Culinary sophistication added to Kelowna’s list of attractions
Michelle Hopkins, For Postmedia News
Published: Monday, May 21, 2012
Nestled on the rolling hills of the Okanagan Valley, Kelowna has long been known as a popular retreat for retirees and Albertans.
In the last decade or so, it’s also become a destination for serious foodies and wine connoisseurs. It’s easy to see the attraction; some of the Lower Mainland’s most acclaimed chefs have been lured here, temperate weather and award-winning wines by some 25 wineries, and Kelowna has a winning recipe.
The Kelowna Farmer’s Market s is the largest farmers market in the province and at its height attracts more than 165 stands.
This city is waking up from its repute as a family summer vacation to a year-round destination that offers great accommodations, farm-to-table dining and unique boutique wineries as well as the world-renowned Mission Hill; while paying tribute to its natural playground and artistic residents. A few weeks ago, I spent a few days sampling the local cuisine and sipping on wines I’d enjoyed before, as well as a few new ones.
After settling into my lakeview room at the Manteo Waterfront Resort & Villas, it was time for a short walk along the water-front boardwalk. We then drove to Summerhill Pyramid Winery for its Chef Table Dinner, a seven-course wine paired meal. Both the executive chef Jesse Croy and wine maker Eric von Krosigk engaged us with interesting and witty repartee about the locally sourced and organic dishes as well as its organic wines. My favourite red was a toss up between the Zweigelt and the cabernet sauvignon. The Zweigelt is a bold, dark and intense wine that explodes with flavour, spices and fruits.
The carte du jour was an opportunity for the young rising star, Croy, to have fun and be innovative with his cuisine. He started us off with a palette cleansing Stinging Nettle tonic. We then noshed on this season’s first picking of asparagus, which was married with a soft poached egg, foie gras and Peace Ice Wine vinaigrette. It worked and was a delicious start to our culinary journey.
We then feasted on Haida Gwaii sable fish, Thiessen Farms quail, Ashcroft Bar M Ranch lamb and a small platter of local cheese. A chocolate flan with house made hazelnut ice cream rounded out this inspirational meal.
This was my first meal during my three-day trip to experience the culinary offerings of the farm-totable movement that is well established in this city of perpetual sunshine.
The next morning, after sleeping like a baby (the beds at Manteo are seriously comfortable), I checked out Monika Walker’s Okanagan Grocery, Artisan Breads location. The 28-year-old German-raised Walker was Voted Top 40 Foodie Under 40 by Western Living magazine last year. Walker owns two locations and sells her organic breads to some of the top restaurants in Kelowna. The Dubrulle International Culinary Arts graduate is as passionate as the other farm-to-table faithful and it shows in her artisan breads, scones, muffins, spreads, soups and other goodies.
She relies on the farmers for her fruit, Blackwell Dairy Farm for her dairy products, her organic flour (from Wolfgang’s Grain & Flour, which you can purchase at the Farmers’ Market), and other ingredients. (okanagangrocery.com).
Hundreds of people descend on the Kelowna’s Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market to buy organic fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, bread, coffee, pastries, plants, and little culinary delights such as crepes, paninis and smoothies, to name just a few. This is the largest farmers market in the province and at its height attracts more than 165 stands.
I was lured to the Sunshine Farm stand, where its owners John and Sher Russ sell certified organic plant seeds. My partner’s son, Kylo Hoy, is a chef and grows his own produce. He was thrilled when I told him he was going to have Indigo Rose and Fargo Heirloom tomatoes seeds.
I left, my arms filled with organic carrots, organic cheese from Jerseyland Organics, and baked goods from Quail’s Farm.
The farm-to-table movement is growing here and its chefs are embracing this movement that our country’s pioneers did naturally.
At the Wild Apple Restaurant in the Manteo, the journey from seed, to plant, to table could be called an obsession for award-winning executive chef Bernard Casavant. He is a passionate proponent for fresh and local produce; offering his patrons an ever-changing menu that is both unique and has a strong community connection. (FYI: If you love tomatoes, Casavant creates a number of mouthwatering dishes using Heirloom tomatoes).
