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Category: Travel Page 2 of 23

Great Wine Tasting Room

Located in Bellevue, “Great Wine” studio delivers on its name. Showroom, tasting hall, and educational class room all in one. From the moment you walk through the doors you are engulfed by this unique experience. Cast iron cages surrounded bulbs, wine barrels deconstructed to outfit a wall, and more repurposed as side tables; all speaks to the theme.

We grabbed a seat around their heavy wood table with floral carpet under foot. This private tasting room opened 3 years ago, with their original location being in China. We would be exploring their new concept here.

When the majority of us chooses a bottle of wine we tend to gravitate towards either a specific price point, beautifully done labels, or simply stick with what you know. What “Great Wine” is offering is a way to pick your bottle based on taste and what you like in a wine. And they do this through an online quiz. By answering a few questions you learn what your vino type is, and based on the possibility of four outcomes you have what wine is best suited to your palate. The quiz takes into consideration how your genetics affect your taste buds and how many that you have. The more tastes buds you have the more you like sweets foods, whereas those with less taste buds prefer a strong smokey flavour. And at the end of the day there is no good or bad wine, just what you like.

If you are interested in learning what your vino type is and what it says about you, visit the link below. https://www.myvinotype.com/en/

Of the for categories, 50% of people belonging to the “hyper sensitive” category, a characteristic of this type is that they will look at everything, but have difficult time making a choice about any. They have good interpersonal skill and are often seen as leader. Out of our group, myself and Joyce of @VanFoodies fell into this category.

“Tolerant” types make up the smallest percentage. Most of these end up being wine critics, which means they are telling us what to like, when their tastes are so much different from ours. Not surprisingly for those who know him, David of @Pickydiner fell into this category.

“Sweet” types are pretty self explanatory. Sherman of @Shermansfoodadventures lived here. They are particular about their wines, and as expected, lean more to the sweeter bottles.

And “sensitive” types was at the centre of all and pretty flexible in their choice. This was Diana of @Foodologyca. Such types are known for their adventurous and adaptable nature.

So we learned that you drink what you want because your tongue knows best. And “Great Wine” produces their house brand “Percipio” to make it easier to choose. “Percipio” is produced in California, where their wine caters to a specific vino type. They currently the only ones doing this. All of their wines are a blend, typically featuring Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and/or Viognier grapes.

Our tasting started with a white, the “2016 Percipio white wine”. It is a crisp wine on the sweeter side with notes of green grapes, pear, citrus, and vanilla. Naturally “sweet” vinotypes gravitate towards this one. For additional information on the wines, the tasting also came with laminated cards we could reference.

Next we compared three of their reds. The “2104 Stellar 8” is ideal for “tolerant” and “sensitive” types. Made from Petit sirah and Zinfandel it is a smoother red with peppery berry notes.

The “2015 Cabernet Sauvignon” has more body and flavour. Another great one for those who are “tolerant”. A fall wine with dark fruits, pumpkin, cherry and chocolate. This one was recommended for thanksgiving dinner, given its spices and notes of cranberry, as it would pair with a thanksgiving feast.

The “Cupid” was considered an “odd ball” wine, either you loved it very much or hated it a lot. As a sweeter red, they use to only sell this in China; given the country’s higher percentage of “sweet” vino types, of which majority of prefers red. This was an easy to drink red with red fruits like raspberry, cherry, strawberry, and red and green apples. This one was my favourite.

There was a lot of tasting and I waived the spit bucket option, so greedily snacked on the mixed nuts available for balance.

Overall, this was a great way to learn more about yourself and what you like. We found ourselves comparing our types and discussing what we liked because of it. Not only was this a clever and fun way to engage and talk about it wine, but this was also a great way of choosing and trying new wines. I will definitely consider my vino type the next time I pick up a bottle. To learn more and find out how you can experience this for yourself, visit the link below.

GREAT WINES
958 111th Ave NE Suite 103, Bellevue, WA 98004
www.greatwineusa.com

The Maxwell Hotel, A Staypineapple hotel

Myself and group of 4 other food lovers and food writers were visiting Seattle for the day. We planned to maximize our time and our restaurant visits by spending the night. Given the theme of our travel and the common interest of the group, we made “The Maxwell” our hotel of choice. It is better known as the “pineapple hotel” given its heavy use of the fruit as decoration.

