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Okanagan-Taste

Finding a place to live

Housing, hiring, and hospitality

It’s becoming a repeated refrain in the hospitality industry in the Okanagan and many other places:

“where can we find more staff, and where are they going to live?”

When it comes to the wine industry, perhaps we haven’t yet reached a critical tipping point when it comes to staffing, but it’s coming. As yet, unlike restaurants, it’s rare that a winery must limit its hours due to a lack of front-of-house people, but it’s coming.

And so, a call out to those on the front lines of finding staff to think about attending the Hiring and Workforce Housing Forum on Sept. 18 in Penticton, an event hosted by the City of Penticton’s Economic Development department.

“Finding great people has been increasingly challenging over the last few years for a variety of reasons, and fast-growing industries such as wine and beverage find themselves competing even more for that available talent,” said Jennifer Vincent, who has put the event together.

“Often companies are finding they are recruiting from outside the region meaning that new staff must relocate, but where will they live? If they’re seasonal staff, what kind of short-term affordable housing options are available?

“The forum is a chance to discuss these needs with the development community and to explore how the various employment sectors in the region might come together to create some really smart solutions to an ongoing problem.”

Speakers run the gamut from university professors to experts in immigration – temporary foreign workers is a hot topic in many industries – to representatives from B.C. Housing and leaders in entrepreneurship.

“The forum is an opportunity to take a day to dive into learning how to optimize how you market to potential employees and you can even sign up to produce a recruitment video, leveraging your learnings throughout the day and supported with professional videographers,” Vincent said.

There is no easy solution, but coming together for interactive discussions with colleagues, both in hospitality and other industries, might be a good place to start.

For more information and to register, visit: https://www.hiringandhousingforum.com/

UPCOMING EVENTS

Sept. 13 and Oct. 11, Okanagan Falls: Liquidity Winery hosts two Harvest Winemakers Dinners, with a sparkling wine reception followed by a five-course dinner.

Sept. 14, Naramata: The first event of the Mountain Music Series, featuring a three-course dinner and live music.

Sept. 18, Kelowna: Join PipART Creations at Volcanic Hills to create some art – Mixed Media Wine Bottles.

Sept. 21, Kelowna: Appleooza, a cider tasting event, takes place at the Packinghouse with a number of cideries and food trucks.

Sept. 27, Okanagan Falls: Meatstock takes place at Wild Goose Vineyards. An evening of meats prepared by the Smoke and Oak Bistro, plus wine pairings.



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A toast to B.C. producers

With the bounty of late summer hitting store shelves, I hope you’ve noticed a logo hanging next to local products, and maybe that’s a factor in deciding what should be in your shopping cart.

Buy BC.

What is Buy BC? And why does it matter?

It’s not just for produce, but for everything you might put on your table, from beef to salmon to desserts, paired with local wine, freshly pressed juices, a craft beer or cider, or a martini made from local gin or vodka…the list goes on.

Buy BC promotes all these ingredients, and was relaunched by the provincial government a couple of years ago as a cost-sharing funding program to support local growers, producers, farms, restaurants and more.

Look for the Buy BC symbol when you’re shopping, and choose products that are grown, harvested, raised and processed locally by your neighbours all over the province.

Why? First, you’re supporting the local economy and probably a nearby farm or, quite often, a family business.

Second, you’re reducing your carbon footprint. How ‘bout dem apples from the Okanagan? Around 12 varieties are grown in province, and rather than source your Granny Smiths (my favourite), from further away, it takes less gas and emissions to get them to the store from a nearby orchard.

Third, don’t we all want to know where our food comes from? I look for the “grown in” info. The closer that cabbage was grown to my kitchen, the happier I am. It surely will taste better than a bag of Brussel sprouts that had to fly here.

The Buy BC website includes a list of restaurants, where to find farmers’ markets, what’s in season, a featured recipe. There is also info for a province-wide, annual menu-planning session for farmers, ranchers, chefs and members of the food and beverage industry to create more opportunities to bring local food to plates around the province.

The event is called Every Chef Needs a Farmer, Every Farmer Needs a Chef and happens Nov. 12 in Vancouver.

Here in the Okanagan and nearby valleys, we’re lucky to be so close to the land and people grow and raise everything around us.

There’s nothing fresher than a pear that was picked a few hours before you hopped in the car to go get it, maybe baked with a local cheese, drizzled in local honey made, next to a good glass of Okanagan wine.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Sept. 14, Naramata: The annual Naramata Tailgate Party takes place at the Naramata Heritage Inn, with multiple wineries from the Naramata Bench.

Sept. 18, Kelowna: Join PipART Creations at Volcanic Hills to create some art – Mixed Media Wine Bottles.

Sept. 21, Kelowna: Appleooza, a cider-tasting event, takes place at the Packinghouse with a number of cideries and food trucks.



What's in an award?

Two big things are happening at many wineries right now, or soon.

Harvest is one.

If you have friends who make wine, they will emerge around Halloween. And if they aren’t yet in harvest, they are probably bottling.

The second?

It’s awards season.

You’ve likely received a few emails, or seen social media posts from your favourite wineries with recent medals announced, and in mere weeks, it will be judging time for the fall version of the Okanagan Wine Festivals.

How do you judge a wine? And does a medal make a difference in your choice of bottle, or not?

I have had the privilege of judging a number of food and wine competitions over the years, from donuts to mystery ingredient chef challenges to a flight of more than 50 rosés and a dozen cocktails in a night.

Don’t hate me, someone has to do it.

