To many, the whole “artisanal movement” may seem like a passing fad. Maybe they’re even holding their breath for the day they can say “good riddance” to what, on the surface, appears to be either a hippy or hipster (it’s tough to say) movement. However, when you take a deeper look at what it really all means, there’s a lot to love! Just take a peek at the definition:
[Arr – Tih – Zahn]
A food or drink made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients.
Personally, “high quality” sounds delightful, especially when discussing food. This generation of artisan has also seemed to take the concept a step further. To many, the term now encompasses the ideas of local and sustainable as well. These are two key aspects to consider in a society where people are becoming more disconnected with each other, their food and their cities/towns/villages/the land, and where their money goes. Is there anything wrong with trying to connect people back into their roots with a concept as tasty as food? Didn’t think so.
Victoria itself is a treasure trove for those seeking to spend their money on wholesome goodies made locally. Below are 9 places to find artisan eats within the city + 2 bonuses for if you find yourself on the road.
Find yourself knocking on this sweet little café’s door in North Saanich next time you pay Sidney-by-the-Sea a visit. Much like how the café that hosts this now booming biscotti bakery has grown from its humble garage beginnings, its claim-to-fame goodies have grown in flavor options and deliciousness. Melinda started with her favourite Italian biscotti recipe (almond), and, after discovering they were irresistible, decided they were too tasty to keep from the world. Now, there are 10 types to choose from, as well as gluten free options. Still baked with care in traditional Italian fashion, a visit to the café means you can pair a delightful, artisan treat with a lovingly crafted cup of caffeine. To top it off, they even make a rainbow of meringues, should your sweet tooth crave a different kind of goody.
Spinnakers is the one that does it all. Many know the name for their craft beer, but that beverage is an article on its own. On the food side, Spinnakers has also carved its niche. Pay a visit to the Provisions Shop to discover vinegars crafted from their own beers and ciders, as well as artisan baked breads, pastries and savory snacks.
Intriguing to the taste buds are their unique beer jellies, which are definitely worth giving a go. For those with a sweet tooth, delectably crafted chocolates will certainly make the cut. Besides their own products, Spinnakers has proven to be a mecca for all sorts of other local-ish, artisan goodies such as Silk Road Tea, Vancouver Island Sea Salt and Natural Pastures Cheese. It’s a downright artisan treasure trove in there!
Roast Sandwich Shop
So maybe Roast Sandwich Shop is less of an artisan product to buy, and more of an artisan restaurant to attend. Either way, they’re making great food. The porchetta, roasts, meatballs, rotisseri chickens and salad dressings are all created and cooked right there in the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson. Using many traditional recipes and cooking tactics, everything landing on your plate is fresh to death and antibiotic and hormone free, sourced from nearby farms. Since 2013, they’ve been bringing Victoria (and now San Deigo) exceptional and sustainable eats. Even their packaging is 100% compostable.
Jenny Marie’s Crackers
For all those cheese and charcuterie plate needs, there’s a local cracker goddess coming in to save the day. Jenny Marie’s Crackers take baking back to the basics with 3 simple, yet delightful flavours: Thyme and Sea Salt, Lime and Pepper and Pepper and Sea Salt. These babies are created with care right in Victoria in small batches. Full of natural flavour, but free of preservatives, GMO’s and hydrogenated oils, these artisan crackers pair perfectly with tasty local cheese and Cowichan Valley wine. The 100-mile diet never tasted so sophisticated.
Island Nut Roastery
The tale behind the Island Nut Roastery is almost too sweet for their savory creations. Discovering a peanut butter grinder in their new bulk food store, the creators of Island Nut Roastery simply just had to give it a go. After a trial and error process with home-roasted nuts, they began to get creative with the nut butter output. Nearly any kind of nut imaginable has been roasted and ground, including those with funky glazes and intriguing mixes. Today, the products you’ll find on the shelves are Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Cashew Butter, Almond-Hemp Butter and Hazelnut Butter (with Vancouver Island grown Hazel Nuts). Although widely distributed these days, they stick to their Island roots with locally inspired names and labels. Since the very beginning in 1984 to that jar you’ll pluck from the shelf, every butter has been created by hand in small batches without the help of preservatives, assembly lines, deep friers or additives
The Whole Beast
Artisan doesn’t necessarily mean vegan, vegetarian or even vegetables at all. Sometimes, it gets straight into the meat of things, just like the Whole Beast does. Filling an empty niche in Victoria, the Whole Beast is a shop dedicated to handcraft cured and smoked meats. The goal behind it was to be able to give the city homemade and traditionally prepared, artisan cured meats, without all the extras you get with the products bought in a typical market. That means no preservatives or fillers. They also are determined to only feast on local, ethically raised, hormone and antibiotic free meats, while using the entire beast. It’s all a part of the sustainable food movement. What creates better awareness and appreciation for something like a nose-to-tail product than a fine slice of mouth-watering salami? Aside from the meats, there is also a selection of sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles and mustard that is created in-house as well. After all, even a meat shop can appreciate a vegetable.