The spiny yellow fruit found its way in many of the decor pieces, whether recreated in tile on the exterior, as a mosaic in the foyer, or simply sitting atop of a table to be admired.

In general the hotel was fun, delivering on the hotel’s mantra and belief that “pineapples are sweet and yellow makes people happy”. Which included many features unique to this property. Each elevator had a game to play. Either spinning blocks that have you crafting random sentences, or one of those push panel puzzles that have you trying to move sections into place to form a picture.

I liked the virtual reality projector that turned your head into either a pinapple or that of their doggie mascot on a large screen. Be warned, only 4 can play at any given time.

We decided to do our overnight stay sleep over style, sharing two beds, and one pull out between 5, all in one room. Truly putting our friendship to the test. However all was not as planned. The advert on the website said the beds were queen-sized. However it was only the headboard that was, and we ended up sleeping a lot closer to one another than intended (especially for our first time).

And our pullout couch was not cleaned. Removing the seats and pulling the futon out yielded used napkins and a cheese string wrapper. The clerk was quick to apologize when we requested room service, and a housekeeper was quick to come by to tidy. However, I couldn’t feel at ease in our room after this discovery. The rest of the room looked fine, but how would I know for sure? It would have been nice to be given another room by the hotel for piece of mind. It is like when you find a hair in your food, they take back the whole plate and make you another from scratch. They just don’t scoop out the strand and give it back to you.

Other than that the stay was good. We were able to each get our own yellow robes. We enjoyed cuddles with their in hotel plush mascot (available for you to take home at a price), and took in the modern aesthetics of our boutique hotel room.

Pineapples on our pillows, pineapples on the throws, a pineapple shaped multi port USB charger, and pineapple cups to drink our pineapple branded coffee pods from. Even the extra roll of toilet paper in the washroom was wrapped in coloured tissue paper meant to resemble a pineapple.

And although the push pump dispenser of soap, body wash, shampoo, and lotion by the washroom sink and in the open shower stall weren’t scented as pineapple; their “exotic coral” flavour gave you a similar tropical feel.

We didn’t get much of a view in our third floor suite. The Space Needle was visible in the distance, but obscured behind black electric cables. But we wouldn’t be in our room all that long anyways, we definitely maximize learning our foodie field trip.

We did check out the hotel’s complimentary happy hour. A help yourself counter of pineapple flavoured water and pineapple shaped sugar cookies to snack on.

No alcoholic beverages at this happy hour, but you can get your fix at their lobby bar, the “Pineapple bistro + bar”. I suggest their signature cocktail the “pineapple express”, made with buffalo trace bourbon, caramelized pineapple purée, whiskey butters, club soda, and amarena cherries. With plenty of room to enjoy it in, across the lobby seating area.

We didn’t have the time, but as guests you are able to take one of their yellow bicycles for a ride or borrow one of their giant yellow umbrellas should it rain.

In summary this was a fun stay at a unique property. For those who love pineapples and some charm in their hotels, this one is for you.

THE MAXWELL
300 Roy St, Seattle, WA 98109, United States
+1 877-298-9728
staypineapple.com

Dochi, mochi donuts

I was visiting Seattle with a group of like-minded foodies, and collectively we agreed to add Dochi to our list of food stops in between full meals.

Located as a stall in the food court portion of the Uwajimaya building, it is pretty easy to spot from the exterior. The line of customers goes out the door, and wraps around the corner. The front of it is marked with a board listing all their donut options for the day. It also thanks you for your patronage and patience in rainbow markers. The line does go pretty quickly, all the donuts are made ahead of time, so it is only a matter of packaging them and taking payment.

A clerk directs traffic into the building, which is an additional wait by a stanchion, gazing longingly at their colourful booth. A sea foam green background with paintings of their bulbous donut rings sprinkled all across it. When you get to the counter you can see all the donut options under plexiglass. With 6 different options available it is easiest just to get one of each, that fits perfectly into their teal box with white detailing. But if you want more there is a limit, they are so popular that they limit one dozen donuts per customer, per day; as to not disappoint those who come later to collect their donut fix. Although with the amount of people they see, I am sure this is hard to monitor.

