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Cornucopia Whistler at the Pan Pacific Mountainside

Cornucopia is Whistler’s annual fall festival of food and drink. Two weeks of tastings, culinary demonstrations, wine seminars, chef luncheons, winemaker dinners, and parties. All off which give you the opportunity to explore and enjoy the offerings of BC and Whistler in a whole new way. This November 7th to the 17th marked its 23rd year, and my first experiencing it in person.

My girl friend and I came down for the first weekend, tying the occasion to her birthday celebration! What better way to commemorate a birth than with three days of wine fuelled adventures. A staycation that involves a two hour drive to this mountain town; with no snow and warming sun, this was the perfect weekend getaway.

Our accommodations would be at “Pan Pacific Mountainside”, a resort under the shadow of Blackcomb Mountain. Each room is a suite with full kitchen, living room, washroom, and patio. With the basic suites you don’t have a separate bedroom. You either use the Murphy bed that drops down from the cabinet, or pull a bed out from under the sofa. Space saving, but not as comfortable as having a proper bed, in a separate room. I highly recommend paying the $75 additional to upgrade.

All hotel guests have access to the hotel’s amenities. A gym and sauna indoors, and a full length heated pool and two hot tubs outside. We did find ourselves slipping into our swim suits and robes, and enjoy some time in their pools.

For food, the hotel is home to Irish sports bar “Dubh Linn Gate”. Just be warned, last call for food is 9pm; and that includes ordering room service, as everything comes from the pub’s kitchen.

We did enjoy the space with a couple of drinks one night. Although found it a much difference atmosphere later in to the evening. To our surprise the bar became a club with people standing and drinking, or dancing to the loud music. We would leave that scene, but come back for food the next day.

Seeing a large tray of nachos past by us, I wanted the same thing. Available in 2 sizes the smaller of the two is plenty for two to share. Tri-coloured crunchy nacho chips, melted cheese, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole at an extra cost.

And for those who are in town to ski or board, “Pan Pacific Mountainside” boasts all the equipment to make it possible. With retail sports stores to shop from or the ability to rent for the day.

Now, back to “Cornucopia”. In total we attended 5 events, each one a great example of the variety of offerings available for attendees to partake in. A multi-course dinner, a dip in healing waters with sparkling wine, a wine seminar on value, a cooking demonstrating, and a large scale wine tasting.

First it was a dinner at “Four Season Whistler’s” “Side Cut” restaurant. They have teamed up with the chefs of the “Four Seasons” in Vancouver to bring diners a 5 course meal, paired with “Fort Berens” wine. For the full story of our “Corridor” dinner with “Yew + Sidecut”, as well as a few features of the property, visit in the link below.

“The Corridor” with Yew + Sidecut, Cornucopia 2019

 

We then grabbed a cab to our next event of the night: “Scandinave Spa’s “Bubble bath”. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be drinking bubbles, when surrounded by bubbles. I know you aren’t suppose to go into the water 15 minutes after you have eaten, but our next stop had us snacking on canapés and sipping on “Haywire’s” bubbles before and after our soak. For the full review of this luxury spa turned lounge with live music, visit the link below.

Scandinave Spa Bubble Bath, Cornucopia 2019

 

The next morning we stopped for a healthy brunch at Pangea Pod Hotel’s “living room” and cafe. Here, we had green juice smoothies, and vegetables to balance out the night before and the day to come.

The “CrabApple Hits Smoothie” is kale, cucumber, apple, strawberry, pineapple, apple juice, and lemon juice. A great way to feel good about what you are drinking, and have it taste good.

To eat, my guest had their “Avocado Toast”. She expected it to be done like how she does it, “with a whole avocado”. This rendition was a a thin smear of mashed avocado, over crusty sourdough bread, topped with feta, coriander, red chilli and lime. It was a lot more flavourful than any avocado toast I have ever had. I just wished there was more avocado to really appreciate the creaminess of the fruit.

I had the “Vegetable broken eggs”. This was a skillet of roasted baby potatoes, eggplant, and zucchini; topped with a couple of eggs seasoned with mozzarella cheese, green onion, and truffle oil. Another hearty, tasty dish that didn’t feel like.

This was enough “base” to get us through our 12 glass wine tasting at the Whistler convention centre. I was excited to attend the “Top Value Wine” seminar and put what I learn from it to practice, in the future. I often struggle with what bottle to pick at my local liquor store, so was appreciative that this class would highlight a few good ones. For the detailed list of 12 value wines to get under $20, check out the link below.

Top Value Wines Seminar, Cornucopia 2019

 

From here we had a quick lunch at “Bar Oso”. A couple of cocktails and two smaller plates that we shared.

The “Harvest Sour” features smoked pumpkin rum, lemon, carrot, maple syrup, and egg white. And the “Trophy Wife” came with pink peppercorn infused vodka, apricot, egg white, citrus, and pink peppercorn dust sprinkled overtop top. Plus a Spanish gin and tonic.

With it we grazed on half an order of their assorted cheese board. It was nice to be able to have the option of a smaller serving size. The cheese is on rotation and this board featured manchego in 3 and 12 months old, san simon, drunken goat, and valdeon blue.

For something heartier we turned to their wild smoke salmon sandwich with fresh salmon, boiled eggs and capers, all on house made bread. I would be more than happy to have this for breakfast any day.

Next was a “Cornucopia” cooking class hosted by the Executive Chef of “Tyax Resort”. He would walk us through cooking a three course menu that was inspired by the land and sea. And each round was paired with the perfect “Fort Berens” wine. For some great cooking tips and the recap of our tasty trio, visit the link below.

Culinary Stage: Tyax Land and Sea, Cornucopia 2019

 

Then it was time to head back to our hotel, to freshen up for the evening’s main event. A gala-style tasting that had you exploring the convention centre, table to table tasting fine wine and nibbling on savoury bites. For some of the highlights to this not to be missed event, visit the link below.

Having drank our fill we decided to then stop and eat something more solid at the “Harajuku” Japanese tapas place next door.

The chicken karaage were a fried to order dark meat served with a garlic mayo. The dip helped to balance out the grease.

The “Popcorn calamari” was battered and salted with seaweed, and served with a sweet and sour dressing. I would have preferred the garlic mayo dip with the fried squid rings, and the salty dressing here for the chicken above.

And on a lighter note we had the “Rock n roll” sushi. A refreshing veggie roll with yam tempura, avocado, cucumber, carrots, beets, shiitake, inari, and a kabayaki sauce. It had a great mix of textures and was exactly what my body was craving.

Then to round out the night we a couple of drinks with some friends in town, before turning it in; one last sleep in our “Pan Pacific suite”.

The next morning it was packing up after ourselves and checking out. But first one last glass of breakfast bubbles paired with microwaved left overs, as we watched the Food Network.

We would spent the first half of Sunday exploring Whistler. And it started with brunch at “Basalt”. It was 11am, but not too early to enjoy their fall feature, two glasses of wine and a cheese fondue for two. At $59 it sounded like a good deal.

We each choose a glass between the house red or white, and sipped as we dipped. I just wished there was more than just the toasted chunks of baguette to dip into the blend of emmental, gruyere, and aged cheddar. The flavour became monotonous. We did have the option to add vegetables for $10, however a small side of potato, carrot, and Brussel sprouts seemed steep. I wanted fresh fruit, but according to our server, patrons are unable to order anything that isn’t on the menu. So we are as much as we could stomach and left.

Next we visited Whistler’s historic museum by donation. It was a self guided tour that allowed you to explore the history of Whistler through its wildlife and experiences. Here you can “Ride” in one of the first gondolas, or reminisce about the time we hosted the Olympics by playing dress up.

The library is next door, so we took a peak inside, after. Plenty of reading space and board games for those who want something more active to do.

Hot tip for art lovers, a handful of hotels have micro art galleries located at their lobbies. Anyone is welcomed in to take a look around. I personally prefer the modern art ones.

 

And the village stroll is always pleasant walk. There are plenty of unique stores to meander into, like the one selling semi precious stones and crystals. And “Castros Cuban Cigar Store” that will help you trim any cigar you purchase.

And of course, the most popular landmark, the Olympic Rings are available for a photo op anytime day or lit up at night. There is a playground for kids and a gazebo for catching shade or rain cover under.

In short Whistler is always a great for a quick getaway and even more fun when it coincides with “Cornucopia”. To start planning for next year’s event, visit their website below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the more visual recap of our weekend at “Cornucopia”, check out my latest drinking Vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Cellar Door Grand Tasting, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend we were up in Whistler, which is consistently ranked amongst the world’s top golf, mountain bike, and ski resorts. Although this fall we were not on the slopes, but instead, around tables trying the fabulous culinary offerings of this mountain town. Every November, Whistler hosts Cornucopia: Whistler’s Celebration of food + drink. The event is a unique opportunity to experience the wealth of Whistler’s fine dining establishments, as well as mix with acclaimed chefs, sommeliers, distillers, brewers, and restaurateurs visiting just for the festival.

But if you aren’t able to visit for a weekend or sign up for numerous events, the one(s) you have to attend is a signature tasting. The convention centre hall, (where it is held), is set up with multiple tables, each dedicated to a wine or food vendor. You roam the space, chatting up distributors and chefs, strolling amongst the aisles, at your leisure. Because where else can you try several of the wines participating in various “Cornucopia” events across two weeks, all gathered together for one night?

There are several such grand tastings, but the “Cellar Door”, (which is the one we attended), promised fine wines and champagnes, with the uncorking of top-shelf bottles ($25 and up). “With glass in-hand, step inside to discover a superb range of red, white and sparkling wines, and meet the producers and winemakers who create them. Complement your tastings with sweet and savoury bites by Sea to Sky restaurants and guest chefs.”

Participating wineries included:
BC Wine Studio
Black Hills Estate
Black Sage Vineyard
Blasted Church
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
C.C. Jentsch Cellars
Clos du Soleil
Covert Farms Family Estate
Crescent Hill Winery
Crowsnest Vineyards
Culmina Family Estate Winery
Da Silva Vineyards & Winery
Dark Horse Vineyard
Delegat Canada
Empson Wines
Ex Nihilo Vineyard
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery
Fort Berens Estate Winery
Hope Family Wines
Indigenous World Winery
Inniskillin
Italian Wine Importer
Kismet Estate Winery
Lang Vineyards
Laughing Stock Vineyards
Mark Anthony Wines & Spirits
Massey Wines and Spirits Ltd
Moon Curser Vineyard
Okanagan Villa Vineyards
Phantom Creek Estates
Shannon Ridge
Stags Hollow
Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Sunrock Vineyards
TIME Winery
Whistler Tree Wines

The following will be a highlight reel of the event, with a few notables. Like, meeting the Riedel team. I am a firm believer that glassware makes a difference and was proved it here with their decanter and magnum glasses.

For food there was a table of hams and sausages. And a collection of nibbles that ranged from hot squash soup to pork loin and mashed potato. There was Thai salad and sautéed vegetables, tomato bruschetta, and good old fashion hard cheese and sweet apple to graze on.

In short, these so much to see in do in 3 hours, you definitely get your money’s worth at this event. If you can only attend one, this is that one. To have it to look forward to next year, visit the Cornucopia website for more details.

For the epicurious, Cornucopia is food + drink unleashed

 

For the more animated and detailed recap of this event, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Culinary Stage: Tyax Land and Sea, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend we were at our very first “Cornucopia”, Whistler’s fall food and drink festival, which includes a variety of events to partake in. In order to get the most out of our experience we signed up for a little of everything, like a live cooking class where you get to eat the fruits of your chef/instructor’s labour. This is that recap.

Attendees were gathered at the grand foyer of the Whistler’s Conference Centre. You choose yours seat between several tables clustered around the “Sub Zero & Wolf Culinary Stage”. It was a formal sit down event, which included the visibility of two televised screens. They were helpful in allowing you to follow along with this instructional tasting.

Our instructor was Daniel Crane, Executive Chef at “Tyax Lodge”, and this would be his first foray in teaching on a public stage, in front of a live audience. In order to see him in action, check out my latest drinking vlog, where I recapped this, and a few of the other events I participated in.

 

Chef Daniel used the following 3 courses to highlight his background. He prides himself on working with farmers, sourcing his ingredients from them as much as possible. And this was well reflected in the meal to come, 3 courses inspired by flavours from the land and sea.

As a workshop, it was great to be able to take in his tips and trips. And/or sit back and simply watch things unfold like a cooking show; with the added pleasure of eating it after. I personally really enjoy seeing how my food is put together, to be able to appreciate the workmanship of each dish so much more.

And as he prepared our multi-course meal, we would enjoy wine from “Fort Berens Estate Winery” in Lillooet, BC. Their handcrafted wines reflect the unique qualities of Lillooet’s terroir; and has won them several regional, national, and international awards. The winery is located two hours north, over the coast mountains. This is a small valley, the same size of Burgundy, France. There, it is very dry and arid, with very little snow and rain. The land’s pour soil is great for grapes, the energy to grow them all goes to the fruit and not its leaves.

Our first “Fort Berens” wine was their 2018 Chardonnay, a wine that won in the category of top white at “Cornucopia 2019”

Our second glass was their 2016 Pinot noir made from five different types of grapes, clones of varietals originating from France to California. The result, an deep red with earthy layers and the fruity notes of raspberry.

The last glass was the “Fort Berens’ Late Harvest Muscat”. A sweet wine, that paralleled our dessert to come. Made with a late harvest grape it has exotic notes of ginger, lemon grass, and apricot. A nice cool wine with light acidic tones.

As for the food that went with each, the following will be a notable recap of the demonstration, followed by my honest review of the food. I will not be offering step by step instructions on how to replicate each dish, instead, you will have to attend next year’s “Cornucopia” yourself.

Our first course was an “Albacore Tuna Tataki”. Seared rare tuna served with a cherry tomato ratatouille, warm olives and caper berries. Seasoned with chilli, olive oil, a parmesan crisp, and saffron aioli.

We learned that you start by making sure the pan is nice and hot, so that the albacore tuna cooks up with a lovely crust. You also want to lay the fish away from you, to avoid the oil from splashing on to you. You then season your tuna with olive oil paprika, salt and pepper. Your don’t want to sear it for too long, though do want to get all four sides, and allow the fish to sit.

