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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
EDITED TO ADD:
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.