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Mission Hill Experience for Food Day Canada #FDC2015

Mission Hill Winery
British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley has always been known for its bountiful fruits that thrive in the irrigated, fertile soil throughout the valley. Such a myriad of produce is available at road side stands and at our local farmers markets. Added to the mix there are now more than 65 grape varietals that ripen in the hot summer sun before being turned into award-winning wines. If an Okanagan Valley road trip is on your to-do list this summer, make sure you have a plan of attack when it comes to visiting the ever-expanding list of British Columbia wineries. These days we are the host-with-the-most for die-hard Food and wine tourists. 

Those lucky enough to live in the valley eat well to the point where we take it for granted. But while home cooks have long turned out amazing dishes for appreciative guests, the idea of a formal Okanagan cuisine is blossoming as we come into our own. But the idea is still relatively new. Based on the local produce harvested and their ability to pair beautifully with the region’s wines, the Okanagan’s version of wine country Okanagan Cuisine is simple, fresh and relatively free of garnishes and sauces. 

Mission Hill Winery

Todays experienced tourist to the Okanagan Valley wants more than "beaches and peaches". The savvy wine connoisseurs who will buy cases of wine want private tastings. They want access to the winemaker. They want to have their experiences in well appointed facilities. They want to learn.  Wine tourism is changing as are the wine lovers. It is not just about visiting some wineries, tasting some wine, buying a few bottles and that's the end of it. The standard cellar tours are generally only now for the 'newbie' wine drinkers. The established wine drinkers are far more knowledgeable and want that educational aspect and unique experience. 

So what does the Okanagan Valley get? They get that besides offering all the things that I just mentioned they need to work in cooperation with each other to offer what the new tourist and locals want. They are developing an ever growing series of food and wine events that will continue to attract people and showcase what we have to offer. Everyone wants to get in on the trend and there are far too many choices. For many years we have been the home of the Okanagan Wine Festival which takes place every season. But now the wineries and restaurants are stepping up their game with long table harvest dinner experiences, farm-to-table-restaurants, and educational and unique experiences. Most of these events are from April to October but some are offered throughout the year. There has never been a better time to visit Okanagan wine country!!
Mision Hill August Long Table Dinner and Barrel Room Tastings
I have talked about the long table dinner experience before and just yesterday was lucky enough to attend another at Mission Hill Family Estate Winery. It was Food Day Canada so this is how I chose to celebrate with a fun group of locals, former mayors, and contest winners. We were an eclectic group of locals and tourists from near and far.

Food Day Canada was conceived back in 2003 by one of my food heroes author Anita Stewart. Held on August 1st it is a chance each year for all Canadians to join hands in one massive celebration in praise of our farmers and producers, our chefs, researchers, and, above all, our home cooks. Everyone from sea to shining sea is encouraged to set a table and celebrate all good things to eat that is offered  here in Canada. 
"More than just the ingredients we consume, food is a symbol of our shared culture, varied traditions, unique history and heritage. Food is at the heart of the Canadian identity. It is ingrained in our culture, from coast to coast. Taste Canada nurtures an industry inspired by our vibrant culture, celebrates our stories, embraces our collective history and explores our family legacies through food." Taste Canada
Summer Beans, Heritage Beef
So far this year I have been lucky enough to  attend numerous long table dinners throughout the valley.  Whenever I have sat down to write about these experiences I have been overwhelmed by where to begin. How do you convey the joy, laughter, jaw-dropping food and kaleidoscope of home grown produce all rolled into one. The clinking of sparkling glasses, the special touches.

For tonights dinner the scene was set with a gorgeous long wooden table (I meant to ask where the table came from for my friend Dina who has been looking for one) topped with a sea of sparkling crystal soon to be filled with premium Mission Hill Wines. The strains of soothing Spanish music in the background. White plates with the signature Mission Hill Winery logo and silverware were set, table decorations arranged from flowers to candelabras. Our senses were heightened and we were more than ready for a highly anticipated evening. Candles flickered and nature created the backdrop, a kaleidoscope show of colour in the fading light as a sea of revellers loomed before us. It was a beautiful evening with gentle breezes overlooking the architecturally stunning property of Mission Hill with a panoramic view of Lake Okanagan competing for the centre of attention. 
Potato and Zucchini Medley, Chocolate Plum Cake as the sun sets over Mission Hill Winery

As the bells from the tower tolled the hour we ventured off on a tour of the vineyard with its million dollar views with glass in hand.  Some of the earlier varietals of grapes may very well be harvested by the end of August this year due to the long, hot heat wave we have been experiencing. Veraison has already begun. A cooling reprieve in the barrel room and a sample of wine dispensed from the barrel and we made our way to the table already groaning with the beginnings of our 3-course menu served family style and wine pairings created by catering chef Adam Vaughan. Their 2012 Perpetua was poured and expertly paired with a salad of summer beans, la sauvagne, apricot and star anise. Next a Mission Hill Family Estate Winery 2011 Oculus paired with Heritage Beef and a medley of new potatoes, zucchini and coffee salt. And as the finale their 2011 Reserve Merlot Icewine complimenting a Caraibe Chocolate plum cake with hazelnut and shortbread cookies. Sort of like an Eton Mess on steroids. Memories were made, then we disappeared into the night…before the mosquitos started biting to break the magic created  through my rose-coloured glasses.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.

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Mission Hill Experience for Food Day Canada #FDC2015


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