Planning a restaurant’s spring menu might be one of a chef’s more interesting tasks of the year, especially if the mandate is to present dishes that have regional, seasonal ingredients. As for fresh, well, that will have to wait until the summer unless items are grown indoors or in a hothouse.
Here, three of our favourite Okanagan winery restaurant chefs preview with us what their spring cuisine line-up will look like. “House-made,” “root vegetables,” and “comfort foods” are common themes. Let’s throw in “creative” for good measure!
The cuisine of the Sunset Organic Bistro at Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna is invented by Chef Jesse Croy with the season, including ingredients sourced from local organic farmers and an onsite raised-bed chef’s garden. There won’t be any fresh house-grown produce until later, but the early spring menu starts in March with lunches and dinner added after Easter. “We’ll be having our signature Reubens with house-made corned beef and sauerkraut,” says Croy. “There are also organic pizzas, and daily specials with Ocean Wise fish, winter carrots and root veggies.” The Chef also speaks of house-made fermented pickles, antipasto, charcuterie and mustard spreads.
Organic Chicken Breast with Yam Gnocchi and melted Poplar Grove Camembert is among the spring entrees Croy is currently developing. Another warming dish is Beef Cheeks Sauerbraten with whole wheat spaetzle and stirred purple cabbage with gingersnap cookies jus. Sound tasty and creative? That’s Chef’s Croy trademark.
Roots and Fruits
“We try to use a wide variety of different flavours from the Valley,” says Executive Chef Robert Cordonier about The Bistro at Hillside Winery in Penticton. “We are continuing our use of local flavours to pair with our unique terroir-driven wines.” The restaurant opens at the end of March for lunch and dinner.
For the “challenging” spring menu, Chef Cordonier says the focus will continue the use of last autumn’s root vegetables and fruit such as squash in risotto and apples in the signature vinaigrette. “We also spent some time canning cherry relish for our Duck Grilled Cheese and local quince and apples that we will be showcasing throughout the opening menu.” Meats and fish will be BC-sourced.
Expect winning entrees from Chef Cordonier such as the Benchmark Burger with shaved Berkshire ham and Village Cheese Co. Aged White Cheddar. Pan-seared Rainbow Trout will be served with beets, celery root puree and black truffle ravioli. Braised Fraser Valley Pork Cheeks will include BC endive, maple butter roasted pears, nugget potato and Poplar Grove Tiger Blue Cheese.
Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek Winery in Oliver specializes in dishes made from local and seasonal ingredients whenever possible, prepared with a distinctive Mediterranean flair. For the early spring menu, which begins March 1 for lunch and dinner, Executive Chef Jeff Van Geest will feature late winter produce. “People will still be looking for comfort food, but lighter dishes,” he says. “Carrots, beets, apples, pears, squash…and we’re planning on growing our own microgreens. If you’re going to eat local, don’t expect a green salad in March.”
Van Geest is working on his spring menu, which may include some of the following dishes. Lamb Shank Harira is a lamb stew with tomatoes and lentils, rich in nutrients. Octopus Carpaccio consists of octopus from the Coast, braised, and served cold with a house-made chorizo vinaigrette, sour dough crostini, and garnished with “soft, sweet” basil and arugula microgreens. Salt Roasted Beets will be accompanied by pear, arugula, hazelnuts, sherry vinaigrette and house-made ricotta.
~ Dona Sturmanis