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Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

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Farm to table

Naramata Bench Honey Lime Tartlets

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The honey for these deliciously sweet and tangy tarts is as local as I can get it. It comes from Tim Bouwmeester, owner/operator of Desert Flower Honey on the Naramata Bench (next to Hillside Winery). Buying local is always a good thing. Buying honey locally is an even better thing.

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Bit of a honey rant

Most honey comes from China, where beekeepers are notorious for keeping their bees healthy with antibiotics banned in North America because they seep into honey and contaminate it; packers there learn to mask the acrid notes of poor quality product by mixing in sugar or corn-based syrups to fake good taste.

None of this is on the label. Rarely will a jar of honey say “Made in China.” Instead, Chinese honey sold in North America is more likely to be stamped as Indonesian, Malaysian or Taiwanese, due to a growing multimillion dollar laundering system designed to keep the endless supply of cheap and often contaminated Chinese honey moving into North America, where tariffs have been implemented to staunch the flow and protect its own struggling industry.

All the more reason to pick up some local honey next time you are at the farmer’s market.

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The recipe is in three parts: Pastry to make the crusts, the filling and whipped cream for topping the tarts.

Pastry ingredients

You will need eight 3 3/4-inch mini tart pans with removable bottoms.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. ice water

IMG_4861.jpgDirections

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles pea-sized balls. Add egg yolk and ice water and pulse just until the mixture comes together and forms a ball. Don’t overdo it or your pastry will be tough.

Divide the dough into eight small balls and roll each out into a circle with a rolling pin on a lightly floured board. Place your rolled out circles inside the tart pans and using your fingers press the dough up the sides of the eight 3  3/4-inch pans. Place the pans on a cookie sheet and bake about 12 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

IMG_4859.jpgFilling ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. lime zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter cut up
  • 1 Tbsp. local honey
  • 1 cup sour cream

Directions

In a medium saucepan stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in the heavy cream, lime zest and lime juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until gently boiling. Cook and stir another few minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and honey until the butter is melted. Stir in the sour cream. Spoon filling into baked tart shells. Chill at least an hour.

Whipped Cream ingredients and directions

Makes about 4 cups. (Halve the recipe by reducing the cream to one cup leaving all the other ingredients the same if you only want enough to finish off these tartlets.)

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup icing sifted icing sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • dash of salt

Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl with the whip attachment and beat on medium until soft peaks form.

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Some assembly required

Either add a spoonful of whipping cream to the top of tarts or fill a pastry bag and pipe the whipped cream on for a fancier tart. Garnish with some lime zest.

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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.

Guess who’s coming for dinner…the whole darn Village

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Cheers to Naramata and its Naramatians

“Slow down your movin too fast,” is seldom heard in Naramata, an internationally officially-designated slow town.

A Thanksgiving harvest pot-luck at the Naramata Centre beach brought together 182 people who arrived with baskets, platters and bowls filled with locally-grown ingredients crafted into home-made dishes to share at long table under golden-leafed trees by the shores of Okanagan Lake while toasting with Naramata Bench wines. If that sounds a bit too schmaltzy and bucolic, you weren’t there.

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Mel, Yanti and Don provided the perfect sound-track for the event that could well have been a scene from a movie.

The Naramataslow dinner was designed to celebrate Naramata’s special status as slow city bestowed on us by Cittaslow, an international organization formed in Orvieto Italy in 1999. Only three special towns in Canada are Cittaslow. We join Cowichan Bay and Wolfville as places where the pace of life is a bit more human.

To quote from the charmingly translated Italian on the Cittaslow website, “A Cittaslow place is motivated by curious people of a recovered time, where man is still protagonist of the slow and healthy succession of seasons, respectful of citizens’ health, the authenticity of products and good food, rich of fascinating craft traditions, of valuable works of art, squares, theatres, shops, cafes and restaurants. These are places of the spirit and unspoiled landscapes characterized by spontaneity of religious rites and respect the traditions of the joy of slow and quiet living.”

Slow food or local food of high quality with connection to the local land made into traditional recipes where the community comes together for a shared meal to savour this intrinsic part of life is pretty much the essence of Cittaslow and last evening’s Naramataslow dinner.

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In the midst of a rainy weekend, the sun chose to shine on the 182 diners in one of the most picturesque places in Canada.

Centre stage on the menu for the special dinner was a pit-roasted pig and not just any pig but one that was raised on the bounty of the Village and surroundings. Pig-raiser and Roast-master Jay Drysdale of Bella Wines and his wife Wendy raised this particular pig on mash from Legend Distilling, whey from Upper Bench Winery and Creamery and fruit culls from local orchards.

“I hate to ask but did the pig have a name,” I say. “Yup,” says Wendy, “Chorizo.” Makes sense right and in some strange way makes me feel better than if had been named Babe or Wilbur.

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It’s hard to make meat photogenic but I think I nailed it here…apologies to all the vegetarians out there who had many, many options to choose from at the feast.

Naramataslow organizers had the foresight not to over-plan the event, although committee member Miranda Halliday of Elephant Island Winery says the event was a bit of a “leap of faith. We didn’t have tons of time for preparation and what with harvest being so early this year and all of us small business people being busy it came together rather organically and was actually sold out before we had done much advertising.

“It turned out that the simplicity of it was brilliant. The community came together to pull this off.” As for the weather, Miranda says, “You just can’t script that. What a bonus to have the sunshine on our first harvest dinner so we could eat outside by the lake.”

Tickets to the dinner were a whopping $5 and guests were asked to bring a dish for sharing that celebrates our local bounty. Wow, did we ever step up to the plate. Here are some of the offerings…

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Committee member Dawn Lennie of Legend Distilling dresses her work of art.
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Eat the rainbow.
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Roasted root veggies.
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Still life…salad.
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Yum
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Recipes like the one for these colourful latkes are being collected and will be shared in the coming days.
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Still life #2…Trifle by the lake
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A part of the Naramataslow miracle, Miranda says there was an amazing balance between sweet and savoury items amongst the lovingly prepared recipes with no complicated pre-planning or sign-up sheets.
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Still life #3…apple pie with caramel sauce by the lake.
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This nameless person had the forethought to assemble dessert before tackling that healthy looking main. The raspberry almond tart topping this dessert plate is my contribution and the recipe can found in the link. The last of my fall raspberry crop ended up in the tarts.
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Wine was available by the glass or bottle from a wonderful selection of Naramata Bench Winery Association members. Cheers to them.
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Pass the salt please.
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General conviviality is a Cittaslow prerequisite. Crushed it.
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Miranda says that there was a nice mix of ages at the dinner.  (I like the adult supervisor’s style.)

Miranda says there is a long list of people that help pull off this amazing dinner including the RDOS (regional district), OAP (senior’s group), the Naramata Centre’s Jim, the pig providers Jay and Wendy, the organizing committee (Dawn, Miranda, Jay, Trevor and Nicole and their kids who helped with the set-up, the musicians (Yanti, Don and Mel), Ian  who set up the sound system, Naramata Bench Wineries Association, local photographers Lone Jones and Callum, the poster designer Renee and Chorizo.

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A preserve exchange table was set up. Yeah! I made a lot of grape jelly this year.
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That’ll do, pig. That’ll do. The left-over pork has been frozen and will be used to make soup for community Christmas hampers.
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“It was a bit of a leap of faith,” Miranda says. “There wasn’t time for tons of prep. But we knew it would work. This is Naramata.”

 

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