what i learned at the okanagan food & wine writers’ workshop

the view at howling bluff winery on the naramata bench.

1.  I am in love with the Okanagan.  This is not just a fleeting summer crush.  It is the real thing.  (You may notice this by the volume of Okanagan love sonnets disguised as food posts on this blog).

table setting for heirloom tomato salad, duck breast on vanilla potatoes, and pear and almond tart.

2. A writer’s workshop married with food and wine touring is a match made in heaven.  I feel as if I’ve been at a three day extended dinner party, and that’s a fabulous thing.

is there anything these guys DON'T do? joy road catering at the penticton's farmers market.

3. The quality of the food and wine in the Okanagan is quickly catching up to the beauty of the setting here.  Folks like Cam and Dana with Joy Road Catering work hard to bring the passion of the region to the dinner tables.

rob and tammy van westen at van westen wineries.

4.  I have great respect for the food and wine artisans I’ve met at the workshop.  As Liane Faulder said when she shared her inspiring wisdom – artisans do one thing and do it well.  That’s something I aspire to.

plump syrah grapes at nichol winery.

5.  Farming is HARD WORK.  And I may never understand the art and nuances of winemaking, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.

lovely ladies under the apple trees.

6.  People who attend food and wine writer workshops are an eclectic bunch, with lots of life experiences and fascinating stories.  Life is about relationships, and I so enjoyed unearthing the three degrees of separation I had with the other participants:  Leslie-Ann is close friends with my next door neighbour, Olive was my university professor, Gwen lives up the road from my parents.  I loved making new connections, too:  Liane’s life philosophy is in alignment with mine, Kenn is a resource for the Edmonton wine scene, Claudia is about to become a mom.  As I get older, weaving these connections is important to me.

view from the lakeshore resort.

7.  People in Penticton were unfailingly kind and accommodating.  From the Air Canada agent, Holly, at the Penticton airport who dove into the pit of luggage to rescue my lost bag, to the Air Canada pilot who delivered my bag at midnight to the hotel.  From Laura at the Penticton Wine Information Centre who hand delivered my cumbersome wine rack so I didn’t have to lug it back to the hotel to the ten year old girl who held my umbrella so I could take photos at the Farmer’s Market.  I am including you all in my Ode to Okanagan sonnet.

howling bluff pinot noir

8. After many years of not getting Pinot, I finally found a Pinot Noir that I absolutely adore.  It’s the 2008 Pinot Noir from Howling Bluff.

royal gala apples at gartrell orchards, summerland.

9.  The sessions that sparked the most discussion?  Talking about Facebook and Twitter and BC apples!  I vow to look for the BC apple sticker when I’m shopping for apples, and I won’t  buy anything else.

10.  My absolute favourite thing to do in the world when I’m travelling is to go to the local farmer’s market.  The flavour of a place really shines through when you meander through the booths and talk to the vendors.

the scene at the workshop.

And finally:  11.   Coordinating a workshop is a lot of work.  Jennifer Cockrall-King devoted herself to designing a thoughtful, logistically-perfect three days, and carried herself as our leader with grace and warmth.  She’s the most anti-tour guide tour guide I’ve ever met (and yes, that’s a good thing).

I promised myself at our last meal, I’d be in the moment (courtesy of Claudia of Nuovo magazine) and not photograph or document the meal.

It was at Bogner’s Restaurant in Penticton.  This place tricks you.  The setting in an old heritage house (complete with ghost upstairs) is incongruent with the food.   You think stuffy old French food?  You would be mistaken.

Chef Darin Patterson blew my preconceptions out of the water.  The quality of food in the Okanagan has caught up with the beauty of the surroundings at Bogner’s.  He and his creative team prepared farm to table food with French flare.  Each flavour in every course was bright and surprising, and the effect was audible all the way down the table of diehard foodies.  Warm touchtone beet tarte-tartin with stilton cream, seared halibut, sous-vide lamb saddle with smoked butternut squash, dark chocolate chip mousse?

I will now retire to bed, satied and happy.


12 thoughts on “what i learned at the okanagan food & wine writers’ workshop

  1. Fantastic! Is it already over? You must be coming way down off of that high! Wonderful recap. I was aching to go. Aching… but, next time. What a wonderful opportunity and the people make the experience what it is. I have heard nothing but incredibly positive comments about everything Jennifer organizes. So, I knew it would be wonderful. And, small is also wonderful.
    So glad you got to go!

  2. This is a wonderful recap, Sue. Thanks so much. Really, I just let the Okanagan do its thing and let the farmers, chefs, and people who live here do their thing. And I agree, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s too good not to share.

  3. It was great to meet you and the rest of the OKFWWW folks out in the (soggy) orchard yesterday. So glad to hear that the apples sparked conversation! Sounds like you all had a fantastic time.


  4. Wonderful Love your take on the weekend Sue. So nice to meet you and to share the exceptional workshop experience with you, and the rest of our newly formed workshop fellowship. It’s a good thing when we all come away with delicious new aspirations and inspirations.

  5. I am finding the entire weekend very hard to put into words. How do describe so many emotions, learning experiences, instant friendships and food that has your taste buds dancing all in a few paragraphs. Of course as a professional writer you have risen to the challenge well…and the photos make my heart sing! Lovely to meet you.

  6. I do share your enthusiasm for food (beer and wine) well prepared. I do not share your ability to write and I say that with jealousy.

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