In a past life I was a baker, so while recently in Victoria, BC, I was excited to check out Fol Epi. I got a hot tip from my friend Jay Friedman that the smoked albacore tuna sandwich was not to be missed. You can check out his take on Serious Eats. And also peruse his food exploring and reporting on his blog, Gastrolust.
Jay is additionally responsible for the most excellent sandwich photo, and was gracious enough to let me use it. But I think he wants me to stop talking about it so much as it’s making him hungry for the sandwich all over again. (Jay, I promise after this post I will pipe down about the smoked albacore tuna sandwich unless I have one in my possession that I can deliver to you in less than 30 minutes.) Anyway, back to Victoria.
Part of the fun of heading to Fol Epi is that it’s not located in the heart of the tourist throng. It’s actually a very reasonable 20 minute walk from the Visitor Centre. Just look for the Blue Bridge (the Johnson Street Bridge) and you’re on your way to Vic West.
Your walk might take you a little longer than expected, as it’s hard not to stop while crossing the bridge and look back at Victoria’s Inner Harbor. Take the time to watch boats big and small enter and leave.
And when you’ve crossed the bridge, poof! You’re in Vic West. This extremely unassuming sign lets you know you’ve arrived. You’ll stroll along Harbour Road for a few more minutes that seem like an eternity. Once you get to Fol Epi note that the front line is for coffee, the back for your bread/pastry/sandwich needs. Full confession time: I got (and ate) two sandwiches.
My second choice came thanks to advice from Hanna Raskin, a food writer and critic whose work will soon be seen in the Post & Courier in Charleston, SC. (You can also get a copy of her book, Yelp Help, which is a good read for anyone who wants to hone their food-writing skills.) The smoked albacore tuna was sadly sold out when she visited, so Hanna suggested I go for the egg salad.
One thing both sandwiches have in common: impeccable bread. Crusty and chewy perfection. Another is that the filling is not overwhelming. The tuna is very lightly smoked; it’s not like eating a campfire. And the egg salad is the opposite of soupy-with-mayo concoctions: light and lively with radish, celery, and whole grain mustard. I really didn’t feel overly indulgent eating two. If I lived in Victoria I would have settled for one, but a hungry adult who just finished a 20 minute walk (me) can certainly take down the duo.
I don’t regret all the eating at Fol Epi, but I do bemoan the lack of concurrent drinking. A glass of white wine would have been a really nice match with both sandwiches. I found that a wine I brought home from Canada and enjoyed in Seattle could have really fit the bill: White Slate. This BC white wine, made by Clean Slate Wine in Penticton, contains (as the label precisely notes) a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, some Pinot Gris, and a splash of Riesling.
I have to admit that while I know what “whole cluster pressed” means, I needed a refresher on what advantages doing so gives over removing the grapes from the stems before extracting the juice. Frog’s Leap Winery, in Napa, provides a nice explanation:
“Whole cluster pressing” is just that: the pressing of the entire grape cluster or bunch to extract a gentle, clean flavored juice. Only the juice is extracted – no seeds, skins or other grapes solids remain after the pressing. Though it may seem somewhat counter intuitive, by directly pressing the whole grape clusters while the fruit is still on the stem, we actually get less stem taste and are able to draw out a smoother flavor for the wine
I loved this wine. It has a little richness from the oak and a lively touch from the Sauvignon Blanc; a deft match for both tuna and egg.
So now you’ve got your marching orders: get to Fol Epi. And bring a friend. So you can split a couple sandwiches and a bottle of wine. Just find somewhere sunny (and legal) to do so.