Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cow Bay is Kinda Grungy

With all due respect to the fine folk who live in the Cowichan Valley, the commercial centre of Cowichan Bay (along the waterfront) is in danger of turning into a touristy rat-hole.

Sorry, but it had to be said.

I'm thinking back several years to when I used to visit La Conner, Washington ... long before the crap shops took over, and the big-box shoppers decided it was a quaint place to pick up some of the local "crafts." What was a great little community was ruined forever all in an effort to win the tourist dollar.

People of Cowichan Bay, please don't let this happen to you, although I fear it may be too late. And before you start getting all snarky and firing off an email that we'll all regret later, let me say that there are some real gems here. I'm just not a huge fan of the "nick-nack" shops that try to pass off 3rd world exploitation as culture.

For a worthwhile day, try this. Start of in Cobble Hill (not Cow Bay I know, but its within 5 minutes) at Drumroasters Coffee. I am a self-confessed coffee-snob. I'm not at geek level yet, but I'm not retired yet either. There's still time.

Drumroasters is owned by Geir Oglend (a Norwegian, so he's A-OK in my books from the outset) and roasts everything in-house. Terrific espresso and espresso based drinks ... but their House-Blend, we discovered later, makes a truly excellent cup of drip or French press coffee.

Sufficeintly caffeinated, continue into the touristy part of Cow Bay. You can't miss it ... it's the place with all the RV's lining the street. Hillary's Cheese makes some of the best cheeses anywhere in the world (the Youbou Blue is a terrific starting cheese for those interested in venturing forth into the world of blue cheeses). They have a deli in Cow Bay that sells their cheeses along with some other notable imports.

Continuing on the dairy path, there's Udder Guy Ice Cream. Udder Guy ice cream is available at various retail locations throughout the Island, but if you're in Cow Bay getting cheese, you might as well get an extra hit of lactose at their parlour just down the road. You can't miss it. There's a lineup coming out the door and a hundreds of wasps garding the front door. I mention this because I have recently dicovered I have a severe alergy to the damn things. Their presence forced my quick exit from the store. However, J. and the kids perservered and I was treated to some excellent ice cream.

The highlight of Cowichan Bay for me is True Grain Bread. This is a place for those who are serious about their bread. Easily the best bread I've enjoyed outside of France ... maybe the best ever. True Grain mills all their own flour for the breads and pastries, and the difference is evident. They are also well known for their participation in the return to the Red Fife strain of Heritage Wheat (think like heirloom tomatoes). They do a weekly loaf made from flour milled from the wheat that is grown on Vancouver Island, taking the 100 Mile Diet matra to heart. Bread here is amazing, but don't miss out on the pain au chocolat, bagettes, cookies, ...

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