Kelowna, BC is more than just wine. On a recent trip to the Okanagan Valley’s largest city, I discovered Kelowna has got it all and it hits on all the senses!
If you’re like me, it feels like every single blogger (but you and I) has been whisked away on some type of food blogger trip. You know the trip I’m talking about, the famous Familiarization trips, better known as a FAM Trip. I’ve always wondered what it’s like having your travel, accommodations and meals covered as you tweet and post Instagram shots along the way. So, it was with great excitement that Food Bloggers of Canada was partnering up with Tourism Kelowna on a Food Blogger FAM trip. I had gone last summer with my FBC partner-in-crime for a little work/pleasure trip and arranged to meet up with the folks at Tourism Kelowna. Fast forward almost a year later with many emails and phone calls and voila, here we were partnering up on a FAM Trip to bring Canadian food bloggers and local Kelowna businesses together!
So as a wearer of two hats (Food Bloggers of Canada and food blogger), I was one of the six bloggers to head down to Kelowna for the weekend to check out what’s going on from a food and wine scene! We tweeted and Instagrammed along the way with the hashtag #KelownaFBC and it was a treat for all our senses.
Our itinerary was put together by Tourism Kelowna and they knocked it out of the park! All our senses were on alert during the weekend and so for that reason, I decided to divide up the weekend into the five senses. But let’s make one thing very clear, every spot we visited teased all the senses. I just thought this would be a fun way to focus on one particular sense at a time. This first post will be tackling Sight and Hearing.
So for starters, let’s get situated with where Kelowna can be found on the map. It’s in British Columbia in an area called the Okanagan Valley. The region is known for its beautiful setting and wine scene, but it’s so much more than that. By car, it’s about 400 kms and makes for a beautiful four hour drive. However, for this particular trip, Tourism Kelowna wanted us to experience the ease of getting there by air. The 45 minute flight was a breeze and had lots of energy to get the trip started!
Old Meadows Organic Farm
Although we were never hungry, of the five senses, I think “sight” was the one that was most stimulated during our time in Kelowna. Mountains, the Okanagan Lake and the wide open sky was never too far from being admired. If you combine that with the beauty of all the food, wine and greenery we encountered, every moment really was a photo-taking opportunity.
Could you get used to this view every morning, I certainly could! This is what Farmer Jeff looks out at every single day at Old Meadows Organic Farm. Don’t let the name fool you though, a couple of years ago Farmer Jeff used to be Financial Adviser Jeff. Needing a life change and wanting to make a difference, Jeff traded his dress shoes for boots and hasn’t looked back. He’s committed to an organic and sustainable farm that becomes a blueprint for others to emulate. Home is now a 3.5 acre farm with over 100 years of farming history.
The goal at Old Meadows Organic Farm is to be fully sustainable while also creating a blueprint that others can emulate. Farmer Jeff works with local chefs to find out what produce is missing from the local area and is able to grow virtually anything due to the property’s fertile soil. You have to check out what he grows, the list is incredible!
In addition to the farm itself, they’ve also opened up a storefront market for the public. Not surprising, there are products for sale from other local businesses, but the really great piece of the market is the U-pick garden out front hat Jeff created. Instead of going to the grocery store and having to buy a bunch of herbs you couldn’t possibly use up in a week, you have the option to pick what you need for dinner on the way home from work at a fraction of the cost and no waste!
Old Meadows Organic Farm
4213 Gordon Drive
I was fascinated by Tantalus Vineyards for a variety of reasons. First off, like most wineries in Kelowna, the views are spectacular and Mother Nature was hard at work everywhere you turned. It wasn’t just the view though, it was the name of the vineyard itself. The word “Tantalize” comes from the Greek figure Tantalus who had been given an eternal punishment of having to stand below a fruit tree that wasn’t quite within his grasp. He also had to stand in a pool of water, but whenever he went to take a drink, the water would disappear. I was also taken by the local-artist inspired labels and the decor of the tasting room. Tantalizing indeed!
