Published on Gonzo Okanagan: Blush & Bubbles Event Debuted Deliciously in the Spring Okanagan Wine Festival

I appreciate the opportunity to share news about such events on Gonzo Okanagan. Feels good to see the return of events and new ones developed by Okanagan Wine Festivals Society.

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Why ALC Needs to Preserve Backyard Farm in Oliver

A lively buzz hums through the dining room decked tastefully in a modern salute to farm history. The invited guests at Backyard Farm are getting to know each other even better now as appetites are beyond sated.

Lively buzz in the dining room

The fullness comes with a satisfaction having just experienced the magic of a kitchen filled with love and an appreciation of the evolution of how each component of the meal was raised and selected for its dish. The ingredients are pure, then through creative chef alchemy transformed into their most delicious and elegant form – true artistry on each plate.

I overhear as Backyard Farm Chef/Proprietor Chris Van Hooydonk whispers to kitchen confidante and longtime team member Kyle Campbell, “If anyone has a question for me, I’ll be back in 10 or 15 minutes. I’m just slipping out to tuck the girls in and say goodnight.”

In that small request is the answer to everyone’s question: Why would Chris and family back away from fame and perhaps, fortune as a chef headed for celebrity status to a unique small farm lifestyle? Mikkel and Chris analyzed the value of time together to build a family as more precious than the value of money. Neither shy away from demanding work. Their dedication is an inspiration to all who know them.

At Backyard Farm, they have actualized that intention. The historic farmstead has been transformed to an exemplary culinary kitchen and production facility complete with a dining room to host private parties of food enthusiasts. And now adding an adjacent patio – partly in response to the physical distancing parameters set through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The patio is intended as proactive compliance to physical spacing to ensure invited guests and Backyard’s family and staff remain safe. In a previous post called “When Local Politics Get Ugly, We ALL Lose“, I shared how that kind intention and step toward the livelihood remaining viable through those times took a terrible turn.

Guests can gather safely outdoors
Organizer of our private dinner, Jennifer Martison (in yellow dress) greets guests.

Video: Day in the Life by Lionel Trudel

Many friends feel that some members of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) and Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) miss a full appreciation of what Chris, his family and team are accomplishing on this property. The ALC “is an independent administrative tribunal dedicated to preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming in British Columbia.”

In its 2020 Business Plan, the RDOS stated a Vision: “We envision the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen as a steward of our environment, sustaining a diverse and livable region that offers a high quality of life through good governance.” It prefaced that: “People, both those choosing to live and those just to visit our valley’s, come to our regional district for the climate, the lakes & rivers, the mountains, our wines and tree fruits and many other reasons. The vision acknowledges that we wish to provide a high quality of life for our citizens, but to do so in a sustainable manner where none our decisions today impact adversely on future generations. Our future actions will move us incrementally towards this vision.”

Chris enlisted talented friend, photographer and videographer Lionel Trudel to film a farm tour and introduction to Backyard Farm and its initiatives. Please take a moment and view it:

The video has Chris leading the viewer through the property and sharing the history, operations and plans. You might even meet the chickens or rooster!

Notice the mobile coop that leverages chickens as part of the farming solution

Mikkel in the Garden

Let me assure you, there’s no fiction in the video. On the occasions I have been privileged to drop in for a private event or to deliver something, strenuous work is in progress. Often Mikkel is working the garden and juggling her helpers, Ainsley and Baker. As toddlers, the girls mean well and Mikkel’s patience is abundant. The special snap peas planted are there in large part as a healthy snack the girls can harvest themselves.

Mikkel is planting, weeding or gathering the bounty such as greens, vegetables and fruits for the kitchen or flowers to accent the plates, adorn the tables and guest bathroom. For me, watching her garden work is poetry in process.

Hot Times in the Kitchen

Inside, things are percolating in the kitchen whether it is for catering off site, a private function at Backyard Farm or in the creation of culinary products for sale. Often the ovens are on so it is hot while the team presses on with precision. Always it smells divine: It’s so hard to resist reaching in and tearing off a hunk of bread or raiding a plate to taste!

