Hitting the ice at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre with the family or friends can be a great way to get some exercise, or work off a meal, writes Monday columnist Tess van Straaten. Photo courtesy Recreation Oak Bay

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Changing things up puts spice into winter

Try something different like visiting a new restaurant, or even skating in Oak Bay

After the excitement and busyness of the holidays, January can seem a bit dull. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And one of the best ways to add some winter wonder is to change things up and try new things.

Monday Magazine adventure/travel columnist Tess van Straaten

Walking into the re-booted Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio at the Inn at Laurel Point, it’s clear change is good. The recently re-opened restaurant, perched on the water with a spectacular view of the Inner Harbour, was closed for 12 months as part of the hotel’s massive refresh. It’s now re-launched with a globally-inspired small plates menu that encourages guests to try different things.

“Personally, this is how I like to eat – trying a wide variety of dishes and sharing amongst friends,” says Chef Austin Lu. “We always try to be innovative and create something unique.”

Embracing new things, we try two unique cocktails: the Island Fizz with raspberry ginger-infused vodka and Prosecco, and the to-die-for Iced Black Bear Chai Tea.

“It’s shockingly delicious,” my boyfriend, Shane, says of the creamy and spicy chai drink. “I would come back just for this drink alone.”

Even though I’m not usually a bread person, our server, Jax Downey, tells us we must try the grilled focaccia – a house favourite.

“Hands down, the focaccia has been the most photographed dish on the menu and it is very worthy of that spotlight,” restaurant manager Frances von Aesch says.

The bread is so amazing, we decide to let the chefs pick the rest of our plates as Jax expertly selects our wine pairings. The only hold-over from the old menu is deep-fried sushi. Again, it’s not something I’d normally try, but it was not at all what I expected and it turned out to be my favourite dish – until we had dessert.

Dining at the newly reopened Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio at the Inn at Laurel Point from the view to the food, can be a great way to snap out of the winter doldrums, says Tess van Straaten. Photo courtesy Inn at Laurel Point

“That’s the best thing I’ve ever had in my life,” Shane says of the bourbon milk chocolate pot de crème.

Absolutely stuffed, we decide to wear off some of the calories with a more energetic pursuit. We’d normally go for a walk or hike, but Shane hasn’t been skating in at least 15 years so we decide to hit the ice at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre. “Ice skating is like riding a bike,” advises Recreation Oak Bay sports coordinator Caroline Lawrence. “Even after being off skates for a while, most people seem to easily pick up where they left off.”

Tuesday evenings, there’s an ‘everyone welcome’ $3 skate with discounted skate rentals. It’s one of 10 different weekly drop-in skating sessions at Oak Bay Rec, catering to different age groups. You can also try hockey with parent and child or adult drop-in sessions, passing foam pucks and stick handling your way to some winter fun.

“Skating’s a great way to stay fit and have fun,” Lawrence says. “It will increase physical literacy by engaging new muscles and it’s also a fun social activity you can do together, regardless of different skill levels.”

We’ve had so much fun changing things up, we decide to try something new every week this year. Now that’s a resolution I can stick to!

*****

Also by Tess van Straaten:

Find Christmas cheer in the heart of Victoria

Chinatown Confidential: Colour, culture and tasty treats

Chilling in Cook Street Village

Estevan Escape: Rediscovering a special spot



editor@mondaymag.com

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