Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Strait Is the Gate

The Strait of Juan de Fuca, from the back patio of what I refuse to call the "Edible Blossom Room" (just say "room 10"). 

Lunch at MaiMai's. The owner JoJo was the best, running all around and doing everything. He still found time to shoot the breeze between rolling sushi. 

Prawn tempura, because Peter was craving the panko-crusted lingcod fish and chips, but I suggested waiting for lingcod until we get to Tofino. 

Island roll with all local sea-things: rock crab, albacore, and salmon. Salmon skin roll (this was outstanding and the equivalent of 3.80 USD). And two spicy albacore hand rolls.   


JoJo wanted to make us his current favorite, an off-the-menu "scallop on scallop" roll, and on the right is the Wylie roll, draped with smoked albacore. 

Stockpiling these Canadian Andes mints.

Low tide back at the Harbour House. 

This wine is not in a bathroom. It is on an outdoor soaking tub. 

Delicious rosé from the Yakima Valley, but the combination of bad glassware and a nice view looks like the cover of a self-published romance novel from the 80s. 

Sooke, I love you, but your dining options on a Monday night are more dismal than Santa Fe's. (Was originally planning on  dinner at the Harbour House both nights, but canceled in defense of better food  everywhere.) 

Why tempt fate? We ended up back to MaiMai's, eight hours after lunch, only this time, JoJo didn't hand us menus and  just started sending out food, no questions asked. 

Edamame flatbread. 

Grilled Fanny Bay oysters with miso custard. 

Huge. And these are the medium-sized ones. When I could still eat oysters, this was the kind I couldn't handle raw. 

I had to admit to JoJo that I can't eat oysters, so he sent me the West Coast Inari instead. I don't want to say anything bad about this lovely man's decision to add tequila honey dill dressing and crumbled goat cheese, so I won't.  

Peppered albacore tataki. The fish was fabulous- could've lived without the truffle oil ponzu, but I can see why others might like it?

Salmon roll with eel tempura and a fried roll with tuna, strawberries, mango and crab. 

Spicy scallop and shrimp temaki, and two pieces of albacore belly nigiri-  smoking good fish I would have preferred, again, without the truffle oil. 

Still, we loved this place. And quite honestly, our bill was much lower this way, with someone else controlling our ordering. That degree of control also means we didn't leave hungry... but we weren't not hungry.

JoJo shared sake and stories about his years surfing and rolling sushi in Tofino. Before that, we had a Vancouver Island lager and a Victoria Distillers g&t. The restaurant is named after JoJo's younger sister. Their family emigrated from Panay. This is me ending a blog post like that doomed band Spacehog ended songs in the 90s: badly.  

Monday, May 30, 2016


Got up at quarter to six to catch the first-come first-served free inter-island ferry run to Friday Harbour, where we were scheduled for a nautical crossing back into Canada on yesterday's vessel, Elwha. It was quiet at the ferry landing. The inter-island ferry system is a SWA-style democracy; island living is not for the impatient.

Saw these preserves, made on Orcas. Bought for Nu.

The line for Beecher's was so long at Pike Place that we skipped it- I had wanted to buy cheese curds and some of their Flagship Reserve- but I found the cheese curds at the same little village market. 

On the ferry, we drank coffee in the blush of another oystery dawn.

My pearl. 

London Fogs and an oatmeal raisin cookie at Friday Harbour. 

Cheese curds on the ferry. 

Don't we all need a TPA suit for those "fragile" moments?

Sidney, BC. The customs agent was a sweetheart. Let's just say I calculated poorly and we could've been heavily taxed on some of our cargo, but we weren't. Thanks, guy!

Lunch at Hara Sushi in Sooke. 

Oshizushi again. Pressed eel. 

Pressed local salmon and shrimp. 

Local salmon and avocado. 

This was not exactly my fault. Food fomo can be debilitating- I'm not in control. Our Danish server was fanning her mouth at something spicy the sushi chef had handed her to eat, and she seemed really excited about it. I asked for whatever she was having, but "extra spicy". 

This is basically the "you get what you deserve" roll. 

Sooke Harbour House.

White and milk chocolate chunk cookies. I was tired and don't know how to nap. Sugar and caffeine subbed nicely. 

Cocktails- a Bumble and a Shirley Martini. Thin. Cold though!

I was looking at BC whites but then saw that the only sake they had on the list was Osake Junmai Nama Genshu, which we were not able to taste at the producer's tasting room on Granville Island because it's sold out everywhere on the mainland. They seemed surprised that they were able to dig up the last remaining bottle, since our server said it shouldn't have been on the list in the first place and mentioned he found two unexplained half-empty bottles of it down there while looking. Mmkay. 
So, we did not order any wine from the Cellar of the Unexplained after this 375 ml bottle of sake, but I did rearrange the wine binder for them when nobody was looking (OCD). 

Wild mussels. Peter and I have been talking a lot about what critically defines great dining and what distinguishes a great eating experience from it, mainly in the context of Santa Fe's restaurant evolution and the old days of Coyote Cafe. "You can't eat romance", he said. 

True, but you can eat flowers!

Gooseneck barnacles, fresh linguine and sea beans in a creamy sauce. 

Sablefish. The greens underneath were bitter as pills. 

Finally asked for bread because they were about to clear our bread plates and we had never gotten any. The woman was so embarrassed to have forgotten our bread that the ensuing exchange was straight out of Amy Schumer's "no, I'M sorry" skit. 

It was rye sourdough.

The saddest Dungeness crab. This broke my heart. Poor thing, it was truly gross.  Re-steamed to a state of rigor mortis. We ate it because RIP crab and all, but there is no reason this should be on the menu as a supplement. It's a travesty. 

Local albacore. Mucho overcooked. If this was business-class airplane food, it would still be bad. Bland beyond reproach. 

Apologetic for our poor appetites, we asked if our four-course dinner could be billed as a three-course dinner and got the heck out of there. The cheese course was originally attractive but yeah/no.

Walked through Quimper Park and down Whiffen Spit in the dark BECAUSE WHY NOT. The footing was very rough and uneven. In the morning, we visited the spit again and there was a giant sign warning walkers of "rough and uneven footing". I said it first though. 

You still can't eat romance. 

Spent the rest of the evening reading every entry in these amazing notebooks hiding between visitor's guides:

March 10, 1994
"I came here for a major business negotiation- the place runs fine and my associates love it- I will have to return with my wife." 
-Paul, Seattle (was definitely here with his mistress)

July 30, 1997
Sue and Ray, Del Ray Beach

March 2, 1997 
"Accommodations are wonderful, peaceful and serene. The food however is quite a different story. Perhaps the true meaning of my room's name, 'The Forager's Room', is that one must forage for food!" 

September 6, 1997
"I feel compelled to respond to the entry above. Did you not eat the fabulous breakfasts? Did you skip the luscious  lunches? Only dinner has ever disappointed us here!" 
Celeste and Rich, 6th Visit

30 pages later, I came across the following entry in different handwriting and thought "ooh more trolls!". 

September 6, 1997
"As you enjoy this room, please remember how fortunate you are just to be able to afford to come here. I have read the touching comments but an empty corner of my heart can't ignore the incredibly good fortune that any visitor to this getaway was blessed with. Too bad you have to have money in order to be reminded of the things money can't buy. How about some budget rooms in the new annex?"
Richard and Celeste

No, same trolls, making good use of their 6th visit. Peter says, "people throwing shade is as old as the hills".