If you are into food and wine, the Similkameen BBQ King is an event not to be missed! This is an annual event put on by the Similkameen Winery Association that helps showcase both the organic produce grown in the Similkameen as well as the wonderful wines produced there, in partial support of the historic Grist Mill, which provides the scenic venue. For anyone not familiar with the Grist Mill in Keremeos, it consists of an old flour mill and general store that date back to 1877; it underwent several restoration projects during the 1980s and is now a BC Heritage Site.The 2012 Similkameen BBQ King competition took place on Saturday July 14th and was a sold-out event this year. Each of the eight chefs received a box of identical ingredients from which to create a spectacular small-plate dish. This year’s “Black Box” contained: Organic Chicken from Black Bird Organics, Organic Red Beets from Similkameen River, Organic Warba Potatoes from Penmor, Organic Rhubarb from Honest Food and Harker’s Organics, and Organic Parsley from Harker’s Organics. Each chef was also paired with one of the eight member wineries. Every person in attendance at the event was given a poker chip with which to place a vote at the end of the evening for “Best Food”; while the members of the media in attendance acted as judges for the “Best Food and Wine Pairing”.Upon arrival at the Grist Mill, everybody received a complimentary Riedel wine glass and was directed to an area where all wineries were pouring a selection of their wines for tasting. For anybody that arrived already hungry, there was a selection of snacks available, under the main tent, that were prepared by each of the chefs, as well as the wonderful Thai restaurant in Keremeos – Benja Thai. The main food portion of the event was not kicking off until 6pm, so it allowed plenty of time for people to mingle, munch on some snacks and sample many delicious wines. Throughout the entire event, live musical entertainment was provided by local musicians/singers Destin & Rob and items for the Silent Auction were laid out under the main tent for people to peruse and bid on. At six o’clock everybody began to line up at the tents that were set up for each chef and winery’s station and started savouring the amazing selection of dishes that were prepared!The first dish I sampled was from Chef Natasha Schooten from Terrafina Restaurant at Hester Creek in Oliver. Natasha had prepared a delectable Fennel and Rhubarb slaw with raspberries and Robin Ridge Gewurztraminer vinaigrette and smoked pulled chicken as well as Smoked Beet and Rhubarb BBQ Glazed Chicken Breast with corn bread. This dish was paired with the 2010 Gamay from Robin Ridge Winery.Chef Rob Cordonier from Hillside Winery & Bistro in Naramata produced House Made Chicken Sausage with Parsley, Rhubarb Pickles and Truffled Beet Root on a Warba Potato Brioche. This was paired with the 2009 Pinot Noir from Eau Vivre Winery, recently awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wine.Chef/Owner Ayman Kanaan from The Stuffed Pepper in Summerland prepared Organic Mediterranean Marinated BBQ Chicken and Fried Shoestring Potatoes with a Saffron Cream Sauce, wrapped in a poached grape leaf, and a Rhubarb Beet Chutney, also wrapped in a poached grape leaf. This was paired with the Plum Rosé from Rustic Roots Winery.Chef Chris Remington from The Penticton Lakeside Resort presented Grilled Organic Chicken on a Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Braised Rhubarb Chutney and Crispy Potatoes. This was paired with the 2009 Pinot Gris from Cerelia Vineyards & Estate Winery.Chef Bernard Casavant from Manteo Resort in Kelowna prepared Chicken Roulade with Star Anise Glaze, Rhubarb Saskatoon Berry Chutney, Everything Green Cherry & Beet Salad on Warba Potato Fry Bread, with Roasted Garlic Scape Parsley Oil. This was paired with Orofino Winery’s 2011 Gamay.Chef Justin Paakkunainen from Walnut Beach Resort in Osoyoos produced a Rosé brined Chicken filled with Pickled Beets & Rhubarb on Beet & Warba Potato Salad with Parsley Vinaigrette and Rhubarb Chutney. He also had some rhubarb & berry cake available. The meal was paired with Seven Stones 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé.Gregor’s Gourmet from Keremeos presented Apple Smoked Chicken on a Beet & Potato Pavé with a Rhubarb Chutney, paired with 2011 Capella from Clos du Soleil. Chef Greg also prepared a Rhubarb Sorbet on Hazelnut shortbread, paired with 2010 Saturn dessert wine from Clos du Soleil – so delicious!Chef Ross Derrick from the Delta Grand Hotel in Kelowna presented Tandoori BBQ Chicken, Beetroot and Tomato Salad with Warba Crisp Potatoes and naan bread in a small cone, with a palate cleaner of Rhubarb Lassi Ice. This was paired with the Cherysh Rosé from Forbidden Fruit.All of the dishes were just so flavourful (and surprisingly filling!) that it was incredibly difficult to come to a decision as to which was my favourite. Everybody dropped their poker chips into the appropriate apple crates below a sample of each dish (to refresh memories after such a huge array of different dishes) and the votes were tallied.
The Judge/Media’s choice for ‘Best Food & Wine Pairing’ went to Chef Natasha Schooten from Terrafina Restaurant and Robin Ridge Winery. The overall winner of the Similkameen BBQ King title went to Chef Greg Fuchs of Gregor’s Gourmet. At this point, final tallies have not yet been completed on the fundraising total from the Silent Auction for the Grist Mill but I believe that overall this was a highly successful event and I look forward to attending, and stuffing myself, again next year!