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Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

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Farm to fork

Long table love

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“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.” Alice Waters

Every Sunday evening in the summer at God’s Mountain Estate, set in a vineyard above shimmering Skaha Lake, the chefs of Joy Road Catering create  a culinary adventure.

The menu is inspired by the season, local wine, and the best of what growers, foragers and farmers present. When Joy Road and Upper Bench Winery & Creamery are riffing off  each other some Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Okanagan Sun cheese, U&Brie, Gold cheese, Grey Baby and King Cole blue music is made. A fantastic evening turned into a magical one for the lucky 47 to score spots at the long table when a late May day decided to be a mid-July one bathing everyone in warmth and casting a rosy glow over the evening.

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Dana Ewart prepares the flowers for the Alfresco table set simply but beautifully in white linens.

“It’s around the table and in the preparation of food that we learn about ourselves and about the world.” Alice Walters.

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IMG_7333.jpgFirst to arrive, U&Brie gougere with Joy Road’s own 2-year house-cured prosciutto with a Brie, heirloom radishes & herb salad, paired with chilled Upper Bench Riesling.

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Chardonay was served with a Tartiflette cooked in a wood oven featuring Okanagan Sun cheese and farmer Yuri’s potatoes, leeks, lemon thyme and house-cured bacon.

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Award-winning wine, artisan cheese and the Valley’s most sought-after caterer combine to create a night to remember.  Upper Bench Winemaker Gavin Miller’s passion for the vineyard and the terroir is expressed through his signature, hands-off, minimalist approach to winemaking. He is known in the industry for his big Bordeaux-style reds and has a distinct way of showcasing a wine’s varietal character.

The winery and creamery’s Cheesemaker Shana Miller has steeped herself in the art of artisanal cheesemaking and has been creating her own line of Upper Bench Blue, Brie, and washed-rind cheeses since 2011.

Joy Road is famous for its cuisine du terroir with its lovely food with a strong sense of place. They use local ingredients for the simple reason that fresh tastes better. The caterers believe wholeheartedly in socially-responsible food sourcing allowing its customers to enjoy the Okanagan bounty at the height of ripeness while also sustaining the farmers and artisans who represent the agricultural heritage of this region.

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The kitchen building at God’s Mountain looks like a Provence house with its blue shutters.

The main course was a rack of pork rubbed with fennel and chili, overnight braised shoulder and jus with Swiss chard and kale paired with a stunning Pinot Noir.

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Chef Dana reading a “prayer” from Alice Waters about good honest food and sharing it with good people.

IMG_7454.jpgOne of Joy Road’s most labour intensive dishes was this amazing house-ground flint corn polenta with wild white chanterelle mushrooms and Upper Bench Gold cheese served with Similkameen asparagus with Grey Baby Mornay sauce, chives and chive blossoms.

IMG_7415.JPGFarmer Jordan’s spring-tender greens were perfect.

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Behind the scenes social media action to capture the magic with the help of a glass of Upper Bench Riesling and a second golden Chardonnay.
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Plating taking place adjacent to the Long Table

IMG_7441.jpgFor the final act, guests were treated to fairly lights, a stunning sunset and red wine poach pears with a King Cole blue and Similkameen apiary honey and vanilla bean caramel.

IMG_7461 2.jpgGod’s Mountain Estates is a unique 115-acre oasis featuring a Mediterranean-style villa, built by an eccentric pioneer couple and their family. The spectacular views of the lake and vineyards, the serenity and grandeur of the mountain and the eclectic ambiance of the home, make this a story-book venue for a long table dinner.

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Estate’s pup sent guests off after a perfect evening…well sort of.

X marks the happy spot where Knotweed Restaurant and Legend Distilling meet

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If Legend and Knotweed had a baby: This chocolate espresso torte with a toasted hazelnut crust and cashew creme makes stellar use of the cocoa nibs used to infuse Legend’s Blasted Brew Spiked Coffee. Dessert first? May get hit by a meteor before I finish lunch.

