Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Food Artisans of the Okanagan, Jennifer Cockrall-King


If you care about local food and supporting local food producers – or if you’re planning to visit the Okanagan – you should definitely read Food Artisans of the Okanagan: Your Guide to the Best Locally Crafted Fare by Jennifer Cockrall-King (published by Touchwood Editions).

Jennifer has sought out the farmers, bakers, brewers, chefs, and all the other individuals who are producing and selling locally crafted, organic or near-organic fare in the Okanagan. The book is divided into four sections for the North Okanagan, Central Okanagan, South Okanagan, and the Similkameen and provides a one- or two-page introduction to each individual and their products.

The book takes you off the beaten track with mouth-watering descriptions of products that can only be found locally, from beer and honey to cheese and chocolates. The only thing it doesn’t cover is wine, referring readers instead to John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide 2014.

view from Tinhorn Creek winery

Travel Guide
My first response to this book is to get in the car and head west so that I can sample for myself some of the wonderful products Jennifer describes in her book. There is such an amazing variety and they all sound absolutely delicious.

Ceres Seed Oils, Penticton takes advantage of an abundant by-product of winemaking to sell cold-pressed grapeseed oil.

There are plenty of macarons at Sandrine French Pastry & Chocolate in Kelowna, but Sandrine suspects they’ll soon be supplanted by croquembouches and religieuses (eclairs with coloured icing).

You’ll meet Scott Moran, a professional forager who is supplying restaurants and markets with items ranging from wild cattails and wild mustards to miner’s lettuce.

Meadow Vista Honey Wines employs winemaking techniques rather than traditional mead-making methods. The owner used “the term honey wines to acknowledge that she’d be making wines from honey using skills she had picked up from the grape-wine industry.”

Visit Keremeos Grist Mill and learn about the role it played in reviving Red Fife wheat or Sunshine Farm, which is fulfilling a critical role in preserving and growing heirloom seeds. Jennifer says, “Sunshine Farm’s seed catalogue is an important link in the local food chain, keeping local, open-pollinated, organic seeds in circulation and available to other market gardeners and individuals.”

You may not expect to find local food at an international restaurant, but Jennifer knows better. You’ll want to visit Benja Thai restaurant in Keremeos, head to Kekuli Café in West Kelowna for “seriously amazing bannock,” and turn off Kelowna’s main thoroughfare to taste “regional Indian cuisine by way of the UK” at Poppadoms-Taste India! where the Dosanj family are “fiercely loyal to local raw ingredients and wines.”

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Economic Development
Food Artisans of the Okanagan is so much more than a travel guide. It’s also a description of how a food culture can develop and sustain an area both socially and economically. It demonstrates the ties between businesses, individuals, farmers, producers, and customers and indicates the key role food has played in expanding the Okanagan’s tourism industry.

For example, Gatzke Orchards, Oyama, has had to adjust to changing market conditions. They started selling direct to consumers when free trade flooded the market with tariff-free fruit, dealt with a highway rerouting which meant they were off the beaten track, and changed their fruit stand into a destination with a café-restaurant, bakery, and wedding space. The owner served two terms on city council to bring the bylaws into line with the needs of agritourism.

Hank Markgraf, manager of growers’ services, BC Tree Fruits, explains that the Okanagan leads North America in high-density planting of apples in order to pay workers living wages and be financially sustainable. Early orchards were planted with 200 to 250 trees per acre – they’re now planting 1200-1500 trees per acre.

Bean Scene Roastery was awarded the City of Kelowna’s Environmental Award for Business Innovation when they replaced their gas afterburner with a mist tank and an electrostatic filter to save energy, reduce fire risk, and eliminate odour.

There’s an organic home delivery service and a food bag fundraiser in the South Okanagan.

And so much more! Every page provides interesting information. You should definitely pick up a copy of Food Artisans of the Okanagan.

Photos: Andrew McKinlay, View from Tinhorn Creek Winery and Paragliding in the North Okanagan

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