Tofino and Wolf In The Fog are the perfect antidote to 2020.

A day of beach combing helped build an appetite so we could try as many dishes as possible at the incredible Wolf In The Fog.

I requested a ginless cocktail to pair with the oysters and was surprised with a cognac version of the French 75, a champagne cocktail that proved the perfect match.

Champagne Cocktail

The oysters wrapped in shoestring potatoes have been on the menu since day 1 and is one of the best cooked oysters creations ever. Truly crave worthy. Served with mushy peas and truffle oil. Add an extra oyster or there could be a battle for the 3rd in a regular order.

Potato Crusted Oysters

Humboldt squid was lightly battered and fried to a light crisp finish. Served with cabbage, tomato and poblano mayo it’s a strange and beautiful combination.

Humboldt Squid

Grilled romaine with bagna cauda was a treat. Finger licking good sauce.

Grilled Romaine

I would never order a seaweed salad but the rave table reviews got me into it. Wow! It was great. Seaweed, mushrooms, daikon, puffed rice, sesame mayo and miso Chili oil is a match made in heaven. I need a recipe for sesame mayo. I think it would be incredibly useful.

Seaweed Salad

Chef Nutting and teams time on Mexico shows up in the menu in wonderful ways. The featured vegetarian mushroom croquet with mole, beans and habanero peaches was delicious. The mole and peaches unforgettable. Hot pickled peaches coming to my kitchen soon.

Mushroom Croquet

We almost resisted the daily catch of Korean Halibut thinking the fish might be overpowered but I’m updating this to the best halibut dish we’ve had this year.

Halibut

I need an annual trip to Tofino. The solitude and connection to nature combined with the great food and wonderful people make this a very special place. Don’t tell anyone.

Tofino 2020 Day One

Tofino is my favourite place to relax but we’ve been doing a lot of travelling the last few years and it just didn’t fit in. With this summer’s travel restrictions we’ve returned and even with the worst smoke imaginable I’ve taken a big breath out over the Pacific and am in my happy place. My soul is not only nourished by the ocean and forest, out here at the end of the road is great food. Specifically great seafood.

We had the the essential reservations on the first ferry out of Horseshoe Bat at 6:30am so we could get two meals in our first day.

Look Up at Coombs Country Store

Coombs Country store is a good 1st stop with everything you could need and a few things more. If the goats aren’t on the roof walk back further behind the buildings and see their home down a ravine.

First meal, lunch at Wildside Grill for fish and chips. The halibut and cod were perfect, panko crusted and as fresh as could be. The fries were okay and the slaw a waste of tummy space. I’ve never tried the fish tacos there but they were popular and looked good. I really have to stay longer next time.

We’re staying at The Long Beach Lodge, one of the best cabin set ups available. We booked months ago specifically for the dog friendly cabins and beach. We sadly no longer needed that option and it’s a bit sad walking to the beach without Topsail but Its still great option with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. Check in could be as late as 5 and check out is 10 but they try to get you in early and we were lucky and got settled and out to the beach to work on our appetites for dinner at Sobo.

Sobo has been a family favourite for years. We once ate 3 meals there in 24 hours just to try all of the great choices. The menu hasn’t changed much which made me happy on one hand and a bit disappointed in a way. They sure maintain great standards though. The smoked salmon chowder and corn bread are still delicious and David said the tofu pocket was his favourite thing. I’m sorry I didn’t have it because I still like the Killer Fish Taco but I’ve been spoiled with handmade soft shell corn tortillas so the crispy shell just didn’t do it for me. All that delicious salmon and fruit salsa needs something more flexible to gather it all in.

We had the Cibolo Shrimp and I think the cayenne overpowered the tequila and the shrimp. I didn’t get 100% support on that opinion but I’m sure I’m the better judge.

Another family favourite was the polenta fries. Sobo is the 1st place we’d ever tasted them and never had a meal there after without. They are still delicious but a bit shorter than in the past. Every restaurant has to cover new expenses today so I’m glad it’s portion size rather than quality that’s been adjusted.

Polenta Fries

I tasted the shrimp pizza and that nicely done with a thin crisp crust, pumpkin seed pesto, cherry tomatoes, basil and cheese.

