no fruit is forbidden here

Food festivals: No fruit is forbidden here...

by Bobby Lax, Tofino

the letter 'I'I love to eat. I am somewhat hedonistic in my food indulgence. When I am at a restaurant I coax friends into sharing dishes so I can try as many different flavours as possible. Tapas were created for people like me. For this reason I become giddy with the anticipation of a food festival. Having that many taste sensations in one place has consistently left me culinarily inspired, joyfully stupid and inevitably wanting more. In the last two years I have made a point of involving myself in more of these celebrations. Whether for work or play, these festivals have produced some of the best days of my life.

In Duncan at Feast of Fields last year, I had my first religious experience after eating a piece of pizza. It enhanced my perspective on food, traditions and life in general. It was a thin crust Margherita pizza with the softest dough only ever touched by human hands, a simple tomato sauce, rich specks of Buffalo Mozzarella and some deliriously fragrant basil. It was cooked in a wood-fired brick oven at 800 degrees for only 90 seconds leaving the outside crispy yet the middle supple and droopy. Needless to say, I ate a lot of pizza that day.

At The 2009 Playhouse International Wine Festival in Vancouver I endeavored to taste every single wine on offer from lightest to heaviest over a three day span. Thank you to whoever taught me that spitting was socially acceptable. Although I was not able to accomplish this Dionysian feat, I definitely collected some serious air miles while traveling the expansive world of wine. From the Vinho Verdes of Portugal, to the mouthwatering Rieslings of Germany to the Malbecs of Argentina, it was actually a pretty cheap around the globe trip. I must have looked crazy though charging across the room back and forth looking for the next wine to swirl, smell, sip and then ponder for a moment. In those three exhausting days I received an education in science, geography agricultural studies and flavour perception but mostly I learned that it is really important to eat something substantial before indulging in that much fermented grape juice, even when you are spitting a lot.

The best day of my food life, however, came at my first Tofino Food and Wine Festival in 2006. It was my second year in Tofino and my first time at any food festival. I was working but allowed 20 minutes to go learn. Learn about tasting, learn about passionate producers and learn about what made a couple hundred people so whimsically happy. I did not have time to waste. I promised myself I would not interrupt my eating to talk to anyone unless we were waiting in line for food/wine or were walking towards the next booth. I have since dubbed this strategy 'speed tasting'. It is not motivated by reckless consumption, but rather a sense of duty to use the allotted time for absorbing all that the festival has to offer. I was told to begin with an oyster. It was raw, fresh and sent a blissful shiver through my system. Then some bright sparkling wine was offered. I tasted it and realized that I was just a recipient of a very easy lesson in matching food with wine. It was simply explained to me like so: a raw oyster is light and fresh; sparkling wine is typically light and fresh tasting; therefore an oyster goes well with sparkling wine. I then wondered if all wine and food pairing was that logical.

I discovered a new booth around every corner of the Tofino Botanical Gardens. Even when I thought I was lost in the fun maze that is the gardens, I would invariably stumble upon another unexpected culinary delight. It was like Halloween and everybody was home. The purveyors smiled, gave me free tasty food and understood when I quickly dashed off to trick-or-treat from someone else. During that faithful chicken-with-my-head-cut-off run I remember a scallop sweetly slapping me of the sea, a pinot warmly blanketing my tongue and morels (they were my first) chewing me into the forest. At one point though I just stopped, looked around at all the faces full of delight, took a deep breath and smiled.

For the first time in Tuff City, I was home.

Bobby Lax has been working at SoBo Restaurant on and off for the last four years. This Summer he can be found teaching cooking classes at both the Ukee and Tofino community centers, working with the newly formed culinary guild (TUCG) and cooking for friends whenever the opportunity arises.

Tofino food & cuisine articles

Tofino food & Tofino restaurant profiles

Tofino festivals

Tofino Time June 2010

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Food festivals are Bobby Lax's favourite events, from pizza at Duncan's Feast of Fields to the Tofino Food & Wine Festival.

tofino time june 2010