It’s rare an Ottawa girl longs for wretched weather in February. But I wanted a holy moley of a humdinger, a real screamer of a storm. I wanted to sit on my Wickaninnish Inn balcony with a cappuccino and watch the foam get blown off. I had packed my tuque, mitts, wellies, long johns. There were yellow slickers and rain pants in the closet. Signs all over the property warned of dangerous tides and slippy rocks and wicked winds.
This is prime winter storm watching at The Wick, a stunning Relais et Chateau property that manages to get sucked into its setting, so much the Wedgewood-slate colour of the sky and the rocks and the winter beach, dwarfed by the pines that stand sentry around it.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. Instead, I trotted the length of Chesterman Beach coatless. And took photographs of daffodils in full sunny bloom. In February. Hardly seemed Canadian, and yet I’ve never stayed in a place that makes me feel so chin-wobblingly patriotic.
A son at UVic, with a university reading week immediately following the Canadian Culinary Championship weekend in Kelowna, made a couple of days stay at the Wickaninnish Inn seem the perfect plan.
I came here vowing to eat leafy greeny things and drink nothing stronger than tea. It had been a weekend of glorious excess in Kelowna. Executive Chef Warren Barr at the Pointe Restaurant clearly felt my pain, for course number one was a stunning Study of Carrots with a lively lime yogurt and a gently curried granola. Not served with tea, thank God, but with the 2013 Unsworth Vineyards Pinot Gris, grown from 100% Vancouver Island grapes. Then a dark and sparkling lamb consommé with wisps of spinach, dainty little lamb ricotta meatballs and a poached quail egg. Pierce the egg, and the soup clouded to a comforting stracciatella. Seafood next – marinated mussels, clams and spot prawns with a brunoise of house-cured lardo and a fennel foam. With it, the 2013 Black Hills Alibi.
And then things got a little heavier. Pig and Pinot Noir. But a stunner of a dish – whey glazed Kurobota pork copa from Sloping Hill (Qualicum Beach) partnered with squash three ways, toasted walnuts, confit grapes, and finished with a pork and walnut tuile. With the pork, a rich, graceful 2011 Carson Pinot Noir from Naramata.
Cheese next – Fraser Valley St George, warmed and oozy – served with dehydrated beets and burnt honey – followed by a trio of exquisite desserts, paired with a silky dessert wine from Venturi Schulze Vineyards, made from the Madeleine Sylvaner grape. It tasted a bit like sherry, with the weight of port. If that makes any sense. Made good sense to drink it anyway.
And finally, tea. Which was the plan all along.