Next you prepare the ratatouille which involves adding together your vegetables and finishing it with parsley and salt.

For your aioli you blend your mayonnaise in a blender at a lower setting. You then slowly add in oil and turn up the speed: “really high, really quick, and then kill it”. If you blend it too slowly it comes out too thin. You know you have done it right when your finished product is a nice yellow colour.

We then got an inside look at the intricacies of plating. Slicing the tuna thin, dotting your plate with mayonnaise, lining your ratatouille on the side, and finishing the plate off with some deep fried rice paper for added crispiness.

The result, a tasty and light start. Fresh and tangy with tomato, and familiar with the tuna and creamy mayo combination. The white wine’s citrus notes really complimented the seafood here.

The second course was “Pan Seared Brome Lake Duck”, served with a parmesan and sage gnocchi, cherry jus, and quark cheese mousse.

Chef Daniel first began with the gnocchi. He and his team had already pre-boiled the potatoes needed for 35 minutes, just so that they are soft enough to pierce with knife. Once they are peeled, they are pressed down to small bits using a potato ricer, (A new and soothing sight for me). The collection of potato granules are the mixed together with one egg, and one and a half cups of flour, then repeatedly folded in to build gluten. The dough is then rolled into a line a cut down to small pieces. It is then ready to be boiled in water for 1-2 minutes. When they start to float, you remove then from the water. And once they cool down you can sauté it with the asparagus.

Making the chutney involved sautéing chopped red onion, gooseberries, a little bit of sugar, and red wine vinegar. Then letting it cook down with all its liquids cooked off.

The duck breast was prepared in a sous vide bag, seasoned with salt and pepper. It is then seared and plated with its demi glaze and cherries, alongside the chutney and gnocchi.

The meaty piece of duck was perfection, with all its sides balancing out the plate. Fresh and crispy asparagus, sweet and sour chutney, and a rich caramelization from the cooked cherries.

Our third and final course was a “Berries and Cream” dessert, made with fresh berries, a coconut foam, cardamom crumble, and chamomile syrup.

First came the making of the granola based crumble featuring pumpkin seeds, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cardamon. To it Chef Daniel added in a good amount honey, and a little bit of sugar with canola oil. The goal is for it to be sticky before popping it in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

The berry compote was mix of blackberry, cherry, and strawberries. More sugar is added to make it a proper dessert. It is finished with lemon juice, and cook down at a low heat for 20 minutes. And lastly a splash of vanilla extract goes into the mix, after the temperature is turned off.

In order to get the camomile syrup, you start by steeping tea bags into water and cooking it.

And for the meringue you remove yolk from egg whites. And the whites get whipped in a blender so they won’t fluff up. More sugar is added again, as well as cream of tartar, to help keep things nice and stiff; so that your meringue does not flop out in the oven. It is baked in the oven at 200 degrees, until it is nice and crispy.

The coconut foam uses a higher fat concentration of coconut milk, mixed with icing sugar. It is piped on to the plate using a foam gun.

Surprisingly the dessert wasn’t too sweet, I found our dessert wine sweeter. The cardomon notes gave the plate a fall feel, the camomile a nice floral essence, and the juicy berries offered a nice contrast to the crispy and chewy meringue curl it was scooped out over.

In conclusion, a great event and a fun way to add a little flare to dinner. I learned a few kitchen tricks and was fully entertained throughout the entire meal. And I honestly think it all tasted better because I witnessed its journey to completion, and respected the time and effort that it took to get it on my plate. For all the food enthusiasts, I highly recommend looking into attending another such class next year. Start planning now by visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

Top Value Wines Seminar, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend I was taking in my very first “Cornucopia”. The two week long food and drink festival hosted in Whistler. It gathers industry professionals and fans together through specialty dinners, parties, cooking demonstrations, and seminars. And in this post we were taking in the latter.

Out of all the possible wine seminars, I was most interested in this one: “Top Value Wines”. This was not just a class on one specific type of grape, or wines from merely one region. This was a collection of information, covering several different types of wine, from all over the world. Information that I could take and apply in my every day life.

I typically visit my local liquor store looking for a bottle; but often don’t know what to get, so simply hope a label compels me. There are so many different types of wine, and we all can’t be sommeliers. Picking one can be overwhelming, especially if it is to be shared with others who may judge you on your selection. Or maybe you don’t want to spend more than $20 on your purchase, because you think, “it’s just for me”. Therefore, I was looking forward to taking in this workshop, to have it help remove future doubt in my wine selection. And now, thanks to this wine seminar? I have a list of what to reach for during my next liquor store visit. So continue reading to see 12 wines worth trying, that won’t break the bank.

The seminar was set up like a lecture room with rows of tables, an overhead projector, and a panel of speakers leading the class. Our three hosts were the ones to choose the 12 wines we would be tasting. And as we did, they would share why they selected this top value wine, plus what they liked about it. Rachel is the owner of “VV tapas”, a new wine bar in East Vancouver. Tyler runs the “Village Taphouse” liquor store in West Vancouver. And Daenna writes for 4 wine magazines all throughout Canada, where she is better known as the “Wine Diva”.

Everything was pre-poured and placed in order on a speciality place mat. Water was self serve at the back of the room, a larger plastic cup gave you the opportunity to taste and spit, and a packet of saltines offered a way to cleanse your palette in between.

The seminar began by explaining value. Just because a bottle is inexpensive, it doesn’t make it worse off than something that costs double that. “Value” was described as something worth more to you than what you would expect to pay for it. We then went one by one through each glass, essentially going through a whole case of wine.

 

First was the “Rivera ‘Marese’ Bombino Castro del Monte D.O.C.” This is a lesser known wine, hailing from a more obscure area, at the “heel of the boot of Italy”. This white is made in a stainless steel vessel, to ensure nothing takes away from the grapes. It is a creamy, full bodied wine with tropical notes. And best enjoyed frosty cold. It isn’t widely distributed, but it is available in 27 stores across the province, that offers it at $22 a bottle.

The “Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc” is $18 at any BC liquor store. Described as a “text book” Sauvignon from New Zealand, it is tangy with a crisp finish; and also a little dry yet refreshing. It is available year round with green apple and peach flavours, ideal as a “hot tub wine”.

The “2018 Synchromesh Reisling” is from our own back yard: Naramata and Okanagan Falls. It is available at privately owned liquor stores for $23, but for the best deals, it is recommended that go right to the source. The same can be said for any BC wine, the best prices are right from the winery itself. As for how it drinks, this eas a balanced blend with plenty of acidity, thanks to its natural fermentation. Our hosts highly recommended it with Asian cuisine like Thai food and with a variety of curries. It is also just as good with breakfast because it pairs well with bacon. A great all around white, with a lower alcohol content at 9%.

Then for the rest of our tasters we went red, starting with the “2018 Santa Carolina Pinot Noir Réservé” from Leyda Chile. Available for $14 a bottle at any BC liquor store, this was the best deal out of all the glasses. It comes from a newer region, just off the Pacific Ocean; hilly with a cool climate. This Pinot Noir with its savoury character pairs well with rich earthier foods like risotto, mushrooms, and Wellington.

