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Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

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Joy Road Catering

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.

Five great things you can learn from a baking class

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1. Mise en place is a MUST

Mise en place, a French culinary term which means “setting your ingredients in place prior to cooking”. Even before the mise en place, the first task is to read the recipe from start to finish…twice. At our Naramata-Blend cooking class Chef Dana went over the recipes with us explaining terms, discussing ingredients and explaining why the steps are necessary and even some of the chemistry and history behind what we are doing. At home, the mise en place step helps make sure you have all the ingredients and that they are carefully weighed before beginning.

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2. Know your ingredients

It sounds obvious but how often do we take time to really know our ingredients? Chef Dana Ewart of Joy Road Catering was passionate and knowledgable about the ingredients we were using, which was very inspiring. She suggested fresh yeast as apposed to dry, organic high-fat content butter, farm fresh eggs, Dutch cocoa powder… It seems like a pretty basic concept but your finished product is made up of your ingredients. Try using margarine instead of butter in a brioche and you will soon learn about the importance of high quality ingredients. It’s like adding vinegar to milk to create a buttermilk substitute…it really is not anywhere near the creamy buttermilk flavour you are really after. Ask your instructor where they source their ingredients.

 

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3. Learn what tools you need and how to use them

A cooking class is the perfect time to try out new tools – dough scrapers, stand mixers, food processors, different types of knives, pastry bags and tips, molds and pans, silplats, zesters, scales, French rolling pins and on it goes. You can then go right to the nearest kitchen store and keep your local economy rolling. Instructors will also give you tips about which gizmos and gadgets you really need, which are nice to have and which will gather dust. I need a bigger kitchen… six brioche molds now added to the collection.

IMG_1540.JPG4. Stretch yourself

A baking class is the perfect opportunity to try something you have been too intimidated to try at home. Step-by-step instructions, hands-on practice and help from the Chef will give you the confidence to try more complicated recipes at home. I’m hoping to finally get some help with my sad piping skills at the eclairs and profiteroles class in February.

5. Revel in the age-old joy of cooking together

There is nothing like a baking class to bring a room of people together. As the class progresses notice how the chatter becomes louder and how often you hear people laughing. Maybe it’s because you show up in a room that has the recipe and all the ingredients on hand and organized, the room warms up and starts to smell like a bakery  and you leave before the dishes are done.

 

FullSizeRender 2.jpgIMG_3567.GIFThe next Naramata-Blend cooking class is all about choux pastry and how this light and airy pastry can be turned into a vessel to hold creamy fillings before being dipped in chocolate. Amanda Perez of The White Apron will be teaching us how to make fancy eclairs and profiteroles at the February 11 class just in time for Valentine’s Day. We will drink some bubbly from Bella Wines and chat, laugh and leave the kitchen a big mess.

Come and join us if you live in the area. Tickets are available through eventbrite for the Saturday afternoon class.

 

Naramata Candied Chestnut and Dried Plum Brioche – Original recipe to kick-off Naramata-Blend cooking class series

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Chef Dana Ewart cutting into a loaf of cocoa cherry brioche.

 

Brioche! How hard can that be?

With ‘go big or go home’ thinking the first Naramata-Blend cooking class tackled the most delicious and some would argue, trickiest to make of the bread family – brioche. This rich, buttery egg French dough is versatile and Dana Ewart, Chef and Proprietor of Joy Road Catering helped our class of 20 make no less than five variations on this buttery theme including: herb with chives and tarragon, cocoa and dried cherry (CC Orchards cherries), plain, jelly donuts and the crowning achievement – Naramata Candied Chestnut and Dried Plum Loaf filled with local fruit and nuts.

Candied chestnuts

You can buy candied chestnuts or marrons glacé but what would be the fun in that? Making your own is easy but takes a few days as you wait for all the sugar to absorb into your lovely locally-sourced chestnuts. Here’s how: (This recipe makes twice as much as you will need for your Naramata Loaf but since it takes so long, you may as well make enough for two batches…)

1. Blanch 500g fresh chestnuts in boiling water for 4 minutes, drain, then peel while still warm.

2. Bring 300g sugar and 300ml water to the boil in a heavy-based pan to make a syrup. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the chestnuts and simmer for 7-8 minutes.Take off the heat and leave to stand overnight in the syrup.

3. The next day, bring the chestnuts/syrup back to the boil, cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and cool. Repeat the boiling and cooling process 2 or 3 times over the next couple of days until all the syrup is absorbed.

4. Preheat the oven to around 150°F, spread the candied chestnuts on a tray covered with baking paper, then pop into the oven. Prop open the door and leave for 2 hours or until firm.

