May 11, 2013 / 5:00 am
Last week I offered an itinerary for a day full of food experiences. There are many hidden gems in our region and so this week I have another possible route for you. As the summer continues, watch for future installments here and on my blog.
A healthy breakfast makes for a great start to the day; my Dad always said so when he made me sit at the table as a kid. I like the fun of having healthy and feeling decadent, even for breakfast, and I found a great place to do that at Bean Scene Coffee Works in Kelowna. They make oatmeal that belies its good-for-you reputation with toasted coconut, maple syrup and dried fruit and they serve it warm. Their location in Landmark Plaza offers an expansive patio with plants fuelled by the nitrogen-rich water coming as "waste" from the roaster - it's an environmental initiative David Suzuki would like, which was owner John's inspiration. The coffee here is an experience in itself, roasted on site in small batches with tender loving care that adds to the smoothness in the cup. John's tip: Don't drink it too hot, or you'll miss some of the layers of flavours. I like the idea of being told to take my time.
When summer is in full swing, it's great to enjoy the sun but it can sometimes be too hot to be out for long. The best of both worlds is at Okanagan Lavender Herb Farm with a relaxing meditative tour through the garden and a cooling of the core with a scoop of lavender honey ice cream or a glass of lavender lemonade. There are other edible lavender treats at their little café if I'm feeling peckish. This is the perfect place to stop and smell the flowers!
With time to reset my taste buds, I feel I should test their performance levels, and a visit to a winery sounds like just the thing. Nearby Tantalus Vineyards is another environmental wonder with their LEEDS certified building and panoramic view over some of the oldest Riesling vines in the valley. The refreshing citrus and green apple flavours brighten my mind for what's to come. Or I could wander a bit further up the road and visit the whimsical red shoe ladies at The View Winery; they make a Gewurztraminer that's like a party of flavours in my mouth, and their Pinotage Rosé is full of rhubarb and strawberry notes, like a summer concert.
As the day draws to a close it seems only fair to reflect on all my experiences... where better than overlooking the lake as I enjoy dinner, under the shadow of a pyramid? Chef Jesse Croy at Sunset Organic Bistro at Summerhill Winery likes to be directed by Mother Nature, providing on the plate what she offers up in the gardens at the winery and from local farmers and producers. It's like a virtual tour of the fields, and I feel as though I am again smelling the flowers as I taste the intense freshness that comes from foods just-picked from the earth. I do feel the energy - is that because of the pyramid? Is this what healthy is all about? It's certainly not hard to take.
May 4, 2013 / 5:00 am
This article will be the first in a series that will appear this summer, with informal "itineraries" for you to explore. Watch my Facebook page for even more hot spots, and feel free to jump in and add your own reviews!
Living in a food-centric part of Canada I can't just recommend one meal to represent the bounty we enjoy. To truly experience Okanagan food and hospitality it takes an entire day.
First I start with a hike up Knox Mountain, overlooking Lake Okanagan, where I can breathe the fresh air and smell the wild grass and feel the morning sunshine warm my face. My soul is warmed too, by the inevitable smile that comes from watching Ella frolic and bounce among the balsam root flowers.
Having worked up an honest appetite, I can splurge on a hearty breakfast so I swing around the bottom of the hill to Okanagan Street Food. Here packinghouse workers and foodies alike crowd in to sample Chef Neil's house-smoked bacon and fluffy eggs all scrambled lovingly with cheese and hot sauce in a humble whole wheat tortilla.
I don't need lunch, but it's always fun to chat with the vendors at the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market. A taste of honey, a piece of apple, some organic cheese and maybe a buckwheat crèpe with sugar and lemon tides me over until dinner. There are innovative crafters too, like "loved again" accessories given a new life, and birdhouses full of character. (NOTE: the market is only open Wednesday and Saturday. If you head out on another day of the week, a good substitute that operates through the week is Valoroso Foods, where you can choose some deli goodies or something made in their kitchen for a lunchtime picnic.)
After a leisurely afternoon (perhaps even a European style snooze is in order?), it's nice to reminisce about the day and catch up with friends at Raudz long bar, sampling the latest concoction the Liquid Chefs have created. What new fruit syrup have they incorporated this month? Then it's off to Poppadom's for a taste of India. There is so much more than Chicken Tikka here! A true family experience awaits, with mom (Jas) in the kitchen and the rest of the smiling enthusiastic clan helping out with everything from drinks at the bar to serving tables (even marketing the wonderful events throughout the year). They offer a transformation of local ingredients that showcases their beautiful heritage to their neighbours in the Okanagan. It reminds me there are many ways to demonstrate local pride.
Apr 27, 2013 / 5:00 am
I'd like to link you to a post I wrote for the Slow Food Canada newsletter, about my time as a delegate at the Salone del Gusto/Terra Madre 2012 - the international conference held every two years by Slow Food International. We are hosting the national Canadian conference here in Osoyoos this weekend and part of what we wanted to create was a "mini Terra Madre" atmosphere to share our stories with people. There is a Market of Taste on Saturday afternoon, and dinners that will showcase the chefs and producers of the region. We plan to have more events throughout the year but this weekend is a chance to show ourselves off to our fellow snails, other "Slow Foodies".
