Old Vines Restaurant at Quail’s Gate

Quail's Gate | Photo: Annie Zed

CORR Star Ratings - 4-5 star - exceptional

On Friday February 21, 2014, Hilarie, Pam and I celebrated one-month-till-spring at the Old Vines Restaurant and Wine Bar. Located on the grounds of the family-owned Quail’s Gate Winery, it sits on the slopes of Mount Boucherie in West Kelowna. Being at a winery, we each thoroughly enjoyed a glass of wine. I rarely drink, so I asked the waitress to recommend a light white wine for me. She suggested the 2012 Chasselas-Pinot Blanc-Pinot Gris. Pam had the 2011 Pinot Noir and Hilarie had the 2011 Chardonnay.

Quail's Gate | Pam, Annie, Hilarie

We sat indoors with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooked the vineyard and Okanagan Lake.

Quail's Gate | Photo: Annie Zed

The views from the property were gorgeous.

Quail's Gate | Annie Zed

We perused the lunch menu and finally came to these decisions. Pam chose the Grilled Wild BC Salmon with Spanish style faro and chorizo, pea puree and creamy lemon chevre. The spice level was surprisingly modest and the portion was satisfying.

Quail's Gate | Grilled Wild BC Salmon | Photo: Annie Zed

Hilarie chose the Twice Baked Goat Cheese and Rosemary Souffle with lentils, apple, hazelnut, endive and lemon vinaigrette. Admittedly, the souffle was the least favourite among all the choices, but the accompaniments were interestingly delicious.

Quail's Gate | Twice Baked Goat Cheese and Rosemary Souffle | Photo: Annie Zed

I selected the Prosciutto Wrapped Maple Hills Chicken Breast with barley and wild mushroom risotto, sage and pan jus. The chicken was very tender and flavourful. We all loved the creamy yet robust texture of the risotto.

Quail's Gate | Prosciutto Wrapped Maple Hills Chicken Breast | Photo: Annie Zed

The food was amazing with delicate flavours. We all had samples from each other’s plates, of course!

Quail's Gate | Hilarie | Photo: Annie Zed

Afterward, when the waitress described the dessert special, Deconstructed Red Velvet Cake, we could not refuse it. It included a cream cheese parfait with a strawberry centre, chocolate cremaux, pieces of cake, roasted raspberry ice cream and a white chocolate garnish.

Quail's Gate | Deconstructed Red Velvet Cake | Photo: Annie Zed

The restaurant itself had pleasant decor.

Quail's Gate | Photo: Annie Zed

Afterward, we checked out the Wine and Gift Shop.

Quail's Gate | Photo: Annie Zed

In the centre of the shop was a beautiful fireplace. By the far window, some people were wine-tasting.

Quail's Gate | Photo: Annie Zed

As we left, the sky had a lovely light, ever-changing the view across the vineyard.

Quail's Gate | Photo: Annie Zed

The Dining Experience

Quality of Food

The ingredients were fresh, with unique combinations of local and regional ingredients that appeal to a fine palate. Wine pairings were suggested on the menus. While the portions were more akin to what is expected at gourmet restaurants, quantities were more than adequate for lunch.

Service

We arrived early for our 1 p.m. reservation and were seated immediately. There were only a few guests at this time, but two waiting staff among all. Our waitress was very helpful and readily available at every moment we required attention.

Ambiance

Despite the fact that only four or five other tables were occupied, the noise volume was rather high. This was understandable being an open plan area with a long kitchen pass-through. I imagine the floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides also contributed to the sound bouncing. Voices at a table near us were often louder than the company at my own table.

Cleanliness

The restaurant was impeccably clean everywhere, including the washroom.

Value for money

We paid $120 for the three of us. This included 3 lunch main courses, 3 single glasses of wine, 1 shared dessert and 1 coffee. This total included tax (but not tip). While this is quite high in terms of an every day lunchtime meal, it seems reasonable for the quality of fare and venue when there is a special celebratory occasion.

