Robert and I just returned from a weekend trip to Victoria, British Columbia. We took the seaplane from Seattle which was amazing! Viewing our beautiful Pacific Northwest from the sky is a unique treat. One moment we were waiting for our plane at Kenmore Air’s Lake Union terminal, an hour later we were checking into our hotel in Victoria. How’s that for convenience? Our hotel, the centrally located Magnolia, was also pretty fantastic. However, my favorite part of any vacation is eating!

Highest on my list of restaurants to try was Cafe Brio. Cafe Brio is known as Victoria’s “foodie” restaurant so of course I had to check it out! It is located in a very unassuming area of town, just far enough away from downtown as to not be completely overrun with tourists. The setting is casual and comfortable. Customer service is impeccable - the staff is friendly and clearly very proud of the food being served. Cafe Brio is a bit pricey but well worth the expense if you like exceptional food and a unique dining experience.

Cafe Brio’s menu is distinctive in several ways. A special fixed price menu is offered during the early seating (5:30 to 6:15.) This $29 meal includes appetizer, entrée and dessert and is a great value. Cafe Brio also has a relatively lengthy charcuterie menu. All of the charcuterie is made in house, and the menu typically features eight to ten items ranging from salami to summer sausage to pates. The meat cellar was reportedly stuffed to the gills with fresh batches of charcuterie the day were there, and our waitress was quite excited about it. Fixed price meals and house made charcuterie aside, my favorite thing about the menu at Cafe Brio is that every dish can be ordered in small or large sizes. You can go tapas styles and order a bunch of small plates to share or you can stick with a more traditional appetizer and entree approach.

Robert and I love sharing food so we decided to order a selection of small dishes. We couldn’t pass up the house made charcuterie so we started off with gin & pancetta-smoked venison summer sausage. It was smoky and spicy and not at all greasy. Delicious! This was followed by a mixed greens salad topped with poached apples and the creamiest blue cheese I’ve ever tasted (undoubtedly a local cheese.) Other dishes included made-to-order chickpea tortellini served with braised greens and a delectable red pepper broth, the “contorni” plate – seasonal vegetables prepared four different ways, pan-roasted sablefish with scallop fritters, roasted squash, nettles and a red wine emulsion, and grilled pork loin served with a sausage and potato ragout and boudin noir puree. The meal as a whole was fantastic – my favorites were the venison summer sausage, the chickpea tortellini and the vegetable plate. We paired our meal with some of British Columbia’s finest: Quails’ Gate Winery’s Pinot Noir for me and, for Robert, the Driftwood Farmhand – a lovely saison style brew that was all the rage around town during our visit.

While we were enjoying our meal, we learned that the table next to us was from Homes & Living, a magazine devoted to life in Central Vancouver Island. They were preparing to do a story on Victoria and Cafe Brio as part of their “weekend getaway” series. The getaway stories always feature an awesome island destination, a hot new car, fancy accommodations and an exquisite restaurant (the kind of lavish lifestyle readers of such magazines drool over.) The car of choice for this month’s story was a new 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe! The team made a big production out of trying to get a perfect photo of the restaurant with the car parked out front, providing us with plenty of entertainment in the process. Robert enjoyed getting a sneak peek at the new car while I was content to swoon over the delicious food in front of me – a perfect night out in Victoria for the two of us!

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