February 23, 2014

Crow and Gate, Cedar, BC

A couple of weeks back, it was time for the next race in the Vancouver Island series, and Andrea and I headed to Cedar.  Apparently, Nanaimo-ites make jokes about Cedar, like Victorians make jokes about Nanaimo.  I don't know why, this is just rural Vancouver Island to me.  Fields, forests, houses and firehalls about a kilometer from anything else.  Or so it seems.

So, we brave the cold weather (it was above freezing), I armed with my mother's knitted gloves, Andrea with all the coffee in Starbucks, and run 12 km.  It was tiring, but not exhausting, which is just how it should have been for me.   Trying to build distance and endurance, not trying to set personal bests.  Though I did beat last years time by a minute, so that shows good things are happening.  But I have plenty of room for improvement. But before we turn this into a running blog... food!  We warmed up after the race, got on extra layers and headed to the Crow and Gate.

The pub is in middle of the rural idyll, down a short track, next to a duck pond. All brick walls, wood beams, plaster walls and horse brasses.  It's styled on a South England country pub, so I felt right at home.  One big old fire, two small bars to order from (no floor service, just like the home country) and collections of wooden tables surrounded by benches and battered (rustic?) wooden chairs.  You'd think it was built in 1832, not 1972.  I've heard claims it was shipped piece-by-piece from the UK, but their website doesn't go into much detail on the construction.

British and Irish beers are on tap, but it's mostly nitro-kegged stuff that doesn't capture the flatter, warmer British bitters of my formative years.  Still, it's pretty realistic of the choice you'd get in a lot of places before the real ale revolution took place in the nineties.  Smithicks, Carlsberg, Guinness.  All good stuff, and a couple of local taps.  My tip, the local taps are better than the import ales.  But if they ever found a barrel of Greene King IPA or Bass in there, I'd be begging for a drive out there.

Food wise, it's a typical, but very extensive list of standard British pub food.  Instead of one pie, one ploughmans, a couple of sandwich choices and maybe fish and chips, you have your choice of several pies, several 'platters', scotch eggs and other delicacies.  Note, a scotch egg is not a egg cooked in single malt.  Which is just as well.

I went for the steak and kidney pie.  It's a pot pie rather than a enclosed pie, with a bowl of steaming stew topped with a square of puff pastry.  It was delicious.  The savory tang of the kidney mixed in with the well cooked braising steak took me back.  Some people hate kidneys, claiming they can taste the original function of the organ.  I love them in pie.  The mouth feel is different from everything else.  Slightly grainy, tender to bite into, but firm.  Joyful.  Served with a tennis ball sized scoop of potato salad and greens, this refilled all sorts of vital stores.

I had failed to explain to Andrea that the Smoked Salmon platter would be cold, not hot.  Not being familiar with the ploughman's, I am not sure what she expected, and my bad for not describing very well.  It was a huge chunk of cold smoked salmon, served with a pile of greens, the potato salad, some bread and I think cheese too.  Not necessarily cold winter's day fuel.  I tasted the salmon and it was well smoked, flaky and all salmon can be. But not warm.  At least it wasn't real British style and served sort of lukewarm...

For afters, we ordered Pecan Pie.  This was a hit.  Big chunk of pie, smothered in fresh whipped cream (or maybe out of a canister, who knows), garnished with a chocolate strand wafer.  Nutty, sugary with a buttery biscuit base.  The sugar high came fast.  Attenuated by my previous pie, thank goodness or we'd have had to sit and wait in the car while my glucose levels stopped spiking.  But in all forms, what was needed.

I really like this place.  It feels like the UK, but in that nostalgic way that never really existed in the first place.  I like the going to the bar to get service.  I like the low ceilings, random bar mats and brewery giveaways.  I love the variations in the art on the simple idea of a 'Crow' and a 'Gate'.  The downside it's too far away from here.  But then, memories are always best revisited not to often, lest the shine comes of them.

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