Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rosi's Bistro on West Saanich

This is a small restaurant in a strip mall across from the Med Grill. The decor is very Brick, 1980's and our table was wobbly. The bread is bad. But the pasta is great! Wine by the bottle is very affordable. The food is not so affordable. Overall a mixed bag.

We dined with our 17 month old and fortunately we came equipped with a booster seat as they did not have wither a high chair or a booster. On the other hand the staff was helpful and amenable to our requests for an extra plate and that sort of thing.

On entry do not expect much. The interior, as I said, is very basic. That said there are signs they are trying, but they need a bit of help and, I suspect, some money.

The menu is fairly large and printed on basic white paper. Also not inspiring. Even higher quality paper, without typos and stains would have helped. I am always a bit suspicious of larger menus too, though the limited selection of ingredients was reassuring to me. On the bright side there were several vegetarian options, though nothing vegan jumped out at me.

They brought us bread, it was from a bag. Not good, even if they tried to dress it up with balsamic and oil in shakers for your use. This is the type of bread that will be covered in mold before it gets hard or crusty and is dry even when at it's freshest.

We started with the bruscetta sampler. For twelve dollars we got three squares of the bag bread with our choice of topping from about a half a dozen options. We won't say more about the bread. The toppings were okay. Good flavour combinations and fresh ingredients.

The main courses are what saved this place. I had the baked cheese manicotti. One manicotti roll was the perfect portion and it seemed to be fresh pasta. The marinara sauce was yummy and they had used generous but not ridiculous cheese on top, which created the lovely crusty, gooey, cheesy topping I had truly be searching for. A few more seconds in the oven would have ensured the proper creaminess in the ricotta filling which was a bit pasty due to that lack. Again though, flavour was good and my portion was just right. I had a glass of Pinot Grigio with dinner which was a nice glass with the dish and a generous enough pour that I could sip through appetizer and dinner. My husband had a scallop and pancetta bowtie pasta that he was very happy with. His portion was generous and he was pleased by the amount of scallop (five big ones)and pancetta. He didn't finish his and took home a doggie bag that he enjoyed later. The one thing was that those main courses were pricey at fifteen and nineteen dollars respectively this was not the budget conscious meal that the decor suggests.

So, overall, I would say go to Rosi's, skip and bread items, and go straight to the mains. The portions are generous enough to fill you up and it would keep the bill in check. And expect to feel you eaten in someone's kitchen, not the dining room.

Rosi's Tuscan Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 30, 2009

Growing Wheat on Vancouver Island

Eat Magazine has an interesting article in this month's issue about growing wheat on Vancouver Island. Actually they will be covering this over this and the next two issues. I experimented with growing wheat in 2008 and did not find it particularly useful project.

There is something romantic about being able to buy bread that has been made from locally grown wheat. You can buy local wheat at For Good Measure Bulk Food in Cadboro Bay for a price of $3.30 to $4.40 a kilo - a lot more than the less than $10 I pay for 10 kg. It is not only expensive, growing it locally is not a good use of the land.

You can buy bread made with local wheat at Fol Epi, True Grain in Cowichan Bay, The Roost and Wildfire bakery.

The problem with wheat is that does not produce a lot per acre, one should expect to harvest about 2.5 tonnes per acre. This is not unreasonable in areas where the land can not be readily used for other crops - such as on the prairies. On Vancouver Island this does not make sense.

An acre on the Saanich peninsula could produce the following:
  • 20 tonnes of tomatoes
  • 12 tonnes of strawberries
  • 20 tonnes of apples
  • 3 tonnes of grapes
  • 25 tonnes of carrots

Growing wheat on this land makes no sense for best use of the land, the farmer's business or food security. We have land here that con do so much more.

In the distant past wheat was grown here because we did not have the transportation infrastructure to move the wheat around as easily as today. To move back to growing wheat means moving backwards in how we use the land.

Wheat stores well and transports well, you can move it in bulk by train. Tomatoes, apples, berries and other fresh crops do not travel nearly as well and require trucks. Each kilo of wheat that is grown here displaces the potential of close to eight kilos of produce. Each train car load of wheat we grow here means we need about 20 semi trailer loads of produce to be trucked here from elsewhere. This means local wheat has an interesting impact of CO2 emissions through the loss of local land for other local production.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Not Really about Good Food

There has been an ongoing rumour that McDonalds does not use Canadian beef, or at least uses a lot of beef that comes from rain forest deforestation. This is not true at all. Mcdonalds is one of the single biggest purchasers of beef in Canada. They buy 29 000 000 kilos of beef each year.

There seems to a desire out there to believe that McDonalds is some horrible corporate citizen because they are such a big corporation. Certainly the food they sell is hardly good for you, but so then is a burger and fries and a mom and pop greasy spoon. In many ways McDonalds is better than most fast food restaurants - they make it easy to know the nutritional information for their products

The internet rumour continues on and on, new people keep perpetuating it. It seems there is visceral hatred of such a successful fast food operation. Because McDonalds is the biggest, somehow they must be evil.

I have no love for McDonalds but I impressed with how they run their business. They make a product that is consistent globally. In fact their Big Mac has been used as a measure of how well currencies compare in values. Normally currencies are evaluated using the relative cost of a basket of goods to arrive at what is called Purchase Price Parity. In 1988 the Economist started with the idea of the Big Mac index as a joke, but it turns out to be a very good measure of PPP. McDonalds can make the same Big Mac in 120 countries.

Consistency is important to the company. Not long ago I bought a quarter pounder in Tsawwassen on the way to the ferry. Once I was in the line up I found the burger to be cold, the cheese was unmelted and there was a lack of condiments. I phoned the restaurant and they offered to replace it. I explained I was in the line for the ferry and could not get it. They said they would have a credit for me for a new burger whenever I came through again. About five months later I was going through the drive through and said I had this credit. With no fuss they either found the note of the credit or just gave it to me.

I have also seen what the company can do for teenagers interested in learning to be leaders of teams of people. They allow 15 year olds to be promoted to shift supervisors if they show a desire and ability. I am hard pressed to think of many other venues where a high school kid can get some real responsibility in their lives.

I know the downsides of the food. I have watched Morgan Spurlock's movie Super Size Me and I loved it. I let my kids watch it and they took to heart the message that fast food is not good for you. But at the end of the day there are times when I am on the road and do not have the time to stop to eat somewhere. It is at moments like that I get the McDonalds food.

There is a place for McDonalds and their food.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Cariboo Potato - The Libertarian's Potato

The Tyee has an interesting article about the Cariboo Potato. The Cariboo is a potato native to the area it is named for and has worked well there for generations as a small scale potato. It is not a great potato for mechanized harvesting and therefore the Canadian government banned it. Yes, the government decided what could be grown and what could not.

There is a sub-text in the article that this old variety of potato is a slap in the face of capitalism, but really it is a slap in the face for top down government interference. In a free enterprise system no one would be stopping anyone from growing something.

Starting in the 1920s and escaltign wildly during World War 2 and then going on for decades the governments in Canada intervened in a huge number of aspects of of our day to day lives. We had prohibition of alcohol, which was lifted, and of marijuana. What you grew had to sold through marketing boards, many of which still survive today. Transportation of fruits and vegetables around the province was restricted. In general the government was looking for more and more places to regulate our lives.

This interference was first attacked by the hippies in the late 1960s and then by the free market libertarians in the 1980s, but we still have vestiges of the insanity around us in our food system.

Many organic growers can not sell what they want to produce because they can not afford to buy the 'right' to produce the product regulated by a marketing board - eggs, cheese and milk fall under this.

