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Apr 29, 2014 11:46 AM

3 Days from Toronto - Kelowna, Okanagan and Vancouver

Hi, Vancity Chowhounds!
I'm doing some advance planning for a visit in August with my husband - we're doing Kelowna for 4 days (Fri-Mon) as our base for wine country, then 3 days (Tues-Thurs) in Vancouver (then Portland and Seattle).

We're in our early 30s, love to travel and eat all kinds of food, focused on local ingredients and specialties. I love vegetables seafood, he prefers meat and pasta, we both love good cocktails and craft beer. We like to mix fine, casual, street and ethnic dining when we travel. Some of our favourite meals recently have been, for reference, at Spring in Paris, Big Star in Chicago, and Bar Isabel in Toronto - we like a spectrum of high and low, as you can see. I've done some research and want your local input!

What we're looking for:

- your recommendations for wineries to visit with good pinot, chard, cab franc, and/or views, and/or restaurants

- your recommendations for meals in wine country and dinner in Kelowna

- your favourites among Vancouver's street carts/trucks/cheaper spots (thoughts on Buck Stop, Meat & Bread, Dunlevy Snack Bar?)

- your favourites among Vancouver's isakaya/Asian/fusion/sushi/ramen type places (thoughts on Bao Bei, Maenam, Bambudda, Yew?)

- best bars/restaurants for cocktails, and/or craft beer

- your favourite among Vancouver's higher end/contemporary spots (Hawksworth, Vij’s, Cioppino’s, L’Abattoir, West, Wildebeest?)

- your favourite places for smaller bites and good drinks (thoughts on Pidgin, Blue Water Cafe, Fish Counter, The Acorn, Farmer's Apprentice?)

We like to one night of bar/food crawling in a trendy neighbourhood when we travel, as a way to spread the love and try all sorts of stuff. If there are places I mentioned or others I missed that might work for a travelling meal (eat at one place, drink at another, eat at another) etc I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Thanks in advance! I can promise I would return the favour if you were coming to TO :)

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  1. Sounds like you've done your homework!

    Don't miss Blue Water Cafe if you love seafood.

    As for Kelowna, you'll have a blast. Make resos as it is nuts up there in August. Check out Bouchons for great French. Raudz downtown is also very good. For wineries, don't miss Mission Hill. Old Vines @ Quails Gate is also a winner.

    1. No help re Kelowna as it's been years (though the SO has been to Raudz lately (also mentioned by waylman) and gave it the thumbs up).

      Love the Meat and Bread porchetta sando at the original store on Cambie (newer one near Burrard okay for takeaway only). Dunlevy Snack Bar is very tasty and reasonable, though not in the most awesome part of town. Not a fan of any of the Asiany places you mentioned, alas, and I wouldn't call any of them izakaya, which I do enjoy, particularly Zakkushi on Denman, though it is really hot in there in the summertime.

      I like Farmer's Apprentice and Burdock and Co. better than the higher end places you mentioned, with the exception of L'abbatoir. Ask to sit in the atrium if you want a date night, upstairs if you're more into a scene. Vij has never felt high end to me, though I suppose his prices have crept up. Anywhere you have to wait up to two hours for a table is not high end in my book :-).

      Haven't been to Pidgin, Blue Water I find too corporate and spendy for what it is though it has many fans including waylman who I respect mucho, Fish Counter is barely a counter and there's nowhere nice to nosh nearby so be warned, too lineup averse for The Acorn, see above re FA.

      Food crawling for me would be Denman for multiple izakaya.

      Loved Bar Isabel in December as a solo diner at the bar.

      1 Reply
      1. Had an excellent meal at Mission Hill a few years back. Beautiful winery and has a reputation of hiring skilled chefs.
        Joie, kettle valley, and poplar grove make some great wines.

        1. Hey LemonLauren, sounds like you guys got a great getaway planned (which for CH-ers like us, usually revolves around eating :-) )

          If you don't mind my saying, I think you've done your Vancouver research well, and then some. There's prolly very good (if subconscious) reasons why you shortlisted your choices. I think it'd be a blast if you guys simply went to those restaurants according to your schedule, and come away surprised, satisfied, dissatisfied .... what-have-you. They're all well-regarded, but to each his/her own as far as experience goes.

          With no disregard to others' feedback here.

