20 January 2015

My Best Bites in the Valley

Another year has come and gone and I look back fondly on the past year and on all of the memorable eating experiences we have had in 2014. Although it may be difficult to name just a few I will attempt to name my favourites among them. Some are just a memory without any photographic evidence but savoured on the tongue, some cannot be replicated, duplicated, or reinvented, but all of these food memories have left their footprints in my memory card; shared with good friends these memories will linger forever. The journey does not stop here.

Apple Doughnuts with Caramel Sauce and Rosemary Ice Cream
Technically this is not a dessert I tried last year but it was so perfect, it just had to be added to this list. I will consider it my first monthly choice for 2015 of the Best Bites in the Valley...Apple Doughnuts with Caramel Sauce and Rosemary Ice Cream at Local Lounge • Grille in Summerland. Now if that wasn't perfection….

Pancakes at The Grist Mill and Gardens in Keremeos
Once again this year I made a pilgrimage to The Grist Mill and Gardens in Keremeos for their annual apple celebrations. Under the leadership of proprietor Chris Mathieson the mill with its natural assets is becoming a foodie destination with visitors getting a tour of the working mill and interactive exhibits thrown in for good measure. The 12-acre site,  with six acres to grow wheat, a heritage apple orchard, and its own restaurant facilities is perfectly positioned to illustrate both the past and future of food. On this day my goal was their annual Apple Day celebrations and the promise of a pancake breakfast by our very own Natasha Schooten in the bright and peaceful on-site tea room. Worthy of my dreams!

Okanagan Burger Tour
Almost any burger on the Okanagan Burger Tour! A fun and congenial group of burger enthusiasts from up and down the valley convene once a month to try burgers at local joints. We have had burgers made especially for us from chefs throughout the valley, as well as tried more conventional on the menu burgers on a growing list of local establishments.  This group was founded by our fearless leader Bradley James Cooper and continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  This months event was organized by moi at Cork + Brix at Bonitas Winery. Later this week Kaila Klassen of  Master Chef Canada Season One will wow us with her winning Oiken Duck Burger.

Affogato with Salted Caramel Gelato at Il Tavolino down in the Mission area of town
There are many places in town that make a good affogato but the secret to true success is in the coffee. Originating in Milan, the affogato style of coffee is basically a caffeinated ice cream sundae. A scoop of gelato is drenched in a shot of hot espresso. While it is fine enjoyed as it is, some variations also include a shot of liqueur (such as Amaretto) or a crumbled topping of amaretti. At Il Tavolino they use premium Italian coffee and give you your choice of a myriad of gelato flavours…salted caramel anyone?"Conosco i miei polli.”
Macarons at Sandrines 
I simply cannot resist the French meringue macarons from Sandrine French Pastry and Chocolate. I have taken one of their cooking classes and making these delicate little cookies is an art that takes great skill. These do not disappoint. The more traditional macarons such as chocolate ganache, pistachio, and caramel, share the lineup with more fanciful and seasonally inspired creations like black currant and lime-basil. Sandrine arrived from France in 2004 and like the famed Pierre Herme, comes from a  generation of chocolatiers. They offer an exquisite selection of cakes, macarons, and artisan chocolates, along with traditional and authentic recipes such as Mille-Feuille and Duck Confit. You will  also find the latest trends in fine French pastries, as well as croissants, quiches, tourtieres and jams made with wonderful organic fruit from the Okanagan.

God's Mountain
Here in the interior of British Columbia we herald in Spring with tender local asparagus, freshly shelled peas, and crimson stalks of rhubarb but as we usher in the warmer weather and move into the "dog days of summer" we have dreams of sharing a plethora of local bounty at sun-dappled long table dinners with kindred spirits. We headed on our first adventure of the season to one of the sold out Cuisine du Terroir dinners at God's Mountain Estate in Penticton celebrating my favourite Spring "must have" the spot prawn. "Close your eyes and envision one long communal table, laid out under the stars, on a secluded bluff overlooking one of the oldest Riesling vineyards in the Valley and the shimmering Skaha Lake. In the background, a rambling, whitewashed bed and breakfast full of nooks, crannies, roofless rooms and stuffed armadillos that could be taken straight out of my photo album of a timeless trip to Santorini."  

Dates with Blue Cheese at Salted Brick
Chef Jason Leizert proves that size doesn't matter at his local haunt Salted Brick in the downtown core. Local cheese, house made charcuterie, and even duck fat line the shelves for an impromptu picnic or as the piece of a puzzle in the creative dishes prepared on site. I found myself there one Sunday for brunch  and craved a mimosa…not on the menu...it did not matter. Jason whipped something up from what he had on hand. As for the warm dates stuffed with local blue cheese, I am speechless.

Chocolate Croissants at Okanagan Grocers; Monica is a genius
These chocolate filled croissants speak for themselves. This tiny Kelowna bakery opened in 2004 and has risen to the ranks of one of the best. Anyone who has ever bitten into a flaky, buttery croissant from Kelowna’s Okanagan Grocery, with or without Bernard Callebeaut chocolate, or a perfectly crusty-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside artisan loaf such as baguettes, alpine loaf, heavenly brioche, Callebaut Chocolate loaf, or rosemary focaccia cannot deny baker Monika Walker’s mastery of the art of baking. The Queen of Bakers also has specialties each week such as fragrant potato and scallion sourdough and peanut butter and jelly loaf. Also on hand are an array of ever-changing dessert choices such as creme brûlée, rice pudding and lemon tart.
Monika is the high priestess of bread in Kelowna, and luckily for us rookies and home bakers she offers bread baking classes that are a perfect blend of fun and insider secrets. I learned the secrets of making buttery croissants as well as an artisan loaf baked in their state of the art kitchens at their second location.
Churro Waffles from the More Than Burnt Toast Kitchen
Yes indeed….