The “2017 Humberto Canale Estate Noir” is from Patagonia, the very south of Argentina. Also described as the “end of the earth” with barren terrain. The dessert’s cooler nights and higher altitude is great for preserving the acidity of their wine. At $20 a bottle from private liquor stores, you get good “bang for your buck” here.

Next we switched the order and went to glass #9, the “2016 Lupi Reali Montepulciano d’Abruzzo” from Italy. A medium, light bodied wine that sold for $19 a bottle, at private liquor stores. Made from certified organic grapes, it doesn’t have a lot of mechanical bitterness to it, thanks to how it is produced. It is a great acidic wine with plenty of freshness; and good tannins making it a great choice to pair with sausage. It is also the bottle our experts recommended to bring to a party, when you don’t know what they like.

We then went back to our placemat order with glass #6, the “2018 Gran Passione Rosso” from Veneto, Italy. The grapes are left on the vine and dehydrated slowly. The farmers wait for them to shrivel up and loose half their weight before picking them, and making wine with them in oak barrels. The result, a more intense wine at 14% alcohol, with only a tiny amount of residual sugar. You get flavours of oak spice, vanilla, plum and raisins. This is available at privately owned liquor stores for $16 a bottle.

Glass #7 was the “2017 Boraso Garnacha” from Spain. A fruit wine with a “strawberry twizzler” character, a younger wine with no oak contact. At $15 a bottle at any BCL, our hosts joked that this was the perfect wine to crack open when you either don’t want to commit to finishing it, or you have to share with someone else.

The “2017 Protea Cabernet Sauvignon” is from Western Cape South Africa and runs at $15 at BCL. It hits all the classic notes with its time in oak barrels, followed by a year in stainless steel. It is a balanced wine that you can enjoy right as you open the bottle. Peppery with some cassis fruit.

The “2017 La Stella Fortissimo” from the Okanagan Valley was the most expensive bottle of our tasting. $35+ at the winery or private liquor store. It is a blend that is mostly merlot. Another approachable wine that you don’t need to decanter, although letting it rest doesn’t do it any harm either. It pairs well with meat, and for the vegetarians grilled eggplant and bean dishes. It also has enough acidity for tomato sauce.

The “2017 Famille Quiot Les Combes d’Arnevels Ventoux” from Rhone, France is $21+ at private liquor stores. It is a classic Southern Rhone blend with a mix of varietals. The wine has good minerality with flavour of dark fruits, leather and spice.

And glass #12 was the $20 “2016 Gerard Bertrand Terroirs Corbieres” from Languedoc, France. This was a full bodied blend with mostly Syrah.

Here, I wish I took better notes. Although having finished 12, 2oz glasses without using my spit cup, and only nibbling on two salted crackers; I wasn’t as alert or as thorough as I was at the beginning of our seminar.

In conclusion, I am very happy with this workshop. I have discovered 12 great bottles to reach for and impress others with, the next time I am in need of wine. And at these prices I can get a couple to share or one for me and another to gift.

For more on Cornucopia, and how you can attend next year’s occasion, visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the vlog version of this event and the recap of our weekend drinking, check out my latest video, now upon my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.

Scandinave Spa Bubble Bath, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend my girl friend and I were in Whistler, here to celebrate her birthday, as well as attend “Cornucopia” for the very first time. “Cornucopia” is Whistler’s fall food and drink festival. Combining the two made the weekend all the more fun, and topping it with a spa experience at Scandinave spa was the cherry on top.

“Scandinave Spa” was hosting a “Bubble bath”, and we couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be drinking bubbles when being surrounded by them. Although you can’t actually bring your drink to the pools (for safety reasons). However, the ability to visit the infamous spa at night was an experience in itself. But this was a party with guests lounging about the foyer in robes, sipping on unlimited bubbles, snacking on canapés, and bopping along to the jazzy sounds of @lovejennamae singing and playing guitar live.

I know you aren’t supposed to go into the water until 15 minutes after you have eaten, but who can resist this pairing? This it is the stuff goals are made off. The event was a self directed experience, you mixed and mingled either outdoors in the pools or by the fire pits, or indoors at the bar and by the fireplace. There was plenty to do in either arenas, with the ability to socialize. During regular spa sessions there is no talking allowed, tonight guests were more loud and rowdy with the drinks.

The ticket price included access to their exclusive hydrotherapy bath, towels, and robe rentals. At the pools, you are able to carry out your usual spa routine. Following the intermittent hot and cool soaks, plus rest. This is recommend for its traditional Scandinavian healing properties. Here you could gather by the roaring fire pits, swing on one of their hammocks, or get a chill from the stone benches and/or lounge chairs. For something more warmer, there was plenty to lie on indoors, in one of the solariums.

At this temperature and time of day it is easy to identify which are the hot or cold pools. Smokey and mysterious these hot pools was where we flocked to.

Indoors, attendees enjoyed glasses of bubbles from “Haywire Winery”. They were onsite pouring their traditional method sparkling wine, “The Bub” and their “2013 Vintage Bub”. The “Bub” is a bottle fermented and aged using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Grapes grown on cool vineyard sites in Oliver and Summerland. The result, a fresh warming wine with a nice crisp green apple finish. And the “Vintage Bub” was crowned the Winner of Cornucopia 2019’s top bubble award. You were able to try both and enjoy as many refills of either as your heart desired, (just done with moderation and the sake of health and self in mind.)

And as you sipped, you were able to sample from a collection of savoury and sweet canapés that travelled the room. The following were prepared by the “Collective Kitchen” catering team. Everything was delicious. It kept us well fed, yet refreshing and light. Perfect for the pressure to look as thin as possible in your bathing suit. That and it all paired well with our two wine options above.

A curry cashew cream with dukkah. “Dukkah” is combination of nuts, seeds, and ground spices. Together with the cream this morsel was like a little chip, already topped with dip.

The shrimp with salsa verde was a group favourite. Served on a skewer and drizzled with zesty and tangy salsa for an extra refreshing flavour profile.

A slice of cucumber is used as a base for mango salsa, jade radish, and sun choke chips. Another bright bite full of textures to chew through.

I liked the crab with mango cucumber salsa on a potato terrine, and its heartier bite with a caramelized finish.

The Kushi oysters with its persimmon minuet were delicious and memorable.

I also enjoyed the bacon and blue cheese biscuit with avaocado cream and heirloom tomato and radish. The distinct flavour of tangy blue cheese coupled with a sweet salty bacon was noteworthy.

But my favourite canapé was the albacore tuna with leeks on a nori, sesame and squid cracker. Absolutely delicious.

And for dessert, a quarter of a lime tart with huckle berry jam and blackberry garnish was passed around. Luscious and creamy, tangy with citrus and dark berries; it made for a great palate refresher.

So here, we took our time, eating and sipping, all while listening to the live musical stylings of acoustic singer, Jennamae Webb. She took pop hits and top 40’s songs and spun them in her own bluesy soulful sound. She even took on our suggestion/request of hip hop songs done in the same fashion.

