Eat, drink and indulge your taste buds with some of the Okanagan's finest this fall
Sure, the Similkameen and Okanagan Valley are gorgeous in the summer, but the charms of fall, for me, are easily when they are at their best. The tourists are gone, there is space to taste wine and take your time, the fall colours are breathtaking and there is a whole heap of deliciousness to enjoy! If it’s been a minute since your last trip to the south Okanagan and Similkameen, there are so many new spots to check out. Hats off to all these folks for opening in a pandemic and making it work.
Be spontaneous! Head up the wildly picturesque Crowsnest Highway (3) and enjoy a taste of the good life just a four-hour drive away from the city.
The Farm Store
Facebook/Honest Food FarmTucked away on Becks Road, a stone’s throw from HWY3, Cawston farming family, the Zebroffs of Honest Food Farm have created a stylish farm store/café to showcase their superb certified organic produce. Stop by to stock up on fruits, veggies and the beautiful hand-cut flowers that they grow (the dried winter arrangements are gorgeous) as well as browse handcrafted jewellery, deli treats and offerings from other local producers. Open for breakfast, brunch and lunch with a plant-forward, gluten-free menu—which also includes local meat ethically raised on the hills in the Similkameen Valley—expect freshly prepped salads, bowls, superb soups and sandwiches and exceptionally good bakes and cakes, with Russian and Japanese menu specials throughout the week. Oh—and the coffee from Backyard Beans is particularly good!
Klippers Marketplace and Café
Facebook/ Klippers Organic AcresThe latest venture from the crew who bought you the much critically acclaimed Row 14 restaurant, now have a café and market to sell their fresh organic farm produce, plenty of house-dried fruits and canned goods, along with a tempting array of cheeses and meats—don’t miss the excellent house-made bacon which freezes pleasingly well, so you never have to be without! The café whips up a tasty array of baked goods—I massively recommend the almond croissant, soooo good!
Nikki BayleySituated in a thoughtfully renovated church, Popolo offers a new place in Oliver to go worship at the temple of excellent food. Don’t get me wrong—I love fancy fine-dining-style Italian food, it’s always so gorgeous—but oh! how I have missed this rustic style of Italian cooking with bright punchy flavours, bouncy hand-made pasta and sauces that speak of slow, long simmers and very good ingredients. I ordered a bowl of silky hand-cut gnocchi, and it came with all my absolute favourite things: roughly torn kale, a broth-like tomato sauce, fat slices of pungent garlic and an absolute cloud of Parmesan. They even make their own gelato—I had some toasted almond flavour and had to talk myself out of licking the bowl—damn, it was good. Go with friends and have everything off the tight little menu and share the lot.
Tourist-based wine-tasting has finally arrived in the South Okanagan, thanks to the District Wine Village. I adored the execution of this excellent spot which features 10 wineries, a brewery, a restaurant serving up pizza, sandwiches and a great gooey burrata, and plenty of space in its soothing water-feature-packed town for markets, events and live music. Most of the wineries here were new to me, although there were a few familiar faces, including Nk’Mip, Eau Vivre and Winemaker’s CUT.
From what I understand, this is the Wine Village 1.0 with plans for more wineries, a self-check-in hotel and more on the way. If you’re in the area and in a rush, but still want to do plenty of tasting, this is such a great day out. Each of the wineries has its own design in their tasting room, so you don’t feel like you’re in the same space over and again, and you’re surrounded by stunning desert landscape too. I know it’s a cliché to say there’s something for everyone here, but there really is. 10/10.
Terrafina at Hester Creek
Facebook/ Hester Creek Estate WineryOne of the many reasons I loved the Watermark in Osoyoos was their chef, Adair Scott, so I was excited to hear he’d joined the crew at Hester Creek to work his culinary magic at their Terrafina restaurant. It’s a match made in plate-licking heaven. There are few prettier restaurants in the south Okanagan than Terrafina, its patio shaded with old vines, overlooking the sloping hills. Hmm, are we in Oliver or perhaps Tuscany? Certainly, the menu of superb pizzas, house-made pasta, thoughtfully prepped meat and fish could easily fill-in for a trip to the Med, but all with terrific local ingredients paired with that spectacular Hester Creek wine. My tip? Don’t forget an order of meatballs for the table—man, they are great!
