Allison Markin is the food and libations columnist for the Penticton Western News.

Okanagan Taste: Canadian chefs converge on the Okanagan

Allison Markin is the food and libations columnist for the Penticton Western News.

More and more chefs are setting up shop in the Okanagan, as our valley becomes known not just for the wine, but also for the plethora of ingredients fresh from the land and waters.

After all, a good wine begins in the vineyard, and a good dish begins with the best proteins, vegetables, fruit, grains we’ve got it all here.

It’s fitting, then, that Kelowna once again hosts the Canadian Culinary Championships (CCC) this week, with 11 chefs from across the country coming to compete. Each competed in their home province in 2016, winning a trip here for the finale.

Related: Chefs ready to leave it all on the table

The challenge begins with a mystery bottle of wine given to the chefs on Thursday night. Competitors who have some familiarity with the Okanagan terroir may have a slight advantage when it comes to pairing, but the challenge increases the next morning. With a limited budget, the chefs are let loose to buy ingredients so they can prepare a dish that complements the wine, impresses a slate of national judges, and 400 guests.

That’s only the first competition. The second is a black box challenge; chefs are sequestered and called one-by-one to compete using a box of seven mystery ingredients. Kind of like a competition show on the Food Network, but hopefully with ingredients that make an ounce of sense.

Finally, in the third event, the chefs get to showcase their own ingredient choices, having shipped items in advance from back home. This is where they must wow the judges and guests, pair their creation with a Canadian bevvie, and await the crowning of the ultimate winner.

Who will I be cheering for? All of them. It’s a tough few days of creativity and getting to know what the Okanagan has to offer in ingredients. But a special nod to Jesse McCleery from Pilgrimme on Galiano Island, representing B.C.

The CCC benefits the Canadian Olympic Foundation. More info can be found at goldmedalplates.com

Save the date:

Feb. 3, Naramata: Legend Distilling and Knotweed host a four-course dinner, featuring a comparison of Naramata-grown CabFranc wines. This dinner is the first of an on-going series of dinners inspired by Naramata’s Cittaslow designation.

Call or visit the Distillery at 778-514-1010 to purchase tickets. knotweed.ca.

Feb. 10 to 12 and Feb. 14, Okanagan Falls: Liquidity Bistro offers a Valentine’s Brunch on the Feb. 11 and 12, and Valentine’s dinners on the Feb. 10 to 12, and Feb. 14, the latter featuring a three-course menu. Reservations strongly recommended.www.liquiditywines.com/Bistro

Ongoing until Feb. 5, various locations: Dine Around the Thompson Okanagan features 40 restaurants with menus from $15to $45. Visit a favourite or try a new spot. www.okwineanddine.ca

Feb. 6, Cannery Brewing: Hillside Outlaws perform, tickets $10 available at the brewery. Bevvies and food available for purchase. www.cannerybrewing.com

Feb. 11, Cannery Trade Centre: Visit the Cannery in Penticton for shopping and treats from the merchants and vendor displays.

Feb. 12, Westside Wine Trail: The sixth annual Sip with your Sweetheart event takes place at wineries throughout West Kelowna. Open houses at wineries, enjoy wine and chocolate tastings. http://thewestsidewinetrail.com/

Feb. 11 and 12 and Feb. 18 and 19, Great Estates of the Okanagan: Celebrate family day(s) with wine and food pairings, andwine discounts at Sumac Ridge, See Ya Later Ranch, Nk’Mip Cellars, Inniskillin, and Jackson Triggs.www.greatestatesokanagan.com/Events/

Feb. 11-12, Lake Country: Sip with your Sweetheart by visiting six of Scenic Sip wineries for complimentary Valentine’s Day pairings. http://www.scenicsip.ca/

Feb. 11 to 19, Vancouver:  Vancouver International Wine Festival. This year’s theme country is Canada; if you’ve never been to any of the dozens and dozens of events, this is the year to go. http://vanwinefest.ca/

30th of each month, CedarCreek Estate Winery: Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017, CedarCreek hosts free tastings paired with small bites on the 30th of each month this year. http://www.cedarcreek.bc.ca/

Allison Markin is the food and libations columnist for the Penticton Western News. She can be reached at Allison@AllSheWrote.ca and on Twitter @OkanaganTaste.