In short, this was a whole new way to experience the spa. And I would highly anticipate going back again next year, whist recommending it to everyone else, and anyone already a fan of the property. Scandinave at night, retooled as a pj party with adult beverages was a hit!

But for more on Cornucopia, and how you can attend next year’s occasion, visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the vlog version of this event and the recap of our weekend drinking, check out my latest video, now upon my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.

“The Corridor” with Yew + Sidecut, Cornucopia 2019

We were here for the first weekend of Cornucopia 2019, Whistler’s fall food and drink festival. This is my first time attending the illustrious event. With two week long seminars, tastings, and dinners to attend, it is hard to choose your favourite.

We started the weekend off with a fantastic dinner at the “Four Season Whistler’s” restaurant, “Sidecut”. The restaurant featured several large wooden stumps refurbished into furniture. It gave it a polished rustic feel, alongside the wood floors and stone pillars. We grabbed a seat on one of their high top tables in the lounge. We were early so took the time to take in the bar’s offerings by way of a couple of their custom cocktails. Your drink options are attractively displayed on their elegant menu. High resolution photos of beverages and glasses that told a story through ingredients and presentation; arranged by geographic area.

My guest went “Northeast” for the “Fujisan Highball”. Jonnie Walker Black, yuzu and green apple, Cascade celery bitters, balsam fir and soda. Its glass is decorated with pine and a feather held in place with twine. Inspired by Japan’s flora landscape, the refreshing cocktail is finished with two spurts of pine scent. And with it came the ability to breathe in the drink before tasting it.

I went Southeast with the “Peak me up”, inspired by South Africa’s soil and its ability to grow quality coffee, bananas, and spices. The very crops that found its way into this cocktail, with great depth. Spiced Bulleit bourbon, artichoke amaro and banana, coconut flowers, cold brew Tanzanian coffee, and Moondog Latin bitters. Great for coffee lovers with the smooth bourbon in tow. Spiced with warmth and finished off with a beautifully sweet caramelized banana slice. So easy and enjoyable to drink, that it felt more like dessert.

We followed both up with a shot of their house gin. Made unique with its blue hue derived from butterfly pea flower. Distilled exclusively for the “Four Seasons Whistler’s”, by “Okanagan Spirits”. An easy drinking gin that went from blue to purple with the addition of tonic water or a squeeze of citrus.

When time, we transitioned to a reception in the dining room. Where, we joined all the other diners here for dinner. We greeted one another and spoke to the excitement of things to come. Clinking glasses of “Fort Berens” sparking rose. For each course to come, the perfect bottle of “Fort Berens” wine came with it.

When time, we all took out seats. Nothing is assigned so it’s first come first served. But those who found their way to the centre of the room were treated to a front row view of our hosts of the night. We were introduced to the Chefs of “Yew” and “Sidecut”, each explaining what course they were bringing to this dinner. Executive Chef Eren Guryel from “SIDECUT Modern Steak + Bar”, and Restaurant Chef Evan Morgan from “YEW seafood + bar”. This would be last collaboration between the two properties, seeing as the Vancouver location will be closing down next year.

Named “The Corridor”, the menu was a journey up the Sea to Sky Corridor (the very route that we took to get us to Whistler today); from Vancouver to Lillooet. And it promised to “take you through 163.13kms of taste”.

We began with a Kusshi Oyster from the oceans around BC, topped with Northern Divine Caviar, as our amuse bouche. A single, perfectly shucked raw oyster sitting of a bed of seaweed, smoky from liquid nitrogen. Quite the presentation, it is just a shame that the smoke was lost under the dim lights.

To pair with it we enjoyed the “Fort Berens” Reserve Riesling 2018. This was a dry white with an beautiful intensity. During its production, the temperature is dropped low, giving it a distinct petroleum nose.

For our next course came another Réservé Riesling. The 2017 vintage was very different due to the warmer weather that year, and the little crop that they yielded. The grapes were very ripe, so the wine turned out with much intensity and an increased sweetness.

Our second course was a single “Dungeness Crab Raviolo”, so good that it left you wanting more with its celeriac cream and Golden Ears Neufchatel. A firm round of stuffed pasta, sitting in a sauce that ate like a creamy chowder. Beautifully done.

Our next glass was a Chardonnay Réservé, that they called “White gold”. 100% of it was made in oak barrels through natural fermentation, and not by artificial yeast. The result is oaky with a rich nose, but not in an overwhelming way.

The Chardonnay elevated the “Lightly Smoked BC Salmon”, which brought our food journey to Howe Sound. An enticing plate with White Dashi, Charred Cucumber, Puffed Grains, Ginger Oil, and Winter Greens. It was a deliciously caramelized sashimi-like salmon with a spicy mayo cream and crispy bites to round out the mouth feel.

Next in our glass was the “Fort Berens Red Gold 2014”, the name, a nod to Lillooet and its connection to gold rush. It is made by drying grapes for weeks in a drying shed, where it lose 30% of the moisture, and it begins to slowly ferment. A medium bodied red, perfect with the steak it was paired with.

Taking us to Pemberton/Cache Creek was our fourth course: “Organic Grass Fed Beef Striploin” served with Pemberton potatoes, and a Cabernet Franc Jus. It was a perfectly cooked, medium rare steak. Juicy and lean with a little bit of fat at either ends. The vegetables with it were hearty and buttery, ideal in rounding out the plate.

Our last glass brought us back to white. The “Light Harvest Riesling” had great acidity, well balanced with sweetness. Its honey notes were akin to our final course: a honey themed dessert.

A “Honey tart” with Honey cremeux, peach jam, pistachio-honey financier, chai crust, peach-Hydromel sorbet, and bee Honey tuile. This marked the end of our Corridor journey at Lillooet. Each element of the dessert featured honey from Lillooet, a milder honey that wasn’t too sweet. This was a fresh dessert with gingerbread-like spices and soften peach. It was a well crafted, and engaging to pick though. I especially enjoyed pulling the almond wings from the candy bees.

Our meal took us from “ocean to alpine” and was immensely well executed. Diner’s definitely got their money’s worth from this. Nothing disappointed and I was sad to see it end.

The experience had me wanting to return to taste from their regular menu. And making plans to do so sooner because “Sidecut” will be introducing their winter menu the first week of December, and it will include a savoury apes ski high tea tower. They worked with an local artists to build a special display to showcase the likes of beef sliders and truffle fries, anything comforting you’d want after a great afternoon of skiing. And all well paired with an outlandishly decked out Caesar.

Worth also noting is the hotel property’s court yard. Here, you can gather around their roaring fire pit and toast some marshmallows on sticks. All while make-believing that you are camping with their own camper in tow.

Both only added to my desire to come back to whistler soon, and next time stay at the “Four Seasons”. And apparently if you do so in one of their residents suites, you have the option of ordering their crockpot dinner. You choose between beef, lamb, or chicken which includes all the accompanying vegetables. You simply order it on the hotel’s app, and it will be waiting for you in your suite. The rich smells of a slow cooking stew greeting you, and offering you a unique, homely touch.

In short this was a great event, one that I would recommend, along with a visit, if not stay at “Four Seasons”. But for more on Cornucopia, and how you can attend next year’s occasion, visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the vlog version of this event and the recap of our weekend drinking, check out my latest video, now upon my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.

