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Dreaming of my favourite places in BC #bcwines

Spirit Ridge Resort, Osoyoos

I love living in Vancouver and love cities but I have to escape regularly and this year, after staying home for months, I need to get out. I’m dreaming of early morning open roads and great restaurants at sunset.

We started visiting Okanagan wineries in 2007. Wine was my new hobby and many winemakers were just starting out. I loved the excitement didn’t feel foolish for my ignorance.

Over the years many young people have grown up in the wineries and are bringing fresh perspective and enthusiasm.

One of my favourite drives is the Hope Princeton to Osoyoos ending at Spirit Ridge.

The resort offers everything for a great vacation: suites with full kitchens, an onsite winery and tasting room, cultural centre, adult and family friendly pools, a 9 hole golf course, gym, a spa and an exciting new restaurant.

Chef Murray MacDonald and the indigenous culinary team launched The Bear, The Fish, The Root and The Berry last year. I’m thrilled to see the resort amp up the food experience and I believe Chef MacDonald and the new culinary team can do the job.

Great wines need great food and things keep getting better outside Vancouver as chefs look for options for a balanced family life and opportunities that come with growth in tourism.

One thing is for sure, the food and wine scene in the Okanagan keeps getting better and better and I have no doubt that the people working there will rise to the challenge of the summer of CoVid and create great experiences. Things will be more exclusive and everyone will put their hearts and souls into it. For sure it will be a bit more expensive but it will also be hard to get. Planning early is a must. Small groups of up to 6 will enjoy guided, sit down tastings and beautiful dining and chefs with more time to create perfect meals.

I have a hotel booked, now for the winery visits.

Cheers!

Cooking therapy

I put in 6 straight hours of hard mental labour. Horrible Covid business stuff, but I had some cooking to look forward to.

Tuna steaks will be my 1st BBQ of the year.

I was happy to start by choosing the wine.I love being in the Meyer Vineyards club and having a great selection of exceptional Pinot Noir always available.Tonight I’m self soothing with 2017 Micro Cuvée from the McLean Creek Vineyard. I love being able to drink from the same vines year after year.

I made had some balsamic vinaigrette and I’ve mashed in some roasted garlic to baste the tuna. Scavenged a few potatoes from the bin. They might need a fair amount of butter.

The tuna turned out delicious.

Food and reflection during CoVid

All this time at home leads to reflection. No?

I love food. It’s essential, yes, but so much more. Satisfying, nurturing, comforting, creative, exciting. Food is all that for me.

Food and wine has been comforting the last few weeks. We’ve eaten our favourite breads, slathered in cultured butter and drank some of our best wines. We’ve even indulged in desserts.

I miss restaurants. Especially with a table of friends. All that laughter and good cheer.

But I also love to grow, shop and prepare food. I love to shell peas, shuck corn and sauté onions. So staying at home’s not all bad. With a well stocked pantry and cellar and more time for cooking, we’re not suffering but I can’t wait to hear the clink of glasses as we share again with friends and family.

So what have we been eating and drinking?

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Roasted vegetable salad with roasted garlic aioli and pumpkin seeds

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Syrah is one of my favourite varietals. Black Hills consistently makes my favourite

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Grilled tuna dinner. Beet mayo for potatoes.

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I crave the tuna melts so have to make the full tuna dinner.

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Pinot Noir from Meyer Family is surely one of  BC’s best.

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Always excited when my annual shipment of Carmenere arrives.

Best of 2019

Fish Taco
Fish Taco at La Condesa, Wellington, Ontario

2019 was a delicious year with some great meals in Japan,  St. John’s Newfoundland, Kelowna BC,  Portugal and Wellington, Ontario.

The giant tempura clams at Tsunahachi in the Keio Department store, Shinjuku, Tokyo was unforgettable.  We didn’t have a bad meal in Japan.   The Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka was a highlight.

In St. John’s, Newfoundland, we had the absolute best tasting menu paired with wine at Raymond’s.  The food was glorious but the wine matches knocked it out of the park.  At The Merchant Tavern we had the best scallops ever and The Mallard Cottage‘s cornmeal crusted cod cheeks are unforgettable.

