Going “all in” on the West Coast
Article written by Del Elgersma for Edible Vancouver Island
My law firm’s office manager of almost 20 years recently retired, and my business partner and I agreed that a weekend away with our office manager and our spouses at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn would be the perfect way to celebrate the occasion. And when your spouse is Karen Elgersma, publisher of Edible Vancouver Island, you know two things about the trip: you will be eating well, and you may have to write about your experience.
The Highway 4 road closures at Kennedy Lake can make getting to and from the West Coast challenging, but we timed our arrival to the closure perfectly and were optimistic we would be able to drive right through. Unfortunately, the closure was extended for two additional hours, and we arrived at the Inn in darkness, barely in time for our dinner reservation at The Pointe Restaurant, the Wick’s own fine-dining restaurant.
The restaurant staff greeted us by name and even congratulated our office manager on her retirement. The six of us are all foodies and the menu was a delight. I started with the smoked mussels and had the steelhead trout with rye and chestnut ravioli for my main course. Chocolate truffles were served for dessert, with a chocolate “card” that said “Congratulations”—another memorable touch.
The next morning I picked up two cappuccinos from the Inn’s beachside Driftwood Café, featuring a nutty-tasting espresso from a local roaster. Karen and I sipped them slowly in front of our fireplace, watching dogs chase sticks on the beach in the rain, while discussing our plans for the day.
We started with breakfast at Roar, the restaurant at the Hotel Zed Tofino. Karen had been here before and gave me a quick tour of the hotel’s funky features, such as the bike-through lobby, a mini-disco and the secret retro arcade hidden by a movable bookcase. At Roar, I had one of the most interesting breakfasts of the weekend: griddled pork belly bao buns with fire-charred slaw and sweet sesame choy dressing. So different and so delicious.
Then Karen discovered there was a craft fair at the Tofino Community Hall. It turned out to be quite charming and a great place to pick up some unique gifts. Our group met up again for lunch at the Inn, and I enjoyed a light lunch of fresh oysters. At this time of day, we were able to appreciate why the restaurant is called The Pointe; built on a rocky outcropping, the building offered a mesmerizing panoramic view of the coast.
Every room at the Inn includes rain coats, pants and rubber boots, so that afternoon, Karen and I donned our rain gear and went for a walk. The salty air and crashing waves made the beach walk invigorating, even in the pouring rain. On our way back to the Inn for a hot cup of tea—and a sip of the Wick’s complementary in-room Port—we ducked into a trail through the rainforest, where we were quickly enveloped by a sense of peace and mystery. We came upon an enchanted clearing, where the only sound was water dripping from the surrounding giant red cedars. A wedding officiant and witness awaited the arrival of a bride and groom. We kept walking and passed the couple on the trail, followed only by their photographer to record their intimate wedding in the rain.
At dusk, the six of us drove to Ucluelet, where we began our evening with a beer tasting in the church-turned-brewpub of the Ucluelet Brewing Company. The pub had a hip yet family-friendly vibe. I tried their pilsner, IPA, Hazy IPA (my fave) and latte stout, and then we walked a few blocks north for our dinner at Pluvio.
We decided to “go all in,” which, at Pluvio, means having the chef’s five-course tasting menu with wine pairings. Chef Warren Barr is known for using wild ingredients foraged from the forest and coastline. One course included local seaweed, served on a platter of beach rocks to re-create a sense of foraging. Our main course was spiced with spruce and Sweet Gale harvested from the forest. It was a world-class culinary experience that we will never forget.
The next morning after a short beach walk, Karen and I went to Long Beach Lodge for breakfast in The Great Room. Framed in huge timbers with floor-to-ceiling windows and a huge roaring fire, this is one of our favourite spots to eat in Tofino. I cannot resist the Smoked Beat Rancheros, featuring poached eggs served over house-smoked beets and black rice with guacamole and chipotle black crema–healthy, comforting and intensely flavourful. (If you’re curious, the recipe can be found in the cookbook Island Eats, by Dawn Postnikoff and Joanne Sasvari.)
The rest of the day included another beach walk in the rain and reading by the fire. That evening, we all headed back to Roar to experience the cocktails of renowned bartender Dinah Kisil (who was profiled in the Fall 2021 issue of Edible). I ordered the Crooked Dice from the “Wild and Intense” list. With eucalyptus-infused rum served in a vintage tiki mug, it was the crowd favourite.
The tiki theme continued at Shelter, where tiki torches on the restaurant’s front deck provided a warm welcome despite the rain. After two days of indulging, I needed something a bit lighter, and the salmon bowl with spicy yogurt was the perfect choice.
Our final meal of the weekend was breakfast at The Pointe. The smoked salmon and cream cheese eggs benedict was delicious, but I was grateful that one of our party shared a piece of their Carrot Cake French Toast.
As we drove away that morning after breakfast, we agreed that the Wickaninnish Inn delivered on its commitment to provide “the most memorable world-class experience unequalled by any coastal inn from Mexico to Alaska.” We look forward to returning and bringing our bikes to check out ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (pronounced ups-cheek ta-shee), the 25km multi-use pathway connecting Tofino and Ucluelet, which will be completed this spring.
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