Last week I made my annual summer pilgrimage to Penticton in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. It’s year 15 and each year gets better and brings more joy.
We have rituals that make this place a haven for our family.
Early morning cycling with friends, time for a coffee and chat, a dip in the lake when the notion strikes or if it is really hot – a chance to float lazily down the channel that cuts through this isthmus; this city lodged like a too tight belt between two very curvy lakes.
We shop at farmers’ markets, lunch at vineyards and dine on the patio. The air is soft and caresses the skin. Lavender, roses, Ponderosa pine and the smell of fresh fruit drift to the brain’s memory bank of scents and deliver a sigh and a smile in recognition. Blue sky meets blue water with pale faced clay banks lined with grapevines sloping to their steep cliffs. Life is grand and then it gets even better.
We go to an alfresco dinner with Joy Road Catering at a retreat called God’s Mountain and life feels quite complete. I’ve written about the very talented owners Dana Ewart and Cameron Smith and you can learn more about why I’m a fan of theirs here.
Read on to see what was on the menu this year, who the winery was and what it all looked like with the few photos I thought to snap here and there as the dinner progressed. I’m sorry there aren’t more. I was enchanted by the evening.
A menu to celebrate La Stella Winery – July 17th, 2014
Joy Road Catering chef/owners Dana Ewart and Cameron Smith
La Stella Rosata
Bruscetta with basil and little wild salmon cakes with espelette aioli
La Stella Vivace Pinot Grigio
Farinata with rosemary, anchovy and caramelized onion
Shaved fennel salad with lemon and pickles pink shallots Okanagan apricots and Joy Road house-cured proscuitto
La Stella Fortissimo
Lamb loin and mint pine nut meatballs, olive oil roasted broccoli with tapenade, fingerling potato salad and freshly shelled English peas and salad from farmer Jordan
La Stella Moscato
Almond Cake on orange blossom cream and raspberries
This meal was especially fun for me because my dear friend Gail Norton and her mother Jean (founders of Calgary’s Cookbook Co Cooks – still going strong with 30 years in business) came out to join us and to visit with our friend chef Matthew Altizer who moved to Penticton to work for Joy Road Catering this summer. Altizer is having the time of his life. He is being challenged daily by the strength of Dana Ewart and Cameron Smith’s skills as chefs and the world-class standards they are bringing as they forge a “cuisine de terroir” with the local bounty of the Okanagan. Kudos to you Matthew for taking this on and rising to the challenge. We knew you could do it!
It was also a joy to meet Severine Pinte the wine maker of La Stella Winery which is located down the valley in Osoyoos. Pinte brings almost two decades of wine making and viticultural experience to the Okanagan. She is a graduate of the Ecole National Superior Agronomic of Montpellier in France where she acquired her Masters in viticulture and oenology, and her National Diploma of Oenology. She was head winemaker and viticultural council for ‘Le Vignoble des 2 terres’ in the Terrasse du Larzac terroir, worked at Frankland Estate winery in Western Australia and came to the Okanagan in 2010 with a deep understanding of wine and terroir. The La Stella wines are named for musical notes and the hope is for a symphony of taste to be achieved.
My palate learned to play the notes delivered in each glass with each course very well. Starting softly and slowly, becoming lively with Vivace, reaching a Fortissimo climax and then fading softly with Moscato once again. I’ll definitely make the drive to Osoyoos to visit the winery the next time I’m in the area. An encore is in order.
I hope you can almost taste it and feel this evening and this food as you scroll through the photos below.
I was really sad when the dinner was over and then I went to the Penticton Farmer’s Market a few days later, saw Dana at her booth and bought one of her famous galettes to tide me over till we meet again.
Are you going to the Okanagan this summer? Check out the Joy Road Catering events schedule. A Joy Road experience is a great way to savour it all.