Vancouver Island is a destination for food and wine lovers. Farm rich, with easy access to the bounty from the sea, there is a glorious lineup of wineries and drinkeries scattered around the main island, with a rich concentration in Cowichan Bay. The B.C. wine scene extends to the Gulf Islands with Salt Spring Island and Pender Island on the route. Much to my delight, I discovered that there was one on Quadra Island.
Taking a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo is the best route when you are Quadra Island bound. From there you will drive on for an hour and a half to Campbell River. We divided our weekend spending one night at April Point Resort & Spa on Quadra Island and one at the legendary oceanfront Painter’s Lodge in Campbell River. Both are owned by North Coast Hotels & Resorts.
Painter’s Lodge has a rich and storied history as a salmon fishing destination, boasting a glamourous lineup of past guests like Bob Hope, Susan Hayward and John Wayne. Campbell River was known as the ‘Salmon Capital of the World’. Just a quick boat ride or ferry across Discovery Passage will get you to the shores of beautiful Quadra Island and April Point Resort & Spa. Both properties offer rooms in the main lodge as well as separate cabins and garden suites. April Point also offers a private house for rent and an Aveda spa on site. Both locations are set to stun visitors with their rustic, natural setting, alive with wildlife like eagles, sea lions and even whales. Visitors here can organize many different adventures, from fishing and whale watching to incredible sea kayaking and even day trips to view grizzly bears.
The resorts have brought in a new corporate chef that has transformed these properties into a culinary destination. Chef Kevin Cooper has an impressive resume that began with training in Toulouse, France. He spent time in Italy, Las Vegas and was corporate chef for the Great Estates of the Okanagan. Here by the sea, he has created a dazzling menu featuring B.C.’s beautiful seafood and local farm ingredients.
Dining al fresco on the oceanfront deck at April Point was gorgeous – both the food and the scenery. We enjoyed a starter of the freshest of fresh local B.C. spot prawns (Chef Cooper has shared the recipe below) with main courses featuring fresh sockeye salmon and scallops. Each dish was beautifully presented and the layers of flavours were dynamic. Love the wine list with beautiful offerings from Vancouver Island.
If you want to bring your car, driving onto B.C. Ferries at the Campbell River terminal will deliver you to Quadra in a speedy 10 minutes and then you will be free to explore the rest of the island. You can arrive as a foot passenger via the little boat ferry that runs back and forth between resorts all day, however, you will not have access to transportation from April Point to see the rest of the island. Quadra is actually the largest of the Discovery Islands, a group of small islands located along the Inside Passage seaway between Vancouver Island and mainland B.C.
We planned a fun Saturday to tour the island that began with a visit to the island’s charming Farmers Market. A beautiful rainforest setting with a wonderful band playing set the scene here for the wide range of vendors ranging from local crafters to farmers. Next we set off to Heriot Bay to enjoy the mandatory island meal of fish & chips at the charming seaside Herons Restaurant at Heriot Bay Inn.
Southend Farm & Vineyards on Quadra Island is owned and operated by Ben McGuffie and Jill Ogasawara
Another destination on our list was to visit the island’s one and only winery, Southend Farm & Vineyards. Describing themselves as “Micro wine-making on the raggedy edge”, this lovely vineyard setting offers a super happy vibe that translates to its owners Jill Ogasawara and Ben McGuffie. The locavores are following their dream to live off the grid, build their own utopia of sorts, make wine and raise their two daughters with their adorable rescue dog Truman. The tasting room provides a list of delicious provisions for you to mix and match to make your own gourmet/locally sourced picnic on the vineyard, and they are now becoming known for making delicious smoked scallops on site.
Go visit Quadra Island.
Vanilla Spot Prawns
By Chef Kevin Cooper
1/2 lb Wild BC spot prawns, peeled
1/4 cup butter, softened, divided
A couple of dashes of your favourite hot sauce
1 lemon, squeezed and zested
1 tsp honey
1 fresh vanilla pod, halved and scraped
1 Tbsp white wine
1 cup cut Swiss chard, diced
2 cloves of roasted garlic, peeled & chopped
(method to roast garlic: toss a few cloves garlic in canola oil and roast for 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven)
Place butter, hot sauce, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey and scraped vanilla in mixing bowl and stir until smooth.
Sauté Swiss chard with canola oil and roasted garlic until soft and then set aside.
Heat butter mixture and wine in a saucepan over medium heat and poach spot prawns for approximately 2 minutes or until no longer opaque in the middle.
To serve, place Swiss chard in a shallow bowl then arrange the spot prawns on top.
Drizzle with vanilla butter and garnish with micro greens or julienned arugula.
Pair with Alderlea Vineyards Bacchus
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