 

Brioche master recipe

 

Ingredient Amount Notes
PRE-FERMENT
Flour (white all purpose or bread flour) 188g
sugar 7g
Fresh yeast 30g
milk 137ml
MAIN DOUGH
Flour (white all purpose or bread flour) 563g Naramata Candied Chestnut and Dried Plum  Brioche
Eggs 10 whole Add 125g chestnuts & 125g prunes
sugar 70g
Fresh yeast 30g
salt 18g
Unsalted butter 454g/1lb Yield: 3-4 loaves

This recipe can be halved. Any left-over brioche dough can be frozen. Wrap tightly in plastic as the dough will continue to expand in your freezer. Your baked brioche can also be frozen if for some unknown reason you can’t eat it all in one or two days…

Method:

PRE-FERMENT

In a bowl or Tupperware that will hold about 3 cups, weigh the flour and sugar. Gently warm the milk until it is about body temperature or slightly warm to the touch. Crumble the fresh yeast and pour the warmed milk into the flour mixture. Mix & knead until all of the flour is hydrated and the dough is homogeneous.

Rest the pre-ferment a minimum of 4 hours out of the fridge or overnight in the fridge.

The following day, or 4 hours later- Pull the butter and eggs out of the fridge to temper.

Mix together by hand or in a kitchen aid with a dough hook attachment the flour, sugar, yeast and eggs. Mix until the flour is all hydrated- scraping down the sides of the bowl and underneath the hook occasionally to ensure that there are no lumps of dry flour.

When the dough is homogenous, stop the mixing and allow to rest for 15 minutes (this is called an autolyse).

Add the salt and the pre-ferment on top of the dough, pulled in to fist-sized chunks.

Mix again for a few minutes until the pre-ferment and the salt is mixed in. During this mix, plasticize the butter, by cutting it into pieces & beating it with a rolling pin inside a garbage bag or between layers of parchment paper.

Begin adding 1 tablespoon-sized pieces of the plasticized butter- in increments until all of the butter is incorporated. Now is the time to add the candied chestnuts and dried fruit.

Once the butter is incorporated, mist a tray or bin with neutral oil to put the dough in – cover & rest in the fridge. After 30 mins-1hr, fold the dough or punch it down. Rest for 4 hours- overnight in the fridge.

Punch down the dough, and lightly mist oil- or butter and flour your brioche pans. Weigh the dough into desired portions, shape & place in the molds or pans (making sure the dough fills only 1/3 of the pan) Proof in a warm draft- free area for approximately 40 minutes or until the dough has doubled in bulk. Brush with egg wash, and bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, then 375F for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the pan & cool on rack.

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We made him wear this apron. Good sport eh?

Dana’s brioche tips and tricks

Equipment

  • You can make brioche by hand but it’s super tricky to incorporate all that butter in without warming it too much with your hands. If you want to do serious baking you need to invest in a stand mixer. Christmas gift list item?
  • To take your baking to the next level, you will also need a scale. This relatively inexpensive purchase will allow you to be accurate and ensure more consistent results.
  • A dough scraper will cost a couple of bucks and is invaluable when you are working with this sticky dough.

Ingredients

  • Buy the best local ingredients you can find. The better the ingredients the more flavourful results. Shop your farmer’s markets, seek out local farmers…
  • Neutral oils include grapeseed, vegetable and canola oil.
  • Fresh yeast trumps dried yeast and it can be purchased at most grocery stores. Ask at the bakery counter. Fresh yeast can be frozen. If you do use dried yeast in the recipe above substitute the 30 grams of fresh for 15 grams of dried.

Brioche

  • Make sure you mix the brioche dough for the full 15 to 20 minutes. It needs to feel soft, smooth, warm and have good elasticity.

 

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Class member slamming some butter. He became the de-facto butter slammer. Plasticize –  Slam the heck out of the butter with a rolling pin to make your cold butter straight from the fridge more malleable. The idea is to make the butter easier to work into your brioche dough with warming it up too much. If you try to use “un-slammed” butter it will be too cold and will tear your dough.

 

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Savoury herbed brioche in molds ready to proofing.

General

  • Don’t be worried about over-working your dough. It’s not a cake batter but a bread dough.
  • Don’t skip the egg wash step. It helps keep a crust soft so it can continue to rise and “not be a prisoner in its own crust”. It also makes your brioche shine.
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Herbed brioche in a traditional boule shape.
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Two star pupils work with Dana to make the most decadent of all brioche creations…jelly-filled donuts.
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These were the bomb! Using the main brioche recipe, these jam-filled donuts were fried two-minutes per side in hot oil.
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A variety of brioche made at the cooking class.
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Question…answered.
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The room was full of laughter and good conversation as we worked on our creations. The Naramata Centre provided the perfect venue for the event. Some mulled wine made with Naramata Bench Winery Association represented winery Moraine helped with conviviality. 

 

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Ta da donuts.
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Ta da chocolate cherry brioche.

