All that Jazz… and so much more

What do you get when you mix together a hot line-up of cool jazz in an incredible seaside location… why the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival, now in its sixteenth year.

Pender Harbour has been called the “Venice of the North” due to its many little communities connected to each other by boat. The Jazz Festival is an annual event for us, but this year we decided to take our boat to fully experience the flavour of this great weekend.

We tied up at Fisherman’s Resort,  just a short 5-minute walk from the Garden Bay Pub which was offering three jazz concerts that afternoon and evening. The sun was shining as we sat out on the expansive deck, overlooking the marina, while  listening to the bluesy jazz vocals of Ruth McGillivray.

Later that evening Doc Fingers took centre stage, together with a stellar cast of partners in crime, who kept the joint jumping well into the wee hours.

We woke up the next morning to bright sunshine, surrounded by water and boats. The water was as flat as the proverbial pane of glass, producing a surreal set of reflections.

It was another short walk, across a little wooden footbridge to LaVerne’s Grill where we had their rather substantial Boater’s Breakfast. Satiated, we wandered back and found front row seats  just as Anagram was setting up for their morning concert.

Back on our boat, we headed across the harbour to Madeira Park for the afternoon Jazzapalooza, four different groups, each offering one-hour sets and ranging from hot Afro-Cuban Jazz to mellow, straight ahead standards.

Here, Company B Jazz Band was on stage entertaining the appreciative audience with their beautifully harmonized renditions of the Andrews sisters and other songs from the 20′s to  40′s.

We made one more crossing, back to the Garden Bay Pub, to soak up the sunshine while listening to yet another fine group of jazz musicians. Wow… what a weekend. We’ll be back on our boat, heading up to the harbour next year for sure.

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Walking holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #6 – Escaping through Smuggler Cove

If you are looking to get away for the weekend or wanting a short side trip from Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast is a beautiful destination and Smuggler Cove, with its pristine beauty and colourful history makes for a great escape.

Shortly after leaving the parking area you’ll reach the first of several wooden walkways that cross over flooded areas and skirt around small ponds. If you’re lucky you might see beavers busily building the dams which have caused this flooding.

The 1.3 km trail winds through a diverse rain forest habitat with several twisting Arbutus reaching above the canopy, and continues with outlooks onto the cove itself, as well as Welcome Passage and Georgia Strait beyond. In the near distance you can see several islands, including North and South Thormanby and Texada.

During the summer months the cove is often full of anchored sailboats and other pleasure craft. You’ll see large boats navigating carefully through the narrow entrance to the cove, hugging the far shoreline to avoid several rocks lying just below the surface.

The cove has a colourful history dating back to the late 1880′s when it was first used to smuggle Chinese labourers into the United States to work on the expanding network of railways. The head tax required to enter the country was prohibitively expensive forcing them to resort to other means.

Later, American Prohibition, spawned a burgeoning industry for many Canadian boat operators, attempting to make ends meet during the Depression. Small, fast boats would load up with illicit liquor from stills on nearby Texada Island, to meet up with their American counterparts in international waters, 12 miles offshore. Each side of the sale would hold a torn dollar bill, to match up as proof of purchase.

Getting There:  Head north from Sechelt along the highway for approximately 10 minutes  and watch for the well-marked sign to Smuggler Cove. Turn left and follow this winding road until you reach a small parking area, where the trail begins.

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Roberts Creek Mandala 2012

The Roberts Creek Mandala Project is an amazing undertaking having evolved from a humble creation of five friends who came together one weekend to paint over some negative graffiti. Fifteen years later it has become a week long community event, bringing together over 500 painters.

The overall design is laid down in white latex paint by the mandala’s crew of organizers and then the community gathers to paint a specific “canvas” and share their artistic vision.

Paint, brushes, and all other necessary implements are supplied and creativity is encouraged in this sacred space of focused intention. Children of all ages bring the Mandala back to life each summer.