Growing interesting high quality niche varieties is not possible on the praries because everything has to be sold through the Canada Wheat Board. If you go to Alberta and buy a bushel of wheat from a grower, you are breaking the law.

There are more examples out there I could name, but suffice it to say that I am glad to see the Cariboo Potato is alive and well and fighting the oppressive government system.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

CR-FAIR October 15 food security roundtable at Community Council
The next CR-FAIR, the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable, will be held at the Community Council office on October 15th from 11am to 1pm.

Meeting details:

When: Thursday 15 October, 11:00am to 1:00pm
Where: Community Council, 3948 Quadra Street - Map

Community Council office: 2-3948 Quadra Street (Located across from Lumberworld. If driving, please enter driveway at the foot of Reynolds Street and park in front of the brown building. Our office is in the white building at the end of the parking lot. Please enter the door at the front of the white building, not the beige side door. For accessible entrance, please go to the beige side door and ring the doorbell. Someone will come to let you in.)

Please RSVP to mkr@communitycouncil.ca.

Food security roundtable meetings are an informal forum for networking and exchange of information on issues and projects related to food security and sustainable food systems, and usually last 1 to 1.5 hours.
We look forward to seeing you on the 15th. Check out this and other food-related events on the new CR-FAIR regional food events calendar:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Sheila was very nice to me for my birthday, she took me to Camille's for dinner.

I have been interested and intrigued about Camille's for some years now, I had an office above them back in 2004. The restaurant is located in the basement of a Bastion Square building, it is a warren of small rooms hidden away down a discrete staircase at the southeast corner of the square. Other than a small sign at the top of the stairs there is nothing to indicate that one of Victoria's best restaurants is right there.

Both Sheila and I have been wanting to go to Camille's for some time but not had the chance to do so. Finally we have been there for a meal and it is as good as we had hoped it would be.

Camille's chef David Mincey focuses on using a lot of locally sourced food on their menu. The chef seems to have a close relationship with his suppliers. What was also wonderful is that the waiter was very knowledgeable about all of the food and willing to spend time talking to us about the food. If he was not a sommelier, he certainly seemed to be have the skills to be one.

I had the pan seared scallops as a starter. I wish I could make scallops at home, but I can not hit that sweet zone of perfection, I have a nasty habit of getting something more hockey puck like than perfect.

My main course was the beef tenderloin. The beef they use is from Ranchland's Natural Beef of the Nicola Valley. This ranch is run by former BC Liberal MLA Dave Chutter. Dave is an amazingly reserved man with a vision of how a better world will work, it shows in the beef that he raises. Dave even won an award from the SPCA for how he looks after his cattle. It is nice to have this personal connection with your food. Anyway, it was amazing, it melted in my mouth.

Sheila had a five course tasting menu, she also had a wine pairing with each course. She enjoyed all of her courses, but the wines were adequate but not stunning.

I ordered a bottle of 1998 Chateau de Ferrand St Emiillon Grand Cru on the recommendation of the waiter. This was an inspired choice, it worked perfectly with my beef. It is the sort of wine that is so much better than a typical wine that makes a decent red wine feel like cooking wine. Sheila tried some of the wine and then had trouble going back to her BC red wine that came with her tasting menu.
The unfortunate truth is that BC can not make a stellar red wine.

We still had much of a bottle of wine left when the main course was done so we asked for a cheese plate, they do not have one on the menu but the waiter worked with the kitchen staff to come up with one for us. The cheese plate a nice selection of Vancouver Island and Saltspring cheeses along with some fresh berries.

All in all it was a wonderful experience and I would love to return when we can afford it.

Camille's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Canadian Wine Industry is in the Economist

The Economist has the Canadian Wine Industry in an article in this week's paper. The article is not a great one for the industry, the tone is dismissive of Canadian wines. The idea of Canadian wine does make most of the world shake their heads in disbelief.

In Canada we have moved from making the worst of plonks with subsidized grapes to being able to making drinkable wines, though most of our wines are uninspired and bland. At the end of the day in Canada we have few locations that can grow reasonable grape volumes per acre. We crop at 3.8 to 4.3 tonnes per acre in our best regions. South of us in Oregon the same grapes crop at close to 5 tonnes per acre. They are getting 25% more grapes per acre and therefore can have cheaper grapes.

Land costs are also killing us. In the Okanagan land sells for about $50 000 per acre. Not much further south in Washington the land sells for a fraction of the cost. The Okanogan Valley in the US has very little viticulture even though it has better conditions that the BC Okanagan valley.

Outside of our real grape growing regions, the volume of grapes cropped per acre is between 1 and 3 tonnes. At these very low volumes of grapes per acre, a grower on somewhere like Vancouver Island needs about twice as much land as an Oregon grower to provide the same number of grapes. At three tonnes per acre the gross return is only $3000 to $4500 per acre. With the same land you can produce about 10 tonnes of apples and sell this for $6000 wholesale and about $15 000 at the farm gate.

The Economist article raises a whole other issue
, in Ontario you can use 70% imported grapes in your wine and still call it an Ontario wine. Ultimately I suspect this means the quality of the wine could be higher and costs be lower, but it does blur the idea of where a wine is from. My sense from the article is that the labels will not make it clear where the imported grapes are from.

The Canadian wine industry survives in large part because our nation applies very high tariff barriers against wines from the rest of the world. We also apply high taxes against our domestic wines. We are paying a lot more for our wine in Canada than we would be if the level of government levies against wine was at a level comparable to many other nations. These high taxes, especially on imported wines, means that making and selling a $20 bottle of wine is a viable business in Canada. The consumers are paying $20 for a wine that would be about $5-$10 in New Zealand, the US, or Australia.

Ulitimately Canadians seem to be happy to have this protectionism so that we can have wine produced in Canada. I am not happy about the way things are and think we should look to the viticulture industry in Germany and emulate it. We can produce wine in Canada that makes economic sense without state intervention. We can make ice wines. We can also produce German white wine grapes are commercial levels instead of wasting time on marginal grapes, especially the red ones.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Comments in the Legislature by new MLA Lana Popham on Agriculture


L. Popham: This summer I was fortunate to travel through Kamloops and the Cariboo region on a six-day agricultural tour with the member for Cariboo North. Since most of my experience with agriculture has been on Vancouver Island, I was taken aback by the huge scale of agricultural operations in the Interior. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

In town after town we consulted with ranchers, farmers and people interested in expanding local food production. We visited working ranches and organic farms, took a tour of an abattoir and attended a livestock sale. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

It became clear during this tour that a single vision was being articulated. Just like on Vancouver Island, there is a vision shared by the First Nations Agricultural Association, the Fruit Growers Association, the B.C. Livestock Producers Co-op, the meat processors, local agricultural steering committees, farmers' market associations, individual ranchers and an increasing number of consumers who are interested in supporting local food production. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

It is a vision about self-sufficiency and sustainability of B.C. agriculture. It is a message about our untapped capacity. It's hard to believe that in a time of accelerating climate change, a time of economic turmoil, we are not focusing on our own back yard for solutions. A self-sufficient British Columbia is not such a crazy idea. It's an idea whose time has come. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

I'm not talking about cutting ourselves off and shutting our doors or about being independent from the rest of this planet. I'm talking about a wasted opportunity if we don't start to develop B.C.'s agricultural community to its fullest potential. That's the message I'm bringing back to this House from the farmers and consumers of B.C. who want to be part of the solution. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Friday, August 21, 2009

Poppy, the last of the three restaurants

Live got in the way yesterday and stopped me from writing about Poppy in Seattle.

