June 25th is Anthony Bourdain Day. (#BourdainDay)
Just recently, I’ve been able to watch his food and travel shows like No Reservations and Parts Unknown, without a pit in my stomach and that feeling of heartache. I still lament his passing but I can not once again enjoy his face on my TV rather than feeling grief. Last year I couldn’t quite celebrate it as I wanted to. Writing about it wasn’t going to happen. The words just wouldn’t come to me. Instead, I acknowledged it in quiet as I cracked a local beer and thought of him.
There’s been a definite hole in the world since his passing. This year I’ve decided to celebrate Bourdain Day as if I were taking him on a tour of my Okanagan Wine Valley. As an ‘almost’ Food Tour operator – the pandemic shut us down before we began – I have plans to make a special tour each year on June 25th celebrating Bourdain’s legacy with a portion of the proceeds going to the CMHA Kelowna. Until then I hope you recognize Anthony Bourdain Day in donating to the CMHA yourself (or any mental health organization) and visiting a restaurant you think Bourdain would thoroughly enjoy; A hole in the wall. A mom and pop shop. A food truck. Any kind of street food. It all goes.
Bourdain was no snob, only to snobbery itself.
I’ve concocted a list of places that don’t get much love that deserve your attention. You search “best food in Kelowna” on Google or Pinterest and you’ll find a narrow perspective of Kelowna. Chains like Cactus Club, Moxies, Joey’s, with very few locally owned restaurants in the mix and even then it is RauDZ or Waterfront Wines – both excellent but a narrow perspective of our food scene.
The Okanagan is farm to table.
Food grown locally with local wine that compliments the food from our valley. It’s fresh, seasonal, delicious. It doesn’t have to be fine dining either. It being wine country we definitely have a tendency to present local dining as high end, maybe a little chic at times, and that’s not always accessible to all budgets or interests.
But dig a little and you’ll find lesser known restaurants that have more to say about our valley and the chef’s own perspective of it. When I say lesser known, to foodies in this valley we all know these places well. However, when you discuss them with neighbours or friends and certainly tourists, they may not be so savvy. That’s where I come in 😉
It’s 2021 and we have some work to do
The Okanagan’s food scene, especially how it is represented to tourists doesn’t necessarily show the entire picture. That is to say it is missing many non-white faces and cuisines. In recent events, self-education and the desire to act, I realized I too needed to be more inclusive within my coverage of the Okanagan. I need to show that there is a space for more within Kelowna. Frankly, we are still in our adolescence when it comes to our food scene. We have more work to do and that includes being mindful of where we spend our dollars.
CrAsian Food Truck, Provisions, BoxcAr; Take your pick!
When it comes to street food in Kelowna the city is’t the most supportive. For food trucks it is expensive to come by a permit within an area where they’d find a lot of foot traffic. Many food truck businesses have come and gone which is terribly unfortunate for the owners, residents and visitors. With this in mind, true street food is harder to come than say Vancouver or Canadian food meccas like Montreal or Toronto.
Street food was Bourdain’s jam. Particularly in Asia. An ice cold beer, some Phò or spicy laksa, he was set. He was also a friend of David Chang of Momofuku who built his fame on a re-imagined bowl of ramen and between two freshly steamed layers of bao. Kelowna has its own answer to this craving criteria, the Koga sisters.
These sisters founded the CrAsian food truck back in 2014 and have since brought us Provisions at Kettle River Brewing (grab a beer!) where you can often find partner and Chopped Canada champ, Chef Brock Bowes, cooking up their incredibly creative big boards among other delicious dishes. I mean, you MUST give it up to this team for creating a new menu at Provisions each week!
BoxcAr offers a solution to your bao bun and Báhn mì sandwich cravings with their signature root beer pork. Pair with a BNA beer since it is located in the eclectic tasting room that will send any millennial back to their childhood (think grandma’s living room mixed with skee ball and bleachers but cooler).