We got our box and ate in outside. Each ring consists of 8 balls. 8 easy to pull apart balls that readily pops into your mouth. And each delivered on the premise of mochi and doughnuts combined. You get the gummy chew of mochi at the centre of cakey dough. And depending on the flavour a crumbly, crunchy, or sticky topping for further indulgence.

The “pumpkin spice” dochi spoke to the season. Its flavour was subtle, making it a nice way to enjoy pumpkin spice when you don’t like pumpkin pie.

I liked all the textures that came with the “strawberry shortcake” mochi donut. The strawberry reminded me of strawberry pocky frosting, given a little crunch with cookie crumbs.

The “matcha Oreo” had a similar texture, sweet matcha made sweeter with the frosted cream of the cookie crumbs and its chocolatey crunch.

The “cookies & cream” is for those who like their snacks sugary. The classic flavour made more tempting with a drizzle of caramel.

The “taro pebbles” was the most photogenic of the bunch today. I didn’t get much taro flavour, but didn’t mind, the dough was great on its own.

Thus making the “ube glazed” with its purple centre and lightness my favourite of the bunch.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
If you have never tried such doughnuts, these are worth the wait. These Japanese crafted doughnut are the real deal and my new favourite kind of doughnut. Don’t deny your cravings.

DOCHI
600 5th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104, United States
(425) 503-5559
dochicompany.com

Stateside

A group of local Vancouver food bloggers and I ventured down to the Settle for a two day and one night stay. The goal, to eat and taste our way within Seattle and Bellevue with liked mined individuals, and blog all about it after. We created our itinerary based on popular Seattle stops and places that came recommend. Our first was “Stateside” for an Asian inspired fusion brunch. I liked the pan Asian influences to the menu, so was excited to give them a try.

The restaurant had a tropical feel with palm frond printed wallpaper and worn wooden tables and chairs. It was kept dark and cozy with the romantic glow of orange bulbs, the handsome bar was outfitted with several, hanging above each seat. We were given one of their round tables, which proved ideal for light conversation and the sharing of everything 5 ways. The following is what we had, in the order they arrived. Written with the feedback from Diana of @foodology, Joyce of @vanfoodies, @pickydiner’s David, and Sherman of @shermanfoodadventures.

We started off with some drinks. The classic slow drip “Vietnamese iced coffee” with condense milk to stir into and glass of ice to pour over.

The “Jasmine ice green tea” came in a bamboo shaped glass.

“The coconut” was a popular cocktail given the way it was presented. A whole young coconut with paper umbrella. Rum, lime leaf and galangal, mixed with coconut water in a freshly cracked coconut. It was boozy and citrusy, with a sugary finish.

I had the “Tom yum Mary” and was so disappointed by it that I ended up sending it back. It was an aromatic infused vodka mixed with chilies, ginger, lime leaf, and fish sauce; but all I tasted with salt. I expected it to have the thickness of a Caesar, and resemble more like drinking a soup. It didn’t taste like Tom yum, besides having a sour kick. I asked for more tomato juice to cut into it, but that did nothing. It was so strong that it took away from the flavour of everything else. Our server offered me another Bloody Mary, or any other drink of my choice, I passed as I wasn’t all that impressed with the coconut either, so didn’t want to take a chance on another disappointing cocktail.

For food, I liked the texture of the “crispy duck fresh rolls”. Not just your regular vermicelli and raw vegetables wrapped in rice paper; these included a deep fried wrap for an extra crunch. I wasn’t a fan of the texture of the pulled duck meat, it was mealy and fibrous (much like a few of the other meat products below). Where as I wanted freshness in the roll, and a creamy sauce to balance out the deep fry. Similarly, I wanted a creamy sauce for the appetizer below, but I can at least appreciate the fact that each appetizer had a different dipping sauce to go with it.

