Canadian Welcome in Kelowna

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Canada and I’ve never been to British Columbia, so when I had the chance to spend a week here in conjunction with my Celebrity Cruise, I jumped at the opportunity.

I have to admit that since I just returned from Washington and was clearing up work and packing for 17 days I did not spend much time researching my new destination. That has its good and bad points. On the one hand, I was pretty ignorant to the basics (such as the wine varieties and climate), but on the other hand it gave me a clean slate to soak up information everywhere.

My flights have never gone smoother. While the South was getting rain soaked and hit by tornadoes, my section of the Midwest was smooth sailing (actually, flying). I left Champaign in the morning, had a quick change in Chicago and though I didn’t get the upgrade I was hoping for, I did have two seats to myself on my American Airlines flight. I met my friend Susan Krowitz in Seattle airport and we caught up for a bit before we boarded the Horizon Airlines to Kelowna.

Susan and I have known each other for many years as we both were long time employees at the Port Washington Tennis Academy.  She has since moved to Florida and is the Director of Tennis for the City of Fort Lauderdale. We keep in touch and see each other a few times a year and while she has accompanied me on a previous trip and dinners, she’s never done a wine region trip with me. On the plane I filled her in on what it’s really like – eating, drinking and touring all day and night.  I often call it, “scheduled fun” -- hard work, but somebody's got to do it! She assured me that she was up to the task as we made our way through Canadian customs.

We arrived at the Delta Grand Okanagan just a short while later. Our suite in the Royal Residences was most definitely “grand,” with three bedrooms, two baths (one with a Jacuzzi), a full kitchen and breathtaking views from the balcony. We settled in quickly and took a walk over to Bouchon, an adorable French bistro just a few blocks away.

Bouchon is one of those place that look like a little local restaurant from the outside and as soon as you walk inside you know you’ve stumbled on something special. The place was packed and I soon learned from Richard Toussaint, who owns this place with wife Martine, that it was special enough to have caught the eye of the Canadian Prime Minister and to have been a dinner stop for President Bill Clinton.  Though we weren’t running any countries, Susan and I were made to feel as welcome as the latter.

The menu was definitely French, but we started out with my first British Columbia wine, Brut Gold Label from Blue Mountain. It was a bit dry, but very fruity, and it matched Susan’s incredible appetizer of a Smoked Salmon Purse filled with Shrimp Salad and accompanied by Jumbo Shrimp.  I had an excellent Baked Pear & Blue Cheese Tartlet and a French Onion Soup made with Okanagan Valley chardonnay. The main courses also reminded me of my recent trip to Paris: La Cassoulette, a duck leg confit with a lamb chop and Toulouse sausage, served over a lingot bean ragout; Coq au Vin with organic chicken. We enjoyed the entrees, but nothing beat the French Fries that came with them! We both agreed that they were the best we’d ever had and though Richard would not divulge his secret recipe, I heard from a pretty reliable source later on that one of the secrets was a bit of duck fat in the oil.

Bouchon Bistro celebrates its 17th anniversary on May 14th. I “celebrated” with a yummy Dark Chocolate Gateau with Raspberry Coulis, while Susan loved the Silky Lemon Tartlet. We were definitely full as we took the walk back to get some rest before our first (very) full day exploring the wineries of Kelowna.

Celebrity Cruise Line

The Pacific Northwest was really calling me this year!  I’m spending a good part of my spring exploring this beautiful area and tasting its wine so stay tuned.  After Washington, I headed to British Columbia, Canada, which will followed by a Pacific Coastal Wine Cruise on the Celebrity Millennium. I will be checking out the wine of each region on and off the ship, as well as doing some interesting and unusual tours.  Stay tuned for my coverage through the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia; Catalina Island; Napa and Sonoma; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Victoria, BC, Canada; and Vancouver, BC, Canada. It’s going to be a blast!

Don’t miss any of my wine and spirit travels around the world.
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