Archive for the ‘Okanagan Valley’Category

Watermelon gazpacho around the world

Miradoro viewIt’s finally watermelon season in our part of the world, which gives us an excuse to resurrect a recipe we received too late to try last fall. It was for a fantastic watermelon gazpacho we ate at Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in the Okanagan Valley wine region of British Columbia.

During this summer’s research for the Frommer’s Easy Guide to Madrid & Barcelona, we were surprised to find watermelon gazpacho on almost all the best menus in both cities. So now that we’re home writing and local icebox watermelons are at the farmers’ markets, we tried the Miradoro recipe from executive chef Jeff Van Geest. It is terrific. Here it is, tweaked for our small watermelons. (It tastes just as good without the incredible vineyard view.) For other recipes from Van Geest, click here.

WATERMELON GAZPACHO

Make about 6 cups
watermelon gazpacho
Ingredients
1 small or 1/2 large watermelon, seeds removed
1 small to medium red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch mint (a fistful)
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (also a fistful)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
salt
pepper

Directions
1. Roughly chop the watermelon, and finely chop garlic, onion, mint, and parsley.
2. Add olive oil and vinegar and toss. Refrigerate overnight for flavors to meld.
3. Pulse in a food processor or with immersion blender until gazpacho is desired texture. (Van Geest makes his version very smooth.)
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

29

08 2013

Cherry tomatoes and the Killer Tomato cocktail

The last tomatoes hanging in the garden are assorted cherry types–some Sweet 100s, some Sungolds, and mostly some mongrel crosses that volunteered last spring. During our August visit to the Okanagan Valley, we had many good inspirations for using tomatoes (see the last three posts). But only mixologist Gerry Jobe at RauDZ Restaurant in Kelowna turned turned tomatoes into a terrific mixed drink.

RauDZ (a great locavore restaurant that’s a collaboration between Rod Butters and Audrey Surrao) focuses on local-grown food whenever possible, which means that Kelowna tomato guru Milan Djordjevich of Stoney Paradise Farm brings in boxes and boxes of Sungold tomatoes. When chef Butters challenged Jobe to make an Okanagan Bloody Mary, he created the Killer Tomato.

It’s fairly simple. Here are the ingredients:

KILLER TOMATO COCKTAIL
4 muddled Sungold cherry tomatoes
0.25 ounce balsamic vinegar
1 oz. vodka
1 oz. Cointreau
3 ounces of lemonade

Jobe muddles the Sungold tomatoes, adds a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, an ounce of local Spirit Bear vodka, an ounce of Cointreau, and three ounces of lemonade. He shakes over ice and double strains into a coupe rimmed with crushed Szechuan peppercorns and gray salt.

It’s a real wake-up for the appetite.

30

09 2012

Tomato glut #3: Heirloom tomato and melon salad

Executive chef Jeff Van Geest of Mirodoro (see Tomato glut #2) also gave us a really good idea for a salad that is so simple that we have been making it ever since. He combines several kinds of ripe heirloom tomatoes with chunks of cantaloupe, some house-made ricotta (we buy a good ricotta salata), a few leaves of mint, a few drops of balsamic vinegar, and some extra-virgin olive oil. The combination of the tangy tomato with the cool, sweet melon really pops.

We enjoyed it with Tinhorn Creek’s pinot gris, which has great citrus notes and crisp acidity, thanks to fermentation on the lees in stainless steel. Winemaker Sandra Oldfield stirred the lees twice a week for two months, giving the finished wine just a hint of toast.

17

09 2012

Tomato glut #2: Miradoro’s roasted heirloom tomatoes and pasta

One of the most deceptively simple tomato dishes we enjoyed in the Okanagan Valley was served at Miradoro, the glass-walled restaurant hanging off a hillside at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards along the Golden Mile in Oliver, British Columbia. Winemaker Sandra Oldfield makes some terrific wines from the steep vineyards, but the folks at Tinhorn Creek sensibly went into business with restaurateur Manuel Ferreira, who also operates the celebrated Le Gavroche in Vancouver. Executive chef Jeff Van Geest’s menus mate perfectly with Sandra Oldfield’s wines.