Sheila and I wanted somewhere interesting to go for dinner in Seattle. We got a sitter, dinner with Max is not relaxing. Kudos to the Olympic in Seattle for general amazing service, some good restaurant recommendations and finding us a sitter for Max.

Seattle is much more of a foodie city than anything we have in Canada. The current trend in the city is chef independence, small hole in the wall places with chefs really playing with their art. I see the Seattle food scene as the polar opposite of Las Vegas where it is all about big money backing big name chefs, this season's Top Chef is really showing that as the food scene there.

We took the concierge's recommendations and went with the most innovative sounding one and they was Poppy. James Beard award winner Jerry Traunfeld, formerly of the Herbfarm, is the chef that created Poppy which opened late in 2008.

Poppy serves their food in thali style, though the food is not in anyway Indian. The thali is simply their way of offering a tasting menu and it works very well. One gets a plate with ten small bowls and plates on it with small bites of food, though each thali (and the seven piece smallie) has a centre piece protein, in many cases grilled American wagyu beef. How does one explain this sort of a meal?

If a good burger and fries is like going to good rock concert, and if eating in a 'typical' fine dining restaurant is like a string quartet playing some Mozart, Traunfeld's food is a symphony playing a sublime Philip Glass piece. I have never had anything quite like this and I loved the whole experience. Each mouthful was perfect, was enough. The most amazing thing was that food engaged the brain, it inspired us to talk about all the flavours and textures, about the unique uses of northwest fresh food, of how it was presented. the meal was physically, spiritually and intellectually stimulating.

In many ways the meal felt to me like a northwest riff on the family dinners I grew up with. When we had a family gathering, the table would be filled with numerous different hot and cold dishes from which everyone would take a small taste onto their palate. We call this zakuska.

The restaurant was casual but still allowed for dressing up. The decor was a current day re-interpation of early 1970s minimalist decor. The decor feels like it would suit Philip Glass music.

It is the sort of place that is about the food and vision of the chef and not about being a place to be seen or being the "trendy" restaurant. Though Conde Nast Traveller calls it one of the top 50 new restaurants in the world.

This restaurant is worth making the trip to Seattle.
Poppy on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Three Good Restaurants

In the last few weeks I have had three very good experiences at three different restaurants, all of them outside of Victoria.

1) Captain Hardy's 7145 Market Street in Port Hardy

I recently went on a trip to Cape Scott and ate at this restaurant before and after the trip. I highly recommend that if you are in Port Hardy that you check out this restaurant.

This is a classic greasy spoon, they would be a good place to be on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. They make very good fries and they make their burger patties from meat they get ground for them. This is one of the best burgers I have had in ages I should recommend it to the Victoria Burger Blog to check it out. It was the perfect classic diner burger.

The rest of their food seems to be made with just as much attention to working with high quality but affordable ingredients. We also had a breakfast there and they were busy, they had orders flying out. I had perfect french toast. The pancakes my son had came with some very decent fresh blueberries and no one complained about anything they got.

The only possible complaint would be the coffee - but then I was not looking for barista and espresso machine. Even with the classic coffee shop coffee maker, they still had a much richer and full bodied cup of joe than you could get at Tim Hortons.

2) Silver Water Cafe 237 Taylor Street in Port Townsend

Recently Sheila and I went down to Seattle for a couple of days. We caught the Coho at 3 pm from Victoria and put into Port Angeles just around dinner time. I wanted us to eat somewhere decent and reasonable and not a chain like Applebees. I knew Port Townsend is a cool town with an interesting core of the city. I thought there might be a good place to go there. We used the Urban Spoon app on the iPhone to look for somewhere to go and quickly found a likely place in the Silver Water Cafe.

We had to drive a bit longer than we wanted to and arrived for a dinner a little bit later than Max would have liked. It was worth the 20 minutes of Max complaining to go this place.

Where to I start? It is located in a wonderfully restored Victorian building in the core of Port Townsend. It is casual in atmosphere and price but seriously up market when it comes to the food.

The staff are friendly and attentive even when it gets busy. The place was packed shortly after we arrived and people were standing in line for 30 minutes to get a table on a Monday night. I can not imagine what it would like to here on a Friday or Saturday night.

The menu is long which normally sets off alarms in my head, it is hard for large menu to be done well with fresh ingredients. My fears were quickly eased when the waiter told us a number of things we not available.

We started with the Asian Seared Green Beans, I had expected something like edamame, but instead they were the classic green bean with some wonderful Asian flavours.

I highly recommend their seafood selections. I had the Cioppino, an Italian fish stew, and it was full of seafood and had a tomato broth that I could not stop eating.

So often a good restaurant will bring in their deserts and I simply find that lazy and a bad way to the end the meal. Silver Water Cafe makes all their deserts on site each day and they run out of stuff soon. We were on the early end of dinner service and they were already out of many things. Sheila had the key lime pie and I had the crumbe-topped Amaretto peach pie - both of them were excellent.

I will be going back to this restaurant any time I am passing close to Port Townsend.

Silverwater Cafe on Urbanspoon

3) Poppy 622 Broadway East Seattle ( I have to help my son, I will finish this soon)


OK, I have a bad task coming up, one of the birds seems to ill and on her way out. I should likely go and kill her, but I am too much of wimp to do it myself. I am getting my vet to come over and it.

My friend the vet and chicken keeper says I should have expected to have one of my birds to die in the first year or two. He is not surprised one of them is having problems.

Still I am not looking forward to this less savory aspect of animal husbandry. I am also realizing this means my egg production will drop off by 1/6th. Realistically four chickens should be enough for us on an ongoing basis though this will mean I will have fewer eggs to give away.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Email from my neighbour Anne Cirillo about her pasta sauce and pizza dough

My friend and neighbour Anne is making her awesome tomato sauce. I highly recommend it, here is the email she sent me.


Hey Bernard, How about a trade for eggs??

Hello Everyone,

I'm in the kitchen making sauce and kneading dough. If you're interested please read below.


Cirillo's Italian Cuisine

My grandparents, Joseph and Elgesera Cirillo immigrated with their five children to Ontario, Canada in the late 1950's. Together they opened Cirillo's Italian Restaurant. My grandmother became famous for her traditional Italian cuisine, especially her tomato sauce. It is my honour continue the family tradition of making delicious Italian foods.

Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 litre - $12
  • 1/2 litre - $7
(tomato sauce comes canned in glass jars or frozen)

Pizza Dough:
  • Organic Spelt - $5 - add $2 for side baggie of sauce to make pizza - (makes a small/medium pizza)
  • Organic White - $5 - add $2 for side baggie of sauce to make pizza - (makes a small/medium pizza)
  • White Unbleached - $5 - add $3 for side baggie of sauce to make pizza - (makes a large pizza)

Additions to the menu are coming.

I am happy to deliver or you are welcome to pick it up. My usually delivery day is Friday.

Please email to cirillositaliancuisine@shaw.ca or call 250-507-5197 to order.

Anne Marie Cirillo

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chickens in the media

The other week I was interviewed by Sarah Elton for the Globe and Mail. Here is the article.

The latest edition of the Economist also has a story about the backyard chicken movement in the US. This is the article.


Meanwhile in some restaurant stuff, we were at White Spot last night, the one at Quadra and McKenzie. Sheila is tracking her calorie intake closely at the moment and to help with this I asked if they had any nutritional information about their food. Turns out they have a full binder of complete details of everything on their menu.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Podium Sports Gilll

This is a new establishment at 531 Yates Street - I have not been here, but been informed by my friend Jim Legh that it has opened. Jim is a partner in it and it is part of the group that owns the Gorge Pointe Pub

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Organic Islands Festival

The festival is being held July 4th and 5th at Glendale Gardens - aka the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific. Certainly worth going to, the $10 now, $12 at the door admission is paid for simply from being on the ground of the gardens.

