I used to think of a Nanaimo Bar as crunchy coconut and cocoa base with creamy custard filling topped with rich chocolate or just a cure for a bad day! The traditional Nanaimo Bar dates back to 1952 and is said to be originated from Nanaimo now has a completely different meaning after the Nanaimo Bar Trail.
I was greeted with the inventor of the Nanaimo Bar Trail, Chelsea Barr. Chelsea escorted my group (my husband, mother-in-law and nonna) and I to Mon Petit Choux, a french cafe. Located in the Old City Quarter, Mon Petit Choux offers french pastry style foods made from New Zealand butter.
Living in New Zealand, I know how creamy the dairy products are so I knew before the first bite that breakfast was going to be rich and creamy. During our visit, we sampled the Mon Petit Choux version of a Nanaimo Bar which is gluten free and using Italian butter cream topped with chocolate gauche.
We set off to learn the history of Nanaimo, at the Nanaimo Museum. Steve was surprised to read that back in the coal mining years there was 1 pub for every 100 men in Nanaimo. There was also the display of the traditional Nanaimo Bar recipe.
It was time to continue the trail and walk up to 407 Fitzwilliam Street where we sampled the Nanaimo Bar Cupcake at A Wee Cupcakery. This trendy and cute little shop offers some of the most amazing cupcakes.
Right across the road we stepped into McLeans Specialty Foods, Vancouver Island’s Premier Cheese Shop. Offering a unique selection of fresh imported delicacies and specialty food products as well as over 100 varieties of cheese from around the world. We picked up the traditional Nanaimo Bar, that sits in my freezer waiting for a special occasion.
Now for those ice cream lovers, the Nanaimo Bar Sundae is worth a try. This ice cream parlor located in the back of New York Style Pizza & Pasta offers a towering Nanaimo Bar Sundae. The restaurant is open throughout the year however Jakob’s Ice Cream Parlour is only open during the high season mid May till September.Occasional there will be one person in the restaurant celebrating a birthday and out will come the Nanaimo Bar Sundae followed by a few onlookers drooling over this impressive presentation with a cherry on top.
We made our way back down into the Old City Quarter for lunch at the Modern Cafe. Located at 221 Commercial Street and a landmark in the downtown since 1946 which at the time was a Chinese Restaurant. New owners have taken over this May and have created a new menu designed by Scott Cooper and Bryan Rodier. Their aim is to offer fine dining at cafe prices. The cafe also offers their own roasted coffee! We sipped our Nanaimo Bar Martini and enjoyed lunch.
Steven enjoyed this appetizing house-made burger with salad. Lina savored a rich creamy Seafood chowder. I really recommend this cafe – great food and prices.
Holding us to her promise, Chelsea said there was more… I didn’t think I could manage another type of Nanaimo Bar. We walked up Commercial Street to Pirate Chips where I was present the deep fried Nanaimo Bar. I definitely couldn’t resist the deep fried bar which was dipped in a cinnamon batter before it was deep fried. Needless to say, the bar was devoured quickly.
Our final destination for the Nanaimo Bar trail was at Minnoz Restaurant & Lounge. We sat admiring the scenery and relaxed over a nice cup of tea to enjoy my personal favorite, the Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake.
The Nanaimo Bar Trail is a self guided tour that takes you through downtown and the Old City Quarter tasting different versions of the infamous Nanaimo Bar. A tour you might wish to break up over a couple of days as it could get overwhelmingly sweet!
WARNING -walking is suggested to burn off a few calories before testing the next selection. After tasting the assortment, try making it yourself. You can find the traditional Nanaimo bar recipe on the City of Nanaimo’s website www.nanaimo.ca.