Life-long dream achieved as Chef Ian Blom opens The Ainslie

Duncan restaurant promotes Cowichan Valley food, produce, wineries, breweries and distilleries

  • Jun. 10, 2019 11:30 a.m.

Story by Angela Cowan Photography by Don Denton

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

For Chef Ian Blom, opening his own restaurant has been a long dream in the making, and it was always meant to be a family affair. He and his wife, Kimberly, met in culinary school, and it quickly became a mutual goal; this past November, that dream became a reality when The Ainslie opened its doors in downtown Duncan.

Named for their five-year-old son, the couple’s restaurant is a tri-generational business, co-owned by Ian’s mother, Heather, and propped up by Kimberly’s tireless efforts behind-the-scenes.

The Ainslie offers up a unique fusion of fine dining menu items in a relaxed atmosphere, something Ian says hasn’t really been available in Duncan before, and it has been met with great support from the community in its first few months.

“There’s been a couple restaurants that have been ‘fine dining,’ but as far as downtown goes, it’s a lot of pub food and sushi restaurants,” he said.

The lunch menu in particular has a lot of comfort-food based dishes that offer a delicious twist, like the Fried Chicken and Waffles, marinated in soy buttermilk, with an aged cheddar waffle and thyme-infused honey. Or the Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese, made with heirloom tomatoes and caramelized fennel, and a sandwich of house onion bread, caramelized onions, Haltwhistle cheese and pesto.

“I’m testing out what people like to eat in the Cowichan Valley,” he said. “Sandwiches, really good burgers, comforting foods. People can come and feel like they’ve been filled up without a lot of grease.”

And with a menu that changes regularly, any dish on offer is guaranteed to include the freshest and most seasonal ingredients available.

Ian, who grew up in the Cowichan Valley, wanted to highlight the incredible abundance of his hometown as much as possible in designing the dishes.

“I really wanted to try and promote the Cowichan region and the produce we grow here, as well as support the breweries and distilleries in the area,” said Ian. “That’s our scheme — to put the Cowichan Valley on the map.”

“Working in Victoria, even when I was in Calgary, we were importing stuff from the Cowichan Valley,” he added, explaining it just made sense for him to focus on developing a business here. “I love living here and I wanted to give back. I love the community.”

With summer just around the corner, the team at The Ainslie is excited to promote their newly opened patio, a gorgeous, tucked-away spot surrounded by the restaurant’s gardens. It’s the perfect spot to drop in, relax and indulge in some amazing food.

“I just want to show people that you can have great food and not be overwhelmed by the restaurant itself. You can come in and be completely relaxed in an environment where you’re treated like family, with food that can stand up to any food in the world,” he said. “Flavour and fresh and seasonal, those are always our keys and passions. And it’s definitely a passion-based business.”

Soy Caramel Sauce

2 cups granulated sugar

2 Tbsp water

1 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup lime juice

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup sambal Olek

1/4 cup fresh ginger, rough chopped

8 cloves garlic, rough chopped

1/2 stalk lemongrass, rough chopped

4 star anise, whole

Add sugar and water to a heavy-bottomed pot and cook on medium heat until sugar becomes caramel in colour.

Mix remaining ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to the sugar all at once. This creates a lot of steam, so be mindful not to burn yourself.

Simmer on medium heat until mixture reduces by one third.

Strain and serve warm over grilled meats or vegetables, roasted and spiced sweet potatoes, etc.

Check out The Ainslie here.

Just Posted

B.C. oil tanker ban squeaks through final vote in Senate

Bill C-48 bars oil tankers from loading at ports on B.C’s north coast

Q & A with Rio Tinto Operations Director

Inflows between July, 2018 and June 2019 has been the second lowest since 1956

Fraser Lake business offers equine therapy to deal with life stressors

The idea is to have diverse businesses that provide more options to residents and tourists says Kim Watt-Senner

Smithers man receives two-year sentence for fatal car crash

Over a year after a fatal crash, a Smithers man has been sentenced to two years plus a day in jail.

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read