Port Alberni creators fuse nature, urban flavour


Port Alberni, BC – From foraging in the Alberni Valley to distilling locally infused spirits in downtown Port Alberni, local makers like Célia Auclair and Nilo Du Plessis channel their passions to blend urban and nature experiences into a concoction that you can only find here. 

One, a magician who literally eats the forest for dinner, and the other you’ll find serving out of a 1969 Citroen truck that sits in the middle of his downtown Port Alberni gin factory. 

The two artisans have forged a distinct partnership, blending urban and nature in much the same way as the once-divided twin cities of Port Alberni did, when the north and south were merged in 1967. 

Join Auclair and Du Plessis, to uncover Port Alberni in this first of a new “Love for the Alberni Valley” #ExplorePortAlberni series. Through their eyes—and curated recommendations—you’re invited to #ExplorePortAlberni and discover its lush, intoxicating twin city vibe.

WATCH: meet Port Alberni makers who bring flavour to the local scene

Watch Port Alberni makers fuse nature, urban flavour on YouTube.

For the love of: Alberni nature 

Célia Auclair, Forest for Dinner 

Born and raised in France, Célia Auclair has that outside-in perspective. “What I love about the Alberni Valley is that it's such a diverse and rich ecosystem that is really unique. 

We've got all the waterfalls, the rivers, trees, different plants and herbs that grow naturally around here,” explains Auclair. 

Port Alberni BC Foraging 10 Alex Taalman Zenseekers
Photo: Sunseta Media
Célia Auclair welcomes visitors to Port Alberni on foraging expeditions, to learn about local flora.

“A weekend with friends for me includes a hike up Gracies’ lookout, a coffee shop tour, a hike to Wiener Falls and of course a stop at Antidote Distillery to sample our collaboration,” explains Auclair.

Score Auclair’s interpretation of a great few days in the Alberni Valley off of this two-part itinerary featured on the Alberni Valley Tourism’s website

Driving over 20,000 kilometres of logging road per year, Célia, her husband/business partner Ben Patarin (who has his masters in Agro Forestry – the art of bringing bounty out of the bush) and the Forest for Dinner crew bring out to their connections 45 products from 85 plant life specifies found across the Alberni Valley and secret areas of the Island.

Port Alberni BC Foraging Alex Taalman ZenSeekers
Photo: Sunseta Media
Ben Patarin's education in Agro-Forestry helps him identify plants and materials for edible and other uses.

“This place has so many of the right ingredients, that provide new flavours, and it’s all right here in the Alberni Valley,” says Patarin. 

For the love of: Alberni urban fare 

Nilo Du Plessis, Antidote Distilling 

This urban magician allows you to get a taste of both worlds from the sip of a glass. 

“We bring the nature into this urban setting by partnering with a company like Forest for Dinner who's out there foraging seasonal and very unique botanicals right out our back door,” explains Du Plessis.

Port Alberni BC Antidote Distilling Alex Taalman ZenSeekers
Photo: Sunseta Media
Antidote Distilling takes local flavours and adds their special flair, served out of this vintage 1969 Citroen.

“We combine it with what we do in our spirits and create unique products like our gins and our vodkas to show the essence of those unique botanicals.” 

When Nilo’s gal was recruited from South Africa as part of the City of Port Alberni’s doctor recruitment strategy, he tagged along, and brought his beverage production experience with him.

Port Alberni BC Antidote Distilling Alex Taalman ZenSeekers
Photo: Sunseta Media
Antidote Distilling and Forest for Dinner have teamed up to present unique, collaborative menu items featuring foraged ingredients prepared locally.

“What I love about the Alberni Valley is it's literally a valley that offers everything in one spot and more. And we've labeled our spirits the Spirit of Alberni. And that apart from our spirits, it actually shows what we've got here. 

We've got a spirit here in the Alberni Valley that no one else has, and that's what we love about Port Alberni."

What was a three-year offer, has now turned into a six year love affair with their Alberni Valley surroundings.

The folks at Alberni Valley Tourism captured just a shot of Nilo’s enthusiasm for his inspiring surroundings by creating this itinerary from his recommendations 

The beauty thing here is back in the era of the twin cities, you had to choose whether to live in the north or the south. But a century later, you can live in both worlds and walk away complete. 

When you go 

Port Alberni resides within the Alberni Valley – about an hour drive from Nanaimo. Check in with Alberni Valley Tourism for a wealth of local tips to explore the area. 

Meet the Nuu-chah-nulth people
The Alberni Valley lies within unceded territory of the Tseshaht First Nation (sis sha ahtah) and Hupačasath First Nation, two of the fourteen Nations of the Nuu-cha-nulth people of western Vancouver Island. Before you go, learn some of the traditional language with this awesome resource.

Tips on where to stay
Sproat Lake Landing Resort not only offers the Dellas Café all fall and winter, but their hotel on the lake is wide open. Cuddle up to the coast that much closer when you #explorePortAlberni with your lake side basecamp (from here you are less then 100 kms to Long Beach).

Friends enjoy the lake, fireside at Sproat Lake Landing Resort.
48-hour in Port Alberni with Nilo DuPlessis

Grab this map and head out on your own, customized Port Alberni adventure featuring Nilo DuPlessis' recommendations.

More Love for Port Alberni 
Watch for next months’ editions as the 2nd and 3rd parts of “For the Love of the Alberni Valley” series, as we hear from more local entrepreneurs and residents on inspiring a love for the Alberni Valley. #ExplorePortAlberni 

It’s guides like Célia and Nilo who can leave you with experiences that might just put you on the path to living here; they’ll tell ya, it’s just that good! 

Experience it for yourself, go #ExplorePortAlberni this fall and while you do, feature the #ExplorePortAlberni hashtag so we might feature you on our socials.

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