Written by Murissa Shalapata, WanderfullTraveler
Where there’s a wine country there’s also a budding if not prominent food scene. In British Columbia’s Okanagan wine valley this is exactly the case with festivals and events year round. Here’s a guide to which ones are worth your time. As always, never underestimate the tourist season in the Okanagan. Always book your hotels or AirBnBs well in advance (2-4 months) and make dinner reservations!
Here are the Okanagan’s top food festivals, events and cooking classes.
Start Fresh Kitchen | Year Round
Described as a socially responsible and innovative cooking school and catering company, Start Fresh kitchen hosts special events each month and they usually sell out each event. This year, aside from the wildly popular Little Tokyo Ramen classes, they are also launching a kids cooking camp in the Spring. Their classic classes like sushi making, pasta making, sous vide cooking and other favourites are still making their appearances too!
The Okanagan Table | Year Round
New to Kelowna is The Okanagan Table by RauDZ owners, Chef Rod Butters and Audrey Surrao. It’s a bit of everything from a grab and go foodie stop for lunch to a culinary class on Sunday evenings. They also feature industry luncheons called Longtable Producers Lunch on Friday afternoons allowing you to learn more our local producers.
Fire Side Festival | January
What else but live music and beer helps kick the winter blues to the curb? These are top notch musical acts ranging from hip hop to acoustic and are hosted at various events around town such as BNA and Rustic Reel brewery. Not outright a foodie festival but it is held within some of Kelowna’s most food focused breweries and we can all get behind that!
Amuse Kelowna | March
This culinary event was once known as Devour Kelowna when it first began. This is a very popular foodie event when you get to wander around eating dish or bite that is paired with a local wine, beer or cocktail. This place gets busy and can be a little hectic on the second floor – people were pushing me as I tried to sneak by while I was pregnant! So beware. But if you’re looking to try a little bit of everything Kelowna has to offer this is the perfect event for you. Kelowna’s best wineries, breweries, restaurants, pastry chefs and cocktail revolutionists come out to celebrate our food scene. The first time I attended I was able to mingle with chef Vikram Vij so it is definitely an event for foodies. You can vote for your favourite dish, favourite drink and favourite pairing. It might be wise to share each dish with whomever you go with. I was so full by the end I wasn’t able to try it all!
The Paisley Notebook | Year Round
Winner of the Culinary Tourism Experience award in 2018 and general Okanagan foodie you should know, Aman Dosanj hails from England but calls our valley home. After working the incredibly popular Indian restaurant, Poppadoms with her family she began Paisley Notebook as a blog talking to foodies around the world. Now, she has turned it into an experience of al fresco dinners featuring local ingredients all cooked outdoors but this description is incredibly sparse and doesn’t do it justice. Follow her on Instagram to get a sense of the wonderful details and importance her work has on the education of connection to your local farmer, ingredients and chef. It is my goal to join one of these pop up dinners this year!
QB Gelato’s Behind the Scenes & Supper Club | Year Round
I learned so much during my visit to QB Gelato’s Behind the Scenes event. Did you know only 2% of the world’s gelato makers make their gelato from scratch? That means no powers, flavourings and like! QB belongs that this 2% of special gelato shops. But QB is so much more than gelato! They now offer supper clubs with savoury dinner courses and desserts paired with drinks. They also have a fantastic lunch menu with homemade soups and sandwiches! But how can you not finish any visit with a delicious locally made seasonal gelato?
Fest of Ale | April
Held in Penticton each year people flock to taste craft beer accompanied by local food vendors like Brodo Kitchen, Burger 55 and Smoking Hot Donairs. Book your tickets and accommodations early lest you want to get left behind. Attendees are very passionate and proud of their festival.
A recent addition to the Okanagan festival scene they are still perfecting and growing the GOBF. A weekend VIP pass will fetch you discounts at local taps, skip the line privileges, discounts at local music events and a swag bag at the main event. As with all these events, plan for long lines and get the VIP passes when applicable to skip the line.
