By Meg Cuthbert
Life is full of perfect pairings: peanut butter and jam, fresh sheets and sleeping in, road trips and good friends, sunsets and loved ones. Well, in Cowichan, we have hundreds of ways to pair appetizing food with delicious beverages. In honour of the month of love, we’ve matched some of our favourite flavours to give you some enticing ideas on how to indulge in romance this February.
1. Cinnamon Buns and Sparkling Wine
Ladysmith’s Old Town Bakery is famous for their massive cinnamon buns. With toppings ranging from blueberries to peanut butter cream cheese, to blackberries with candied ginger and dried apricot, to the classic cream cheese frosting there’s a roll for everyone. In February their specialty bun is a delicious (and frosty) Maple Walnut.
Pick up a bottle of Blue Grouse Estate Winery’s 2014 Paula Sparkling wine to go alongside the Cinnamon Bun of your choosing. With sparkling aromas of lemon, biscuit and almonds, followed by flavours of green apples and brioche, this sparkling wine is well-balanced, dry and bright. The dry sparkling will balance the sweetness of Old Town Bakery’s famously big cinnamon bun.
We suggest picking up a bottle of the Paula Sparkling, a bun (or two) to share and heading to one of our Bed & Breakfasts to get cozy and savour the moment.
2. Cider and Sandwiches
Who doesn’t love a grilled cheese? Hilary’s Cheese in Cowichan Bay offers a selection of cheeses from around the world (and from Cowichan). Choose your cheese and take in the view of Cowichan Bay as it is pressed in the hot grill.
Pair your grilled cheese sandwich with Merridale’s Traditional Cider. The refreshing English pub-style cider is crafted from a blend of English cider apples to create the perfect balance between sharps, bitters and fruitiness. This crisp cider is a delicious pairing to a warm, gooey grilled cheese!
3. Chocolate and Pinot Noire
What’s more romantic than chocolate and wine? Chocolate Pearl is a new artisanal chocolate shop in Downtown Duncan that’s getting quite a buzz for their spectacular handmade chocolates – many of which incorporate local flavours from the Cowichan Valley.
Try their Raspberry Ganache, made from milk chocolate and raspberry puree combined in a delicious and soft ganache that is dipped in dark chocolate and topped with freeze-dried raspberries. Or taste the Blackberry Caramel Pearl, one of their many signature “pearls”, this chocolate has a crisp, dark chocolate shell and is filled with a delicious and tangy blackberry liquid caramel.
Pair the sweet sensation of quality chocolate with Emandare Vineyard‘s Pinot Noir. Its lively expression of juicy red-cherry, pomegranate, apple and spice will fill your palate with a mouthwatering texture that washes over your senses and cleanses your palate as you anticipate sinking your teeth into your next chocolate bite.
4. Pizza and Wine
Pizzeria Prima Strada in Cobble Hill prepares authentic wood-fired pizzas, with handcrafted dough that is rolled daily. Using only the best ingredients (local whenever possible), you can truly taste the freshness in every bite.
Averill Creek Vineyards produces the Vino Della Casa (house wine) for Prima Strada, which means their crispy-delicious pizzas pair perfectly with Averill’s local wine.
Order the Fungi Supremo, a pizza featuring local mushroom (handpicked by their mushroom forager!) and select the Vino Della Casa Prima Grigio (Averill Creek Pinot Grigio). The bright stone fruit and crisp citrus notes of Pinot Grigio provide a refreshing balance to the earthy flavours of mushrooms, onions and herbs on Fungi Supremo.
Pair Picante Dolce, a new pizza with sweet red pepper sauce and a bit of heat, with the Vino Della Casa Prima Prevost (Averill Creek Prevost). The ripe dark berry flavours and peppery finish of these full-bodied red blends are a perfect match for the sweet and spicy toppings on Picante Dolce.
Or select the Panne e cotta Affumicato, a smoked ham gorgonzola cream, roasted garlic and chives, to pair with the Vino Della Casa Prima Frizzante (Averill Creek Charme de L’ile). Lemony citrus notes and lively bubbles make these Prosecco-style sparkling wines perfect for balancing the smokey, creamy flavours of Affumicato.
5. Pretzels and Vodka
True Grain Bread is a must-stop for Cowichan Bay. True Grain produces old-world style baking: early morning mixing of dough made from freshly milled organic ingredients to carefully hand-craft every product. They’re known not just for their bread but also for their soft savoury pretzels.
For a slow Saturday, we suggest swinging by Cowichan’s newest distillery, Stillhead Distillery in Duncan, and picking up a bottle of their Prime 1 Vodka. Cruise through Cowichan Bay and select a couple soft pretzels for sharing and become your own mixologist with the Moscow Mule.
