British Columbia

Unique food and drink found at Parksville festival, columnist says

Wine, beer, cheese and even artisan soda pop are all found at Parksville's Uncorked Wine and Food Festival.

Check out food columnist Gail Johnson's recommendations

The recent Parksville Uncorked festival gave On The Coast food columnist Gail Johnson a look at some local culinary hotspots. (

If you're looking for a culinary getaway during spring break, On The Coast food columnist Gail Johnson has a place for you: Parksville.

Johnson says a recent trip to the Vancouver Island city for the Parksville Uncorked festival showed her some pretty cool places to eat.

"Let's start with Island Sodaworks, which is a few minutes' drive from Parksville in Qualicum Beach," she told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko. "This is a darling bistro and soda shop in a converted fire hall. … the soda is unlike any other.

"It is the only yeast-free probiotic soda pop in the world. This is naturally fermented pop with microbubbles and extremely low sugar content. Imagine that: healthy pop!"

The flavours change all the time, Johnson says. Owner Mandolyn Jonasson uses traditional medicinal plants that she grows on her own small farm on Qualicum Bay. Some of the flavours include dandelion flower and citrus and balsamic violet blueberry.

Another place Johnson recommends is nano brewery Love Shack Libations, also in Qualicum Beach.

"Owner Dave Paul started making kit beer at home, then before you know it he built his own all-grain system out of a picnic cooler and cut-off keg and came up with about 16 different recipes," Johnson said. "There's a chocolatey Precious Porter and a Killer Kolsch, which uses organic leaf hops from nearby Maple Bay Hop Farms."

Johnson's final recommendation is Morningstar Farm in Parksville, home of Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Mooberry Winery.

The winery makes wines out of fruit like gooseberry, pear, and raspberry and the cheeseworks is home to a working dairy farm.

"What makes this dairy farm stand out is that it is SPCA-certified. In fact, this is the only dairy farm in B.C. has the certification," Johnson said. "It uses a voluntary milking system … a one-stall robotic milking parlour; the cows choose when they go for milking. Depending on their lactation cycle, they may get milked as many as six times a day."

The milk is used to make cheese on-site: brie; blue cheese; varieties that contain caraway, red wine and coffee; cheese curds; raclette and a Sunshine Feta, with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and herbs.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast