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This article was published 13/10/2018 (718 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As I stood on the tee box of the 11th hole of the Tower Ranch golf course, it became easy to understand why Kelowna has become a significant golf and tourist destination. The views of the valley, the vineyards and the lake below are overwhelming.
Every year my son Carey and I try to go to a different region, especially in the spring or fall, to lengthen the golf season while enhancing those father/son bonds that accompany our annual trips.
Most often these journeys have taken us outside of Canada. This Kelowna trip, with its majestic golf vistas and highly rated culinary reputation, was an enlightening and educational experience.
Lake Okanagan is the focal point for much of what takes place in thelargest city of the Okanagan Valley. Along its shores are some of the best restaurants and hotel properties, in addition to a number of parks where residents and tourists alike spend time hiking and biking, or simply relaxing and waiting for the beautiful sunsets to sink over the nearby hillsides.
Kelowna may be known for its vineyards, golf courses and fruit orchards, but it is also the home of the Canadian Culinary Championship — which may be a contributing factor to why so many of its restaurants offer menus created by some of the best in-house chefs in Canada.
Originally from Germany, Marc Schoene came to Kelowna after working in a number of B.C. dining rooms. He quickly got promoted through the ranks to become executive chef of the Smack Dab Restaurant in the Monteo Resort.
Only a few blocks away is the Oak and Cru Restaurant in the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort. Daniel Craig came to take its chef position, leaving the Ritz-Carlton in Toronto.
It was like old home week when we dined at the Oak and Cru. Here we met Thomas Will, who holds the position of the restaurant’s first cook. While he more recently came from the Four Seasons in Vancouver, he has Manitoba roots, having settled in Steinbach after immigrating to Canada from Germany.
Erin Robidoux, while seating us, started our conversation by suggesting I would never know the town in which she was raised in Manitoba. I was happy to inform her that Binscarth, where she was born, is only a few kilometres from Angusville, where I grew up. Dianna Wilkinson, who is responsible for much of the in-restaurant service, is another Winnipegger who found happiness in the Kelowna region.
Raudz Regional Table is owned and operated by the award-winning team of chef Rod Butters and Audrey Surrao. Like many Kelowna-area restaurants, they lead in developing flavourful menu items created from organic, sustainable and naturally raised ingredients. It would be one of the best meals we had on this trip. The venison carpaccio appetizer was delicious, and the bone-in ribeye steak we shared was almost too much to eat.
Raudz takes its commitment to local products and ingredients seriously, serving only local Okanagan-produced wines, while produce from the region forms the foundation for most of their menu.
One of the more unique restaurants I have been in for quite some time was the BNA Brewing Co. & Eatery. By its name it may be easy to surmise this is the place to go for a relaxed dining experience. It was also the trendiest restaurant in which we would dine. It is clearly the craft beer centre for the city, with as many options as any beer drinker would want.
Situated on two floors of a repurposed British North American Tobacco Company warehouse, what makes this establishment different is the 10-pin bowling alley on the upper floor — with a Boler Trailer-style camper that serves as the second floor bar.
We would golf on two other courses during our Kelowna stay. Since all three clubs were in relatively close proximity to the hillside wineries in the area, we were able to take in several wine tastings as well.
Those same hillsides and valley, with their constantly rolling hills, make for spectacular scenery, and often-challenging golf games.
The Two Eagles golf club in West Kelowna is shorter and somewhat less dramatic than the other two. It is still a beautiful layout and a lot of fun to play. It could be a good warm-up for the challenges of the other courses to come.
With fairways often encased by pines, Gallagher’s Golf Club, on its flatter surfaces, might remind some of courses in Manitoba. However, that brief comparison is lost quickly as the dramatic elevations force golfers to think through club selection very carefully. On the downhill terrains it is very easy to overshoot the targets. Going uphill, or shooting off the side hills, are situations seldom faced on Manitoba courses.
I have had the good fortune to play many golf courses in the United States and other countries. This experience reminded me of just how many quality options we have right here in Canada.
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A writer and a podcaster, Ron's travel column appears in the Winnipeg Free Press every Saturday in the Destinations and Diversions section.
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