 

 

 

 

 

Cook together, eat together – no better way to Celebrate Terra Madre Day

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Naramataslow Thanksgiving dinner.

Terra Madre, slow food, Cittaslow … What’s the deal with all those names?

“It’s all about creating community, about why we all live here in this special place,” says chef and proprietor of Joy Road Catering Dana Ewart when asked to explain Terra Madre, the slow food movement and Naramata’s Cittaslow designation. “There are a lot of terms used to describe what we are all about and our philosophy around feeding people with great food but it can be much more approachable and less cerebral. It comes down to people sitting around a table enjoying themselves.

“For me personally, I get the most energy and joy out of creating beautiful food and sharing it with people,” says Dana and she has been doing this for more than 20 years.

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Dana at the Penticton Farmer’s Market.

Terra Madre

Saturday December 10 is Terra Madre Day. With its origins in Italy, the land where food is worshipped and quality of life vigorously defended, Terra Madre is a network of food communities of small-scale food producers committed to producing quality food in a responsible and sustainable way. Translated as Mother Earth, the slow food network has biennial conferences bringing together farmers, fishers, food producers and cooks. Dana and her partner Cam Smith have attended two of these conferences. “We have brought back so many ideas about how we can better share and showcase our regional cuisine.”

Terra Madre Day promotes the diversity of food traditions and production. It’s a day to show how our network is using its creativity and knowledge to express our love for the planet and defend the future for next generations. It’s a day to celebrate local eating, agricultural biodiversity and sustainable food production summed up as good, clean and fair food.

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As far at Terra Madre goes in Canada, Naramata gets it.

We get it so much that we are one of only three Canadian communities with a special status as a “slow city” bestowed on us by Cittaslow, an international organization formed in Orvieto Italy in 1999.  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.”

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Terra Madre Day Cooking Class

Slow food or local food of high quality with connection to the local land made into traditional recipes where the community comes together is what it’s all about and this year we are marking Terra Madre day by hosting the first of a series of cooking class. The Naramata-Blend classes bring together Okanagan Valley chefs, local ingredients and people passionate about food who will cook together and eat together.

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Brioche!

The Terra Madre Day inaugural class lead by Chef Dana, will focus on brioche in its many wonderful forms including the unveiling of a new Naramata Loaf recipe (recipe will be shared in an upcoming post) featuring local dried fruits and nuts. Mulled wine made from Cliffhanger Red from Naramata Bench Winery Association featured member Moraine Winery and warm spiced apple and cherry juice from orchardists  Amanda Perez and CC Orchards will keep the slow food convivia fuelled as we learn to bake this special buttery egg bread.

“Ten years ago fewer restaurants in the Valley were using local produce in their restaurants,” says Dana. Now a lot of us are using are only using pretty much everything produced here. It takes a lot more effort but the quality of what we have here is amazing and the caliber of the producers and chefs is incredible.”

She says she has made it her mission to spread the word about the Terra Madre principals that were first ingrained at the Stratford Chef School where she learned her craft and to let other young people know that the Okanagan Valley is a great place to set up shop to produce and prepare amazing food.

“We (Dana and her partner Cam Smith and their business Joy Road Catering) have shown that its possible to have a successful business. Our community here is very supportive. We are a product of this great community coupled with our hard work.”

Dana is also passionate about trying to expand our way of thinking about the importance of food and those who produce and prepare it for us.

“Professionals with special skills are appreciated. For example, we hold our doctors, accountants and lawyers in regard and pay them well for our occasional visit or meeting. How often do we eat? Why not offer our farmers that same high regard?”

She has a point.

Thoughts over dessert

Some final thoughts about Terra Madre, slow food, Cittaslow…

Alice Waters, the famous Californian slow foodie, gives us this sweet slow food manifesto:

  • Eat locally and sustainably
  • Eat seasonally
  • Shop at farmer’s markets
  • Plant a garden
  • Conserve, compost and recycle
  • Cook together
  • Eat together
  • Remember food is precious
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Dessert is precious too.

Naramata – Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart

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Old Main Road

Literally at the end of the road lies one of the most unexpectedly delightful places in the world. The temptation is to keep the discovery a secret. Fortunately Naramatians are too sociable and ardent about their home not to share and bloggers can’t keep any secret at all.

A trip along Naramata Road toward the Village is a sensory experience whose end result is an extraordinary sense of well-being. The scientists have gone to work and come up with a formula for scenery that most appeals to people (they study everything right?) and the Naramata Benchlands ticks all the boxes. It’s to do with the proportion of sky, the straight lines of the vineyards and orchards and the expanse of the blue lake grounding it all.

