When we started planning our trip, I began looking for any interesting events going on around the city while we were there. Indeed, I found EAT! Vancouver, a culinary extravaganza, was taking place during that time. Due to our overwhelmingly busy schedule of checking out restaurants and bars, seeing friends and eating some more, we had limited availability to book additional events. When we were invited to the Canadian Flavours Gala, I knew we had to go check it out.
With over twenty wineries representing the Naramata Bench Winery Association, and nearly as many restaurants, I
was looking forward to the event all week. We arrived at the Terminal City Club to find both the wineries and food spread over two rooms on different floors. It was an odd layout, but they were trying to control the crowd. It did not work particularly well. Early in the evening there was often a wait for food, but most of the food was worth the few moments of preparation. It was, however, pretty easy to get to the winery tables to taste.
We started upstairs, and learned a bit about the wineries. Naramata Bench is located in the Okanagan Valley, about 4 hours east of Vancouver. We first enjoyed the wines of Poplar Grove. These were among our top whites, and were one of only two producers from whom we truly liked the reds. The other was Van Westen, as we tasted both the 2010 and
2011 Voluptuous. Admittedly, I hate the name, but loved the wine. Also enjoyed the refreshing Vino Grigio, an easy drinking Pinot Gris. One of our other favorite whites was from Terravista Vineyards, called the Figaro. It’s a blend of Rhone whites, Roussane, Viognier and Marsanne.
Frankly, when we agreed to attend, I had no idea what we were going to find, as we had never had a wine from British Columbia before. I am glad we did enjoy so many of the wines, as it gave us a chance to pick up several bottles of BC wine for our cruise to Alaska. It was also a good opportunity to introduce new wines to those traveling with us. Any chance to broaden our wine and food comfort zone is a good thing.
I found that the winery representatives – winemakers, marketing people, or others involved – were generally friendly and eager to talk about their winery, the wines and the growing region in general.
The food was pretty diverse. The first bite I had was an eggplant roll with mushrooms, red pepper, goat cheese and about twelve other ingredients. It was from The Vanilla Pod in Naramata, and it was a bit unwieldy to eat, but truly delicious. I went back for seconds. We also enjoyed a mushroom soup so much we both had seconds of that,
too. Also outstanding was a cured trout with smoked sour cream and impossibly tiny potato chips. Despite their small size, the chips did add a lot of texture and flavor to the dish. (I noticed a couple of people scoop up a serving before they were finished plating, and were missing the chips. By my second pass of the table, I knew that the chips were worth waiting for.) We also enjoyed a leaf-wrapped smoked trout dish, from yet another fantastic restaurant.
In addition to the food and wine, there was a huge silent auction. It seemed that there were good deals to be had, too, and if we were not leaving Vancouver the very next day, I would have likely bid on a few.
Overall, I would say the food was very, very good. It was a bit disappointing, however, that many stations ran out of food early and by 8:30 were packing up their stuff, as the event was supposed to run until 9:30. The wineries did not seem to have the same problem, and were eagerly pouring away, even when we left around 9PM.
If you are in Vancouver during the EAT! Vancouver festival, check out the events. There is a dinner series, a huge expo at Canada Place and workshops galore. I wish I had more time to explore all of the options.