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Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

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Legend Distilling

Slow down and smell the whisky at Naramata’s Legend Distilling

One of the things in life that gets better with age.

Naramata is world-renowned for taking it slow. Our little village is 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 just get better and better and living up to our slow status.

Here is a new and most wonderful way to celebrate life in the slow lane in eight painless steps:

  1. Saunter up to the bar at Legend Distilling.
  2. Order a dram of Wyatt Whisky.
  3. Take your time, decide if you want it neat, with a splash of water to open up the flavours or on ice if it’s a hot day and that’s your jam.
  4. Stroll on out to the patio with the best view in stunning Naramata overlooking vineyards, Okanagan Lake and Giant’s Head mountain.
  5. Pull up an Adirondack and place your tumbler on the arm.
  6. Leisurely contemplate the amber colour of the whisky as the sun lights it up.
  7. Get your nose involved and appreciate the aromas of dried fruits, vanilla and spice.
  8. Take a sip…savour.

It took Legend Owner/Distiller Doug Lennie four years to make this beautiful Wyatt Whisky, we owe it to him to push pause and fully immerse ourselves in the tasting.

“Making whisky is why I wanted to get into distilling in the first place,” says Doug as he talks to me on the sunny patio in early spring about Legend’s inaugural 1,400 bottles of Wyatt Whisky. “It’s special because it’s named after our son. It’s special because it’s made with British Columbia wheat and aged in oak barrels that previously held local wines and ports. It’s special because we are excited about good food and wine and we are making something unique that is full of character.”

Wyatt Whisky joins a growing list of hand-crafted spirits the Naramata distillery is garnering a loyal and enthusiastic following for. It’s best known for its range of legendary gins.

Doug describes his first whisky as very much a Canadian style whisky made from 90 per cent wheat (Red Wheat from Peace River), 10 per cent rye and aged in toasted French oak barrels. The grain is milled, mashed, fermented and distilled at Legend Distilling in its gorgeous copper beauty, the centrepiece of the distillery’s front window.

Wyatt Whisky is 40 per cent alcohol and is non-chill filtered which Doug says makes for a more flavourful, full-bodied whisky. To ensure the first release was amazing, Doug waited a year longer than the three-year cycle many new distilleries are on for their whisky programs.

“The art comes into the blending,” he says. “The whisky is stored in barrels from different cooperages with different char levels.” His Canadian-style,”…is not as aggressive as an American whisky which is aged in barrels with a 1/4 inch of charcoal. My style is more subtle. You taste the wood flavour and the fruity notes from the barrels along with the lovely caramel and wheat flavours of the grains.”

For those still working on acquiring the acquired taste whisky drinkers talk of and aren’t quite ready for a neat or nearly neat taste, Legend Owner and cocktail genius Dawn Lennie came up with her own take on a whisky sour in collaboration with Naramata’s Elephant Island Winery.

ON NARAMATA THYME
2oz Wyatt Whisky
1oz Elephant Island Apricot dessert wine
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey and water)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Ice
Add all but 1 sprig of thyme to a shaker full of ice and shake shake shake.
Strain into coup glass and garnish with fresh thyme.

Each of the beautiful packages and bottles of Wyatt are numbered. It retails for $69 and is available online and at the distillery.


Part of the packaging and my mantra while I took way to many whisky photos in the beautiful spring sunshine.


Roxy, the distillery dog will begin welcoming visitors for the season April 18. The next batch of Wyatt will be released this summer.

If I had made a fine whisky that I hovered over for four years it would be a grand Tom Hanks, “I made fire” moment shouted at full volume. Doug Lennie, in his humble, laid-back style says, “I hope everyone loves it as much as I do.” Give it a taste, take your time.


Legendary Naramata Sponge Cake

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This Naramata take on a classic Victoria sponge is two fluffy sponges lightly flavoured with vanilla and almond with a very special sandwiching layer…Legend Raspberry Jam and a healthy dollop of whipping cream.

Here is a Cole’s Notes version of what went into making that legendary jam:

  1. Grow the raspberries on our farm.
  2. Harvest the raspberries at their peak.
  3. Deliver to Legend Distilling.
  4. Legend makes Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka with them. (Check out my post about how it’s made minus some secrets.)
  5. Make raspberry jam with some more of our farm fresh raspberries and some of Legend’s Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka made from our raspberries. It’s like raspberries times three.

A limited supply of this special jam is for sale at Legend Distilling  during the Christmas season… You can of course substitute a high-quality raspberry jam but your cake will be slightly less legendary.

