Have you ever dreamed of a mountain top dinner? (Some of you probably image all Canadians dine this way)
With the pandemic I am sure you’ve been dreaming about a lot of things lately. With British Columbia entering phase 3 of opening various locations we have the advantage of returning to a new normal before our American neighbours.
Here in Kelowna you can tell everyone is eager, yet cautious, about getting out and experiencing life again. We put the work in. We shut down, stayed home, and isolated ourselves for the greater good. For some it is overwhelming to be in a socially distanced crowd, myself included. While others, some with masks, embrace it.
I have been looking forward to experiencing signature Okanagan events again but wanted something within nature. I found the exact event to attend while ringing in my 33rd year.
Yep, this gal turned 33 at the end of June and considering the pandemic, it was an epic weekend that was an overdose of excitement after the last few quiet months.
One of the events was The Paisley Notebook’s pop up dinner upon a mountain top only 25 minutes from my home.
The Paisley Notebook is a dinner series created by Aman Dosanj where she hosts both pop up and secret dinners within the Okanagan. Last year she was able to cook up dinner for guests at a community table on a barge in downtown Kelowna. Her pop up dinner locations have also included Kelowna’s Lavender Farm, local vineyards, working farms and cideries. Her dinners are set to help you connect stories, land and plate.
In our case, dinner was hosted on a mountain top at Myra Canyon Ranch. The weather was set to be gloomy and the storm rolled in with incredible wind and occasional heavy rain. But as Aman insists, dinner will be rain or shine and so I brought my fall jacket and heavy boots ready to trudge in the mud if I had to. Luckily the weather cleared as our dinner progressed!
Due to the pandemic this year’s events will look a little different from her usual pop up dinners. Instead of one community table you are seated 6 feet apart at 8 foot picnic tables with a mountain top video. The menu isn’t written or provided, you must listen to Aman’s tales of travel cooking and thought process behind each dish which provides a different experience each and every event.
Let me emphasize that point. Each menu at each event is different. I have a tremendous amount of respect for local chefs who do this!
Aman, pictured above busy AF, has done some incredible things around the world. After her family sold Poppadoms, a local favourite Indian restaurant, of which all siblings and both parents were apart of, she decided to head into the world to meet, cook and experience each location. She returned with pop up dinners bringing her mom and mixologist brother as help. It’s a long story but you can read about some of her brief travelogues on her blog. I hope the book is forthcoming!
Anyways, I won’t bother to tell you about each and every story but I will tell you about one that really fascinated me. And it involves the dish pictured below.
Mixing local, seasonal, foraged ingredients with her edible stories, Aman presented us with a hosta leaf taco. Hosta leaves are edible, which I didn’t realize and this made for a fresh and fairly neutral tasting base for her kale pakoras.
When she journeyed to the Australian outback she was there to help the local indigenous people and children grow a garden. It being an incredibly harsh environment at extreme temperatures (the jeep dashboard had blistered) she slowly gained trust among the locals while teaching gardening and cooking techniques. This also required her to try and get kids to eat their veggies. One of her mom’s tricks (and a Poppadom’s favourite) was to make vegetable pakoras with 5 different kids of veggies. She thought perhaps she could do the same with kale, sneaking it into the crunchy pakora and serve it with homemade tomato ketchup. Thus producing the hosta kale pakora taco with tomato ketchup.
Other dishes of the evening included momos (Nepali dumplings) with locally foraged mushrooms and a cumin crème fraîche, delicious meat and potatoes with Indian spices (find her spice kits coming soon) and finally a coconut pudding topped with local berries. Now, imagine a fascinating quip or tale with each and every dish. As The Paisley Notebook’s tagline perfectly states, it is a naturally constructed feats and an edible adventure to be had by all her guests.
Aside from pop up dinners and a marketing degree to which she applied to her family’s restaurant, Aman has an impressive background as a goalkeeper and one of the first British Indian footballers to represent England at any level!
It wasn’t until her culinary travels that, as she puts it, “the universe was literally telling me I’m being a dick,” if she didn’t put her food out into the world. And lucky for us she does just that in my own backyard. Call dibs on her next mountain top adventure and events by signing up for her newsletter or see her Facebook page for upcoming events with available tickets.