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naramata-blend

Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

Naramata Cider Company Rest Easy pork chops in a cream sauce

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The secret ingredient — Cider Maker’s Select … Rest Easy from the Naramata Cider Company

Seasoned with garlic cloves and shallots, this easy to make pork chops recipe is elevated into the stratosphere with its apple and blackberry hard cider and velvety cream sauce. Adapted from blogger queen of France’s Mimi Thorisson’s new cookbook, French Country Cooking, the recipe takes less than a half hour to prepare.

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Keeping it local…all the ingredients were sourced in the Okanagan Valley including the Naramata Cider Company Rest Easy, lovely thick pork chops from T-Bones in Penticton, cream from D Dutchman Dairy and vegetables from my garden and the Penticton Farmer’s Market.

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, 2.5 cm thick
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and smashed
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 2/3 cup Rest Easy Naramata Cider Company apple and blackberry cider
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

IMG_6972.jpgDirections

Preheat oven to 325F

Score the pork chops on both sides and season all over with salt and pepper.

In a large saute pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for 3 minutes. Add the pork chops and garlic cloves, reduce the heat to medium and cook just until the juices run clear (about 7 minutes per side).

Transfer the pork chops to an ovenproof dish, put the sage leaves on top and spoon the pan drippings over all. Put in the oven to keep warm.

Increase the heat under the pan to high and pour in the cider. Boil for 2 minutes to reduce. Add the heavy cream, stir until thickened and remove from the heat.

Pour the sauce on top of the chops and serve. Pair with the remaining cider!

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Amaretti Amaretto limone tarts

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Not to be all fancy pants Italian, these lovely tart lemon tarts have almonds three ways in the buttery tart shells…crushed Amaretti biscuits, Amaretto liqueur and ground almonds (almond flour). The lemon curd uses fresh eggs and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Topping them off is a small cloud of Amaretto meringue topping.
IMG_5863.jpgTart shell ingredients
Makes eight 4-inch tart shells or six 6-inch shells
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely ground blanched almonds
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground amaretti cookies (I bought mine at La Cucina in Penticton.) Look for them in an Italian store. (Place a handful of amaretti in between sheets of parchment and crush them with a rolling pin)
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, softened but still cold
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, almonds, and ground cookies; set aside.

  2. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle over confectioners’ sugar and toss, using your hands, until butter is fully coated. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until butter and sugar are well combined.

  3. Scrape down sides of bowl, add egg yolk, and continue beating until combined. Reduce speed to medium-low and slowly add the flour mixture; beat until well combined. Scrape down sides of bowl and add heavy cream and Amaretto; beat until well combined. Form dough into a large ball using your hands. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight if you make the day before.

  4. Lightly flour a work surface. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and cut into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on the size of tart shell you select. Gently knead each piece of dough into a smooth disc, using a spatula to turn dough, as it will be sticky. Add more flour to work surface if necessary. Cover each piece with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough until chilled, about 10 minutes.

  5. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into a 6-inch or 8-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer each round to a 4-inch or 6-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and gently press into tart pan. Roll a rolling pin over each tart shell, pressing lightly to trim any excess dough; discard.

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  6. Place tart pans on a baking sheet and prick the bottom of each tart pan with a fork; transfer baking sheet to refrigerator and chill 30 minutes.

  7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake tart shells until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

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 Lemon curd ingredientsIMG_5889.jpg
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 6 lemons depending on their size)
  • Grated zest of two of the lemons
  • 2 large eggs
  • 7 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue topping) ((Come on Maria…please lay one more egg as I only have 6…Yippeeee…good chicken)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

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Directions

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and zest and let sit for 10 minutes.

In a medium nonreactive bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until combined. Add the lemon juice/zest and whisk until combined.

Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Cook stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened…about 6 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the pan and whisk in the butter. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl.

Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the lemon curd to stop a nasty skin from forming. Set aside at room temp. until you have made the meringue and are ready to assemble the tarts.

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Lots of egg photos…eggs as art when you have your own chickens.

Amaretto meringue ingredients

  • The 7 large egg whites you have reserved
  • 1 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of Amaretto liqueur

Directions

Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a nonreactive mixing bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches 140 degrees…about 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the pan, with an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high until stiff peaks form adding the cream of tartar after about 3 minutes. Mix a further 3 minutes and then add the Amaretto and mix just to incorporate.

Some assembly required

Add the warm lemon curd to the pre-baked tart shells. Drop a dollop of meringue on top of the lemon curd and place under a preheated broiler until the meringue is lightly browned.

These tarts should be eaten within 24 hours (no problemo).

