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Revelstoke, B.C. – a funky small town for food and drink

the Revelstoke Farmers' Market is a warm place even on a cool grey day.

the Revelstoke Farmers’ Market is a warm place even on a cool grey day.

We spent a weekend in Revelstoke recently and had the most amazing time. I remembered this small mountain town from my childhood, but more as a stopping-place when we camped in the region or a pit-stop driving from Calgary to Vancouver. Although the small peek you get of the river as you cross the bridge is a pretty view, you are missing the fun if you don’t go into the town itself.

We were fortunate enough to arrive on a Saturday morning when the farmer’s market was on. The sincerity of the vendors was absolutely charming, and the small businesses that operate on McKenzie Street were the perfect pairing to compliment the market. I had a deliciously seasonal pumpkin latte made with a homemade sauce from Conversations Coffee House. That made for the perfect way to warm up to the market ambience.

There was a live turkey on display (he looked a bit nervous). One of the farmers was displaying her pumpkins for their natural art – the designs created on the skins. She was getting all kinds of feedback from people, and so I ask you to join in the chat… what do you see?  🙂 There were homemade baked goods and breads, stone roasted coffee, farm fresh eggs and sausages, and some pretty interesting artisan accompaniments. We picked up some of our ingredients for dinner and headed on our way to meet our friends and look for our main ingredient.

what do you see in the pumpkin?

what do you see in the pumpkin?

this vendor had Vampire's Jelly too... perhaps to fend off possible Hallowe'en attacks?

this vendor had Vampire’s Jelly too… perhaps to fend off possible Hallowe’en attacks?

The main purpose of our trip was to hunt for wild mushrooms. Yes, we were going foraging – that cool new pastime that’s all the rage with foodies these days. Autumn is mushroom season, and with the weather we had this year (moist, and then warm, and then moist again) it made for perfect conditions. My chef husband was very excited; going into the forest to look for mushrooms is his version of spending time at the spa. He has been foraging since long before it was cool.

It was a humid grey day and our friends took us deep into the forest above town. WIthin a few minutes we saw a number of different mushrooms, but we were looking for specific species. We expected to see lobster mushrooms, and we hoped to find some chanterelles too. We got lucky on both counts. The lobster mushrooms are easy to spot, as they are the colour of cooked lobsters. It’s a great sense of accomplishment, especially if you are a novice picker, to see something like this in the woods and know it can be part of dinner.

lobster mushrooms peek out from under the moss

lobster mushrooms peek out from under the moss as they grow

It was a magical afternoon, wandering through little clearings that sported all manner of fairy toadstools amidst a thick blanket of moss. The views we got along the ridge were spectacular, showing the flood plain of the Revelstoke River far below us. Even the dogs were inspired. We headed back with bags full of our harvest and ready to celebrate with a glass of wine. If it had been earlier we would have stopped in at Mt Begbie Brewery for a beer tasting 🙂

Martin made beautiful ravioli with mushrooms in a cream sauce for dinner, and we enjoyed some bruschetta with the last of the heirloom tomatoes brought from our garden at Rabbit Hollow and bread from Okanagan Grocery to share with our friends. The magic of the forest seemed to permeate our evening as we shared stories along with the food and wine in a stunning house that showcased the view. That’s what weekends should be all about!

NOTE: If you’re interested in recipes from my husband including some with wild mushrooms, check out his website The Chef Instead.

both Ella and I enjoyed the view overlooking "the flats" as locals call them.

both Ella and I enjoyed the view overlooking “the flats” as locals call them.

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Breakfast makes the world go round

Muffets was my favourite cereal growing up – especially with hot milk and brown sugar.

When I was young and in a hurry to get out the door, I thought there were more important things than eating breakfast before I left. My Dad thought otherwise, and he made sure my brother and I always had breakfast to start the day. Now I am grateful for that; breakfast is a ritual that I enjoy and on days when I can make the most of it I feel like I am spoiled.

Last week my husband and I took a day away and went on the road to just enjoy each other’s company and spend some quality  time together. We didn’t have breakfast at home but felt sure we could find something fun on the road. We were right.

