My bar stool was in the middle of the hallway facing the open-kitchen and half-obstructing a walkway. I guess I was in the way of walking-traffic, but in all honesty I didn’t care.
I was getting ready to dive in for some gastro-tasting at Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub in Victoria and I was also in good company. Carolyne, Holly from Tourism Victoria and Brian Storen, a celebrity sommelier who won the recognition of Canada’s Sommelier of the Year 2005 by enRoute Magazine were all there for the ride.
Like most things on this trip to Victoria, Spinnakers was not how I remembered the last time I was there, but then, this is not surprising. Back then, I was still trying to figure it all out as a student. I was upstairs drinking beer, eating Nachos and playing pool with friends.
Now, I was shaking hands with Chef Alison Ryan and staring at a row of five uniquely curved glasses that would serve as a preambulation (Brian called it that) for the night. I liked it better this time around.
For a place that pioneered craft-beer brewing culture and is the oldest brewpub in Canada, the vibe of the restaurant is very upscale, but still approachable.
The constant bustle of the kitchen and the wait-staff coming-and-going does provide that brasserie feeling you’d get in a busy New York or European environment, but then you turn to face the windows and you’re surrounded by an endless Victoria Inner Harbour view. That’s when the comfort sinks in. Or was it after sipping their Aquifer-sourced O de Vie, a mineral water bottled from underneath the restaurant? Not sure just yet.
Briefing my storyline of the tasting, I have to use the tasting notes Brian emailed us yesterday, because it is a work of art–a haiku of tasting notes as he called it. For me, the highlights included the freshly shucked petite Cortes Island Whaletown oyster that we washed down with Tugwell Creek’s Sparkling Methode Classic Wassail Mead. The mead was a mellow palate cleanser for the creamy-and-fleshy oyster meat.
The pairing for the Panzanella Salad that included heirloom tomatoes and organic Kalamata olives (the salad was inspired by Ali’s trips to Italy) was the high hopped Spinnakers IPA and the Schulze’s Cobble Hill 2007 Millefiori (a thousand flowers) wine. (Brian swears it’s laced with male pheromones to make the ladies go wild.)
What I went crazy for were the next two courses: The majestic seared tuna loin that enjoyed swimming on top of a bed of crispy baby bok choy, sweet cherry tomatoes and was dotted with Port Albernie Hertel bacon bites and the turfy pork tenderloin (together with its riveting plum compote) and bintje potato plate.
We fleshed out the body of the plate “with humility and grace and a Spinnakers ESB, named one of Canada best beers by McLeans Magazine” and also Brian’s dad’s favourite beer when he was alive.
Elevating our other olfactory senses was the Oliver’s Stoneboat Winery’s 2007 Pinotage, the grapes “grown to sun withered, low hanging, warm earth coated old canine scrotum density in a singular sweaty bovine enological gem for the country from Lanny Martiniuck’s family vineyard,” as per Brian.
Not a foregone conclusion, the ending to the night included Chocolatier Crystal Duck’s handmade truffles paired with beer. Served on a square plate, the methodically orchestrated clock-wise dessert tasting brought the evening to a full-circle.
Bite into the “slightly wicked ‘tequila shot’ tequila and sea salt infused dark chocolate truffle.” Swig on the ‘BlueBridge’ Ale. Slight plate turn.
Bite into the Chivas Regale laced dark chocolate truffle. Sip the Mount Tolmie Dark Ale. Slight plate turn.
Bite into the ‘just a little stout’ dark chocolate, stout and barley truffle. Sip the Ogden Porter. Slight plate turn.
Bite into a small piece of the Salt Spring Island’s Blossoms Blue Cheese. Sip on the Venturi Schulze Vineyards Brandenburg # 3. Yes, Brian, it is a “kaleidoscopic epiphany.” Finalizing the tale with “pure Brian overkill,” we sipped on a rhubarb-and-strawberry sorbet dessert that was soaked in Spinnaker’s new homemade Victoria gin.
I think Brian summed up our evening best when he said, “struck by a sneaky release of vibrant florality pluming in the inoculated mouth as you breath into what you’ve swallowed..it is interesting…not unlike the experience of going on a blind date with low expectations and being shocked by the humble perfection of it all.”
I couldn’t have written it better. Buena Note on bended knees, Brian. To share your own personal photos from across Canada, we’d love to see them at Locals Know.
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