Tea Quest at the Butchart Gardens

My view from the dining room
I was in Victoria this past week for work. I had a lovely supper in The Butchart Gardens dining room on Tuesday night (wild BC salmon, tarragon ricotta gnudi, summer squash caponata, almond crumb, tomato anchovy beurre blanc). Yes it was delicious. After dinner, I had the most amazing pot of Earl Grey tea. I took the tea to-go, to allow me to sit on one of my favourite benches to supervise the changing of the seasons in the plantings found in the sunken garden.
One of the comfortable teak benches in the Garden. This one has a spectacular view.
View from “my” bench overlooking the Sunken Garden – here in transition from Spring to Summer
Next day I’m pooped after an excellent day of training for my job. By 5 pm all I wanted was my pajamas and a TV on low volume to stare at. My room was on the main floor of the Royal Scot Suite Hotel. This is a hotel favoured by mature holiday makers, so there is a lovely ambient din as groups of happy people decide where they want to go for dinner, and how many bottles of wine they should purchase for said dinners (my kind of crowd).
I decide that I should join society in some fashion instead of sitting in my dimly lit hotel room. So I drag my tired body with arthritic knees into some presentable clothing and go for a slow hobble around the neighbourhood. I’m able to admire the greenery, the flowers, the sound of the clip-clop of the horses, and listen in to a tourist phone conversation with a person back home about being… “….in Canada! Yes they speak English. No French is on the other side of the country, I’m in BC and they speak English here! It’s beautiful…”. It’s at this point I get a nose full of the scent of Early Grey tea.
Well. I have some neurotic behaviours.
I’ll sit quiet while I hear you all collectively say, “No! Really? You?”.
That whiff of Earl Grey tea gets me in a mood for a nice cup of Earl Grey tea. But not any Earl Grey. THAT Earl Grey served in the The Butchart Gardens. The very one I had last night. Nothing else will do.
When I get back to my room, I call up the dining room at the gardens at 6:50 p.m. and inquire if their teas are available for retail in their gift shop (pretentious as it sounds I already know the answer to this question, but I always have hope). The person who answered my call was not certain, and asked if they could call me back. I said yes.
At 7:00 p.m. I receive the call back and am informed that no, it’s not available in the gift shop. Tut! Plan B. I ask when the dining room closes and if it would be okay to stop in to get a cup of tea made with said Earl Grey and be on my merry way. A quick consultation was had, and told yes, it was possible, if I could get to the dining room by 8 pm! Yipeeeeeee! A challenge!
I hobble down to my car, and away I go. By the time I hit the street it is already 7:15 p.m. I arrive at the gates to the garden at 7:50 p.m. (yes I drove the speed limit (not actually), no, I didn’t run yellow lights (maybe just two).
I practiced out loud “But Officer, there’s this tea….!!” It didn’t fly with me either and I became comfortable with the idea of spending the night in jail.
As it happens, I made it safe and sound and parked the car, extracted myself, willing my knees to NOT FAIL ME NOW. I stopped for a quick sniff of the double hyacinths and walked in the door the dining room at 7:55 p.m.
I announced my arrival, receive an “ah yes!”, and am asked to have a seat in front of the fireplace.
My pot of Earl Grey arrives and I have a few moments respite as one gets while waiting for a pot of tea to brew.
An elegant tea service with to-go cup (as I requested)
Once sufficient time had passed, I poured it into my to-go cup and away I go. It was a blustery night, too chilly for me to sit and study the seasonal garden change, so I rubbed Tocca’s nose for good luck, and was off for a leisurely drive back to my hotel, tunes on in car and me belting out the lyrics, a delicious cup of tea in the drinks holder, and the sun casting a golden hue over the lush greenery of Vancouver Island. The End.
Tocca (from a previous year, but he hasn’t changed one bit).
PS: A huge thank you to The Butchart Gardens for making my crazy craving for your Earl Grey tea come true. You were very kind.

BC Fruit

Mr. and I went to Vancouver Island this past week, and bombed around in our car rental along the little roads that crisscross over the Saanich Peninsula and beyond.

We visit the island a lot, but not so much in the height in the summer, so it was a real treat to take part of summer festivities. One of them being… fruit!This BC Tree Fruits logo was predominate, and although advertising fruits grown in the Okanagan, it is usually surrounded by locally grown fruits as well. When I see this logo, I am instantly transported back in time and our camping trips through the Okanagan and stopping at vendors along the highway selling cherries, and the juiciest peaches I’ve ever eaten.This trip, we came across baskets of these luscious berries, and the teensiest little cantaloupes I’ve ever seen.

Of course, being the good Ukrainian girl I am, I opted to buy some large-headed garlic on account of its ability to be easily transported home (and it’s already been whirred up into a hummus that had Michael rummaging through all the cupboards for some minty fresh breath cleansing gum for afterwards).

This last trip to Victoria turned into a musical affair. It seemed every corner we turned we were watching live bands. Inside, outside, daytime, nighttime. It was marvelous, and we were particularly charmed by this guy, Tom Watson, from the Honeycrooners.

He serenaded us with the music of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and others of the Rat Pack at the Laurel Pointe Inn where the food was “meh”, but the entertainment was “wow”. We enjoyed Tom’s show so much (or perhaps it’s because we enjoyed being victims of his between set banter), we saw him in his other incarnation as “Contraband” where he and his gang played live music of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s at Haro’s Restaurant at the Sidney Pier Hotel. The food at the Sidney Pier Hotel was far better, yet I have to admit I’m having a pre-senior’s moment and have no recollection of what we had! And I call myself a food blogger…..

So that, in a nutshell is our summer vacation. We spent far more time touring, nosing around, and exploring the universe than eating out. Yes! The WHOLE ENTIRE UNIVERSE! We we so lucky, we got to go in an observatory, with real live astronomers and look at the most amazing things in the night sky through an honest to goodness telescope. Look! Here’s an exciting picture of the event:

Cool, huh?!!! And for my computer geek friends, you will be amazed to learn, as I was, that they still use an old 286 computer to turn the telescope.

I’ll leave you with a picture of my most favourite things from the coast…. boats!

Michael and I were very lucky to be at Victoria’s Inner Harbour at the same time as the Victoria Classic Boat Festival.

So, not much to report in the food world. But wait for it… next week Walshcooks goes to Philadelphia, where I plan to try, for the very first time, IN MY LIFE, a Philadelphia Cheesesteak! In Philadelphia!! Which reminds me that I have to add “antacid” to my packing list.