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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26 July 2015

Recreating the Experience with a Chilled Zucchini Soup with Chèvre and Herb Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

The scene is set at God's Mountain

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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21 July 2015

The Attack of the Killer Summer Tomatoes 2015

Every day we should be excited about what we are eating even if it just means something as simple as making use of a wonderful find at our local farmers market. Wineries, craft breweries and artisanal cheese makers are emerging and adding a new dimension to our local cuisine, enriching it and extending it well beyond it's traditionial boundaries. West coast salmon, New Brunswick lobster, Ontario cheddar are all being paired with wonderful Canadian wines and locally harvested fruits and vegetables. Foodies are in heaven and locavores are finally coming into their own. 
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11 July 2015

Lobster and Fennel Salad with Arugula for Diner en Blanc

Lobster and Fennel Salad with Arugula - Lobster Roll without the bun!!
It's one of France's greatest exports next to baguettes, Godard movies and Thierry Henry. On an ethereal night hundreds of people dressed elegantly in white, converged at a secret location, shrouded in mystery, setting up miles of white fold-up tables draped in white crisp linens and topped with sparkling crystal soon to be filled with local wines. White plates and silverware were set, table decorations arranged from candles to candelabras. Our senses were heightened and we were more than ready for a highly anticipated evening. The stage was set, candles flickered and nature created the backdrop, a kaleidoscope show of colour in the fading light as a sea of white revellers loomed before us.
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31 May 2015

Whole Wheat Quinoa Pancakes with Blueberries for Slow Sundays

Whole Wheat Quinoa Pancakes with Blueberries 
A long, leisurely breakfast.

A calming drive south to Gods Mountain for an ethereal long table dinner. 

What more could I ask for on my day off but to start the day off right. Something that would curb my hunger well into the afternoon.

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20 May 2015

Spring Salad from Ottolenghi

Spring is all about alfresco dining, sun-drenched days, and quality time with friends. When I first started learning to cook in my home kitchen, one of the initial things I discovered was that the key to outstanding meals was using good quality ingredients. As time passed I realized that this meant either growing or purchasing the best local ingredients available which with today's trends has become easier and easier with a resurgence of farmers markets, specialty food shops and local producers.

What has taken me years to understand is that recipes are merely guidelines and are open to any interpretation. I used to follow recipes to the letter and they always turned out well, but as the years progressed, and I have become confident in the kitchen, I am more open to experimentation and substitution. 

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16 May 2015

May is National Burger Month So Let's Get Flipping

Did you know that May is National Burger Month? Now that it is the long weekend we are flashing up the barbecues across the nation, donning our aprons armed with spatulas, condiments, and hearty appetites and fulfilling our meat-centric dreams.

I like burgers. I like burgers a lot!!! I am part of a wanderlust group of over 200 burger aficionados who travel up and down the valley one evening per month sampling burgers, on or off the menu. We hit everywhere from established burger joints, pubs, and wineries to high end farm-to-table eateries. Anywhere where we can make burgers happen we will be there. Of course we don't all go at once!

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10 May 2015

A French-Inspired Picnic to Celebrate Mothers Everywhere

Macarons; Salmon Rilettes with Easter Egg Radishes and Microgreens; local asparagus
The lilacs and dogwood trees are in full bloom, orchards are buzzing with bees and the hummingbirds have returned. A visit to the farmers market yesterday cemented the idea in my mind and ultimately in my kitchen. Spring is when everything seems to come alive!!!!! The days are longer and the markets are beginning to burst with the colours of the bountiful fruits and vegetables of the season. Nothing comes quick enough as we wait impatiently to enjoy fresh, sweet cherries and sweet garden peas. It is the season for furled fiddleheads, asparagus and escarole and a wide variety of lettuce hand plucked from the garden for green salads. The delightful fragrance of chives, mint, chervil and tarragon fill the air to season our dishes. All of these tastes of Spring were bursting from the stalls at yesterdays market.

Yesterday I had a rare morning off and was able to head to our local farmers market. Awaiting me were fresh local asparagus from Armstrong, freshly plucked greens of all kinds, fresh herbs, Easter Egg radishes, free range eggs, and microgreens. So to celebrate moms everywhere I created another Sunday picnic with a French theme in mind…ooh la la...
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