(You will have left over meringue…unavoidable to have enough yolks to make the curd…you can make meringue cookies with the leftovers. You may also have leftover lemon curd. Refrigerate and enjoy like pudding.)

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Chicks are hip – the revival of back-yard chickens

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Meet The Baroness … a Black Sex Link in her laying prime

Ordered on Black Friday as my Christmas present I had to wait months for my May Christmas morning chicken delivery which I anticipated with almost ponyesque excitement.

My grandmother would be astonished to know how eagerly anticipated my chickens were. “In my day they were meat and eggs and they would never be named,” I hear her say in my head as she long since gone. She would also be very perplexed that I am RENTING my two laying hens from Rentthechicken. com and have read up on all the treats I can feed them such as a half a watermelon, which now on the grocery list.

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Maria sticking her neck out for treats.

Chickens seem to be a perfect convergence of the economic, environmental, foodie and emotional matters of the moment, plus, in the past few years, they have undergone an image rehabilitation so amazing that it should be studied by social media experts. Why do posts of a grinning person holding a garden variety chicken get thousands of likes?

Now that my chickens have arrived I am the object of more pure envy than I have ever experienced in my life. (I kind of like it.) I can’t count the number of friends that want to know all about chicken raising before they decided to give it a shot. I’m thinking of charging an admission fee to see them.

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They forage for food all day long!

Until the nineteen-fifties, it was common to keep a few chickens around. They were cheap and easy to raise. Some table scraps and bugs, a coop and you were good to go.  A hundred years ago, a chick cost about fifteen cents and a laying hen a few dollars. A hen in her prime, which lasts two or three years, could produce an egg every day or two in the laying season, and once she stopped laying she could be cooked.

Then came urbanization, the supermarket, the egg cholesterol scare, giant egg farms and you know the rest and all the horrible images of tens of thousands of birds crammed into a giant industrialized egg laying factories. (After hanging out with these friendly, curious and surprising un-bird brained creatures I feel even more strongly about giving them a nice life…)

Renting the girls will give me a good taste of what’s involved in chicken husbandry without worry about wintering them over or fully committing to the idea. I can adopt them permanently if I get attached or request the same pair again next summer.

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My first two eggs.

Here are some observations after a couple of days of chickening.

  1. They are friendly…at least they seem so once they established that every time they see me I’m holding out some scratch, freeze-dried mealy worms, prize dandelion leaves, grapes, a bit of toast or to-die-for apparently…tattertots.
  2. Chickens make a wide-range of cool noises from a sort of purring sound to a happy cackle after egg-laying that I interpreted as I MADE EGG!!!!! But research says the egg-song made a distance away from the just laid nice warm egg is to distract predators from the bounty.
  3. There is a pecking order and a bit of squabbling between the ladies. The Baroness took a good peck to the neck over a grape squabble but shook it off like a prize fighter.
  4. Their legs and feet are kind of creepy and dinosaur looking and their toes are very flexible.
  5. Finding the first set of eggs was pretty cool, OK really cool, cooler than it should have been, but really, really cool.
  6. I’m losing sleep. I get up with the chickens to make sure they are OK. I imagine I will chill out soon. I had a reason to worry this morning. The door to the nesting area of their coop was wide open this morning and I had spotted a racoon in the hood last evening. It’s like the racoon was pulling up at a drive-through…just checking for his egg McMuffin. The girlies were OK but the nesting box is getting a second latch today.
  7. I like them!
  8. I was shown how to pick them up so I can have one of those Instagram grinning-person-holding-a-chicken photos but haven’t gotten up the nerve yet.
  9. You haven’t lived, if you are chicken, until you have had a dust bath. They really, really, really like it and fling dirt around, loll around, flap wings…
  10. Still not sure if chickens have lips.
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Maria was shy at first but is coming out of her shell.
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Egg salad sandwich in the making.
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Omelette with fresh herbs from the garden and Upper Bench Winery & Creamery Brie.
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Marie from Rent The Chicken in Kamloops letting the girls out with The Handyman looking on.
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Hand feeding. I’m working on getting them to come when called, “chick, chick, chick, chick” so I can let them do some free-ranging.

The Kingdom of Naramata’s Crown Maker

IMG_4902.jpgRather prosaically, a Crown Maker is called a jeweller but I think this intricate art form needs a more suitable moniker. How about latin? Factorem Coronam comes closer to capturing the magic of this sorcery. Naramata’s Queen of Crowns is Darlene Jones and here are some of her diadems to die for.

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No shrinking violets allowed.
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Fairy tale right?

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Ice Queen
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How exotic is this one?
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Even her deer creations sport crowns.
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Detail from a sun goddess crown.

