Dig ‘inn’ with Naramata's new chef

Farm-to-table fare on menu

"Farm-to-table” is now a such a familiar mantra at Okanagan eateries it’s almost odd to not see it as a phrase on a restaurant’s menu, website or latest Instagram story.

But for Chef Jacob Deacon-Evans, recently arrived at the Naramata Inn by way of the Similkameen, England, and – as a teenager – Naramata’s Robinson Road Bistro, for those who remember that spot, it’s just a part of the story he wants to share on the plate.

“Farm-to-table is not a soundbite for me, it’s genuinely important to me. We’re surrounded by nature and it’s important get it on the plate,” he explained during a recent chat. “I like showcasing the ingredients.

That’s why the menu was refreshed earlier this month; case in point, it’s asparagus season, therefore a tasty asparagus soup was a good choice to start lunch, with a side of freshly grilled ‘Dana’s’ sourdough bread. Dana being consummate hyper-local baker Dana Ewart.

“We are buying from people who abide by the campsite rule,” said Deacon-Evans. That rule being what you bring in, you take out, and hopefully leave things better than as you found them.

Planning more “tweaking than wholesale changes”, Deacon-Evans is getting his feet under him in this new role, stepping in for Chef Ned Bell, a well-known champion of sustainability and buying local.

Speaking of local, Deacon-Evans hopes that “tells the story of Naramata. So many people have had their stories told here. I met my wife here. I want my kids to have a healthy relationship with food here. And I want the ingredients to sing here.”

On the menu is brilliantly executed Catalan style Omelette that looks deceptively like a slightly puffed-up soufflé. Prepared by executive sous-chef Macià Bagur, the confit potatoes and sweet onions are the stars, bring local ingredients to the table with a Spanish flair.

While the Naramata Inn is at the end of a winding road dotted by wineries, distilleries, and cideries, the search for a sophisticated non-alcoholic version of a gin and tonic may just end here in this quirky village, with the Lumette! and tonic. You won’t miss the gin.

And you shouldn’t miss the apple fritter, served with a yogurt sorbet and sumac. Save some room for dessert.

Watch for dishes inspired by the garden—Deacon-Evans says he’s a gardener but not a full-fledged farmer—collaborative dinners and an occasional surprise or two.

The restaurant at the Naramata Inn is currently open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for brunch or a long lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations can be made online.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

There's plenty we can do at home to help the planet

Dig in for Earth Day

If you missed the memo, April is Earth Month, and this coming Saturday (April 22) is Earth Day.

Making smart, sustainable choices has come a long way from merely recycling the week’s newspapers and returning a pile of glass containers. It’s a part of daily life.

The recycling bin under my kitchen sink gets full much faster than it used to, and even though I have no green thumb to speak of, I’m pondering herbs for the patio.

(Hint: if stink bugs make you feel like you’re in a B-list horror movie, plant fragrant herbs like lemon and mint. These will supposedly keep these miniature dinosaur-like stinkers away.)

Speaking of things that need sunlight to grow, plant-based foods have also come a long way since the days of “Tofurky,” which debuted in 1995 and is still around.

There’s a growing worldwide organization dedicated to upcycled food and preventing food waste.

Summerland-based Crush Dynamics Inc. is a member, and recently partnered with fellow member Big Mountain Foods to enhance some of the latter’s products. Crush Dynamics takes the remnants of wine production, for example, and turns it into a nutritious ingredient and flavour enhancer.

I am a huge fan of Good 2 Go snacks, especially the Blondies and Brownies, and Cola Gummies from SmartSweets.

Of course, I discovered some of these treats on a trip to Costco, but at least I carpooled and picked up items for a friend so she wouldn’t have to make an unnecessary trip.

One choice, and one step at a time, or one “push for better” at a time, according to SodaStream, a company that has prevented five billion single-use plastic bottles from being used, while at the same time making the world a little more sparkly with its at-home “carbonator.”

The gentle ‘“whoosh” and “hiss” as the bottle fills with bubbles is oddly satisfying, though much like my missing green thumb, I have yet to perfect my SodaStream button technique. I often end up with a bit of spillage on the counter, which I wipe up with a reusable micro-fibre cloth.

By no means am I doing absolutely everything sustainably. Unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think Coffee Crisp wrappers or Cheetos bags are recyclable, and until it’s warm enough to plant the aforementioned herbs, there’s a mesh bag of Bounce dryer sheets tied to my patio railing.

These lavender sheets are also an attempt dissuade the stink bugs from coming inside, but I’m pretty sure the bugs are mocking me.

Editors note: Following publication of this column, additional information was provided about what can and cannot be recycled, so Allison Markin provided this note:

'I stand corrected, as an astute reader has pointed out, chip bags, candy wrappers and other flexible plastic packaging are recyclable at depots in B.C. Not sure about an item? Visit RecycleBC where you can look it up and learn if it goes in your blue bin or needs to be taken to a depot for recycling."

