Bobby’s Cooking Classes

If I had to describe last summer into two words, those words would be cooking class.

Oh sure, I could have chosen “mental breakdown” or “salt hiding” or “baby watch”, but really, cooking classes are what got me through last summer. Once a week, I regained my sanity by drinking wine and cooking with Professional Food Lover (god I wish that was my title) Bobby and a constantly rotating crowd of locals and tourists.

Bobby’s classes are small (around 12 people max) and always start with a quick tutorial on shucking raw oysters. Originally I partook in the shucking and eating, but now I just shuck. Textural thing. I don’t like to gag.

I managed to go to every class at least once over the summer. By the end, Bobby had practically hired me on as his setup/cleanup crew. I learned so much at Bobby’s cooking classes, and Bobby pushed me to try a lot of new things. Like oysters, prawns, ceviche and eggs.

Yeah, I know. I didn’t eat eggs. Sue me, I was picky.

Bobby taught me how to safely shuck an oyster without drawing blood, how to kill a crab humanely (which looks way less humane than the boil to death thing, but I trust Bobby) and how to make homemade pasta. All of which have significantly changed the way I cook.

Because I loved the cooking classes so much and want them to become a regular occurrence in Tofino, I arranged for the staff of Tourism Tofino to have our end-of-season staff party with Bobby.

This is the Tourism Tofino staff learning how to shuck oysters al fresco!

Look at me and my Italiano. So chic!

Also, I love how they are all mid-laugh. I totally planned that.

Here’s Bobby and Colin sharing a touching moment over a freshly shucked oyster.

Of course I made a table arrangement. As I have told Bobby many times, Martha Stewart lives inside me.

Bobby chopping olives for a yummy seared tuna and olive dish.

Olives, yet another thing I would not eat before I took cooking classes.

Live and kicking. I couldn’t bring myself to dismantle these crabs. I am a wuss. But I did eat them with a delicious ginger-soy dipping sauce. None of the work and all of the deliciousness. Another advantage to cooking with Bobby!

Bobby’s classes had a different theme every week. To give you an idea, some were about fish, chicken, eggs, Mexican food or wine pairings. Bobby gives you a recipe sheet at the beginning of every class that you can take home to recreate your favorites. Colin and I use them pretty often. May you be so blessed if I ever make you Bobby’s cold pea soup or his pork ribs.

And they really did keep me sane. They also helped me discover that when I am going crazy, I need to cook. It settles me down and lets me be a control freak when life doesn’t. And as any Kostenko woman will tell you, control is a wonderful thing.

I definitely recommend trying a cooking class, whether it’s in Tofino or wherever you reside. Even if you don’t like to cook, you still get to reap the benefits of eating at the end. And you might just learn something too. Also, you may need your sanity saved, much like I did.

Try a cooking class, because Alex cares about your sanity.

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Sobo

Photo from sobo.ca

I’ve been trying to write this post for a while. Every time I start, I end up sounding like one of Justin Beiber’s fangirls.

“omigawd i love sobo so much it’s so amazing like right? like everything is so good and i love it and i want to marry it.”

Yup, that’s about right. So I’m going to try to be adult and give you a non-annoying breakdown of my favorite restaurant in Tofino. However, I have had a few glasses of wine tonight, so who knows where we’ll end up. Come along for this wild ride!

Sobo has amazed me since my first meal there in 2008. At the time, I did not eat salmon, onions, mushrooms, shellfish or crab and had only just begun enjoying tomato sauce on my pasta (don’t ask). On some kind of culinary suicide mission, I ordered the salmon. It was delicious. Amazing. I was changed forever. I still think about it today. Kind of in the way you think about a really great first date. Or first kiss.

Too far? Sorry.

Thus began my love affair with Sobo. Working at the information center, I try to get out to as many restaurants as possible every season so that I can give accurate information to visitors. Yeah, that’s why I eat out so much. You got a problem with that? But over the years it’s gotten harder for me to go to other restaurants when all I’m really craving is smoked fish chowder and polenta fries.

Not that any other restaurant’s meals are bad….they’re just not Sobo. Chef Lisa Ahier somehow mixes everything I love about Tofino – the fresh fish, the amazing local ingredients, the locally sourced wines – with her Texas roots. So you end up with delicious seafood dishes along with pulled bison sandwiches and buttermilk biscuits that would make your southern granny cry (if you should be so lucky as to have a southern granny).

