Food Matters – Dine Around Preview

Locals Spinach SaladLocals Spinach Salad

Last Saturday I had the great opportunity courtesy of Discover Comox Valley to check out four different restaurants taking part in Dine Around the Comox Valley. To learn more about which restaurants are offering special menus and which hotels and B+B’s are offering accommodation specials, check out this website. Dine Around the Comox Valley runs from Feb. 20th to March 17th, 2013. If you want to know more about Dine Around Victoria you can click here. It runs Feb. 21st to March 10th. The audio version of this preview is available to listen to here.

DSC 1387Creamy Parsnip Apple Soup

We started at Avenue Bistro in Comox, with oysters, salad, and this parsnip soup. I hate parsnips. But I loved this soup. So much so I asked for the recipe. (recipe below) 

DSC 1393Locals Spinach Salad

After Avenue it was in to Courtenay, to Locals, one of my favourite restaurants in the city, not only because of their dedication to local ingredients, but the deft hand of Chef Ronald St. Pierre. Isn’t that spinach salad just beautiful? This is a great vegetable that can be grown here year-round, and Chef Ronald really knows how to use what he has to work with. Also on the Dine Around tasting menu, Dungeness crab, a true West Coast sustainable seafood resource, and we also enjoyed some salad rolls made with free-range chicken.

Photo1 1My Salad Rolls

I love making salad rolls so I took inspiration from Chef Ronald along with the list of ingredients he sent me and created the ones you see here on the left. (recipe below) 

DSC 1396 Sesame Tuna

Back over in Comox we visited a new restaurant for me, Martine’s Bistro. The owner decided he wanted us to try all of the entrees he would be offering for Dine Around and we submitted to his will…curried chicken fettucine, sesame-crusted tuna, a bacon-wrapped filet mignon and a cassoulet featuring slow-cooked duck leg and pork belly. (My favourite, although the white chocolate creme brule was damn good as well.)

DSC 1411
Dessert at Prime

With just one restaurant to go our bellies were swollen but we still managed to demolish another creme brule as well as an excellent vanilla custard bread pudding doused with a bourbon butterscotch sauce…which I washed down with a couple of shots of bourbon. Cheers to Prime Chophouse and Wine Bar for a fitting finish to a memorable evening!

Transportation that evening was made effortless by Jacob of Ambassador Shuttle Service and accommodations were provided at the beautiful Beach House Bed and Breakfast in Courtenay. When they say ‘beach’ they’re not kidding. The breakfast was good, too! Transportation to Vancouver Island was provided by BC Ferries

bnbView from our B and B

creamy parsnip and apple soup with crispy onions, chives and white truffle oil Recipe from Chef Aaron Rail, Avenue Bistro, Comox 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onions, about 2 medium yellow or white onions 2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups peeled and chopped parsnips
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups fresh unfiltered apple juice
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup creme fraiche
1 cup finely sliced yellow onion
2 tablespoons minced chives
white truffle oil**

• sweat olive oil and chopped onions over high heat until onions wilt
• stir in minced garlic, turn heat as low as possible, cover with cartouche*
• slowly cook onions, stirring occasionally until very soft, about 30 – 40 minutes
• add parsnips, vegetable stock and apple juice, bring to a simmer, cover with
cartouche, and cook until the parsnips are very tender, about 45 minutes
• add heavy cream, turn heat to medium high, and bring to a boil
• remove from heat, add creme fraiche, blend with an immersion blender until smooth
• strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer and season to taste
• garnish soup with crispy fried onions(see note), chives and white truffle oil

For crispy fried onions:
• arrange finely sliced onion on a sheet pan lined with paper towel and season with salt and let onions sit for 10 minutes and then drain
• fry onions in 350 degree fahrenheit oil until golden brown
• drain onions and let dry on fresh paper towel

*a cartouche is a piece of wax paper cut to cover the top of the pan you are cooking in. It rests of top of the food and keeps in moisture.

**white truffle oil is available at specialty delis and grocery stores, black truffle oil is perfectly acceptable as well!

Salad Rolls, adapted from a recipe by Chef Ronald St. Pierre, Locals Restaurant, Courtenay (I’ve listed the ingredients Chef Ronald uses in his salad rolls, but you can be creative and use whatever veggies you have on hand that are easy to chew when raw. If you don’t want chicken, you could use cooked shrimp. Or keep them veggie. Or add in some cooked vermicelli noodles, or chopped peanuts. Whatever you like.


• Rice paper wraps (available in Asian grocery stores and most Ethnic ingredient sections of supermarkets)
• Free Range Chicken – stewed and pulled off the bone, cut into narrow strips
• Green and red cabbage, shredded
• Daikon radish, julienned
• Cucumber, peeled, seeded and julienned
• Green Onion, julienned
• Sunflower Sprouts
• Carrots, julienned
• Chinese 5 Spice Powder

Soya Ginger Dipping Sauce
• Ginger, a thumb-sized chunk, minced
• Garlic, one clove, minced
• Soya Sauce, 2 tbsp
• Brown Sugar, 1 tbsp
• Sesame Oil, 1/2 tsp
• Cilantro, 2 tbsp chopped
• Sambal / Chili sauce, to taste
• Lime, juice of two


Dipping sauce: In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients, taste for heat and salt, set aside.

In bowl, soak rice vermicelli in hot water until tender, about 10 minutes; drain. Toss with 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the dipping sauce.

Cut cucumber, red pepper, carrot and mango into 3- x 1/8-inch (8 cm x 3 mm) strips. Set aside.

Fill shallow fry pan with water. Soak one rice paper wrapper at a time in the water until it just starts to soften. Drain and pat with a tea towel and transfer to large cutting board. 

Along the bottom edge of the wrapper and leaving one inch on each side, place a bit of each of the filling ingredients in a neat pile. Sprinkle with a bit of Chinese 5-spice. Fold sides over the pile and tightly roll up. Repeat with more rice paper wrappers, one by one, using up the remaining ingredients. Cut each roll in half with a diagonal cut. Serve with the dipping sauce. 

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