Pat was looking for a light dish at lunch and Manuel suggested that she try the garganelli with charred heirloom tomato, basil, lemon, and asiago. It was … a revelation. It’s hard to believe that such simple ingredients could create such a sophisticated dish. As Manuel explained, the tomatoes are quickly roasted in a hot oven, then topped with fresh hot pasta, a few basil leaves, a squeeze of lemon, and some shavings of Asiago cheese. It really doesn’t need a printed recipe.

The diner gets to participate in completing the dish. Pulling the skin off the tomatoes creates a sauce that coats the pasta. We’ve been trying it with various pastas and various tomatoes. A firm-fleshed, dead-ripe tomato works best, and a delicate pasta (no whole wheat!) lets the flavors sing. We enjoyed the dish at Miradoro with Sandra’s Oldfield Series 2Bench Rosé, which she makes from 100 percent Cabernet Franc grapes. It’s a real West Coast rosé, fresh and crisp with striking strawberry notes. At home we opt for a Pinot Grigio delle Venezie that’s harvested a little early to preserve a bracing acidity.

07

09 2012

Tomato glut #1: Mission Hill’s cherry tomato salad

It’s that season of mixed emotions as the garden starts shutting down and we’re swamped in a sea of wonderfully ripe produce. No matter how we stagger the plantings and the ripening season of different varietals, we’re faced with a tomato embarrassment of riches at the end of August and early September.

We just returned from one of the great agricultural regions of North America, the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, where the explosion in grape-growing and fine wineries in recent years has also led to an explosion in great dining options and in boutique agriculture to support the chefs.

Mission Hill Family Estate, the leading winery of the region, showcases the Okanagan cuisine at a stupendous fine-dining restaurant called, simply enough, the Terrace Restaurant. It’s an all-outdoors spot under a classical loggia with sweeping views of the lake and vineyards. Executive chef Matthew Batey oversees the entire dining program at the winery (there are lots of private dinners and catered events), while Chris Stewart oversees the Terrace.

Chris’s answer to a glut of great cherry tomatoes is to make this exquisite salad of peeled cherry tomatoes, paper-thin toasts, prosciutto, Parmagiano Reggiano cheese, and a dribble of aged balsamic vinegar. He peels the tomatoes by cutting an X on the bottom, then extending the cuts to the stem. Using a surgically sharp blade, he then cuts an equator on the tomatoes, dipping them for a few seconds in boiling water before plunging them into an icewater bath. The skins peel up toward the stem in a beautiful way.

Even if we don’t have the time or ingredients for such a fine dish, we find that taking a few minutes to prepare the cherry tomatoes and setting them out for guests next to a plate dusted with sea salt for dipping makes a nice presentation for finger food.

03

09 2012

What to drink at the airport … in Kelowna

No, we didn’t take this photograph in the cute little Kelowna airport, located in the heart of the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. Once principally an orchard area (the peaches and cherries are incredible), the valley now boasts more than 150 wineries and an untold number of vineyards. It is emerging as one of the hottest new table wine region in the North American west as well as continuing its excellent production of Canada’s best-known ice wines.

We spent a few days touring and tasting and have to admit that it’s hard to beat the striking vistas from the hillside vineyard tasting rooms that overlook the chain of lakes in the Okanagan Valley. Looking down the long green rows to the blue water–and then across to the opposite bank where more vines climb the hills to the horizon is pretty special. The lakes help hold the heat and the high desert climate makes the region nearly perfect for growing grapes organically. We’ve seen few places in the world where organic viticulture (and agriculture in general) was the rule rather than the exception.

To our surprise, the Kelowna airport’s Skyway Cafe & Bar is a fine place for a final glass before boarding a flight, if only to get a last taste of an Okanagan wine in situ (assuming you skip the wine-in-a-box “Premium Red” and “Premium White”). The bar offers selections by the glass from some of the most respected vineyards in the region, including a Mission Hill Five Vineyards cabernet sauvignon-merlot blend and a pinot noir from Grey Monk.

Alas, the bar doesn’t pour any of the ice wines that first made the region’s reputation. So if you find yourself flying from Kelowna, make sure a bottle or two is in your checked bags. If you’re flying nonstop, there’s a wine shop by Gate 5.

26

08 2012