The “Crispy sticky rice finger sandwiches” were filled with a chili-cumin pork or a tofu mixture (for the vegetarians), and is seasoned with house fermented mustard greens. We went for the former, and I found it too salty and the cumin out of place. It was punchy and in complete contrast to the dish’s assigned cilantro lime sauce. It was a refreshing sauce that brightens, whereas I wanted something more complimentary to the flavour of the filling. Like a tangy oyster sauce or a slightly spicy mayo that adds levels. I did like the idea of this and how crispy the sandwich “bread” was. If I had to choose, this would be my favourite of the night.

The “pho braised beef potstickers” sounded promising, but with the same mealy texture of meat used above, and a salty black vinegar and ginger dipping sauce that added nothing, I was disappointed. I wanted a more classically done potsticker and for it to taste like pho. It could have been a soup dumpling with pho broth inside. Or filled with a mix of the more familiar sliced beef and beef balls, used with pho. And to bring it back full circle, the dipping sauce to be the brown sauce provided to help rejuvenate a bowl of pho and any restaurant.

Another one that I liked the idea of, but not its execution was the “eggs bao’nedict”. It is similar to a regular eggs Benedict, but instead of using an English muffin, they use a stuffed and fried golden steamed bun. The bun was stuffed with diced Canadian bacon, then topped with poached eggs; all smothered in a thick hollandaise, and sprinkled over with pork floss. Once again, a similar sandy shredded meat was used here. I grew up on pork floss and wanted the authentic kind that is airy and light with a texture that melts under the tongue, and a slightly sweet after taste. The egg was at least perfectly done and the hollandaise well made.

I was the most excited for the “Hong Kong style charcoal waffles” that mentioned the use of pandan. However I was barely able to taste it in the syrup, and would have liked more of it flavouring the jug of coconut cream that came with the waffle. A help yourself serving of sweet cream to glop over over the waffle. Heavy and coconut-forward, it just made the waffle soggy. And had we known this was the case we would not have gotten the scoop of coconut pandan ice cream, as extra. It didn’t add anything new in flavour or texture. I did like the mango jam and shaved almond toppings, and found they gave things a nice twist.

The “open faced gold brown omelette”, weren’t the Vietnamese-style egg crepes we thought they would be, but more like an omelette pizza or frittata. We added on country ham for $3 more, and found the omelette too salty for it. I didn’t make out the gruyere and the “potato crunchies” were more of a distraction. They were cut small and fried up hard; whereas I would have liked them better as larger chunks with a crispy shell and chewy centre, more like breakfast potatoes. The crepe did have a nice spongy egg texture, but was oily. I wanted something fresh to bite into: raw cherry tomatoes or some pickled vegetables on the side, or better yet the classic fish sauce to dip egg into.

“The Classic” was as promised, a banh mi stuffed with housemade Vietnamese mortadella, chicken liver pâté, pork floss, pickled vegetables, cilantro, chili, cucumber, maggi sauce, and mayo. There was a lot of meat in this, and I wanted just as much vegetable to balance things out. The sandwich was dry and I was left longing for the cream of a mayo and more tang from the barely pickled vegetables.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wanted the traditional flavours I was drawn to from the descriptions on the menu, but in new applications. Instead, I was left with the disappointment of one note dishes and diluted ingredients. Great ideas, and great for anyone that hasn’t tried the originals, that these dishes take example from. I don’t visit the Seattle area often, so wont be coming back, when I can visit other such brunch spots. Don’t deny your cravings.

STATESIDE
300 E Pike St #1200, Seattle, WA 98122, United States
+1 206-557-7273
statesideseattle.com

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/

Lake Country Wineries

My girl friend and I were in Vernon, enjoying the hospitality of “Sparkling Hill Resort”. And after a two day and two night stay, we were ready to head home to Vancouver. However our morning check out and evening flight meant we had some hours to kill in between.

We decided to use this time hitting up as many wineries in Lake Country as possible. First, the largest: “Gray Monk”, where we tasted and lunched. For the comprehensive review, visit the link below.

Gray Monk Winery

Now with only 3 hours left, we did a lightening round of tastings; attempting to stop at as many smaller wineries as possible, on our way to the airport.

