After Tofino, we meandered back to Parksville, where my parents live. We ate many lovely meals at my parents’ place, including wild salmon, roast chicken and my mom’s secret spaghetti sauce from her Italian grandma. (Actually, I forced the recipe out of her a few years ago. The original recipe includes pork hocks, stewing meat, bay leaves and allspice).
We ate at Atlas Cafe in Courtenay. We go to Atlas every time we are in town. They have the best service. Every single place we took the kids to in BC was super child friendly, no matter how trendy or mod. I tip my hat to them all.
Courtenay is a pleasant little funky town up island in Comox Valley. Rural BC is full of little gems like this town, and we stumbled upon their street market on their main drag, complete with bouncy tents and water dunking. It was damn hot, but it was fun.
We cruised the Errington Farmer’s Market, where I bought Mike some of his beloved pickled beets. We visited the goats on the roof at the Coombs Market, which has expanded since I last visited a couple of years ago. If I lived nearby, I’d do all my shopping there – they have an incredible selection of both local products and imported foods (lots from Scandinavia). Ella and I delighted in picking out a picnic lunch of Little Qualicum brie, beef jerky, cheese buns and almond tarts which we took to Englishman Falls.
In Parksville, we went to a little gem of a Mexican restaurants my parents had discovered years previous, called Ole Mexicanos. Yes, it is a little cluttered place in a strip mall, but it is a hidden jewel, where the shrimp enchiladas are perfectly soft and creamy and spicy, with generous shrimp hiding inside.
And any trip to Nanaimo isn’t complete without eating a Nanaimo Bar. And while we tried to go to McLeans for lunch (the kitchen was sadly closed on the weekends), we went across the street to Bocca, where the sandwich fillings were a bit on the light side, but where the bread is fluffy and the Nanaimo Bars are always always spot on.
Here’s a great business idea: why not open a little take away coffee bar right near Departure Bay ferry station in Nanaimo that sells only Nanaimo Bars (individually and boxed) and espresso? And call it The Nanaimo Bar.
Brilliant, huh? Go ahead. Steal the idea from me. I’d just be happy to walk off that ferry and head straight to The Nanaimo Bar for my fix of the local specialty.