Canada’s National Slow Food Conference Visited the Okanagan

Slow Food is an international eco-gastronomic movement, founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986.  The organization encourages the growth of sustainable foods and promotes local businesses and farmers who form partnerships to deliver sustainable food products to the public. This movement is paralleled by a political agenda, directed against modification and globalization of agricultural products. Beginning in Italy, Slow Food has since expanded internationally to over 150 countries and boasts membership ranks greater than 100,000.

Canada’s National Slow Food Conference has occurred in various Canadian cities annually for the past 10 years, and 2013 marked the first time for Slow Food to visit the Okanagan Valley.  Approximately 90 delegates attended the 4 day educational forum and were treated to “Canada’s Warmest Welcome” by the Town of Osoyoos and the Watermark Beach Resort. Throughout the weekend guests sampled cuisine and wine from the top local like-minded sustainably practicing chefs and grape producers.

On Thursday April 25, the Slow Food delegates were greeted at the Kelowna Airport and immediately whisked to Winfield for a tour of the Claremont Ranch, a certified organic 100 year old fruit and vegetable farm. The group then travelled south through the valley with Unveil Shuttles, who volunteered their vehicles to transport the delegates for the entire duration of the conference. Upon reaching Osoyoos and settling in to the Watermark, the evening began with a warm welcome by the Lieutenant Governor. Local Salmon Dancers entertained through the cocktail reception featuring BC sparkling wines and canapés prepared by chefs Dana and Cam from Joy Road Catering. Dinner followed with a fire pit salmon bake, hosted by local chefs and wineries, then the evening rounded off with warm honey Madeleines made by Monika Walker and Pear Liqueur from Maple Leaf Distillery.

Friday morning began with breakfast and pastries made by Lake Village Bakery in Osoyoos and a series of workshops and discussions on the topic of sustainable and organic farming practices and marketing. During lunch, Margie Basso and the Farm to Table kids gave a memorable presentation, and later in the afternoon was a Culture Tour of the Similkameen Valley and Harker’s Organic Farm.

The evening progressed into one of the highlights of the conference, the Slow Fish Dinner. The avant-garde grazing dinner was organized by Jeff Van Geest, executive chef at Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek Winery. Together with some of the valley’s highest profile chefs,  their talents were showcased by using the freshest local ingredients and sustainable seafood, paired with wines sponsored by the Similkameen Wineries Association. Van Geest went foraging with a local specialist in the morning of the event and collected some local wild greens and herbs, which he served on Uni custard with Sesen’s Farm lardo, elderflower vinegar, Anarchist crostini and toasted Forbes hazelnuts (a seamless pair with Orofino Riesling). John Crofts, owner of Codfather’s in Kelowna, partnered with Watermark executive chef Jonas Stadtlander to present charcoal grilled Beach Angel oysters motoyaki with Denman Island miso, paired with Clos du Soleil Fumé Blanc. A few other standouts from the evening include Terrafina chef Natasha Schooten’s house-smoked salt cured trout, Sonora Room chef Brock Bowes’ Wei Wai Kei scallop ceviche, and Summerhill chef Jesse Croy’s quinoa crusted halibut cheeks.

Saturday started early with the Market of Taste and Wine Garden, giving more than 50 local farmers and producers the chance to showcase their products. 18 wineries dedicated their weekend to show support, donating their revenues to Slow Food Canada. There were gorgeous displays around the market: Grist Mill and Garden showed off an oversized gourd, the Similkameen Apiary made a freeform sculpture with beeswax, Two Rivers Meats had an old fashioned hand operated slicer serving their artisanal charcuteries, and True Grain Custom made loafs shaped like the snail on the Slow Food logo. With help from students at The Wine Food Tourism Institute at Okanagan College, the Market of Taste was a hugely successful event with over 800 attendees.

Saturday evening was the sold-out Taste of Thompson Okanagan dinner led by Mark Filatow, chef/owner of Waterfront Wines in Kelowna. Filatow invited chefs from the north Okanagan Valley to present a five course wine paired dinner to guests. The first course was prepared by Derek Uhlemann of Covert Farms. His multi-coloured Swiss chard and Napa cabbage from the farm was made into kimchi, and accompanied by grape cane smoked beets, biscuit roots, arrowleaf balsam roots and soft boiled Silverlake Farm eggs, paired with Covert Farms Sauvignon Blanc. The second course, headcheese croquettes, was prepared by chef/instructor Brody White from Thompson River University, who chose the Harper’s Trail Riesling from Kamloops to pair. Up next, duck schinken with pickled lapin cherries by Mission Hill Winery executive chef Matthew Batey, and paired with Mission Hill’s delicate Pinot Noir. The main course returned to chef White, who served ash-crusted ribeye along with Crannog Brewery’s Back Hand of God Stout and the Lake Breeze Meritage. The phenomenal evening came to an end with chef Filatow’s Stoney Paradise grape jelly doughnut with Blackwell Dairy yogurt custard, Claremont Ranch peach sorbet and Arlo’s elderflower honey, served with Quails’ Gate Winery Late Harvest Optima.

An overwhelming weekend of culinary extravaganza came to a close on Sunday with a tour of the Covert Organic Farm in Oliver, one of the largest organic farms in the Okanagan. Owner Gene Covert talked about Salmon Safe practices, water reclamation, habitat restoration and riparian protection while the delegates sipped on Covert’s newly released Rosé.

The 2014 Canadian National Slow Food Conference will be held in Nova Scotia, and it is this author’s opinion that the incredible talents of the farmers, chefs and winemakers in this valley will make our conference a very tough act to follow. To learn more about Slow Food, visit the website at

Chefs and wineries who dedicated their time and products at the Slow Food Conference 2013:

Jonas Stadtlander- Watermark Resort

Cameron Smith & Dana Ewart- Joy Road Catering

Jeff Van Geest- Miradoro Restaurant

Courtenay Welter- Miradoro Restaurant

Mark Filatow- Waterfront Wines & Details Catering

Derek Uhlemann- Covert Farms

Brody White- Thompson River University

Chris Van Hooydonk- Artisan Culinary Concepts

Natasha Schooten- Terrafina Restaurant

Monika Walker- Okanagan Grocery

Jorg & Annina- Dolci Deli

Shannon & Sean- Lake Village Bakery

Jesse Croy- Summerhill Winery & Restaurant

Jonathan Crofts- Codfathers

Rob Walker-  Mica Restaurant

Liam McNulty- Nk’Mip Restaurant

Brock Bowes- Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl

Paul Cecconi- Brodo Restaurant

Matthew Batey-Mission Hill Winery and Restaurant

Bella Wines

Covert Farm Wines

8th Generation Wines

La Stella Winery

Le Vieux Pin Winery

Anarchist Vineyards

Maple Leaf Distillery

Left Field Cider

Tinhorn Creek Winery

Rustic Roots Winery

Cedar Creek Winery

Pentage Winery

Black Hills Winery

Liquidity Wines

Orofino Winery

Robin Ridge Winery

Seven Stones Winery

Eau Vivre Winery

Forbidden Fruit Winery

Clos du Soleil Winery

Harper’s Trail Winery

Mission Hill Winery

Lake Breeze Winery

Crannog Brewery

Quail’s Gate Winery

Upper Bench Winery

Ex Nihilo Winery

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