About the winery itself, it was originally Pioneer Vineyards as of 1927 and became Tantalus in 2004. Their intention is to only use what they grow on their own land and so they focus solely on wines made from Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Not only did they gain national and international acclaim for their wines, but they also built the province’s first LEED-certified winery which was completely in 2010.
I enjoyed all the wines we sampled, but my absolute favourite had to be their Riesling Ice Wine. It’s sweet, but not sugary sweet and it also make for a great story having been picked in the middle of the night during the winter.
1670 DeHart Road
With the view, I was already smitten. Smack Dab is the restaurant within Manteo Resort and is much more than just your standard hotel restaurant. It had a huge makeover a couple years ago and it really is a perfect spot to sit by the water for a post-work drink or have a great meal with a drink or two.
We sampled a bunch of dishes. My top appetizer picks were the Smack Dab Crazy Fries and Teriyaki Glazed Ribs with apple ginger puree! The fries were awesomely crispy and tossed in a bath of parsley and roasted garlic. I’m pretty sure even the crumbs were eaten off the plate before the dish was cleared!
For my main, I had to go with the beer-brined roasted chicken, chipotle broccoli slaw, traditional baked pork & beans (in a jar!) and peach BBQ sauce. The chicken was cooked perfectly and the baked beans were also really good. Their Smokin’ Beef Burger was also pretty epic (evidence above) and was a winner amongst the table. The portions were very generous and there is no way anyone was leaving hungry!
3762 Lakeshore Road (Manteo Resort)
Arlo’s Honey Farm
Well, I suppose a honey farm falling into the “hearing” category is pretty obvious, but this one could have gone into any of the categories very easily! We had the pleasure of getting an close-up explanation and demonstration of bees working away in their hives. First off, there is nothing like hearing that buzzing sound of bees hard at work. The startling tidbit of bee information was that a honey bee produces 1/12 teaspoon in its lifetime!
So after hearing and seeing the bees up close and personal, we had the chance to sample honey from the very hive in which they were using to teach us. One minute, bees are working away, the next minute they are being carefully brushed away and then voila, we’re trying the fruits of their labour! It was the sweetest and purest honey I’ve ever had, but there was an added element of amazement knowing how many bees had to work to produce it.
Like Farmer Jeff, Helen the Beekeeper at Arlo’s has a similar humble beginning in her craft. She began later in life but has taken to it like a “bee to a flower.” The land is flush with flowers and all sorts of crops are being grown for the bees to enjoy and pollinate. They take their philosophy of “healthy bees are happy bees” seriously and if the honey is any indication of happiness, the bees are ecstatic! They have over 15 kinds of honey and yes, I tried them all. My favourite was the ginger honey complete with little pieces of ginger which I have been happily drizzling on my cereal and fruit ever since returning home.
Arlo’s Honey Farm
4329 Bedford Lane
Micro Bar + Bites
At 900 square feet, you can hear everything everyone says, but it just adds to the coziness of the awesome decor of micro bar + bites. It’s co-owned by Chef Rod Butter and wine/spirit expert Audrey Surraro (also co-owners of RauDZ Regional Table). It truly is the perfect little spot to grab a drink (or two) and something to nibble on to kick off your evening in downtown Kelowna. The drink menu boasts a handful of classics with a twist but you’re also invited to let the drink makers create something special for your own particular taste!
I rolled the dice with a mystery drink and while it didn’t have a name, it was fantastic! It was a mix of bourbon, orange juice, grapefruit juice and bitters which was a perfect precursor to dinner that evening next door at RauDZ Regional Table. But that falls into another category, so that along with the rest of the weekend will have to wait for the rest of the KelownaFBC weekend!
Next up is touch, smell and of course, taste!
*Disclosure – I was a guest of Tourism Kelowna and my transportation, accommodation and all meals were covered. I am not being further compensated to share my experiences and my waistline will attest that all opinions are my own. Tourism Kelowna and the businesses mentioned above have not reviewed this post before publication.*