The festival is a great chance to get connected to what is being produced in this region. You would be surprised.

Upcoming local events

Tuesday, June 16, 2009: CR-FAIR June 16 food security roundtable at Glamorgan Farm
11:00 - 12:30
Glamorgan Farm, 1805 Glamorgan Road, North Saanich
North Saanich, BC

CR-FAIR, the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable, is pleased to announce that June's food security roundtable meeting will be held at beautiful Glamorgan Farm in North Saanich. CR-FAIR extends its thanks to Glamorgan Farm for co-hosting this meeting.

It is CR-FAIR 's hope that by meeting in different locations throughout BC's Capital Region, the food security network can be expanded and strengthened, and people who otherwise might not be able to make it to roundtable meetings may attend.

Food security roundtable meetings are an informal forum for networking and exchange of information on issues and projects related to food security and sustainable food systems, and usually last 1 to 1.5 hours.

This traveling meeting of the CR-FAIR food security roundtable is being championed by Glamorgan Farm. CR-FAIR thanks Glamorgan for their support and their work in building food security in BC's Capital Region. Learn more about this beautiful heritage farm via their website: http://www.glamorganfarm.com/htmls/philosophy.html

We look forward to seeing you on the 16th. Check out this and other food-related events on the new CR-FAIR regional food events calendar:

More information:
Contact Anna Russo
Email: annar@communitycouncil.ca


Some on going events:

Every Wed, 1-3pm Haliburton Community Organic Farm work parties. 741 Haliburton Rd. info@haliburtonfarm.org. www.haliburtonfarm.org

Every Sat, 9:30am. Madrona Farm Tour. Walk the fields of this 27-acre farm with Nathalie. Learn how save this important ecological and agricultural treasure, and buy some freshly picked vegetables at the same time. Meet at the farm stand, 4317 Blenkinsop Road.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Greater Victoria Chicken Tour is on

Hello there all, the chicken tour is on for this Saturday.

The focus this year is on the Saanich Peninsula, a change for the last few years. We will be starting at near the airport at 8:30 am.

Please contact me via email for the details - bernard at shama.ca - note this is NOT shaw.ca

No fee to take part. You can join part way through the day as well if you would like.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Globe and Mail will be doing a story on backyard chickens

I spoke with Sarah Elton today, she freelances with the Globe and Mail and is on the CBC in Toronto program Here and Now. She also has a blog called the Locavore. You can find her here on Twitter.

She contacted me because she is writing a story of the Globe for next Wednesday about backyard chickens around Canada. For Victoria she contacted me.

We talked this morning about chickens, how I came to have them, what it is like to look after them, the legal situation of chickens and the benefits of having your own eggs.

When the story comes out, I will link it here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Chicken Tour Date not set

For all of you interested in the chicken tour in Victoria, the date has not been set, when I know more I will post it here and let you all know.

Looks like the Globe might be doing a story on urban chickens.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Szechuan City

So we went....

For all the time it was closed and the work that looked like it was going on, the place hardly looked like it had changed. Apparently all that has happened is a change in ownership.

The bad news is that the food was not very good. It was not Wing's or Chinese City Buffet bad, it was just not very good.

The selections on offer were not great, some of the ones I loved before were gone. In fact I saw nothing spicy on the buffet, though as I was leaving it looked like some greasy salt and pepper squid was out.

I am hoping this was just an error on the opening night, the staff was very attentive, but the quality of the food was mid range.

Szechuan City Buffet on Urbanspoon

Szechuan City is Open again

I am off to dinner there as we speak, report later on how it is

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poultry related things

The tour of backyard chicken flocks is being postponed to the fall. Malcolm is very busy and no one jumped to get it all organized, so he put it off to the fall. Anyone that is interested in seeing backyard chickens can always contact me bernard at shama.ca or call 744-0866. You come see my six birds and their enclosure.

Meanwhile over on Saltspring this weekend:

Poultry Swap

Sunday, May 31 at 12 noon til 2:00 pm at the Farmer's Institute.

Bring Poultry and related items for sale. Bring cages to

take home your new birds. There will be chicks, hens,

quail, ducks, eggs, roosters and more.

Everyone Welcome to buy, sell or trade.

No dogs off leash.

Questions? Call Pat 250-931-5179 (local #)

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Monday, May 25, 2009

How my garden is doing

It is time to update where the garden is at at to add some pictures. I am back to growing garlic, though still not as much as I would like to. I would like to grow about 150 heads of garlic, the stuff is so easy to grow though the financial return is not so good.

This year also sees an increase in our herbs, we are good in most types now that we regularly use but could do more if we knew what else we could use. The highest use is chives and this mainly because Daniel loves using them in every sandwich and every omlette he makes.

I will be growing a lot more fruit and veg this year than last. I have already moved the tomatoes and peppers to elsewhere in the yard, they are all now on the Maddock street side of the house. I think they will get more heat and sun there.

Ultimately I would like to see a large percentage of the yard we have be out of lawn and into something we can eat. We really do not have a large enough yard for playing in - I miss that from the house in Lillooet and the house on Balfour street. Entertaining makes the most sense in our yard that is closest to the back deck and kitchen door, though this is the yard that needs the most work, it really needs a major overhaul.

I have planted six blueberry bushes, I expect to see a handful of fruit this year. I have also added the apricot and yesterday I bought an apple tree. I plan on buying at least one more, maybe two or three more.

The apricot tree is doing very well, I am impressed with the growth on the tree, I hold out hopes for a few handfuls of fruit next year.

As to berries, I planted 60 Strawberry plants, I do not expect to see a large crop this year. The thornless blackberry is bigger than last year but I will need to work with it a bit in the fall to get it growing how and where it want it.I am going to grow all the big plants on the space between my fence on the sidewalk on Maddock. I planted the zucchini and some of the melons yesterday. I would like to get the pumpkins and cucumbers into that space this week. My goal is to get rid of the grass in the area and make a veggie garden bed.

I had more success with growing from seedlings this year, in the past I have either missed the watering schedule and had them die, or not had a bright enough location and they became all leggy. The only problem this year is that I used containers that were a bit too small. I also got had an issue with waterlogging with the peat pots.

We will be eating our first spinach today and had a bunch of radish greens last night for dinner. By moving the zucchini and cucumber from where it was last year, I have a much larger area for successive plantings of salad crops. If I keep on top of this, we should have salad greens from now until sometime in November, possibly longer if I use cloches. My one concern is running out of seed. I bought a bunch more today at Borden Merchantile.

The chickens continue to do their thing, they are averaging close to one egg each a day. We are also getting a lot of material for compost. The chickens eat almost all of our kitchen scraps. They really like all of the bread, consequently we are actually short of bread crumbs.

My hopes for the year:
  • 150 lbs of tomatoes
  • 20 good size pumpkins
  • 200 lbs of scarlet runner beans
  • 400 salad servings
  • 60 lbs of strawberries
  • 3 lbs of blackberries
  • 150 lbs of cucumbers
  • 150 dozen eggs
  • 15 lbs of kohlrabi
  • 150 lbs of zucchini
  • 30 lbs of bell peppers
  • 30 habanero peppers
  • 90 jalapeno peppers
  • 60 head of garlic
  • 60 red onions
  • All our herb needs

We will not be self sufficient, but we will produce a lot of our food needs from now till November.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Seedlings for sale at the Victoria Compost Education Centre

I will likely go buy some to augment what I have grown myself. The money you spend there will help them with their work in educating people about backyard composting, not sexy and earth shattering, but something all of us could be doing.

