Follow Me Foodie to Tofino & Feast Tofino!
Follow Me Foodie to Seafood Madness in Tofino!
I’m born and raised in Vancouver, BC and I haven’t been to Tofino until now. My interest in it peaked a couple years ago when I started researching it as a BC food and travel destination, and I am happy to say the post card images were even better in reality. I’ve visited beach towns and I’ve seen waves, but I’ve never heard them crash like the ones here. It wasn’t a tropical paradise, but it was BC’s rustic and wild paradise. Welcome to Tofino.
I’m not naturally an outdoorsy type although I can appreciate it, and family vacations never brought me here although it is certainly family appropriate. Most people would associate it as a town for surfers, nature lovers, whale watching and outdoor activities, but I associated it with TacoFino Cantina (from their food truck presence in Vancouver), Wildside Grill (from recommendations and requests from readers for a post on it), and The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn (winner of “Best Vancouver Island Restaurant” at the Vancouver Magazine Awards 2013)… and oh yes, seafood! Lots and lots of seafood.
I was invited by Tourism Tofino and The Wickaninnish Inn to explore the culinary scene in Tofino during the 2nd Annual Feast Tofino. Feast Tofino happened during the month of May and I didn’t even know about it until this year. Now that I know about it though, it is something I am already anticipating for next year.
Feast Tofino is a culinary celebration of the West Coast and Vancouver Island boat-to-table cuisine. Restaurants feature set menus throughout the month ($29, $39, $49) and special events take place every weekend. Local Tofino chefs also collaborate with some of Vancouver’s top chefs to create unique dinner concepts especially for the occasion.
I was lucky enough to go to three of them including The Saturday Dockside Festival, Introduction to Indian Cuisine, A Cooking Class with Khalil Akhtar, and West Coast Paella on the Beach with Vancouver Island Chef Kunal Ghose (from Food Network’s Top Chef Canada Season 2). I tried to pre-plan and I looked through Feast Tofino events to see ones of interest and it tempted me to stay the whole month. The price of the events were also very reasonable and at times underpriced. Given I had 48 hours after all the traveling time, there was only so much I could try, and Feast Tofino was a fantastic taste of Tofino and highlight of my first time there.
Speaking of traveling time, Tofino is about a 6 hour commute from Vancouver, BC. There is about a 2.5 ferry ride (BC Ferries) each way and the road is a bit windy, but it’s worth it. And if you stay at The Wickaninnish Inn it comes with views like this.
… or at The Pointe Restaurant overlooking the water, Tofino does not have to try very hard to impress.
In a small laid back town of 2000 people I wasn’t expecting a cutting edge or modern dining scene, and to be fair it is not what they are really known for. They have a food scene, but it is limited given the population. Therefore it was actually the simple things that interested me most, like the smoked salmon and simply grilled fish. In fact, if I had more time there I would have loved to just buy my own fish and seafood and call on a neighbourhood potluck. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming in Tofino that nobody would think it was weird, and I can already imagine the night ending with a bonfire and someone bringing out their acoustic guitar… and me suggesting s’mores.
In Tofino, they take pride in preparing seafood and on the whole it was fresher than what I could find in Vancouver. My chances of getting overcooked seafood was much lower in Tofino as well. I know it is only a 6 hour commute away, but the seafood tasted better and was treated differently.
In Vancouver, where there is a large Asian demographic, high quality seafood is often showcased as sashimi (raw), but in Tofino it was often cured and/or smoked. The styles are incomparable and some would argue the best seafood is always served sashimi, but that tends to apply only in the context of Japanese cuisine. Most of the seafood I had in Tofino was cooked or cured, but it was done properly and I had more confidence ordering it there.
Even in Vancouver, where it is known for its seafood, I tend to hesitate ordering fish like salmon and halibut because it’s almost always overcooked, but here it wasn’t. I’m not basing that statement on a few occasions either. I ate a lot of seafood in Tofino, and about 90% of the time it was cooked right. I could have been lucky, but I doubt it, and credit to their chefs for knowing their product and making their fishermen proud.
Taking into account all the travelling time, I ended up having about 48 hours to explore Tofino’s food scene. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much salmon in such a short time period. I was going to town on it like it was my first time having it and it just tasted better there. I wanted to plan a truck load home, but unfortunately I didn’t have a cooler prepared. I’ll be ready next time though, and The Fish Store better stock up on their smoked salmon belly when I am. I felt like I had at least 5lbs of seafood a day and I was surprised I didn’t turn into a mermaid… or a salmon belly.
How much seafood can I eat in Tofino in 48 hours?
Welcome platter of hot and cold smoked salmon from The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn
Octopus from Spotted Bear Bistro
Candied Salmon from Trilogy Fish Co.
Coconut & Clam Soup from Shelter Restaurant
Salmon Tartare on Papadums from Red Can Gourmet
Smoked Salmon from The Fish Store
Smoked Salmon Belly from The Fish Store
Spicy Sauteed Prawns in Garlic Sambal Butter from The Schooner
Confit Albacore Tuna Belly Sliders from The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn
Dungeness Crab and Smoked Salmon ‘Sushi’ Rolls from Long Beach Lodge Resort
House Smoked Salmon Lox “Breakfast Sushi” from The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn
Poached Salmon from The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn
Biggest Seafood Paella (mussels, cockles, BC Spot Prawns, Tiger Prawns, crab, shrimp, salmon, halibut)
Cod Club from Wildside Grill