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Our recent snow fall has put paid to my fresh raspberry supply so it’s time to bring out the jam.

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CAKE

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (soft)
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 extra-large or large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached self-rising flour

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8″ round cake pans. Cut a round of parchment and fit in the bottom of your pan and grease and flour.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until well combined and smooth.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.
  4. Add the extracts.
  5. Add the flour, beating gently just until well combined.
  6. Divide the stiff batter evenly between the cake pans; there’ll be 11 to 12 ounces of batter in each, depending on the size eggs you used.
  7. Bake the cakes for about 20 minutes, or until they start to pull away from the edges of the pans. Remove them from the oven, cool for a couple of minutes, and turn out of the pans onto a rack to cool completely.

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FILLING

  • about 3/4 cup Legend Raspberry Jam
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste

IMG_3264.jpgWhen the cakes are cool, place one layer on a plate. Spread with the Legend jam or a  jam of your choice.

IMG_3268.jpgWhip the cream — 2/3 cup cream makes a medium-thickness layer of filling; 3/4 cup cream, a thick layer. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste, as you whip the cream until it’s quite stiff. Stir in the vanilla at the end.

IMG_3253.jpgIMG_3259.jpgPipe the whipped cream over the jam. You could also spread the whipped cream if you prefer.

IMG_3273.jpgIMG_3277.jpgTop with the second layer of cake.

Sift icing sugar over the top of your cake.

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Refrigerate the cake until you’re ready to serve it. It’ll be at its best within 12 hours; but is still quite good up to 2 or even 3 days later. The difference will be the whipped cream, which will gradually settle/compact. Yield: about 12 servings.

Bottling Summer — Legend Raspberry Jam Recipe

 

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Take just picked raspberries from our Naramata berry farm and a craft-distilled slowly infused Farm Berry Vodka from our neighbour Legend Distilling and bottle it. Think toast on a cold January morning in front of a fire slathered with the colours and aromas of a hot summer day – elegant and not oversweet.

This easy jam recipe can be adapted for ingredients you have easy access to if you don’t happen to own a berry farm or live near a distillery. There is no substitute for the Wine Glass Writer pens I used to mark the jars with, however. They are invaluable for canning, as I like to re-use jars and scrubbing sticky labels off is an unnecessary and annoying step.  The writers are fun to use and lets you be creative, jazzing up and customizing your jars.

 

Adding a soupçon of a summer wine like rosé or a fruit-infused spirit like Legend’s Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka plays well with the beautifully ripe fruit. Legend’s limited release handmade vodka – slowly infused with the best local fruits, is the distillery’s tribute to those who value the slow and steady – acknowledging that all great things come to those who wait.

The berries in Legend’s Slowpoke come from our farm, which is a cool fact I brag about a lot. I think this makes the jam especially nice. Our berries are hand picked in the mornings and delivered to the distillery that same afternoon. Distiller Doug Lennie does his magic and now I’m adding this infusion into more fresh picked berries with some sugar and a dash of lemon juice. It’s like raspberry essence distilled, given a kick and married with yet more raspberries.

 

I like using a touch of alcohol in sweet preserves to give them a certain je ne sais quoi. It elevates a nice jam to an extraordinary one. A half cup for the jam, a small glass for me…

 

Like all cooking and baking, the end results are always, always about using the best quality ingredients you can source. Pick your own raspberries, buy them from a local farmer at the market, buy organic ones from the supermarket or as a last resort, use top quality frozen berries. Choose a hand-crafted spirit or a nice bottle of rosé.

Legend Raspberry Jam Recipe

Makes about 12 small jars (125 ml) of jam or six to eight larger jars.

Ingredients

  • 16 cups raspberries
  • 4 cups sugar
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • ½  cup Legend Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka (or another berry-infused spirit, Kirsch or a nice dry rosé)

Directions

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Using your hands, crush the raspberries until completely broken down.

2. Transfer the raspberry mixture to a large saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-high and continue to stir until the jam has thickened, about 12 minutes. During this 12 minutes, I like to ladle about the half the jam mixture through a sieve placed over the boiling jam to remove some of the raspberry seeds.

3. Transfer the jam to a sterile airtight container and let it cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator and use within a month.

4. If you wish to store the jam for up to a year as I do, follow these canning instructions.

Tip

To check if the jam has set, place a teaspoon of jam onto a chilled plate and place in the freezer for a few minutes. Using your finger, push through the jam. If it wrinkles, it has set; if not, cook the jam for an additional minute or two.

