Okanagan Trip Report
Just got back from a few days in the Okanagan Valley.
En route from Tsawassen to my ultimate destination (Osoyoos) I did not find anything chowworthy. I walked around Hope for a while, looking for inspiration but none was to be found. Ended up getting a coffee and a chicken pesto panini from a place called "Blue Moose." Wasn't terrible, but definitely not memorable.
Tuesday night I ate at Burrowing Owl. The food was good but not very creative. I had a goat cheese salad with the usual accompaniments of fruit (currants, apples) and greens as a starter. Then I had a perfectly cooked duck breast atop a bed of black beluga lentils. The server provided a complimentary chocolate truffle as I did not order any dessert. It was delicious and appreciated. I also give kudos to Burrowing Owl's chef for sourcing local ingredients as much as possible.
On Wednesday I awoke early and drove to Kelowna. I started my day at the Bean Scene. I did not care for my Americano--the roast was too dark and murky for my liking. After walking around downtown Kelowna I started touring wineries in the area. I had lunch at Quail's Gate and was really impressed with the food there. I started with a plate of three plump Cortez Island oysters, garnished with chenin blanc "caviar" (made using agar). Wouldn't you know it, the oysters paired perfectly with a glass of chenin blanc. I then had a delicious and unusual canneloni stuffed with braised beef and served with a savoury chocolate hollandaise sauce, garnished with cocoa nibs and sea salt. I paired this with a flight of Quail's Gate pinot noir. Delicious.
For dinner that night I ate at Miradora at Tinhorn Creek winery. It has the same owners as Le Gavroche and the chef is Jeff van Geest, whom some of you might remember from Aurora Bistro. I had a 3 course tasting menu. My starter was wood oven cooked broccoli with duck confit, which was delicious. My main was seared albacore tuna with potatoes and green beans. Sounds boring, but it was elevated by lightly pickled chunks of cucumber. And the execution was perfect. For dessert I had a peach tiramisu. Altogether I quite liked the food at Miradora.
Yesterday morning I went to a new bakery in Osoyoos called Lake Village bakery. I bought a loaf of bread which I have not tried yet (will toast some this morning) and some pistachio brittle for my wife which she tells me is very good. I also purchased some granola that was tasty. I ate lunch at TerraFina, the restaurant at Hester Creek winery. I had a sausage and mushroom pizza that was good, but not stellar.
On my way home, I picked up a big box of organic peaches and some organic rainier cherries from Harker's Organics in Cawston. Pleased to report that both are sweet and delicious! Looks like it's going to be a stellar year for Okanagan fruit growers.
All in all I had a good time. The most interesting food I found when researching my trip was at the winery restaurants, although Raudz in Kelowna looks good. One dissapointment was that I tried a few local coffee shops in the area and did not find a place that served a coffee to my tastes (my reference points for coffee in Vancouver are Elysian, 49th Parallel, Kafka, and Revolution; in Victoria I like Bows and Arrows and Discovery).
The highlight of my trip was definitely the wineries I visited. I enjoyed the wines I tasted at Burrowing Owl, Black Hills, Le Vieux Pin, Desert Hills, Tantalus Vineyards, Cedar Creek, Meyer Family Vineyards, Blue Mountain, Stag's Hollow, Fairview Cellars, Orofino, Seven Stones, Poplar Grove, La Frenz, Nichol, 8th Generation, Stoneboat, and several others. I'm really impressed with the variety and quality of wines that the Okanagan is now producing. Can't wait to return, maybe next year!
To the poster who asked about the best place to stay for food in the Okanagan, I'm thinking Penticton might be the best choice, if only because it is roughly a mid-point between the South Okanagan (about 50 km from Oliver and Osoyoos) and the North Okanagan. Also, Penticton has many more dining choices that Oliver or Osoyoos, and several of the wineries in the area have restaurants attached to them (i.e. Vanilla Pod shares space with Poplar Grove, and the menu looked good). And even if you can't find any good coffee in the area, there's always Starbucks!
I liked Miradora, but don't think it is anniversary quality food. Also, it is between Osoyoos and Oliver, and about a 1 hr 40 minute drive from Kelowna. So definitely not a good place to eat if you are staying in Kelowna.
