Its coming up on prime road trip time and Im raring to go. My wife and I will be firing up the old Westfalia and hitting the asphalt every few weekends from now to Labour Day in search of some summer food adventures beyond our city limits. Heres a few at the top of our list (and if we end up being tablemates, be sure to raise a glass):
To start with, Mission Hill Family Estate Winery outside Kelowna is a must-go summer destination. Between now and Labour Day, its stunning grounds (complete with working bell tower and grassy amphitheater) will be offered up for our enjoyment like never before. Parisian sculpturist Nathalie Decoster is already displaying over 50 of her large-scale works around the expansive property, additions that should prove particularly atmospheric when the music starts July 16.
Thats when the Okanagan Symphony plays, followed by the Canadian Tenors on Aug. 13 and legendary crooner Chris Isaak on Aug. 21. Anchoring it all is the re-invention of the open-air Terrace Restaurant, inarguably one of the best restaurants in the entire Valley. Its reputation is due in no small part to the skills and dedication of resident chef Matt Batey, whose ingredient-sourcing is beyond reproach. For all the details on their ramped up summer program (and to take a look at Bateys menus), visit MissionHillWinery.com.
The joy of dining
Next, its a sunset supper at Gods Mountain Estate, located just south of Penticton. The B&B is perched on a cliff overlooking Skaha Lake, and while the view and property are both vividly picturesque, the terrace out front is a show-stealer. With its long table, white linen, sparkling glassware and shining silver, it has all the ingredients including top-drawer food and wine, naturally for an unforgettable experience. Cooking are sunny veterans Dana Ewart, Cameron Smith and their team from Joy Road Catering.
Not only have they cooked in some of Canadas top restaurants (their resumes include stints at Avalon, Scaramouche and Jamie Kennedy at the ROM in Toronto and Normand Laprises Toque! in Montreal), theyre also truly engaging personalities. Ive enjoyed these dinners in summers past, and I always leave beaming.
The multi-coursers are paired with local wines and held every Sunday evening from the start of July to mid-September. Seats are a steal at $95 a pop. To reserve, visit JoyRoadCatering.com.
Closer to home, Im angling in on the Agassiz Cycle Tour on July 23. The gentle as in flat roads self-guided ride is put on by Slow Food Vancouver and covers a 25-km route. If I heal in time (my leg is still very broken), it will land me at several farm doors for either a special event or a tour led by the farmer. I hope to see some samples and lots of fresh goodies for the basket, knowing full well that if I get weighed down with sacks of new potatoes or kilos of watercress (imagine!), theres a roaming shopping shuttle that will carry the load for me up to the end of the line. Not a bad adventure for just $20 (from 9am-4pm). To book, go to SlowFoodVancouver.com and click on the events link.
Lastly, to Pemberton, where Im salivating (and giving over to what might sound like hyperbole) at the thought of sitting down for one of Araxis long table series dinners. The award-winning restaurant will be setting up an outdoor kitchen at the 60-acre, certified organic North Arm Farm; truly one of the most amazing, jaw-droppingly gorgeous spots Ive ever been to in B.C.
Ive had the opportunity to dine in its fields on several previous occasions, and they were each nights I will never forget. There will be four multi-course suppers in all: on Saturday, July 2; July 30; Aug. 27; and Sunday, Sept. 11. Each will be led by Araxi chef James Walt, who has prepared at least two of the best meals Ive ever had (again, no hyperbole).
What to expect?
A four-course menu featuring the freshest produce and beef from the Pemberton Valley, sustainable seafood from our coasts, and wines from some of our top local producers.
Each dinner begins early at 3pm with a reception and tour led by the farms owner, Jordan Sturdy, who also happens to be the towns mayor. Tickets are $160 per person and include tax and gratuity. To reserve email: email@example.com.
Within the city limits
For those looking for a similar experience without ever having to leave the city, you may want to check out AlFrescoTonight.com. Intrepid diners sign up and hope that in full flash mob fashion theyll be contacted along with invitees to meet, set up and share food at a secret location somewhere outdoors in the city (youre told the night before). Part slow food, part art installation, Alfresco is an urban curiosity, their website states. I went to the first one they ever pulled off a couple of years back in David Lam Park, and it was phenomenal.