I was disappointed to find them out of oysters.

Overall I think the Sobo lunch or happy hour menu is best for me because I want the cornmeal crusted and the broiled oysters and I think they are often sold out by dinner.

Sobo is large enough to keep a good distance from others with some outdoor tables. There’s an outdoor fireplace that wasn’t lit but would have made a welcome addition to the tables and waiting area at the entrance.

Diving Deeper into Kelowna Food

Back in Kelowna for a couple of days and finally had a chance to try The Table at Codfather’s. Without doubt the best deep fried halibut I’ve had in awhile. Really good coleslaw too. The fries were good but over salted. I’ll go back.

For lunch we tried Okanagan Street Food. Once a food truck now a great place for breakfast and lunch. In a somewhat industrial area we found this gem.

Fritters – House smoked salmon, rice, cheese, lemongrass and herbs. Yummy.
Chili and lemongrass dipping sauce.
Tacos and Fries.
I had to take a bite to show the fish taco. Not being deep fried was a pleasant surprise and the taco was perfectly crisped outside with spicy lime and avocado sauce. I couldn’t nearly finish the fries but there is zero taco left behind.
The blackberry ketchup made me eat a few more fries than I should have.

Take the long way home

I had to keep reminding myself that we weren’t on a wine tour, but we did have to eat and I had an errand at Black Hills Winery so we headed south. Along the way visited farmers stands to stock up on asparagus, peas, cherries and strawberries. Harvest can differ greatly from farm to farm so stop again if at first.

We couldn’t resist driving up to newly opened and spectacular Phantom Creek Winery and given the opportunity we may have needed one more night away. It is really stunning and since the wine is out beyond my price tolerance, I will gladly spring for tasting fees or lunch when the restaurant starts.

Black Hills was busier than I expected but I had a quick exchange and we were on our way. Their Cabana tasting with lunch is one of the best going but we were still heading south and now were hungry and happy we had a reservation at the new restaurant at Spirit Ridge Resort.

Spirit Ridge is an all suite resort that includes a an excellent winery and so much more.

I’d been wanting to visit ever since Chef Murray MacDonald opened The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry. A charming man from Newfoundland he is connecting his indigenous roots and his extensive cooking experience to add new depth to the cuisine at the resort.

I knew we’d be having the Bannock and we had that ordered with our drinks right away. Nk’Mip had just released their rosé so I was happy and David found a local beer he liked.

Bannock with corn succotash, pickles, white bean sumac spread, beetroot relish and garlic roasted tomatoes.
A perfect chowder is a wonderful thing and with fresh salmon and halibut this one was so good I’m kicking myself for not getting some to go.
Indigenous Cobb Salad and Arctic Char. Super healthy and delicious with sunflower seed pesto, squash, corn, beans, wilted greens and berry wojape.

We were delighted with our lunch and happy to have another great chef in the Okanagan.

And so we started the beautiful drive home through the Similkameen. I have a particular love for this wine region and it was hard to drive past some of my favourite wineries without stopping but we will be back. Cheers!

Okanagan June 2020

We finally left the city and ate at restaurants for the 1st time in over 3 months. I felt guilty driving out through the Fraser Valley with the overhead signs asking to avoid non essential travel but we were needed by family in Kelowna. We were curious how we would be welcomed by locals. We had to go so we determined to make the most of it and booked dinner at Home Block at Cedar Creek.

The highway was truly an open road with much less traffic than usual and late spring is a beautiful time in our province. It was exhilarating to be travelling.

We’d arrived early and with family matters done for the day I went in search of the Urban Liquor store where I’d been told I could get my some special wine. Seven Directions makes only single varietal Rosè. I hoped for some to add to my summer goal of trying as many BC rosés as possible. The staff at Urban were welcoming and knowledgeable and I left with the Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc rosès. I’m looking forward to trying those.

This summer you really must call wineries in advance and book tasting or you may be disappointed. Right now things are changing constantly. A web search told me Cedar Creek Winery’s tasting room would be closed well before our dinner reservations so we wouldn’t be able to combine a tasting with dinner. In fact they were open, and empty, but we only had time to quickly buy a couple of rosés. They will only be doing seated tasting this year and it will be even better than before with a glass for each wine. An enhancement I whole heartedly appreciate.