I also love that Chris and Kyle absolutely adore mentoring others in the craft. In everything that’s done on this property, there’s a legacy component. If I’m lucky to hang around, I walk out having learned some culinary insight.

For me, it’s become habit to take a look at the chalkboard to see the evidence of the menu for the last or the upcoming event. Salivating is normal as I read it. Based on past experience of the cuisine by Backyard Farm, I can almost taste the nuances.

The tree fruit is picked once ripened ensuring optimum flavour. When my husband and my visit was timed perfectly for the peaches, as we were leaving Chris plucked a couple from the heritage tree and sent us off with them. As big as cantaloupes, these delicacies soaked us with their juices and we practically needed a shower after polishing them off. Now that’s Okanagan living!

Request to the RDOS and ALC

It’s time to pivot. While the global pandemic made us all too familiar with the word pivot, its definition remains clear. It is time to make an adjustment.

Historically, the RDOS and ALC have seemed to weigh heavily on enforcing rather than sustaining. In effective stewardship, it is not enough for management to set rules valid at the time they are written. True stewardship considers current information and practices enhanced by visionaries. Rules and definitions periodically need to be adjusted if actions are in keeping with the purest purpose.

What’s happening at Backyard Farm is a revolutionary approach to preserving farming heritage while making it viable. To those who can impact the decisions around this and other agricultural enterprises, I ask you to take the time to fully grasp the situation. I want our agricultural land preserved for future generations. And yes, Backyard Farm is an excellent model of how this can happen for small holdings.

Another Private Dinner to Remember

We attended a private dinner held July 1 organized by our good friend Jennifer Martison. The food was exquisite and the company outstanding. It reminded me of how Backyard Farm includes an educational component in all it does. Whether it’s Chris himself or another member of his team, each serving comes with a lesson such as where the ingredients are sourced and how the dish was prepared.

Former antique collectors, my husband and I have been downsizing. Many of our pieces that have a culinary story to them have been gifted to Chris and Mikkel with a bit of a barter for tasty things. The loving display of these items and how they fit with farming heritage warms our hearts every time we see them. The legacy the folks at Backyard Farm are creating truly does manifest in every detail.

The pig, the pump, the wagon wheel and milk bucket once ours now beautifully displayed at Backyard Farm.

Hungry Anyone?

I’ve included a photo gallery from that evening. Warning: Images may induce drool.

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Living on a Wildlife Corridor

Photography by Roslyne Buchanan — not to be used without express permission of the photographer.

I am forever grateful that my husband and I had the opportunity to actualize a dream of living on an Okanagan wildlife corridor above Naramata Bench near Penticton, BC.

We purchased the land in 2001, broke ground in 2008 and moved into our home in 2009 until May 2021. We loved the tranquility while being so close to town. The diversity of BC birds and wildlife frequenting the property depending on the season was truly amazing. Our foot print on the 12.18 acreage was about an acre, leaving much of our land as a conservation sanctuary. The view was an everchanging kaleidoscope of Mother Nature’s beauty.

Here’s to great memories!

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness,” wrote John Muir. The Scottish-American naturalist and author was an early advocate for preserving wilderness in United States. His words ring true to those of us inspired by mountains and other natural wonders.

He also noted, “Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”

Our lives are larger for having had this privilege.

We may have lost the odd birdbath or yard adornment through over zealous creatures knocking them down the cliff — a small price to pay for the joy of our window on wildlife.

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When Local Politics Get Ugly, We ALL Lose

It’s easy to get caught up in mudslinging when local politics get ugly. This is especially true when you witness a family whom you know to have the purest of intentions being dragged into a nightmare.

Today I am talking about Chris Van Hooydonk, his family and team at Backyard Farm and Artisan Culinary Concepts in Oliver.