Joy Road Catering | May – Septemberish
Anytime is a good time to book a Joy Road Catering dinner and events. They offer Thursday and Sunday dinners throughout the summer but these events go fast with limited seating at the God’s Mountain Estate location overlooking Skaha Lake. Dana and Cam no longer own the company as they sold it to a couple now eagerly hosting dinner guests in an al fresco setting with dinners that are sure to be the best you’ve ever had! I love them so much I had Joy Road cater my wedding. They are truly the best in the Okanagan.
Diner En Blanc | July
If you’re interested in attending the DEB Okanagan make sure you sign up or get a friend who is already a member to sponsor you. If you’re not sure what this worldwide phenomenon is I suggest you watch the movie. Otherwise, it is a tradition started by a few Frenchies where they all got together once a year at a mystery location, dressed in white and brought their own food for an al fresco dinner. Each year the location is different and kept a secret until the last minute. The tradition has since spread to major cities all over the world with millions of people participating. Not interested in cooking? You don’t have to bring your own food! When you register online before the event (after you receive the exclusive e-mail) you can purchase picnic baskets prepared by local restaurants and buy wine to await you at the mystery venue.
Feast of Fields | August
A beloved tradition of mine provided that the heat doesn’t get to me before the wine does. Feast of Fields is put on by a non-profit organization called Farm Folk City Folk. Each year a roaming feast is held at a local farm where local vendors are set up offering culinary treats while also creating awareness about the food grown and sold locally. It’s a way to connect the farmers to the food you eat whether it be in your kitchen or at your local restaurant. If the weather doesn’t bother you then you must join this roaming feast. It is my favourite foodie event in Kelowna!
Hopscotch Festival in Kelowna | September
Featuring beer, whisky and spirits this festival has grown since it was first introduced as the Okanagan Food and Drink Festival in 2009. It has since adopted the Hopscotch festival name synonymous with the 18 year old festival that first began in Vancouver. If you can’t make the Hopscotch Kelowna festival in September you can try to catch the Hopscotch Vancouver in November. With 5000+ attendees make sure you book your accommodations well in advance!
Okanagan Fall Wine Festival | October
Held during harvest, fall is the perfect time to visit a winery in the Okanagan. The tourists are almost all gone, the vineyards are turning gorgeous colours as the grapes are harvested in the cool air. Check your favourite wineries for special events which mostly entail free wine tastings or special private dinners with ticket entry.
The Great Kitchen Party | November
Do you remember the Golden Medal Plates and the Canadian Culinary Championships? Well they rebranded and now it is The Great Kitchen Party as of 2019. Cities like Kelowna host regional qualifying events where chefs compete for a spot in the Canadian Culinary Championships which are now held in our nation’s capital, Ottawa. I can’t say I miss the championships here in Kelowna as they were very heavily priced…not that The Great Kitchen Party is any different!
Mission Hill Culinary Classes | November to March
Mission Hill Winery offers wintertime events including their culinary theatre. You used to be able to experience a hands on class that would last for at least 6 hours or more but they discontinued it. Now it is themed dinners like Italian Christmas, French Cuisine, Discover Thailand or Mystic India. The dinners are created before your eyes in their culinary theatre equipped with cameras to capture various angles. Each dish is paired with one of Mission Hill’s wines and makes for a swanky night out – seriously, these classes aren’t cheap like much of Kelowna. The chef’s are always fun to work with and display a wealth of knowledge you’ll come away with a better appreciation of cooking and commandeering the kitchen. Keep an eye out for the schedule on the Mission Hill website.
Sandrine’s Pastry & Chocolate Classes | Year Round
Sandrine’s classes are year round however, in November and December you can learn how to make Boûche de Noël (Yule Logs) or take her chocolate course in time for Christmas celebrations. This is another Okanagan favourite of mine made an appearance at my wedding with her amazing and authentic macarons.