Tuesday, September 25, 2012



The neighborhood of Oak Bay is viewed with disdain by many Victoria locals.  It is derided as stuffy, old and boring.  I beg to differ.  Of late, Oak Bay Avenue has become increasingly fun and, gasp, dare I say it, downright funky!  This I attribute to Ottavio's.  Ottavio's, in business for over a decade, is the establishment that began the "tweed curtain's" transformation from haute to hip.  Other local businesses followed suit.  Oak Bay Avenue, once the home of fusty matronly consignment stores and uninspired tea shops is now chock full of bakeries, delis, retail clothing stores, unique gift stores, cafes, even a pub!

Ottavio is a combination bakery, deli, gourmet grocery, and licensed cafe.  In the cafe you can enjoy an affordable and tasty lunch.  Paninis are made with cheese and charcuterie from the amply stocked deli.  There are also salads, soups and a tempting array of mixed plate specials to choose from. Espresso is brewed manually (yes, there IS a difference!). Ottavio’s crafts their own gelato using organic milk and local fruit.  If you have never tried gelato before you are in for a treat.  The texture is silkier than ice cream and the flavour very grown up.

If you are more in a mood to eat in, browse the vast deli section for Galloping Goose sausage, herbes de Provence, homemade pesto and demi-glace, pasta, gnocchi, lasagne (made in house) and much much more.  There are over 240 varieties of handcrafted artisanal cheeses in the deli case.  Breads are hand rolled and made with only flour, water, yeast and salt.  

Ottavio has a vast selection of quality olive oils for sale and they occasionally host tastings.  Ask the friendly and knowledgeable staff for assistance.  Ottavio is a great starting point for a wander down Oak Bay Avenue.  Check out the new delis, clothing stores, bistros and cafes.  See for yourself that change can be good!

Ottavio Italian Bakery, Delicatessen & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 21, 2012


As much as I enjoy dining out I love home cooking with equal fervor.  Autumn conjures up images of cozy afternoons and delicious aromas emanating from oven or stove top.  As the leaves turn and the air cools I look to cookbooks for inspiration and comfort.

I would be remiss not to mention Victoria chef Mary Patterson's "Special Cookbook" which is chock full of drool worthy recipes.  The book contains sumptuous reproductions of still life paintings by artist Shawn Shepherd making it a feast for both eyes and soul.  Mary has deftly categorized the cookbook by ingredient, showcasing and transforming each into something marvelous.  My mouth waters over recipes such as golden cream and apple tart, carrots and lentils with smoked bacon, beet and tangerine salad, bbq duck and sweet chili pizza, pan roasted chicken with avocado and papaya and many more.

This book is the very definition of creative soul food.  If you are  an armchair cook you'll enjoy the clever anecodotes about each featured ingredient i.e. find out why Welsh soldiers carried leeks in their helmets or learn about the unique communication style of herring (hint: acronym FRT). 

We are very fortunate to have a bevy of talented cooks and chefs residing on Vancouver Island.  Special Cookbook gives you a chance to replicate some of the bounty at home.  Mary's recipes are meticulously laid out and easy to follow.  This book will appeal to both seasoned home cooks and kitchen novices alike.  

Special Cookbook is available at The Market on Yates and Polychrome Fine Arts.  This is an irresistible cookbook you will turn to again and again.  It would make a splendid gift for any enthusiastic home cook.