Overall

This is a great restaurant for local people to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or special event. Tourists are likely to appreciate the picturesque location, slightly off the beaten track but worthy of a detour, especially in summertime when the vineyards are in full swing. Best to make a reservation to avoid disappointment, and allow plenty of time to take in the views and tours. Have a designated driver if you intend to do some wine sampling!

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Gasthaus on the Lake in Peachland, BC

Gasthaus on the Lake, Peachland, BC

CORR Star Ratings - 5 star - outstanding!

My sister, nephew and I took a scenic drive to Peachland in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia last Saturday May 5th.

Photo credit: Annie Zalezsak, Peachland, BC

We were told that there was a good Chinese restaurant there. We couldn’t find it, and when we asked someone local, they said there wasn’t one! Fortunately, we’d already spotted an alternative: Gasthaus on the Lake. It’s a large building split into a pub on the left and a fine dining room on the right.

Gasthaus on the Lake (the pub side), Peachland, BC

The gated entrance was impressive. Directly through was the pub, and the entrance to the restaurant was on the right.

Entrance gate to Gasthaus on the Lake, Peachland, BC

Even though there was a pub menu, we wanted to choose from the wide variety of options that the restaurant menu offered. We started with an appetizer of Sea Scallops. They are fried in butter, but as my nephew has a butter allergy, we asked if they could be cooked in oil. This was no problem.

Csaba with scallops at the Gasthaus

The scallops were 5 of the biggest, most succulent scallops we all agreed that we had ever tasted! It came with triangles of a blended light and dark toast. We were also served a basket of pretzel bread, which was a pleasant alternative to usual dinner rolls. (As for drinks, no alcohol this time; Ella and I stuck with Coke, while Csaba had cranberry juice.)

Ella and Annie with cokes and pretzel rolls at the Gasthaus in Peachland, BC

For entrees, Csaba had the Hunter Schnitzel which was topped with a cognac mushroom sauce.

Hunter Schnitzel at Gasthaus

Ella had the Rinderroulade, also known as Beef Rouladen. It came with potato dumplings, and large portion of red cabbage that was served in a separate bowl. (My mother used to make rouladen and I never cared for it. But this rouladen was amazingly delicious with a tangy pickled filling. I would definitely consider ordering it on a future visit!)

Rinderroulade - Beef Rouladen at the Gasthaus

I ordered the Schnitzel France. It was topped with brie and had a side bowl of (whole cranberries) cranberry sauce. Schnitzels come with vegetables, and you get a choice of roasted potatoes, pan-fried potatoes, spaetzle noodles or french fries. I tried the spaetzle and it was a great complement to the schnitzel.

Schnitzel France at the Gasthaus

Before our meals even arrived, Ella spotted a few fancy desserts being delivered to a nearby table and had to ask the waitress if we could see the dessert menu (so we could ‘plan ahead’!). She brought us a 3D version – a platter of all that was on offer.

3D dessert menu at the Gasthaus

The entrees were so huge, so in order to accommodate dessert, too, we ate half of our dinners (taking the other half home to eat the following day!) and ordered desserts. We got the Mocha Ameretto, Bohemian Hazelnut, and the Chocolate Mousse. All were very light and fluffy, just the right amount of sweetness, and not too rich.

Bohemian Hazelnut, Mocha Ameretto and Chocolate Mousse at the Gasthaus

Inside the restaurant, the ambiance was terrific. The waitress was friendly and had character. She was very helpful and attentive despite how busy the restaurant was. The decor was as you might expect to find an alpine cottage, with lots of old world ornaments. The light fixtures were fascinating, too.

There were two very different old stoves.

There were several cabinets with old doll house furniture, which I was curious to examine in detail.

Every table had a view of the lake and mountains through huge picture windows. We were lucky to be there on the night of the big moon. This picture does not do it justice, but must be included, because it was a beautiful part of our evening.

The Dining Experience

Quality of Food

All of the food was fresh and of a very high standard. All portions were large and gratifying. The meats were very tender. The food was delivered hot.