We went to Kelowna for our annual wine buying trip and  tried the new Home Block at Cedar Creek Winery and had the best calamari we’ve ever had.  Can’t wait to go back.  This one is bound to get even better.

We spent a week in Portugal. Our best meal was at Volta & Meia in Figueira da Foz http://voltaemeia.com/.  Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato combines clams, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine and cilantro.  Without doubt, the best clams I’ve ever eaten and we loved the restaurant.  And we discovered Serra cheese.  I sure wish I’d brought some home because I can’t get it here.  Another reason to go back to Portugal.

Lastly we had the best fish taco ever at La Condesa in Wellington, Ontario.  Fresh made to order tortillas mean you wait a little longer and then have to order more.  Just try to eat only one.

 

 

Kissa Tanto combines Italian and Japanese food brilliantly

Another great meal at Kissa Tanto proved that Italian and Japanese food is a great fusion.

Bread and butter
Sourdough, olive oil & miso butter

We started with house made sourdough bread with olive oil and miso butter.  If it wasn’t so delicious I’d say we were sorry later when we could barely finish our dessert but we managed somehow.

Cod
Nanban-Zuke

Research tells me that Namban-zuke is usually a home made dish rarely available in restaurants. Deep fried cod marinated in vinegar, surprisingly refreshing.

Tonno Mantecato was fun to eat and like nothing we’d ever had before.  More sourdough bread topped with tobiko, served with smoked potato blended with confit albacore tuna and topped with furikake.

Tajarin
Tajarin, Butter, Mushrooms and Miso Cured Egg Yolk.

Thornyhead Rockfish
Deep-fired Thornheaded rockfish with daikon dipping sauce.

Two dishes I could never do without are the Tajarin, a crave worthy pasta with butter, roasted mushrooms and miso cured egg yolk and the deep fried whole fish with daikon dipping sauce.  We’ve had the fish several times and never had the same species twice.  This time it was a thorny headed rockfish, small fish so there were 2 in an order.  Crazy good and the dipping sauce is even better than last time.

Eggplant
Eggplant

We ordered two side dishes; eggplant with miso besciamella, almonds and parmesan, and squash with miso apples, bagna cauda and walnuts.  Not a crumb left.

Yuzu Cream
Yuzu Cream with Pistachios

We were committed to dessert and had both the tiramisu and the yuzu cream.  The tiramisu was traditional and good but the yuzu cream was a wonder.

Portugal for Food and Wine Lovers

Portugal is a great place for food and wine lovers.  The food is simple, fresh and well-priced.  The wine’s spectacular.

One of our best days was spent visiting the Duoro wine region.  We hired a private guide from Tours By Locals, Richardo Oliveira.  He picked us up in Porto and drove us to Pinhao, the town at the junction of the Duoro and Pinhao river.  On the 2 hour drive Ricardo entertained us with a history of wine in Portugal.  Sure, Portugal is famous for Port wines but they have many great wines that we rarely get to try in North America.

200 year old vine at Foz
200 Year Old Vine Quinta da Foz

My favourite winery was Quinta da Foz, built at the end of the 18th century. Cristiano, the Director of Wine Tourism took us into the vineyards where the steeply terraced vineyards mean that the vines have to be tended by hand.  It looks like back breaking work.  In the winery there are beautiful tiles that tell the story of their production.  I was amazed to learn that foot stomping the grapes is still the norm in the Duoro.  We finished in the tasting room.  Every wine was delicious but the Grande Reserva, a field blend from 100+ year old vines was a knockout.  I have a couple of bottles in my cellar waiting for a cold winter night to bring some Portuguese sunshine into my life.

Tiles at Quinta da Foz
Wall tiles at Quinta da Foz

Foz tasting
Tasting Room Quinta da Foz

A visit to the Duoro wouldn’t be complete without spending some time on the river where you can really appreciate how steep the terraces are.  We enjoyed it immensely and our captain, Bruno served us a tasty treat of toasts with cheese and pumpkin, walnut jam from his mother’s farm.   The Portuguese are warm and welcoming and somehow keep things very local and personal.  I could definitely spend more time in this fascinating wine district.