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Plenty of places to dine this Easter long weekend

Breaking bread this Easter

Every year, the Easter long weekend heralds a sense of rejuvenation in the Okanagan.

It’s typically the weekend when most tasting rooms open for the season. This year it seems that there’s a new bistro announcing its grand opening—or re-opening—on an almost daily basis.

And, for those with green thumbs, garden plans begin to be plotted.

Speaking of plants, in recent days, the farm-to-table vibe of the Okanagan received a significant vote of confidence, as Oliver’s Backyard Farm received confirmation it can operate as an “agri-culinary” dining and catering operation.

If you have any familiarity with the layers of bureaucracy regulating everything from agricultural land to liquor production to restaurant licensing, you’ll know that this is an integral step forward in the growth of culinary experiences in the Okanagan that are truly farm-to-fork.

If you go to Backyard Farm or attend an event this year where Chef Chris Van Hooydonk and his team are catering, you will most certainly hear Chris say, “We picked it this morning and now it’s on your plate.”

There are more steps ahead for Chris, his wife Mikkel and their family, but when you are at their table, you will undoubtedly feel like you’re breaking bread with family. Case in point: Last summer at a Vine Dining event at Noble Ridge, the table next to mine stole my table’s bread (if you’ve had Backyard’s bread, you’ll understand why). Chris then sent me home with a loaf (pictured).

If you’re planning to break bread with loved ones this long weekend, here are a few options.

Phantom Creek Estates in Oliver is offering a family-style three course Easter menu as well as a take-home option. Take in the children’s Easter egg hunt to work up an appetite.

Township 7 in Naramata wil have an adult Easter egg hunt, while its Langley property will have activities for everyone in the family.

Grizzli Winery in West Kelowna will have Easter in the Vineyard, plus “Egg-stra” indoor activities, also for kids of all ages.

Recently opened in Kelowna, Erica Jane has some serious buzz with a menu that includes shucked oysters to wagyu beef to a seafood tower. Any place that has potato latkes as a side is aces in my books.

Meanwhile, La Mantra bills itself as “Indo-talian,” saving us all from debating Italian or Indian for a bite.

Whether or not Easter is an occasion, or you’re just heading out on this long weekend for a breath of fresh air, if you head south, the bistro at the OK Falls Hotel is finally open, and the refreshed OROLO at Time Winery in Penticton has a Golden Polenta worth the drive, not to mention its Jar of Cream Puffs. Perfect for sharing.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Ten-day Ignites The Arts festival ready to roll in Penticton

Penticton ignites the arts

If you haven’t heard about the Ignite the Arts 10-day extravaganza planned for Penticton, let me to enlighten you.

Boldly, the organizers have declared the annual event is “here to ignite Penticton as the arts capital of B.C.”

And why not?

Last year’s inaugural festival featured more than 200 artists of almost any genre you can think of – visual, musical, theatrical – and created not just a vibrant buzz, but an enchanting sense of cultural community.

Events, exhibitions and performances are set to take place at multiple indoor and outdoor venues (as well as virtual) and there are numerous workshops to attend with both free and ticketed (paid) experiences.

Smartly, the calendar of events is split into two main themes: Community Week from March 24-30 with the majority of Ignite’s free events, and Festival Weekend from March 31 to April 2 with the majority of the ticketed events at host venues the Dream Café, Tempest Theatre, the local Elk’s Hall, Cannery Brewing and Britbar.

More than 40 community partners have come together for Community Week, kicking off at the Penticton Art Gallery at 5 p.m. Friday, March 24 with a “Parade for No Reason.” Bring the kids, wear a costume, paint your face and decorate your bikes or strollers for a parade that declares its sole purpose is to spread happiness and cheer. Everyone is then welcome to head to Cannery Brewing for the unveiling of 10 mini-murals.

Keep the wagons and fuel-free transports spruced up for the Penticton and District Community Arts Council Art Walk the next day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Saturday, March 25). Download a map and draw your route to more than two dozen galleries, studios and artistic pop-ups throughout Penticton.

From March 26-29, plan on attending some or all of the virtual Confluence Conference, a series of virtual events that will showcase, workshops and keynote presentations in partnership with 2 Rivers Remix Festival. Indigenous musicians will present their craft in a virtual livestream, culminating in a live music showcase.

The schedule for the Festival, aka "wristband," Weekend is packed and colourful, much like the weekend itself. Look for colour codes indicating music, workshop, kid-friendly, food, workshop, dance or theatre. Paint Your Pride over brunch with the South Okanagan Similkameen Pride Society, watch a fire spinner, stay up late for HARDBALL, Balkan Shmalkan or Blackberry Wood and Take in one-minute or 10-minute plays.

Get your wristband or day pass online and choose from an incredible lineup of 100 performances across six venues in Penticton’s downtown core.

Prepare to be inspired and probably a little exhausted when this whirlwind wraps up.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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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]

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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