South Okanagan in the 2019 Honda CR-V

I was heading to the Okanagan for the weekend and thought what better vehicle to get me there than the 2019 “Honda CR-V”, with its best in class fuel economy and its Econ mode to help us “drive towards a greener future”.

I was excited to be able to take in the Okanagan this fall. I have never visited during this season, so found magic in the red, orange, and yellow changing leaves. They were sprinkled amongst ever greens and the rocky mountain range.

We were able to easily take it all in with our no hassle ride. The Honda CR-V’s remote start and walk away auto-lock, saved us time during our pit stops and gas pumps. And it was easy to get in and out of with 90-degree door mobility. There was plenty of cargo room with an easy to fold down back seat and two level modes to meet all our storing and hauling needs.

We paused to take in the river, and stopped to explore the damp soil patches for various mushrooms.

When on the road, the Honda CR-V kept us comfortable and safe. Sitting pretty with perforated leather seats that heated. And well secured with blind spot display, and all wheel drive with intelligent system control. It got us there and back on 8.5L of gas at 100km. 4 hours each way, and driving from city to city in between; an amazing feet for an SUV.

Fall in the Okanagan has fruit stands bringing their pumpkin and gourds out to the roadside for sale. Many of the ones in Keremeos included visual displays for travellers to stop and take photos of and with. I didn’t know the extent of the variety of gourds available, before this trip. Here are some of my favourite photos.

We also stopped to watch cows graze on the mountainside, enjoying the ability to interact with livestock; something that you can’t do in the city.

We eventually made our way to Osoyoos, to our accommodations for the weekend: “Spirit Ridge”. For our time at Canada’s dessert resort and it’s new restaurant, visit the link below.

Our visit specifically coincided with Oliver BC’s “Cask and Keg” festival. An adults only event that hosted local South Okanagan beer, spirits, and ciders; for friendly sampling. For the full review of the participating breweries through tasting, visit the link below.

Cask and Keg, Oliver BC

The following day it was time to celebrate local Okanagan wines through a similar tasting program, at the “Festival of the Grape”. For the highlights of the family friendly event, and a few of the participating wineries, visit the link below.

Festival of the Grape, Oliver BC

During our road trip we also spotted and marvelled at “Spotted Lake”. As per Wikipedia, “Spotted Lake is a saline endorheic alkali lake located northwest of Osoyoos in the eastern Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, Canada, accessed via Highway 3”. The silt at the bottom of the lake is exclusively gathered and utilized by the First Nations people for its healing properties. However, over the years of us visiting, we realized its spots are no longer as bold, and the body water has transformed.

And when in the area, we always seem to find ourselves at “Tickleberry’s”. And despite the cold, the ice cream and gift shop was still a popular spot in fall.

I enjoyed a double scoop in a waffle cone. The seasonally inspired pumpkin spice and “Sunday breakfast”, a vanilla based ice cream made with fruit loops and lucky charms cereal with marshmallow bits.

For dinner on our second night we visited “Convivia Bistro” in Osoyoos. A modern restaurant serving Italian and French cuisine; prepared with local ingredients, and created to be complimented by local wines. Here, we enjoyed some house rosé with our pizza and pasta. For the latter we had lasagna with a tomato meat sauce, cream, Parmesan, and mozzarella. It was all in all pretty standard, it just needed a touch more seasoning. But this comfort serving hit the spot for me, on this night.

Out of preference, my partner ordered the “Goat Cheese And Honey” pizza with the goat cheese on the side. He liked everything else the pizza promised: olive oil, mozzarella, goat cheese, parmesan, sundried tomatoes, bacon, basil, and honey. Truly the pizza needed the pop the goat cheese gave, some interest to contrast with everything else.

CONVIVA
8312 74 Ave, Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V0
(250) 495-2223
conviviabistro.ca

For breakfast on our way back home we had brunch at “Jo Jo’s Cafe”, a popular neighbourhood spot, showcasing local art. Here we enjoyed one of their breakfast sandwiches with bacon bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato, and egg in an English muffin. A good start, before making our way home.

JO JO’s
8316 Main St, Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V4
(250) 495-6652
jojoscafe.ca

And with that this proved to be a quick and successful trip to the Okanagan, all made possible by the Honda CR-V. Thank you for the smooth ride and the travel memories Honda Canada.

#HondaCRV
Honda.ca

Festival of the Grape, Oliver BC

I was in Oliver this weekend, here to partake in the “Festival of the Grape”; the fall festival celebrating the fine wineries of South Okanagan. “Crushing it since 1997”. As Canada’s wine capital, Oliver produces more than 50% of all wine grapes in BC, which is reason for celebration. The festival welcomes over 50 wineries from BC to sample their local wines and fruit in wine.

Similar to the “Cask and Keg” festival (the day before), guests roam around the park visiting vendors for wine tasters, and food trucks for small bites in between. Except today’s event was double the size. Held during the day, this is a family friendly celebration, with plenty to see and do to keep any one engaged, at any age.

We came in 30 minutes earlier with our VIP access, grabbing our glass by the entrance. Every one drinks out of their own miniature wine glass, a great keepsake with the event’s logo etched on.

A new feature this year is the VIP pass. It gave guests the opportunity to enjoy an elevated VIP area. A lounge with a large charcuterie board to nibble from, specialty wines to try, and seminars from winery owners and local and regional contributors to listen to. And while general admission ticket holders had to wait until 1pm to start drinking, VIPs entered at 11:30am and could start tasting from the 4 wine producers stationed in the VIP area. All while enjoying the first seminar of the morning.

This was with Moss, the wine educator of “The Vinstitute” at “Intersection Estate winery”. He has us learning about BC wines in an approachable and fun way. We tried 3 pours, including a Riesling; and two very different tasting reds. With the latter two, the grapes used in both were similar to one another, minus the soil they grew it; and it made all the difference.

The seminars to follow included “learning about BC’s very first Sub Appellation, The Golden Mile Bench; which is home to several notable Oliver Osoyoos wineries”. And the ins and outs of proper stemware, featuring Riedel Glassware. I especially enjoyed the class on pairing the right wine with the perfect cheese with plenty of tasting opportunities.

With the VIP area, you can come and go as you please and explore the festival grounds at your leisure. Under tents were wineries pouring a selection of their collection. This was a great opportunity to learn about a new winery, or try a wine you might not want to commit a whole glass too. All while engaging the very producers of it, with any questions you might have.

The day began with the opening ceremony and parade. Drummers set the tone and pace, and this year’s grape stomp competitors were introduced.

One of “Festival of the Grape’s” main attractions is the grape stomp. In teams of 3, contestants sign up and dress up to compete in the tradition of grape stomping. An old practice that was once the only way grapes for wine were macerated. Now, it is more of a novelty and makes for a great exhibition; especially here as most of them dress up in costumes for the occasion. After 5 heats the team that produced the most juice in the allotted time won.

Also on location were local artists selling their artisan wares. Wine barrel wood work, hand painted wine glasses, locally roasted coffee, and hand made jewelry. There was also the fall art show and sale, set up to showcase various works across varying mediums. You could appreciate them here or take home to own.