And the key lime pie….oh the key lime pie. I have never been to the Florida Keys, but I imagine that Lisa’s key lime pie is something like the all state champ of all key lime pies. I have already ditched any dream of a wedding cake, because damnit, I’m having a key lime wedding pie.

So if you come to visit me in Tofino, I will use you as my excuse to go to Sobo. I am trying to cut back as I currently blame Sobo for the extra ten pounds that have made their home on my midsection.

But if you come visit me, that’s kind of like a celebration, right? And at a celebration meal, calories don’t count?

Don’t say a word, just let me pretend.

And come visit us!

PS: I’m going to shamelessly plug a friend here and recommend Bobby Lax’s weekly cooking classes. He is a former chef at Sobo and currently manages the Tofino-Ucluelet Culinary Guild. He also is one of the nicest people in Tofino and runs a really fun and super educational cooking class. I will do a post on some of the classes I attended last year, but I just thought I would let all of you know that visiting us could be educational as well as delicious and fun!


My Favorite Places: The First Street Dock

I don’t know why I love this dock so much. As a general rule, I hate docks and anything that juts out into the ocean. This includes boats and dockside canneries. I have a deep respect (read: fear) for oceans, especially when I can’t see the bottom. If I can see the bottom and know for a fact that there are no shipwrecks or freaky sea monsters smiling at my toes, I will be fine.

You can’t see the bottom in Tofino. The water is dark. There are scary things in the water. Things like this:

Not so cool, hey? They found this shark in Alberni Inlet a few months ago. I had a heart attack when I heard, because Colin has always promised me that there are no sharks bigger than a salmon shark of the coast of Tofino. And I believed that callous jerk. I wonder what else he’s lied about. Does he even really surf? Does he actually like my chocolate chip cookies? Who knows.

Also, why is that guy grinning in the background? He does realize he just found a shark, right? A shark that could have easily ripped his leg off and beat him with the bloody end.

(Sorry about that last part. My dad used to threaten me with that as a small child. Thanks for the nightmares, Dad.)

But back to the First Street Dock. Also called the Government Dock, it’s a busy spot throughout the day. Float planes and water taxis pick up and drop off here, as well as the First Nations boats from remote communities up the coast, like Ahousaht.

At night, the dock is usually pretty quiet. Unless you are visiting on Canada Day. In that case, avoid the dock at all costs. I’ve seen people fall in, which is pretty much my worst fear.

But the best time to go to the dock is at sunset. The dock is directly across from Meares Island and a few other much smaller islands that dot the inlet. And at sunset on a clear night, it is my favorite place to hang out.

I know this picture is not of  a sunset. I’m sorry to disappoint, but somehow I always forget to take pictures when we see a nice sunset. I’m a ‘be in the moment’ kind of girl, or some other inspirational line.

Please also note how far away I am from the edge taking this picture. Safety first, kids.You saw that shark.

So when people come to the info center asking for ‘nice scenery’ (to which I want to reply, “You aren’t looking hard enough”) I usually send them to the First Street Dock. And then I tell them to get their eyes checked.

Just kidding!


My Favorite Places: The Beach

I love everything about Tofino, but I thought I would let all of you know about my near and dear, extra super favorites. I hope some of these convince you to come for a visit!


It’s a little bit ridiculous for me to just say that I love the beach. Everyone loves the beach. But I’m about to get specific on y’all. Not all beaches are created equal. But all beaches are special and need to be loved equally. Are you with me? OK good, let us begin.

These are my favorite beaches, in no particular order.

Tonquin Beach is my favorite beach for purely sentimental reasons. It is the first place we go when get to Tofino and the last place we go when we leave. It’s where I go when I’m mad or sad or being bad. It’s also where I go when I feel like pretending I can tan. It’s also our favorite place to go for a walk in the evening. It is a small beach and the only one in the downtown core, making it perfect for picnics (but not on a windy day. Steak and sand sandwiches, not yummy).

