Tofino: An overview/budget review

I have only amassed about three weeks of travel in the past two and a half years. I know it’s a lot, and I know how lucky I am for that. But damn, for someone who’s used to spending 3-4 months of the year abroad it’s hard. So, Adam and I decided a long weekend away was in order. We were going to go to the states, but I’m kind of dodged out by the US because Canadian/American exchange rate is, for lack of a better word, complete and utter shit; also, I’m not too fond of who the people put in power. The combo made it a pretty easy choice to stay in Canada. We didn’t want to fly anywhere, so we thought Vancouver Island would be perfect. With my luxurious family weekend in Tigh-Na-Mara still fresh in my mind, my first thought was spa. Then we looked up the prices for spas. We ended up deciding on Tofino because I hadn’t been out that way since I was about eight, and it has some amazing, super British Columbia-y stuff going for it. Think lush rain-forests and tsunami evacuation signs.

Heralded by everyone telling us Tofino is beautiful but, “oh! It’s so expensive there!” we decided to go for it. I truly believe there always a way to see a place regardless of budget. The problem with this trip was that we only had a weekend. The slower you travel, the cheaper you travel. But alas, we both have steady jobs, so what can you do.

Tofino is pretty easy to get to from Vancouver. You could go this weekend on a greyhound for about $100. We opted to take my Mom’s car because, well, she loaned it to us and Adam likes to drive.

It quickly became a game of me sending pictures like that to her and alerting her to all the fun her car is having without her.

We started our journey from my house in the suburbs and drove to the ferries. If you’re driving the quickest way is hands down Horseshoe Bay- Nanaimo. We made it on to the 8:30 a.m crossing and since it wasn’t a long weekend, our Friday morning was nice and cruisey. BC ferries is… well, it’s the only option so I’m not going to critique it too much. You pay about $18 for each passenger, and an extra $55 for the car.

After we got off the ferry we followed the signs. We did make some stop though….

This is Little Qualicum Falls. They have an upper and a lower route. Because my body is still messed up, we did the lower route. It took about twenty minutes and was a nice little detour.

All in all, there are a lot of amazing things about the off season. It’s cheaper, less crowded… but a lot of stuff we stopped for was closed until March. Most notably Coombs market, which has always been one of my favourite places on the Island.

One thing that wasn’t closed? ….actually it’s only open Saturdays but she sold us cheese anyway… Was Coleman Meadows Farm! We stopped there because we saw a buffalo dairy sign and I’m obsessed with buffalo mozzarella, which ended up being our dinner that night.

Also, water buffalo are super cute. After we pet the dog and checked out the chickens, we headed on.

Continue reading “Tofino: An overview/budget review”

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Tofino: An overview/budget review

Say Yes To Cheese

One of my favourite parts of travel is eating.

Actually, it’s probably my favourite. Specifically, eating cheese. This is Adam’s favourite too, and is one of the many reasons we work well as a couple. Seriously though, cheese and charcuterie are our things. If we’re eating at a restaurant that has a charcuterie platter, we automatically get it. If we don’t know what to cook, we make a charcuterie and cheese platter. So, when shopping for his birthday present I got him none other than:

A home cured bacon kit! 

We started it yesterday, and I haven’t tried the bacon yet, but it looks amazing. It’s pretty easy so far- you put the included Prague salt in with a pound of salt and a pound of sugar and then dredge 0.9kg of pork belly in it. It sits for a week, then you infuse it with liquid smoke. The amount of the base cure- the salt/sugar mix- that you get out of this is actually hella impressive. We have enough to make many a slab of bacon. We made this one plain without additives and we’re using the liquid smoke, then we’re going to make another additive free one in the smoker. After we compare that, we’ll get fancy with recipes from one of the books I got him…..

 

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Charcuterie!  Literally just a book with recipes for meat, salt, and accompaniments to them. We were looking through it and are super excited. On the book front I also got him…

 

Artisan Cheesemaking at Home. I’m not going to lie, I really don’t think we’ll be able to pull of the level of beauty in this book. I mean, there’s burrata recipes in here. BURRATA! If you’ve never had it, it’s literally a ball of mozzarella hiding a delicious, creamy centre. Also, it might be the most delicious thing in the world. The biggest problem is that one ball costs $16 at Whole Foods. I first encountered it while working in Taranto. My host family took me to this restaurant that was literally just all about mozarella. There were knots of it, balls of it… anything imaginable. But the star was burrata. I’ll keep you updated on my experiments. Speaking of experiments….

