This is the time of year when daytime walks become filled once again with the sound of birds’ songs. Maybe their sweet chirping seems so much more pronounced in the spring because of winter’s relative absence of birdsong. It’s a yearning we don’t know that we have until we hear the first coo of a Mourning Dove after months of snow-dampened silence. Spring might be enough to turn us all into birders, even just for a short while, before their song is engulfed by the frenetic pace of summer. If you want to go to where the birds are in Kelowna, here are some hotspots for viewing and hearing these feathered friends.
Rotary Marshes – Tucked on the north end of Tugboat Bay and Waterfront Park, the Rotary Marshes provide a lovely stroll with a symphony of sounds (especially the shrill call of the Red-winged Blackbird), and regular sightings of Osprey, ducks, and even loons.
Maude Roxby Bird Sanctuary – Walk along Abbott Street to Francis and along this road toward the lake, that’s how you’ll get to the Maude Roxby Bird Sanctuary. A wonderful spot for shorebirds and a peaceful setting with a grove of Willows, this spot is a great place to see Swans, Killdeer, and Sandpipers.
Mission Creek Greenway – This tranquil walking path along the meandering Mission Creek has several entrances: Lakeshore Rd (just passed Cook Rd.), Gordon Dr., Benvoulin, KLO Road, and perhaps the most popular: Springfield Rd. just east of Dilworth. All kinds of bird life can be found here, including the odd Owl, if you’re lucky.
Marshes behind the Capital News Centre – Birds of prey, herons, and various ducks are common to see in the marshy area behind the Capital News Centre on Gordon Dr.
Chichester Bird Sanctuary – This is a small site, tucked away off Fitzpatrick Rd. in Rutland, but this excellent website and resource for birding sites in Kelowna has a very neat fact about this location: it has hosted nearly 200 species of birds, the most of any single site within the Kelowna area (thanks to Chris Charlesworth for this information). Incidentally, there are many more sites identified on that website for avid bird fans.
We are lucky to have such a wide variety of birds native to the Central Okanagan, and many wonderful parks, trails, and sanctuaries to enjoy their company. As the snow begins to melt in the warmth of midday now that March is here, we get to pause for just a moment, exactly where we stand, and just listen to their lovely song. They are announcing the tentative arrival of spring.
I was speaking with a food writer friend of mine today when she remarked with enthusiasm that Kelowna has really become a 4 season’s destination for wine and food experiences. In my mind, I scrolled through the high level of activity over these first two months of 2014, including Wine & Dine, the Canadian Culinary Championships, Okanagan Spirits’ Gin Olympics, the opening of a brand new restaurant just this week (a new neighbor for the downtown distillery), and a brand new culinary event for Kelowna to take place on March 1: Devour Kelowna. Add to this, the availability of wine tastings at wineries that remain open over the winter months along our 5 Kelowna Wine Trails, and I found myself nodding in agreement with my writer-friend. There really isn’t a season anymore when there simply isn’t anything to do from the perspective of gastronomy. And outdoor enthusiasts will laugh and say, welcome to our 4-season’s playground!
Last weekend, I had front row seats to all the intensity and anticipation of the Canadian Culinary Championships (for the details of Tourism Kelowna’s role, check out our Tourism Kelowna News Centre). It was an incredible 3 days. Kelowna can be very proud that this is the home of this culinary competition – the only stand-alone national chef’s competition this country has, other than made-for-television competitions. I was very interested in the way the competing chefs used resourcefulness to get information on Kelowna’s food suppliers – information that is crucial when you are competing against other top chefs and are working with a budget of $550 to buy ingredients for your small plates to feed 425 people. (And when going over budget docks points from your competition score.)
Granted, some of the teams had a Kelowna connection, and were already familiar with the lay of the land. The Regina team’s sous-chef, Chef James Hanna, worked at RauDZ Regional Table for 7 years, and Calgary’s Chef Duncan Ly also apprenticed with Chef Rod Butters. But it was actually the Saskatoon team that was the first to arrive at RauDZ Regional Table the night the Chefs were presented with their Mystery Wine, to go over the flavor profiles and form ingredient strategy. This story by Joanne Sasvari in the Vancouver Sun deftly describes the mood in the restaurant that night.
The next morning, I was taking Ms. Sasvari and other out-of-town media to some of our food suppliers – places I thought were likely to see activity from the Canadian Culinary Championships teams. Illichmann’s Meats & Delicatessen on Gordon was relatively peaceful when we arrived, with just the steady hum of regular customers placing orders. But the butchers in the back confirmed that they’d already been visited by a team or 2 in the early morning; back-door access. Codfather’s was also a busy place when our small group arrived to speak with Jon Crofts. This sought-after seafood store had already seen 5 teams come through. It was, after all, a white mystery wine, much to the delight of Jon and his team.
Kelowna has a great deal to offer the competing chefs and the Canadian Culinary Championships competition. It was fantastic to see the chefs make their way around Kelowna and seek out our specialty food stores and suppliers. It is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, as they say, between this prestigious chefs’ competition and our fair city.