The affable chef likes having a menu shaped by the seasons. Casavant is on first-name basis with most, if not all, the farmers who grow food for his guests to enjoy. That fastidious nature shows in the plates that come out of his kitchen. I was able to enjoy both of my breakfasts and lunch here, and each mouthful was sheer culinary pleasure – from my morning egg-white omelette with fresh spinach, heirloom tomatoes and kale covered with warm goat cheese, to my roasted carrot brie soup and spiced lentil quinoa falafel at noontime.
My last night, I dined at the Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar in Kelowna’s cultural district. Its owner/chef/sommelier, multi-award winning Mark Filatow, is another Western Living Top 40 Foodie Under 40 winner. The seasoned chef has long undertaken the same philosophy, emphazising the best artisan producers of the Okanagan region and surrounding areas, using the restaurant to showcase farmers and their product to its guests. Our threecourse meal began with seared Quadra Island scallops and ended with a chocolate mousse that was divine.
A visit to Arlo’s Honey Farm
The sun was shining and there was a light lake breeze that cooled the air.
Here we were at Arlo’s Honey Farm, rows of plants poking through the sculpted mounds of soil, nurtured by owners Helen Kennedy and her husband Rick Appel’s hands.
This 14-acre farm is another farm-to-table movement devotee. Although Arlo’s is well-known for its selection of honey, the couple also grows fruits and vegetables for some of the city’s finest restaurants, such as Summerhill’s Sunset Bistro and the
Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar.
But it’s the bees that Kennedy can speak about for hours. A selftaught bee-keeper, her honey has won numerous awards.
P.S.: Arlo’s will be celebrating International Day of the Bee (May 29th) on Sunday, May 27 with a tour, free wine tasting, a barbecue, honey samples and live entertainment. This free event runs from 11 a.m. to 3: 30 p.m. Last year, it attracted nearly 500 people.
Besides Summerhill Pyramid Winery, which is Canada’s largest organic vineyard, I had a chance to check out The View Winery. A relative newcomer to the Okanagan, it opened in 2007. However, the family has a long rich history in the region. Proprietor Jennifer Turton-Molgat is a fifth generation Turton/Ward. The family has lived on this property since the 1920s. Historically, it was an apple orchard but in the mid-90s, the rows of apple trees were replaced with vines. Initially, Turton-Molgat was going to build a new wine shop on the hillside but she opted to revamp the historic packing house built by her great grandfather Ward in 1922.
The tasting room has exposed original bricks on the walls, rough hewn wood floors and a sliding old farm door she found thrown into a pile. The View has already garnered awards since its inaugural vintage in 2007. I was especially taken by the 2009 Reserve Pinotage and the 2009 Pinotage, silky, elegant and fairly robust reds. You can’t miss this winery, located on East Kelowna’s Fab Five Wine Trail; just look for a large red shoe above the sign!
Finally, the food, wine and craft spirits here are a great complement to the area’s other tourism attributes such as its beaches, nightlife, golf courses, boating, and other outdoor activities.
For more information about Kelowna’s Wine Trails and for the Farm to Table Restaurants, visit tourismkelowna.com.
AT A GLANCE
Manteo Resort, Waterfront Hotel & Villas, 3762 Lakeshore Rd., Kelowna Toll free: 1-800-445-5255 Website: manteo.com.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery’s nest Chef Table Dinner, a seven-course wine paired meal in its lakefront Sunset Organic Bistro happens on May 31. It is limited to 24 people so if you are interested, call toll free 1-800-667-3538 or visit summerhill.bc.ca.
Arlo’s Honey Farm, 4329 Bedford Lane. Phone: 1-250-764-2883 or visit arloshoneyfarm.com. Tours run all summer long.
Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market is open Saturdays and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, visit kelownafarmersandcraftersmarket.com.
© Postmedia News 2012