1 October 2015

Making Cinguli with the Locals in Calitri - the Italian Town You Dream Of

Calitri and surrounds

Friends have described my trip to Italy 3 years ago as "the trip that keeps on giving." In many aspects they are quite right. Since this is a blog mainly about food there were many memories made in and out of the kitchen.  Anywhere I travel, even if it is just an outing to the local farmers market, I feel the need to immerse myself and dive head first into the food and culture of the area and then share it in every way possible.

My first conscious memory of this type of travel was at a cooking school on the island of Keaa small island in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece. This was a life-changing vacation that altered my perception of food and how it should be enjoyed on a daily basis. Travel helps us to better understand and appreciate other people and their cultures. Nothing is more intimate, or more effective at breaking down cultural barriers, than cooking and sharing meals together.

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19 September 2015

Celebrate the Salmon's Return with "Oceans to the Okanagan"

Covert Farms Oceans to the Okanagan Collaborative Dinner
I hope you never tire of hearing about a small portion of the amazing events available to locals and tourists alike here in the Okanagan Valley. This weekend found me sharing a table with kindred spirits at Covert Farms, a completely organic farm and winery located 8 kilometers north of Oliver in the southern reaches of the Okanagan Valley. Besides offering a stunning landscape, a myriad of organic produce, and very hospitable people it was the muse a few weekends ago for a very special collaborative 5-course dinner where a portion of the proceeds went to support the Salmon Habitat restoration in the South Okanagan. I bumped shoulders with people from the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Ocean Wise Vancouver Aquarium, and Salmon-Safe B.C while enjoying an innovative menu and wines from Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. I am told I was the very first person to sign up and show my support for this special event with an opportunity to learn more about the story of the Okanagan salmon and enjoy a very special menu highlighting the region.

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17 September 2015

Celebrate the Season with an Heirloom Tomato Jam at The Second Annual Tomato Festival

Walking through the farmers market this time of year, you can't help but realize that tomato season is still in full swing. Tomatoes are available all year round but it’s not until mid summer that they really come into their own. With the threat of frost in September the season is fleeting as we savour the last few days of summer and all the bounty it has to offer. The weather begs to differ with hot, sultry days and cool nights but things can turn on a dime.

What better way to celebrate my absolutely favourite fruit than with a Tomato Festival. When I mentioned to my worldly travellers where I was headed this past Sunday they had visions of La Tomatina in Spain . Although it is on my bucket list, this was a celebration of a different colour.  And celebrate we did with an array of delicious and innovative little bites topped off with the piece de resistance  a variety of freshly baked pizzas from a wood fire oven for the second annual Tomato Festival at Sunshine Farms.

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12 September 2015

An Ethereal Night at the Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop

Have you ever had a life changing moment where you are so overwhelmed on many different levels of emotion that it is hard to put it down in words? I have experienced this only rarely in my lifetime. When discovering the tiny island of Kea in Greece through the eyes of Aglaia and Costas of Keartisanal, climbing up pinnacles of rocks to ancient monasteries in the Meteora region in Greece, driving along the Cinque de Terre in Italy at 18, staying at a converted convent on the Coast of the Gods in Tropea, Italy with an active volcano as my view across the expanse of a cerulean blue sea. These are life changing moments than can never be forgotten.

However, life changing moments can also be found in the simple things in life. When I attend any type of event I have always taken hundreds, if not thousands, of photos.  My third eye is my camera lens and through it I see the world through rose coloured glasses. Long before blogging I was taking photos of the food at my table while on even the smallest of adventures. There’s something so evocative to me about pictures of food and the power they have to vividly remind me of mouth-watering meals and moments that I’ve had on my travels. I can look at my culinary photos and remember exactly where I was, the scent of the dish placed in front of me, and the way the flavours opened up on my palate. In many cases the taste or smell of something in my past is capable of painting a picture with richer, deeper brush strokes than any snapshot in my photo album. In some small way I hope today to take you along for a few moments on this journey hand in hand.
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10 September 2015

Heirloom Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese

Heirloom Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese

This coming weekend is the Tomato Festival at Sunshine Farms, you will hear more about that later. Last year we had such a good time that we signed up right away when tickets were offered. In hind site I have been dreaming of beautiful heirloom tomatoes since then and am beside myself with happiness that they are once again in season. I have been enjoying them for weeks now. With so many recipe choices swirling around in my mind this weekend I opted for a luscious French-style tomato tart. With pastry in the freezer and a little time on my hands I started eying those heirloom tomatoes sunbathing on the kitchen counter. 