There was definitely a festive mood when I visitied the mandala this week. It was the final day of painting and the sun was shining brightly, music filled the air and several vendors had set up booths. Later that day there would be a celebration with more music and dancing.

You can find the mandala at the foot of Roberts Creek Road, at Chak Chak Point overlooking the gentle waters of Roberts Creek as they flow into the beautiful Salish Sea.

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Exploring Sechelt Inlet by water – two new exciting options

Sechelt Inlet is one of the most beautiful protected waterways in BC.  Tall green snow-capped mountains tumble majestically into the clear blue ocean waters and the luxuriant green shoreline vegetation reflects off calm, tranquil waters creating a lush, tantalizing visual feast. Two long standing Sunshine Coast tour operators have recently come together to provide a set of unique options for exploring Sechelt Inlet, the inland sea of the Sunshine Coast.

Sunshine Coast Marine Tours offers two scheduled tours daily in their new purpose-built 12-passenger boat. Their morning tour heads up the east side of Sechelt Inlet and within 15 minutes you are magically transported into a vast wilderness area and the traditional territory of the shíshálh Nation.

The run continues as far as Salmon Inlet, the first of two long arms branching off Sechelt Inlet. The tour joins up at Seal Cove with another group from Talaysay Tours who provide outdoor adventure experiences on our local waters with an aboriginal perspective. Talaysay offers a special one-way, morning guided kayak tour of the Inlet, providing stops along the way to view ancient shíshálh rock paintings.

The shíshálh first occupied this area thousands of years ago and the rich resources of the land and sea supported an expanding network of both permanent and seasonal settlements throughout this waterway.  Several pictographs still remain in the area and while their significance is still not completely known their presence provides a tangible link to the history of the area.

The two groups will go ashore at Seal Cove for a luncheon featuring cold-smoked salmon prepared in the tradition manner by the shíshálh peoples. After lunch, the kayaks are loaded onto the tour boat and both groups head home together, back to Sechelt. This set of tours offers a unique opportunity to get out on the waters of Sechelt Inlet in whatever way matches personal comfort levels and would be perfect for extended families.

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Putting the Pedal back into Pedals & Paddles

Pedals & Paddles celebrated their 21st season on the Sunshine Coast with an Open House this weekend at their fabulous new location on Lamb Bay, just 5-minutes away from Coracle Cove. This is a perfect location to put in a kayak with its protected bay and several nearby islets to explore.

Owner, Laurie Reid is delighted with her new location, situated at the base of Mt. Richardson, saying it has allowed her “to put the pedals back into Pedals & Paddles” as the 78 acre site is riddled with a network of old logging roads just waiting to be explored. Her staff are just in the process of finishing a one-hour green level loop for novice riders and in preparation they’ve added mountain bikes to their line of rentals.

Pedals & Paddles offer rentals for kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards and the latter has become an extremely popular water sport on the protected waters of Sechelt Inlet. They also offer a number of guided tours, both in the morning and evening, as well as once a month under a full moon.

The staff is extremely professional offering personal instruction for new comers to the sport. They provide all of the regulated safety equipment and take the extra time to ensure that you are properly prepared before you set off. The protected waters of Sechelt Inlet are appropriate for beginners, yet also enjoyed by experts for its easy access and spectacular scenery.

Imagine going from city to wilderness in just 2 hours. Sechelt Inlet offers abundant opportunities for viewing wildlife on the water, land and in the air. In the short time I was there I saw eagles soaring in the sky and seals bobbing their heads at the water’s surface. A few weeks ago, while in my own boat I saw a black bear at the shoreline and have been hearing recent reports again this year of dolphins frolicking in the water nearby.

Pedals & Paddles is just a five minute drive from Coracle Cove making it a great option for our guests looking for some outdoor adventure, and whether you’re just a newbie wanting to try something new or a seasoned expert, there’s a variety of choices to meet your needs.

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Chasters creates the art of dining… and fine music

It was my birthday this weekend and also the start of a week long jazz festival, two of my favourite activities. It seemed like a good reason to celebrate and Chasters at Bonniebrook Lodge was offering a fabulous combination of dining and music.

