Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Ferris's Oyster Bar is an iconic eatery for Victoria residents.  This is in part due to the unfailingly friendly service and a few standout menu items that once tried induce cravings that can only be sated with repeat visits.  

I have to give a shout out to Ferris's legendary chicken penne soup.  When Neko Case played here she mentioned this soup. With a dreamy far away look in her eye she recounted the memory of richly flavored broth with vegetables and fluffy rice dumplings.  To my delight you can order EXTRA dumplings for your soup at 50 cents each.   The soup arrives in a bird bathed size tureen.  Sure to cure the common cold or quite frankly whatever else ails you!  I often go to Ferris's in the winter for this soup.

Ferris's has many other menu items that are revered by locals as classics.    Ferris's french fries are hand cut and justifiably famous.  They do a great burger here.  I have vacillated between ordering the lamb burger with spicy harissa or a good old beef burger. I get mine with pungent Gorgonzola mousse and sauteed mushrooms.  You can order a mixture of yam and potato fries here or go half fries half salad with your burger.  Priced at around 11$ for an enormous platter, this is one of the better burger bargains in Victoria.  Also standouts are the panko-breaded oysters.  I haven't had the pleasure of trying dessert at Ferris's.  Regrettably I have always been too full but I hear that "Sandy's famous brownie" is to die for.  Ferris's has pints of local draught on tap for $4.75.  There is also an appealing list of old school cocktails and new school martinis.

This would be a great place to go with a group, as many of Ferris' appetizers are ideally suited for sharing.  This is an amiable casual restaurant with a lovely patio in the back. The brick walled interior is cozy and inviting. Ferris's keeps their prices affordable, which is, I think part of their appeal in addition to the romantic ambiance.  Service is speedy and delightfully unpretentious.  

Ferris's also has a bistro upstairs and I will be writing about that in a separate review.  If you haven't been to Ferris's I recommend you head there and find out what you have been missing all these years!  

Ferris' Oyster Bar & Grill (Downstairs) on Urbanspoon


I have always had a passion for farmer's markets.   I like the old world style of shopping where you know your butcher, baker, and the person who grows your veggies. It is exciting to see local artisans and growers displaying lovingly made hand crafted, homemade small batch products. The Victoria Downtown Farmer's Market is a recent addition to the local market scene and it's fantastic.    This particular market focuses mainly on food and wow, what food is on display here!  There is much to entice: frozen organic pork and turkey, Hilary's cheeses (exquisite peppercorn chevre!), artisan breads, organic greens, homemade pesto, sweet and savoury preserves, spot prawn or crab ravioli and much, MUCH more.   You could easily pick up items here for an impromptu dinner for your loved one (or perhaps one you want to woo!).    Be sure and try chef Brad William's homemade fritters.  They are legendary.  I took a bread making class with Brad as instructor and I can vouch for his baking chops.  Try the apple fritter with maple and bacon.  

This market will be open Wednesdays from 12 to 5 pm April through October.    If you are strolling down Johnson street be sure to visit the Victoria Downtown Farmer's Market. It'll be a sure fire cure for those hump day blues!

Date/Time: Wednesdays, April - October, 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Location: Market Square, 560 Johnson Street
For more info:  Maryanne Carmack at marycarmack@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


There is a new kid in town on and she's mighty sweet.  At Oh Sugar confectionary on Johnson Street you'll find innumerable ways to satisfy your sweet tooth.  The website says they have sweets from 15 countries but on our last visit they were up to 23! 

Take home a box of Das salted caramels. If you like things in pretty packages covet elegant tins of violet candies made in France.  Licorice addicts can get their fix here, as there are many varieties in stock.  Oh Sugar is the only international retailer to stock David Klein's Beyond Gourmet Jellybeans.   Oldsters such as myself will jones after the stubby bottles of Pop Shop soda and pixie sticks.  If you are a fan of British sweets you can get English toffees here and unique flavours of bon bons.  Try the green apple or lemon sherbet.

The owners of Oh Sugar are affable and friendly and if you are lucky they'll let you sample delicious soft fudge, made in house.  Oh Sugar is a playful addition to the shops along Johnson Street.  The selection here is extensive.I look forward to returning to Oh Sugar for my pre matinee movie candy fix.  Good thing I have a dental plan!

Oh sugar on Urbanspoon


I have a nostalgic fondness for the Marina Restaurant.   This is where I came with family on special occasions before I moved to Victoria. The panoramic sea views left me breathless.   Steve and I visited the restaurant for our anniversary recently.  We found there was still lots to like about this dining room aside from the ocean view and the ooh so cozy wood panelled interior.

The head chef Matt Rissling used to work at the Marriott’s Fire and Water Fish and Chop House and there he learned about high end intricate cooking and quality product.  The menu at Marina has the usual array of meat and seafood dishes with interesting starches such as wheat berries and gnocchi.  
Marina Restaurant on Urbanspoon

We ordered a cocktail each and I was pleased to see that the Marina has "old school" drinks on the menu.  Steve ordered a Singapore Sling (a la Hemmingway) and I tried a concoction with campari and grapefruit juice.  The Marina also has an extensive and appealing wine list.

To start, Steve ordered a cup of the smoked salmon chowder and I ordered the hand pulled Dungeness crab salad.  Steve's chowder was creamy with ample chunks of salmon and the double smoked bacon added a scrumptious richness.  My salad was a tantalizing blend of textures and flavours - butter lettuce, sweet crunchy grapes, an oozy free-range egg all topped with the aforementioned crab and a lemony vinaigrette.  The crabmeat was delicate and delicious. For the main event Steve ordered a stuffed chicken breast with potato and vegetables from the light menu (offered until 6 pm).  At the server's recommendation I tried the salmon with the promise of home made gnocchi.  The salmon was moist  and the gnocchi were outstanding, tender potato dumplings crunchy and caramelized on the outside, soft on the inside and generously seasoned with fresh thyme.  The crispy leeks atop my salmon added a wonderful crunch.  Underneath the salmon was a ragout of buttery sautéed shiitake mushrooms.  Steve enjoyed his chicken, which was accompanied by some yellow and purple beets and carrots and roasted potatoes.  This was a homey dish, perfectly executed.  For dessert I tried pumpkin cheesecake praline pie and Steve ordered the warm ginger cake.  I enjoyed my dessert but the standout was definitely the ginger cake, which arrived warm, topped with rum raisin gelato and surrounded by a pool of caramel sauce.  Out of this world!

Service at the Marina is gracious and professional but not snobbish as befits a modern fine dining restaurant.  Our dirty plates were promptly and unobtrusively whisked away and our water glasses were kept full.   A word to those of formidable appetite, entree portions at Marina aren't huge.  However, they don't skimp on the protein, which is really the star attraction at the Marina.  The desserts too were very large.  By the time I had eaten three courses I was more than sated.  

The Marina is a great place to take family on a special occasion or to show visitors to Vancouver Island the lovely view. They can sample the fresh local bounty at the same time.  We previously had filet of sole at Marina and it was outstanding.  Sometimes old school is just what the doctor ordered and a classic fish dish and a sturdy cocktail accompanied by a sea view in a warm inviting room, well you could do worse!