As the Canadian Culinary Championships, the final competition of Gold Medal Plates, rolls into Kelowna this coming weekend, you can be sure of intense moments: mad ingredient shopping, feverish recipe planning, competitive wine pairing, and ingenious flavor creation. For one victorious chef, this Kelowna win will be a springboard for an illustrious career. For the lucky spectators who have their tickets to the events of the Canadian Culinary Championships, it promises to be a weekend of mouth-watering tastes and inspiring stories.
For Kelowna, this is another ringing endorsement from national culinary heavy-hitters that believe in this area as a foodie gem. And who’s to disagree? With our own star chefs in restaurants around the city, our incredible Kelowna wineries and our wealth of fresh produce and specialty farms, the evidence is certainly in place to support them.
It’s the biggest cooking competition in Canada, linked with the Olympics since it’s a fundraiser for Canada’s elite athletes. The competition draws stars from all walks: star chefs competing and judging, star food media, star athletes (past medal-winning Olympic athletes), and star entertainers. The cool thing this year is the fact that this culinary championships is coinciding with the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
Taking place on February 7 and 8, Gold Medal Plates and the Canadian Culinary Championships will feature the chefs from across the country who won the first round of Gold Medal Plates competitions in their respective cities. Get to know the competing chefs for 2014. The title of Best Chef in Canada will be decided on after three grueling competitions taking place Friday evening, Saturday morning, and the final gala evening on Saturday night. Tickets are still available if you haven’t been able to get yours yet.
Along with the intrepid chefs, a star-studded cast of athletes and entertainers will also bring pizzazz to the events. Performers Barney Bentall and Ed Robertson (Barenaked Ladies) will headline the entertainment on Saturday evening. Eight Olympic athletes including Emcee for the evening, Ashleigh McIvor (Olympic gold medalist in freestyle skiing) will bring their stories of athletic excellence to the stage; while audiences will get to vie for glittering auction items like trips hosted by Olympians and famous artists. Who will be named Best Chef in Canada this year? Get your tickets to the Saturday night gala to find out!
Just when the mid-winter blues are supposed to be setting in, Kelowna restaurants float us a little “gift” in the form of their wonderfully creative and affordable Wine and Dine menus. Now until February 2, 2014, select restaurants are offering 3-course menus for $15, $25 or $35 paired with BC VQA wines. Check out the restaurants involved in Wine and Dine, as well as their menus – there are 36 local restaurants to choose from, so the only tough decision will be picking which one to dine at tonight.
My mouth is watering as I research this column. Consider this $15 menu created by the talented Okanagan College Culinary program at their restaurant, Infusions. The first course is a sweet potato bisque with candied bacon and crème fraiche; followed by a grilled lamb sausage with wild mushroom risotto; and topped off with a chocolate brownie with maple syrup ice cream and vanilla bean crème Anglaise. Yes, all for $15 plus tax. Yum.
Or consider this $25 menu over at Cabana Grille on Lakeshore Road. The first course offers a choice of either surf & turf spring rolls or house-made butternut squash ravioli in a white wine truffle and butter sauce. The main course is a choice between double-stuffed pork chop served with seasonal vegetables and brown butter mashed potatoes, or a free range chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and served with seasonal veggies and roasted potatoes, or a vegetarian mushroom Napoleon served with veggies and balsamic soy dressed rice. Still hungry? The dessert options are a blondie-brownie with caramel sauce and cranberry compote; or a Baileys hazelnut crème brulée. No kidding – all three courses for $25 plus tax.
And at $35 plus tax, here is one menu option that had me drooling... “pan seared Quadra Island scallop”… at Poppadoms – Taste India on McCurdy Road. Aman Dosanj has created a menu based on her travels to India with her mother and sister Jasmin, exactly one year ago. The scallop (first course) is crusted with spices and comes with a coconut and ginger sauce, on micro greens. The second course features locally-sourced Cornish Game Hen prepared in regional Chennai-style with green Cardamom, clove, and cumin sauce. And for dessert, a collaboration with Sandrine French Pastry and Chocolate – a Chai-spiced Macaron with a dessert cocktail. Unbelievable.
Each course offers a wine pairing suggestion (this is not included in the $15, $25, and $35 menu) with BC VQA wines.
Seriously – you need to read these menus that the restaurants have created. They are each a work of art. It’s a perfect time to explore the best of food and wine that Kelowna has to offer. Bon appétit!
Read more Ripe with Surprises articles
- A guide for all seasons Jan 6
- Fun Kelowna stocking stuffers Dec 9
- Stuart Park Rink to open very soon Nov 25
- A time for reflection Nov 11
- Corn mazes delight in Kelowna Oct 28
- Harvest fair coming soon Oct 14
- Grapes & grains trail Sep 30
- Kelowna alive with theatre this month Sep 16
- From Kelowna farms to your table Sep 2
- Beating the heat in Kelowna Aug 19
- Perfect summer hikes Aug 5
- Chefs bring Food Day Canada to market Jul 22
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