Apple Tree at Wave Hill Farm

“Duck fat,” Mirjana whispers, a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

This is the socca’s secret. This flatbread, sometimes referred to as a “chickpea crêpe,” is found primarily in southeastern France around Nice. Mirjana’s is laced with goat cheese and lemon. It arrives atop an organic lamb ragout. Bones in. Soaking up the gravy, sucking on the bones; deep into Salt Spring lamb.

Welcome to the Apple Tree on Wave Hill Farm, Salt Spring Island, Mirjana Vukman’s new restaurant at Rosalie Beach and Mark Whitear’s 115-acre organic farm. With luck, you might have encountered Mirjana at Cucina, Abkhazi Gardens or Pomodori, to name a few. This Condon Bleu chef and her cooking are unforgettable. Her following is loyal.

Wave Hill Farm, which has belonged to Beach and Whitear since 1990, is home to Salt Spring’s oldest apple orchard, dating back to about 1863. Appropriately named, the Apple Tree at Wave Hill Farm is found in a farm building up a set of stairs—an open space with a balcony that offers up the orchard. During my visit, the room was adorned with mint and fig boughs, which added to the feeling of being amid the trees. “You know a fig is ripe when it feels like a woman’s breast,” Rosalie shares. For those who frequented Cucina, Mirjana’s restaurant in Dragon Alley in Victoria, you will encounter the same black, white and stainless steel streamlined design, but it exudes a tone of simplicity here rather than urban minimalism. And really, the farm, resplendent with lambs, chickens, aubergines, peppers, pendulous figs, tomatoes, apples, delicatas, tromboncinis, purple yams, potatoes and greens, engulfs the restaurant, providing a magnificent, alive and ever-changing context.

So abundant are the apples at Wave Hill Farm, they are exploring establishing a farmgate still to make calvados and cider. Rosalie also supplies David Wood at Salt Spring Island Cheese with flowers and rosemary.

Back to the meal.

The salad is a spilt kaleidoscope of orach, chicory, purple yam, basil, lemon thyme and upland crest. The salad is a crisp, lively companion to the far more serious lamb. It is a celebration whereas the lamb is more of a rich discussion, a focused study. “If anything smells good, it is because of animal fat and butter,” Mirjana declares. “I have bags of many different fats in the fridge.”

Rosalie and Mirjana, self-described as “long-time friends and food associates,” met at the markets 15 years ago. Rosalie’s daughter Ferique worked at Pomodori, Mirjana’s last restaurant on Salt Spring.

Wave Hill Farm also has a few cabins, designed by Ferique, now an architect in London, England. They are a fitting addition, but also a testament to the need that farms have to diversify in order to sustain themselves. The cabins, decorated in white, wood and oyster shells, are rustic but well-appointed. Trip over to Salt Spring, private dinner, perhaps a tour of the farm, then retire to your cabin for a nightcap and a rest? Top of my list, Santa.

Apple Tree’s focus is dinner, but they are “available for anything food-related.” I am thinking about this, after the lamb, the socca and the salad, as Mirjana advances with dessert. Well, if you insist. Green walnut and fig baklava with chocolate truffle. White chocolate sauce pools gracefully on the earthenware plate. Mirjana has three generations of ceramics by Canadian artist Patricia Larsen that she has kept from her last few restaurants. The dessert presentation is exquisite. The ingredients, all organic and local, are also exquisite. And the flavours, too. Exquisite. Every time I sample Mirjana’s creations I feel it is as though she has plunged her hands into the soul of each ingredient bring them alive to spark each dish.

I don’t spend the night this time but wander back on the afternoon ferry. I always forget how easy the trip to Salt Spring is. This time I think it might have sunk in properly, thanks be to the carrier agent, duck fat.

Apple Tree on Wave Hill Farm, Salt Spring Island | By appointment only | 250-653-4150

Written By:

Gary Hynes, a writer and photographer, founded EAT magazine in 1998 and is its editor and chief paperboy. He studied Electronic Music with Samuel Dolan at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, Audio Recording Technology at ...

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