Wineries are asked to submit wines to numerous award programs all the time, but not all awards are created equal. It pays to look at the list of judges and their credentials, not to mention if there is peoples’ choice category you can participate in.

But what about judging?

It is not as easy as it looks.

Before a wine competition, like those 50 pink wines I mentioned, the judges have to clear palates. No spicy food the night before, don’t brush your teeth right before you arrive, and hopefully you don't have the sniffles or a looming allergy attack.

And you need to know a few technical things. For example, if you’re judging several dozen chardonnays, you need to have a baseline of what a chard should be:

  • how it looks
  • how it smells
  • how it tastes,
  • look for the ones that stand out, are true to the varietal, and without faults.

Eventually, your taste buds will tire. You may disagree with your fellow judges. And by the end, you will probably just want large club soda to refresh yourself.

In the end though, does an award really matter?

Yes, if you are unfamiliar with a wine or winery, and you’ll looking for a bottle that is as close to a sure bet as you can get with wine.

But no, if you like the wine for what it is, it tastes good to you, and you can raise a glass with friends and simply enjoy.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Aug. 29, Penticton: Join Wild Goose Vineyards and Winery for a long table dinner with Joy Road Catering.

Aug. 30-31, Okanagan Falls: Pop up tasting bar with Mayhem Wines, one of the smaller producers in BC Wine. 

Aug. 31, Summerland: Cod Gone Wild performs at Thornhaven Estates Winery.

Sept. 1, Naramata: DJ Shakes is at Legend Distilling for Silent Disco.

Sept. 1, Keremeos: Head to the Grist Mill in the Similkameen for Astronomy Night.

Sept. 14, Naramata: The annual Naramata Tailgate Party takes place at the Naramata Heritage Inn, with multiple wineries from the Naramata Bench.



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Fair food and top chefs

It’s not fall-fair season just yet, but there are a number of agricultural fairs and exhibitions coming up soon.

That means it’s time for fair food, chef competitions, and getting to know where your ingredients come from.

There is a handy calendar from the BC Association of Agricultural Fairs and Exhibitions, found at https://bcfairs.ca/, as well as info on the provincial Buy BC program that aims to educate foodies and fair goers on the importance of supporting your local farms.

Some fairs are large, some are small. Some have rodeos, some have loggers performing tricks, and a handful have unique contests:

  • Goat milking
  • Lawnmower racing
  • Rooster crowing
  • Llama costume contests
  • Zucchini races.

The Peachland Fall Fair celebrates 100 years this September, the Summerland event continues to grow, and the Grand Forks fair is a fun day trip to the edge of the Kootenays and back.

Rock Creek brings in 15,000 fairgoers, impressive for a town of 1,000, and a weekend getaway to Creston will get you to a fall fair feast.

Just before school starts and summer unofficially ends, and under two hours away, is the largest agricultural exhibition in the province. The Interior Provincial Exhibition in Armstrong covers five days of family fun and mini-donuts.

For me, it’s my end of summer working vacation.

This year? Explore wacky food such as dill pickle lemonade, corn dog poutine, and bacon cheddar hush puppies. If you’ve never had a horse blanket or a hay stack, this is the year – the 120th IPE – to try these iconic bites.

And if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to compete as a chef, sign up for the popular Top Chef competition.

Home cooks will challenge other competitors in their age category to be judged and tasted by a panel of judges (me included).

It wouldn't be exciting without the mystery ingredients and crucial timeline that creates drama as the competitors create their culinary masterpieces.

Sign up here, and I’ll cheer you on: https://www.armstrongipe.com/IPE%20Top%20Chef/

UPCOMING EVENTS

Aug. 15 (and other dates), Summerland: The Lobster Dinner series takes place at Dirty Laundry Vineyard on Thursday evenings through August.

Aug. 16, Naramata: Join the winemakers at Roche for a dinner in their cellar with Chef Chris Van Hooydonk of Backyard Farm.

Aug. 16, Naramata: Tightrope Winery shows The Greatest Showman for movie night in the vineyard. 

Aug. 18, Kelowna: Garagistes North is a wine festival for the smaller producers. Hard to find gems, plus cider as well.

Aug. 18, Summerland: Visit Evolve Cellars to create a fabulous rustic sign to complement your home décor while enjoying a glass of wine and the view.

Aug. 24, Okanagan Falls: Noble Ridge hosts the West Coast Kids Cancer Foundation Concert, featuring performer wiL, to raise funds for a permanent facility to send kids to camp.

Aug. 25, Penticton: Head to Township 7 for SPCA Sip & Support. Food trucks, music, and meet some adoptable dogs.



More Okanagan Taste articles

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About the Author

A creative thinker with more than two decades of experience in communications, Allison is an early adopter of social and digital media, bringing years of work in traditional media to the new frontier of digital engagement marketing through her company, All She Wrote.

She is the winner of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association's 2011 and 2012 awards for Social Media Initiative, an International LERN award for marketing, and the 2014 Penticton Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Hospitality/Tourism.

Allison has amassed a following on multiple social networks of more than 30,000, frequently writes and about social media, food and libations as well as travel and events, and through her networks, she led a successful bid to bring the Wine Bloggers Conference to Penticton in June 2013, one of the largest social media wine events in the world, generating 31 million social media impressions, $1 million in earned media, and an estimated ongoing economic impact of $2 million.

In 2014, she held the first Canadian Wine Tourism Summit to spark conversation about the potential for wine tourism in Canada as a year-round economic driver.

Allison contributes epicurean content to several publications, has been a judge for several wine and food competitions, and has earned her advanced certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

In her spare time, she has deep, meaningful conversations with her cats.

She can be reached at [email protected]



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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