The other one in the running was Wine, Sunshine & Eating Kind, but Okanagan Vegan Bloggin' is more fun to say with a Swedish accent.
I love my province. No matter where I travel, I'm always happiest coming home to beautiful British Columbia. There really is no other place I could imagine being happier living. Oddly enough, for someone who loves BC so much, I haven't really done much in the way of exploring this place outside the Lower Mainland. So to remedy that, this past weekend Rob the Husband and I decided to bask in some BC adoration and head inland to the Okanagan.
We also just couldn't afford Italy this summer. But that's beside the point.
So on Friday 28.0 we packed up an headed off to the fine city of Kelowna, where the weather is hot, the wine is plentiful, and the eatin' is goooooood.
First stop: wineries.
Confession: I don't like wine. I've never developed a palette for it. All that jargon you wine-drinkers spout about the oakiness and dryness and full bodied-ness and hints of passionfruit and honeysuckle and edam cheese make no sense to me. Wine tastes sour and rotten. Period. It's seriously gross, like a glass of sparkling punch that's been forgotten on a hot patio for two weeks after a summer BBQ and then you find it behind a plant and there are dead bugs floating in it alongside the raspberries that were once a lovely frozen compliment to the drink but are now mushy globs or fermented nastiness.
Blasphemous, I know.
While we're laying all our cards on the table, I feel the same way about beer, coffee, tea, and dark chocolate: Bitter and Harsh. Seriously gross.
But that's just me. It would appear I have the palette of a twelve year old.
Rob, on the other hand, joins the rest of the grown-up world in his love of wine. Hence the winery visits, which I totally loved, oddly enough. As much as I dislike the taste of wine, I very much enjoy wine culture, and it was lovely wandering around the vineyards, enjoying the views and learning about food pairings and getting acquainted with the distinct personalities of the wineries. Definitely goodtimes.
We had hoped to have dinner at the gorgeous Terrace restaurant at Mission Hill, but a quick glance at the Quebec Foie Gras on the menu quashed those plans.
No problem. We had taken a day trip out here last summer for Rob's birthday and had enjoyed dinner at the lovely Old Vines restaurant at Quail's Gate. Surely that would be a good option this time around as well.
Yah, no. It would appear that menus change over time, and sometime during the last year Quail's Gate decided that theirs was lacking the enlarged diseased liver of a force-fed duck.
Juuuust great. It appeared as though we would have to do a bit of research that evening instead of driving around hoping to find a place that worked. We checked out urbanspoon to find vegan-friendly Kelowna restaurants, and one of the ones that popped up was The Rotten Grape.
The Rotten Grape is probably the most vegan-friendly non-vegetarian restaurant I've ever been to. This place doesn't advertise itself as vegan-friendly per se or have a separate vegan menu, but it was spectacularly accommodating.
For one, they had Daiya. There was actually a vegan pizza (The Zen) on the menu that was made with Daiya, but our server advised us that they could vegan-ize any of their pizzas for us.
They also cooked with oil instead of butter and there were a lot of dishes that didn't even have to be altered...they were just vegan by default...just not advertised that way.
I was a happy gal.
Both of their specials, the soup of the day (made with pesto) and the seasonal veg (yellow squash) happened to be vegan.
We also ordered The Zen pizza (of course)...
and the meze trio...hummus, olive tapenade, and bruschetta...
It was some good eatin'.
The downtown setting was also perfect. We ate outdoors across the street from the beach, and there was live music going on to entertain us all night.
That was a good thing because after we finished our food we were ready for round 2. We took them up on their offer to veganize any pizza and ordered this little beauty topped with olive tapenade, pears, pecans and beets. And Daiya, of course...
I love me some veeeegan peeeeezza.
They were also offering another special: Peppers Roulette. The deal is that you have no idea how hot each of the peppers is going to be when you bite into it.
Rob was down for the challenge until he wimped out after scoring a couple of spicy bites, leaving me to finish them off.
Sadly, there was no vegan dessert option to end off our night, but the super friendly accommodating service, perfect location, and plentiful delicious animal-product free dining options won The Rotten Grape the number one spot in my heart for Okanagan vegan dining.
No dessert meant last minute shopping time, which turned out to be a fantastic thing because Rob and I both scored some Earthy Soles vegan shoes. Rob's first pair of vegan shoes...awwwwwww...
Just to clarify, his are the grey ones.
Okanagan getaway Day 1 = Success.
Saturday 28.0...getaway Day 2:
Helloooooo more wineries!
We started the day off at Cedar Creek,
and while Rob perused the wines I perused the menu of their restaurant, The Vineyard Terrace. They had a stellar-looking vegetarian risotto on there and the most gorgeous patio views, so I was stoked to eat there. Unfortunately it was a bit early for lunch, so we resolved to come back the next day.
We proceeded on to Hainle, where we had a great time chatting up the owner, Walter Huber, to whom I admitted my distaste for wine. He assured me that was only because I hadn't tasted one of theirs yet.
He then poured me an '08 Muscat dessert wine...and you know what? It was goooood.
It was reeeeeely reeeeeeeely good.
I think I can officially claim that my wine aversion might not include the ones that are really sweet, because I actually found myself enjoying this one. Go figure.
Maybe my palette isn't stuck at the level of a 12 year old after all.
After buying a few Hainle bottles and some wine jelly (yay no gelatin!) we proceeded to See Ya Later Ranch, which was conceptually my absolute favourite winery of the trip. Wanna guess why?
How adorable is this place? Super dog friendly, and they really highlight and honor our relationships with our canine furbabies.
|Doggie Lounging Area|
They had a gorgeous patio open for lunch as well, so we sat down for the only vegan option they had...green salad with cilantro chipotle dressing.