***********Seedling for Sale!****************
Miss the Organic Plant Sale? Have a few holes in your garden patch? Worry not...the GVCEC will be selling seedlings throughout the spring!

We just received our shipments from our local organic growers and have many varieties of:
- cherry tomatoes
- regular tomatoes
- broccoli
- kale
- brussel sprouts
- summer squash
- cayenne peppers
- tomatillos
- raspberries

Many of the varieties are rare or heirloom and all seedlings are $3.00 each (incl. tax) except for the raspberries which are $5.00 each.

Come and get 'em before we sell out like last year!

Contact Info

Open 10am-4pm Wed-Sat.

2009 Victoria Backyard Chicken Tour

My friend Malcolm has been organized a tour in the late spring of backyard chicken flocks in the greater Victoria area. This year he has asked if I would be willing to take on the organizing of the tour for the day.

The tentative date for the tour is Saturday June 13th. We will be likely touring ten to fifteen backyard flocks from Metchosin through to town.

Odds are that lunch will be at Malcolm's house again in the heart of the Tillicum Gorge neighbourhood.

Out in Metchosin and in rural Saanich you get to see people with small scale farms. In town you get to see people that have coops in all manner of neighbourhoods. Most of us in town people have between four and eight chickens in smallish backyard chicken enclosures.

I went on the tour for a couple of years before I got my own chicken flock. Seeing what other people were doing and how they look after their birds gave me the confidence to have chickens. You would be amazed at how many people have chickens in their backyards. I find meeting with other chicken people and seeing all of the flocks is a very uplifting and hopeful experience.

If you are interested in taking part in the chicken tour, please contact me via email at bernard at shama dot ca - note that is shama and not shaw.

Having had the chickens for a 13 months now, I can see where I went wrong with my pen for the chickens. The wet winter pointed out some flaws in my design. I would like to rebuild it, but I have so much to do around here that I do not think I will get to it any time soon. If things work out well I would like to get to it in the mid fall.

The Garden

This weekend I will be transplanting a bunch of seedlings, specifically zuchini, pumpkins and cucumbers. I will be buying some tomato seedlings, I never seem to have any decent success growing them from seed.

I will be putting all the plants that take up space on the grass verge between my fence and Maddock Street. I will need to dig a decent size hole for each seedling and fill it with compost to improve the soil along that side of the property.

This weekend we will be able to have the first spinach and lettuce from our garden. Enough to make several salads, but still not a lot, but I expect that to dramatically change in the next few weeks.

The 60 strawberry plants I planted in April are thriving, but it is still a long time before I expect them to produce a lot of fruit for us. My hope is that we will have about a half pound of fruit per day from the end of June to the middle of August. My goal for 2010 is to be able to grow 200 pounds of strawberries.

The thornless blackberry is becoming tamed and trained along the fence, I am hoping to be able to see a small crop of a few pounds this year. I hope to have a lot more canes to work with next year.

The one apple tree I have had no blossoms on it for the third year. It does not look very healthy. I am planning on buying several apple trees this weekend which I will be planting in the front yard this weekend.

The apricot is thriving! I will post some pics later today or over the weekend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I am enjoying using Urbanspoon on the iPhone and on the internet to find out about restaurants. In the Victoria are there are not enough users with enough reviews to be as useful as I would like as a local, but I am finding it very useful when out of town.

The iPhone app uses the phone's location to find the local restaurants, you can then either browse them or you can use the random fuction to choose one for you. You can select by food style, location and price.

Frankly it is one of the single best apps I have come across for my phone and I am not the only that thinks so.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kuku's Buffet

Sheila got us our dinner there last night, work and a sleeping baby stopping all the cooking I wanted to do for dinner. She got us take away, more great butter chicken and pakoras for me.

As of yesterday the buffet half was still not open.

Meanwhile half a block up the street, there is a lot or work going on at Szechuan City Buffet. I have seen several roll off bins leave with old materials. I have been meaning to peek in the window, but I have not managed to do so.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Victoria Compost Education Centre Organic Plant Sale Saturday May 9th

I got this reminder in an email from the Victoria Compost Education Centre on Facebook. I plan on going and seeing what is available. Their website is at this link.

Don't forget the Organic Plant Sale this weekend!
Saturday, May 9th from 10-1pm at the Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre (1216 North Park St).

Our largest number of local organic growers ever will be selling a variety of vegetable, ornamental, herbal and medicinal plants. We will have free courses on soil health, growing tomatoes, and there will be a free culinary demonstration from Terralicious. There will also be live Bluegrass music by Last Train and yummy coffee and treats from Fernwood Coffee. This is our largest Plant Sale ever so don't miss it!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A new voice

So, my husband has invited me to post to this blog of his. I have decided to begin by addressing a missing category - bakeries. I have an abiding love of all thing carb, so bakeries and I are very friendly. All the breads, pastries, buns, and cookies - how is a girl to choose?

For those of you who are reading this and nodding in agreement you also know the pain of bad baking. Ordering the perfect looking croissant, expecting a rich, buttery, flaky treat that melts away in your mouth, you instead end up with something dry and crumbly, or tough and chewy, some sad excuse for a croissant that leaves you mouth with a fatty coating and your shirt covered in crumbs that you can not wait to get rid of. So for you guys I will tell you about my favorites.

At the head of the pack, currently, is the newly opened "fol epi", located on Harbour Road in the Dockside Green development. This bakery is owned and operated by a man named Cliff Leir (most recently baking as "House Bread"). He offers a small selection of breads and pasteries with some cookies and savory treats. Here you will find the most perfect of croissants, a wonderfully hearty brown, crisp crusted baguettes and a rye that my Germanic husband is impressed by. The product is organic and the flour is locally sourced, proving that using basic ingredients of high quality and purity pays great rewards.

Sharing a space - sort of - with a branch of Caffe Fantastico fol epi manages to be slightly rustic and slightly modern all at once. Beautiful timbers, a stunning wall of brick and stone and a brick oven for those wonderful breads and pasteries the space is inviting and bright.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tree Fruits around here

I wonder why we have very few tree fruits being grown in this region or on the east coast of Vancouver Island?

There is no reason we could not be home to many orchards with apples, pears and cherries. I know of no serious commercial tree fruit growers on the island.

The climate here is perfect for growing apples, we could have thousands of hectares of apples being produced here, we could easily rival the Okanagan for apples, but we are not growing them. Why now?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Vista 18

I have like liked the food in this restaurant in the last few years, though I have not been there for about a year now. Sounds like things are not going well there based on some of the recent comments at Vibrant Victoria about the place.

Vista 18 on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 3, 2009

10 Pound Turkey

Chickens have been too small for dinner when all the boys are here so I thought I would get a small turkey. I bought a ten pound bird the other day and roasted for dinner. I thought there would be masses of leftovers but there were not a lot.

Daniel and Ben can easily eat more food than Sheila or I do during dinner. It is only going to get worse as they are only 14 and 11 at the moment.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

2009-2010 Community Food Action Initiative


The 2009-2010 Community Food Action Initiative (CFAI) for the Vancouver Island Health Authority Region is now accepting Requests for Proposals (RFP). The Vancouver Island Health Authority is pleased to release this RFP with community partners on the Island to enhance accessibility to the application documents. You may find more information on the 2009-2010 CFAI process and the application documents by going to any of the following


Vancouver Island Food Security HUBS

The deadline for applications is May 12, 2009 at 4pm. The instruction document that can be found on the above websites will also provide contact information for community and VIHA resources that can be contacted regarding the 2009-2010 Community Food Action Initiative.


