This is the first of a 2-parter on a mini vacation we took to Genoa Bay, BC. The next installment will have lots more details on our stops. Before I continue however I must tell you about a great farm that we discovered on our way to Florence, OR a few weeks ago. We had heard aboutGathering Together Farm in Philomath and we are so glad we decided to take the long way down and stop by there for a visit. The have a gorgeous farm stand that accepts EBT as well as credit cards and cash and a seasonal restaurant that uses the farm products for amazing dishes. The clay oven is absolutely fantastic and has definitely inspired the plans that we have to build our own. If you find yourself anywhere near Philomath, OR you can’t miss this inspirational farm!

As I gaze out to Genoa Bay, BC, I breathe in and exhale a relaxed sigh of release. Our stress levels have skyrocketed over the past couple of weeks and this escape was perfectly timed. Our home was broken into on August 25th. It was my mom’s birthday and I had spent some time cooking a meal for her and dad, a couple of friends, Mark and me. The break-in changed our plans and everyone came to our place rather than having us serve it to them at mom and dad’s, because I could not bring myself to leave the house after the breach. It did in fact change everything from then on, and it has been very unpleasant to deal with. My birthday was two days later and it is a time I normally love, celebrating life with friends and family. We had the usual fun party at the cafe where I get to give and receive gifts and good wishes all day long, and still it was difficult to fully submerge myself and just let the goodness flow. It was a blessing to have so much love surrounding me, especially at a time when I was feeling so forlorn, and yet shaking off the fear and anger was not an entirely completable task. And that very thought makes me angry again. Enough of that; thank you for letting me vent it out, every bit of that helps.

My girls told me that they had gone in on a super special surprise gift with my parents and my aunt, and that it wouldn’t arrive until the next day, so they wanted to wait to tell me about it. The next day was Saturday and when I got to the cafe the whole staff (including Ivy) was there except Sharon, and there was a real hum of excitement. They gathered around me and handed me a gift bag. I reached in and plucked out a tissue-wrapped lump, which turned out to be what looked like a jewel box. They were all watching me with anticipation, big eyes and grins of secret knoweldge. I focused in on the box cover which read ‘Canlis’ and my mind lurched… CANLIS?? I was so shocked I set the box down and the voice in my head screamed ‘NO WAY, THAT IS NOT YOURS!’…the girls laughed and said go ahead! Open it! I reached for it and shakily opened it up and therein was a small card that indicated I was the bearer of an amazing gift certificate! Under the card was a little cloth envelope, and the actual gift certificate was encased within. I kept opening and closing the box in amazement and tears filled my eyes. These girls, each of whom are exceptional and essential to my life, were showing me such love and sensitivity with this gesture, and it was overwhelmingly lovely. You see, I have wanted to go to the Canlis since I was 16 years old. Count it up, that is 27 years! I had friends who went there for senior prom and I knew then what an amazing institution this restaurant was. As I began my early restaurant career and got some insider trade knowledge, I gained an even bigger appreciation for the Canlis restaurant. I always had an excuse not to go: It was just outside of my financial reach, or the occasion was not quite worthy, or whoever my dining companion(s) were would not appreciate it enough. Secretly I knew that when I did go, I would never be able to recapture that moment again, so I was prolonging the pleasure. This is extraordinairy when you consider that I am an immediate gratification kind of girl who loves to savor every excellent moment. I am ready for this pleasure and I am really excited to make the reservation. Mark and I just have to figure out when we can go and fully immerse ourselves into the experience; it will not be too long from now.

As I mentioned earlier we are in Genoa Bay, BC right now (perhaps I should say “as I write this” because it will not still be true when you read this) thanks to an extraordinairy customer/friend of ours. I have not asked his permission to give his name so I will call him the doc. The doc has what he calls ‘a family cabin’ on Genoa Bay and one day while he was in line at the cafe he mentioned that he had been up for the weekend. Mark and I lit up and told him how much we love this island and that I had just read about how the Cowichan Valley (this region) just got recognized internationally as the first ‘Citta Slow’ region. (Citta is Italian for city, and pronounced ‘cheetah’) Their commitment to local food and community up here is first rate, and a fine example for the rest of the world to follow. He smiled in recognition of fellow island lovers and said ‘you know, if you ever want to use the cabin I would love to let you’. We were stunned. He didn’t know us well and he seemed very sincere in his generosity. I looked at him and slowly told him that we would seriously take him up on that, and if he wanted to reconsider, or discuss it with his family, or think it over for a week, we would not hold him to the invite. He just laughed and said that he didn’t have to think about it, just let him know when we wanted to go up. The next day I gave him a list of possible dates and this is the weekend that worked for him. Can you believe the luck??? I jokingly asked if the cabin had indoor plumbing and he assured me that it had everything we needed. I made ferry reservations that day. A few weeks later the doc left us a book about Cowichan and he had written a personal note inside. I asked him about it because we were assuming it was a loan, and he assured me that it was a gift. This is a beautiful coffee table book about the history of the region with a focus on the Citta Slow recognition and slow food movement.

A few days before we were to come up the doc left us a soft sided case filled with maps, brochures and a binder with house information, keys and directions. We took our time getting up here, starting on the 0830 ferry on Friday. We disembarked in Victoria around 1030 and headed north. We hit a cidery, a couple of wineries, a couple of farm stands, a bakery, a cheese shop, a local coffee roaster and got an ice cream before coming out to the ‘cabin’. What could have taken an hour or so stretched into 4 hours. It was a beautiful drive and we took our time, enjoying the journey as the destination. We pulled up to the ‘cabin’ and were a bit surprised by the size and niceness. Then we came inside. Holy crap, this is gorgeous! It was originally owned by a friend of the doc’s father, and passed down to him, so we were expecting a rustic cabin. It is not. If you are reading this then we came home, though we are seriously considering squatting and never leaving until they forcibly remove us. Gorgeous views on both sides, idyllic marina within steps, quiet, and it has been sunny every day. It is a beautiful home and we are having a wonderful time pretending it is ours. We went to the Salt Spring Island Saturday market and loaded up on supplies. This market is very large and reminded me of the markets we saw in Italy. We also hit 3 more wineries. I will write more in depth about the wineries, food places that we visited, and meals we enjoyed later, but these pictures should tell you a lot.

Mark went out in the doc’s Boston Whaler this morning and set the crab pot. We are going to go out and ‘pick up dinner’ in a few minutes (no drive through can beat that!) and there is a farmstand a few miles up the road if we need anything else. Yea, this is the good life and we are abundantly grateful for every moment of it.

How to cook a crab:

You can catch your own crab or buy them live at the docks or at the store. There are many ways to cook them and while none are difficult, this is the simplest of all:

Fill a pot with water (salt water from the crab’s home is best) and if it is regular water salt it like the sea. Bring it to a rolling boil and drop the crab in. (use tongs or it could hurt!)

Boil for 15 minutes. Take him out and spray him down with cool water, then let him cool off for a few minutes so your fingers can handle touching the hot crab. Pop off the outer carapace (it’s super easy after cooking). Remove the gills and mandibles, pull the body in half and rinse out the ickiness that you may find in there. All that’s left is shell and meat.

The absolute best way to eat crab is just out of the shell, with some crisp wine or a lager, and some bread on the side. A salad caps off the dinner nicely and make sure you have lots of napkins, along with newspaper down on the table so you can easily clean up the mess.