This is a cause I believe in strongly - food is at the heart of our existence and community is what keeps all of us going as individuals. Having a strong food community means being in touch with what's on your plate. If you share my passion, feel free to check and see if there is a convivium (local chapter) in your area. If you live in my region and are keen to be involved, you can contact me directly. I'd love to hear your comments on this topic too!
I had the privilege to be a part of the Slow Food Canada delegation at a worldwide celebration of food and its traditions in Italy in October called Terra Madre, and I was astounded not only at the vast variety of foods and terroirs from around the world, but also the variety we were able to showcase from Canada. It was a magical experience to be connected to so many people, simply through sharing a taste of food.
One of my favourite experiences was the "Honey Bar", a tasting booth set up by the beekeepers association of Italy, Conapi. They had samples of honey from five continents, and they took me around the planet on a tour that offered a myriad of flavours and colours, not to mention stories. Talk about a sense of place!
Did you know that there is a Japanese pressed honey that is almost the colour of maple syrup? It has a more pungent flavour than Canadian honey, and a sandy texture from the bee pollen that is included in the pressing.
There is a honey from Sri Lanka where the bees collect pollen from mangrove trees that live at the edge of the sea. The honey tastes salty.
Honey from stingless bees in Brazil is not as thick, and it has a citrus finish to it.
They did have buckwheat and dandelion honey from Quebec. The buckwheat honey was a more unique flavour, sweeter than many of the other honeys but with a sort of nutty aftertaste.
In Italy, they have Sicilian orange blossom honey and many others, but they are most proud of the chestnut honey as this is a tree that exists throughout the country, so they can say it is truly an Italian taste.
I was proud that Canadian honeys were a part of this experience that showcased tastes throughout the world. We showed ourselves as unique, but also as a part of the world. We all produce foods that sustain our people and we like to share them with others - for the pleasure of learning a new taste, and so much more. At the honey bar, like on so many other occasions at Terra Madre, I was struck by the common passion we all shared, and how willing we all were to learn about each other. Understanding the stories behind the food was as important as the taste, and it gave us a window into each other's worlds. It made me think anything is possible, if you start by gathering people around a table with food.
Apr 20, 2013 / 5:00 am
The news is full of items on all the trends about food and eating – Slow Food, the Food Revolution, the 100 Mile Diet – but does any of it really make a difference? I mean really, in the grand scheme of things is it better if I support the local farmer who is trying to grow something here instead of supporting someone who can grow the same thing more easily farther away? And if I am healthy, what difference does it make if a family somewhere in the USA or elsewhere in the world is unhealthy from obesity, or from malnourishment? How responsible are we for the world? (Are you feeling guilty? Is your morning bagel getting stuck in your craw??)
I don’t mean to sound callous; I just wanted to get your attention. I was thinking that with Earth Day approaching, it is a good time to stop and think just how much we want to do to support our planet and its fellow inhabitants. I am a big believer in consistency – even if you only want to commit to a small amount of effort, if it happens consistently that speaks volumes. I also believe that we should be honest with ourselves, and we should be selfish about enjoying our own lives. Don’t say you want to save the planet for your kids – do it so that you can breathe easier tomorrow. Then your kids will know you mean it.
So, does that mean we should eat dirt on Earth Day? Well, a bit of dirt wouldn’t hurt… like the dirt on the carrots you can buy at the Farmer’s Market, open now for the season. I think they taste better with a bit of dirt still on them. Let’s face it, fresh garden carrots taste better any way you eat them, dirty or not. I wonder if people were mass-produced like some veggies, would they lose their character too? I think I remember reading about that in a Robin Cook novel years ago.
It probably isn’t the best day to visit a fast food joint. Something about eating processed food, even if it is now in a recyclable container, seems to go against the grain of the event. Perhaps you could work on eating meals from around the world next week – that could be fun! Not local, but fun. If local is your thing, maybe visiting a locally owned restaurant would do the trick, even if it served ethnic food from another place. Maybe just thinking about the food, enjoying the bounty, is the thing to do.
Maybe if we just take a drink of water, breathe in the air, feel the sun on our faces and the grass between our toes, that will be enough to remind us of all that we have. In the forty odd years since Earth Day has existed, we don’t seem to be making great progress in improving. But then, don’t they say that life begins at 40?
Read more Happy Gourmand articles
- Recipes across the miles Apr 13
- Haggis, neeps & tatties Apr 6
- Foolish food Mar 30
- Good food, good friends Mar 23
- One hour extra - make the most of it Mar 16
- 'February made me shiver...' Mar 2
- Holiday brain Feb 23
- Fat Tuesday is fine by me! Feb 9
- Hibernation heebee jeebies Feb 2
- What goes around comes around Jan 26
- The dead of winter Jan 19
- Ooh-Mammy!! Jan 12
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