Interesting page here on the election and food security issues.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

New plantings in the garden

I bought the apricot tree a few weeks back and it is doing well, lots of green shoots.

This week I planted six blueberry bushes. My aim is to have enough to allow us to be able to get a pound a day in the peak season. I am not sure I have enough for that, I will see in a year or two.

There are 60 strawberry plants in the ground, about 60 garlic plants as well. I have spinach, basil and lettuce sprouting. The seed trays have numerous cucumbers, pumpkins and zucchini happening. I will be planting this along the sidewalk on Maddock street to try and get rid of the lawn there.

Four of the peach trees from last year are doing well, one is sickly and one died. No blossoms on them yet, they are still very young. I hope for some fruit next year.

Pictures in a few days on all of this

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Romano's Macaroni Grill - on Douglas outside of Mayfair Mall

Monday night we had a long day with many frustrations and at 6pm we had nothing ready for dinner. We decided we would go out for dinner. Our first choice was Floyd's @ at Douglas and Burnside. But is was closed, that may have been a Monday night thing, but it might also be closed for good, I have no idea.

We had walked so were considering where to go next and after some thinking decided on the Macroni Grill. I had always thought this was part of a chain and of the same quality as White Spot and others of that ilk. It is owned by a larger company, The Spectra Hospitality Group, but it is a one off.

It was not busy for a Monday night, but it was also not empty. The service was very good and made us feel valued as customers.

I had the calamari fritti to start and was not thrilled, the breading was not what I like on calamari, though the aioli that went with it was very good. Sheila had a starter salad which looked good and tasted good.

As a main I had the penne with spicy sausage and peppers. It was well done, but there was a lot of it, enough for two adults. I like the fact that spicy really means spicy, this was not some weak hint of heat, there was good heat here. I would most certainly order this again.

Sheila had the chicken parmesan. I was not interested in that as it was heavier than I wanted for a meal and honestly I had still not gotten over the horror chicken parm I had at Romeo's in Broadmead. Her meal was very good as well, but once again very big.

We had litre bottle of San Pelligrino, which was reasonably priced. Sheila had a margarita which was good. I also had a beer and the price was crazy $8.49!

Total bill for two - $70

We will go back, but I suspect not order booze.

Romano's Macaroni Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kuku's East Indian - 24 Burnside Road West

Last night we decided not to cook, the boys were off to Catherine's and we walked over to the new restaurant in our neighbourhood, Kuku's.

Kuku's is at Burnside and Harriet and is just in the process of opening. At the moment they are only doing take out food in the space that used to be Balkan Pizza - those Albanians did a good pizza and miss them being there. They have also taken over the space next door that was the Muffin Girl and working to make it a sit down restaurant with a buffet. They have some, though not all, of the permits from Saanich in place. Saanich does not seem to be interested in making the process of red tape for small businesses or homeowners very easy. There is no sense of the municipal staff being there to help people get things done. The owner of Kuku's talked about how much he had already had to spend on the permitting process.

The place was busy at just before six last night, almost a line up out the door. We ordered a lamb curry, butter chicken, garlic naan and vegetable pakoras. It took them 20 minutes to get it to us, so we just went for a walk with Max.

Inside they have a display case filled with various Indian sweets.

We got our food and took it home. We should have had some rice with it as well.

The butter chicken was amazing, I highly recommend getting it. The pakoras were also wonderful - crispy, light and moist inside. The flavour of the lamb curry was good, but some of the meat was tough and could have used more stewing time. The garlic naan was so light on the garlic that I could not taste the garlic - maybe they gave us regular naan.

I am looking forward to being able to take a seat inside soon. I would love to invite guys from the Victoria Buffet Blog to come join me as soon as I here it is open.

Kuku's on Urbanspoon


Update on Sezechan City on Burnside Road. This high quality Chinese buffet restaurant has been closed for a few months for renovations, or so the sign says. The outside has been very, very quiet and there has been no evidence of anything going on inside until this week.

Earlier this week lights were on inside and there was a large dumpster full to the brim with stuff from inside. Looks like something is happening there. I will look in the windows this weekend and see if there is anything else to report

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wings Restaurant on Gorge Road

We are still pulled down by all that is happening in our lives and so we went out for dinner again, this time to Wing's Restaurant at 90 Gorge Road West. They do a Chinese buffet, though they have not been reviewed by the Victoria Buffet Blog. (see comment below from Guy of that Blog)

We got there at 5:45 on a Monday evening and saw that there were a number of tables filled, this stopped us from leaving as it could not be as bad as the smell indicated. More people came in as we were there for dinner, though I do not know why.

The choices were pretty standard, but the quality was not very good. The food was bland and soaked in MSG. The food looked like it had been sitting for sometime, this is just before 6pm. I shudder to think that it may have been from lunch, that is much too long for food safety, but I can not explain it otherwise.

The whole place felt like the owners were not trying very hard at all. The one positive about the place is that it is cheap, $7.75 per person, I am assuming that is what is attracting the clientele.

I really am not a fan of MSG, it seems to react with me badly when I get a lot of it, it seems to make my ADD worse than normal. I ended up not eating much food. Sheila ate even less than I did.

All I can say about the place is that it is best avoided. It is marginally better than Chinese City Buffet in Vic West, but that is sort of like saying a root canal is better than having a bone set. I am not going to chose either one for fun.

Wing's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Food and Greenhouse Gases

The New Scientist out of the UK has some interesting articles on eating meat and greenhouse gas emissions.

This first link is to a graph of what the average US family costs in GHGs due to food. What is important to see here is something I have known for sometime, transportation of food over long distances does not have a big impact. The methane is much more of a problem. The article is here.

Through that article I found this CO2 calculator for food - take it with a grain of salt because it is rather broad, but it is an interesting tool to look at.

The other interesting article is this analysis of what would happen if we backed off of beef and pork consumption. The article seems to say that by eating a low meat diet, we could reduce by 1/2 the costs of dealing with climate change by 2050. Low meat means 70 grams of beef a week and 325 grams of chicken or eggs. That is a burger every ten days and five eggs a week.

All in all, there is a lot more work being done on the greenhouse gas emissions that come from what and how we farm. It is becoming easier and easier to work out the impact of our diet. When I tried to work this out in the fall of 2007 there was not a lot of data I could access, but it was clear that meat eating was one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in my life.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Picking up an Apricot Tree

I ordered an apricot tree from Fruit Trees and More at 724 Wain Road in North Saanich. Bob and Verna Duncan have a very interesting selection of trees available. Eventually I would like to get some citrus and olives from them.

I will post a pic of the tree when I get it into the ground

Monday, March 16, 2009

Problems with the Chickens

The big winds we were getting yesterday blew off the roof of the chicken pen. I had three sheets of 3/8" plywood blown off of the coop, one of them ended up in the neighbours yard.

This morning the chicken pen was a soupy muddy hell. Without the roof, all that downpour of rain flooded the chicken run. I suspect the coop will need all new hay today as the old stuff is going to be very wet. The chicken feed also all got wet, the bin was knocked over by the plywood sheets.

The wind was strong enough to rip out the screws I had used to put in the roof.

When it feels dry enough I need to go out and work on the roof. I am actually thinking of completely rebuilding the enclosure. Something with more shelter from the weather and keep the ground drier.

I am also wondering how to create a system to collect the chicken poop for my garden. Raking up the ground?

A quick non-chicken thing, my rhubarb is not growing well. I planted bunch of it last year and was expecting to see more of it budding up above the ground. Any ideas on how to make them grow better? I thought they were indestructible.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saigon Night - 915 Fort Street

We had intended to head out to Hernandez on Bay Street on Friday, it is what came up on my iPhone through Urbanspoon, but they do not take anything but cash at the moment and we arrived with plastic. They also had very limited seating. We headed downtown to the View Street location, but it was already closed.

