Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Doing the "zoo" and good eats

The kiddies have gone off to stay with Grandma and Grandpa for a few days so Chris and I have had the chance to do things we wouldn't normally be able to...namely...go out. While I miss them terribly and feel a little sad every time I come across a sweet little picture with their big smiles I will admit it's been really fun being a bit footloose and fancy free for the last two days.

Chris and I headed into Victoria last night to try out a pub I had been wanting to go to for awhile now (and when I say awhile I pretty much mean since Ella was born....you know I'm exaggerating since Ella was born two years before this pub even opened, but we just don't get a chance to go to pub's anymore), called Bard & Banker Scottish Pub.

The decor and general ambiance...awesome. I loved it. The place was huge but still cozy somehow with very rich furnishings.

Loved the chandeliers which were huge.

The menu is strapped onto a board for easy reading and changing out.

The drink menu was board covered and quite broad with lots of different ales and beers.

I'm not a beer drinker so opted for The Natural Blonde, a deliciously refreshing cocktail that wasn't too sweet, just how I like it. This was a combination of gin, pineapple juice, lime, soda and mint, perfect!

Chris went with a pint of his trusty Sleeman's honey brown lager.

We started out with an appy of Curried Crab Cakes. These were excellent! The apple sunchoke puree and the apple cider reduction went beautifully with the curry flavour in the crab cakes. I highly recommend this one.

 For our main Chris had Lamb and Rosemary Bangers and Mash. Butter fried cabbage on top of cheddar mashed potatoes were then topped with sausage from the Cowichan Valley (thank you very much), and all surrounded by a grainy mustard sauce...very tasty. Another recommend.

I decided to have the special since from the moment I walked in the door all I could smell was fish and chips and my mouth was watering for it.
They have a different spin on traditional fish and chips (although you can order it too) in the form of Potato Chip Crusted Fish and Chips. The fish was perfectly cooked and delicious and I loved the crunchiness of the chips but I did find it a little bland. The house made tarter sauce however was excellent and when the fish was throughly dunked in it I then had all the flavour I needed. I couldn't quite put my finger on what the special ingredient in the tartar sauce was...I think it was horseradish, Chris thought capers, and although we did ask our server she never did get back to us.

Because my dinner was on special that of course left room for another cocktail (right?) and I had a Dapper Apple martini, a little sweet but tasty.

The Bard and Banker was a lot of fun and the food was tasty with a price point in the medium/high range. It's worth going for the decor alone I think. Check it out the next time you're in Victoria if you haven't already.

This morning I met up with my friend Kathleen to hike up Mt Tzouhalem (zoo-hay-lum) or the "zoo" as it's called. Although I've lived in the area for about seven years now I have never hiked this trail before, I'm not sure why because it's something I've wanted to do but for whatever reason just never got there. I loved it. I intend to make it a regular part of my routine now. It's a great workout and the forest is lovely, but what really takes the cake are the views when you get to the top...breathtaking!
A little history about the mountain I found online here

"It's named after a fierce aboriginal chief who lived in the caves here, and who died in 1854. Before he moved to the mountain with his followers, he was a leader amongst the Cowichan people. It's documented that when a large party of northern tribes arrived in Cowichan Bay to raid for slaves, Tzouhalem helped to lead an unprecedented alliance of southern communities in response. They baited the attackers with canoes filled with warriors dressed as women, who led the raiding canoes to a bloody ambush on the shores, which no northerner escaped."

A rather bloody past indeed.

 These pictures do not do any justice to how steep this part of the climb is.

The next three pictures are from the first lookout point. I tried taking a panorama pic with my phone from here but it just didn't look right.

 And we reached the top! We made pretty good time...it took us about 45min to reach it.

A little more history about the mountain as well as the background on the cross. I found it here
"This info was kindly provided by Maria at Providence Farm, her father welded the cross…
Originally, a wooden cross was put up on Tzouhalem in 1976 by St. Ann’s Catholic Church (Able Joe) and St. Edward’s Catholic Church (Cliff Pascoe). The cross was put up as part of “ecumenical” celebrations – part of Easter/Good Friday. Each year many people hike to the cross stopping to do the “stations of the cross” on the way up as part of the Catholic Easter celebration.
The wooden cross was repeatedly vandalized (burned/cut down), so it was replaced with the metal cross in 1988 (approx date). Maurice Dupont, a welder, made the cross in Crofton, and 3 members of Knights of Columbus, as a group, got it up there. The group included Jack Pearce, Peter Cain and Oly Bar. They drove up the mountain as far as possible then carried the steel and cement in the rest of the way. The picture above was taken after the final cementing was completed
There is also an old legend:
Chief Tzouhalem, a vicious, warring and grossly disfigured Chief, would hide out in the caves that are in Mt. Tzouhalem before and after a raid. Legend says that when he tired of his “wife” he would take her up to the point where the cross is, and throw her off – then he would go and “take” another wife. It is rumoured that he had up to 40 wives though when he was killed in 1859 he had only 14.
One story suggests he was exiled from his tribe for killing his fellow tribesmen so he moved to a cave on the mountain which now bears his name.
Another is little grimmer. He and his tribe had planned to take his next wife from a nearby tribe, planned the attack and went to carry it out. Story goes that the tribe they went to attack got word of the plan, and planned their own ambush. During the ambush Chief Tzouhalem’s head was severed. They buried his body somewhere, but kept the head to guard it for some spiritual reasons (to keep his spirit from returning?). Apparently his head is still being guarded somewhere…"

 I did find several sites that said people believe the mountain is haunted. Interesting....

A couple more pictures from the top, amazing views of the Cowichan Valley.

 Taking a load off and catching up on texts. ;)

After we came back down the mountain it was time for lunch so we headed over to Hilary's cheese in Cowichan Bay for soups and sandwiches.
 The entry is stocked with all kinds of fun crackers, preserves and of course cheeses. Hilary and Patty Abbott make their own cheese as well as import from all over the world. They have lots of fun varieties you wouldn't normally find at your average grocery store. You can "like" their page on Facebook for updates on upcoming events and specials: Hilary's Cheese & Deli Cowichan Bay.

I had a delicious (seems I've used that word a lot in this post) bowl of potato and leek soup and a salami and provolone sandwich on baguette bread. Really really good and hit the spot perfectly after the morning's exertions. 

And yes we had a glass of wine too (how european).

This was the view from our table...a gorgeous day in Cowichan Bay.

Now I'm home and getting ready for another meal out on the town. This staycation is turning into a very fun and memorable one....will have to do it more often. ;)

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