We solicited the help of a cab driver, willing to chauffeur us to the wineries he knew, and keeping the meter running while we tasted at each one. The cost did rack up, but no more than what you would pay for one pass with any professional wine tour bus. Plus we didn’t have to share the space with anyone else, and were able to go at our own pace, and leave when we wanted to.

First was “Arrowleaf Winery”, where we were told their cream puffs were a must try. But unfortunately due to the influx of people trying to keep entertained on this rainy day, they soon sold out. In fact, their in winery cafe sold through of their entire showcase of baked goods. The owner has two daughters, both of which are pastry chefs, who bakes these desserts fresh daily.

As for the wine tasting, they aren’t a large winery, so you get a flight of 4 specific wines for $5, a fee waved if it leads to the purchase of a bottle. But sadly, we flew here with only carry on luggage, and were flying back with no way to bring a bottle of that much liquor with us.

The tasting began with their “2018 Pinot Gris”. A white with notes of ripe apple, pear, peach, and delicate floral aromas. It’s fermentation is done mostly in stainless steel tanks with added yeast. Although 10% of the wine is allowed to ferment in neutral barrels, with no yeast added. For their efforts, it won gold at the 2019 “National Wine awards of Canada”.

The “Field Collection 2018” is a blend of Germanic and Alsatian grapes that thrive in the cooler parts of the Okanagan. Floral freshness and lemony acidity is what you get here.

“Archive Pinot Noir 2016” is a full bodied red with dark cherry, raspberry, hints of spice, and rose petals. It is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, resulting in an distinct oakiness. It is best paired with richer dishes.

The “Field Collection 2016” is a medium to full bodied red with dark cherry, plum, vanilla, and hints of black pepper and sage. It too is aged in barrels, but here, both American and French barrels; thus giving it a different oak finish.

With no food for purchasing, we only stayed a little while longer. We enjoyed a drink on their patio, overlooking their sloped vineyard. My girlfriend a glass of their Pinot Gris, and me a cup of tea to stay warm with.

Next, we stopped at “Ex Nihilo Winery”. They serve food under their covered area, but our limited time meant we couldn’t try any of it. It is a fairly large winery with various areas inside to sit and enjoy a glass of their wine, and the company of your loved ones.

“Ex Nihilo” means “out of nothing” in Latin. It is named after a famous sculpture. Here, tastings are $7 for five wines of your choice. The following is what we tried between us two.

The “2018 sX Imagine” is a refreshing processco fermented in stainless steel vats. It is fragranced with plenty of fruit flavours like lychee, melon, clementine, and lime.

The “2018 CHAOS Vampata” is their favourite rose. Its name means “blush” in Italian, a name given for its colour, earned through the leaving on of the skins for 16 hours. 100% pinot noir grape with flavours of ruby grapefruit, strawberry, citrus peel, and rose petals.

The “2017 Pants Down Riesling” is fun for its name that serves as an inside joke. In 2017 there was an early and sudden snow fall. Their grapes had not been picked yet, so they were left scrambling to collect the crop. The result, a white with more concentrated flavours of orange peel and floral, lemons and limes, and honeydew to finish.

The “2018 Pinot Gris” boasts the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. D’anjou pear, green apple, and orange; wrapped around notes of ginger, and white nectarine.

The “2017 Privata Chardonnay” is exclusively from “Ex Nihilo’s” estate vineyard. It is described as having intense tropical flavours of pineapple and mango, complimented by a creaminess of butterscotch and honey.

The “2016 Merlot” contains grapes from “Black Sage Bench Vineyard” in Oliver. Aged in French and American oak barrels this wine is dark with fruit, reminding you of a Black Forest cake.

The “2016 Night” is their priciest bottle of their tasting menu, listed at $50. This is a Bordeaux style wine and their best selling red. It is balanced with aromas of blackberry and red plum; with notes of white pepper, all spice and chocolate on the tongue.

Winery number three was “Intrigue”, a smaller winery stocked well with plenty of white wine, due to their location well up North.