We were seated on the patio when we arrived and were able to enjoy the warmth of the late afternoon sun while watching a parade of cruise ships in the distance.  With a glass of cold bubbly in hand we were treated to an assortment of delectable canapes - creamy Stilton on a paper thin wafer, salmon mousse, mussels in a savoury curry and duck over a sweet onion confit.

As if choreographed, the setting sun crept behind the tall trees and it was time to move inside for the rest of our set menu dinner. The menu included a  wine tasting flight and we started with a buttery Chardonnay to accompany our creamy celeriac potato soup. Our glasses were then refilled with a sweeter Pinot Gris, the perfect compliment to our salad course, freshly picked local organic greens with toasted maple pecans, feta and a honey hazelnut dressing.

We both chose the catch of the day for our entree, a perfectly cooked white fish over a soft pillow of potato mash, generously topped with a tomato and olive oil caper dressing. This was served  with a crisp, dry Chablis to moderate the rich olive oil.

While enjoying this wonderful food experience, we were also treated to the wonderful voice of jazz vocalist, Pat Collier and like each of the fine wines, her sweet, sultry voice was a perfect compliment to the evening. With just a simple keyboard to accompany her, she paid tribute to to the legendary ladies of those great jazz standards, singing straight from her heart.

Dessert was a fine finale to this evening of sensory experiences, a rich chocolate mousse offset with a tart berry sorbet served in a crunchy maple cup, and this accompanied with a creamy, espresso liqueur.

Chasters at Bonniebrook Lodge has truly created the art of dining and I would strongly recommend that you check them out for your next celebration.

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Sirens of the Sea – Part 2

A year ago I wrote a less than flattering blog on a dining experience at Sirens of the Sea in Davis Bay. As you can imagine, living in a small community, I took a bit of heat for my criticism, both in person and through comments left on my blog.

But I was simply stating the facts.  This blog is all about providing an honest guide for visitors to the Sunshine Coast. The dining experience didn’t measure up to my expectations and I wasn’t about to cover it up for fear of offending someone.

 I was back there today and I’m pleased to say that “up” is the operative word, as in they have definitely picked things up. First off, their Bennies … now made with freshly prepared Hollandaise and two perfectly poached eggs, cooked exactly as ordered. This one, called an ABC came with a fresh, sliced Avocado, some crisp Bacon, and delicately sprinkled with Chives.  It was accompanied with, as you can see from the image, a very, very generous helping of roasted potatoes. Tasty indeed, but far too many for my waistline… some more fresh fruit would have been my preference.

It was just a bit before noon and while my dining partner ordered breakfast I was more interested in exploring other parts of the menu. The chicken wrap was one of the specials for the day so I gave it a try and as the saying goes “I wasn’t disappointed.” The chicken had been seasoned, battered and deepfried giving it a flavourful crunch which paired off nicely with a healthy portion of crisp lettuce. A tangy, creamy sauce brought these two elements together quite nicely. It also came with the requisite generous portion of hand cut fries, of which I was only able to eat less than half. But I confess, I could have ordered a more healthy salad instead.

So having come back to the Sea, I can now honestly say that I will return again. The food was well prepared, the service prompt and friendly, and the cost of our brunch quite reasonable… two thumbs up!!

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The return of the rolling bistro to the Davis Bay Seawall

Two years ago I was featured on the Food Network, filling my face with a delicious crab cake. They were filming “Eat Street,” a new series on international food carts and I had been invited by the owners of Feastro the Rolling Bistro to stop by to add a little local colour. The publicity from that series landed the Feastro a coveted food cart licence in Vancouver, where they have now been operating for two years,  and while that was good for them, I felt a little like a bride abandoned at the alter.

But all that has changed. There’s a new rolling bistro in my life and I’m lovin’ it. The Lighthouse Pub, recently named as one of the best places in BC to watch the Canucks, have cloned their creative kitchen into Lighthouse on Location and have set up their rolling food cart on the Davis Bay Seawall.

