UPDATE SEPT 2011: Sadly Plenty recently closed, and has joined the RIP file. Trevor still occasionally updates the blog if you want to stay in touch.
Last time I was in Victoria, in the early spring of this year, I discovered what is now one of my all-time favourite food shops. I can't really call it a grocery store, even though with the variety of foods available there, it could qualify as one, but it's more of a gourmet food shop, or maybe a food lover's equivalent of a kid in a candy store. When I first walked into Plenty, the thing that blew me away was that there were so many things there that I'd never seen before! I've shopped in a lot of crazy food stores across the country, and seriously, this is one of the best.
To add to that, Plenty is owned by the incredibly charming Trevor Walker, who is originally from the prairies (just like me--coincidentally it turns out we went to the same highschool and had the same graphic arts teacher!), and if you don't strike up a conversation with him, you are missing half the fun. Within minutes of entering the shop, he'd brewed up a pot of blooming jasmine tea, that I can only describe as so fragrant it was like I was actually drinking a flower. A lot of what makes Plenty such a great shop is that Trevor is a true believer in ethical business practices--he purposefully seeks out products that are local, ethically made, environmentally friendly, organic, and unique. If you don't want to take my word for it, this is what he had to say about the concept behind the store:
My Dad's farm was between Plenty and Stranraer, SK. The name Plenty to me represents hope and optimism - something that I think is needed now as we begin to realize how we have become rather maladapted to much that sustains us...I think the name also expresses values of community and caring...stewardship and the necessity of planning for the winter, for next season’s harvest, and for future generations...the word Plenty suggests a celebration of the earth’s bounty and gratitude for simple, honest pleasures. Reconnecting to local food, participating in the joy of great food, and experiencing the satisfaction of producing food - are all so important and help to sustain us in so many ways. I hope that Plenty helps to promote the craftspeople that create great food and to showcase food as a craft.
Trevor is planning some events at the store, including some with the local Slow Food chapter, so check back here for updates on the event calendar. The store has recently joined the Foodroots Distributors Co-operative to promote pocket produce markets in the city and the incredible Foodroots monthly feasts. He also sent me a list of some of the great local products that they currently carry, so consider this your personal shopping list!
- We have some wonderful BC cheeses - my favourite right now is a boccoccini style cheese fromNatural Pastures in Comox that is made with milk from a herd of water buffalo at Fairburn Farm in the Cowichan Valley.
- We also have a wonderful oatcake made by two local women - Bonnie and Bea - Bonnie Bea's Oatcakes. They are fantastic and Bonnie drops them off twice a week.
- A women in Cowichan Station brings down fantastic chocolate truffles each week - Patty uses organic dark chocolate and incorporates as many local ingredients as possible. For instance, she made a maple pecan bar using Vancouver Island Big Leaf Maple Syrup and she makes a Cherry Point Blackberry Port (from the Cherry Point Vineyard) truffle.
- The Big Leaf Maple Syrup is also a favourite item - Deirdre Bruce who lives near the store brought some in and asked if I'd be interested in selling it. She is a masters student at U-Vic researching the potential on the island for a maple syrup industry.
- April Caverhill's cards are also a favourite as are Robi's (www.blue-lantern.ca).
- We have some incredible coffee from Moziro Coffee Roasters and Chocolatiers in nearby Shawnigan Lake, BC
- I hope to be carrying more products from the Fruit Tree Project
(www.lifecyclesproject.ca/initiatives/fruit_tree/) - we carry an interesting apple cider vinegar that is made with apples they have collected from around the city.
- Also, nifty non-food from BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) and Cedar Seven Designs in Vancouver and Polychrome Fine Arts in Victoria