Sloping Hill Porkchop with Popcorn Polenta, Parsnip, Brown Butter and Quince Vinegar paired with Oldfield Series Merlot at Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Winery. Long table dinners and seasonally changing menus…the pork tender and juicy, the popcorn polenta…outstanding...need I say more.

Micro bar • bites
The relatively new intimate digs at  Micro bar • bites  is a welcome addition to the downtown neighbourhood restaurant scene which is ready for an upmarket, "big city" wine bar. I "smooze" with my friends noshing on an array of 10 small bites, 10 beers, and 10 wines that is ever-changing. The pomme frites are one constant that simply cannot be missed. Then again the pommel frites at Bouchon are also perfection reincarnated…oooh and their chocolate martinis!!!!!

Honourable mentions…but no less stellar 

Saj Common Kitchen 

Simple but effective. The outstanding hummus we made at a cooking class at Saj Common Kitchen. It is also one of the homes of the Soup Sisters, a group who makes soup once a month for an organization in need.

from Brodo

Chili at a plant sale at Summerland Research Station by Chef Cecconi of Brodo Kitchen.

Joy Road Vineyard Kitchen

Marguerita Pizza at the new Joy Road Vineyard Kitchen at Black Hills Winery

Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop

Luncheon as part of the Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop. The big surprise... Chef Matt Batey of Mission Hill Winery fame came out of his hiatus to present a memorable meal in a gorgeous setting…and on Mother's Day.

Tomato Festival
Then there were the heirloom tomatoes at the first tomato festival at Sunshine Farms.They come in a kaleidoscope  of colours, pink, yellow, orange, maroon, purple and may even be marbled or striped or have unusual shapes. Until the 20th century and the onset of hybrids tomato varieties were every shape but round. With names like Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Kellogg's Breakfast, San Marzano, Yellow Pear, Radiator and Charlie's Mortgage Lifter how can you resist.  But most importantly they have outstanding flavour! My favour bite was an unusual choice…Bernard Callebaut chocolate covered tomatoes. Don't knock it till you try it.

Kelowna Mountain Vineyard and Bridges

A picnic with good friends and a concert at Kelowna Mountain Vineyard and Bridges. My favourite nosh…local goat cheese with fennel blackberry jam. Oh and the fresh veggies, and the gougeres, and…..

Waterfront Wines

The Basil Arancini at Waterfront Wines at last years Thompson-Okanagan Wine and Dine. We could have eaten an entire bowl full!!!!!!!! Some of the above photos from Saltfoodphoto.com

Diner en Blanc 2014

And of course the annual Diner en Blanc which is always filled with good friends and wonderful food made by our own hands. Here's to more wonderful eats in 2015!

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. Best Blogger Tips


  1. A beautifully presented and wonderful year of memories Val. I especially love the affogato. I wish I knew the secret to keep the cold ice cream or gelato from melting and turning into a puddle the minute the hot espresso is poured over it. It's one of my favorite desserts to serve at home. So glad you've walked down memory lane this morning. I loved the journey.

    1. I think my espresso is added when it is cooled somewhat. Maybe that's the secret. But then again espresso with melted salted caramel gelato is not half bad :-)

  2. Absolutely mouthwatering food! Fabuous memories.



  3. You had a great year.. not many of us can attest to having seen ..tasted and done so much.
    Fun to see:)
    Have another great year!

  4. I love to visit with those who love food! Thus, I have much enjoyed your post this morning. I honestly felt that I was transported back to the glory days of Gourmet magazine with your delicious photos.


    1. Why thank you Bonnie. It is such an enjoyable experience to share these adventures.

  5. Thanks for thisVal, almost makes me want to come back home from the Mayan Riviera...(I said almost..)

  6. I want basically all the food in this post, but the colors of those macarons are SO perfect!!


  7. This is some of the best food porn I've ever seen! From the Apple Doughnuts to the Affogato I don't know which I'd rather eat first - thanks for sharing and Cheers to a fabulous 2015!!!

  8. Wonderful reflection on the best bites of 2014 Val. Glad I was there to share so many of them with you. Your picks top my list too.

  9. Those burgers! God's Mountain. What a year! GREG

  10. You are inspiring me to create my own year of food experiences for 2015! What a beautiful post. I'm now quite hungry!

  11. Oh wow I am truly craving that first apple doughnut! WOW what an adventure of food and lovely photos.. thanks for your visit! I am starving now!

  12. Now I'm craving chocolate croissants...and chili...and wood-fired pizza. What amazing tastes you've experienced, Val! :-)

  13. What a great post Val. I really enjoyed it. And I can't wait to try your waffle recipe.


  14. Wow, Val! Those are some mighty awesome food memories! I'm sure I drooled over every pic. Great post!

  15. That is quite a collection of delicious looking food...I rarely eat pancakes but I saw a stack calling out my name!


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