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With Hudson’s on First (Gold), Top Chef contender Dan Hudson is delivering big-city food in a heritage house smack in the middle of Cowichan Valley farmland. He’s got a deft hand with seafood (even his fish and chips is elevated with roasted lemon and apple-fennel slaw). Rabbit terrine remains a judge fave, ditto the fine winter treat of roast duck with red cabbage and endive. “Dan’s cooking is a wonder to behold and a sheer pleasure to consume.” At Sooke Harbour House (Silver), new blood in the kitchen has breathed life back into the menu, with returning chef Olivier Keinast (he took time out to farm and forage) refreshing and re-inspiring this West Coast icon. With chefs Warren Barr and David Sider at the helm, there is a renewed energy at The Pointe at the Wickaninnish Inn (Bronze) as well. Judges appreciated the kitchen’s returned focus on the region, sourcing cynamoka berries, wild mushrooms, sea truffles, and gooseneck barnacles. Ace cocktail and small plates menus-and superb wine and single-malt scotch lists-pull focus from the, yes, breathtaking views.