With the somewhat late arrival of summer in BC this year it feels like the harvest and its related festivals are all being piled into the weekends of September. This weekend is no exception, as the seventh Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival kicks off tomorrow night with a very special dedication to the late James Barber, the Urban Peasant.
James was a big fan of Providence Farm, a non-profit organization in the Cowichan Valley that provides a number of services to the community, including a market garden, nursery, and community kitchen. Tomorrow night,(September 15th) as part of the festival, a special fund-raising event is taking place in his name. It’s put on by the Cowichan Chefs’ Table and features some of the area’s top chefs, including Bill Jones of Deerholme Farm, Brock Windsor of Stone Soup Inn and special guest chef Robert Clark from C Restaurant in Vancouver. Some of the food will come out of a wood-burning oven, which will be dedicated to James Barber tomorrow night. James actually had a hand in building this oven up island some years ago at a workshop with a woman named Carol Spencer. Bill Jones (pictured at the oven) told me that the chefs putting on the Canadian Chefs Congress at Providence Farm wanted to build an oven as a legacy facility to thank Providence Farm, and do it in James’ name. But Carol Spencer said she would donate her oven. Bill and a couple of other chefs went up island to get the oven…which turned out to weigh 27 thousand pounds!
A few different cranes and a truck ride later, the oven made it to Providence Farm, was used at the Chefs’ Congress, and the Cowichan Chefs’ Table will affix a commemorative plaque to the oven tomorrow night, get more details here.
As for the rest of the Cowichan Wine & Culinary Festival, it’s a great combination of visits and ticketed events like farm-to-fork dinners and the aforementioned James Barber fundraiser. I hope to visit farms like Organic Fair where they are putting on a special lunch menu this weekend, topped off with the amazing ice cream they make there, there will be tastings and cooking demos in Cowichan Bay where you can put together visits to Hilary’s Cheese, True Grain Bakery and Cowichan Bay Seafood, and it’s that kind of food diversity that Festival Director Mike Hanson loves to talk about: “It’s the discovery, being able to visit new farms, wineries that are doing some great wines, food and friends.” Don’t be put off by the weather forecast, quite often when it is raining in Victoria it is still bone dry in the Cowichan. Chances are you will see me wandering around somewhere this weekend, including the Borscht Competition at Alderlea Farm!