Pre-Covid Prep for Private Event

Up front, let me state I have a couple of biases. I love good food and beverages. I love the people who create them for me to enjoy. They fascinate me. I am blown away by the sacrifices they make to become the artisans that enhance our culinary scene. I am a writer. I love to dig into their personal stories and share them with those willing to read my pieces or listen to me wax on about them. I care about the environment and strive to do a better job of stewarding it. I embrace the Slow Food movement and adopt the movement’s interconnected principles:

  • GOOD: quality, flavorsome and healthy food
  • CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
  • FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers

Accordingly, my husband and I have become huge fans of Chef Chris, his family and entire team. I have written about Backyard Farm and raved about it through social media. I learned about how Chris got started in the culinary field, his progress from Okanagan College through exciting posts: Saucier, Holland America Line Cruises; Sous Chef, Chef Bernards Café; Saucier, Four Seasons Hotel Boston; and Executive Chef, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery. In talking with Chris, he always acknowledges his mentors and genuinely believes in the importance of being a mentor himself.

He could easily have gone the route of a celebratory chef devoting his entire being to food and beverage notoriety. Instead, he and his wife Mikkel chose to instill greater life/work balance and live a more traditional farmers’ lifestyle in raising their children.

Chris is a kind, good man and he has surrounded himself with those kinds of people. So, I am not quite sure of what went south to cause such a strange encounter with the Regional District of South Okanagan. Backyard Farm has been operating in plain sight – even if tucked off a side road on the south side of Oliver – for seven years in harmony with the intent of the Agriculture Land Commission. It has gone beyond to shine a light on the wonders of the Okanagan and given back to the community.

Like many operations amid the restrictions of the Covid pandemic, Backyard Farm suffered. Seeking solutions to bring that farming income back into balance, Backyard Farm proposed a patio that would allow seating for its private clients in keeping with the table distancing requirements. In many similar situations, local leaders have strived to assist operators rather than lose valuable assets to the community. For example, Kelowna and Penticton allowed expansion of patio areas and within proper guidelines, we can even take alcohol to the beach these days to enjoy with our takeout picnics!

When Chris complied with all protocols and RDOS staff examined his operation something went south. The staff, for some reason completely misinterpreted his business. I don’t know if worn out by the pandemic, Chris got short with the person(s). He is, after all, a chef not a diplomat.

Somehow, he got pulled into applying for a Temporary Use Permit that relates to a public eating and drinking establishment rather than confirming his agricultural holding remains in compliance. None of it makes sense to rational bystanders. Many local fans like me including Al Hudec, a lawyer, reacted to try to stress the differentiation between Backyard Farm and a public restaurant.

Commentary online at the Oliver Daily News ( started out confrontational and evoked a barrage of reactions – some downright vile and inflammatory. At least one RDOS staff seem to have used a public forum to declare her position before allowing the Regional Board of Director the opportunity to examine all of the evidence yet to be presented at a hearing.

The malicious attack on Chris seemed so personal by this staff, it was hard not to drag the fight into the gutter. I had also been online for an information meeting in which another staff seemed quite abrupt and unable to attentively listen rather only wanted to declare her own point of view. The meeting used an older technology and folks trying to participate kept falling off line. (Made me wonder why Zoom wasn’t used when everyone has become so familiar with it through the Covid pandemic?)

It is my understanding in BC, “Board members as a whole or as a smaller sub-group participating in a service make collective decisions in the best interest of the region or communities within the region.” In properly functioning organizations, directors would not get directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the office, rather coach and provide advice. Theoretically, directors are selected to offer a broad and realistic perspective of what’s happening within the region and serve as a bridge to the community and as oversight – particularly as related to personal biases of staff.

Again, I don’t know the minute details of this situation. However, in administering the land use bylaws, standards and policies it seems the approach sometimes becomes more punitive rather than facilitative.

In fact, directors can be expected to serve as diplomats and role models for staff. In this situation where things seem to have spun out of hand along an entirely wrong route, I would hope that the Regional Board Directors have the leadership skills to hit pause and go back to the beginning.   

Backyard Farm has never been a restaurant and has no aspirations to be one. It serves a beautiful role demonstrating how we can make an agricultural lifestyle work. How do we backtrack from here? How can the RDOS directors help staff save face and do what is right?

While a phrase’s meaning may become twisted over time, I like to go back to the essence of how I learned about it in school.

