B.C. Wine Culture

The vibrant dining room—with a selection of the 101 wines available—at Salt & Brick in Kelowna. Joanne Sasvari photo

A foodie tour samples the best of all that’s new in the heart of B.C. wine country

Heading to Kelowna? Better pack your stretchy pants. There is so much good food to be had here you can spend all your time nibbling and grazing and noshing your way through the city. What’s even more remarkable is how many of the best eateries have just opened in the last year or so. Here’s how to make the most of your eating hours by sampling the best of what’s new.

Breakfast

Baguettes stand propped on the “bread wall” at Waterfront Cafe in Kelowna. Joanne Sasvari photo

Start your morning at Waterfront Café in the Mission, where chef Mark Filatow is baking crusty artisan breads and whipping up exceptional breakfasts like his crisp-tender potato rosti topped with perfectly poached egg and oozing with melted cheese. Get there early, before the best loaves are gone.

Consider it pre-breakfast, then head over to Start Fresh Kitchen, a collaborative project that teaches vulnerable members of the community how to grow, prepare and serve food. Chef Blake Bjornson and his team cook fresh-from-the-farm breakfasts and lunches here; just try to resist their nutty-sweet pecan waffles with crispy local bacon.

Lunch

For lunch, head north to Lake Country, which is becoming a culinary hotspot thanks to two exceptional new winery restaurants.

The rock lobster with nuoc cham at The Chase Winery’s Garden Bistro in Lake Country. Joanne Sasvari photo

At The Chase, winemaker Adrian Baker produces bright, complex Riesling, Pinot Noir and a richly perfumed Gewürztraminer he describes as “the Amy Winehouse of wine. It’s completely lush in both meanings of the word.” Keeping up with these gorgeous wines is Garden Bistro chef Alex Lavroff, who brings an inventive spirit to pairing, helped by a bountiful onsite veggie patch. He pairs that lush Gewürz with a buttery rock lobster in spicy-sweet nuoc cham, a combination Baker calls “the Sultan of Brunei of wine matches.”

The flatbread from the forno oven at Block One Restaurant at 50th Parallel Estate Winery in Lake Country. Joanne Sasvari photo

Down the road, at 50th Parallel Estate’s Block One restaurant, chef Kai Koroll makes the most of local and seasonal ingredients, thanks to a wood-fired forno oven. The flatbreads are exceptional here, and the view over rolling vineyards and distant mountains is not so bad either. Best enjoyed with a glass of finely structured Pinot Noir.

Afternoon pick-me-up

Scoops of basil and haskap berry gelato top freshly made waffles at QB Gelato in Kelowna. Joanne Sasvari photo

Hope you saved some room, because you will definitely want to visit QB Gelato. The name refers to the Italian expression “quanto basta,” which means “take as much as you want,” says co-owner Victor Laderoute. “That’s what life is about, eating and enjoying.” When he and his partner Kevin Bojda retired a few years back, they hied themselves off to Italy’s “gelato university” to study the art of making gelato the traditional way: freshly crafted from seasonal ingredients, with no fillers or preservatives. Belly on up to their chic tasting bar and sample flavours such as basil, haskap berry and “Holy Cacao,” an impossibly rich, intense, dark chocolate sorbet. “We like to say that we don’t sell gelato, we sell an experience, and gelato just happens to be the product you’ve experienced,” Laderoute says.

By now, you’re probably craving a beer, so head over to BNA Brewing Co., housed in a beautifully refurbished tobacco warehouse, for a pint or two of their expressive craft ales. Or enjoy one of their handcrafted cocktails, along with a snack from their globally inspired menu. Need some exercise? Take a spin on the 10-pin bowling alley or the bocce court.

Dinner

The brussels sprouts at Salt & Brick will make you a believer in vegetable-forward dining. Joanne Sasvari photo

Salt & Brick’s tiny dining room is jam-packed with people craving chef James Holmes’ fresher-than-fresh fare. His share-plate menu changes daily—even, sometimes, midway through a meal if something delicious arrives at the back door. Think tender bao stuffed with local veg, ridiculously good brussels sprouts, handmade pasta that zings with flavour or fresh fish baked whole and lavished with citrus and spice. The fresh sheet is 80 per cent vegetarian, and pairs with an extensive wine list that focuses mainly on smaller, off-the-beaten-track wineries. “It’s strictly a wine bar with some spirits,” Holmes says. Sounds like our kind of place.

The tomato and strawberry salad at Oak + Cru Social Kitchen & Wine Bar is unexpectedly delicious. Joanne Sasvari photo

Then again, so is Oak + Cru Social Kitchen & Wine Bar. The buzzy lakeside patio would be enough reason to swing by the restaurant at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort. The food and the wine come a close second, though. Its impressive wine program features dozens of B.C. wines by the glass, while Chef Daniel Craig makes the most of local bounty with dishes such as his unexpectedly delicious tomato and strawberry salad with burrata and crisp prosciutto. In a final flourish, pastry chef Arthur Chen whips up seductively sweet treats such as lemony cheesecake and creamy gelato sprinkled with, yes, popcorn. It’s an unbeatable way to end the meal—and your next visit to Kelowna.

Joanne Sasvari is editor of Vitis and The Alchemist magazines. She also writes about food and drink for WestJet and Vancouver Sun, and is author of the Wickaninnish and Vancouver Eats cookbooks.

Joanne Sasvari is editor of Vitis and The Alchemist magazines. She also writes about food and drink for WestJet and Vancouver Sun, and is author of the Wickaninnish and Vancouver Eats cookbooks.

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