Zigzagging the picturesque country road along Naramata Bench is reward in itself, yet another treasure awaits within the small village. At the end of Robinson Avenue on First Street sits the charming Naramata Inn as welcoming as the hobbit Bilbo Baggins’s Bag End.
It’s as magical, too, since the talented team of Ned Bell, Kate Colley, Maria Wiesner and Paul Hollands formed the Naramata Hospitality Partnership to unite to rejuvenate the Naramata Inn.
“Whether it’s the terroir or more mysterious forces, there’s something magical about the Naramata Bench,” I wrote in 2011 in the now retired Savour Magazine. That sentiment was true of the heritage inn, which prior to the new ownership had lost some of its charisma despite its good bones.
The community and anyone who had ever visited rooted for the success of this iconic landmark. When the announcement came about the team taking it over, there was an immediate buzz in Naramata and beyond in the broader culinary and hospitality industry. Onlookers were excited while patient as the refurbishment began.
Each of the ownership team was a leader in his or her field. Perhaps the most public profile is Chef Ned Bell. He forged his way to become a well-known Canadian culinary talent and leveraged his skills as a chef advocate, keynote speaker and educator. He biked across the country to stand up for Canada and the world’s lakes, oceans and rivers. Earning many honours, the most recent ones highlighted were: Fellow of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (2019), Honorary Doctorate in Technology from Vancouver Island University (2019), SeaWeb Seafood Summit Global Champion Award (2017), and author of bestselling cookbook Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast. The cookbook is a battle cry for sustainable seafood and offers easy to follow recipes and valuable information to enhance your home dining experience.
I first met Kate Colley in her role as marketing communications specialist. Thanks to her, I was introduced to some of the best BC eateries and wineries. With more than two decades of experience, education and relationships, Kate brings her passion for wellness and stoic determination. With husband Ned and their family, she is thrilled to return to the Okanagan Valley, “employ her expertise, talents and work ethic, and lay down roots in the place she most loves – Naramata”.
Paul Hollands retired as CEO of A&W Food Services of Canada in 2018 after 35 years building one of Canada’s largest food services businesses. As the release points out: “A&W has been recognized as one of the fastest growing, most innovative restaurant chains in Canada. Naramata Hospitality represents an opportunity to bring those years of experience building excellence to a smaller scale, hyper-focused food service and hospitality venture that has the potential to delight guests, while at the same time making a real difference in the local community and British Columbia as a whole.”
Leading the design and landscaping elements of the project, Maria Wiesner’s commitment “to the creation of something truly special and memorable that will inspire” shines through. “Maria values beauty, nature, family and community. Her life has focused on these key areas, along with a passion for design, landscaping and gardens.” Touches such as homage to the local peacocks in design elements speaks volumes.
From the day the team flung open the doors, there’s been a deluge of locals, food and beverage personnel, food critics and foodies flooding the bookings – made all the more complicated for the dream team given the pandemic protocols. Of course, they nailed those protocols making all guests feel safe and well fed!
I waited along with my colleague and friend culinary author Jennifer Cockrall King and my husband to let the summer crowds dissipate. We knew it would be excellent and quite frankly thanks to the team’s marketing acumen, the Naramata Inn was getting all the rave reviews it could handle.
Our evening is the epitome of comfort. We are warmly welcomed and gently guided through safety protocols. The service is exemplary and even though Chef Bell has taken a rare day off to enjoy the benefits of living in such a family-oriented community with the kids, the meal is outstanding. To me, the telltale sign of a great kitchen is when it performs as well without the executive chef.
The menu is a love letter to the Okanagan’s bounty and of course, sustainable seafood and local ingredients. Culinary partners are highlighted: When we visited included were Blue Goose Organic Beef, Codfathers Seafood, Creek and Gully Cider, Great Bear Scallops, Bella Homestead, Terroir Cheese, Medley Organics, Gelderman Farms, Road 17 Char, Rosebank Farms Chicken, Scott Moran Mushrooms, Localmotive, Unearthed Farm, Puzzlegrass Farms, Golden Ears Cheese Crafters, and Tanto Latte.
The ingredients are cleverly combined to reflect their best flavours. Wine pairings, cocktails and all beverage recommendations are given the same attention to detail. The contribution of each staff in ensuring an amazing interlude demonstrates the thoughtfulness in finding the key people.
Naramata’s founding folks and Bilbo would be proud.
To make reservations and to learn about events and latest news, go naramatainn.com
Our Meal September 2020