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Devouring Vancouver's Cowichan Valley

Picking white turnips and lettuce at Vancouver Island’s Fairburn Farm.

Photo: Tara Donne

If you live anywhere south or east of, say, Vancouver, you’ve probably not heard of the Cowichan Valley. This bucolic corner of Vancouver Island keeps a low profile, even by Canadian standards, which hold humility next to godliness. Residents prefer to let the valley’s food and wine do the talking. The Cowichan’s Mediterranean-like microclimate (with more sunny days than anywhere else in Canada) sustains an impressive range of small farms, vineyards, and artisanal producers, whose bounty is increasingly sought after by B.C. chefs. Comparisons to Napa and Provence miss the point: the Cowichan is far more rustic and homespun than either, not to mention more affordable. What the region lacks in high-end hotels—there are only a handful of inns and B&B’s—it makes up for with simpler delights: communal farm suppers, roadside honey stands, craft cider and microbrews, and the tastiest buffalo mozzarella this side of the Atlantic. Read the article

Inspired by: Culinary Tour of Vancouver's Cowichan Valley — by Peter Jon Lindberg, Published Jun. 2010

Hotels (2)

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    Fairburn Farms & Guesthouse

    The crown jewel of the Cowichan food scene, thanks to proprietor and chef Mara Jernigan, who also leads a terrific Saturday cooking class. Five gue

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    Sooke Harbour House

    Waterfront white clapboard inn known for its food, much of which is sourced from the on-site garden. 

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Restaurants (5)

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    Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub

    The waterfront gastropub Spinnakers serves creamy Fanny Bay oysters, rich seafood chowder, and the pub’s own ESB cask ale, served on a deck overloo

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    The Masthead

    A maritime-style tavern filled with acres of worn wood, flickering oil lamps, and a winningly retro vibe (tableside Caesar salad service; a pianist

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    Hilary’s Cheese & Deli

    You can assemble a great picnic lunch at Hilary’s Cheese & Deli, where the young, mushroomy goat’s-milk blue is the standout among nearly a dozen l

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    Deerholme Farm

    Chef Bill Jones is a passionate forager, and wild mushrooms are often the highlight of his tasting menus, served in his cozy farmhouse. Working wit

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    Craig Street Brew Pub

    Stop in for a pint at the convivial Craig Street Brew Pub, whose Shawnigan Irish Ale is the best of several house-made beers.

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Activities (4)

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    Tugwell Creek Honey Farm & Meadery

    Stop in at Tugwell Creek Honey Farm & Meadery to sample the excellent honey and strong mead.

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    Merridale Ciderworks

    Hike through the orchards of Merridale Ciderworks, seven miles south of Cowichan Bay. Rick Pipes and Janet Docherty make their cider from English a

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    Duncan Farmers’ Market

    Sample local products at the Duncan Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday in Duncan, the valley’s workaday hub.

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    True Grain Bread & Mill

    Seemingly every resident makes a daily pilgrimage to True Grain Bread & Mill, whose organic loaves you’ll smell from blocks away.

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