When we think about hunting and gathering, the season we usually think of is fall. For many of us, there’s nothing better than the thought of pleasantly losing our way in one of our beautiful surrounding forests while following a mushroom or berry trail on a crisp autumn day.
Whereas winter is more the time of year when we quietly sip hot toddies around a fire.
But I’m here to tell you that winter is still an excellent time to forage—you just have to know where to look. You can put together an outstanding feast for friends and family that will excite the palate and offer the opportunity to explore your artistic talents.
The secret? Exquisite delectables.
Luckily, the Valley offers so much more food than what we may find hiking through the woods. Here are a few of my favourite local food purveyors.
HONEY GROVE BAKERY
I always like to start with bread. To me, it’s never an afterthought: it’s a key part of any fine winter spread. It complements and elevates the main features, bringing all the other pieces together and elevating the whole.
So my first recommended stop for winter foragers is Honey Grove Bakery. This woman-owned business is a powerhouse of finery. Their slow-fermented, small-batch sourdough breads partner perfectly with your soups, sandwiches, or charcuterie boards, while their pastries are seriously irresistible and make a showstopping finale to any creation. Whether rustic or delicate, each loaf and pastry is made from certified organic Canadian flour and shaped by hand with care. There’s always something wonderfully new at their shop, so visiting
in person is a must.
NATURAL PASTURES CHEESE COMPANY
What is a feast without cheese? Don’t answer that. Instead, head to Natural Pastures to pick up some of their artisanal cheeses made from cow and water buffalo milk that’s sourced from Vancouver Island farms. I have my favourites, of course, but their entire selection offers something for every taste; aim for a selection of soft and firmer cheeses. You can’t go wrong with award-winning Comox Brie—and for an exotic twist, add a wheel of the rich, creamy Buffalo Brie that they promise “allows your taste buds to explore new pathways.” I couldn’t agree more. Pick up some of their sweet, tangy Boerenkaas or Aged Farmhouse and you have the perfect balance.
THE BUTCHER’S BLOCK
Many exceptional Comox Valley farms produce an abundance of meat, poultry, vegetables, eggs, and honey. I’m thankful for the folks at the Butcher’s Block, who make it easy to access all this wonderment throughout the winter. They’ve been serving up great cuts and knowledge for over 35 years. Not only do they have the absolute best when it comes to locally sourced meats and poultry, they also have daily creations of in-house, handmade sausages and smoked products. If you’re gathering the makings for a charcuterie board, make sure to stop in and pick up one of their remarkable sandwiches to fuel the rest of your search. I suggest the brisket.
If you’ve learned some things look easy until you try doing them, you can hire a company like mine to do your foraging for you. Launched in 2020, JAM & Co. Luxury Picnics and Events specializes in gourmet charcuterie boxes, boards, and long table grazing experiences. We do extensive research, legwork, and arranging to create edible art creations for events and gatherings. All our offerings incorporate Valley favourites, including local condiments, along with some of the world’s absolute best when it comes to cheese and charcuterie.
See what treasures you can find as you explore the Valley in search of amazing food to celebrate the season. Happy hunting!