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

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.

BC Craft beerBC WineCraft beerFoodFood and WineRecipe

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The proposed Skaha Lake Road housing project will be modelled after the Burdock House on Winnipeg St., said BC Housing.
BC Housing panel peppered with questions about Skaha housing project

Virtual meeting involved questions about crime, level of supports, timelines

(Stock photo)
EDITORIAL: COVID-19 restrictions continue to affect us all

Canada has recorded more than 700,000 confirmed cases of pandemic

Landmark Cinemas Penticton was forced to close down when the provincial government ordered all theatres to close when new COVID-19 restrictions were brought in Nov. 19, 2020. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Despite ‘devastating’ losses the show will eventually go on at Penticton theatre

Landmark Cinemas has been offering movie popcorn since having to close in November

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

This is rendering of what the playground of the new provincially funded child care centre could look like on Edmonton Ave.
Public hearing for childcare centre rezoning Feb. 1

The Edmonton Ave. facility would add 116 more childcare spots

Charlotte is one of the resident pigs at Star's Piggly Wiggly's Sanctuary near Kelowna. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Kelowna-area pig sanctuary needs a new home

Star’s Piggly Wiggly’s Sanctuary is looking for properties in Vernon, Coldstream, and Enderby

Ladybug Landing Child Care Centre in Salmon Arm remains open as one person who was at the facility tested positive for COVID-19. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm daycare owner upset by rumours related to positive COVID-19 test

Ladybug Landing’s Leigh-Anne Chapman impressed by response from Interior Health

The Regional District of North Okanagan is cautioning residents to watch for rock slides along the Okanagan Rail Trail during freeze-thaw season. (RDNO photo)
Residents urged to watch for rockfalls on Okanagan Rail Trail

RDNO reminds rail trail travellers to heed rockfall warning signs during freeze-thaw season

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Flags line the National Mall towards the Capitol Building as events get underway for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington

A memorial for the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving

A couple living at the Summerland Waterfront Resort is trying to sell their unit because of strata changes which will require them to pay significantly higher strata fees or have their unit included in the resort’s rental pool (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Permanent residents of Summerland resort must move or face major fee increase

Permanent residents of Summerland Waterfront Resort told fees will more than double

Cumberland photographer Sara Kemper recently took the top spot in a Canadian Geographic photography contest. Photo by Sara Kemper
B.C. photographer takes top Canadian Geographic photo prize

Sara Kemper shows what home means to her in Comox Valley photo

(Big White Ski Resort)
28 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

More than 200 cases have been identified since the cluster was announced

Most Read