I'm celebrating 15 years of being food writer for the Times Colonist. More than 1,000 columns later, my job has required a lot of sampling.
To symbolize my 15 years of doing that, today I present, in alphabetical order, 15 of my favourite foods produced or served locally.
It was hard to choose and I cheated a bit and fitted in a few other items in some of those listed.
My list could have been 100 items long. On that note, I would love to learn what some of your must-have local foods are.
Please keep your responses short and send them to eakis@ timescolonist.com.
1 ASIAN DELICACIES
I routinely visit several Victoria Asian restaurants. At those places are dishes I must have each time there. At Saigon Night, 915 Fort St., it's the fried tofu in a ginger-rich sauce, which will make a tofu lover out of anyone. At J&J Wonton Noodle House, 1012 Fort St., it's almost everything, but in particular the alwaysperfectly cooked eggplant with hot ginger garlic sauce, which has the most beguiling sauce. At Osaka Sushi, 1951 Oak Bay Ave., I'm addicted to their spicy tuna and avocado roll; perfect avocado, gorgeous tuna and great rice all pleasingly spiced.
2 DUNGENESS CRAB
I've eaten crab around the world; such as butterdipped snow crab in St. John's, N.L., chili-spiced mud crabs in Singapore and fried soft-shell crab in New Orleans. It was all good, but never quite as good as our local Dungeness crab - steamed, boiled, turned in cakes, who cares. The meat is so sweet, succulent and divine, I need a fix at least once a month.
3 GALLOPING GOOSE SAUSAGE COMPANY
Owner Johan Wessels describes his Metchosinmade sausages as being lean, but you'd never guess that when eating one. They're delightfully juicy and beautifully seasoned, with flecks of quality spices and herbs noticeable through the casing. Some of the 28 types produced include boerewors, curry, country garlic and Italian. They are available at Metchosin Country Store, Deep Cove Market, Niagara Grocery and Peppers Food Store. For other locations selling them, go to islandnet.com/~sausage/ and click on "product information." Wessels also grills and sells his sausages at Moss Street Market.
4 SALTSPRING ISLAND GOAT CHEESE
In 1997, one of my first stories in the Times Colonist was about a new business called Saltspring Island Cheese Company. Owner David Wood introduced to me his splendid, tangy goat cheese by showing me how he serves it. Set a round of cheese on sliced ripe tomatoes, add some few basil leaves, and drizzle all with good olive oil. Spread the cheese on good bread, top with tomatoes and enjoy.
5 FOL EPI BREAD
We regularly have dinner parties and a staple at them is bread from Fol Epi Organic Bread and Pastry, 101-398 Harbour Rd. On their website, folepi.ca, they say to ensure the best possible loaves, they carefully source flours and even grind their own grain. The result is a loaf with great texture and superb crust.
6 FOOD IN JARS CANNING CO. BREAD AND BUTTER ZUCCHINI PICKLES
I've never been a huge fan of zucchini, but this product made by Jennifer Davidson's Food in Jars Canning Co. has changed that. The sweet and sour, perfectly spiced, not to mention perfect sliced, pieces of zucchini are beautiful to look at and a treasure to eat, particularly when piled on a burger, sandwich or anything else pickles go with. Unfortunately, to try them and Davidson's other stellar preserves made at Shawnigan Lake, you'll have to wait until her booth opens at Moss Street Market in May. For more information, visit Davidson's blog, forward thinkingfoods.blogspot.com.
7 GEORGE SZASZ'S DUCK CONFIT
George Szasz, co-owner of Stage Wine Bar in Fernwood, has started another company called Szasz Sausages & Fine Foods (szaszsausages.com). Yes, the sausage and other products are exceptional, but it's his duck confit that I love most. It's sold frozen, ready to heat until crisp and sinfully delicious. If you're looking for an impressive, easy to cook item to anchor a dinner plate, this is it. It is sold at Market on Yates, Slater's Meats and at Stage, 1307 Gladstone Ave.
8 ITALIAN FOOD IMPORT SANDWICHES
Prior to my family heading off on a long plane ride somewhere, we often (my wife usually) stop into Italian Food Imports, 1114 Blanshard St. This family run Italian-food-rich business makes the best sandwiches around, crafting them to order on great bread with such things as freshly sliced Italian deli meats, cheeses and fresh and prepared vegetables. While on the plane, we thoroughly enjoy them and wonder why anyone would settle for the substandard fair sold onboard.
9 IRELAND FARMS FREERANGE TURKEY
We are blessed to have several fantastic poultry producers on Vancouver Island. At several holiday meals, one I've been very thankful for is Ireland Farms in Saanichton, producer of the finest freerange turkey you'll ever eat. For more information on this organic meat producer, go to islandfarmfresh.com, click on products and then on turkey.
10 PURE VANILLA BAKERY AND CAFÃ BROWNIES
I'm a chocoholic (see Udder Guy's ice cream, below) and when my wife brought me brownies from Pure Vanilla CafÃ© and Bakery in Oak Bay, things got even worse. Their firmlooking exterior is a deception, because once you bite into them your mouth fills with something that has soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture akin to a luxurious chocolate truffle. No wonder they call them "perfect" brownies.
11 FRESH-BAKED MOUNT ROYAL BAGELS
When I have overnight company, I'll often make a morning pilgrimage to Mount Royal Bagel Factory, 1115 North Park St. My mission is to get bagels to build a fine breakfast around. They are often still warm and so pleasing in texture I eat one on the drive home. Add some Island Farms cream cheese, local smoked salmon and some scrambled, farm-fresh eggs and you have a very tasty start to the day.
12 ST. JEAN'S CANNERIES ALBACORE TUNA
For my money, St. Jean's Cannery in Nanaimo produces the best canned tuna in the world. The fine quality Pacific albacore tuna they use is hand-packed and cooked in the can with just a hint of sea salt. That process varies greatly from imported canned tuna, in which the fish is precooked, then put in the can, liquid (often water) is added, and then the fish is cooked again, robbing it of flavour and nutrients. St. Jean's tuna is more expensive than that tuna, but it's worth every cent and once you try it you'll be hooked. You can order it (I buy it by the case) from their website, stjeans.com, or by phone at 1-866-754-3191. Their website also lists retail locations that sell it.
13VANCOUVER ISLAND BRIE CHEESE
Our Island's lush pastures feed some very happy dairy cows, that in turn create rich milk in which to make cheese, such as exquisite Brie. Two staples in my house are Little Qualicum Cheeseworks Brie and Natural Pastures Comox Brie, past gold-medal winner at the World Championship Cheese Contest. Both cheeses are available at most supermarkets and fine food stores.
14 UDDER GUY'S CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM
This company started as a home-based business in 1999, now has a manufacturing plant in Duncan, and currently their premium ice cream is sold in just about every supermarket. Pretty impressive considering some the giant companyies they compete against, such as HÃ¤agen-Dazs. Why are they successful? It's because their ice cream is ultra creamy, rich and fabulous. They make 24 flavours; my favourite is the sublime "udderly" chocolate. For more information, go to udderguysicecream.com.
15 WILLOWS GALLEY FISH AND CHIPS (AND BURGERS TOO!)
I love fish and chips and when I moved into my Oak Bay neighbourhood was thrilled to discover we had a shop selling it nearby: Willows Galley, 2559 Estevan Ave. The operator of the business has changed a couple of times the last few years, but the current one is back to keeping things simple: producing crisply battered fish and fresh-cut fries. If you're not a fish eater, they also make one of the best beef burgers in town.
Eric Akis is the author of the bestselling Everyone Can Cook series of cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.