Driving into Salt Spring Island in the rain is like entering the pages of an old picture book. A rustic road leads to Hastings House Country House Hotel, in an 11th century Sussex style manor house overlooking the Ganges Harbour. We arrive in the misty rain at a small waterfront luxury country resort surrounded by fresh green foliage. We feel we have reached a lovely sanctuary.
In the handsome dining room all the hotel guests acknowledge each other and sit down for an elegant three course prix fixe dinner. The chef knows his clientele and offers hearty, local fare: peppered venison carpaccio with house made onion caper marmalade, and his rendition of herb crusted wild Pacific halibut with Cilantro couscous. This is the kind of food we’ve come to the West Coast to enjoy. The next morning, we are off to Salt Spring Island.
It seems that if there is someone you want to run into, you would have a good chance of seeing them at Auntie Pesto’s, nestled on the waterfront boardwalk in the heart of Ganges Village. A kitchy name cloaks the very serious kitchen of chef Shawn Walton. The island is his pantry, and you can almost set your seasonal calendar by his daily menus. On a clear day, a table at the waterfront boardwalk offers a beautiful view with dinner.
The Salt Spring Island Saturday Market is the highlight of the week for tourists and locals alike. A few sun-showers are not a deterrent to anyone who has come to see a unique brand of island ingenuity. The artisans booths are almost irresistible, and yes, we must buy a few of these lovely glass heart necklaces, and chocolate from several purveyors. Pleased to see David Wood, (he once enthralled us with his fine food shop on Yonge Street in Toronto) and he is now one of the areas largest goat cheese makers. Salt Spring Island Cheese loves to have visitors wander the farm and taste the cheese, fresh. Weavers, sculptors, organic farmers, wood carvers and glass blowers, 140 in all, show their arts. Every product is certified “vendor produced and sold” making each piece a one-of-a-kind.
There is a calmness here, a stress free feeling of people communing with nature on their own terms, reminiscent of the late 60s. Peace and Love man, peace and love.
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.