The craft malted wheat vodka is smooth with a subtle sweetness. The Vodka combined with the fresh ginger and lime notes of the Moscow Mule paired with the saltiness of the soft pretzel will transport you to a savoury heaven!
- 1.5 oz Stillhead Prime 1 Vodka
- 1 oz Rootside Ginger Beer Mixer (sold at Stillhead Distillery)
- 1.4 oz Fresh lime juice
- Club Soda
Fill copper mug with crushed ice. Add ingredients and top up with club soda. Gently stir to combine, garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy.
6. Meat and Beer
Cure Artisan Meat and Cheese in Cobble Hill is a premium charcuterie shop that will have your mouth watering as soon as you walk through the door. Pick up some Fuet —a thin, dry, cured sausage, that’s similar to a salami and about the same size as a pepperoni stick. Made from pork (but not smoked) fuet contains larger chunks of cured fat, black pepper and garlic.
Meat and beer, the ultimate pairing. Head over to Chemainus’ Riot Brewing and pick up a pint of the Vortex Porter. The Vortex contains a small amount of sea salt and smokey dark malts that compliment cured meats. With a balance of sweet notes from crystal malt and bitterness from hops, the Vortex Porter is a nice contrast to the fat in the meat. Riot welcomes people, kids, dogs and even outside food, so take your true love, good pal or your friend with four legs to Riot and indulge in your meat and beer!
7. Coffee and Cakes
The Duncan Garage Cafe and Bakery serves delicious organic and vegetarian fare. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, their famous baby cakes are back from February 9th -14th. Choose from Chocolate Classic, Carrot, Hazelnut Torte or Lemon Raspberry Torte. These sweet little cakes are 3 inches and perfect for a couple to share. All cakes are decorated with a heart on top (of course)!
Peaks Coffee is a Cowichan roaster with a blend for every type of coffee drinker. They craft a blend specifically for the Duncan Garage Cafe and Bakery, so you can pick up your Baby Cakes and your coffee in one stop. Or for the month of love pick up their Love Potion Blend. This single origin coffee from Rwanda’s Lake Kivu is roasted with passion and is perfect for sharing with your special someone. With notes of milk chocolate, subtle brightness, ample body and smooth finish these coffees are perfect for pairing with anything from the Duncan Garage’s Bakery.
8. Cheese and Ovation
Wine and Cheese is a classic pairing for romance. This month pick up some Tomme de Vallée from the Happy Goat Cheese Company. The Tomme de Vallée is a cheese crafted according to a recipe brought back from the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. Made in small batches from raw goat’s milk, the cheese is then aged for three to six months. You can pick up the Tomme on Saturday’s at the Duncan Farmers Market.
Pair this cheese with Unsworth Vineyards Ovation, a port-style wine with notes of rich black cherry and plum. The sweetness of the wine, with notes of earthy chocolate and black pepper blends well with the flavours of the Tomme.
For even more pairings of Happy Goat Cheese and Unsworth Wines, dine in the Unsworth Restaurant and choose some wine and cheese pairings right off their menu!
9. Coffee and Cookies
Take a cookie and coffee break this February with some tasty treats. During this month of love, the Bite Me Cookie Company has cooked up a special raspberry jam-filled cookies, sugar cookies and cupcakes! You can find Bite Me Cookie and their all natural, all delicious cookies online at bitemecookiecompany.com.
Once you’ve picked up your cookies, swing by Cobble Hill and pick up some Drumroaster Coffee. Here you can treat yourself to some quality, ethically sourced coffee blends. The La Florida, from Colombia, has hints of stewed red berry, chocolate fudge and vanilla — perfect for sipping alongside a delicious shortbread cookie.
But if you’re not sure which Drumroaster coffee you want, that’s no problem! They have a Drumroaster sample box with taster sizes of four different blends.
10. Beer Floats!
Down in Cowichan Bay the Udder Guys love to make new flavours and blends of ice cream. Their long list of creamy delights includes vanilla (of course) and Bailey’s ice cream. One of these two (or both) are what you’ll want to pick up for your float.
Then hop over to Red Arrow Brewing in Duncan and pick up a bottle of their Chocolate Milk Stout (yes, you also read that right — Chocolate Milk Stout!) Once you have these two ingredients in hand you know what to do next. Scoop some ice cream into the glass then fill it up with Chocolate Milk Stout.
The Stout has a unique thirst quenching bittersweet chocolate flavour that will combine perfectly with the creamy, sweet flavours of Udder Guys ice cream. If you want to be more adventurous, may we recommend trying a scoop of the Cherry or Blackberry flavours.