October 12, 2015


Al Fresco with a gatecrasher (see that dark object - lower right - that landed on the prosciutto)

I had it all planned – dining al fresco with spectacular views just like in glossy travel magazines.  After touring the highly-touted Naramata Bench with its wineries, a gustatory high of wine and its accoutrements, overlooking the panorama of the Okanagan Valley as the sun sets, was in order. 

What triggered this sophistication or the pretense of it?

A cache of red wine glasses (CAD$1.oo each) bought at a garage sale earlier in the afternoon on my way to Lang Vineyards.  A retired couple who worked overseas for CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) had a week left to empty and vacate their sold house which has a sweeping vista of the vineyards sloping down to Okanagan Lake.  They were moving to a condo unit on the other side of the lake a few miles north in the retirement community of Peachland.  They also had coronation grapes harvested from their backyard at CAD$ 1.oo a pound.  I said two; I think she gave me four as I found out during the "al fresco".

It was 5:30 in the afternoon, and I knew I only had about an hour and a half before twilight.  I hurriedly bought all-butter petite croissants (I was not in the mood for baguette or crackers) and imported prosciutto (from Italy – the deli guy said don’t buy anything else) at Save-On-Foods Supermarket in Penticton. 

Once I reached my site at the Camp-Along campground in Kaleden (right next to Highway 97, you can hear the road traffic at night), I opened my bottle of black currant wine (CAD$ 18.00) from Elephant Island Winery. Fortunately it was a screw top since I did not have a corkscrew opener.  With it, in addition to the purple blue grapes, croissants and prosciutto, I had a local Poplar Grove soft cheese called Harvest Moon (about CAD$10 a round).  These days, the word “local” often means pricey despite the fact that quality can be lackluster at times including this time.   

Earlier that day, to my surprise Poplar Grove Cheese cannot be bought at Poplar Grove Winery.  When I asked the lady at the winery " How come?" she was quite evasive.  Three miles up, I turned into another winery, called Clean Slate, where the boutique cheesery had its own separate small tasting room.  The man receptionist behind the counter, a retired school principal, somewhat implied the lady behind the cheese operations is no longer living with the man who owns the winery with the same name.   How apropos: a “clean slate”.  

Dusk was salubrious.  With great expectations, I laid my spread on top of newspapers on a picnic table perched on a hill overlooking the small city of Penticton at a distance, wedged between two lakes, Okanagan and Skaha.  It was glorious and elan!  Until ...  Not even 5 minutes soon – the gatecrashers made their presence.  I thought they were bees, until the following morning, from my walk to the nearby showers, I saw plastic bag traps labeled for yellow jackets wasps – which obviously did not work for me the night before (perhaps the traps were too far).  These wasps do not care, are aggressive, and can sting, though for some reason they did not on me.

So I was forced to retreat to my car with closed windows to finish my meal … So much for great expectations.

How do the outdoor restaurant patios in the area shoo away these pests (which are biologically important since the wasps eat other insects)?  I wonder.

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