Service

We did not have a reservation and the restaurant was crowded when we arrived. Despite this, our waitress was very quick to set a table, with every detail clean and perfect.

Ambiance

As you can see from the photos, the place had great character. The objects and ornaments of decor provided visual entertainment. However, the views from the restaurant were utterly flawless and makes the venue perfect for any kind of dining event. Considering the restaurant was very busy, we did not feel crowded, and the noise volume was fine.

Cleanliness

The restaurant was very clean and tidy.

Value for money

Although a bit pricey, it was well worth it for the quality and the experience. Price should not be a deterrent, as there are plenty of options to choose from. We paid $121.35 for the three of us. This included 1 (shared) appetizer, 3 large entrees, 3 desserts, and 3 soft drinks. This included tax (but not tip).

Overall

When assessing this restaurant, there was no doubt it would get full marks from all of us, on all counts. There was absolutely nothing to find fault in! Ella even said she would want to give it a rating of 6 stars if she could! We’ll definitely go back again (and again!).

Yamas Greek Restaurant in Kelowna

Yamas Greek Restaurant
CORR Star Ratings - 3-5 star - delicious

When my sister Ella and nephew Csaba arrived in Kelowna last Friday night for a weekend stay, we felt like having Greek food for dinner.

Yamas Greek Restaurant (also known as Yamas Taverna) may not be a pretty building from the outside, but the inside decor is elegant with a beautiful mural, high ceilings, and tasteful designer pieces that complement the space without cluttering it.

Despite a fair number of people in the restaurant, the layout seemed to keep the noise volume low. We could hear ourselves talking and the background music suited the atmosphere without dominating it. The lighting was a bit dim for me (I like to see my food), but Csaba said this supposedly aids digestion — is that true?

Csaba and Ella happily peruse the Yamas menu

There were so many things to choose from on the menu. The start of the weekend was something to celebrate, so Ella and I started off with a couple of martinis. Ella had the Dark & Stormy Martini (Raspberry Stoli, Alize Red Passion, and Blackberry Nectar) which was delicious. I ordered my first ever Chocolate Martini and was surprised to see that it was clear. This is because it was made of Vanilla Stoli and White Crème de Cacao. It was oh-so-velvety smooth.

Annie and Ella with martinis at Yamas Greek Restaurant in Kelowna

We had to have appetizers. Ella and Csaba are big fans of Tarama, also known as Taramasalata (fish roe dip) and said it was one of the best they have ever tasted.

Tarama at Yamas Greek Restaurant in Kelowna

We all enjoy calamari, but were suprised to be offered a pan-fried version (rather than just the usual battered-and-deep fried that most restaurants offer). We chose pan-fried and were surprised that we really preferred it. It was very tender and tasty.

Pan-fried calamari at Yamas Greek Restaurant, Kelowna

Despite the varied menu, we all decided to stick with our favourite: Souvlaki. Ella and Csaba had lamb, while I had pork.

Souvlaki at Yamas Greek Restaurant, Kelowna

Ella remarked that the rice was especially flavourful. I really enjoyed the lemon potatoes (and that’s saying a lot, as I rarely will eat them at all). The Greek salad had plenty of feta. The olives were especially tangy, and the tzatziki was very fresh.

While there were elements that we rated 5 stars, this had to be reduced to a 3.5 because I felt my pork was undercooked (it looked pink-ish inside). I had to ask for it to be thrown back on the grill. While the waitress was pleasant and accommodating, I did feel that this should have been compensated in some way, as most restaurants would. So this was rather disappointing. However, it would not stop me from returning, as the food was really good and the ambiance was pleasant. Next time, I’ll just ask for “well done” when I place my order!

The total bill came to $95.54 including 2 martinis, 2 appetizers, 3 main meals and tax. (Tip was extra.)

By the way, it says on their website that they have live belly dancing every weekend!

