Food Artisans of the Okanagan: Your guide to the best locally crafted fare

Available in Canada and the US, April 5, 2016 (TouchWood Editions)


Entries in events (17)


Cook It Raw lands in Alberta: Edmonton, Calgary, Lac La Biche, Kananaskis

Was it only a two weeks ago? I got a phone call confirming a rumour that Cook It Raw founder, Alessandro Porcelli, was flying into Edmonton and that the local chefs and avant-garde thinkers of the international culinary world-alike would be focussing on Alberta in 2015.

It was a lot to grasp, my schedule was already über-packed, but this was a big deal. Edmonton and Calgary chefs were going weak at the knees. It was a big opportunity for Alberta's largely underappreciated chefs, our still-forming sense of culinary energy, and our various culinary communities to be presented with a watershed opportunity. I hoped knew we were up to the challenge. 

I dashed off to meet Alessandro and Ute Werner of Cook It Raw at Tres Carnales Taqueria for lunch that Monday (May 4). I had NO IDEA they had both just arrived from Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, the night before. I guess it was a soft culinary landing. Daniel Braun, one of Tres Carnales owners, immediately recongnized Alessandro, when he strode through the door. Daniel gave me a why didn't you tell me THEY were coming? look and then proceeded to treat us to a feast of flautas, totopos, salsas, and tacos. At lunch, hours into their trip, Alessandro and Ute unleashed their boundless energy on my brain. It was unforgettable.


We have Mr. #CookitRaw himself Alessandro Porcelli visiting us for some delicious Mexican eats

A photo posted by Tres Carnales Taquería (@trescarnales) on May 4, 2015 at 2:17pm PDT


I'll be unpacking my notes in blog form over the next few weeks. For now, I'm heading up to Lac La Biche  where 14 Alberta chefs and culinary activists have been building an earth oven, catching Northern pike from the shore, chopping wood, spit-roasting pigs, and talking about what the present and future of Alberta's culinary potential is. #rawAlberta is the hashtag du jour.

Read Liane Faulder's excellent article in today's Edmonton Journal on Cook It Raw in Alberta 2015.

Here's a small taste on Instagram.@cookitraw (and then follow all the other accounts posting amazing photos about #rawalberta or #cookitraw).



 From the press release from the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance, who have been working on this culinary happening for a while now:




Cook It Raw – the annual, international gathering of culinary luminaries that explores possibilities of cuisine – has partnered with the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance to announce its eighth edition, unrolling from May through September in Alberta, Canada for 2015. The first gathering will be held in Lac La Biche, Alberta from May 19th to 21st and will feature 14 of the region’s most innovative chefs. Conceptualized and directed by Alessandro Porcelli, this year’s program will focus on the discovery and collaborative shaping of the culinary identity of Alberta – a corner of the world with a burgeoning gastronomic scene, ready for global exposure.

Shaping of a Culinary Frontier #rawAlberta #CookItRaw

Twitter: @cookitraw          Instagram: @cookitraw
Facebook: /CookItRaw     Tumblr: cookitraw

Confirmed chef participants are: Brayden Kozak (Three Boars. Edmonton), Shane Chartrand (Sage Restaurant/River Cree, Enoch), Blair Lebsack (Rge Rd, Edmonton), Cam Dobranski (Brasserie Kensington, Calgary), Darren MacLean (downtownfood, Calgary), John MacNeil (Black Pig Bistro, Calgary), Connie DeSousa (Charcut Roast House, Calgary), Paul Rogalski (Rouge, Calgary), Scott Pohorelic (SAIT, Calgary), Duncan Ly (Yellow Door Bistro, Calgary), Liana Robberecht (Petroleum Club, Calgary), Andrew Winfield (River Café, Calgary), Justin Leboe (Model Milk, Calgary) and Eden Hrabec (Crazyweed, Canmore).


Food and the City in Japan

I have been getting some tweets from Japan over the past week. This can only mean that the Japanese translation of the book is now out there.

A big thanks to my translator and my Japanese publisher, Hakusuisha (@Hakusuisha on Twitter).

Here's the link to the book's page on Hakusuisha's website.


cover to the Japanese edition of Food and the City, published by Hakusuisha

People are even tweeting photos of it on bookstore shelves.Looks like you get a free package of basil seeds with the book. Nice packaging touch.


From twitter



Guest Post: Jennifer Bitz' Slow Food 2014 Experience in Italy

My first post on my Slow Food Italy experience illicited a great response from another Slow Food attendee from the Thompson-Okanagan convivium. I asked Jennifer Bitz if I could post her reply as a guest post, and she agreed. We're hoping to create a document of these experiences for the attendees in 2016 - ourselves and others. Thanks Jennifer B for this. Great tips at the end.

by Jennifer Bitz, copyright retained by author, posted with permission

Thanks for your post, Jennifer.  I read it a few days ago now, and have been meaning to put some thoughts to paper ever since. 

Like you, I was challenged with navigating through both events.  My main goal was to learn.  I was excited when I received information on the conferences in my inbox . . . and then I opened them.  I was instantly overwhelmed. 

I knew the topic areas were right up my alley, Slow Fish, Indigenous Terra Madre and Biodiversity.  As an applied anthropologist it couldn’t be more perfect.  I did not however appreciate that this would mean three independent conferences going on at once!  Not to mention the workshop opportunities, the booth events and the organized dinners.  I closed my email. 

A few days later, I transferred the files to my IPad in anticipation of reviewing them on the plane ride over.  Which I did, in full admiration of the beehive that must be organizing the myriad of opportunities ahead, but also in fear of how to manage my time effectively.  In response to what I suspect was visible panic, I received great advice from my travel partner, Ingrid, who has lots of experience at attending this event. 