I was a fan. Rob was not. I love cilantro, so anything with cilantro is a good bet for me, but I don't really get why any place would just offer greens as a salad...busy salads with lots of veggies and seeds are so much more interesting. Still, I enjoyed it and especially enjoyed the view...
They also use soy milk cartons for their vines.
Just another reason to love See Ya Later Ranch :)
On our first night here, after my disappointing menu experiences with Mission Hill and Quail's Gate, I ranted on fb:
"Are there no nice restaurants in Kelowna that don't serve foie gras?"
That question was followed by a drawn out expletive that starts with "f" and rhymes with "duck" (how appropriate), and I added a whole bunch of extra "u"s in the middle to highlight my frustration, which temporarily made me forget that I'm a lady and ladies don't drop f-bombs on facebook...that's just vulgar.
Luckily, one of my fb friends saw my plea and recommended The Fixx Cafe, where we ended up on Saturday evening.
The chef herself came out to talk to us and make some recommendations. Although there were no vegan entrees on the menu, she offered to make a pasta with rice noodles and veggies, or a potato stirfry. We took her up on each of those, and ordered a couple of appies as well...hummus with warm pita bread (which was super crazy soft and delicious) and bruschetta.
I love when there's so much great stuff going on in a dish...there were a ton of veggies, including a whole bunch of wild mushrooms. Much appreciated.
That made two Thumbs-Up Kelowna dinners in a row. Score.
Once again, no dessert, but luckily I found a gelato place downtown that made it all better.
I wandered in asking if they have any dairy-free options, and the guy replied, "Yup. Anything with a yellow handle."
Oh hello one scoop lime and one scoop very berry :)
Day 2 definitely ended off on a sweet note. I say that because I am choosing to end my memories of the day at the gelato and our subsequent walk along the water, and completely block out the rest of the night and the casino at our hotel where the slot machines were tighter than a....never mind...I'm a lady and ladies don't make dirty "tighter than" jokes in the blogosphere. Just insert a filthy simile of your choice and we'll leave it at that.
...Although camel's ass in a sandstorm is pretty funny, and not as rude as the ones referring to women who aren't...umm...free with their...umm...favours...you know what I'm sayin'.
Sunday 28.0. Okanagan Day 3.
More wineries? Why not?
Hester Creek. Gorgeous.
Also Road 13, the makers of Rob's favourite wine.
I loved Road 13 as well because we got to meet Meg and Phil, the winery's official "Weinery Dogs"!
Unfortunately the only decent pic Rob got of them was as they were each taking a leak. Oh well.
|Road 13. It's all about the dirt.|
We returned to Cedar Creek for lunch, and were choked to discover that the vegetarian risotto was made with titty-milk cream. Boo. But their heirloom tomato salad special was vegan by default, and because it wasn't busy the kitchen was willing to make us a pasta dish with veggies and olive oil.
So Rob and I split a salad...
...and we each had the pasta...
OMG...the heirloom tomato salad with butter lettuce and strawberry vinaigrette was to die for. The tomatoes were insanely amazing. This is how tomatoes should be....naturally saturated with colour and flavour and allowed to just strut their inherent awesomeness.
The pasta was incredible too. The subtle dressing let all the flavours of the noodles and veggies really come through, and it felt light and just perfect.
The meal was indeed perfect. So perfect that I ordered another salad and Rob ordered another pasta.
The waitress was like, "To go?"
We were like, "No."
Then she said, "All that stuff people say about vegans not eating anything is so off."
Hello Round 2.
Two salads and three plates of pasta later, we returned back to our hotel for some poolside lounging...stomach-down to hide the Buddah-belly that had resulted from my incredible lunch (I will be fantasizing about those heirloom tomatoes for months to come). I wasted the evening away attempting to tan (which really just results in an awkward looking pinkish hue) and reading The Mortal Instruments (yes, from the teen fiction section...don't judge me), and all too soon it was time for a late dinner (food again? Yes please).
I wanted a pretty Lakeside location, and The Bonfire Grill at The Cove resort was the perfect spot.
When we called to make a reservation we of course checked that they didn't serve foie gras and could accommodate us crazy vegans, and we ended up enjoying a lovely dinner tapas style.
|Beet & Fennel Salad (just subbed in a vegan dressing)|
|Flatbread with a bunch of veg minus the cheese|
We added sides of asparagus, mushrooms, and mashed yams, and had ourselves a nice, eclectic, animal product-free dinner. Kind of...
Disclaimer: before bringing out the soup, our server informed us that the prep list for the minestrone had recently changed, and the kitchen wasn't sure whether it had been prepared with vegetable stock or chicken stock, because the person who prepped it earlier in the day had already gone home. There is a 50% chance that our minestrone was made with chicken stock. We still went ahead with it. And a lightning bolt didn't shoot out of the sky and pierce me through the throat (because that's what happens to vegans who willingly eat meat products), so ima guess it was a veggie stock. Or I'll just keep telling myself that.
It was definitely a swell night...swell location, swell food, and an unexpectedly swell bill at the end of the night...
I didn't have high expectations for Kelowna when it came to vegan-friendly eating, but this lovely city proved me wrong. Everywhere we went the restaurant staff made the effort to accommodate us, and though our options were often limited, they were there nonetheless, and and we were grateful for that.
Staying true to The Plant can be a real pain in the ass away from home. You have to think ahead and be flexible. Sometimes you luck out and sometimes you get screwed. I find that calling ahead and giving a restaurant the heads up if possible is a good idea, and I always make sure to be extra super sweet and friendly (because I'm a complete bitch in real life) and let them know that their efforts are appreciated.
And if all else fails, just fill up on wine. Cuz the good stuff is vegan :)