A Last Bite of Summer: The Flavour Gourmet Picnic

right: Crown Isle Smoked Salmon Veloute. Photos by Rhona McAdem

by Rhona McAdam


Strength was in numbers at the first Flavour Gourmet Picnic held September 23 in Black Creek, near Courtenay. Nearly 70 producers from Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands showcased their wares, while another 150 volunteers and media helped to grease the gears of gastronomy, including about 40 North Island College students. My dining companions and I joined some five hundred smug North Island foodies canny enough to secure tickets before they sold out two weeks in advance.

Blessed by sun and good humour, participants made their leisurely and well-provisioned way along the booths at Coastal Black Estate Winery & Meadery, sampling food and drink and chatting with winemakers, brewers, farmers, chefs and food activists. Exhibitors were nicely spaced, alternating food and drink, sweet and savoury and ran the gamut from seafood, bread, salad wraps, pastries, wild meats, chocolate, wine, spirits, beer and soft drinks. There was enough to keep every food preference satisfied: raw foodists, vegetarians and carnivores would all have found something to sample, and there was gluten-free baking as well, from The Rose Bakery which operates out of LUSH Valley Food Action Society’s kitchen.

left: Church Street Bakery right: Dark Side Chocolates

Among my favourite gastro-moments were Crown Isle’s wild smoked salmon velouté, rich and nubbly; grilled Island scallops finished with a delightful dollop of gingery goo; Avenue Bistro’s densely nuanced Pâté de Campagne, using Tannadice Farms pork; and a couple of instances of beet-infused cold-smoked salmon that brought a visual pang to salmon eaters over this year’s lost sockeye run. We were not short of sweet endings, including Kingfisher Lodge’s spectacularly silky chocolate pavé, as well as exquisitely satisfying tastes of BC dessert wines: Coastal Black’s Blackberry Ambrosia, and Elephant Island’s powerfully aromatic Black Currant Wine.

left: Fat Moose Smokehouse right: North Island College House Smoked Albacore Tuna

The first of what is hoped to be an annual fundraiser for North Island College Foundation, the event raised over $10,000 towards Culinary Arts bursaries and scholarships. It was a deliciously educational experience for all concerned, and well-seasoned with knowledgeable organizations like LUSH Valley and North Island College, as well as opportunities to learn about herbalism and horticulture therapy from Innisfree Farm, organically-grown tea from The Small Tea Cooperative, and – if you could get past the children sampling bear and moose sausage – about smoked and cured wild and alternative meats from Fat Moose Smokehouse and Wild Game Custom Cutters.

left: Union Street Grill Tortillas. middle: Kingfisher Chocolate Pave. right: AvenueBistro's Tannadice Farms Pate


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