By Tess van Straaten
Monday Magazine columnist
Sitting on a sun-baked patio in the heart of North Saanich with rolling farmland all around me, I’m sipping a refreshing glass of rosé — aptly named Farmer’s Daughter — at The Roost Vineyard Bistro.
The new rosé is one of Roost’s most popular offerings, along with wood-fire pizzas loaded with tasty topping combinations like wine-poached pears and blue cheese.
|Tess van Straaten|
“The farms and beverage producers in North Saanich are always pushing the envelope on what can be grown and crafted on the island,” says Roost Farm Centre owner Dallas Bohl.
The Roost, which also has a bakery, sits on 10 acres of farmland where they grow many of the items they serve. It’s one of the stops on the popular North Saanich Flavour Trails Festival, which runs from Aug. 16-18.
“We call it a ‘self-guided rural ramble’ and to me, it’s a very European type of festival,” explains Flavour Trails Festival organizer Jen Rashleigh. “Everyone gets a festival map and you’re invited to travel down country roads visiting the various farms, wineries, breweries, shops or food producers that are tucked away in the landscape, and discover the best-kept secrets that are right in our own backyard.”
This is the 12th year for the festival, which began as a way to showcase the region as a grower’s paradise, and it’s grown to more than 20 stops that are a feast for the senses – all offering something different.
“North Saanich has a community of farmers, chefs, vintners, brewers all doing incredibly innovative work in their niche fields, and on this weekend they open their doors and invite the public to come in and be curious,” Rashleigh says. “It’s a very intimate, personal festival where you get to meet your farmer, take a farm or winery tour, sample food and ask questions. It truly is behind-the-scenes.”
The rural ramble is even more enjoyable by bike, pedaling through the pastoral countryside between stops – not to mention the added benefit of burning off extra calories as you indulge in all the delicious offerings. To encourage more people to cycle this year, there’s a new bike route map and the festival is partnering with Ride the Glide to offer E-bike rentals, which can be pre-booked on the Flavour Trails Festival website.
But however you get there, make sure you’re hungry because this Foodie paradise will not disappoint.
“We’ve got wines produced from local organic Ortega grapes, a special blackberry festival beer from the local berries, just-picked North Saanich cantaloupes which have to be tried to be believed, the now-famous Fickle Fig lunch roast, and vinaigrettes made from local Douglas firs and nasturtium flowers,” says Rashleigh. “It’s a grower’s paradise and the region tends to attract the kind of farmers who are really passionate about what they do.”