Old Spaghetti Factory in Kelowna

Photo credit: Annie Zalezsak, Old Spaghetti Factory, Kelowna, BC

CORR Star Ratings - 3 star - yummy

Reservations for a Restaurant Chain?!

Yesterday, Leslie and I finally got in at the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant in Kelowna. Planning to go on a Saturday, and having heard how it’s been super busy ever since it opened on February 6, 2012 (in the former Kelsey’s location at 1755 Capri Street off Harvey Avenue), I jokingly said to Leslie, “maybe we should make reservations”.

I called on the Wednesday, and after a long pause, was told they had one slot for 8pm. I hesitated, then she said she also had one for 4pm. I grabbed that. I couldn’t help but gossip about this astonishing story: having to make reservations for a chain restaurant!

Arriving

We got there on time and were seated straight away. I was miffed to see the restaurant half empty. (What’s this about being fully booked?!) There was a typical menu card, and an old-fashioned style large-sheet-of-paper menu with lots of choice.

Annie with the Old Spaghetti Factory menu

The Old Spaghetti Factory is one of Leslie’s favourite chain restaurants and she gets to the Winnipeg one a few times a year on her travels. Their pasta dishes come with soup or garden salad, sourdough bread with whipped garlic butter, and spumoni ice cream for dessert. Leslie ordered her favourite: Spaghetti with Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese, a la Homer. (A bit messy with the breadcrumbs there, Leslie!)

Spaghetti with Browned Butter and Mizithra Cheese, a la Homer

I haven’t been to an Old Spaghetti Factory since I was a kid in Toronto; so I stuck to what I know and like: Lasagna – Mama Pulosi’s secret homemade recipe. I was able to substitute a caesar salad (you can also get a spinach salad) for an extra $1.75. Those who don’t like pasta, can get Baby Back Ribs! (I was surprised to see that option there.)

Annie with Lasagna - Mama Pulosi's secret homemade recipe

The Dining Experience

Quality of food

The starter salads were a fair size and fresh. The caesar salad was garlicky enough and had a good salad-to-dressing-to-crouton ratio. The pastas were piping hot, and large portions. We were both happy with the amount of cheese on both dishes.

Service

The service was very quick and efficient. Not overly attentive, but there when needed.

Ambiance

The decor was generally rather old-fashioned European-style with textured wallpaper, light fixtures, patterned crockery and a family atmosphere. There are plenty of booths, but many of the tables are just in rows, making for quite a noisy space. There are old photographs and interesting objects which give the place a something-to-talk-about character.

Cleanliness

No complaints there. The cleanliness was as you would expect.

Value for Money

Our dinner for two came to a total of $35. This included 2 pasta meals with salads, 2 spumoni ice creams, 2 iced teas, and tax. (Tip on top.)

Half of my lasagna portion filled me up. I took the rest home to eat for my lunch today (which was still just as tasty!). We noticed most people were taking home leftovers. That’s always a sign of good value.

Overall

Generally, we had a great experience. We were out before 5pm. By then, the parking lot had filled up and new arrivals were finding it a bit challenging to grab a space. Then I understood why the reservation was necessary.

My only low score was the washroom. For the size of restaurant, it was quite tiny and cramped; that is, the 2 regular stalls. (There was, of course, a wheelchair accessible stall, too.) Small mirrors above the washing basins were mounted so high, with my height being 5’4″, I could only see the top half of my head (certainly not appropriate for wheelchair users). Even on tiptoes, the low lighting made me resort to putting on lipstick with my own compact mirror. Also, I understand the use of a light room fragrance, but the scent was a strong chemical perfume which in my opinion was overkill for the small space. I’d warn those with fragrance sensitivity to avoid going in there.

But overall, our early dinner was a yummy experience at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Kelowna. We left feeling happily well-fed and already planning to try their “OSF to Go!” take out service sometime soon!

Annie in front of Old Spaghetti Factory in Kelowna April 28, 2012

How About You?

Have you been to the Old Spaghetti Factory in Kelowna? Or another Canadian city? What was your experience? Feel free to leave your comments below.