For the younger kids, there was a playground for toddlers to climb around in; with face painting and inflatable bouncing. And for those who need a break, there was seating areas available to grab a drink and rest at. Hay bales, picnic tables, wine barrels converted into standalone tables, and floral arrangements featuring recycled wine bottles. And throughout the day, “Jack and Jill” performed live on stage, regaling the crowd with their music.

Though the wine is the real reason why you are here. And with over 50 wineries offering 3-4 different tasters for a ticket each ($1 = 1 ticket), there are far too many to try. Below, are a few of the wineries I did visited. But truth be told it got difficult to try any more after the 5th taster. With no place to spit or pour out excess wine, you find yourself having to drink it all. And a $1 per 2oz pour, you definitely aim to try as many as you can. That price is the best deal I have ever had at any similarly structured event.

There was also a lot more food vendors today and we got to try a few more. Like the honey garlic wings and fries from the “Wings” food truck.

And a gourmet, certified organic hotdog from the “Wienery” trailer. A unique creamy peanut butter, bacon, and dill pickle combo; with crispy onion and spicy mayo, all over their juicy beef wiener.

With an afternoon worth of activities, I can see why the festival attracts more than 4,500 attendees annually. Myself included, who came to “sample a variety of local and regional wines, dance to live music, and cheer on the fun and chaotic grape stomp”. Not to mention the new to 2019 “On-site Liquor Store, where a variety the wines on offer were available for purchase as you departed the festival.”

In short this was a great way to get to know BC’s wine country a little more intimately, and taste your way thought the Okanagan without have to drive from winery to winery. For more on the “Festival of the Grape” and why you need to attend next year for yourself, visit the link below.

FESTIVAL OF THE GRAPE
http://www.oliverfestivalofthegrape.ca/

Cask and Keg, Oliver BC

I was invited down to Oliver to attend this year’s “Cask and Keg”, an outdoor event focused on highlighting South Okanagan breweries, distilleries and cideries. This evening it was adults-only (19 plus), held at the Oliver Community Park. With plenty of free parking, and food and drink vendors on site, there is plenty to see and do for the duration of the 4 hour event.

The premise is you bounce from vendor to vendor, sipping on samples served in commemorative miniature snifter glass. The glasses are a nice keepsake with the event’s branding etched on to it. Your entry includes it and three tickets. The latter comes in handy, given you exchange 1-2 tickets for a taster.

The park is converted into an adult playground with stations set up under tents, lit with lamps. Themed for fall, settings included harvest apples and pumpkins, dry hay, and pressed blossoms. And centre pieces decorated seating areas and elevated the scene. It was all like a farmhouse fairytale.

There are several spots to perch on, and plenty of stopping moments to take in. Including a floral back drop to take photos in front of; and bottles of wine recycled as vases, strung up as an entry way. I especially liked the clothes line of different colour ribbons that wafted in the breeze.

Then when day light turned to night, the scene changed with the romantic glow of generator lights. And the added heat lamps and fire pits were helpful in keeping guest warm.

The whole experience is a free for all, you decide which vendor to start with, which of their offerings to taste (or all 3-4); and where to go for your next, to repeat steps 1 and 2. With over 15 different labels to try and the ability to talk up the owners and producers, there is so much to take away from this festival. And on the flip side, it is just as enjoyable as an occasion to gather your friends at and drink with.

The following is my account of the night, highlighting a few noteworthy points. Please excuse the photos, I was working against the setting sun, but wanted to do my best to capture the joyousness of this event.

There are a handful of local food trucks offering snacks and full serving portions to balance out your drinks with. It is best to make sure you start with a full stomach, and snack in between if staying the entire length of the event.

The following is what we had to share between 3 people. The Nashville hot chicken from “Vagabond Kitchen”, was well recommend by locals. Unfortunately we ordered it without the spice and it came bland, without seasoning. We should have been more specific and asked for it to be mild in heat level. The chicken had a good crunch none-the-less. But without a creamy sauce it was dry and hard to pull together with the cheese, lettuce, and brioche bun. It normally also comes with jalapeño and pickles, both of which would have added some zip to it.

Their poutine was solid, made with real cheese curds and plenty to boot. Just wished the gravy was richer and the fries crispier. But considering how much traffic they saw, and how busy they were, this was great.

From the “Thai on the Fly” truck we had two of their “Thai tacos”. Available in your choice of protein from Thai BBQ chicken, shrimp, or veggie. We has one of the chicken and one with shrimp; folded into a warm tortilla with sweet chilli, Thai basil, bean sprouts, green onion, peanuts, and cilantro. I liked the collection of texture and the unique-ness and freshness the bean sprouts brought to a taco.

We had the “smokie and perogy platter” from the stand with the exploratory name. This was declared their “number 1” dish. Six cheese and potato stuffed perogies, a smokie sliced in half, and plenty of sour cream and bacon bits over both. We ended our night of drinking with this and it was just what I wanted. Tasty and satisfying in all the right ways.

And for our night’s end dessert, we walked out with a bucket of mini doughnuts from “Our little donut factory”, a cinnamon and sugar staple at any out door event. Their warmth melted in your mouth, and you got to lick its sugar off your fingers afterwards.

As for drinks I went out of my way to taste from breweries I have never heard of, or take sips from beers and ciders I would not otherwise order.

The most original was from from “Detonate Brewing Co.” from Summerland BC. They were serving three options from their wooden box tap. I had to try the “Don’t wanna taco bout it”, as it’s name suggests, this is a beer flavoured like a savoury taco. In hit the ground beef spice notes perfectly. A spicy, salty flavour that grew in intensity the more you took in. You almost needed a drink to pair with it.

“Highway 97 Brewing Co.” was here presenting Penticton, offering up their “Okanagan fresh fruit hefe” and/or their “provincial park pale ale”.

“Firehall brewery” in Oliver is located in a repurposed fire hall and the names of their beers speak to their brand. Today it was their “Backdraft blonde” or “Holy Smoke Stout” on tap.

For something stronger, “Noteworthy Gin” delivered on their name; with the owner dawning a noteworthy orange suit to dole out samples of their gin. This is first product released by “The Dubh Glas Distillery”, a new distillery in BC’s agriculturally-rich Okanagan Valley.

For something sweeter, “Hawkers Organic, Rustic Roots Winery and Cidery Ltd.” was here representing Cawston BC; also known as the “Organic Farm Capital of Canada!” Here they offered popular orchard fruits as cider, including peaches and pears.

“Creek and Gully Cider” from Penticton gathered their fruit from the orchards of Naramata. I had their most popular option, a refreshing apple cider with a little “sparkle”.

I liked the theatrics of “Howling Moon Cider House” in Oliver. Their look was steampunk and their display included goggles that you couldn’t see out of, but were fun to wear if you wanted to do a literal blind taste test.

With all this drinking, you can take in a performance in front of the centre stage, in between. Knacker’s Yard, from Victoria, British Columbia (Coast Salish Territories), performed their traditional Irish, Scottish, English, Australian, and original music; doing so since 2013.

