Another fantastic road trip out to the Okanagan… I feel so fortunate to live so close to such beautiful wine country! :) And, of course there’s more to the Okanagan than wine… A friend and I did some serious grazing as well. The Terrace at Mission Hill Winery stole the show this time around. But I also checked out: The Patio at Lake Breeze, Sandrine French Pastry and Chocolates, and Waterfront Restaurant and Wine Bar.
The Patio at Lake Breeze
As far as I could tell, the restaurant was outdoor only – hence the name, and they are only open for lunch. Although the patio doesn’t have much of a water view, I was drawn to its pleasant garden setting that feels very much like wine country.
My friend and I each ordered the Bench Burger (Okanagan’s finest Angus Beef, aged white cheddar & arugula, our “Tomato White Balsamic and Basil Relish”, on a house baked brioche bun, served with our signature potato salad.) The burger itself was okay, although nothing to write home about for the $17 price tag. I did really like the potato salad, which had green beans and I believe lardons (which I picked out, since I don’t eat pork).
Service was quite slow, even accounting for the laid back wine country lifestyle – both in terms of ordering and having to wait for food.
Overall, a nice setting for lunch, but I was a little underwhelmed by the experience, and disappointed by the service.
Sandrine French Pastry and Chocolates
I’m always on the lookout for fantastic bakeries, especially French-inspired ones – a habit from my pre-primal days. So, I was excited to try Sandrine.
“We present the latest trends in fine French pastry along with traditional specialties including an assortment of plain and filled croissants, macarons, palmiers, tea cakes, sorbet cakes, fresh fruit sorbet… using the highest quality ingredients and no preservatives.
Sandrine’s family in Lyon, France has been celebrating chocolate makers for three generations and we are proud to offer a delectable variety of artisan chocolates available individually or in beautiful gift box assortments.”
Upon walking in, I saw that the display cases were filled with goodies, and my hopes were up. However, having experienced the likes of Thomas Haas, Thierry, and Soirette in Vancouver, my standards are quite high. And upon closer examination, sadly this bakery, like many others I’ve visited, did not live up to my expectations. They simply weren’t at the same level.
I didn’t want to judge based on looks alone, so I ordered a few items. The macarons weren’t uniform in shape, and didn’t look right proportionally (I wish I had remembered to snap a close-up photo). Also, I found them too sweet, and texturally not light enough.
The pineapple mousse with coconut was also too sweet, and lacked finesse.
I was very excited to see macaron ice cream sandwiches, which I wish we had in Vancouver (although I’ll eat the ones from Chocolate Arts any day). But these were also too sweet. The texture was odd, and reminded me of lady fingers, but that could simply be what frozen macarons are like.
They also had some savoury items like duck confit and chicken liver pate, but I wasn’t able to sample these and I was travelling and they wouldn’t keep.
Service was friendly, the shop felt pleasant, and the displays were attractive. I don’t know of any other such bakeries in the Okanagan, so this one may be the best in its class. But unfortunately, I was disappointed with the execution of the baked goods.
Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar
Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar has garnered plenty of accolades. The Chef and Sommelier, Mark Filatow won Gold at the Canadian Culinary Championships, Gold Medal Plates 2012. And his restaurant has been awarded Gold by the Vancouver Magazine in the Best Okanagan Restaurants category for 5 years straight. The focus is very much on fresh, seasonal, and local flavours of the Okanagan.
My friend and I decided to share some apps and a main. We started off with the Potted Foie Gras (Cedarcreek Gewürztraminer Jelly, Fresh Bread). The Gewürztraminer jelly was fantastic – very floral. And the foie was rich, creamy, and delicious. It came with bread, but I just ate it by the spoonful.
Next up, the Crispy Sweetbreads (caramelized cauliflower, pickled mushrooms) were cooked well, and I loved the sauce as well as the pickled mushrooms.
The Pommes Frites were just okay, but I really enjoyed the lemon pepper mayo.
We also shared the Grilled Peace River Lamb Chops. It came with a spiced lamb meatloaf, a potato mash, and carrots. The flavours were quite good, and all of the components worked well together. The chops were also cooked to a good medium rare.
Service was okay, but could’ve been a little more efficient and attentive. The room was nice, although I was expecting something a little bit fancier. Overall, I enjoyed my time and the food at Waterfront. I especially liked the foie gras and the sweetbreads. I think I was expecting to be wowed more due to all of the awards, but they’re doing a solid job, serving sophisticated dishes with quality local ingredients.
Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill Winery
The Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill Winery lived up to all of my expectations, which were rather high since it’s an iconic Okanagan restaurant, and was awarded Bronze in Vancouver Magazine’s 2013 Restaurant Awards (Best Winery/Vineyard). It was also recently recognized by Travel + Leisure magazine as “one of the top five winery restaurants in the world.”
The setting is stunning, the tables run the length of a long terrace, with a charming kitchen at one end. The gorgeous view stretches over the vineyards and Okanagan Lake. And the winery’s sprawling grounds are immaculately landscaped.
Service was exemplary. Our server was a sommelier in training and was very knowledgeable about both the food and wine. Plus, he was friendly and very professional. Service was simply on another level, from the moment we were greeted. It’s actually rare to experience service at this level, with so many restaurants going the casual route.
And the food was terrific. The descriptions on the menu were deceptively simple, but each time a dish was brought out, I could barely keep up with the many elements that were being described. This restaurant is definitely not coasting on the Mission Hill name, or its scenic location – the food was deliciously sophisticated.
First, we were served a refreshing amuse-bouche of a pear and vanilla bean gazpacho, with pears from Martin Lane.
When my friend was brought out some sweet bread, I inquired if any gluten-free bread was available. This is out of character for me, since being paleo/primal, I avoid all grains, not just gluten. But once in a blue moon, I get curious, especially at restaurants of this caliber. So, I was presented with some lovely rye bread. The whipped butter was also tasty.
We shared the Free Range Elk Carpaccio & Brioche (arugula, ‘pickles’). The dish was very nicely presented. It came with tomato brioche, which I avoided since I’m gluten-free, cornichons, mustard, and arugula. The elk was just the right amount of gaminess. The appetizer was nicely balanced with no overpowering flavours.
I’m always hesitant to order steak anywhere other than a proper steakhouse. My reasoning is that I’ve had steak countless times before, so how could this time be any different? Don’t get me wrong, I adore steak, it’s just that I like to try new dishes when eating out. But, there wasn’t really anything else on the menu that sparked my interest, and both my friend and I actually ended up ordering the steak. Well, as soon as the steaks arrived, it was clear that I needn’t have worried. (Okanagan AAA Beef Flat Iron Steak – yarrow, gremolata, seiglinde potato).
Again, there were so many elements to this dish, and all were so beautifully presented. Fried salsify root tip, local tomatoes, fava beans, potatoes… The meat was done sous vide, and was very tender and flavorful. The veal jus was tasty, and the potatoes were cooked perfectly. All the flavours and textures worked together wonderfully. Another example of an understated menu item which unexpectedly blows you away. And although there were many parts to this dish, it wasn’t at all pretentious or fussy – not an easy task to accomplish.
Since dinner was going so well, we ordered dessert – plus, we were keen on lingering longer in that lovely setting. My friend had the deconstructed Carrot Cake (walnut ice cream, late harvest raisins, beddis blue frosting). The presentation was lovely. I loved the blue cheese frosting, plump raisins, and candied walnuts. And my friend really enjoyed the cake overall – it was moist and flavorful.
I had the Sundae (oak dark chocolate ice cream, salted toffee, oculus cherry hot fudge). It was rather epic – even topped with gold leaf. I loved all the components – it was certainly the most decadent sundae I’ve ever had. So many textures and flavours – the cherry fudge oculus sauce was rich, and I loved how it was served in its own saucer. There was some aerated chocolate on top and the toffee provided a nice textural contrast.
Just when we thought our meal had come to an end, we were presented with two white chocolate truffles with hazelnut praline (very good), and two cassis pâtes de fruits. Oh my goodness, that pâte de fruit – I still daydream about it. My friend couldn’t get over how the little square just melts in your mouth. I, on the other hand, was mesmerized by the intense cassis flavour. I loved how it wasn’t overly sweet, and the cassis dominated (as it should). I could’ve eaten a whole tray of those (even though I was completely stuffed). The next day, I was terribly disappointed that the Mission Hill Winery gift shop wasn’t selling pâtes de fruits (hint, hint).
Overall, a wonderful evening, with top notch service, fantastic food, and a spectacular setting – highly recommended.