It’s coming up soon (although not soon enough for me)! While many people still probably will plan to go south for spring break, the struggling Canadian loonie is going to make those kinds of vacations extra expensive.
So how about a staycation in your own back yard? Vancouver Island has a myriad of choices for kids and adults when it comes to spring break, and I want to share some of them with you today.
Tofino & Ucluelet
It’s incredibly remote, located literally at the end of the road, but that’s part of what makes Tofino and Ucluelet so incredibly charming. This is a goregous sweep of beach, kilometers long. You can hike the Wild Pacific Trail, or just trudge the beach, looking for critters and shells. You can touch actual critters at the Ucluelet Aquarium. If you’re brave, you can surf, or you can stay inside and watch the waves, cozy in your hotel room. The food here is also beyond wonderful. Some of my faves include Sobo, Hank’s, Zoe’s, and don’t forget one of Canada’s best restaurants, The Wolf in the Fog, is also here.
In stark contrast to last year’s ski season, this year is a banner year. We have snow, snow, snow, and British Columbians are happy, happy, happy. Where else in the world can you ski one day, and surf the next, all within a short distance? You can do that with Tofino and Mt. Washington. It’s a great hill for kids and adults alike, and they have some awesome mid-week deals on in March.
One of my favourite places on the island (and Michael’s too), is Coombs. Coombs Old Country Market is the most charming store. They have tons of fun, old-fashioned toys for kids, and the place is also a foodie’s dream. I stock up on lots of specialty products every time I’m there. The bakery also is to die for…
I recently had the immense pleasure of going to Tofino. While there, I got to eat a ton of different places, and consequently wrote this blog post: Where to Eat: Tofino.
Probably the place that impressed me the most was Sobo. A quick history: Sobo began its life as a food truck. That purple truck still exists today, but it’s now Centro Feastro, which you can see a lot in downtown Vancouver. Chef Lisa Ahier started it, dishing out seafood chowder and fish tacos to hungry surfers and happy locals. Her business grew too large for the truck eventually, so she sold it, and took over the space at 311 Neil St.
When I visited her late in the afternoon, the place was busy. It’s busy all the time. In a world where we are moving increasingly towards specialization, Sobo remains stellar across the board. Locals rave about her huevos rancheros, and line up every day to eat them. Her Killer Fish Tacos and her salmon chowder still reel them in at lunch. And a dinner, they come for short rib, seafood stew, and duck ramen. In addition, they have a wonderful bakery that makes pies, cookies and cornbread, and they even have a take-out freezer selling soups and the like that you can take home with you, as well as home-made cookie ice-cream sandwiches. It appears she can do it all.
It was great to meet her, and get a chance to preview her new cookbook. We had stopped by for one of her famous, hand squeezed key lime margaritas, and she offered to make us a snack. What came out of the kitchen was plate after plate of “snacks,” including crispy moroccan-spiced chickpeas, polenta fries, flatbread pizza with exotic mushrooms, and Seared Qualicum Scallops with a sweet pea risotto cake, fromage à la crème, a lemon mint sauce and microgreens. My absolute favourite thing, though, were her Cibolo Shrimp. A Texan-born pescatarian, Lisa wanted a bar snack akin to a chicken wing, so she made it with shrimp. The recipe pairs a crispy, cornmeal-breaded spot prawn on a bed of gem lettuce with a cayenne tequila sauce, bleu clair cheese and dill. Soooooo good.
I got a copy of it a couple weeks back, and it now bristles with post-it notes on pages of recipes I want to make. I’ll share her famous fish tacos with you down the road, but for today, I am going to share a breakfast (well, who says pancakes have to be for breakfast, right?) recipe with you.
Lisa calls these Flaxseed and Ginger Pancakes, but I like the term Hippie Pancakes. If you’ve ever been to Tofino, you’ll know that hippie culture is still pretty strong there. A lot of the original settlers there were draft dodgers from the States, and they just never left.
These are some serious pancakes. I’d make these while camping somewhere along Long Beach, before a day of serious surfing. They will set you up for the day. There is whole wheat flour, flax, and lots of spice, making them filling without being too heavy. There are no refined sugars. In fact, there is very little sugar at all, and no oil.
I served mine with an apricot sauce over top, but you could do any kind of stewed fruit: apples, pears, berries or stone fruit would all be delicious. Or just plain ‘ol maple syrup.
(recipe courtesy of Chef Lisa Ahier’s The Sobo Cookbook)
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 whole flaxseeds
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice (I used 1/4 tsp ground cloves and 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg plus 1 egg white
2 1/4 cups milk
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp molasses
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients, whisking well.
Make a well in the centre of the dry mix, and pour the wet into it. Mix until combined, but a few lumps are okay.
On medium heat, grease a nonstick griddle or fry pan, and drop 1/4 cup of pancake batter onto it. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until bubbles start to form in the middle. Flip and cook on the other side for an additional couple of minutes.