Canning directions

  1. Fill a canner or stockpot half full with water. Place lid on canner. Heat to a simmer. Keep canning rack to the side until ready to use.
  2. Wash jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well.
  3. Keep jars warm until ready to use, in order to minimize risk of breakage when filling with hot jam or jelly. Set the jars on a cookie sheet in a 250F degree oven.
  4. Boil some water in a kettle and pour over the lids placed in a heat-proof bowl. Set the bands aside in your work area. Use a canning magnet to easily remove the lids from the hot water with out touching them.

Fill your jars

  1. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, one at a time, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe any jam or jelly from the rims of the jars. Center lids on jars. Twist on the bands until fingertip tight.
  2. Place six filled jars in the canning rack inside the canner, ensuring jars are covered by 1-2 inches of water. Place lid on canner. Bring water to gentle, steady boil. Repeat until all your jars have been boiled.
  3. Process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 12 to 24 hours by pressing on centre of cooled lid. If the jar is sealed it will not flex up or down. Store any un-sealed jars in the fridge and use within a month.

 

 

 

Steep well my friends…how our raspberries become distilled Legends

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Ingredient and end product pictured on our Naramata raspberry farm

Our raspberries are summer captured in juicy jewel bites. When they hang out with Legend Distilling‘s craft vodka along with some BC blueberry and cranberry pals summer is but a pour away, anytime of the year.

IMG_8485.jpgA good portion of our Naramata Carpe Diem berry farm’s raspberries end up at Legend Distilling, a short walk from us. They use them as a cocktail garnish and in their Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka.

Distiller and Legend owner Doug Lennie was pressing off the fruit that had been infusing  into his craft vodka for a secret amount of time when I dropped off this morning’s harvest.

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Doug giving the batch a stir

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The spent fruit goes into a fruit press

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The raspberries have given up their lovely hue to the vodka.

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Fruit press in action

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The pressed juice goes back into the steel tank and the vodka will be bottled and labelled next week.

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The whole operation is closely supervised by distillery dog Roxy

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The vodka has a beautiful colour and Legend’s legendary view is the perfect backdrop. It tastes out of this world but for me the lovely fruity aroma is the best part.

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I can’t think of a better home for our organically-grown raspberries…

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Hyper local, hyper fresh, hyper delicious Urtica Eatery at Legend Distilling

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Photo: Cedar Photography

Chef Josh Bender and his new restaurant Urtica Eatery at Legend Distilling in Naramata are taking eating local and sustainable to a whole new level. He grows or forages as many of the vegetables and herbs as he can and sources the rest from neighbouring farms. In addition to lovely local fruit the Valley is known for world-wide, Chef Josh serves only sustainably farmed meats, seafood, dairy and eggs.

After a busy day serving guests at Urtica, Chef Josh unwinds at his Naramata property by tending his 12 garden beds and 100 containers of vegetables and herbs and the containers he has planted at the restaurant itself.

“I cooked as a kid,” he says as he offers me a first dish of roasted beets with cumin yogurt, nettle pesto, pumpkin seeds, orange and wild fennel.

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Urtica, Chef Josh tells me, is latin for the stinging nettles he used in the most amazing tasting pesto I’ve ever had. “It’s my favourite wild edible and its a super food for plants as well. I ferment tons of it to feed to my vegetables. I love foraging for it.”

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“My mother had a big part in my cooking,” he says. “She was my first teacher and I was lucky to grow up surrounded by nature. Blackberries lined our two-acre property in Langley where we had a creek you could walk along for miles in the forest.”

Josh, a guy of few words, describes his Urtica menu as comfort food with a twist which is better tasted than explained in any case. Who needs words? The beet cured organic spring salmon with cucumber carpaccio, radishes, whipped goat cheese and olive crumb was as fresh, bright and luxuriously creamy tasting as it looked on the plate. Each bite was a pleasure and the flavours and textures worked beautifully together.

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Other choices on the ever-changing seasonal menu included a roasted carrot hummus with pita, dandelion honey ricotta, hazelnuts and chili oil, mushroom bruschetta with local cultivated oyster mushroom, herbed ricotta and aged balsamic and a farm kale salad with Upper Bench King Cole cheese, honey walnuts, apple chips, pickled onion and anchovy dressing. A selection of focaccia sandwiches included a buttermilk poached chicken with slab bacon, spring greens, tomato, pickled onion and caramelized onion mayo. A braised beef neck melt and goat cheese & beet were also tempting. The featured entree was a vegetable curry stew served with kale chips, spiced yogurt and pita.