We then used Urban Spoon again to find something else and we ended up at Saigon Night on Fort Street.

The food was high quality authentic Vietnamese food. The salad rolls we had as a starter were well done and I would recommend them. I had a spicy seafood and veggie stirfry on deep fried noodles. Good flavour but very light on the seafood and heavy on cabbages.. Sheila and Daniel and the fried pork on rice - I had a bite and I was impressed by it. Ben had something similar but on noodles.

The food for the main courses was huge, more than enough for one person. Two dishes would easily feed three people.

Little Piggy had a review of the restaurant in September of 2007

Saigon Night on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 9, 2009

San Remo's

After a grueling morning, we stopped in here for lunch today. I have been coming to San Remo's for years. There was many a night when I was at UVic we would head there for dinner and then sit at the table for ages over beer, wine and coffee.

The restaurant was very empty when we got in there at 1:20 - admittedly it was a late time for lunch on a Monday. We managed to find a parking spot on Hillside right outside of the San Remo's deli. The service was good and the speed we got out food was decent.

The menu felt like it was lacking focus, it is very pan Mediterranean with a strong influence from not only Italy and Greece. I had the San Remo's Prawns - generally a nice baked prawn dish with rice and veggies. Sheila had the chicken souvlaki, she left their's was OK, but that Eugene's did a better job.

I think they could use a menu revamp, there is more on the menu than there needs to be and I suspect the wide variety leads to a lower quality for everything. I one page good menu focused on a few very godo things would better. At the moment they have burgers, ribs and a steak sandwich on the menu - none of them are connected to the core food of the restaurant. The menu looks like has been expanded to appeal to people that might not want Greek/Italian food but are there with friends. Catering to them takes away from what the place can do well.

San Remo on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tyee Article on Chickens

The Tyee has run an article about the idea of allowing backyard chickens in Vancouver. The comments are almost all negative on the site. If you have chickens, you may wish to post something about your experience there.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Season 5 of Top Chef is Finished

I find that the quality of the contestants on the Bravo series Top Chef has been getting better and better with each season. In season one the quality of the Top Chef contestants was comparable to the ones on Hell's Kitchen. Now the Top Chef contestants are clearly of a much higher quality.

I am disappointed how season 5 finished. This is not to say that I thought the quality of the chefs are the end was not high enough, but how it played out was a denouement for me.

Stefan Richter was clearly the strongest person there. As of the 11th episode, he had won four elimination challenges and four quickfires. This was stronger even than Richard Blais in season four. He did do badly in in the elimination in week 10, his first weak week, but then seemed to have lost his fire and passion at the end.

The winner Hosea Rosenberg did well enough, but I could not get any sense in the series what his core passion in food was. He was generally good at what he did, but he felt middle of the pack and not Top Chef. He reminds me of Harold Dieterle (season 1 winner), Ilan Hall (season 2 winner) and Stephanie Izard(season 4 winner) - they are good but they are not great. Hosea does not feel like a visionary to me, I did not get a sense that he was destined to something greater. He wants to open his own restaurant, what the winners in seasons 1 and 3 have done.

Carla Hall impressed me, but it was clear that she lacks the confidence to trust herself when pushing for the top. She started the season middle of the pack but built up to a very strong finish. This is a woman I can see really melding classic French techniques with southern comfort foods. There is an inspiration there. She let herself be lead astray by Casey Thompson, the season 3 finalist she had as her sous chef in the finale.

The chefs that did not make the finale that impressed me were Fabio Vivani, Jamie Lauren and Ariane Duarte. Fabio probably should have gone to the final three instead of Stefan. Ariane looks to have suffered from the stress of the competition and let herself get derailed.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Negative Reaction of Chickens in Vancouver

City Caucus has done an article on the issue of backyard chickens in Vancouver and come up with some negative comments on the idea.

From my experience, people do not even notice the chickens. My pen is only about 7 feet from the sidewalk and very people notice them.

I have now harvested enough eggs to have broken even on all my costs in this venture. I have hit 140 dozen eggs this week - a value of $490 to $700.

Urban Chicken Farming Course - and more....

The Juan de Fuca Rec Centre is offering a course on backyard chickens, here are the details:

This workshop will help you with choosing your chickens, what breed, chicks or chickens? and different suppliers. We will also talk about housing, feeding, general care & management, predators, chicken health and more.

There is an optional tour at the end of the course for $10 paid to the instructor. Date to be determined.

Text book included.
INSTRUCTOR: Melinda Seyler
Sa 9:00-12:00pm Mar 21-Apr 04 $77/3 50853


FYI Chicken and Bird Lovers!: An Urban chicken movie called "Mad City Chickens" :

6:30 pm Monday 13 April 2009
Mad City Chickens, 2008, 79 min
Witness if you will Gallus Domesticus... the backyard chicken. A mere few pounds of feather, bone, and muscle; a creature regarded by many as a rather humorous, though not so intelligent agent of food production. And yet make note of a most singular phenomenon now taking shape across suburb and city. From backyard eggs to the family's new favorite pet, the urban chicken is forging a fresh place in the pecking order of human importance.

Mad City Chickens deftly weaves multiple stories and contextual issues on city chickens and their keepers in a non-linear fashion that one rarely sees in a documentary. From leading experts to urban newbies, experience the humor and heart of what's fast becoming an international backyard chicken movement. the blog ~ about the director and view the director's cut or 5 min remake doll short cast: Deidra Edwards, Staci Lawrence, Ryan C. Benson, Elizabeth Sampson, Sonya Eddy

Our special guests will be Melinda Seyler, and a few of her feathered friends. Melinda is active with the Metchosin Farmers' Market. She who has a farm, Elysian Fields, in Metchosin, and has raised, kept, butchered, and shown birds of all kinds, both here and in the East Kootenays, and currently has chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, geese and emus. Melinda sells eggs, live birds and photographic products, mainly showing country life.

What’s in our regional food basket?

This is another interesting regional food event that I will not be able to make it to - this is the start of spring break and I would like to go somewhere with the family after all of the insanity of the last year to 18 months. If you do go, please drop me a line and let me know how it went.

Friday March 13, 2009
2:00 – 7:00 pm

Burnside Gorge Community Centre
471 Cecelia Road, Victoria

Parking available at the old Burnside Elementary School on Jutland Avenue

Registration - $15 cash or cheque only

Subsidies available upon request

RSVP by Monday March 9th to info@communitycouncil.ca or tel. 250-383-6166

2:00 – 4:00pm

Simultaneous afternoon workshops (please RSVP for your choice in advance)

* Year round public markets in BC’s Capital Region
  1. Plans for North Saanich
  2. FoodRoots expansion
  3. Possibilities for a downtown market

* Increasing access to food for households living on low income – two models of food distribution.
Brent Palmer, Mustard Seed Food Bank
* Hooking up! Potential in community-university partnerships on food issues


Welcome - Alice Finall, Mayor of North Saanich, on behalf of the CRD Board of Directors

Keynote speakers
  • Tom Henry, Metchosin farmer and author
  • Cheryl Bryce, traditional foods and land stewardship
  • Diane Bernard, The Seaweed Lady

  • Getting to know you - speed dating for Foodies and Friends - Bring your business cards!
  • Highlights of regional food security happenings – Thanks for submitting your photos!
  • Pot luck supper – We’ll provide the soup and salad; your favourite local dish adds to the flavour and fun
  • 2009 Food Security Champions Awards – presentations by Lana Popham. Remember to submit your nominations by March 5th
Don’t forget to bring:
  • A dish to share (optional), and
  • Some business cards
There will be space for displays – contact info@communitycouncil.ca or 250-383-6166 if your group is interested so we know how many tables to set up.