Chesterman Beach is everyone’s favorite. It is long, picturesque and is covered in hard packed sand for easy walking. It is also connected to Frank Island by a tombolo or sand spit (look at me Mr. Connolly, using geographic terms in everyday life. God I hope that was right). Frank Island is one of the best places for tide pooling at low tide. It is also a great spot for beginner surfers, since the waves come in pretty steadily and on the small side in the summer.

Incinerator Rock is more of a section of beach than a beach on its own. It makes up the northern end of Long Beach, and is a favorite of local surfers. Coincidentally, it it also the place where I encountered my first rip tide and had my first panic attack, at the same time! Don’t be like me. But Incinerator is great because it has A: great views of surfers; B: sheltered areas for reading/tanning/sleeping; and C: a really high rock that juts out into the water and makes for a great photographic/surfer stalking vantage point. It is also my favorite place to watch the Great Wall of Fog move in. Twilight was partially filmed here, for those of you who care.

I’ll tell you about why it’s called Incinerator some other time. I have a bath waiting and it’s getting cold. Plus, that just reminds me of work. But mostly the bath thing.

South Beach is in the Pacific Rim National Park at the very south end of Long Beach. We actually don’t go there too often, it’s about a 30 minutes drive away, but we try to get there every summer. It is a gorgeous little rock beach, also known as musical beach. The little rocks click together and almost sing during a good stormy day. South Beach has a very important meaning to Colin. It is a place that reminds him of Brendan, his cousin who passed away in 2006. It is the place where a wonderful picture of Brendan, who came to Tofino with Colin in January of 2006, was taken. Although I did not meet Brendan, whenever we go to South Beach I feel like there is no better place to sit and remember him. There’s just something about that big ocean up against those huge rocks that says something about life and really celebrates someone who lived it to the fullest.

So as you can see, not all the beaches in our little town are created equal. Each one is a little different and has its own thing going on. And a lot of people would probably disagree with me on my favorite beaches.

But I work at the Info Center, therefore I know all and am always right.

Lordy do I love my job.


To Surf Or Not To Surf

….my dears, that is the question.

Let me preface this by saying that I have tried surfing many times. So many times, in fact, that I bought a wetsuit. A really, really good one that makes surfers green with jealousy (or is that just the pot?). I love my wetsuit. It makes me feel like Halle Berry in Catwoman, except of course when I wear my wetsuit I don’t ruin perfectly good female superheroes with awful remakes of movies.

Just sayin.

I tried to surf so much that I EVEN BOUGHT A SURFBOARD. It is a great starter board. It is essentially a flat boat covered in foam. I named her Rhonda so I could sing “Help Me Rhonda” and mean it. I also like calling her “Big Rhonda” because I think that is the only acceptable thing to call anyone named Rhonda. And she’s big! At a gorgeous nine feet tall, she’s a brick house (yet another classic, and coincidentally, my current ringtone. I’m retro like that).

Neither of these expensive purchases have helped me actually stand up on a surfboard. Not since my first horizontal tango with a surfboard in 2004 on Hana-lei Bay have I been able to stand on a surfboard. Maybe Hawaii ruined me.

I wouldn’t be surprised, really. Doesn’t Hawaii kind of ruin everyone? Life is just never the same after you’ve been to a place where the air smells like flowers, the water is never cold, and the people have perfected the art of roasting a whole pig underground.

For those of you who haven’t been to Tofino and wrongfully thought, as I once did, that the water there is warm because people surf there, you are so very very wrong. The water temperature tops out at about 13 degrees Celsius in the summer. And no matter what lies I will tell people at the visitor’s center to get them in the water, no amount of neoprene will prevent you from feeling cold in those first few moments.

Beyond the frigid waters of the Pacific, there are slight anatomical difficulties for me when it comes to surfing. I finally discovered what the problem was a few weeks ago when my trainer made me do Burpies. If you’ve never done a Burpie, please take this moment to thank your lucky stars. They are an awful combination of pushups and high jumps. Thank those lucky stars again (just in case). And strikingly similar to the way surfers get up on their boards.

I couldn’t do the Burpies. It has nothing to do with me being horribly out of shape – even though that might have factored in on me almost passing out in one session – but everything to do with the way I’m built. I just don’t fold up very well. I can’t get compact, which is kind of necessary in the whole *paddle-paddle-scrunchupinaball-pop-up-and-surf* method.

I also hate moving fast. That might have something do with it.

