One of the reasons I love dining in Alberta is because of the wine that’s available here. Did you know that there are more wines available in Alberta than in any other province in Canada? It’s true. We have access to over 20,000 labels and many are among the world’s best.
The reason? In the 1980s a few Calgary business people pioneered the privatization of wine, beer and liquor sales in Alberta. We started with a few wine merchants but now have many private wine and liquor boutiques. Most provinces still have government run liquor control boards. Usually, Calgary’s wine merchants tour the world to visit vintners in their natural habitats but sometimes the best pay a visit to Calgary.
Every other year Italy’s best winemakers come to Calgary for The Great Italian Wine Encounter. This event has raised millions of dollars for a particular kind of cancer and autoimmune diseases treatment known as Apheresis. I’ve had the good fortune to attend the event a few times and tomorrow, I’m going to meet, for the fourth time (pinch me), Italy’s Women of Wine.
Katie Mayer and Christina Mah in the poolside garden at the Hotel Arts talking about Gnome Come Home’s local ingredients – photo – Karen Anderson
Coincidences make for great stories.
One day last week, I went to visit Christina Mah. Mah is the general manager of The Hotel Arts’ “Viet Mod” bistro called Raw Bar by Duncan Lee. She is also the president of the Alberta Chapter of the Canadian Professional Bartender’s Association (CPBA).
I interviewed Mah about cocktail making and asked if she would create a summer cocktail that I could share with you. Her creation is fresh and seasonal. Fresh and seasonal might not be words you think of when it comes to cocktails but they are an emerging cocktail trend that – happily – seems to be here to stay.
In this post I’ll talk about how to make cocktails, give you some recommendations for great places to drink them in Alberta and I’ll also share the story of how we named this drink Gnome Come Home after the Raw Bar’s gnome mascot was coincidentally “kidnapped” the day I arrived to interview Mah.
Okanagan Lake, Kelowna, B.C.
Culinary Tourism and my trip to the 2013 Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop (@OKFWWWorkshop) in Kelowna, British Columbia were the topics of my most recent food column on CBC Radio One’s Alberta at Noon . You can catch that podcast here. My column starts at the 17:53 mark in the show.
Albertans (and people from around the globe) love to visit British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley each summer. Kelowna alone receives 1.5 million visitors. I’ve been visiting regularly since I first went with my husband in 1987. We spend at least two weeks every year there now with our family. I never tire of going so I was naturally drawn to the @OKFWWWorkshop. My writing can always be improved and the whole area acts as a muse for me. It consistently inspires me to write.
This post will add more depth to my radio column’s outline of recent developments in culinary tourism in the Okanagan. I’ll also share some photos of the food, wine and general good spirits brought about by exploring the farm to table agri-tourism offerings in Kelowna. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed being there. Better yet, go and savour a little of the Okanagan good life for yourself.
The Okanagan Food and Wine Writer’s Workshop, 2012 poster
This year’s Okanagan Food and Wine Writer’s Workshop is April 28 to May 1, 2013 in Kelowna, British Columbia. You can register here. The workshop is open to all food and wine writers – newbie to thoroughly nuanced. I attended last year for the first time and got a lot out of it. I’m going back this year.
People often talk about gifts that keep on giving. Sending myself to the OKFWWWorkshop was that kind of gift to myself. I went with an open mind. I did not know what to expect. I have been freelancing for about six years and have worked with some great editors and producers that have made my writing stronger. I have two regular columns; one on must-have kitchen and pantry ingredients for City Palate magazine in Calgary and an ongoing CBC Radio One food column for Alberta at Noon. I have had many food and travel articles published across Canada and have written for an online magazine in Paris. Still, I had been feeling blind as a writer. I had been feeling my way. I wanted to shed some light on the processes involved in professional food and wine writing. The workshop added a lot of wattage to the dim lightbulb over my head.