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Travelling through a winescape of row upon row of trellised grapevines dotted with sympathetically designed winery architecture and guest accommodation, the road twists and turns to reveal new vistas. Scientists tells us that we like making discoveries and the “I wonder what’s around the next corner?” feeling we get when heading from Penticton to Naramata fits the bill. The vines and orderly orchards advance across rolling hills that all lead down to the shores of Okanagan Lake and the elevation of Naramata Road lets us appreciate it all.

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Hillside Winery

Once lured in by the scenery it’s what Naramatians have produced from this naturally gifted growing region moderated by the lake that adds the next layer to our pleasure. Naramata’s artisanal products are lovingly produced by people whose lives are devoted to their craft whether it be wine, spirits, fruits and vegetables, pottery or painting and they revel in sharing this passion. Wine and culinary experiences are top-notch and varied but all share a similar philosophy. Skill and a light touch are used to let the ultra-premium, local, in-season ingredients shine.

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Lunch with scenery at Legend Distilling.

The village itself has lost all track of time. No traffic lights, no chain stores, few streetlights to blot out the stars, Naramata is made up of quiet streets with a mix of cottages and modest houses with well-kept gardens. A little church with bells that ring at noon, a general store shaded by elms, artisans and shops sprinkled here and there, cozy restaurants, the world’s best pizza place, a welcoming coffee shop, busy pub… Anchoring the Village, the perfectly in-keeping  Heritage Inn sits and the end of the main street, as it has for more than a century.

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Heritage Inn

Naramata’s quality and human pace of life is internationally recognized. We have been given the designation as a Cittaslow town. Cittaslow towns celebrate life in the slow lane, locally grown products and the slow food movement, in places where people care for the land and for each other.

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View of the Village from the Kettle Valley Railway trail.

Based in the Tuscany region of Italy, the Cittaslow network and accredited communities have a mandate to improve the quality of life. It’s karma that we have this Italian designation. Our town’s founder, John Moore Robinson produced a brochure in 1907 calling Naramata, with its wonderful climate, the Italy of Canada.

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Apple orchards are still a lovely part of the Old Main Estate in the Village.

Naramataslow

As part of the Cittaslow philosophy, I’m working to bring local chefs into the Village to teach us how to use all the lovely produce (like the raspberries from our Carpe Diem berry farm) to bake and cook for our friends, families and the many guests who have come to love our secret place.

The first guest Chef, Dana Ewart of Joy Road Catering is an Okanagan superstar. She is going to show us why we need brioche in our lives. CC Orchards will be providing sweet dried cherries for use as one of our brioche ingredients.

Tickets to the December 10 class are half sold and I’m thrilled with the response from the Village about the new venture. Here’s the link to join in Naramata Blend Cooking Class Series Brioche!  A second class on eclairs and profiteroles is in the works for February…

Naramata Blend launches cooking class series…Brioche!

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If there are no cooking classes in your area … you just start one yourself! In what I hope will be win/win/win/win Naramata Blend is launching a series of classes that will:

  • give our local chefs and food gurus an opportunity to diversify their businesses
  • provide some income and awareness for the Naramata Centre
  • meet my needs to learn hands-on from some of the best
  • offer that opportunity to anyone else with a keen interest in learning how to make magic with what we grow and produce in the Okanagan Valley.

For the first class, Chef/ Proprietor of Joy Road Catering Dana Ewart will show us why we need brioche in our life – just in time to amp up our holiday baking.

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We will learn how to make this buttery rich yeast dough that is so tender that it walks the line between bread and cake. It will be fun to enjoy some mulled wine, sample what we bake and take home the recipes after the afternoon class.

With this amazing French dough as our base Dana will teach us how to make these brioche treats flavoured with:

  • Cocoa
  • Candied orange peel
  • Savoury herbs

IMG_8033This versatile dough will also be made into Joy Road’s famously delicious pull-apart cinnamon buns shaped into loaves and elegant small buns meant for classy desserts like baba au rum.

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If you are in my hood and want to buy a ticket go online and learn more at Eventbrite.

I’m talking to chefs and gathering ideas for upcoming classes in the hope that my instinct that cooking classes are a perfect fit for Naramata is on the mark. Send me a comment if you have ideas for other classes… preserves, chocolate, fancy eclairs, bread…

 

 

 

To market, to market, to be a fat pig

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Joy Road makes joyous cinnamon buns

It’s summer. The Penticton Farmer’s Market opened two weeks early this year and I hope it closes two weeks later. It was named “2015 Market of the Year” by the British Columbia Association of Farmers’ Markets for a reason, lots of reasons really. Here is a look at opening day of its 26th season.

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Shrooms
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Tunes
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Pups
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Faces in the crowd
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Arriving in style
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I’ll take two please
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Hundreds of peeps shopped for kale, tomato plants, asparagus and pickles
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Wine tasting…and buying
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Stumped?
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In a pickle?
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Sunshine and carbs at Joy Road
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The market is up and running from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays
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Home again, home again
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Jiggety-jig

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