Here, tastings are $3 for 5. The best deal yet! And like with all the other wineries, it is waived if you purchase a bottle for them. Once again, we weren’t able to bring a bottle of wine back with us to Vancouver via plane. So we spent the money we saved from their inexpensive tasting on their giftshop. They boasted a great collection of wine themed odds and ends, including wine flavoured popcorn.

“Intrigue’s” tasting menu lists 7 whites, 3 reds, 1 rose, and 2 sparkling wines. But a chalk board at the back of their tasting bar mentions the only 5 that were actually available for trying today. No quirky names here, just the grapes that went into them.

The “Chardonnay” was lightly oaked with a nice minerality, and buttery fruit. Pineapple, peach, almond, and apricots. Crisp citrus and a touch of nutty caramel. Oddly enough, it smelled like durian to me, but in a good way.

The “Reisling” is their flagship varietal. It starts with aromas of nectarine and dried apricot; and finishes with high acidity in green apple and pineapple. So good that it was awarded double gold at the “Cascadia Wine Competition”.

The “Pinot Gris” comes with a little bit of colour, from 16 hours of skin contact. From it you get passion fruit, strawberry and lychee; for a clean finish. Its sweetness is best paired with seafood.

The “2018 Gewurztraminer” is fresh on the tasting block, having been opened and released a mere 1 hour before our arrival. It has a lower acidity, and is softer on palate with tropical notes. Lychee, nectarine, elderflower, orange, blossom, and soft white pepper. It is recommended as an accompaniment to spicy food like curry and/or chilli prawns. For me it was a little too sweet, giving me a soreness in the back of my throat.

The “Social Red” was the only red available today, and the lightest that they can make. Described as a sipping red; rich with vanilla, blackberry, and black cherry. Perfect with pizza or their charcuterie made with locally grown blackberry and sourdough. Shame, we were in a rush and couldn’t enjoy some of the latter.

 

Because it was on to the last winery. With 10 minutes before they closed, the staff out front were still encouraging us in.

Right across the street was “O’Rourke’s”. Where as “Intrigue” looked like a cozy chapel for intimate weddings, “O’Rourke’s” looked like an sterile government-run clinic. At the entrance your choice is left to the stainless steel vats and their fermentation operation, or right to their tasting room. With the latter a handsome wall greets you. Bottles against a stone wall, and more housed on shelves under it.

Across the way is their bar that mimicked a barrel with its oak and steel build, not to mention its round shape. $5 gave us a tasting of 4 out of their 10 wines made available. The following was what we choose based on how unique they read.

The “2017 Pinot Gris” is kept in French oak barrels for 3 months. It is easy to drink, beginning with citrus and pear, leading into apple and peach.

The “2018 Gruner Veltiner” was a new one for both of us. Only half of the wineries in the Okanagan produce it, making it pretty rare. If wine has volume, you can taste it here. Pineapple, thyme, and peach skin.

The “2018 Fielding Block” is a blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer. All the above juices intermingle during the fermentation process. It has notes of lime zest, Mandarin, green apple and pear. With a palate full of lemon, lime, peach, apricot, baking spice, and a hint of fresh ginger.

The “2018 Pinot Noir Rose” was fruit forward. Light and dry with lots of berry: strawberry, raspberry, and red liquorice. The palate is long and tasty with more strawberry, and raspberry; coupled with pomegranate and blood orange.

And with that last sip, our Lake County wine tasting, speed trial ended. Then it was a mad dash to the airport. Having drank around 2-3 glasses through tastings, we were ready for an easy 40 minute airplane ride home. Half the fun of the Okanagan is being able to visit all these wineries, learn where your wine comes from, and to taste as many as you want, to learn what you like. And as West Coast Canadians, we are so luckily to have it all here in our backyard, for an easy getaway.

Gray Monk Winery

We were in Vernon, enjoying a weekend at “Sparkling Hill”. Our check out was 11am, but our flight not until 7pm. So we filled our time with wineries, visiting as many as we could on our way to the airport. But sadly it was raining today so all the other tourists had the same idea, and we joined the roaming crowd.