I also got him a 4 Cheese Making Kit!  Honestly, I think if you don’t know what to get someone, get them a cheesemaking kit. I’m going to start with a quarter review of this- it makes ricotta, paneer, chevre, and cream cheese. Since it was Adam’s birthday, we had a bunch of people over. We created a simple menu. We wanted to keep it delicious, easy and cheap since we had 9 people. Homemade pasta with a simple marinara, garlic bread, and homemade ricotta. We started with the sauce. I didn’t want a super fancy sauce because I wanted to really focus on the ricotta as the special area. So, I put in a stick of butter, 2 cans of tomatoes, and a quartered onion. I used one can of crushed tomato and one can of diced. There’s really no reason for it either, it’s just what I had. All the big bits broke down pretty well, so I think it’d even work with whole tomatoes.

This is it bubbling away after a few hours. It’s seriously as easy as bringing it to a boil and letting it simmer. I added a little salt and pepper at the end.

Then we started on the ricotta. Apparently it’s SO easy to make. You literally just heat the milk….

Then add lemon and strain. Why do we buy this stuff?! The kit came with cheesecloth, some cultures that I guess are for the cream cheese and chevre, and a cheese mold.

Yeah. We made this cheese. Like made it. Making cheese is seriously magical. When the curd separates it just looks… bewildering. I can’t wait to make the rest of this kit. So far, it’s a 10/10 would definitely buy again.

One of the best parts of cheesemaking? Whey. I read somewhere you could cook pasta in it, and man was this stuff amazing. It added a whole layer of flavour too it.

I forgot to take a picture of my first plate which would have been better and less pasta on a dirty plate, but man… I totally forgot because I got so into how amazing this pasta was.

Now fingers crossed that next time I’ll be making homemade carbonara with some amazing home-cured bacon….

Say Yes To Cheese

Sick in Italy Soup

When I was studying abroad tragedy struck before I even got off the plane. I got infected with some sort of sickness. Here I was in Rome, supposed to be having the time of my life but I felt like hell. Luckily we had our own kitchens. Let’s be real here, when you’re sick there’s nothing better than soup. Lately I haven’t been feeling well. My dad had a cold and I don’t know if I got it or if I’ve just been super tough on my body lately, but today… I needed soup. Last night my cousin cooked for us and we had some chicken and vegetable stock left over. It was a sign.

So, this soup when I made it originally was inspired by how broke I was. Leftover shreded chicken or egg noodles would also taste amazing in this, as would any other vegetable. I bought premade stock and veggies for super cheap. I got dried herbs so I could carry them to the other cities with me.

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Start with the vegetables. I love garlic and onion, so I used the whole onion… and added 3 more cloves of garlic after taking this picture. I also did a carrot, three tomatoes, and 2 stalks of celery. Chop them all up- I diced the onion, sliced the garlic, cut the bottom of the carrot in half and sliced, quartered the top of the carrot and chopped, diced the tomato, and chopped the celery. Everything was super rough- it’s about feeling better, not looking pretty, and added them to a pot with a glug of olive oil as I chopped them.

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Oooooh, look at it all in the pot. By the time I got everything in there the veg was nicely cooked. I added a bay leaf, dried chili’s, lots of pepper, and oregano. I didn’t add salt. The stock I bought in Italy was a chicken meat stock mix and despite my only having vegetable and chicken stock I wanted that so I added a teaspoon of beef broth powder. I find that the salt content in stock powder or cubes is insane so I leave out any salt. I also made this pretty spicy to help me sweat out everything I’m feeling and clear up my sinuses. I let this cook for about 10 minutes to get everything flavourful.

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Then I added the leftover stock and a cup of water. I let this boil, then simmer for about a half hour. I added a bit of wine vinegar at the end. I love vinegar. My Nonna makes homemade wine vinegar that makes everything taste better.

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I popped like a ridic amount of crackers into this because I didn’t use any other carb. Like I said, this was a travel budget meal, so I didn’t put in extra meat and I bought a crazy loaf of bread so I didn’t bother with noodles.

Honestly, this soup is amazing and exactly what I needed both in Italy and now.

 

Sick in Italy Soup

The Most Wow Gadget of them All.

So, I’ve been talking about books a lot, and I’m well into my world challenge. But, I’ll change the pace because I need to talk about something that’s changed my life a little bit.

It may seem frivolous, it probably is, but my god, do you have a breakfast sandwich maker?

This thing is amazing. It does exactly what it says it does, and it’s saved me a ton of money. I’ve started making one every morning, wrapping it in a paper towel, and wrapping that in tin foil. I have a piping hot, delicious breakfast sandwich when I reach my office.

I’ve been doing a whole wheat english muffin, cheddar cheese, a slice of back bacon, and, of course, an egg.

It doesn’t take 5 minutes total, as it takes a while to preheat- I run downstairs and by the time I’ve finished my hair, makeup, and changed it’s ready to go. Then you pop everything in, I spend 5 minutes getting my shoes on, getting my bag ready, all that and then bam.

Seriously, this is the best $30 I’ve ever spent. If you don’t have one, get one!

The Most Wow Gadget of them All.