Try experimenting with flavours you're not familiar with

Experiment with ingredients

Surely, we’re getting tired of talking about supply chains.

Let’s face it, most of us probably did not consider this a major problem before the pandemic.

Then, in 2020, we hoarded household goods. On top of the toilet paper crisis, there were shortages of yeast as we had time to bake when we were locked in our homes. Gardening tools and seeds were also sometimes in short supply because we had time to plant and nurture when travel was an absolute no-go.

Now we’re back here again in the approaching winter of 2021, though supplies are starting to balance, thankfully.

But what if we look at this as a flavourful opportunity?

And how do we do that? In a word: experiment.

Ingredients we may not have thought of, or were afraid to try, might be more abundant these days and Google or Pinterest can provide oodles of odd recipes with whatever you may find. Better yet, pick up weathered cookbook from a used book store, the library or from an elderly family member’s shelf.

An old recipe book is how I first discovered Russian Vinegret (sic). Beets, pickles, potatoes, carrots, onions whirled into a bright pink salad.

Thanks to Chef Phil Tees, who oversees the kitchen at Liquidity Bistro and handles Sunday workshops at Road 13, I also discovered that finely diced beets and pickles can be turned into a delicious vegetarian vinegret-like tartare with garlic oil and the right spices.

Speaking of spices, head to a local market that specializes in a special cuisine to gather a few new ideas. There are plenty: Penticton’s Maharajah Grocerz or Global Grocers, Sun Asian Market or Mediterranean Market in Kelowna, Global Grocers or Oliver Eats in Oliver (of course); the latter for meats and cheeses. And that’s just to name just a few.

A couple of excellent online shops for nuts and seeds – that you can then roast with your newfound spices – if you’re patient with delivery schedules and can’t find what you’re looking for—Ayoub’s out of Vancouver or Rancho Vignola based here in the Interior. Rancho’s in-person harvest sales are wrapping up, but general online ordering begins today.

There is almost always a way to adjust when an item or ingredient is in short supply, and none of us can control the current circumstances we’re in.

But when there’s no cream for your morning coffee, you can grab a bag of Coffee Crisp Hot Chocolate mix and make yourself a “Coffee-Coffee Crisp Mocha” for a few days.

Okanagan wineries are gearing up for the holidays with events

Holiday happenings

Last year, Zoom tastings and other virtual gatherings were par for the course for the 2020 holiday season. We all got used to contactless curbside pickup and shipping our chosen libations to ourselves while generally trying to avoid people.

While many of those “pivots” are now here to stay—if only for the sake of convenience—a few others have evolved. Some events are making a safe return in 2021but they’re probably going to be a little different.

On Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive, the weekends formerly known as Light Up the Vines have switched to a slightly more subdued format, The Winter Series. On Fridays and Saturdays for three weekends, beginning Nov. 26, select Bottleneck Drive tasting rooms will be open later hours, typically 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Book a tour company or corral a designated driver to explore. Details, including the spots that require reservations, can be found at bottleneckdrive.com/the-winter-series.

If you can’t get to Summerland, consider ordering a Bottleneck Box—six bottles of Summerland’s finest wines, ciders and the occasional spirit can be shipped right to your door.

If sparkling wine is all you plan to sip this season, consider joining Township 7’s Seven Stars wine club. Details are online at township7.com/sevenstars. All bubbly. Maybe send some sparkle as a gift.

Fondue has made a comeback in recent years and Vin Amité Cellars in Oliver will bring back its cheese fondue for the last weekend of November and the first two weekends of December. Reservations are a must. Call 250-498-2234.

This weekend, Nov. 20 and 21, wineries around Okanagan Falls will bring back their Holiday Cheer events from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check each winery for its plans on this handy list. The highlights include Christmas cookie pairings at Wild Goose, a market at Stag’s Hollow, an advent calendar at Pentâge, mulled wine at Skaha Vineyards and special garden art at Noble Ridge.

Grizzli Winery in West Kelowna will host a Christmas Market, complete with food trucks and entertainment on weekends through Dec. 19, while The District Wine Village near Oliver will have an outdoor market from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 26 and 27 as well as on Dec. 4 and 5. Naramata’s La Petite Abeille Cider will host its first outdoor winter market on Nov. 27,and Phantom Creek Estates in Oliver will have an indoor market on Sundays from Nov. 28 through to Dec. 12.

With supply chains taking hit after hit, this may be the best year to go hyper-local on the gift-giving front, while at the same time joyously return to a tasting room you’ve been missing and give yourself a little treat.