Cedar Creek wine tasting for 2 people. 5 wines 5 glasses, spacious, comfortable and truly top notch.

Home Block was a great choice for our first meal out. We had lunch there last year on opening day and were hoping it was as good again. Strict CoVid protocols are much easier to practice in a spacious open air environment and our table on the patio and the excellent staff had us at ease immediately.

The menu offered some great choices and we were happy to see the crispy squid still there. Last year I declared it the best I’d ever had. For appetizers we chose crispy squid and mushrooms on toast.

The squid is both perfectly tender and crisp, Served with house made chilli jam and crème fraîche it must have been made with the Estate Pinot Gris in mind to be that perfectly matched. We had an extra order and glass of wine to avoid a fork fight.

Crispy squid is the best I’ve ever had.

The mushrooms on toast with poached egg and Estate Pinot Noir was another great match.

Mushrooms, goat cheese, poached egg and red wine. Even more delicious than it looks.

We both had Rock Cod Ala Plancha for a main course. With dill aioli and Estate Sauvignon Blanc it was a perfect pairing and I will definitely match up dill mayo and Sauvignon Blanc in my kitchen soon.

Rock cod, peas, grilled onion with dill aioli.

Shisito peppers were served with one of the entrees and we were able to order a side dish. A summer favourite of ours, they were first of the season and delicious. We have big hopes for the 3 pepper plants we have on our kitchen deck.

We love shisito peppers and a side dish was appreciated.

Maybe we should have tried 2 different desserts but the sticky toffee pudding was just too tempting.

Sticky toffee pudding. My spoon was too fast for my camera.

I’m not sure how you get a chef like Neil Taylor to stay at a summer only restaurant but I’m glad he’s there and hope he enjoys the off time. The dinner menu is currently $80 for 3 courses paired with 2 wines and good value if you aren’t a bit gluttonous like us and double up on this and that. No judgements please.

Wine tourism and why BC is so great

I had an Aha moment at Hy’s Encore in the 80’s when I tasted my first rack of lamb with a glass of Beringer Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon. In a flash I knew why there was such a fuss about wine and food pairings.

I’d been California dreaming since the 60’s. Summer of ‘76 I drove from Newfoundland to British Columbia via California, loved Vancouver and stayed. California had become a regular holiday getaway so a new love of wine naturally led to Napa. There was great wine, beautiful wineries and an exciting food scene.

Mumm Napa has a great patio, art gallery and gift shop. Notice the biscuits as lids on the glasses.

Since then we’ve visited many wine regions in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy and loved them all for different reasons. Over the years they’ve changed, become easier to visit, more welcoming. I attribute that to Napa’s influence.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France is an easy excursion from a Rhône river cruise.

The Okanagan has learned from all of that in a very Canadian way. Our vines are maturing, we’ve attracted wine enthusiasts from all over the world, young farmers are raising families and heirloom veggies for chefs who are choosing life outside big cities.

Home Block, the new restaurant at Cedar Creek Winery in Kelowna September 2019.
Best calamari ever. Can’t wait to go back.

In the past there have been lots of wineries that you could just stop and explore but this year we need more space so I’d recommend reservations. 3-4 wineries per day is perfect. In my experience tasting fees in BC offer very good value and are often waived based on your purchases. Splurge on 1 deluxe wine experience. In the south Okanagan, Black Hills does one of the best in a Cabana by the pool (no swimming). If they’re serving lunch set that up as well. Reservations are a must.

Cabana tasting at Black Hills

Hiring A knowledgeable driver guide is a great idea. They will take care of reservations, often have access to exclusive options and add a lot of fun.

I’d recommend at least a 2-3 night stay in either the south, central or north Okanagan. Spend a week and do the whole valley. Staying at a hotel or inn with a winery and a restaurant is best. Adding a kitchen like at Spirit Ridge in Osoyoos is even better.

Anyway you do it, if you like wine you will love the Okanagan.