North Basin Brewing Co
North Basin BrewingSo, turns out Osoyoos has its very own version of Cheers in the form of North Basin Brewing, right on the high street with two patio spaces (one with a peek-a-boo lake view) and a super-welcoming tap room. I popped in to check the place out and pretty much everyone there was a regular—or, like me, very soon felt like one. I’m not the biggest hop head but their Stonewell Pilsner and Big Shiny porter were delish. For a little brewery they certainly have a lot of options: 11 taps, four regular beers, nothing super hoppy, just plenty of easy-drinking crowd-pleasers. At the time of writing, this is the only place you can try these beers, so make sure you stop by, order up a flight and within no time, you’ll be feeling like a regular.
Junction 3 Coffee House
Junction 3There really is only one question to ask of a coffee place: is the coffee good? And happily, the answer to that at this new little unassuming spot, Junction 3, minutes out of Osoyoos’s downtown along the Harbour Keys is a resounding ‘yes’. The patio garden is spacious and super-popular, and the baked goods are buttery and sweet. Pro-tip, get the vegan Nanaimo bar—so good.
Park 15 Bistro
Facebook/ 15 Park BistroI love the Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos. Almost a decade ago, it was my final stop after an exhausting multi-week guidebook research trip, and discovering I was staying in a beautiful lake-view condo-like spot, with super-comfy beds and its own washer/dryer was almost too good to be true! Years later, it’s still a great place to stay: the welcome is always warm, those beds still dreamy, and now the old restaurant has had a facelift too, with bright clean lines replacing the somewhat dark space that used to be there.
The lakeside patio seems more spacious too, with twinkling Edison lights criss-crossing overhead and mini-heaters conveniently dotted around. I watched the sun set over the lake and stuffed myself with puffy light wonton nachos rich with cheese and beans, striped with garlic aioli and lightly dotted with lobster which paired perfectly with their B.C. Negroni made with amaro from North Van, gin from Oliver and vermouth from Vancouver Island. It’s a fun menu of salads, bowls and burgers with tasty mains including a deconstructed take on a tagine with a just-right spiced chicken breast, with fries on a bed of cauliflower. When you can go for a delicious dinner by the lake and take the elevator to bed, doesn’t that break in Osoyoos sound good?
Nikki BayleyOh dang. You had me at ‘gummy cupcakes piled high with buttercream’ (no, not those kind of gummies). New this summer, on Main, Scoopsie’s Treat Shop (don’t you love that name—and idea?) has soft-serve, ice cream and creative cupcakes to take away and enjoy on the nearby beach. It’s a cute little shop packed with knick-knacks, and excuse me if I was hallucinating from too much sugar, but I’m pretty sure it’s even got a Zoltar fortune-teller machine from the movie Big.
The Bear, the Fish, the Root, and the Berry
Facebook/ The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The BerryFans of chef Murray McDonald’s superb cooking need not fear—happily the big changes at Spirit Ridge’s The Bear, the Fish, the Root and the Berry restaurant are all cosmetic—he’s still there! The restaurant space is brighter and lighter and adorned with exquisite detail, such as the cute long-tail bird lights perching on the walls, acorn-like lights hanging over tables, an intimate separate bar area and textured pieces which echo the natural surroundings from the desert to the awe-inspiring beauty of Spotted Lake, plus a refreshed patio area too.
What remains the same is an excellent culinary team under the lead of chef McDonald who is connecting with his Indigenous heritage through a culinary lens, honouring the four food chiefs in the restaurant’s name. Expect gloriously cheffy—and very playful—offerings. I adored a juicily cooked rabbit dish bobbing with nettle dumplings and spangled with bright blackberries and juniper, and the halibut with chestnut pasta and a white onion velouté is still one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever had. Desserts take a trip into fantasy with a riot of chocolate ladybugs wandering an edible landscape of mousse, meringues, gelato and cake. Stunning.