This good time for the hearty, bold red wine

Mad for Merlot

Merlot got a bad rap back in 2005 thanks to the movie Sideways, with the character Miles making a bold statement about not drinking it.

If you haven’t seen the movie, make it your next Netflix option with a bottle of something from California. If you have seen it, you probably already know the irony of the ending. I won’t spoil it here.

Merlot, thought to have been named after the French word merle, meaning blackbird, is a perfect red wine for the dark, cold nights of early winter and the hearty dishes that come with the season. Find it in a blend or on its own but do find it if you pushed it aside for a while.

Good pairings? Classic roast beef, a good steak (since we grill outside all year round here in Canada) with a bleu cheese sauce, meaty mushroom dishes like a portobello burger, pork loin, grilled chicken with roast squash on the side.

It is a red wine that can range from a bit light, to medium bodied, to riper and bolder. It’s also one that can have aromas and flavours of red fruits, blackberries, and blueberries and sometimes chocolate. A rich, nicely aged bottle can do quite well with dark chocolate.

So, as International Merlot Day approaches this Saturday, Nov. 7, here are a few bottles to mark the occasion and the unofficial start of Merlot release season.

Hillside Winery, Naramata Bench -- 2019 Merlot $24—The aforementioned chocolate notes appear here, with black currants and hints of fresh ground coffee. Great with grilled lamb topped with a shallot and cherry reduction sauce.

Corcelettes Winery, Similkameen – 2019 Merlot $29—More attention should be paid to wines from this valley, if this bottle is an indicator. Classic elegance, carefully fermented and aged, this is a complex wine with many layers to explore and debate over charcuterie.

Nagging Doubt Winery, Kelowna – 2019 The Pull $32—A Merlot dominant blend, the blackberry, plum, and spice notes pair with tobacco and black cherry. Bold and present tannins that will take on a big dish featuring lamb, or perhaps a moussaka.

Painted Rock Winery, Penticton/Okanagan Falls – 2018 Merlot $40—Red fruits, baking spices, and violets on the nose, leading to a well-balanced palate with notable, but pleasant, tannins. A good red wine to pair with a good gourmet burger.

Intersection Winery, Oliver – 2014 Appassimento $80—exclusive to the winery’s club, this is made in the style of Amarone, as the grapes are air-dried in advance. Deep and rich with flavours of plums and figs leading to bold tannins. Find a friend with a bottle and decant it while catching up.


Beer takes centre stage this month in B.C.

Evolution of the taproom

Oktoberfest, in one form or another, is coming soon to a pub or brewery near you.

October is B.C. Craft Beer Month and we’re in the middle of the third annual Penticton Beer Week.

On top of all that, the venerable news program 60 Minutes recently did a story about pubs in England, including discussion with owners and patrons alike on how the local pub is a fixture in the community, a gathering place and a welcoming space that may have been handed down through generations of family members to manage.

Admittedly, I am not much of a beer drinker but speaking with a few brewery owners recently about craft beer culture in the South Okanagan, I had a minor epiphany as to why, and gave some serious thought to this bubbly industry.

My first taste of beer was from a can of something mass produced, stolen from the downstairs fridge and shared with a couple of girlfriends in a field behind our junior high. Aah, youth. I recall the taste was bitter, harsh, and unpleasant. But my teenaged tastebuds were years away from any level of sophistication.

In various travels I’ve been educated about beer. If I had to choose a brew off of a pub list, I’d likely go for something from Belgium, France or the Netherlands on the imported side of the menu, or a local brew that embraces something from the Okanagan terroir—stone fruit, perhaps? Berries?

Beer purists might not want to sit and have a pint with me but I would welcome a discussion about what makes B.C. craft beer so outstanding that culinary travellers are finding their way here to explore what’s being brewed.

And a large part of that is the evolution of the taproom itself.

Now friendly for most or all ages – depending on the establishment – the “pub” is no longer just a spot to hit up after work.

Sure, it’s still a place to meet friends and catch up, but many are morphing into rooms where your kids can play boardgames, your family can order unique pizzas, or the newly remote worker can plant themselves for a couple of hours of productivity outside of the home office. There are blind tasting challenges, food pairing events, business meetups, art shows, musicians and, of course, flights of beer.

The occasional visiting food truck may also be standing by.

Owners behind the bar will gladly chat about their experimental brews or ask you to share a story about yourself.

My beer story begins at that junior high. Time to go out for a locally brewed pint and tell it.

More Okanagan Taste articles

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]

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

Previous Stories