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

Mount Benson park users now have 100 more parking spaces

Regional District of Nanaimo opens new parking lot on Benson View Road

Nanaimo council grants development permit for 170 apartments near Long Lake

Concerns raised over traffic around Rutherford Road

Man to be sentenced for sexual abuse of young girl in Nanaimo

Stephen Mark Castleden also sentenced for child pornography-related charges

RCMP investigating suspicious fire at Nanaimo apartment building

Early morning fire ignited under balcony at building on Glen Eagle Crescent

House fire displaces family of five in Nanaimo

Dog and cat still unaccounted for following house fire on East Wellington Road on Monday

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Editorial: Make it out to the night market this summer

First Commercial Street Night Market of the summer is this Thursday, June 20

B.C. man faces deportation over father’s honour-killing conviction

Father lied to immigration, was later acquitted of charges in Jassi Sidhu’s murder

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

30 years later: B.C. woman uses sidewalk chalk to reclaim site of her sexual assault

Vancouver woman didn’t think her powerful story, written in chalk, would ignite such support

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Bike and hike elsewhere

Letter writer disappointed in Nanaimo council for even considering discussing military range access

B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted on Vancouver Island

Slain friend motivates rookie football player to make it with hometown B.C. Lions

Jaylen Sandhu, stabbed to death in 2014, a source of inspiration for promising RB Jamel Lyles

Most Read