I had some incredible dishes here in the Okanagan during the pandemic. Here’s a roundup of the best of the Okanagan during 2020! I hope these experiences inspire you to try some of these unique locations in the new year!
2020 was definitely a chaotic year for the world and here at home. Restaurants had to learn how to manoeuvre the new safety protocols week by week. It was inspiring to see how quickly all of our local chefs, caterers and breweries pivoted. It was even more encouraging to see new restaurants and cafes open in the midst of a pandemic. Despite the chaos I was able to get out while I could and have some delicious dishes, drinks and experiences within the Okanagan.
As soon as I saw the details of this stylish bar released as teasers on their IG account I immediately added it to my “must try” collection. A Turkish inspired restaurant with earthy greens and pastel pink accents along with crisp geometric lines, its interior design alone elevates the Penticton food scene. Its presence is a welcomed sight along the lakefront with views of the beach interrupting kitschy motels and heritage homes.
The food is largely tapas style which means you can try a lot of food in one seating. Classic favourites like hummus and sticky sweet baklava are must orders but I have to tell you about the flatbreads. Not what you’d expect, these breads resemble a fresh French baguette sliced down the center and stuffed with fillings like brie and leeks or duck confit and dukkah. Make sure Elma is on your list of must-try restaurants in 2021!
Paisley Notebook Dinners, Kelowna
For my birthday my husband treated me to something I have wanted to attend for a long while...a Paisley Notebook popup dinner. June 27th, 2020 Aman Dosanj hosted an event at Myra Canyon Ranch that overlooked the city of Kelowna. It was a magical moment and not one can really be duplicated as she changes menus and hosts throughout the various seasons. Her stories that accompany her dishes are inspiring. You must go in 2021!
Matadora Tapas y Cafe, Kelowna
One of Kelowna’s newest restaurants is Matadora located in the heart of the Pandosy village. This tapas locations has Mediterranean inspired dishes by day and Spanish tapas by night. This small charming bar will transport you to the small European tapas bars in Spain, Portugal and Italy.
I particularly enjoyed the ham and brie sandwich with a fresh baguette that brought me right back to the streets of Paris. If available, treat yourself to the toffee shortbread and an expertly crafted coffee. I am so excited to head here in Spring when my pregnancy is over and I can once again enjoy a drink alongside their delicious tapas!
Provisions at Kettle River Brewing, Kelowna
There’s a reason Provisions is a crowd favourite on my food tours (PS join me in 2021!). They are the most creative chefs in town but you may not know it because they aren’t at Kelowna’s fine dinning establishments, instead they call Kettle River Brewery home. It’s such a special place for me because its low key vibe with fine dinning menu for less is my and my husband’s ultimate date night. There’s no pretentiousness despite Chef Brock Bowes being a Chopped Canada champ!
Just prior to the shut down my sister and I visited for their Mardi Gras 2020 celebration with po’ boys and incredible grits. Later on, after the shut down, they re-opened with the prettiest dish of fish and chips I’ve ever seen. Menus change weekly – I told you they are creative! – so be sure to check back often on their social media for the most up to date menus.
Naramata Inn, Naramata
2020 had lots of local foodie surprises including Vancouver Chef Ned Bell and his team taking over the long beloved Naramata Heritage Inn. The new menu and serious dedication to its wine list (I mean hello, you’re in the Okanagan wine valley) with familiar local foodies and winos serving as part of the team…I am excited to say that the Naramata Inn shouldn’t let foodies down as it has occasionally in the past.
The menu is seasonal and locally inspired. Just go for the splurge and enjoy!
Priest Creek Winery, Kelowna
The Spring of 2020 brought in Kelowna’s newest winery. The pandemic hushed Priest Creek’s arrival while it needs to be celebrated. Making some of the best wines in the city that are tastefully made with terroir in mind and unique varietals used. Do not skip this South East Kelowna winery! It’ll become your new favourite!
Diner Deluxe, Kelowna
On my 33rd birthday I took an entire day to myself. This mama was all too excited to have a break and play tourist in her own town on her own. I began my day at Diner Deluxe, this new Alberta based small chain made their move to Kelowna’s Lakeshore Rd across from Gyro Beach. I absolutely love this place for its modern diner menu and kid friendly accessories like step stools in the washrooms and good high chairs. For my birthday I treated myself to the spicy chicken and waffles with a sunny side egg. They passed the test and brought maple syrup on the side! Seriously tasty!
Olga’s Confections, Kelowna
I found Olga’s Confections on Instagram (@Cake_Oli_Cious) and found some incredible cakes that weren’t made from fondant. They looked delicious. They looked better than (my) homemade yet retained a nostalgic quality about them. I took a chance and reached out to her to see if she’d make my husband a cake for his birthday. Score! She did! Her chocolate cake with orange curd was absolutely decadent and rich yet not overly sweet and kept this pregnant mama coming back for seconds.
CedarCreek Winery, Kelowna
I am a sucker for burrata. Have you ever tried this cheese that comes in a purse-like shape? The exterior is like a bag that is tied at the top but cut into it and a delicious cheese spills out. Tear it up and add it to prosciutto, olives, focaccia, and honey for my favourite treat from 2020! The first time I had this dish it was from CedarCreek’s take home menu. The second time, my sister made it and it was just as delicious with her homemade focaccia loaf.
Once businesses re-opened after the shut down my sister and I ventured to CedarCreek winery for a food and wine tasting as well as a tour of the vineyard where we spotted a young buck lounging between the vines. It was a memorable moment in 2020 and would be the last time I would venture out for a wine tasting after I became pregnant in August.
Vice & Virtue Brewing, Kelowna
Finally, I end with one of the best beers I’ve had all year, Vice & Virtue’s Aussie Sparkling. This local Kelowna brewery is known for their hybrid infusions of beer and wine. One of the co-owners of Vice & Virtue, a celebrated wine maker for Tantalus Winery here in Kelowna, is from Australia. This particular beer helped the Australian firefighters with $2 from each 4 pack sold going to the County Fire Authority of Victoria, Australia. The devastating fires and images that emerged from Australia were definitely a memorable and heartbreaking moment in 2020.