Funding support provided through:
Financial support for this project provided by Vancouver Island Health Authority's "Community Food Action Initiative" through ActNow BC - the government of BC's investment in promoting healthy choices through a partnership-based, community-focused approach to improve nutrition, increase physical activity and reduce tobacco use.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blue Nile Restaurant

Last night we did not feel like cooking dinner and were looking for somewhere to go out for dinner with the kids. In the end we came up with the Blue Nile restaurant on Head Street.

I have liked Ethiopian food for a long time. The neighbourhood I lived in in Vancouver in the early mid 90s had two Ethiopian restaurants.

The food at the Blue Nile was of a quality that is good. For a change I was in a restaurant in Victoria that was making food I could not have made at home. We all ate from the buffet, which is not the style I was looking for, but more on that later.

The wat, stews of meat or lentils, spiced in berbere was great, just what I wanted. All of really like the zehbi siga, though when Stephen tried to eat it without the injera, he food it too spicy. Injera is made with teff and is quite sour, almost bitter in flavour.

What was missing for me was the traditional serving style, a large round platter of sort to let everyone eat family style. The platter is covered with injera and then has dollops of different foods. You eat by tearing peices of the injera and picking the food you want. You have no need for your own plate or utensils.

I like buna as a coffee style, but the coffee we got last night did not have any spices ground and brewed with it. Traditionally this is cloves and cinnamon. They did serve it in the traditional jebena. Ethiopians take their coffee very seriously, they put Seattle people to shame in their approach to coffee. They are almost like the Japanese with the tea ceremony when it comes to coffee.

There is one more food I would liked to have had but that they do not have on the menu and this is kitfo. I assume there is a problem serving kifto as it is marinated uncooked meat that is very spicey, sort of like beef tartare but only with a lot more flavour. Sort of similar is gored gored which is more like a carpaccio though in cubes.

The restaurant has not updated the menu they have online where the buffet price was listed as $10.95. Last night it cost us $13.95 and this lead to a bit of sticker shock for me when I got the bill and it was $75 and not closer to $60 where I thought it would be.

Blue Nile on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Food Security in BC's Capital Region - a visual year in review

This is from an email I got today:
Hello Friends,

There have been many exciting successes, achievements and happenings related to strengthening food security in our region.

Rather than have a lot of written or spoken reports, we thought it would be fun to gather photos and images from you and use them to prepare a visual account. We can present this at the 2009 Food Matters! Forum, add it to the website; you may want to use it at your events too.

What we need from you:
Photos of your work this past year (like the calf that was born during the time of a CR-FAIR meeting, the abundance of produce from a community garden, engaged people participating in a meeting, a gathering at a feast, a great turnout at an event.....)

Brief statements of achievements (lbs of product produced from a garden; number of people served at a food bank; commitments made in a food charter; outcomes of presentations to municipal councils....)

Media coverage (image of news articles...)

Anything else you can imagine being captured in a visual, powerpoint type, presentation

Please send any items you would like to have included in this presentation by Monday 9 March. We'll collate what we receive, and show it at the Food Matters! Forum that Friday.
Any questions?? Just call me....
Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you,

Communications Manager
Community Council
3948 Quadra Street | Victoria, BC V8X 1J6
Tel: 250-383-6166 Fax: 250-479-9411
Leadership that brings the community together

City of Vancouver to allow chickens

MOVER: Councillor Andrea Reimer
SECONDER: Councillor Heather Deal

WHEREAS Vancouver’s current Animal Control By-aw (#9433 section 7.2) forbids the keeping of chickens in our City;

AND WHEREAS on July 8, 2003, Council approved a motion supporting the development of a just and sustainable food system for the City of Vancouver that fosters equitable food production, distribution and consumption; nutrition; community development and environmental health;

AND WHEREAS in April 2002 the City adopted a formal position, definition and principles on sustainability;

AND WHEREAS in January 2007, Council adopted the Vancouver Food Charter which sets out the City’s commitment to the development of a coordinated municipal food policy that recognizes access to safe, sufficient, culturally appropriate and nutritious food as a basic human right for all Vancouver residents;

AND WHEREAS many cities in North America such as Victoria, BC, Seattle, Washington, and New York City already permit households to keep chickens;

AND WHEREAS urban chicken-keeping can contribute to our City’s improved food security, decrease greenhouse gas emissions related to the transportation of food, and the goal of creating a just and sustainable food system for our City;


A. THAT Council instruct the Director of Legal Services to bring forward for
enactment an amendment to the Animal Control By-law in order to repeal the
prohibition against keeping of backyard hens in the City of Vancouver.

B. THAT Council direct staff to develop policy guidelines for the keeping of
backyard hens in the City of Vancouver that both protects the health and
welfare of citizens, and ensures the humane treatment of backyard hens.

C. THAT Council thanks the City’s Food Policy Council for their significant
investigations into the feasibility of repealing the prohibition on the keeping of
backyard hens and advocacy for improved food security in the City of

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I had a guy from a few blocks over come to the door today and ask about my little flock of birds and what it takes to be allowed to have chickens. It pleased me to have someone come and ask about the hens and to be able to tell him what he has to do and what his options are for backyard birds.

I put him onto my friend the vet and backyard chicken guru and told him about the backyard chicken tour in May.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Making Pasta

A few weeks back I bought some durum flour at the Real Canadian Warehouse store in Esquimalt - 10kg for $13. I did this because "real" pasta" is made with it. So does it make a difference? Yes!

The pasta we are making now is firmer and easier to work. The texture of the cooked noodles is much nicer, it can get that perfect al dente texture one wants in pasta. The flour is just slighty coarser than I expected, but this helps sauce hold.

The recipe I use is one egg to one cup of flour and tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt - water then added in the mixing as needed.

Making your pasta is so easy and quick that I am not sure why everyone is not doing it. My eight year old Stephen can do it.

Of course the eggs are from the Harriet Road flock

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gardening - When to Plant

One problem I have here in Victoria is in trying to figure out when I should start planting stuff in the veggie garden. This town has nice spring like days at intervals all winter long, a day like today lures me into wanting to do some work in the garden.

Living in Lillooet made all of this easier. Before April 1st it was winter. I had a clear several weeks at the end of April and the start of May during which I would get the veggie garden in. Here in Victoria it is a lot harder for me to get a good sense of when.

I suspect I would start with peas and spinach now. Radishes and lettuce may also work well, but do I really want to have the veggie garden going from mid February to mid November? That is nine months of the year!

On the upside, I will not be able to do much in garden over many of the next weekends because I will be off with the Scouts camping or at other events.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What’s in our regional food basket?

Another local food and politics type of event.

What’s in our regional food basket?
Friday March 13, 2009
2:00 – 7:00 pm

2:00 – 4:30pm

Simultaneous afternoon workshops:

  • Increasing access to food for households living on low income
  • Year round public markets in BC’s Capital Region
  • Hooking up! Potential in community-university partnerships on food issues


Welcome and Keynote presentation our regional “food shed”


Getting to know you - speed dating for Foodies and Friends
Highlighting Regional food security happenings –lets get visual!
Pot luck supper – we’ll provide the soup and salad; your contribution adds to the flavour and the fun
Celebration of 2009 Food Security Champions

More complete details to follow
Registration - $15

Subsidies available on request

RSVP to info@communitycouncil.ca or tel 250-383-6166