Don Genova’s Food Artisans Book Launch

As it is more and more frequently these days, the Victoria Public Market in the Hudson building was filled with incredible locally made food, delicious things to drink, and plenty of happy people. Locavores from all over Victoria were there to fete the launch of renowned food journalist and CBC Radio host Don Genova’s first book, Food Artisans of Vancouver Island & the Gulf Islands, which chronicles some of the most unique producers on Vancouver Island.

Editors Note: Coming in the next print edition of EAT (May | June 2014) is a review by Rebecca Baugniet of Food Artisans of Vancouver Island! Look out for it to hit the streets soon.

One of the first tables I visited was Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt, made by husband and wife team Merissa Myles and Scott DiGuistini. “It’s a fun way for a guy who used to work with cultures all the time to make a living on the island,” said Scott, who has a background as a microbiologist. “It’s fun to work with cultures all day, to see them ferment and grow.” Tree Island’s Orange Blossom and Cardamom flavour was a big departure from the fruit options seen on most grocery store shelves, and delivered a delicately spiced taste that reminded me of East Indian barfi. When I commented on how much I enjoyed it, Scott proffered a mysterious spoonful and asked me to guess. After a few seconds I recognized the citrusy smoothness of Captain Picard’s favourite tot: tea, Earl Grey tea. Scott’s innovative bergamot flavour is one of his newer experimental flower-based varieties and I hope to see it on shelves soon.


Tree Island Yogurt

People lined up to go in

People lined up to go in

“It’s lighter in alcohol because it’s 12 percent!” said Dana LeComte, laughing. The deceptively high ABV of Tugwell Creek’s unique meads would’ve certainly made me risk my own camera equipment had I lingered there any longer. “The thing with mead is when you ferment it out dry, the challenge is to keep the alcohol down,” said Dana, who operates the meadery in Sooke with her partner, beekeeper Bob Liptrot. “You’re dealing with honey so of course you’re getting more alcohol, and if you want big flavor you have to have more honey.” Tugwell’s 2012 Harvest Melomel really stood out for me as an off-dry mead that lead with a bright berry flavour thanks to the blended mix of Tugwell farm-grown berries and hid its wildflower honey roots until the light and smooth finish.

Cory Pelan of the Whole Beast Salumeria held court at the Ravenstone Farm Artisan Meats shop, carving thin slices of a massive, 14-month aged prosciutto and serving up pieces of Foi Epi baguette with roasted garlic and sobrassada, a spreadable cured sausage with a lingering paprika kick. Both products are made from Tamworth pigs, a heritage breed raised at Stillmeadow Farm by Tom Henry in Metchosin. The Whole Beast is committed to old world methods of curing and preserving, and the prosciutto on offer was a perfect example of the kind of painstaking and traditional methods used. “You get this incredible taste from the region, the environment, the natural air and how sweet and moist it is,” said my friend and frequent cooking buddy Shane Harwood, who works under Cory at the shop. “You concentrate the flavor because you’re essentially dropping the water level. No nitrates, no hormones, no antibiotics, nothing like that — just pig, salt and air and time.”


I also very much enjoyed the small St. Clairs bries from Hilary and Patty Abbott at The Creamery at Cheese Pointe Farm; this time of year they are particularly creamy with a more solid and tart centre thanks to a higher humidity in the aging room. Venturi-Schulze Winery’s “anti- rosé” Maranello 2011 was a nice surprise as a bone-dry and fruity wine, as was their Don Genova-recommended 100% Vancouver Island balsamic vinegar. After tasting the Teafarm’s Chinese zodiac “Dog” tea (a tribute to Don), I was also excited to hear that they were on the verge of harvesting their first crop of four-year-old Camellia sinensis and making a truly Canadian tea.


Don Genova signing books

The night was rounded out with chef demonstrations, including a fascinating talk on mushrooms from Bill Jones of Magnetic North Cuisine. Don Genova was of course on hand to sign copies of the book, and delivered a rousing but humble talk after being introduced by the MC and writer of the book’s foreward, CBC Radio’s Jo-Ann Roberts. “When you think about it, we’re blessed with great growing conditions, great seafood, great wilds and crafted things as well,” said Don, when I asked him about his goals for the book. “There are people here who are very passionate about using all those ingredients and making items and growing them, raising them and giving them to us to enjoy. So why not let everybody know who they are?”


A noble aim and a very successful event.

Congrats, Don!


Food Artisans of Vancouver Island & the Gulf Islands

Don Genova

Touchwood Editions (publisher)


Written By:

Vancouver-born photographer, writer and designer Sol Kauffman has had his hands dirty in restaurant kitchens for years, washing dishes and slinging pizzas. In 2008 he moved to Victoria to pursue a BFA in Creative Writing at UVic ...

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