In short, if you are in the area, or thinking of a trip to South Okanagan during fall, I definitely suggest revolving your visit around this weekend and “Cask and Keg”; as well as “Festival of the Grape” the day after, like I did. What a way to taste what Okanagan has to offer. For more on the festival, and how you can get your tickets and accommodations for next year, visit the link below.

CASK AND KEG
http://www.olivercaskandkeg.ca/

Spirit Ridge Resort, Osoyoos BC

I was invited down to Oliver BC, to cover fall’s largest spirit and wine festival: “Cask and Keg” and “Festival of the Grape”. A day of celebration for each the weekend of October 5th and 6th. And for my two day over night stay, I was treated to the fine accommodations of “Spirit Ridge”, one town over in Osoyoos. I have explored the property at its exterior, so was delighted to be able to get a more fulsome experience through this weekend stay.

However, time was limited and the weather was cold, so I missed out on enjoying the full amenities of the property. Like the warmth of their heated pools, especially the one dedicated to adults only. If we had more time we would l have explored the “Nk’Mip” dessert and cultural centre through a hike, and a visit to their museum for some education. Or maybe fully relaxed with a massage at the resort’s spa, followed by a tasting and tour at the on site winery: “Nk’Mip Cellars”.

Although, even though I missed majority of the above, I was still able to enjoy plenty of “Nk’Mip” wine during a visit to their bistro, and again with a welcome bottle in our suite.

“Spirit Ridge” is a lakeside resort and a winery, located on sacred land. With Osoyoos Lake and the Okanagan mountain range as its backdrop, this luxury resort is in Canada’s only desert, a place sacred to the Osoyoos Indian Band. If you are looking for a room, majority of them are full suites, so you are basically choosing your view and how many beds you want; and they even have pet friendly accommodations, so the whole family can visit.

Our suite was 337 in the “Lavender” building, 1 floor out of 4, and 1 building out 10 to stay in. The adobe-style structures gives you desert aesthetics, and the home furnishings within, help to settle you in right away. We had two bedrooms, two baths, a fully furnished kitchen and living room. Basically, our accommodations had everything you needed to live on site.

The threshold leads you directly to the kitchen, where a dining room table sits at the centre of stocked cupboards and a collection small kitchen appliances. A two slot toaster, full sized oven, microwave, and compact dishwasher; with enough cleaning pods for 3 loads. There wasn’t a hotel room bar to snack from, but the coffee maker included filters and beans. Or it served as a vessel to boil water for tea bags. Tea that would be sweetened with packets of sugar on the counter, and milk and cream in the full sized fridge. There was even a pantry, should you decide go stock up on some non perishables during your stay. As a whole there was a lot more closet and cupboard space than expected. 3 doors in the master bed room alone, one with an ironing board and the other with robes.

There were two bed rooms, the master with a king sized bed and a washroom with individual toilet room, a bath tub, and single-person shower.

The second was double the size with space for two queen beds. Its washroom only had a shower stall, but it was double the size of the other. Something we only learned of on our last day, after spending two days awkwardly cleaning ourselves in a shower stall that had us staring at its wall.

Both bedrooms had their own flatscreen televisions, but the one in the living room is the largest. It even pulled out and extended for a closer view from off the couch or lounger. A comfy setting with an office desk and a fireplace to boot.

From here you can exit out on to the patio. Our perch had us overlooking the outdoor pool and fire pit. If the weather was only warmer, we could have fully utilize the patio table and barbecue available.

We didn’t have time to cook, and just as well, because what we did enjoy on the resort was even better. As a welcome reception we sipped and snacked on the patio of “The Bear, The Fish, The Root, & The Berry”. Taking in the warm summer-like weather and looking out over their adults only patio and pool.

There, we got to connect with their new Executive Chef, Murray McDonald who educated us on the inspiration for the name of their new signature restaurant and the food it served. “Spirit Ridge proudly sits on the traditional land of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation.” The name “comes from a chaptik story passed down through the generations of the First Nations people of the Okanagan.” “The Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation approach to food is based on the creation stories of their culture… based on their story of the Four Food Chiefs.” “Skimxist the Black Bear (chief of animals, representing self-sacrifice, leadership, giving), Ntytikxw Chinook Salmon (water creatures, perseverance, hard work), Speetlum Bitterroot (plants below the round, relationships to the land) and Seeya Saskatoon Berry (plants above the ground, growth, strength, community) are legendary.” (As taken for their website)

The menu strives to bring in as much local produce as possible, with much of it being forage by Chef Murray himself. The following are small portions and variations of dishes from off their regular menu.

I especially enjoyed “Chef Ian’s world famous in east Osoyoos vegan almond cheese thing” (and yes, that is its actual name, coined after the dish was described as such.) It was such a vibrant plate, beautiful in appearance, taste, and textures. Whipped almond ricotta, maple squash, raw root vegetables, toasted farro, charred scallions; and a juniper and hibiscus salt that made all the difference. Thin slices of root vegetables used to scoop up dry clumps of the cheese product, that ate like a stiff hummus. So delicious that I wish I had another serving while I was there, and will live in regret because I didn’t.

The “Askawa” tartare of the land” was made before our eyes. A mix of bison and egg yolk emulsion over wild rice, served with pickles and mustard. It was very dark and refined, tangy and earthy. Given the crumbly texture of the firm rice against the soften meat, I would have liked more crostini served with it instead.

The “Rabbit pasta” was a pride point for our Chef-host. It featured hand cut chestnut noodles with braised rabbit, walnut, kale, lemon, chard chutney, and a berry pan sauce. The pasta is what made the difference, thin and chewy sheets with some texture to chew through. He declared that he doesn’t make any money off of this dish, given the $26 a kg for the chestnut flour used, with barely any white flour added. Chef Murray is looking into making this into a rabbit meat stuffed ravioli in months to come. This was a beautiful, well defined dish. Tender pulled rabbit meat with refreshing tomatoes and peppery greens.

I also really enjoyed the “Pow wow taco”, an exclusive at this event, with talks of it eventually hitting the menu. Crispy and spongy bannock topped with duck confit, white bean sumac spread, squash, and a mint dressing. I didn’t get the duck and didn’t miss it. There was so much flavour in the spread and vegetables, and it all well complimented the doughy base. Its freshness helped cut into some of the bannock’s slight greasiness.

To drink we had our choice of white and red, between “Nk’Nip Cellar’s” light white “Dreamcatcher”, and full bodied red, “Talon.

And followed it with liquid dessert. A tasty cocktail that drank like an apple pie with a cinnamon and sugar rim with actual apple spices for garnish.

But for those who want a quicker meal, “Spirit Ridge” also has a market place/cafe serving up premade sandwiches and pastries, pairing it with hot beverages.

In short, this all-suite resort, with its natural landscapes and delicious food and wine makes “Spirit Ridge a true wellness-centred oasis”; one worth experiencing for yourself. However, if you can’t stay the night, at least visit for a great meal at “The Bear, The Fish, The Root, & The Berry”. Or their soon to come, steakhouse!

SPIRIT RIDGE
1200 Rancher Creek Road Osoyoos, BC, V0H 1V6
(250) 495-4660
https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/canada/spirit-ridge/

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