Location, location, location is a large part of the success of any business and  the Davis Bay Seawall is one of the finest on the planet. With mind-blowing views looking across Georgia Strait to the mountains of Vancouver Island, and plenty of inviting driftwood logs to lean up against while enjoying the sun, it’s a pretty cool place to enjoy some fine cooked food.

This magnificent location has inspired the menu and seafood is a big part of their offerings. The small menu includes Baha Fish Tacos, Smoked Salmon Chowder, Fish & Chips, and for the carnivores, a choice of either Philly Cheesesteak or Pulled Pork Tacos. I ordered the Fish Tacos and was not disappointed… a perfectly cooked piece of fish with a crisp slaw and freshly prepared salsa.

I’m already planning my next lunch and I know I’ll work my way through the menu many times throughout the summer. Mmmm… I wonder if I can get them to add fish cakes to the menu? Stay posted.

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Coracle Cove – hot tub offers more than a great view

A recent Trip Advisor review for Coracle Cove was headlined “Best view from a hot tub in BC!”  We’ll let you look at the accompanying picture and you can judge for yourself, but as you read this blog, we hope that you’ll learn that there’s more to a good hot tub than a great view.

We brought our hot tub in by a barge and used a crane to set it up on our waterside deck, just a few feet from the briny ocean.  There is an incredible view throughout the day and well into the night - a variety of work boats, sail boats, motor boats and kayaks pass by during the day; the water changes from flat calm in the early morning to gentle ripples as the first sun strikes the water; lights from the distant shore twinkle across the water as the evening sky darkens.

We know that our hot tub is an important part of the Coracle Cove experience and we take extra steps to ensure that the water is professionally managed to ensure that it is a completely pleasant experience.

Typically, hot tubs are treated with a mix of harsh chemicals which can irritate sensitive skin. Instead, we use Spa Solution, an enzyme based spa conditioner which is an environmentally friendly, non-toxic, non-allergenic compound . An ozonator is used to naturally oxidize any contaminants. Each week, we take a water sample into Watermaster  where it is computer analyzed to ensure that it is sanitary and properly balanced.

We want our guests to have a completely enjoyable experience at Coracle Cove and we understand that a hot tub should offer much more than a great view.

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Sechelt Market – new location, great ambience

The Sechelt Market re-opened last weekend and I wanted to check out their new location.  They’ve moved to a quiet little area of downtown with lots of nearby parking. Both ends of the street are blocked off,  adding to a great ambience that just lends itself to a leisurely Saturday morning stroll to check out the products offered by over 80 vendors.

The Market is a great place to find fresh, locally grown food products as well as some of the work of our large population of local Artists. Jon Bell, shown below was one of the leaders  who worked to facilitate the new location.  In addition to keeping me supplied with rhubarb and arugula, he makes a fantastic slow-cooked Highland Marmalade and if you ask nicely, he’ll tell you the secret ingredient in his recipe.

Many of the food vendors have jams and preserves for sale and I was most interested in a little jar of wild nettle pesto offered next door to Jon. Further down the line, local beekeeper Martin Cook had a variety of honeys for sale .

Next door to the beekeeper I found this wonderful collection of aromatic hand made soaps and lotions… mmm, I wonder whose birthday is coming up?

… and if you’re in the need for a new coffee cup for that early morning java fix there are several talented potters to choose from. I love the warm natural colours.

© Getty Images

 There are also three or four very talented photographers at the Market and one of my favourites is Peggy Collins. I get a lot of inspiration from Peggy’s work and always make a point of stopping to talk with her. Peggy has just produced her first e-book and has it listed on Amazon.  Her macro image of the fern below is a promising reminder that we’re approaching fiddle head fern season… now what did I do with that recipe??

© Getty Images

The Sechelt Market is always an enjoyable and relaxing Saturday morning activity, as well as a place to pick up a special food item which can often inspire an entire menu for an evening dinner. Check out this recent blog for such a dinner.

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