Often referred to as Napa of the North, Kelowna’s award-winning wineries have gained worldwide notoriety and are a big draw for both oenophiles and casual wine enthusiasts. However the BC interior’s largest community is quickly becoming a culinary powerhouse, fuelled by the abundance of family run farms, orchards and vineyards prospering in the sun-kissed Okanagan Valley.
From unpretentious restaurants with sophisticated menus to handcrafted artisan cheese from a family run dairy, to freshly baked pies and canned peaches at a quaint country market, the selection of quality gastronomic treats promises to delight even the most sophisticated of palettes, and impress proponents of the 100-mile diet.
Farms & Artisans
This family-owned boutique dairy prides itself on the art of cheese making. Using traditional French methods, Carmelis focuses on producing small batches of rich tasting cheese made from fresh goat’s milk, with no additives or preservatives. Although the Carmelis variety of delicious fresh, soft ripened and hard cheeses can be found throughout British Columbia’s grocers and restaurants, a visit to their Kelowna farm for a tasting is a fabulous experience for the whole family. After sampling your favourite cheeses, indulge a little more with one of their 24 flavours of goat’s milk gelato.
Each Saturday from April through October producers from around the Okanagan gather in Kelowna to sell farm-fresh produce, artisan fare and handmade arts and crafts. Certified organic stone fruit and apples from family-run Bite Me Organics orchard, homemade sausages made with local grass-fed lamb, organic chicken and BC pacific salmon by the Meating Place, and a selection of lavender products including soaps, tea lights and essential oils from Alpine Lavender are a few of the gems found at the weekly market.
Farming in the Okanagan since 1929, Gatzke Orchards is a third-generation family owned farm committed to sustainable practices and quality produce. In addition to the wide variety of fruits and vegetables harvested, Gatzke Orchards produces delicious jams, home baked fruit pies and baked goods, fresh juice and salsas to sell in their store. This farm-turned-destination also has a café featuring a menu filled with home grown ingredients and a selection of locally made wine and beer served in a picture-perfect setting.
Authenticity is the cornerstone behind Audrey Surrao and Chef Rod Butters restaurant Raudz. From the moment you enter the cozy dining room, housed in a turn of the century brick building, you can’t help but feel a strong sense of community. A 21-foot long reclaimed pine communal table runs down the centre of the restaurant inviting conversation between diners. Throughout the space, black and white portraits of local producers paired with brightly coloured product shots tell the farm-to-table story. The magic however is in the impeccable, imaginative cuisine that honours the many small growers and producers throughout the Okanagan. Try the RJB, Chef Butters’ modern twist on the steak sandwich – grilled beef tenderloin, butter poached crab, cured bacon, onion jam, brioche bun and duck fat mayonnaise.
With celebrity chef Ned Bell as co-owner, it’s no surprise that Cabanas has enjoyed success since opening its doors in 2008. The restaurant takes full advantage of Kelowna’s 2,000 hours of annual sunshine with an expansive patio outfitted with lounge seating, water-feature and fire pit. Inside, the open-style kitchen and urban lounge create a lively party scene that heats up with live music on Saturday nights. The globally inspired menu is created from local ingredients, such as the BC Wild Mushroom Risotto Fritters with gruyère cheese and rocket aioli-dipping sauce; and Cabana bone-in rotisserie Chicken Curry with sautèed vegetables, green curry coconut sauce, rice noodles, Okanagan fruit chutney & grilled naan bread.
Consistently voted as having ‘Best Sunday Brunch’ in the Okanagan, Hotel Eldorado’s lakefront restaurant is a Kelowna staple. Summertime calls for brunch on ‘The El’s’ boardwalk patio, which overlooks Okanagan Lake. The impressive brunch buffet spread includes Alaskan King Crab, shrimp, smoked salmon, an omelette and crepe station, prime rib, salads and fresh fruits, eggs benedict, traditional breakfast items and an amazing dessert display complete with chocolate fountain. Advance reservations for this weekend favourite are highly recommended.
Okanagan Spirits, a local craft distillery gaining international notoriety, produces more than 25 varieties of brandies, liqueurs, absinthe and specialty spirits in a traditional European copper-pot Still. Tapping into the local bounty, the majority of spirits produced are made from 100% British Columbia fruit. Award-winning favourites including the Kirsch Virginiana, a wild-cherry Eau de Vie with a hint of marzipan, Gewurztraminer Grappa and the Okanagan Spirits Gin, which is beautiful both to sip or mix for a classic G&T.
Engineer-turned Master Distiller, Mike Urban left a nine-to-five desk job to pursue his dream of starting a micro-distillery. Five-years later he is the proud producer of top-shelf vodkas, gins, rums and whisky. Using only locally grown grains and botanicals, Mike hand craft-distils his spirits in small-batches to preserve the integrity of the German Still manufacturer’s exacting standards. Feel good with each purchase from Urban’s signature ‘Spirit Bear’ line of vodkas and gin, as $2 from each bottle sold is donated to the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition; a not-for-profit group dedicated to saving BC’s endangered Spirit Bear.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery
As the recipient of countless awards, including the Best International Sparkling Wine at the 2010 London International Wine & Spirits Competition, Summerhill is a true Okanagan success story. Every bottle of wine produced is 100% Certified Organic and aged in the winery’s 4-storey tall pyramid, which is a 1:16 ratio of the Great Pyramid of Egypt’s dimensions. The onsite Sunset Organic Bistro features a seasonal menu designed by Chef Jesse Croy. Current highlights include a house-made quinoa & pea Falafel Mignon wrapped in red chard, and the Roasted Ashcroft Lamb Sirloin served with black & red quinoa, sprouted beans, tomato emulsion and garden oregano and chive puree.
Two of Kelowna’s most popular hotels have recently received a facelift. The lakefront Delta Grand Okanagan is targeting design-conscious travellers with their newly renovated ModeRooms. Inspired by the Canadian landscape these fresh, ultra-modern guestrooms feature Delta’s premium Sanctuary bed with pinpoint reading lights in the headboard, bedside iHome audio system, and a fully wired desk with connectivity dock that links laptops and mobile devices to the room’s flat-screen HD TV. The centrally located Coast Capri’s superior and premium rooms overlooking the pool have also been redesigned with warm cherry wood furnishings, cosy beds, plush duvets and spa-inspired bath essentials.
To celebrate Kelowna’s many dedicated artisans, farmers, distillers and restaurateurs, Tourism Kelowna has developed a self-guided Studio & Farm Tour. The tour highlights 36 farms and artisans, 22 wineries, 8 restaurants and even includes family-friendly attractions such as Kangaroo Creek Farm where wallabies and kangaroos bounce freely. For more information on the tour and other popular attractions visit the Tourism Kelowna website.