Take, for example, Portia’s plea in the William Shakespeare play, The Merchant of Venice: “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”

For me, it is a reminder that showing kindness and understanding is a healthy way to approach life. It doesn’t matter what your religion and how you interpret heaven. If, in your heart, you care what’s best for the community and Mother Earth and strive to listen and fully comprehend a situation, you’ll be rewarded.

Of course, in this case I’m not talking about mercy to bend rules. That isn’t necessary if you take the time to go through Al Hudec’s legal analyses of the ALC and how it relates to Backyard Farm. Rather the mercy is suggested as an action to step back, forgive whatever little flare ups folks had in dealing with a sensitive issue and then examine the situation with clear, open minds.

Please folks, let’s wake up from this nightmare and show the quality of mercy to all involved. Let’s get this Okanagan asset out of the defense mode and back to living off the land and sharing its treasures.

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While you could grab food on the run or get delivery before, an upside to isolating at home to reduce COVID-19 is the bar has been raised.

The bar is raised in terms of food quality and now licensed facilities can offer beverages such as BC wine and craft beer with the meal-to-go.

Restaurants have risen to the challenge to serve patrons and keep as many team members employed as possible. Offerings are elevated in many ways with increased vigilance to food safety, many waiting to ensure it could be done well.

TIME Winery & Kitchen

Take TIME Winery & Kitchen in Penticton: TIMEsavours meal kits just launched, which are partially or fully prepared three-course meals for two, ready to heat, plate and serve. These meal kits “are not just about saving time, they are about savouring the taste”. Recently, my husband and I tested them and can confirm the quality is fine dining reflective of Chef A.K. Campbell’s culinary acumen.


The kitchen at TIME Winery is open Wednesday to Saturday, with pick-up, 12 noon to 7 pm. Here, Christa-Lee McWatters and Chef A.K. Campbell distribute TIMEsavour meal kits.

TIMEsavour meal kits contain components prepared fresh in the TIME kitchen and packaged such that you can keep them in your fridge for three to five days before serving. With hot and cold components, each kit includes instructions on how to reheat and plate plus the garnishes you would expect in a fine dining experience. In most cases cold preparations are ready to eat right out of the package. Fully cooked, the hot preparations can be reheated in 6 minutes. Well-conceived, these kits will challenge you to get creative and tag @timewinery on Instagram or TIME Winery & Kitchen on Facebook to show your plating skills.

Changing weekly, kits generally contain a bread component, appetizer, entree, dessert, and an option for a paired bottle of TIME Winery or Evolve Cellars wine. Ours was themed a Mediterranean Dinner with items for a Charcuterie board; main of roasted Cornish hen with Parma ham, charred parsnip and shallot, stewed beluga lentils, lemon rosemary jus, garlic chips and preserved lemon; Tiramisu for dessert; and Time Winery Sauvignon Blanc. Priced at $90 including wine, for the two of us, the quantity was such that we had enough for two dinners for two and three dessert servings for two! Limited quantity is available.


Our Mediterranean themed TIMEsavour meal included items to build a Charcuterie board.


TIMEsavour meal of roasted Cornish hen with Parma ham, charred parsnip and shallot, stewed beluga lentils, lemon rosemary jus, garlic chips and preserved lemon paired with TIME Winery Sauvignon Blanc


With our TIMEsavour charcuterie and main meal, we found the generous dessert of Tiramisu provided us three servings each.

The kitchen is open Wednesday to Saturday, with pick-up, 12 noon to 7 pm at 361 Martin Street, Penticton. Besides TIMEsavour meal kits, a couple of the popular menu items are available for pick-up: TIME Burger with a side of TIME Fries and Skillet Mac n’ Cheese. Ordering online ( is easy or call 1-236-422-2556.

BRODO Kitchen

It is not surprising that BRODO Kitchen, Penticton, was one of the first restaurants to adapt and respond to the challenge of physical distancing. BRODO, Italian for broth, opened May 2013 with a clear mandate to feature “locally-sourced ingredients in a variety of soups, sandwiches and salads. The menu changes seasonally to reflect what’s fresh from the harvest.” Chef Paul Cecconi had a vision of serving “simply fresh food in the heart of downtown” appealing to a wide audience.