Boat trip on Duoro
On the Duoro

Cheese and pumpkin walnut jam
Cheese with Pumkin & Walnut Jam

There are said to be over 1,000 bacalhau recipes in Portugal.  Bacalhau, or salt cod is near and dear to my Newfoundland heart.    I tried it 7 different ways in my first few days in Porto, each one a delight taking me back to childhood Friday fish dinners.

Bacalhau
Bacalau

We never had a bad meal but the fresh grilled fish and potatoes, with olive oil, bread and wine are reliably delicious and reasonable priced.

Volta & Meia
Volta & Meia

Our best meal was at Volta & Meia in Figueira da Foz http://voltaemeia.com/Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato combines clams, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine and cilantro.  Without doubt, the best clams I’ve ever eaten and we loved the restaurant.  There were 7 of us for dinner and every dish was great.  They are part of the Happy Café Network supporting Action for Happiness, a movement creating and promoting happiness and wellbeing in their communities.  Great food, a great wine selection with atmosphere and service that makes you want to linger.  I give it a big 5 Yums Up.

Estrall de Serra
Flor da Serra

My final big food experience was the discovery of Serra da Estrela Cheese.  A cloth bound, sheep milk cheese, it has a soft gooey paste when young and it won our hearts.  We just couldn’t get enough of it.  We liked how it was served with a circle carved from the top to make a lid that could be used if you didn’t finish it, an unlikely occurrence.

11th Annual Okanagan Wine Tour

For our 11th annual Okanagan wine tour we decided to head north to Kelowna and Lake Country.

It was the worst weather we have ever had.

Our 1st stop was Fitzpatrick Vineyards at Greata Ranch to try the award-winning sparkling wines.  I bought all 3 and look forward to toasting life with them.  The winery is beautiful and they have a restaurant with a fantastic view of the lake.

At Quails’ Gate we did a tasting before lunch.  Their Pinot Noir is a star.  Lunch was a little uneven but the parmesan fries are still delicious, the mussels perfect and a grilled halloumi was outstanding.

The Hatch was our next stop.  It’s a happening place with lots of young people having a good time.

I didn’t like any of the wines, though I think they have some good ones not available to taste.

Our final stop of the day was at Beaumont Estate Winery.  One of our group rightly loves the rose.  We had such a good time there.  They have a set up with drums a stand-up base and a guitar.  The owner played guitar, I got my bongo mojo going and Shirley sang and danced.  A first for a wine tasting experience.  We had a great time.

Our final stop was our 3-bedroom cottage at Falcon Point, Predator Ridge and made dinner at home to enjoy with some of the great wines we had picked up.

Day 2 started at Mission Hills for a Reserve tour and tasting.  The tour and tasting were great and the winery and art collection are fantastic.  Great wines and the best gift shop I’ve ever seen in a winery.

We headed back across the lake and stopped at Tantalus.  Sadly they were sold out of almost everything.  I bought some reisling and pinot noir, both signature grapes.

We did a tasting and lunch at the newly renovated Cedar Creek.  It will be absolutely fantastic when completed.  The new restaurant Home Block had just opened the day before but it was flawless.  The French fries were fantastic and the calamari the best I’ve ever tasted.

Our final stop was Sperling Vineyards.  A nice simple tasting room with some exceptional reislings.

Day 3 we started in Lake Country at Ex Nihilo, pretty fine Pinot Noir, a bit young to be released, in my opinion but I think it will be delicious in a few years.

Next, Intrigue Wines.  Another fantastic gift shop and some of the best value wines in the Okanagan.  I’m drinking a glass of their Riesling right now.  It gulpable.

Then Gray Monk for tasting and lunch.  Terribly slow service at the Lookout Restaurant and OK food.

Final stop Arrowleaf Cellars, they keep winning awards but I’ve never been and still am not a fan.

After a break we took advantage of 50th Parallel’s complimentary shuttle from Predator.  What a beautiful winery and Block One restaurant.  Lots of great art, super tasting.  I didn’t love the pizza but they have a fabulous forno and the warm olives and broccolini, done gomae style was great.

And so another Okanagan wine tour ends.