Farm to glass meet farm to fork.  Legend Distilling in Naramata is now home to Knotweed Restaurant and its a perfect marriage. Both Knotweed and Legend Distilling share concepts and philosophies on community and supporting and buying local and sustainable.

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Salt Spring Island mussels.

“The Knotweed concept is farm to table,” says Chef /Owner Mike Sonier. “The concept is to tie farmers and chefs together and bring an ever-changing menu of quality food with the end result of a wonderful experience for guests.”

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Knotweed Chef/Owner Mike Sonier.

Chef Mike uses only sustainable wholesome ingredients that are locally sourced from the community as well as seeking out the highest quality organic ingredients from various humane farms around B.C.

“The pairing works beautifully with Legend Distilling’s overall philosophy of supporting our local community and locally produced products,” says Legend co-owner Dawn Lennie. “As a B.C. craft distillery, we use only B.C. grown raw materials in all of our products sourced from farms around B.C., many right here in Naramata like the Balaton Sour Cherries we use grown by Forest Green Man Lavender.” (And the raspberries from our farm…)

Every day is like a black box restaurant test says Chef Mike. “I like to get really creative with what the community has to offer and what’s in season. I’ve found my niche. I love to cook with local ingredients and the menu changes as often as nightly to weekly depending on what our suppliers have on hand.”

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I chose this wild mushroom risotto and it blew my socks off. So creamy and flavourful…

Chef Mike started getting serious about cooking at 13 but can date the first spark back even earlier. “In Grade 2 or 3 we did some cooking in a home economics class at school and I immediately went home and got busy. My mom came home to a kitchen with a food all over the counter.”

He attended Nova Scotia Culinary Arts school and worked in restaurants in the Maritimes, Toronto and Ottawa learning from chefs and compiling dishes, techniques and learning how to coax the most flavours out of a wide-range of ingredients along the way before starting Knotweed.

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Chicken coconut curry with Maple Hill’s chicken, purple cabbage, broccollini, crimini mushrooms, kale, onions and turmeric infused basmati.

“We ask our guests to allow some time for the dishes to come out of the kitchen,” says Chef Mike. “Everything is made from scratch, per order, freshly prepared as this is the best way to ensure our standard of quality is met.”

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Chicken and wild boar sliders. The chicken is prepared with Upper Bench Okanagan Sun soft ripened cheese, wilted kale, caramelized onion jam, spicy pepper aioli, smoked pork belly. The wild boar makes glorious use of Upper Bench King Cole blue cheese, apple, wilted kale, caramelized onion jam and smoked pepper aioli. Notice how the burger is in focus and the lovely server plays second fiddle in this food symphony?

Dining with some of the Okanagan’s food and wine literati, the wait was no issue as we happily tasted whichever meal came out first. Convivial lunch companions included Wine and Food Trails writer, book author and now winemaker, Jennifer Schell, Wine and Food Trails fellow writer Rosalyn Buchanan, Penelope and Dylan Roche, in the process of building a new winery on Upper Bench called Roche, Legend owners Dawn and Doug Lennie and Karolina Born-Tschuemperlin, co-owner of Forest Green Man Lavender. Forgivable bad manners in a gathering of food writers, we moved the dishes into good lighting and did some quick backdrop styling to snap some photos before we dove in.

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“Perfect, leave your hand there. It looks good in the shot.” The presentation of all the food, including this Cache Creek beef bone marrow with rosemary-infused grilled bread, was rustic and appealing.

The Legend drink menu compliments the lovely food or maybe it’s the other way around?  A wide array of hot and cold cocktails and seasonal drink specials are on offer with all of them using their own handmade spirits, as well as an ever chanaging selection local Naramata wines, bubble, BC craft beers and cider.

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My go-to Gone in Sixty Seconds lived up to its moniker.

Me and all my foodie pals had no hesitation in giving Knotweed a hearty bravo and another checkmark on the list of what makes Naramata so great.

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Legend Distilling when I went in for lunch…
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and when I left…perfect place to linger on a fall day.
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No meteors. Time for seconds.

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