Chef/Owner Paul Cecconi serves customers from Brodo Kitchen’s new takeout window.

From the beginning with its limited seating, BRODO facilitated dash in and out quick orders and established a strong catering business. Facing Main Street with opening windows intended to reap the benefits of warmer weather days, the space was quickly reconfigured to a takeout window ensuring proper social distancing protocol.


Brodo Kitchen offers takeout through its new window on Main Street, Penticton.

In addition to its regular menu, there are daily specials and a Friday “date night Brodo at home” selection. The wine pairing for date night is in partnership with Township 7 Winery. Order by noon Thursday for Friday afternoon pickup. We recently enjoyed the Crispy Buttermilk and Thyme Fried Chicken date night served with Siracha Aioli; Creamed Corn; and Blistered Bell Pepper and Brodo Pickle Potato Salad.


Date night selections from Brodo Kitchen offer wine pairings in partnership with Township 7 Winery. Here we paired Chardonnay with Crispy Chicken.

We also scored the Coconut and Cardamom Carrot Soup, a tasty example of why Chef Paul and his team win so many soup-making competitions! See or follow Taste BRODO social media.


Coconut and Cardamom Carrot Soup, delicious takeout available from Brodo Kitchen

Limited Scale at Front Street Brasserie

A hole-in-the-wall size, Penticton’s Front Street Brasserie is huge in the hearts of fans of French-style dining. Owned and operated by husband and wife, John Burke and Lisa Baxter-Burke with their long-time friend/co-conspirator, Kathy Malone, Front Street Brasserie is a casual space with a relaxed pace.

It has closed temporarily during the health crisis although you can support it through the purchase of gift certificates and by making future bookings to enjoy once the doors opened and the patio seats set out once more. If you are like many of its fans and just can’t wait, options are available to book a private lunch or dinner function by calling 1-236-422-2008 to discuss possibilities.

We participated in a limited delivery service from Front Street Brasserie for dinner-for-two (15 packages only) that you order, pay for online and have delivered to your home within the immediate region.


Delivery of dinner for two to your door from Front Street Brasserie, Penticton.

We enjoyed Crushed Potato Tarte with Double Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onion Mushroom Duxelles, topped with Aged Gouda and Mozzarella. It was served with Spiced Charred Scallion Crème and Caraway-Dried Cranberry-Cabbage Slaw. You can also select to purchase a recommended wine to pair with the meal.


Delicious dinner from Front Street Brasserie to reheat, assemble and eat at home featured Crushed Potato Tarte with Double Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onion Mushroom Duxelles, topped with Aged Gouda and Mozzarella.

Exploring Options and Supporting Hospitality

We were content initially to dust off our cookbooks to create family favourites and then experiment with new recipes while physically distancing at home. Still, there comes a moment in every cook’s life when having food prepared by someone else is golden. Three great options, we thank these Penticton restaurants and because of them look forward to exploring more.

The BC Restaurant and Food Services Association (BCRFA) is “a collective group of restaurant professionals devoted to the sole purpose of creating the most favourable business environment” for members. With more than 40 years’ experience and representing over 3,000 members, the BCRFA is on the front line throughout the current crisis.

Check out BCRFA, local tourism and hospitality groups, and your favourite restaurants to view websites and social media to see what culinary adventures await.

The hospitality industry is in financial crisis due to this pandemic. Support the industry, if you can, through takeout and delivery, gift certificates, and donations to food banks and the BC Hospitality Foundation (


Petrasek Bakery on Main Street in Penticton has limited hours and prefers pre-ordering. Still, it offers so many delicious options.

FOOTNOTE: Originally destined last week for another media outlet, this article is a fit with my blog so I’m happy to post it here. Sadly though, the fact the other outlet could not accept it right now is a sign of the times. Publications are struggling to continue given the pressure of reduced advertising revenue and consequently running with a skeleton team.

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