Thursday March 25, 2021

Awakening of the Senses

My trip started in Langford, which is funny because I grew up there. I hadn’t visited in years, but I was not expecting it to have changed much—so wrong. There are many new shops, cafes, and the Jordie Lunn Bike Park is incredible for all levels. Jordie was an international mountain bike legend, super enthusiastic, warm and very, very fast. I met him once years ago, super nice guy. Wish I had brought my bike to try it out properly, but I will remember it next time.

First thing, I swam in Langford Lake. There were a couple of families there, and it was the perfect way to start the day, crisp, so clean. It was good to be back. There is seriously no better way to start a day than with a lake swim. It’s a full-body workout, but it doesn’t feel hard. It sets you up perfectly for the day. Langford’s lakes are amazing. You feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but you can grab a bite or shop just a few minutes away. After drying off, I headed over to Origin Bakery for a bite and picked up a few things for the drive later. The breakfast panini was incredible—bacon and egg heaven. I also grabbed a cinnamon bun, a few muffins and a florentine bar (chewy, caramel, chocolaty goodness). The selection was incredible. It’s a gluten-free bakery that makes seriously delicious food for anyone, not just people who can’t do gluten. Fun fact: the bakery is exactly where my high school, Belmont High, used to be. Something was fitting about that, being the first day of my holiday, setting off on a journey, seeing as high school was really where I started to come into my own. Even the name “origin” felt right.


As I noticed what has stayed the same and what’s new in my hometown, I was taken by the variety of options, not just in food, although that’s true, but also in activities, events and shops. I kept coming back to a line of thought of fulfillment-focus—all the restaurants are trying to provide options: local, organic, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian. I think that people who live on the west coast have a focus and make fulfillment a priority—a fulfilled life, a full life. There are so many options and a higher purpose than just making money.

Next, I was super fortunate to have the opportunity to go foraging with award-winning Chef Castro Boateng. Born in Ghana, he studied in Toronto and has worked with chefs from Banff, Bermuda and Scotland. His eatery, House of Boateng, won 2020 Business of the Year with 1-10 employees with the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and 2019 Best New Restaurant of the Year with YAM Magazine and was also nominated for Air Canada’s EnRoute 2019 Best New Restaurants. He won Chef of the Year in 2020 with EAT Magazine. You get the idea; he has serious chops. We went into the woods and I was blown away by his knowledge. It’s so wonderful spending time with people who are passionately doing what they love. It’s so obvious that Castro cares deeply for what he is doing as an entrepreneur and a chef.

I have lived on the island my whole life and thought I was pretty well-versed on the flora, but spending time with Castro in the bush taught me so much. He pointed out stinging nettle and explained how he makes it into a really healthy pesto and also showed me salmonberries and how and where oyster mushrooms grow. House of Boateng is season-focused. I wanted to ask him about Canadian cuisine and what he thought that was. He suggested that it might be just following the seasons. His restaurant is super local, like the 20-mile diet kind of thing, and it has such a great variety of options (options again!) for all eaters and dietary needs.

For Castro, the land, environment and plants are all important. I asked him what was different about being a chef here versus other places (he has worked in Bermuda, the Caribbean, England, etc.). He replied that he knows all of his suppliers and the farmers here. He has relationships with all these people. Castro talked about his time during COVID and how he focused on what was important to him—this community. He found that people are friendly here in a way you don’t see in big cities. He made me this incredible salad, salmon with the best chanterelles I’ve ever had with creme brulee for dessert.

Next, I headed down to Goldstream Park and set up camp. What a fantastic day with time in nature and great times with people and food. I could already feel myself unwinding. The plan for the next day was to get up early and hike Mt. Finlayson before too many other people appeared, so I set my alarm, prepped my gear and crashed early.

It was just light when my alarm went off. After a bit of water and a muffin, I was ready. I packed up camp, drove to the day-use area, and set out for Finney (Mt. Finlayson). It’s not a long hike, but it is steep, and I had to scramble up the last bit. I brought the florentine to enjoy up top. The views of the Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca were spectacular. I watched a massive eagle soar for a while. I remember coming here on weekends as a kid, and there were always several people picnicking at the top. Today I was lucky; I was the only one there. So I sat down, closed my eyes and just breathed for a while. Nothing is quite as grounding as that.

Then I tried the florentine. So rich, sweet and good. On my descent, I listed the trees I passed, firs, red cedar, western yew, hemlock, red alder, arbutus, maple. The last time I was at Goldstream was when the salmon were running. The fish return to their birthplace to spawn the next generation. It’s wild to witness their determination. Nature is so incredible – but I have to say the smell is intense. I’ll never forget watching the eagles feast on the dead fish while our family dog barked and strained at her leash (protip: always have your dog on a leash during the salmon run).

I took down camp and then headed over to check out the waterfall. It is called Niagara Falls, and it is beautiful, but not on the same scale as the famous one. Still, it is something to see. I have lived on this island my entire life, and I never get bored of the natural beauty. There is always something new that you can notice, learn and enjoy.

East Sooke Park was my next stop. I forgot how narrow the last part of the road is on the way to the Aylard Farm entrance. First, I took the trail to the left. It was pretty easy, save for a bit of a scramble up the hill after about ten minutes. The view was stunning. On the way back, I took a path down to the beach. The tide lapping the shore was so peaceful I ended up having a little nap. I woke up as a family arrived and carried onto the trail on the right. It was not so much hard as technical. There were a lot of roots to navigate and some of the path was pretty slanted. The arbutus tree branches bent over the beaches. On the way back, I cut up to the field so I could enjoy the walk and not have to think about my foot placement. I was looking forward to finally checking out the legendary ice cream sandwiches at Sea Chest at the Becher Bay Marina but forgot that they are only open Friday-Sunday 12 pm-5 pm, so that will have to wait. On the plus side, it was nearly 3 pm, and I’d been looking forward to trying out the award-winning Wild Mountain in Sooke.

In short, it was incredible. Chef Ollie Kienast and business and life partner Sommelier Brooke Fader have created a relaxed, delicious haven. I admit, when I first started planning this little trip, I thought nature was going to be the focus. But I have to admit with Origin and House of Boateng and now Wild Mountain, it’s a draw with the food so far. Ollie, like Castro, also works with the seasons and the local farmers. They have also just built a 20,000-lb wood-burning stove. I sat at the bar overlooking Sooke Harbour and enjoyed smoked olives, a local charcuterie plate and a pizza with housemade spreadable salami—wow. Okay, that’s it for me for now. I’m heading over to Point No Point Resort to relax in a hot tub and disconnect from devices for the rest of the day.

Categories: Featured, Langford