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8 September 2015

Corn Pancakes with Lemon Blueberry Sauce

Corn Pancakes with Lemon Blueberry Sauce

I remember way back when on a lazy Sunday morning my then husband spoiled me with breakfast in bed. He had added corn to the pancakes to which I turned up my "fussy pants" nose. Little did I know that this basic recipe would start a life long love affair for corn in my pancakes that follows me to this day. The recipe below is a little more sophisticated than that first encounter with the addition of cornmeal and a topping of blueberry sauce but there is nothing as satisfying on a cool Sunday morning than a beloved recipe.

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6 September 2015

Shifting Gears with Corn Risotto

Corn Risotto. The end of summer…I think not

I woke up this morning feeling the need to wrap myself in a cosy, warm blanket. Refreshingly cooler nights are a welcome seasonal change. Day time high temperatures are still lingering but one day soon these lazy days of summer will be only a distant memory.  Summer is nice but it is often too hot to cook or even to eat so I long for our farmers markets to be overflowing with pumpkins, apples, corn, and squash. As the cool morning air is nipping at our noses this invasion of our senses means the resurrection of comfort foods in my kitchen. I easily switch gears and can hardly control myself from jumping right into pumpkin and apple recipes with the beginning of my favourite season. You will be inundated with pumpkin and apple recipes on these pages soon enough.

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13 August 2015

Les Dames d'Escoffier Dinner in the Vineyard

Spierhead Winery 
August 12 at 6:00 o'clock in the evening found dozens of restaurants, vineyards, gardens, and cooking schools, from Vancouver Island to the Okanagan valley each generously donating one table for a dinner party all across the province of British Columbia. I imagined all of these venues toasting, sipping, and dining concurrently all across the province. We were more than ready for another culinary adventure despite the sky breaking loose for a very brief thunder and lightning show. We were greeted with warm, inviting smiles and happily cocooned ourselves indoors at a beautifully set table in the tasting room for this annual fund raising event from Les Dames d'Escoffiers. Our chosen venue of the dozens offered here in Kelowna was Spierhead Winery in East Kelowna co-owned by our host Dame Marina Knutson. She teamed up with Dame Audrey Surrao of RauDZ Regional Table for a spectacular "picnic" dinner created by one of their talented chefs (Top Chef Canada alumni) Evelynn Takoff. 

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2 August 2015

Mission Hill Experience for Food Day Canada #FDC2015

Mission Hill Winery
British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley has always been known for its bountiful fruits that thrive in the irrigated, fertile soil throughout the valley. Such a myriad of produce is available at road side stands and at our local farmers markets. Added to the mix there are now more than 65 grape varietals that ripen in the hot summer sun before being turned into award-winning wines. If an Okanagan Valley road trip is on your to-do list this summer, make sure you have a plan of attack when it comes to visiting the ever-expanding list of British Columbia wineries. These days we are the host-with-the-most for die-hard food and wine tourists. 

Those lucky enough to live in the valley eat well to the point where we take it for granted. But while home cooks have long turned out amazing dishes for appreciative guests, the idea of a formal Okanagan cuisine is blossoming as we come into our own. But the idea is still relatively new. Based on the local produce harvested and their ability to pair beautifully with the region’s wines, the Okanagan’s version of wine country Okanagan Cuisine is simple, fresh and relatively free of garnishes and sauces. 
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1 August 2015

Okanagan Chicks Who Brunch

The view at The Vanilla Pod
I love Sunday mornings. Most often being my only free day I have the unbridled pleasure of doing as I please. Once the weather co-operates I am loathe to spend time at home. Plenty of housework to be done, Hell NO!!! Cooking for the week. No, no, NO! Instead I gravitate towards exploring our desert valley with its undulating vineyards and picturesque orchards, heading to the sun-baked beach, or having a satisfying brunch with those special people in my life. Since my friends and family are not always available I took the bull by the horns when our group Okanagan Chicks Who Brunch took its first baby steps a few months ago. My ultimate goal is to try every brunch venue near and far on a once a month "date." Meeting some new faces along the way is an added bonus.

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