02 Jul 2011 · by Brennan Storr · Be the first to comment!
Bacon notwithstanding, I am no great fan of pork. Maybe because my grandmother – God rest her soul –served us pork chops coated in that tasteless sawdust called Shake N Bake roughly three times a week while growing up. Or maybe because I have heard a number of my friends and acquaintances who work in emergency services compare the smell of cooked human flesh to that of pork. It could also be that pork does not digest as easily as other meats, that cannibals refer to human flesh as “long pig” or that I have seen Babe: Pig in the City 12 times. Whatever the reason, I spend sleepless nights staring at the ceiling of my bedroom thinking, “I don’t understand what they’ve got against foreskins but I think the Hebrews might be right with this ‘pigs’ thing.”
Considering all this, most of the pork options available at Fernwood Bites, Fernwood’s second-annual celebration of local artisan cuisine, were of little interest to me. The lone exception was the Cuban-style pork with orange cilantro aioli being offered by The Little Piggy. It had a wonderful orange zest with a prominent but not overpowering heat. Though other items on offer caught my eye I have to say that this was my favourite. It was so good that even Yahweh might sneak a bite while his wife’s back is turned.
Held on Sunday, June, 26 this was the second annual Bites, held in Fernwood Square at the intersection of Gladstone Avenue & Fernwood Road. The event plays host to two dozen or so local restaurants, breweries & wineries offering up samples of their finest wares. The event is a fundraiser for the Fernwood Neighborhood Resource Group, an organization dedicated to preserving the spirit of Fernwood for its many dreadlocked residents.
The event is marketed directly at Victoria’s foodies, which explains why I had never heard of it before a press release from Fernwood NRG arrived in my mailbox. I am not a foodie - other than one being a vegetable and the other a bunch of fruits I couldn’t tell endive from N’Sync. Programs like “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” are exceptionally popular right now but personally the next place I would like to see Guy Fieri visit is the bottom of the sea.
The sold-out event was scheduled to run from 5:30-8:00pm and though Nicky & I arrived early there was already an impressive line-up. Rented steel fencing ringed Fernwood Square, which was filed with vendor tents and looked not unlike a festival beer garden.
I hadn’t read the e-mail from Fernwood NRG very thoroughly and so all I knew was that there would be food & alcohol. I was expecting to be handed a number of “sample” tickets which I would quickly burn through and have to replenish at great expense but was delighted to be wrong. Once inside the gate, I was told, you were free to sample as much or as little as you liked. I will forever remember the subsequent thunderbolt of joy which struck my heart and loins.
The aforementioned pork from The Little Piggy was my favourite but a few of the other vendors also stood out from the pack.
Kulu, an Asian Fusion restaurant across from the Belfry Theatre, impressed with their beef & cucumber-wrapped kimchi. Kimchi is a total mystery to me – I know it only as the crunchy, vinegar-tasting stuff I put on my plate at the Mongolian BBQ on Vancouver’s Davie Street. I don’t know what’s in it or why – I know it looks terrible, like something zombies might pull from a wailing victim’s stomach – but I know it tastes of vinegar and is often spicy. Pairing it with the crisp freshness of a cucumber and tender roast beef was a killer combination.
My insatiable lust for bread dipped in melted cheese was served here by the Oak Bay Bistro, a recent – and well spoken of - addition to the city’s food scene. They were also offering a selection of artisan cheeses on small, easy-to-steal slate tiles that everyone was kindly asked to return. No one laughed in the face of the person issuing the request but I pictured at least one of the assembled yuppies mentally weighing their lactose intolerance against the amount of cheese they’d need to eat if they wanted enough tiles to resurface their patio.
The Parsonage Cafe, too, was serving their pulled pork sandwiches on tiles, albeit wooden ones, and making the same request. Towards the end of the night their food was being served onto napkins and, eventually, your bare hands. I didn’t have a chance to ask the Bistro reps what their tile return ratio was but I can’t imagine they fared much better. For the record, I returned mine – I only steal from hotel rooms.
My final favourite was the table for the Fernwood Inn. They were offering one of the few vegetarian selections, a mixed veggie soft taco. As far as I’m concerned, vegetarian cuisine is to food as dry humping is to sex – something that appeals only to people afraid of getting their hands dirty & teenagers wanting to piss off their parents – but I would proudly order these tacos in a restaurant without caring what it said about my sexuality. I can’t remember what was in them – probably tomatoes, something green – but they were refreshing, filling and very spicy.
The event turned out to be a better time than I imagined. The amount of food and booze you can cram over the 2.5 hour duration makes the $45 ticket a steal and the quality of food is leagues beyond what you expect to be served within the confines of a chain-link fence. I’m no foodie but even I’m looking forward to next year’s Fernwood Bites.