          Just go with your gut instincts and flow with it, and not get into analysis paralysis. Either way I'm sure you'll have a very memorable culinary expedition :-)

          1 Reply
          1. re: LotusRapper

            haha thanks! i still like to hear from experts from what's best now :)

          2. ... Okanagan - that's a big place in terms of driving and time to drive - the Okanagan Lake itself is 90 miles long - basically north-south along Hwy 97 (i don't know metric) - and then the valley goes further min 1 hour hiway drive speed from Penticton to the border. (ie 49th para)
            so where are you staying? (ie which town)
            the other consideration is that some of the best views, walking, cycling etc are in Naramata - on the other side of the lake - i won't explain here - just look at a google map. For example, for us to visit our friends in Summerland - which is about 2 miles as the proverbial crows fly across the lake - one has to drive minimum 30 minutes at the speed limit some of which is 90K on the signs in order to get there without wings.
            i suggest you search this board for the following terms
            one thing I recommend is that you look up the local farm market days - each place has certain days - we like the Wine Country Bakery - the man's name is Martin.
            there are also many organic farms (not necessarily selling at the gate) in Cawston BC - however many of these folks come to the farmer markets
            there is a recent local kerfuffle about the location of the Kelowna YLW farmer market - so you'll have to check that out -
            there are several markets during the 7 day week thru out the valley
            if you like local food - then check out the BC SPCA farm approved program -
            i would definitely have a cooler in my car - do you know how hot August is in Okanagan - even for a few minutes in the car.
            i would also for sure plan for picnics during your daytime travels in the Okanagan - as you will want to stop and put your feet and more in the lake (easy access in Summerland, Trout Creek, Penticton, Nara
            the best Gewurtz is Sumac Ridge
            they also make the sparkling jay
            it's all part of vincor
            i like to support the people who support the dogs and cats - and that is also vincor - See Ya Later brand. That's in OK Falls
            If you venture down that far (south of Penticton) - i'd go on the east side road of Skaha and stop by Matheson Farms (there is a public park in OK Falls for a swim - and Tickleberries ice cream is normal ice cream but a cute place and local landmark
            )nearby is Blue Mountain - so you will have to check their hours and availability
            the other important detail about wine is if you plan to have some shipped home back to ON - you should check the laws - there are still some old laws from prohibition era - so call ahead and ask at the wineries you plan to visit. I know that is one big claim to fame that our current MP from here in Penticton has as a private members bill or something like that - he's going to change those laws he says ---- I don't know the current progress on that front.
            much Okanagan info previous posts on this board - pls see the key words suggested above.
            some other ideas -
            Poplar Grove cheese in Nara general store
            Ag Canada Summerland research station - beautiful gardens and fab view of the lake and the Trout Creek Trestle - this is the place that much of our local BC Okanagan ag industry incl viticulture originated.
            Kettle Valley Steam train in Summerland - well worth it.
            the heritage hotel in Naramata
            the KVR historic transcanada trail in Naramata (some is walk/cycle only - some is drive access - amazing views - super hot in the afternoon - take lots of potable water
            )the orchard museum in Kelowna - a couple of blocks walk from the Delta hotel in K-town.
            if you have pancake wkds - I'd go to Summerland Sweets and get some local flavor syrup ---- old business here.
            Elephant Island wines in Nara - way diff than commercial - just casual. And real tree fruit wines - you'll be surprised. Ask for the apricot dessert wine - or the framboise. A dry cherry or pear. The cherry is great with bbq.
            poplar grove winery and the vanilla restaurant - nice view - bring sunscreen and sun hats.
            please look for wineries that are environmentally sound, hire the fair trade workers, don't use round-up, etc. It has changed our valley.
            if you have any further OK Valley questions - pls say if you're landing at YLW or where are you staying etc. It's a big place up here and takes a while to drive because you can't cross the lake (except for the bridge at K-Town.).
            perhaps i've missed those details in your original post -
            also - how are you getting from YLW to YVR - there have been posts on here about Hope BC, Princeton BC (island girl I think on this board last summer?) and other enroute places. Lovely scenery over the mountains - nothing like ontario - make sure you have a full gas tank, potable water and not every spot is served by cell ph..

            2 Replies
            1. re: Georgia Strait

              In Summerland as we speak. ONLY place worthy of eating in town is Zia's Stonehouse, which we went for the first time ever. Pricier than same stuff in Vancouver but they did everything well for our group of 5. Only major glitch was my steak frites, which I asked for med. well and it was made well past well done. The place was PACKED and all the servers (very professional young ladies) up to their ying yang doing their jobs that I didn't bother asking for a replacement.

              Midday drive from Penticton down the east side of Skaha Lake to OK(-anagan) Falls was nice.

              1. re: Georgia Strait

                Wow, fantastic!
                We are flying into and staying in Kelowna. Renting a car. Flying to Vancouver.