So at the moment, I have a gorgeous wetsuit and a $300, nine foot boogie board. This summer, I am committing myself to standing up on Big Rhonda. She deserves it. I deserve it. And most of all, Colin deserves a girlfriend who can at least hold it together in the whitewash.

He’s getting really tired of pushing my board for me. But the bicep workout is so worth it, right hun?

Right?


It’s The Little Things

When we decided to get our own place this summer, I knew I would have to give up many of the things I’ve enjoyed while living with my parents. The KitchenAid mixer is right up there. God, I love that thing. But there are others that I will miss, such as….

Ridiculous amounts of television channels. That I think I can handle, since Colin is notorious for somehow finding my favorite movies and TV shows in order to keep me busy while he is surfing.

The well stocked closets of two sisters. Delightful. I love being able to wander on over and borrow something with full and joyful permission of my sisters (Oh what’s that? I made that part up? Never you mind).

The family collective of Nora Roberts books. It’s probably for the best that I cut back on reading those, though. Colin is starting to look a little *meh* next to all of that tall dark and handsome going on in those books.

My cookbooks. Oh, my cookbooks. I just have too many, and Colin will weep if I bring them all. They will break the poor Volkswagon and then the German engineers will be angry and our whole summer will suck. At least that’s what Colin tells me.

Cheap food. Lordy is food expensive in Tofino. And I’m not just talking about the restaurants. Multiply the price of everything at Save-On in Maple Ridge by 2 and you will reach the average price of anything in Tofino. My parmigianno-reggiano intake is going to dip severely over the summer.

My bed. I discovered on a recent housesitting adventure that my bed is the best bed of all the beds in the world (YAHEARD?). While I can and will sleep on anything and still wake up fresh as a daisy, there is nothing like your own bed.

But I guess the one thing I will miss the most is just the convenience of living in a well-established home. You know how families always seem to have everything they need, and people moving into a new apartment are always missing like, can openers and nail polish remover? Yeah, I’m going to be that girl. I am overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things I feel like I might need over the summer: extra blankets, extension cords, first-aid kits, and dryer sheets. DRYER SHEETS.

So I actually hope that you guys who are living on your own (or who just have good advice, no discrimination here) to let me know what your essentials are for living alone. What is the one thing I’m probably guaranteed to forget?

PS: It’s not the wine cork taker outer thing. That baby stays in my purse.

Not really though.

Note: this post doesn’t contain the actual people (or dogs) I am going to miss. They will get a much more emotional and less funny post when I get more emotional and less funny as the moving date approaches.


The House Is Ours!

Ok, it’s not just ours. It’s also Carl and Caroline’s. And someone I don’t know yet will also be occupying a room (anyone need a place to stay?).

This will be the first time I move into a place not occupied by a parent. Vancouver housing prices will do that to you.

Thanks Mom and Dad, for letting me and my sisters live in your house well past the age of twenty. Love ya!

I have to buy plates. Plates and forks and flour and sugar and sheets and lamps. Oh my word, I can feel my brain starting to implode already. I am very ready for us to have our own place, but having it set in stone like that, with a damage deposit paid and all, is very scary.

Colin and I are lucky in that we have both lived in Tofino for a number of years, Colin over ten. This will be my fourth summer in Tofino. We are also lucky that our many years working for Tourism Tofino mean we know every damn thing about that little town. And I mean everything. I can tell you where and when to launch your kayak, the best places to find Japanese glass ball floats, and where to get the best margaritas in town. I have the comfort of knowing that my favorite restaurant is only a five minute walk from my doorstep (thank you, sweet merciful lord).

Consequently, the hospital, clinic, grocery store, liquor store and the beach are all also within a five minute walk from my doorstep. I live the dream.

So I can take some comfort in knowing that we’re not diving into this without a clue. We know where we’re going. We have friends there. I know I have a wonderful job, the best bosses, and I’m only a 30 minute flight from home in case of emergency.

I have been thinking about writing about our summers in Tofino for years now. I wrote a few notes on Facebook over the years, but since this will be our first summer on our own I think it deserves a little notoriety. I hope I can entertain all of you with tales about funny tourists and my epic fails at surfing. But mostly I just hope this will help me keep in touch with everyone I never get to see while I’m in Tofino.