 

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Darlene herself sporting one of her amazing creations.

 

Dubbed by her daughter as a “Glue Ru”, she has perfected the art of making the ordinary extraordinary in her jewel box Naramata studio. Within minutes I was trying on crowns, hats and headpieces with the artist who believes in making the world a more colourful and sparkling place.

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Here she has transformed a photograph of her grandmother and given her some bling. Darlene looks like her. 

“As you can see I’m a magpie and am very attracted to sparkle,” says Darlene who gets lost for hours in her art. She also gets huge satisfaction when her “earth mother-type friends transform themselves into goddesses,” with the addition of a crown. “It touches something childlike in them and it’s amazing to see what happens when they see themselves as beautiful. I’m a big advocate for big girl dress-up.”

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Crowing selfie.
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Darlene’s dazzling studio.
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A crown fan from way back, this is my coronal, or nuptial crown beautifully made by my mother-in-law.
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This little number came home with me. This is a perfect example of why blogging costs me money but pays me in so many other ways. Thanks Darlene. Happy to have more of your flamboyant art. 

Helo happiness

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A long standing tradition in Naramata, almost every Easter a helicopter is enlisted to drop eggs onto Manitou Park for kids by our regional district. The kids come dressed up in costume or in their Easter finest. To prevent any eggcidents, the eggs are hollow plastic ones that when gathered up are exchanged for chocolate. The weather is also part of this tradition. It’s been a blue sky day for every egg drop I’ve attended and this year was no exception.

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Chocolate rain about to commence

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Mad scramble

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Never give up.
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Amidst all the chaos.

Hello hops – The Naramata Bench now has all the bevies covered

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Brent Tarasoff in Square One Hops‘ hopyard shoring up trellis on a dreary spring day in Penticton

Bines not vines

“After we bought this beautiful piece of land we looked around us and saw grapes and more grapes,” says Kari Tarasoff of Square One Hops. “Brent woke up one morning and said, ‘Hey, we should do something different and grow hops.'” Two key prerequisites helped them clinch their decision to grow bines not vines — they both love craft beer and Brent is a seasoned agrologist with years of farming under his belt.

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It’s a labour of love, Kari says and “wildly unprofitable compared to grapes. We are big into it on a small acreage.” The couple, hailing from Alberta, are embracing the lifestyle in their new community and their new passion. “There is so much to learn that its like drinking from a fire hose,” she says.

Brent learned from hop growers and their association in Yakima, Washington and quickly became a confident grower because of his professional agrologist background. The bines are happy here too, producing more hops than anticipated.

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Square One Hops has a prime location adjacent to the Kettle Valley Railway Trail mid-way between Penticton and Naramata. Their view is stunning.

Frankengrapes

“Because we were doing something so different here there was a lot of speculation from passerbys on the KVR as to what we were going to grow,” says Kari. “We overheard people saying that we were planting GMO grapes that were super tall. I wonder how they thought we would pick them?”

No Frankengrapes at Square One. Their hop varieties include Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, Chinook, Glacier, Hallertau, Magnum, Mount Hood, Nugget, Super Alpha and Willamette and some small amounts of Pacific Gem, Saaz and Galena and sell them fresh ($10/pound) or pelletized ($14 top $20/pound). The Tarasoffs sell their hops to local craft breweries such as Bad Tattoo Brewing Co., BNA Brewing Co., Barley Mill Brew Pub, Firehall Brewing, Kettle River Brewing Co., Highway 97 Brewery, Detonate Brewing and Marten Brewing Co. The breweries are thrilled to have a local supplier of fresh hops in the hood. The breweries will buy a percentage of the hops but about 75 to 80 per cent of the hops they grow this year will going to a very special place…Siding 14 Brewing Company in Ponoka, the couples next venture…more later…

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Kari and Brent Tarasoff…out standing in their hopyard (couldn’t resist the farmer joke)

Hops 101

Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobes) of the hop plant. They are used primarily as a flavouring and stability agent in beer, to which they impart bitter, zesty, or citric flavours. The hop plant is a vigorous, (crazily so…Kari says the plants grow a foot a day in the peak growing season…”You can almost see and hear them growing…it’s crazy.”) climbing,  herbaceous perennial trained to grow up strings in a field called a hopfield, hop garden, or hopyard when grown commercially. Many different varieties of hops are grown by farmers around the world, with different types being used for particular styles of beer.

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Drying racks awaiting this year’s harvest.

Is hops growing for you? Kari says there are tons of want-to-be growers out there with romantic notions of the hip lifestyle of the hops grower. “It’s farming,” she says. “It’s really labour intensive farming. When Brent farmed in Saskatchewan he did it with big machinery. Here it’s very hands on.”

