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Dinner at Merridale Cidery

Apples at Merridale Cidery

Our entertainment, Eric Harper

Apples at Merridale Cidery

Have you ever been to a restaurant that evokes that certain kind of emotional response? The atmosphere is rustic and charming, the food simple yet elegant. The smells and sounds are what draw you in, but the real anchor is waiting at the table. That is what Merridale Cidery in The Cowichan Valley does to me.

Merridale Cidery entrance

Apples at Merridale Cidery

My husband and I, our son and a couple friends and their daughter all gathered for a fall meal there a week or so back. Set out in the rural landscape of the Cobble Hill area on Vancouver Island, Merridale Cidery features a fantastic Bistro, La Pommeraie (The Apple Orchard). Like many restaurants in this area (and around the nation, presumably), they use mostly local, in season food. Supporting local farmers is a mantra of sorts, and it is being taken up by chefs across the globe. Not only does it add an intense freshness to the meal, but it brings you closer to your food. Merely a generation ago, people were so far removed from their food sources, that a lot of people had no idea how meat was processed. Even now, this a truth far too often quoted in the media. You won’t often find me going out for dinner, as we live miles away from most restaurants, but when we do, this is the style of venue we choose.

Merridale has been around for for 9 years, and started out with just two people, Janet Docherty and Rick Pipes. Acquiring the property in 2000, they built it up into an established cidery and also make North America’s best Calvados-style brandy. Tasting like sweet apple cider on the first note and finishing up like smooth apple pie and butter. We always pick up a bottle whenever we make a stop here.

Merridale Cidery jug of Traditional Cider

My husband and I arrived at that transitional hour of the evening, when the sun begins it’s slow descent into the horizon. The sun was perfect for photography and added a certain flavour to the already mellow feeling of being on an apple orchard, in the middle of an island, seemingly, adrift on the Pacific Ocean on the West Coast of British Columbia.

Bread at our table the moment we sat down

We started with some freshly baked bread (from the outdoor stone oven) with marinara dipping sauce, and waited for our friends to arrive.We also ordered a liter of their Traditional Cider to share.

Entertainment was provided by a very skilled guitarist and vocalist, Eric Harper. All I have to say is his renditions of a certain Leonard Cohen song (Hallelujah), led me straight to his card table to purchase a CD. Amazing, only adding to the layers of evocative emotions already playing out that evening.

Eric Harper, our entertainment

We happened to have come on the last Sunday Night pizza night of the year. This is Canada, things close during the fall and winter, especially outdoor venues. So we were happy to dig into what was on offer that night. Although, we didn’t really have a choice, as that was all that was on offer.

Pizza Night menu at Merridale Cidery

We started with a salad of fresh greens for 4 to share, which arrived surrounded in delicious gooey, cheese bread. Simple and yet there was a complexity to the tastes in this dish that made me wish it was the main attraction. It might have been the apple cider vinaigrette or the fresh picked greens and tomatoes, but either way it was a fantastic start to our meal.

Salad and cheese bread for 4

Next we had to decide on the main event. There were four pizzas on offer, so we decided to order one of each. Seafood with Brie, Sausage and banana peppers with caramelized onions, Vegetarian and a Pesto Pollo.

All their pizzas and breads are baked outside in the wood fired oven. I’m a big fan of wood fired ovens, the taste and texture they give to breads is astounding.

Seafood pizza at Merridale Cidery

Outdoor stone oven at Merridale Cidery

Our pizzas were delicious, the cider, a local treasure and the desserts (apple pie) were to die for. I took pictures, but had imbibed a bit too much and the manual focus on my new lens would not cooperate with me, you’ll just have to imagine it for yourselves.

Apples at Merridale Cidery

Enjoying every last moment

As the sun finally slipped beneath the distant hills, we were all left with full tummies and wonderful memories. Nestled in the rural landscape of the Pacific Northwest, this little treasure of a restaurant begs to be visited. If you live around here and haven’t made the journey yet, you are surely missing out on one of the Island’s best.

Bistro (at Merridale Estate Cidery) on Urbanspoon

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