Allison Markin is the food and libations columnist for the Penticton Western News. Western News file photo

Okanagan Taste: The rise of the community dinner

Allison Markin is the food and libations columnist for the Penticton Western News

Call it a community, communal, family, or long-table dinner, more of these events are becoming a regular occurrence in Okanagan wine country.

A “traditional” winemaker’s dinner may be what you’re used to. Sometimes on site at a winery, but more often than not, hosted at a restaurant, these are generally the more formal dinners we see throughout the year. A multi-course, plated dinner, with wine pairings, served at smaller, intimate tables.

But there was a change not so long ago, when these “formal” dinners began to take place at long tables instead of your usual two or four seater with people you know. The long table certainly makes for dramatic Instagram photos, but dinners were still plated and dishes were served individually. And, you probably sat in a quadrant of the long table with people you knew.

Then, another change. Along with the long table, came family-style serving, which I first experienced at an event catered by Joy Road Catering. If you wanted a dish, you had to converse with strangers; pass the chicken please!

Now, a number of eateries offer this, and it can be a fantastic deal. And as you’re discussing who gets the last piece of Artic Char Gravlax, a dish served recently at a Thursday night community dinner at Liquidity Bistro (running till mid-June, three courses plus a wine pairing, plus a canapé for a mere $35 per person), you may find out that the couple across from you is experiencing the trials and tribulations of raising ostriches. The menu changes each week.

Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek offers a communal dinner each Tuesday night, with themes such as the food of Rome, Lebanon, or sustainable seafood. Also great value at $35 per person at a restaurant that consistently ranks at the top of winery restaurant lists.

Family Dinners take place at Front Street Brasserie in Downtown Penticton on the third Wednesday of the month, and are typically booked well in advance at the charming French bistro. When it’s warm(er), they will move outside. Dinner is usually paired with a local winery.

The vibe of these dinners suits the Okanagan — casual, talkative, but with the amazing food and libations you might not get at home on a Monday night with your actual family.

Save the Date

April 15, Liquidity Winery, Okanagan Falls: Have brunch at the bistro, then take in the Adult Easter Egg Hunt in the vineyard. Find an egg, win prizes! www.liquiditywines.com

April 15, Penticton: Perseus Winery hosts the Sip & Shop Market. Shop local vendors and their handmade products while sipping on wine, admission is free but there is a raffle supporting OSNS. http://www.perseuswinery.com/

April 16, Kaleden: Easter Brunch Buffet presented by Flambé Catering at the historic 1912, from 10am to 1 p.m. $30 per person. Live music by Aidan Mayes. Reservations, call or text 250-486-8939.

April 22, Penticton: The Penticton Farmers’ Market returns for the season, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the 100 block of Main Street. http://www.pentictonfarmersmarket.org/

April 19-23, Osoyoos: Multiple events form the Osoyoos Oyster Festival, featuring dining, tastings, various libations. Weekend passes, and accommodation and VIP packages are available, as well as a shuttle service. www.destinationosoyoos.com/osoyoos-oyster-festival/

April 22, Kelowna: Quails’ Gate hosts an Earth Day Dinner, dine by candlelight in the private Barrel Room on a four-course farm-to-table menu. http://quailsgate.com/visit/winery-events/

April 22, Oliver: An Exploration in Riesling at Culmina Family Estate Winery. Taste current and library releases. https://store.culmina.ca/product/Decora—An-Exploration-in-Riesling

April 23, Oliver: Fairview Mountain Golf Club hosts a dinner with Borderline Whisky Enthusiasts. Eight whiskies from around the world. https://borderlinewhiskyenthusiasts.yapsody.com/

April 28, Kelowna: The B.C. Bacon & Cider Festival, supporting Okanagan College Culinary Students, is at Laurel Packing House. baconciderfest.com/

May 6, Penticton: First event of its kind, The Tasty Chain takes you on a bike ride of 14km (longer if you wish) to three boutique wineries near Naramata and the KVR trail, complete with food pairings, ending with lunch at JoieFarm. Presented by the Penticton and Area Cycling Association, this is a fundraiser for youth cycling development. www.bikepenticton.com/the-tasty-chain/

Allison Markin is the food and libations columnist for the Penticton Western News. She can be reached at Allison@AllSheWrote.ca and on Twitter @OkanaganTaste.