She countered her buzz killing statement a moment later however. “It’s pretty magical walking through the hopyard at the height of the growing season. It’s unbelievably peaceful and fascinating. There is not another plant that I know that grows so fast. You can almost hear them talking. The most fun part for me are the plants themselves. They all look different, both the cones and the leaves. They all smell differently, feel differently and react to rain differently.”

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As in the Wizard of Oz I’m going to take you from my black and white shots of a grey spring day to the magic of technicolour thanks to these beautiful photos taken by Kari.

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Siding 14

Next for the Tarasoffs? A brewery of their own to make some magic with their Penticton-grown hops. Partnering up with barley growers Josh and Femke Lubach of Pridelands Grain, Brent and Kari are opening Siding 14 Brewing Company in Ponoka (the town was originally named Siding 14) in late spring. Cheers to that.

Cocktail hour – Legend’s Rosemary Swizzle

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A Naramata sun sets in this lovely Rosemary Swizzle at Legend Distilling.

Students of the latest Naramata Blend cooking class, (or as a participant dubbed us Naramata Blenders)  completed Mixology 101 by learning to make a Rosemary Swizzle. Once made, our final exam was to sip and enjoy this refreshing, aromatic cocktail made with local hand-crafted spirits and wine. We passed.

Rosemary Swizzle

Recipe created by Chris Mason Stearns – Mixologist extraordinaire

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Ingredients

  • 1 oz Legend Distilling Doctor’s Orders Gin (You can substitute of course…but it won’t taste as good)
  • 2 oz Elephant Island Crab Apple wine (Again…if you can’t source Elephant Island use another brand of crabapple wine but the taste won’t be as amazing, merely just great)
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 splash fresh lime juice
  • ½ tsp simple syrup (see below)
  • top with soda water
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Dawn Lennie (who along with Doug Lennie owns Legend Distilling) was our mixology professor.

Preparation

In a highball glass full of ice, combine all ingredients except soda. Muddle the edge of the glass with the sprig of rosemary. Top up with soda water and garnish with a large rosemary sprig. Serve with a straw.

Dawn’s mixology tips

How to make your own simple syrup

Simple syrup is, as the name implies, very simple to make and it is an essential item to stock in any bar or kitchen. Also called sugar syrup, you will find it in many mixed drinks including the Mojito, Daiquiri, and Hurricane and it can be used for your coffee, tea, and homemade sodas as well.

This sweetener is primarily used as a substitute for cane sugar because the sugar is already dissolved into the syrup. Simple syrup adds a rich volume to drinks and there are a few ways to make it.

Making your own simple syrup is also more economical than buying it at the store. You can make as small or as large a batch as you wish and store it in the refrigerator in a well-sealed bottle for two to three months.

When the only ingredients are sugar and water, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be making simple syrup at home.

Boil the kettle and combine equal parts (1:1) sugar and water and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

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Some cocktail ingredients, such as the fresh rosemary in the Swizzle, are added simply for aroma.

It’s about balance

The cornerstone of cocktail making is in the understanding of the relationships between strong and weak, and sour and sweet. ‘Strong’ refers to the main alcohol component of the drink, such as vodka, rum or the Doctor’s Orders Gin in the Swizzle; ‘weak’ means the lesser alcoholic beverages, such as liqueurs, fortified wines or the Elephant Island Crabapple Wine Dawn used; ‘sour’ mainly means citrus fruits, such as lemon or lime; and ‘sweet’ accounts for sugar and syrups.

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The Crab Apple gave the Rosemary Swizzle a lovely colour.

A Chef’s stock-in-trade – vegetable stock done right

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Caramelizing is king… Photo by class participant Patrizzio Dunn

Vegetable stock…how hard can that be to make? Done right, it’s not so much hard as slow, Chef Mike Sonier tells participants of the third Naramata-Blend cooking class, “Cooking done right takes time. You can’t make great food on the fly. There is no cutting corners. Food takes time. Cooking with proper ingredients and from scratch is about flavour and nutrition. If you take one thing away tonight it’s take time to cook for yourself.

“Take a minute to look at the ingredients on a packaged stock from the grocery shelf,” he says. “It’s full of MSG, sodium, food colouring and some things not on the labels like GMO ingredients and pesticides.” In addition to the superior flavours of home made stock, it’s also about what’s not in it, he says.

Chef Mike shares his vegetable stock recipe with us and more importantly his tips to make it well.

