Out n About Al Fresco Dining Launches
By Roslyne Buchanan.
Mandy Woodrow and Chef Natasha Schooten pooled their culinary industry acumen to launch Out n About Al Fresco Dining last Sunday, June 16, at Rust Wine Co.
While we are lucky in the Okanagan to be able to choose from a number of al fresco dining options, what sets Out n About apart is its intimacy and concierge-style service at pop-up locations. The dinners are at select small wineries in the South Okanagan and Similkameen on Sunday and Monday nights in the summer, and seat only 12 to 14 people.
Highlighting local producers and locations, the dinners cost $150 and include the multi-course meals with plentiful pairings as well as return transportation from Osoyoos and Oliver. Out n About Al Fresco Dining partnered with MOXIE WINE TOURS and Vineyard Versed to facilitate this relaxed safe drive festivity.
Woodrow noted, “After years of experience in the restaurant industry, we wanted to ensure this was a worry free, outstanding evening for our guests. We simplify logistics by providing the safe drive for them without the guests having to find a designated driver.”
Winery Manager Kane Morgan was highly supportive in hosting the first in the series. “I had complete faith that Mandy and Chef Natasha would do an outstanding job of pairing our wines with delicious dishes and providing guests a memorable experience in our venue.”
I had tasted Rust wines previously although never had been to the winery in south Oliver on the Golden Mile Bench. Just a short distance up the hill from Highway 97, Rust offers a spectacular view across the valley to Black Sage Bench and south to Osoyoos Lake.
It’s name is a bit of a nod to the former winery situated there and Rust “serves as a perfect metaphor for wine”. The website explains, “While people can nudge the process along its way, the final product is determined by the LIFE of the vines, the development of the VINTAGE, and the moment or memories of its ENJOYMENT. One of the most wonderful characteristics of wine – which it shares with rust – is that it is truly ALIVE, EVOLVING, TIMELESS and BEAUTIFUL.”
Beside the modern tasting room is a heritage house originally built as a bunkhouse for miners at Sally Silver Mine near Beaverdell in the 19th century. It was moved to the current site in 1964 and remains a unique landscape feature of the property. The “live desert roof that was sourced from the surrounding hillsides” remains a striking feature that blends naturally into the surroundings.
Guests were greeted with a generous glass of Gewurztraminer 2018 with which to linger on the comfortable outdoor patios to mingle before dinner. Setting the norm for the evening, Woodrow topped up wine glasses liberally. Appetizers were passed including Brie pastry squares with quince preserves and a honey drizzle; and barbecued chili prawns with coconut.
With skies unsettled Sunday, nothing was left to chance so rather than tempting the rains and the wind, the long table was set inside the winery.
First course was a princely plated, grill seared scallop atop citrus and citrus-cured steelhead on slivered kohlrabi with citrus beurre blanc and garnished with microgreens and citrus dust. It paired perfectly with Rust Wine Unoaked Chardonnay.
Mains were served family style and included:
• Barbecued elk rib-eye with porcini dust
• Seared duck breast
• New potatoes, roasted onions in duck fat, foraged morels and garden peas
• Au jus of blackberry and morel
• Served with Rust Wine Syrah 2016 (Similkameen Valley)
Chocolate cream puff, with caramel and whipped cream topped with drunken cherries and cocoa nibs. Adding to that decadence was a sneak-a-peek pairing of a barrel sample of Rust Wine Fortified Zinfandel 2016.
Throughout the dinner, Woodrow and Morgan spoke to the wines. Given the bighearted pours and top-ups, folks truly appreciated transportation was included. For each dish, Chef Natasha payed homage to the producers involved such as Amazia Farms and Two Rivers Specialty Meats.
I’m been a fan of Chef Natasha for years following her progression to various venues in the Okanagan. Two of the most outstanding meals I’ve had were at her hands in the Similkameen: A Clos du Soleil Winery vertical tasting paired luncheon; and the 100th Anniversary Snow Apple Tree Celebration at Harkers Organics.
Thus, I went to the first Out n About Al Fresco Dining events with high expectations and my anticipation was not in vain. Reserve your ticket for one of the upcoming sessions – you’ll be pleased you did!