Thursday, May 19, 2022

'Taste of Victoria' food tour takes the cake for fun, history, variety

 

Victoria, British Columbia, is a wonderful place to stroll, look and eat! The top-ranked food tasting
tour in Canada is waiting for you on your next visit to this charming, ethnically varied city. 

CULINARY WONDERS AWAIT -- FROM HISTORIC PUB TO FRENCH PATISSERIE TO A GOURMET HOLE IN THE WALL


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
Our tasting tour began at Roast Meat and Sandwich Shop,
where we devoured delectable meatballs in a satisfying sauce.
 

WE ALWAYS look for new, fun things to do when we travel, especially when we return to places we love and have visited before. So when we knew we'd have a long day in Victoria, B.C., we booked something we'd not tried before in this bustling city. We lined up a walking-tasting food tour.

WHAT FUN food tours are. We've munched our way across Amsterdam, Rome, New Orleans, London and Key West --  increasing our pleasure in each city and appreciation of its culinary variety.

Ayo Eat's yummy offering: delicious peanut sauce
to complement a tasty Indonesian spring roll. 
Food in any city is shaped by its residents. A good food tour artfully weaves history and eating, and Andy Olson is one of the best food tour guides in the business.  He owns and manages "A Taste of Victoria Food Tours" which has cultivated a healthy worldwide foodie following.
The amiable Olson takes a "hands on" -- make that "mouth on" -- approach. Since launching his business, he's continued his world travels, munching his way through dozens of food tours.  He knows what makes a good tasting tour fun: variety, local ingredients, history told with enthusiasm.
"I wanted to show off this beautiful city and the eateries that make it appealing," Olson said as he ushered us around downtown Victoria. "I also wanted to emphasize local places serving local stuff."
Mouth-watering candies were devoured with joy at Roger's 
Chocolates, with a delectable Victoria cream vanilla.
First, the Roast Meat and Sandwich Shop, located in a bustling converted warehouse and flanked by a coffee shop, and other small food operations. This was a welcome beginning. We'd eaten a light breakfast and by 1 p.m. were hungry. A pair of mouth-watering meatballs swimming in savory tomato sauce hit the spot -- right out of an Italian grandma's kitchen  

NEXT UP on our award-winning  historic walking and food tour was a stop at Victoria BBQ House and Bakery for a barbecue pork bun, a warm slightly sweet bun with a spoonful of seasoned pork inside. Olson guided us through Chinatown, Old Town and the city's Inner Harbor.

Fan Tan Alley dates back to the mid-19th
Century and is filled with boutiques.
We stopped in Fan Tan Alley, a narrow lane -- only a few feet wide and 240 feet long -- between Fisgard Street and Pandora Avenue in Victoria's small but colorful Chinatown.
Olson explained that it's the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America after San Francisco. Its beginnings stem from the mid-19th Century's influx of miners from California.
IF WE'D been walking on our own, we might have passed by some of the intriguing places Olson chose. For instance, Ayo Eat, a tiny street-food place with a chef who cooked for the Dalai Lama before leaving Indonesia. The peanut sauce and tasty spring roll it garnished were fabulous -- tangy, rich, but not overpowering. It was a favorite of us both. 
Slim and fit, Olson shared his experience in making macarons, at a stop in the pretty, chandelier-lit French pastry shop, La Roux Patisserie. Its owner greeted us and described her clientele -- from wedding parties to couples celebrating an anniversary, to the retired teacher with an affection for croissants. 
TASTING TOURS have been around for a couple decades -- but they've really taken off in the past decade. "I think people like to feel they're doing something a bit off the grid," Olson said. "And it's fun to be together, learning something new."
Just Matcha's drinks are artfully served in
a peaceful, rejuvenating setting. 
We were a small group in the afternoon, but Olson's morning tour had the full 8 or 9 he likes to tour with.  His knowledge and enthusiasm are part of the fun. He greets everyone by name and they all know and like him. His passion for his adopted home and the food it serves is obvious. He's tried everything the tour offers. Does he cook for himself and his wife? "No, actually, neither of us is a very good cook. That's partly how I came into this business.''
Andy Olson talks about his passion for food,
inspiring his decision to open a tasting tour.












A delectable French macaron from La Roux
Patisserie in Victoria, a charming bakery.




BETWEEN FOOD courses it was nice to get a break at Just Matcha Tea Shop, where we sipped a delightful matcha infused drink and had a Zen moment in the relaxing ambiance of soothing artwork and tea-inspired calm.
Food tours appeal both to seasoned travelers as well as newcomers to a region or city. If you've been there before, you're looking for something different. If you're new, a good tasting tour will give you highlights of places to eat and offer a pleasant overview of the city and its life, history, ethnicity and neighborhoods. Expect a bit of background, anecdotes, personal history as you skip from humble to lavish stops.

ROGER'S Chocolates is dripping with Victorian charm -- an old-fashioned candy shop with a fragrant array of intoxicating chocolates for every taste. And Churchill Pub rounds out the tour -- a real English-feeling drinking house with sturdy wooden booths and a beautiful bar. This was the only time Andy

The Churchill, a traditional English pub, is a stop in
the fast-paced and varied "Taste of Victoria Food Tour."

participated, having a small sample of a local brew. Six or seven stops are offered with a changing repertoire depending on time of year, fresh produce and Olson's whims.  Tours are balanced to provide a filling "meal" in sensible, 
small portions over the allotted time.
OLSON'S foodie orbit embraces his own personal wide-ranging culinary tastes, traditional specialties and time honored treats. He's also on the lookout for new dining options to show off the varied heritage of Victoria. The food tour always includes Asian fare, important because immigrants from the Far East helped build the city.  We enjoyed all seven tastings. Not a clunker in the bunch. "Fantastic food tour with delightful tastings, heaping helpings of world culture, and enthusiasm for Victoria's past and present," Keller said. He pronounced the two-plus hour event "great fun, for first-timers to Victoria, or return guests looking for something new." www.atasteofvictoriafoodtours.com (250)893-9815


Yorkies Nora, left, and Nick, devoted and beloved by
Cookie and Keller. Nora crossed the Rainbow Bridge
two years ago and a new chapter unfolds May 26.

UP NEXT:
Animal lovers know that there's nothing more traumatic and sad than losing a beloved pet. We have had dogs all our lives -- 19 between the two of us (Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller.) Our times with Yorkshire terriers Nick and Nora are a huge part of our life together, so we share a recent tragedy with fellow pet owners in our May 26 post. We have a feeling that thousands out there will find comfort in our story.  Remember to explore, learn, live, embrace the moment and catch us each week for a fresh spin on nature, family, pets, the arts, travel and more:  www.whereiscookie.com


4 comments:

  1. You guys made me hungry, and I'm in Toronto, not Victoria! Looking for a foodie tour here, while we await spring. Fun stuff! Will definitely check this out next time in B.C.

    ReplyDelete
  2. San Francisco SailorsMay 23, 2022 at 2:49 PM

    Fun sounding tour. Appeals to foodies and history buffs!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Pennsylvania packersMay 23, 2022 at 4:52 PM

    Excited to sign on. Will be there in June and book it! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Palo Alto FoodiesMay 24, 2022 at 11:16 AM

    Reason enough for a visit!!

    ReplyDelete