I hear a lot about winery tours, and to be completely up front about it, it has never really jazzed me that much. I picture off-the-path roads winding up hot, dry, scrubby mainland-BC hills (I know, sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?) to pretentious-ish clay buildings filled with un-disheveled people swishing wine around in glasses and using words like “nose” and “jammy” and “millerandage“.
You know what? Totally not.
Township 7 was right by the side of the road, their grapes growing up a sloping embankment beside the main building. A long table draped in white linen was set up outside, closed in by stacks of oak barrels. We chatted and introduced ourselves to each other over wine and thick wedges of fresh peaches wrapped in prosciutto (with a fresh basil leaf pressed against the side of the fruit before wrapping) and quartered tiny sweet pears topped with a local blue cheese, a bit of honeycomb (from Blair and Cheryl at the Similkameen Apiary) and toasted hazelnuts.
This meal was the highlight of the aforementioned 24 best food hours of my life (thus far) – a statement I don’t make likely, but which I may have to extend to 48 hours. The spread was put on by Cam and Dana of Joy Road Catering (cuisine du terroir). Remember that name: JOY ROAD CATERING. If I ever get married again, which is not all that unlikely after leaving Mike with W in the hotel room for days while I ate and drank at wineries and boutique hotels, I’m going to the Okanagan just so that they can cook for the wedding. I wouldn’t think it at all unreasonable to move to the region simply to be closer to them.
Dinner was served family-style: locally-raised lamb loin and braised lamb shoulder, served with homemade anchovy aioli (which I admit I spread onto my bread, it was so good); buttery corn, grown in fields we had driven past:
tiny, thin green beans of the sort none of us had seen before; thickly-sliced heirloom tomatoes; a just-plucked spinach salad, baskets of rustic bread with fresh, sweet butter. I could not stop eating. Between the food, wine, table setting, people around it and locale, it was absolutely perfect. I can’t honestly imagine a better meal. (When people ask what my most memorable meal was, I generally don’t have one. Now I do.)
We drank Black Cloud Pinot Noir and others from the Township 7 cellar. For dessert, Cam & Dana’s plum tarts were so divine I couldn’t believe my dinner companions weren’t fainting dead away as they ate them. Taryn brought hers up to her cheek and stroked it. I looked desperately around for someone who may have left a piece of one, or who had perhaps snuck off to the loo halfway through dessert so that I could swipe theirs. For the next two days Taryn and I would just look at each other and say “plum tart” and shed a quiet tear.
Luckily for us Joy Road has a stall at the Saturday morning farmers’ market in Penticton (an impressive one, I must add – blocks long and bursting with wonderful things, direct from the farmers, which you might assume is a given at a farmers’ market, but which is not). There was one lonely plum tart left when we arrived at close to 10 – Dana had saved it for us – tart and intensely flavored wedges of plum tucked into a thick but tender, buttery, shortbreadlike pâte brisée, with the subtlest baked custard of sorts to fill in the gaps. Since we had to share, we bought small galettes and sticky pecan buns to round out breakfast.
But that’s another story.
One Year Ago: Chicken Soup and Maple Pumpkin Panna Cotta