18 April 2013

A Long Table Dinner at the 2nd Annual Oyster Festival

Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek

A sure sign of the Spring thaw here in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley is when the doors are unlocked at our local wineries. This week I was fortunate enough to attend an oyster themed long table dinner at Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek Winery, along the Golden Mile near Oliver. The catalyst was the opening of the 2nd annual Oyster Festival. The restaurant which opened in 2011, blends Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, farm-to-table concepts and Ocean Wise Seafood with some of the regions top wines from Tinhorn Creek. Miradoro is a winner of Vancouver Magazine’s Best Winery/Vineyard Dining Award with chef Jeff Van Geest at the helm.

Wine Barrel Room
In true More Than Burnt Toast fashion I arrived early enough to sip and savour some of Tinhorn Creek's premium wines in their tasting room, took time to relax on their patio with a glass in hand and watch Spring unfold around me. I shared the patio with the winemaker and his cohort who were enjoying a sip before the event. Eventually I wandered over to the Miradoro where a long table glistened with polished stemware with the stunning Okanagan valley views surrounding us like an interactive backdrop.

Long Table Dinner at Miradoro (taken with my iPhone)
The Oliver/Osoyoos Oyster Festival was created to showcase the sustainable oysters produced by the farmers and guilds of the British Columbia West Coast together with the award-winning wines of the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association. I remember someone saying, "Even oysters need a day in the sunny Okanagan!" Now in its second year, the Oliver/Osoyoos Oyster Festival will be held from April 17-21, and there are even more oyster-themed events on the schedule. Freshly shucked oysters from Canada's Coastal regions will be provided for this 5 day event from Codfather’s, Effingham, Outlandish, Brent Petkau, The Oysterman and Penticton’s Buy the Sea Market.

Grilled Speck Wrapped Oysters in Nettle Veloute Sauce (taken with my iPhone)
The stage was set, the lights dimmed and the culinary theatre loomed before us. Sparkling glasses of crystal were soon filled with tantalizing award winning wines from Tinhorn Creek Winery promising the second act to each course. It simply made sense for me to think that a menu created using infamous oysters from the coast would be the starting point for a magical evening. I was not disappointed.

Oyster and Chorizo Paella (taken with my iPhone)
We kicked off the event and awakened our senses with irresistible west coast oysters on the half shell from our local seafood specialists, Jon and Anne Marie Crofts, both expert shuckers from Kelowna’s Codfather’s Seafood Market. West-coast Marina Top Drawer and Beach Angels were shucked before our eyes and topped with a light refreshing sauce. With my first taste my senses were awakened; alive to the world and the magic of a fantastic evening. I loved this explanation from Rowan Jacobsen's A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America, "I became part of the ritual, the shucking of the oysters, the anointing with sauce, the lifting and tilting of the shells, the drinking of the liquor before, during, or after; and then the laying down of the downturned shells back on the plate. Like the Japanese tea ceremony, a good oyster ritual has a Zen spirit. It allows you to mask the world and live briefly in the here and now."

"Like kissing the sea on the lips" 

- Léon-Paul Fargue

Last year at an event also hosted by Codfathers I revisited oysters, a shellfish I have avoided for over 30 years. For those of you who adore their temptations this aversion is unfathomable. As always there is an explanation. I was hitchhiking in the province of Newfoundland and there were two entrepreneurial "wee" lads at the side of the road selling oysters they had painstakingly collected in buckets. My travelling companions wanted to give them a try and gleaned that they would knock on the nearest door and have the owner cook them up for us. The premise was that I was an "oyster virgin"; which of course was the truth at 19. Needless to say my first foray into these frilly bivalves was sand and grit filled and less than appetizing. It took over 30 years to clear this tactile sensation from my mind and join the brave girls club by giving them another try. This is much like my previous squeamishness of looking into the eyes of other delectable fish and crustaceans.

Attending an event where each course is laden with oysters lets you know that I have overcome my fear. Sitting around a long table surrounded by friends and new acquaintances oysters lead to discussion, to contemplation, and to personal delight. There is nothing quite like them. "Something about them excites the palate, and the mind, in a way that other shellfish simply do not." M.F.K. Fisher
Today something about oysters resists every attempt to describe them. At some level, it’s not about taste or smell at all. Because an oyster, like a lover, first captures you by bewitching your mind.

For the rest of the Spring menu which was served family style...Grilled Speck Wrapped Oysters with Nettle Veloute, Oyster and Chorizo Paella and for dessert a memorable Limoncello Soda Float with Vanilla Gelato. The most fun I have had for $35. A big thank you to chef Jeff Van Geest, kitchen and floor staff, and the winemaking families of Shaunessy and Oldfield for making a special evening even better.

32830 Tinhorn Creek Road
Oliver, BC, V0H 1T0
Tel: 250.498.3742
Email: info@miradoro.ca
Web: www.miradoro.ca

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. A wonderful event! I have never tasted oysters and I'm not sure I would like them (shellfish phobia). ;-)



  2. How fun and how wonderful to overcome such a longstanding dislike. Beautiful photos of a lovely event!

  3. This had to be great! We love oysters no matter how they're prepared. Glad you overcame your fear!

  4. I understand your phobia with oysters. I think it is the whole texture thing. However what a beautiful place and love the view.

  5. Love the quote! Love the pics your i-phone takes. You really live in the heart of a food focused culture! Lucky you! Will I see you next week at one of the dinners in Osooyos?

    1. So much going on this month Valerie. I couldn't make it to Osoyoos again for Slow Food. I am going to all of the dinners for Jennifer's Food and Wine Workshop.I know both she and Roz will be there, as well as Sarah of course. Are you driving?

  6. Bonjour. I did not know about the Festival. We are so close... I could have taken my parents there... Next time... Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  7. Oh my goodness, Val, how fun!! And how scrumptious. I've only ever eaten oysters on the half shell, so I'm delighted by these creative dishes. Yum!

  8. Wow this is such a fun event! I've only had oysters once and it was definitely an experience!

  9. This reminds me, it's about time to visit our wine club and pick up wine!

  10. Looks like fun.. we ate your muffins today but w/ strawberries..will make again w/ rhubarb..Thank you!

  11. Now that sounds like an event I would love!

  12. I adore oysters and this looks like a fantastic event.

  13. This is actually one of the few wineries that I have yet to visit in the Okanagan.
    I believe that the Wine Bloggers' Conference in June has this as a stop during the event but if not I'll be sure to stop in before heading back to Kelowna.
    Sounds like a lovely time - I love oysters and wine.
    Great minds think alike - I just did a blog post featuring Mission Hill.
    My favourite Okanagan pass time - wine tasting!


    1. I will check it out Murissa. I have attended a couple of classes at Mission Hill notably this one hear with Chef Batey. The Oyster Festival is not to be missed. There is always next year.

  14. One day Val and you will be my guest....


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