Our first stop was “Grey Monk”, the largest of all the wineries in Lake Country. It was a beautiful property, two levels, with tall steeples and separated off sections. It gave you the impression of a monastery, befitting of their name.

We began with a wine tasting, 4 tastes for $5, a fee waved if you purchase a bottle of their wine. We flew and only had carry on luggage, so the option of taking any bottles back with us, was off the table. You had your choice between 4 of their whites, 1 rose, 3 reds, and 1 sparkling.

The following is what my girl friend and I tasted between us. They are most known for their Pinot Gris, as the first growers of it in Canada, back in 1972; so started with that. The winery would actually open 10 years later, in 1982.

The 2017 Gewürztraminer wasn’t as sweet as I expected.

The 2017 Rose was produced with a little pinot gris in it.

The 2016 Odyssey pinot noir was a medium red.

The 2015 Estate Cabernet Merlot contained a blend of cab sav and merlot together.

From there it was a stone’s throw to their gift shop. They had all sorts of knick knacks to tempt you with. The type you get at most wineries, like drinking accessories and glasses, plus plenty of fun souvenirs. We picked up a beaded bracelet of good intentions, a bag of merlot flavoured chips, and a couple of sun hats with wine related saying. I got “rose si vous plait” and my girl friend “Prosecco Princess”. And the latter two quickly became rain hats as we navigated the open property, to our next stop: their on property restaurant.

We were patience for a table by the rainy patio view. If you are going to dine in the Okanagan, you want to take in as much of the view as possible. But what we got was cloudy skies, faint mountains, and pools of rippling water. But I still preferred it over any table by the door.

Here, we enjoyed more wine in our cocktails. My guest had the “Grey Monk 75”. An Earl grey infused gin and their Odyssey Brut. I didn’t get any gin, it tasted more like a mimosa with enough orange flavouring that I asked if this was the right drink. It was.

I had the “Iced slush” in Riesling apricot, but it also comes in a rose berry. The former just seemed more unique. It was a tart slush, more juice than spirit. Sadly they only had a paper straw to drink with, so the slush wouldn’t travel up it, or got caught along the softened sides. I eventually gave up and finished the rest of my cocktail like a soup.

For a starter we had the “Crispy spiced calamari” with black garlic mayo, tzatziki cream, and a spicy pepper slaw. You could taste the quality in this, a good amount of breading to get the crunch, but not so much that you can’t taste the actual squid. I just wished that there was more of it. The dish was more dipping sauces than the squid you dip into it with. The slaw offered more substance and it balanced out the grease with its tangy flavour, and the red peppers packed more punch than I thought they would.

I had ordered the “Lake country mushrooms with local baby zucchini, soft poached egg, grassroot Gouda, shaved radish, and cured yolk”; expecting a sautéed mushroom medley. Instead what I got was a salad featuring mushrooms. I informed our server that I didn’t expect a salad and that the menu didn’t read like it would be. She told us that the dish has transitioned and that they just haven’t gotten around to correcting it on the menu. That in reality many of their customers asked for more greens with the dish, and here I was feeling like I got tricked into ordering an expensive salad. She offered to give me a bowl of mushrooms on the side, to which I declined. But did end up taking it to off the bill, due to my disappointment of it and my cocktail above. As for flavour, the greens were bitter, the mushrooms too salty, this seasoning would have been better served as a risotto. My girl friend ended up finishing this for me, as I enjoyed the entree below more.

“Sterling springs chicken paprikash” with fresh tagliatelle pasta, candied chillis, smoked mushrooms, cherry tomato, and sour cream. It was a comforting pasta dish. Familiar mild spices and seasonings, with the slippery texture of the cream over firm noodles. The tomatoes offered nice pops of freshness and I could have done without the dry chicken.

Having eaten our fill, and growing tired of the rain, we retreated into a cab to travel the rest of Lake Country one winery at a time.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A nice winery to visit when in Lake Country. A great view on a sunny day, decent food, plenty of drinks, and one of the best gift shops in the area to pick up souvenirs from. Don’t deny your cravings.

GRAY MONK
1055 Camp Rd, Lake Country, BC V4V 2H4
(250) 766-3168
graymonk.com

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