Perseval & Young Cheesemongers
Now here’s an anecdote worth mentioning; When my sister and I went to Dublin back in 2013 we followed Bourdain’s Dublin recommendations. We hit up Howth for it’s seafood, Ulysses Rare Books to buy my own antique book and gaze at the incredible first editions of famed Irish writers, and of course Sheridan’s Cheesemongers. I remember tasting the cheese there in the tiny shop and becoming overjoyed. I told my sister, “Someone needs to bring a cheese shop to the Okanagan!”
Thankfully, in 2019 Desiree and Phil did just that and opened up Perseval & Young Cheesemongers. And guess what? They too were inspired by Sheridan’s Cheesemongers but the Galway location. I’m a big fan of what they do and shout it from the rooftops. I am also proud to say they are a partner of my food tour company!
Try somewhere new…like Mission Taco House (Formerly Joe Buds)
Kelowna has a few Mexican restaurants. If you’re local you’ve no doubt enjoyed Hector’s Casa which is heralded as Kelowna’s most authentic Mexican joint. Meet their Mission satellite restaurant Mission Taco House. This hidden gem is quite literally hidden. You might miss it if you’re unfamiliar with the Surtees corner. Popular stops like Barn Owl Brewing and Dunnenzies draw the crowds but you’ll find an unsung hero next to the Sunshine Market.
Why is it unsung? Other than it being relatively new and launching during a pandemic: Business hours might be one reason (closed on Sundays). Lack of branding, social media (other than Facebook) and a proper website I’m sure has something to do with it.
Bourdain’s best shows dug in. Finding the lesser known spots that even locals might not have paid attention to and blew it up – hopefully for the better. If Mexican isn’t your jam then I urge you to seek out somewhere new to you (and not a chain)!
The Paisley Notebook: A Naturally Constructed Feast
√ Al fresco dinner
√ Seasonal Menu
√ Stories connecting history, land, food and you
If you’re doing an Bourdain inspired day, week or year in the Okanagan, you gotta do an al fresco dinner with Paisley Notebook. Although, her dinner does not land on Bourdain Day, it does land on my birthday this year (again! thanks leap year!).
The Okanagan excels at al fresco dinners (hello Joy Road Catering!) Aman Dosanj of the Paisley Notebook hosts pop-up dinners, secret dinners, vineyard dinners, mountain top dinners…you name it! Last year I had the pleasure of attender a mountain top dinner at Myra Canyon Ranch – read about it here!
I imagine a scene like this is how Bourdain would end a day of exploring surrounded by a communal table of locals and food enthusiasts wanting to boast about where they live while also passionately discussing its downfalls (housing crisis, lack of diversity, terrible city planning, etc.) over an unduplicatable meal. Aman Dosanj is also a passionate advocate for POC issues and has been outspoken on her social media regarding the racist undertones that permeate Kelowna and the Okanagan within the food industry and beyond. Her overall bad ass vibe, speaking her mind and challenging the status quo is very Bourdain-esque and I love it about her! Go Aman!
The Bear, The Fish, The Root, The Berry in Osoyoos
Modern vineyard cuisine inspired by indigenous roots.
The Okanagan is the territory of the Sylix nation. This retaurant gets its name from a chaptik story of the four food chiefs; the bear, the fish, the root and the berry which are all fundamental within the cuisine of the first nations.
First Nations’ cuisine must be represented and its presence is imperative within Canada’s food scene. Just now is it slowly starting to take stage on an international level. Bourdain’s shows often showed the past, present and future of a places cuisine. I believe that including The Bear, The Fish, The Root, The Berry I am not only nodding to the past and present but also the future of cuisine within the Okanagan and Canada. There is plenty of space for more Indigenous cuisine to flourish within British Columbia and we must support it when we see it. Especially when it is as beautiful and delicious as it is on the plate – see image below.
Where would you take Bourdain? I want you to tell us in the comments below! Where are you from? What would you eat? #BourdainDay