Where’s your happy place? I always feel like I’m in a pretty damn happy place when I’m on Vancouver Island. While I love the Mainland, road trips to the Island feel like a true escape and I can actually sense the pace of my thoughts slowing down. Whether I’m roaming the streets of Victoria, the hills of the Cowichan Valley, the beaches of Qualicum or Tofino or biking through the Comox countryside, there’s most likely a big grin on my face. So, when Honda asked followers on twitter to name a happy place and enter to win $1,000 towards a trip to it, I tweeted just that and WOO HOO!!! I actually won the contest!
With my new found winnings in hand, and also, very conveniently a 2015 Honda Fit (review here) to drive, I boarded BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay over to Nanaimo and then drove up to The Comox Valley for their annual BC Shellfish Festival! Check the BC Ferries website for fall specials and accommodation and travel packages! Lots of deals on.
The festival includes a full week and more of events, everything from oyster farm tours, to wine and shellfish dinners and champagne seafood brunch.
I checked into the Old House Village Hotel in Courtney and got ready for the evenings adventures. Super great spot with roomy rooms and en-suite laundry and kitchens should you need to stay a while.
First up was the Prime Chophouse Wine Bar‘s 40 Knots Winery and Seafood Dinner. Starting with some Comox Valley Hollie Wood oysters and 40 Knots Winery Spindrift Brut we sampled dishes showcasing the best of the region along with the estate wines from this very local winery. I wrote more about 40 Knots in BC Wine Trails Magazine here.
The following day we hit the ocean to check out a Deep Water Oyster Farm Tour onboard Comox Harbour Charters. Cruising throught the Baynes Sound we ventured over to the shores of Denman Island to visit Hollie Wood Oysters oyster growing site. We sample oysters from the farm and then enjoyed there clams and oysters cooked right onboard. All washed down with an oyster stout made by Victoria’s Spinnakers Brewery and these same oysters, so perfect!
The highlight of the festival, every year (I’ve been to two others) is the Gala Dinner held among the gardens of Filberg Park and Lodge, overlooking Comox Harbour and the Beaufort Mountain Range. Starting with oyster raw bars with a variety of oysters from different regions of the BC coast, the reception is then followed by six courses, each plate designed by a different chef along with a selection of BC wines.
The list of 2015 Featured Chefs included: James Walt, from Araxi, Whistler, Mariana Gabilondo, from Gowlland Harbour Resort, Quadra Island, Gabriel Fayerman-Hansen from Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa, Brentwood Bay, Nicholas Nutting, from Wolf in the Fog, Tofino, Trevor Bird, from Fable, Vancouver and Greg MacDonald, from The Waverley Hotel, Cumberland. Chef Aaron Rail, of The White Whale in Courtenay coordinated this feast and the chefs all banded together to assist in each others courses.
The setting, food and wines makes for a truly magical evening.
Saturday’s Comox by the Sea Celebration at Filberg Park is all about roaming the park and sampling shellfish and seafood tastings prepared by chefs and seafood producers. And there’s a beer and wine garden and chowder competition to round things out.
Next year’s Shellfish Festival will be June 10-19, 2016 and I’ll certainly be posting about it well in advance, and, with any luck, will be there again.