We stopped at a place I had seen many times from the highway but never had the chance to stop and check out. We took that right turn and wandered into the Lake Country Coffee House. The service was friendly, the menu looked appetizing, the art on the walls was very cool, and the chai latte warmed the cockles of my heart. The  lemon poppyseed loaf and raspberry muffin we ate in the car as we continued on the road were fresh and delectable, full of flavour.  My insides were humming.

We had a fun day in Salmon Arm, lounging around and visiting with friends. The next morning we got up early to check out the local farmer’s market so breakfast started with fresh organic cherries and strawberries from one of the stands. We licked our sticky fingers and headed out to our next stop, Gorts Gouda Cheese Farm. Coffee with fresh farm cream is like a whole new experience, I have to tell you. And their aged gouda will be fun to match with a wine – perhaps a Riesling, or maybe a Merlot? I’ll have fun sampling with the piece I bought. We petted a few super-soft calf noses and then we headed off down the road. 

Just to make sure we wouldn’t be lacking in energy later in the day, we decided to check out a local spot for something more substantial. The Blue Canoe Bakery & Cafe makes a mean breakfast sandwich, with a fried egg that leaks out the side, fresh tomatoes and toast that is crisp but not burnt. We sat and solved the problems of the world as we munched.

The rest of our day was a roaring success, more great memories and relaxing time together, all fueled by a good breakfast. I know ordinary days often don’t have the time that days away do, but at least a good breakfast puts you in the right frame of mind. I highly recommend it.

Celebrate food!

Okay, maybe that sounds a bit excessive. We celebrate WITH food all the time – Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving… not to mention birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, and so on. But especially in our part of the world, where we seem to feel that everything needs to be fast and we should always be doing more than one thing at a time, perhaps taking the time out to celebrate our food that comes from right here in our own backyard would be a good idea. Maybe it might be a way to remind us of how fortunate we are? Or maybe it might just teach us something  – are you aware of all the things that are grown or produced here?

This Saturday, August 4th is Food Day in Canada. Never heard of it? That’s okay, it’s never too late to join the party! It’s a celebration of Canadian ingredients across the country. There are restaurants that offer special dishes, or even menus, and there are lots of people who offer their comments on the website (www.fooddaycanada.ca) about their own backyard parties. Since we live in one of the most abundant food basket regions in the country, I thought it only fair I put the word out. And besides, it’s always great to enjoy good food with friends. At the peak of our growing season, why would you not sample the local fare?

Here’s a few ideas for you to make the most of this event:

  • visit a local farmer’s market – check here to see many of the ones around the province. Here in the Okanagan every community has something every week, and they are all worth visiting as each one is unique. 
  • pick fresh fruit – if you don’t have a tree, ask a neighbour or stop at a “u-pick” place. There is no food fresher than stuff you pick right then and there. It’s as much fun as drinking from the garden hose!
  • stop at a fruit stand or a farm stall – talk to the people and ask them how to prepare or eat anything that is new to you.
  • visit a local food store (by this I don’t mean Walmart or Superstore). Ask the butcher or cheesemonger or baker , etc. what they recommend for local fare
  • if you shop at a larger store, look for local seasonal fare – you will be supporting local farmers and the food will likely be fresher than something shipped from further away
  • Share! Invite friends, family, neighbours to share in a meal – share recipes and ideas. It’s impossible not to learn and discover new things when you do this.

If you are reading this after Saturday and feel like you missed out, never fear. Here are a few suggestions for celebrating food on other days:

  • try out food events – Feast of Fields is a great event that focuses on local producers.. Here in the Okanagan it is on Sunday, August 12. Details on their website.
  • join Slow Food – a local chapter is forming in the Thompson Okanagan. Check out the international organization that started in honour of keeping local traditions and food specialties and now operates in 150 countries
  • celebrate Julia Child’s birthday coming up August 15th (she would have been 100 years old this year) . She was quoted as saying that food should be a recreation, not a fuel stop. That’s my kind of hero! Watch for more on Julia in future columns.

Whatever you do, take the time to enjoy your food and the company at your table, every chance you get.  I guarantee you won’t regret it.

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