Wine Culture Magazine

Two spots that serve up standout wine-focused experiences, breathtaking views, and elevated menus showcasing regional ingredients and flavours.

Food lovers in search of great wine and incredible food a couple of a standout options in the South Okanagan that haven’t been around too long. At The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry at Spirit Ridge Resort you’ll find dishes like this salmon platter. The restaurant aims to showcase Indigenous ingredients and flavours. Lindsay William-Ross/V.I.A.

As British Columbia’s bountiful Okanagan continues to expand as a wine-growing region, so do the food options at its many wineries and resorts.

In the South Okanagan in the communities of Oliver and Osoyoos, a pair of restaurants offer standout wine-focused experiences, breathtaking views, and elevated menus showcasing regional ingredients and flavours. Both are newer on the scene and are noteworthy for food lovers who are happy to head for the hills for an incredible meal.

From the grill at The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry comes an incredible beef ribs platter. Lindsay William-Ross/V.I.A.

The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry at Spirit Ridge

While its name may be a mouthful, its purpose is clear: Showcase the foods and flavours of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation. The restaurant, which opened in 2019, is on the property of the Spirit Ridge resort, which happens to – fittingly – be adjacent to North America’s first Indigenous winery, NkMip Cellars. Perched on the hillside overlooking Osoyoos Lake and the awe-inspiring squares and stripes of vineyards and farmlands, The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry boasts the perfect patio for drinking in pre-sunset views.

Heading up the culinary team is industry veteran Chef Murray McDonald, who hails from the Maritimes but has spent his career honing his skills in some of Canada’s top kitchens, including in Vancouver at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Storytelling is at the heart of the philosophy of this menu, which is broken into sections representing each of the four components in the restaurant’s name – essentially meat, seafood, vegetables, and sweets. The names were chosen based on the Syilx People’s traditional stories of the Four Food Chiefs.

Plates at The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry are also some of the most visually stunning you will encounter on your dining adventures in the South Okanagan. No menu item better exemplifies the old “we eat with our eyes first” adage than the Salmon Platter. Designed to share, the board is filled with beet-cured gravlax, maple candied salmon chunks, and smoked salmon served with assorted pickles, mustard, and edible flowers with a giant lavash cracker.

Still, if you are looking to be wowed, choose a dish from the “bear” section that features the restaurant’s grilled meats. Presented on a large wooden board, the Slow Braised Cache Creek Natural Beef Back Ribs is a sight to behold, and the ribs themselves are rich and fall-off-the-bone tender, paired with duck fat potatoes, creamy kale, roasted veggies, and a spruce demi sauce. Save room for dessert, as their creations here are beautiful and delicious, like a rich chocolate and fruit gem inspired by Black Forest cake. Naturally, locally-sourced B.C. wines star on the drinks list, however, the bar is also turning out tasty cocktails and mocktails.

Beet salad and beef tartare with tendon chips are two of the recent seasonally-driven starters on the lunchtime prix fixe multi-course menu. Lindsay William-Ross/V.I.A.

The Restaurant at Phantom Creek Estates

First of all, if you haven’t filed this Oliver winery into the “one to watch” column, do so now. Their globally-influenced team is on its way to making a mark on the South Okanagan winery scene and creating a strong legacy and high-end (but approachable) onsite experience akin to Mission Hill to the north.

This big, luxe wine “campus” on the hill is a must-visit for its well-appointed tasting room alone that is at once spacious with a boutique feel. They have plenty of seating, and are even scooping gelato from a charming cart to help curb the Okanagan heat (and balance out all that wine you’re surely enjoying).

However, over in their intimate restaurant, Executive Chef  Alessa Valdez is celebrating the best of the season and the region with gorgeous plates that are meticulously crafted to pack maximum flavour. It is clear Valdez takes deep inspiration from the land around Phantom Creek to create dishes like a local arctic char complemented with assorted beans and a gorgeous carrot sauce that features the distinct oceanic notes of lobster. A tartare dish deploys 63 Acres beef with caperberry, pickled radish, bone marrow aioli, and quail egg, which you can pile on “chips” made of tendon – they are big melt-in-your-mouth white-golden puffs with a deeply beefy flavour that add such an element of delight to the classic bistro dish.

Currently, The Restaurant at Phantom Creek is offering lunch service with a prix fixe menu of two or three courses ($50 or $70, respectively) with optional wine pairings. Phantom Creek’s wine portfolio showcases several styles from varietals grown in their many vineyards, including some incredible old vines that have been on the property since the 1970s.

The emphasis at Phantom Creek is squarely on building community, celebrating the area’s terroir and moving B.C.’s wine country into the global spotlight. Their wine-making marries technological innovation with the deep roots of both its vineyards and its staff, many of whom have long connections to wine. “It’s a young wine region; with time and collaboration, the world is going to take notice,” points out newly-appointed Managing Director François Mateo.

Certainly, as any wine lover who happens to also love great food will appreciate, the pairing of the winery with its in-house restaurant is worth noticing.

—This story by Lindsay William-Ross originally appeared on Vancouver Is Awesome 

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