It was simple – do not expect to see it all, things will be missed, and other things will land in your lap and will be the best ever, just let it go and be in the moment. That helped a great deal.  And I remind myself of that whenever I consider just what happened over those five days.

Once I saw first hand the enormity of the event, I was not surprised to come out the funnel at the other end grappling with articulating what I learned.  While there, I found myself wide eyed, always looking for that opportunity to hear from the most compelling, to talk to the most interesting, to eat the best food and drink the finest wine.  I got all that.  And it wasn’t difficult, I didn’t have far to look, but it was intense.  And time for reflection was limited or non-existent before moving onto the next thing.

It did not help that over six nights; I got about as many hours of sleep.  Part of that resulted from being a delegate (which will relate nicely to your next post), and part of it was jet lag, and I wonder if the anticipation of being there was also playing havoc with my normally healthy sleep pattern.

One thing I do know, the experience of being in the same place as over 220,000 people from over 160 countries was mind-blowing and deserves pause to appreciate what that means. There were people from the most urban to the most rural, people from some of the highest income countries to people from some of the lowest, producers and consumers, mosaics of culture and wisdom at every turn. 

Although I live a fairly urban lifestyle, I have had the good fortune of fantastic opportunities where I have been in very remote areas and among people who look at me like I dropped from the sky given the colour of my skin, my clothes, my speech, my custom.  In these places others are the experts, and although I am (or at least try to be) a full participant, ultimately I rely on them for navigating, for getting done what needs to be done, for survival.  At Terra Madre, all of us dropped from the sky.  We were all put into this created, somewhat unnatural, temporary environment together.  The organizers provided arrows and tickets to move forward, but essentially we were each responsible for our own navigation – our own results – our own experience.  Yet, we were not alone. We were all on a similar playing field; we all bring different experience, yet we all share in the core goals and values articulated within the Slow Food mantra.  That is powerful. 

If there is one more thing to add to the already overwhelming list of options at Terra Madre, it might be a way to hone in on the cross-cultural experience.  Possibly introducing a facilitated arena for small groups of around 10 people from around the world to come together to work through a series of questions on topics of interest.  This would give voice to many people who respond well to smaller groups, and it would also have some fabulous results to help solve some individual or group challenges, and help the participants to ground their learning with a more diverse group of people than the mates they happen to be traveling with, or the individual they meet on the bus —which is hugely valuable too, don’t get me wrong, but it is not quite the same as a loosely facilitated discussion with a group you might never run into at such a large event.

So did I learn anything?  Yes, although I am still working on articulation.  Would I go again?  Yes. 

Practically, and given the beauty of hindsight how might I navigate differently?  A few ways:

  1. I would not land on the same day as the opening ceremony, I would ideally get sleep on my side and jet lag dealt with the day before the event starts
  2. I didn’t go to any tastings, there was enough going on as it was, but I think I would pick one early next time on a topic unique and interesting to me (by the time I looked at the list of tastings, there was not much left to choose from)
  3. I might look into ways to volunteer for the event itself, I find that brings one into the inner world of an event and grounds the experience more

Calling All Food Bloggers to Food Bloggers of Canada 2014, Oct 17-19, Vancouver, BC

@foodbloggersCA #FBC2014

Our friends over at Food Bloggers of Canada (@foodbloggersCA and on here on Facebook) have an amazing conference organized. And it kicks off on Friday!

We wish we could be there because our friends Julie Van Rosendaal of Dinner with Julie, Dianne Jacob author of of Will Write for Food and Michelle Peters-Jones of The Tiffin Box will be hanging out in the fabulous Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver and schmoozing with chef Ned Bell. Sob.

(The only reason I'm not there, is that I'll be in Edmonton at LitFest: Edmonton's Nonfiction Festival, of which I'm the president of the board of directors and the festival's main groupie.)

There are still a few spots left. The program is bloody amazing. Take a peek and get food blogging. I'll be following the action on social media. The event hashtag is #FBC2014.


"Encounters with Iceland" at Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, Kelowna, BC

"Encounters with Iceland" sculpture exhibit, Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, Kelowna, BC (image provided by Mission Hill Family Estates)

On Saturday, June 21, I was among the guests at Mission Hill's official opening of its new sculpture exhibit, "Encounters With Iceland." I hadn't been to Mission Hill in a while. Keeping up with all the new boutique wineries, distilleries, cideries, meaderies and eateries in the Okanagan Valley seems to be a losing battle, frankly, so I'm not prone to repeat visits to places I've already been several times over. But I'm grateful that I was on the guest-list.

Grateful? Yes, actually, which is funny because as I said, it's been a busy 2014 already. Launches! Openings! Special Events! And other Must-Attend happenings had me a little road-weary by the first day of summer. Pathetic, but true. And in true journalistic fashion, I was verging on becoming jaded, the writer's equivalent of being a snivelling whiner.

Mission Hill, however, knows how to create an occasion, and with the invite-only cachet -- a small gathering of journalists and Mission Hill Family Estate Wine Club members, plus a few other friends of the winery, I suspect -- plus it was a major international sculpture exhibition opening right here, in the valley. Furthermore, the sculptor of the 42 pieces, Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir, would be in attendance from Reykavik, Iceland. Iceland seems to be punching well above its weight class drawing half of Western Canada to its geysers and Nordic-chic cultural coolness these days. Why would I not go?

(Read the rest over at my Okanagan Food & Wine Writers Workshop blog.)