Bits and Bites, Fernwood-Style

top left: staff from Stage assemble their stuffed langos, top right: Little Piggy‘s Patrick Simpson and Christabel Padmore offer their Bison meatballs, middle left: the crowd enjoys “local fare in the urban square”, middle right: Stage’s stuffed langos, bottom left: a selection from Wild Fire, bottom right: The Parsonage Café’s BLT.

All photos taken by Maryanne Carmack, Lotus Photography

One day shy of summer and a typically eclectic crowd converged in Fernwood Square to eat, drink and be merry. It was the first-ever Fernwood Bites– a fundraiser in support of the newly created Fernwood Neighbourhood Chest Fund. Armed with wine glasses and soon-to-be dishevelled napkins, ticket-holders to the sold-out event were greeted by an impressive array of sips and samples.

The crowd jostled for slices of hot, thin-crust pizza with caramelized onion, brie and bacon from Lucy’s in the Square and I watched more than one person immediately snatch seconds of Pig BBQ Joint’s Cuban-style pulled pork sandwiches – despite their not-so minuscule size. Other meaty offerings included a lovely duck confit with blood orange marmalade and watercress cradled in a buckwheat crepe (paired with a superb glass of Backyard Vineyards’ Gewürztraminer) from Devour, jerk chicken with pickled cabbage from Stir It Up, and bison meatballs from The Little Piggy. Stage Small Plates and Wine Bar stuffed langos – a savoury Hungarian deep-fried potato bread – with  houmus, harissaand homemade pork and lamb sausage to produce a dynamite  bite. It was fiery, creamy, succulent and piping hot. I won’t lie, I polished off three.

Those seeking respite found relief in soon-to-open Aubergine Speciality Foods’ delectable vegetarian dishes like silky braised leeks and vivid, spicy pickled carrot salad. A few tables away, I was told it’s been an excellent year for asparagus in the Cowichan Valley – it certainly shone in pickled form courtesy of Zambri’s.

Paprika Bistro filled cherry tomatoes with basil pesto, dill crème fraîche and luscious folds of Victoria Gin-cured salmon gravlax for a nibble that packed a flavourful punch. Meanwhile, the Parsonage Cafe displayed charming old-fashioned wooden produce crates and wire baskets full of irresistibly sweet cherry tomatoes and lettuce from Suntrio Farm. Working at a furious pace with cast-iron skillets and freshly cracked pepper, they handed out open-faced BLT sandwiches on a wooden board, alongside miniature chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Oven-dried tomato sandwiches on Cascadia focaccia (Cornerstone Cafe) and tomato bruschetta (Fernwood Inn) proved that tomatoes were the order of the night.

As for imbibing, Gehringer Brothers Winery, Glenterra Vineyards, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, Twisted Tree Vineyard Winery and Quail’s Gate Winery provided a gamut of wines that ranged from fun bubblies to vibrant rosés, subtly oaky whites to robust reds. Other local drink purveyors included Sea Cider with samples of their Kings & Spies and Rumrunner cider, Victoria Spirits with sips of their Victoria Gin, Oaken Gin and Left Coast Hemp Vodka, and Phillips Brewery with liberal pours of their Blue Buck Ale, Big Time Kölsch, Surly Blonde Big Belgian Triple and (for dessert?) Longboat Double Chocolate Porter.

Bellies about to burst still made room for the smattering of dessert options with highlights such as Cornerstone Cafe’s moist banana chocolate-chip coconut bread smeared with five-spice butter and Wildfire Bakery’s island-grown wheat shortbread.

With all this fine food and free-flowing fuel it was no wonder the lively gathering was a-buzz. The guitar-strumming trio had trouble being heard above the roar. There were only a couple mishaps involving wine glasses – each bringing a collective sigh, then spirited “opa” from the throng. As the sun sank and the wind whipped, chefs mingled and the Pig gang deliberated over what to do with the bronzed head of Steve – the pig behind their pork. The evening had been a smashing success.

To try a recipe from one of the event’s participants, visit our Recipe Box.

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