As B.C.’s bread basket and wine country, the fertile Okanagan Valley provides Western Canada with both sustenance and connoisseur experiences. Thanks to harvest season, the fall is a terrific time to visit the region.
Named after the indigenous people who have occupied the valley for more than 5,000 years, the Okanagan is a place where visitors can enjoy Aboriginal culinary excursions that provide an added taste of culture and history.
Here are five destinations that provide a rich and authentic Okanagan experience, and with fall food events you’ll want to mark on your calendar.
Indigenous World Winery and the Red Fox Club
Owned by Robert Louie, former Chief of the Westbank First Nation, and his wife, Bernice, Indigenous World Winery produces award-winning wines from its vineyards near Kelowna.
Its on-site restaurant, the Red Fox Club, features a menu inspired by Aboriginal cuisine. This fall, the restaurant is hosting a series of Teepee Dinners where indigenous cuisine and wine will be showcased.
The Teepee Dinners include five-course wine paired events (Sept. 28-29, $155 per person), Indigenous Food and Culture Celebrations (Oct. 1-2, $85) and a six-course Modern Harvest Feast (Oct. 6-7, $155).
In a region of the B.C. Interior famous for its fall culinary events, the Teepee Dinners stand out for their eternal connection to the land and its earliest people.
Address: 2218 Horizon Drive East, Kelowna
Menu price range: Main courses range from $23-$36, and include rangeland elk bavette “roulade” ($30) with wojapi berry sauce, corn, and walnut and oat risotto, and smoked paprika-cured ling cod ($26). Don’t pass up the native spiced popcorn ($3).
NK’Mip Cellars and NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre
This landmark establishment in Osoyoos ties wine, food, relaxation and culture together in one elegant complex.
NK’Mip is known for being the first Aboriginal-owned winery in North America and is increasingly recognized as a producer of high-quality wines, too.
In 2016, it was named the Intervin Canadian Winery of the Year and won Double Gold at the All Canadian Wine Championships for the Riesling from its top-tier Qwam Qwmt (pronounced kw-em kw-empt) line.
You’ll have the chance to indulge in seven of NK’Mip’s finest wines at its winemakers’ dinner on Sept. 30 ($120 per person). Each of the five courses will be paired with one or two varieties from the winery.
Arranging for a place to stay after the dinner isn’t a challenge either. Thanks to the luxurious Spirit Ridge Resort at NK’Mip Cellars, you can happily make your way to your room after the feast. Spirit Ridge’s rooms are spacious and some include full kitchens.
Complete your stay with a visit to the NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, where you’ll learn about the Osoyoos Indian Band, members of the Okanagan Nation, and their heritage. As well, you’ll discover why this part of B.C. — considered the largest desert in the country outside of the Arctic regions — has geological and agricultural advantages that allow it to produce such an abundance of great wine and food.
Address: 1200 Rancher Creek Road, Osoyoos
Menu price range: Dinner entrees at the on-site restaurant, Mica, at Spirit Ridge cost between $19-$43. The restaurant serves three courses and also includes casual fare such as pizzas and burgers.
Bannock is the star of the show at Kekul Café, whose name means “Pithouse” in the language of the Thompson Okanagan First Nations.
Owner Sharon Bond-Hogg elevates the making of the famous Aboriginal flatbread, making it a multi-flavoured treat that can be used in a variety of ways.
At Kekuli, you can savour gourmet flavours such as Saskatoon berry, mocha or apples and cinnamon. Or you can enjoy a breakfast bannock, stuffed with eggs and cheese and options such as smoked salmon, bacon, or spinach and tomato. Burgers come served with bannock as the buns. There are also bannock sandwiches and popular Indian tacos with bannock serving as the bread.
When you visit the Okanagan, be sure to make a stop in to try bannock, a food intertwined with the land and the people. You may discover it for the first time, or see the possibilities it can inspire when a talented chef puts her imagination to work.
Kekuli has locations in Westbank and Merritt. The Merritt location is on Nlaka’pa’mux First Nation territory while the Westbank franchise is in the Okanagan Nation.
Addresses: 3041 Louie Drive #505 in Westbank and 2051 Voght Street in Merritt
Menu price range: The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, including desserts, coffees and tea. Most items cost less than $10.
By Adrian Brijbassi, vacay.ca managing editor