Quail's Gate has excellent food, and is in Kelowna (West Kelowna). They also make some pretty good pinot noir. I think it would be a better choice for an anniversary. The food is a little more creative and a little more refined than at Miradora. But Raudz also looks like a great little place and is smack dab in the middle of downtown Kelowna.
Just spent a week or two in Kelowna.
Although Quail's gate has superior wine, Mission Hill has much better food, and a better view. It can get hot in the open air restaurant, so be mindful.
The pastry chef also spent 2 years at El Bulli at MH - so make sure you order dessert.
Word has it that the food used to be much better a QG, but the Chef moved on to The Cove (unbeknownst to us at the time), which had surprisingly great food - but that'd explain it!
Thanks for the report! This thread and others on the site were very helpful in our recent swing through the Okanagan. In the interest of paying it forward, my observations:
Had an unbelievably good dinner at RauDZ, probably the best of the trip. I had the RBJ, a ridiculous "steak sandwich" of beef tenderloin, butter poached crab AND bacon. Absolute melt in your mouth heaven. Hubby had the Arctic char, impeccably prepared. Nice wine and cocktail list, reasonable prices. No patio, which may explain why we were able to walk in without a reservation. House-made cherry-tarragon lollipops came with the bill!
On the down side, we were really disappointed with our lunch at Mission Hill. They are trying way too hard on the service front, in my view. Better than not trying at all, but do we really need 6 different staff members expounding on the virtues of their fresh, regional cuisine or making awkward small talk while refilling our water glasses? Had the food actually lived up to the hype I could have forgiven the over-eager service, but my seared scallop salad featured cold, tasteless scallops on a bed of dry pea shoots, and my husband's trout was overcooked. The frites were good, and the complimentary bread was excellent, but this is supposed to be the best restaurant in the Okanagan!
Old Vines at Quail's Gate was excellent as usual, though we were disappointed not to get a patio table. We were lucky to get a table at all, even reserving a couple of days ahead of time and going on a Monday night. My only complaint was that the menu was a bit heavy on shockingly priced luxury cuts of meat (eg. Bison tenderloin for $54, beef tenderloin for $48). I guess there's a constituency for those things, but on a 7-item list of main courses, it does tend to limit those of us who would like to come in at under $200 for dinner for two.
Our surprise discovery was actually in Peachland, where we were staying. Best value of the trip at Fiesta del Sol, a newly opened Mexican/Salvadorean place right on the waterfront. $25 for two got us a delicious and filling dinner of both fish and pork tacos, in our choice of freshly made flour or corn tortillas. Of course the bill was low because we drank lime sodas (they're not yet licensed), but I imagine that will change shortly. Hopefully the word gets out, because the place was largely empty (no patio).
I'm running out of steam so will keep it short, but really enjoyed both lunch at Terrafina (Hester Creek) and dinner at Miradoro (Tinhorn Creek) - though at the latter my husband was not as impressed by his ling cod as I was by my wild boar bacon carbonara. Both are in gorgeous settings. Also picked up the makings for a highly satisfying picnic at the Lake Village bakery - thanks for the tip! And we had surprisingly good take-out pizza from the unassuming Pizza 97 in Oliver.
Already scheming for the next trip!
Forgot to add that we had a stellar lunch at the Hillside Winery bistro in Naramata. We had been aiming for the Vanilla Pod but we were on bikes and Hillside is shrewd enough to post their menu beside the KVR bike trail to entice cyclists. The burger was apparently very tasty, but my kale salad took the cake, topped as it was with fat pieces of bacon, seasonal fruits, and a perfectly balanced raspberry vinaigrette. Add a glass of their impressive rose and a sunny day, and it's pretty much heaven.
Visited Raudz on a recent trip to Kelowna and the food was fabulous both times.
We made our way to Old Vines(one of our favorite spot to visit when we're in Kelowna), food was delicious as usual. Couple of snags, they were not able to accommodate my mom's request to make a vegetarian meal without onion or garlic. Only option was to have a salad. Quite disappointed since many other tables had requests and the restaurant was able to accommodate them. My other peeve was we weren't able to have a patio table reserved due to our party of 8-first come basis. When we arrived, we were told someone else had already made reservations. Noticing the patio was not full, we asked to be seated there but were told only one large party can be outside. When we left, the patio never filled up. Their policy should be consistent, when it's not, guests will feel like they're being lied to.