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Vegetable Stock

Ingredients

Choose organic vegetables if at all possible. On a side note Chef Mike says always choose organic vegetables for juicing as the process will pull out any of the chemicals found in non-organic vegetables, “not doing yourself any favour.” Good quality ingredients makes a night and day difference to your end product, Chef Mike adds.

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 head celery
  • 3 pounds carrots
  • 6 yellow medium onions
  • Handful of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, basil stems, parsley
  •  4 bay leaves
  • ½ tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 4 tablespoons cold-pressed organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 10-15 litres spring water

 

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Choose organic vegetables and buy local if possible.

Method

  1. Wash celery and carrots thoroughly. Peel very top layer of onions.
  2. Chop celery and carrots into 2” pieces. Chop onions into 6 pieces while leaving shells and ends on.
  3. Place stock pot on burner over medium heat until pot is warm but not hot.
  4. Place onions and olive oil into pot. Reduce temperature to a low heat and caramelize until starting to brown.

Mike says that the onion caramelizing is crucial to making a good stock. The sweet flavour of the caramelized onions will be the main flavour of your stock and sweet makes for a great flavour profile. Some of the onions will stick to the bottom of the pot…this is what you want.

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Onions starting to caramelize. Mike says Chefs work by their noses and can tell by the sweet smell when the onions are caramelized to perfection.
  1. Add garlic cloves, celery and carrots. Increase temperature to medium-high heat, stirring frequently and allowing vegetables to stick and brown to pot. (Keep a close eye on temperature as you may need to reduce heat if starting to burn).

The garlic will turn dark brown and some will even turn black which Mike says is “totally fine.” “You want a really dark colour in your stock because that will mean its flavourful.”

Chef Mike shows us the technique of scraping only some areas of the pot at a time incorporating the dark flavourful bits into the mixture.

  1. Once vegetables have fully caramelized (this takes awhile…don’t rush this step) then add in your spring water, herbs, peppercorns and bay leaves. Increase temperature to high heat until boiling.
  2. Once boiling lower your temperature down to a low-simmer and continue to reduce liquids until pot has only ¾ left. This can take from 6 to up to 18 hours depending on how potent or concentrated you want your stock to be. For soup you may only want to reduce by a quarter but for a more intense flavour for a dish like risotto, Mike says to reduce by 3/4 or more.
  3. Taste stock as it’s reducing to achieve desired flavour profile that suits your needs.
  4. Cool down in pot. Once cooled, cover and set in refrigerator to incorporate full-flavourfor a minimum of 24 hours.
  5. Double strain liquids with mesh strainer into sealable containers to keep in the refrigerator or freezer. Discard the vegetables which no longer have any nutritional value.
  6. Will keep in refrigerator for up to 7 days. Freezes in 1 litre containers for up to 6 months.
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The Naramata-Blend cooking class was a combination of demonstration and hands-on.
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We also learned how to make Salt Spring Island Mussels in a garlic cream sauce giving some Naramata Blenders their first taste of a mussel.
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The white wine, garlic, cream sauce was amazing.

Chef Mike Sonier and his business Knotweed is focused on catering events around British Columbia, consulting and finishing up a cookbook that has been in the works for several years. Coming soon, he will be opening a new location that will be geared towards a gastro-styled restaurant on BC’s coast. Knotweed will also be catering, hosting pop up events and workshops in the Okanagan.

“I’m more than stoked to be back on the coast creating coastal dishes that will complete my cookbook, after creating all my land dishes over the years when I’ve been in British Columbia’s interior,” he says. “This journey that I’ve been on out here in B.C has been absolutely incredible and it feels like it has just begun.”

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Chef Mike and his Sous Chef and partner Sierra

 Next up on the blog, a recipe for Legend Distilling‘s Rosemary Swizzle from the mixology component of the cooking class.

In an English Country Garden – and in mine

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Surveying my Naramata garden

England’s Amberley Castle wildlife…

I love English country gardens and my own. Our English relatives John and Ann, indulging me in my passion, always plan a visit to extraordinary gardens when we come and spending time in their own lovely garden with its roses and pond is an enormous pleasure. I bring home inspiration, seeds, garden ornaments, pieces of flint and photos. Here are some of my favourites and how we’ve worked at Canadianizing them.

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Amberley Castle tree fort

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Naramata tree fort…called The Skyroom
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Chartwell House
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Former Calgary garden
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My house…The Handyman built this round gate
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Kent Castle falconry exhibit
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Hunting free in my garden
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Flower border I wish to copy
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Naramata garden in the morning
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English garden path
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Naramata garden path
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English roses
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Naramata rose
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Admitting defeat… this just ain’t going to happen in Naramata

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