Langham Court Theatre

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Vanilla Pod – an experience like no other – by Leanne Allen

Walking into Poplar Grove winery, you immediately feel the Okanagan. The floor to ceiling windows act as frames that actually enhance the beautiful view of Okanagan Lake.

Being greeted by the owners of Vanilla Pod, the restaurant at the winery, is just as fantastic. Paul and Sheila Jones started the Vanilla Pod restaurant in Summerland in 2006 with 34 seats and two staff. When they were asked to move it to the winery, they were thrilled. “We’ve been back and forth to the Okanagan a few times,” Paul tells me, “we just couldn’t stay away.” They opened at the winery in 2012 and today have 48 staff.

Executive chef Bruno Terroso is one of those staff, and has been with them from the start. It’s very much a family business. And you feel it in the warmth of the hosts. We were very fortunate to have Paul and Sheila join us for their five course meal with wine pairing. But only after a quick tasting. Paul is a host of the truest sense – he insisted we try his favorite, Blanc de Noirs, a blushy mix of Syrah and Malbec. We asked Sheila what her favorite was. “Viognier,” she told us. The conviction in her voice was a definite tell of part of what’s made the restaurant so successful – the back end of the business. The three make the perfect team: Bruno’s passion is literally palpable in every bite (more on that later), Paul’s hospitality is entirely sincere and magnetic, and Sheila’s strength seems like it could keep a boat afloat no matter what the weather.

Now… the food. The textures are actually what stood out to me… and something that I don’t often read about. Texture is an incredibly sexy attribute of food… how it touches your tongue. I cannot get the feeling out of my mind of the crunch of the potato in the Potato Cakes. Or the softness of the Buratta cheese in the heirloom salad – it was the closest I’ve felt to Italian buffalo. Then there was the melt-on-your-tongue-ness of the duck rilettes on the Meat and Baguettes plate.

And being the sweet tooth that I am… I could have drank a cup of the sourmash caramel sauce sauce on the bread pudding we had as one of our desserts – made with New Orleans bourbon and sea salt.

Of course half of a meal is about the conversation; hearing Paul’s story about how hiking up Cinque Terre made him quit smoking, and sharing a few of my dating stories with Sheila tied the bow on the evening.

The Okanagan Wine Festival is coming up Oct 4 – 13. They are doing a special seven course dinner and wine pairing. You must go.

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Leanne Allen