A couple of weeks ago, while in Comox for BC Shellfish and Seafood Festival, we visited The White Whale to indulge in some favourite dishes made by Chef Aaron Rail.
The building, a beautiful early 19th century brick half covered in climbing ivy, has a fairytale appearance and genteel-ness to it. The restaurant sits on the edge of a curve of the river with beautiful water scenes stretching away in both direction. Here guests show up by cars in the front, or by boats in back – they paddle and motor right up to the little pier for lunches and dinners.
The sign on the wall, surrounded by ivy speaks to the heart.
The name is based on a story that inspires:
“White Whale” is borrowed from local First Nations Legend, and refers to “Queneesh” or the Comox Glacier. Long ago when a great flood threatened the livelihood of the Indigenous people in the region, they were forced to come together as a community. They divided the work into groups; some to built more canoes, others harvested cedar bark for weaving miles of rope, fish had to be smoked, seafood dried and preserved, deer hunted and the meat cured, while others made capes and woven hats that would be needed to shed the rain. Just as they were to be overtaken by the waters, the huge icy mass of the Comox Glacier released from the land and provided a floating surface for the people to gather on for safety. The Glacier settled back into it’s spot and the legend of the Great White Whale was born.”
The White Whale restaurant honours this legend by offering a safe haven where all communities can come together and share in the bounty of the region.
Chef Rail is that chef you will see first thing in the morning at the farmers market in Comox Valley. You can’t miss him, he’s the guy with the bright red wagon overflowing with the region’s freshest products harvested by local farmers, fishermen and artisans. Chef Rail is also the kind of guy who goes out to gather whatever edible he can find from the land – mushroom foraging is one of his passions.
His attention to detail, love of the land and people, and true respect for food and food-purity is evident in the dishes, the love is addictive.
Comox Valley is one of my favourite places to go for an adventure or just a quick getaway, in one weekend you could go swimming in warm waters, shop for all kinds of goodness from the farmers market, eat out in some fantastic restaurants, chat with the people who all seems to be laid-back and relaxed (must be the air and great food), and go hiking, fishing, and so much more. From the moment you get off the ferry you will notice your senses coming alive while your mind, body and soul sink into relax mode.
Keep on finding happy-tummy trails, and keep on living in the moments.