on the passport to visit the participating wineries you want to see and receive a stamp from each. Before heading out, check the wineries' hours of operation.
Also check the WIVA website for places to dine near or at some of the wineries you visit.
To be entered in the draw for one of three prizes, submit your stamped passport via mail to WIVA by Nov. 15. Prizes include a guided full-day tour for two of four Saanich Peninsula wineries, including lunch and a flight of wines at Muse Winery; a one-night stay for two at Damali Lavender Farm, Winery and B&B, including breakfast for two; and a one-night stay for two at Merridale Ciderworks in one of their luxurious yurts, including breakfast for two. firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric Akis is the author of the bestselling Everyone Can Cook series of cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.
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