“Urtica is a dream come true for me,” says Josh who put his culinary degree to work for him in various restaurants for the past eight years. “I knew since I was 16 that cooking is the only thing I want to do. I’m coming at this out of a place of love versus building a brand. I want to make good food and be happy with what I do. I’m lucky not to be ‘working for the man’ but able to pursue my passion and learn more and more as I go.

“I am making food that I would be happy to feed my family. Food that is sustainably farmed that is good for you.”

Urtica aligns perfectly with Naramata’s status as an international Cittaslow member town. Cittaslow is an organisation founded in Italy and inspired by the slow food movement. Cittaslow’s goals include improving the quality of life in towns by slowing down its overall pace.

Talking about slow, the view on Legend’s patio makes the dining experience one you want to linger over. I paired my lunch with a refreshing summer cocktail, the new Legendary Cup featuring their just released Amaro.

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Urtica Eatery is serving lunch Tuesday through Sunday 11:30am – 3:30 pm and beginning today dinner service Wednesday through Saturday 5-8 pm.

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Chef Josh Bender, a Naramatian, grows much of his own produce and forages for ingredients such as the nettle his restaurant is named after. Photo: Cedar Photography

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.

5 Reasons To Make Your Own Stock

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Chef Mike Sonier tells us that making your own cooking stock is not all smoke and mirrors and is worth the effort.

Aromas of the best kitchens

A simmering stock pot filling your kitchen with the rich, deep, complex aromas of chicken beef or vegetable stock flavoured with herbs is reason enough to master this basic cooking art. A conversation with Chef Mike Sonier, owner of Naramata’s Knotweed Restaurant reveals other equally compelling reasons to make your own stock.

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  1. Health benefits 

“Take a look at the ingredients in store-bought packaged stock,” says Chef Mike. “You will find MSG, salt and a bunch of other preservatives to make it shelf stable. When you make your own stock there are huge health benefits.”

Stock made from bones is packed with minerals from calcium to magnesium, sulphur to silicon, and things like glucosamine. Basically it contains all the stuff we’re told to buy in expensive synthetic mineral supplement form for joints and arthritis, except it’s cheap, natural food and very easily digested.

If simmered long enough, stock is packed with gelatin. Gelatin supports skin and hair health, digestion, cellulite, tightens loose skin and is awesome for joint pain and inflammation.

  1. Cost effective 

Stock is the cheapest nutrient-dense food per cup.

Chef Mike says stock is an effective way of using materials that don’t have a direct food use without these items going to waste. Bones, chicken carcasses, limp vegetables and wilted herbs can all be used.

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  1. Sustainable cooking practices

In addition to saving money, using the bones, scraps, and less than perfect vegetables reduces food waste. As you cook, save those odd carrot heels, the greens not quite fit for a salad, the stems of mushrooms, ribs of kale and collard greens, and pieces of onion Put all of these things, gradually, as you produce them, into a gallon-sized plastic bag and keep it in the freezer. When it’s full, you make vegetable stock. If you also happen to have the carcass of a roast chicken left over, you make chicken stock.

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  1. Quality of food, quality of taste

There are few other flavoring components that have such a dramatic impact on the quality of finished dishes, according to Chef Mike. Stocks are the backbone of quality soups, sauces and braising liquids.

  1. Amp up your cooking skills

An understanding of stocks and sauces will take your cooking to the next level and learning to prepare them will help build fundamental culinary skills.

Stock and Stir

Now that we have the why covered; Chef Mike will teach us the how at the next Naramata Blend cooking class. Mike will team up with Legend Distilling Owner Dawn Lennie to offer a cooking/mixology foundation course that will teach us how to make beautiful rich stocks and sauces and a Rosemary Swizzle cocktail.

Participants will enjoy a serving of Salt Spring Island mussels in a cream sauce paired with the special cocktail using Legend Distilling’s Doctor’s Orders Gin and Elephant Island Crabapple dessert wine and take home a recipe package.

 

Chef Mike honed his skills in his travels around Canada in the Maritimes, Toronto, Ottawa, Banff and British Columbia destinations such as Whistler, Vancouver and the Kootenays. Working with chefs in restaurants and consulting and catering along the way he compiled dishes and techniques to coax the most flavours out of a wide-range of ingredients before opening Knotweed.

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Some of Legend’s distilling equipment

Legend Distilling produces unique beautifully hand-crafted spirits with premium locally-sourced ingredients.

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Legend Distilling’s killer view

The class will take place at Legend Distilling March 28th and tickets are available at:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/naramata-blend-cooking-class-series-presents-stock-and-stir-french-technique-stock-and-sauce-basics-tickets-32193988085

Post class I will post about making stock and share some of Mike’s tips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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…

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