Pixie Chicks Spices
A caring mother, who was determined to feed her boys healthily even when in a rush, came up with these fine little jars of tasty magic. Efficiency is key, so the spices and rubs, which, by the way, possess no added preservatives or fillers, have a multitude of uses. They can be rubs, blends for soups/dips/salad dressing and pretty much whatever else you’d like, as well as a more flavourful finishing spice than the traditional salt and pepper. There’s also a selection of tasty, non-preservative addedsalts. Created in small batches within the confines of a commercial kitchen, Pixie Chicks Spices are convenient jars with all ingredients labeled for no hidden surprises. There’s even a list of instructions to boot. They also let you in on the secret ingredient: “a dose of love and sprinkling of pixie dust.”
Victoria Pie Co.
Imagine a place where you can get a fresh baked pie, just like the ones your grandma used to make. Well, it actually exists. Welcome to Victoria Pie Co., the city’s first and only pie company. Another artisan treasure located in the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson, this company is taking it back to the simple cottage days with traditional pastry eats. They work with many of the farmers that come to the market to create the menu of the day. That means each day you’re looking at pies reflecting what’s available locally and what’s in season. The sustainability comes from the fact that pies give the bakery the ability to use up ripe and imperfect fruit and veggies. Those neglected apples can still be turned into something beautiful! Although there are a few staples on the menu (Chicken Pot Pie and Apple for example), you’re definitely in for a tasty surprise any season of the year.
Circle Canning + The Chocolate Project
Circle Canning, yet another hotspot at the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson, is the city’s best source for artisanal, farm-sourced canned goods. Due to the fact that the company doesn’t ship, these old-school canning jars of perfect eats are in high demand. Before there were canned goods, however, there was chocolate. The same creators of Circle Canning actually started out on a different track. The Chocolate Project, though not an artisan product produced in Victoria, is too good to pass up including. When the owners realized how hard it was to come across fairly traded and sustainably harvested chocolate in Victoria, they went in search of companies in the world that did exactly that. Now, the shop is a treasure trove of the good stuff; each brand is dedicated to crafting the perfect bean-to-bar chocolate. It includes chocolate from countries like Belize, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary and Austria and there are now over 300 companies included in the store. You’re even able to host a chocolate tasting party. Yes please.
True Grain (Cowichan Bay)
True Grain Bakery is pretty much the OG of the artisanal movement on Vancouver Island. Opening in 2004, the bakery is dedicated to traditional, Old European baking techniques, partnered with the benefits of heritage and ancient grains. On top of that are sustainable practices (think local ingredients), a knack for using organics and farm-to-table partnerships. Follow the scent of freshly baked goods and load up on some carbs for your next adventure, but try to save some room – all of Cowichan Valley is a jackpot of Slow Food and Artisanal goods. Thanks to the dedication to community and slow production spearheaded by True Grain, Cowichan Bay was actually named Canada’s first Cittaslow region in 2009. With dedication and drive like that, you know it’s going to be good.
Dad’s West Coast Awesome Sauces (Mill Bay)
Put the Siracha away, it’s time to try out a hot new sauce that fits those spice needs. With her husband always in search of the best hot sauce, the creator of Dad’s West Coast Awesome Sauces finally took matters into her own hands and began experimenting. Eventually, she came across the perfect combination of peppers, plum, sundried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar (and a few things more) and a combination of hand-ground herbs and spices. Numerous bottles of brand hot sauces that didn’t make the cut were triumphantly replaced by a single jar of the homemade stuff. Now, there are 5 flavours ranging in spice bravery, as well as delectable rubs and mango chutney. Made from scratch with no artificial flavours or preservatives and a dash of sass, they’ll replace your go-to hot sauce in the fridge without a doubt. There’s even a list online of other recipes you can incorporate them into when you realize you just can’t get enough.
Hopefully with this list, though far from exhausted, it can be seen that the best, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s imported from an extravagant country across the sea. Even humble Victoria is a hub of gourmet production.