Joy Road (Part 2/2): Dinner at God's Mountain


Very few places can live up to a name like "God's Mountain," but God's Mountain Estate in the Okanagan has done just that.  Dana and I had the privilege of attending a Joy Road dinner there, a small inn and vineyard located in the hills east of Skaha Lake


God’s Mountain looks like a little Greek villa, surrounded by vines and fruit trees and a view that literally shimmers as the sun hits the lake.  Each Thursday and Sunday during the summer, the Joy Road team hosts long-table Alfresco dinners there, and late into the evening guests dine on Okanagan fare paired with local wines. 


They’d already sold out the only dinner we were able to attend, but the team graciously squeezed us in by setting up a table for two in God’s Mountain’s new outdoor kitchen.  A DREAM KITCHEN.  I've often joked that I'll never be able to afford to build a whole house, so maybe I'll just build a kitchen.  If I do, it will be this one. 


Inside this kitchen, the Joy Road crew worked hard all night – when guests arrived the weather was drizzling, so they moved everything inside.  As soon as the sun returned, they moved everyone back out, all while preparing an epic five-course meal in two kitchens. 


Honestly, this was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.  I don’t know if I’ve ever had food that’s combined such high-quality ingredients with this kind of attentive, skilled cooking. 


There wasn’t anything I would have changed, which is rare (if almost impossible) for someone who loves food as much as I do, and Dana and I barely talked as we ate.  There were too many flavours to love, too many pairings to appreciate. 


Here’s what we ate, followed by more pictures from the evening.  Cheers to God’s Mountain for hosting, to the Okanagan producers whose food we ate, and to Joy Road for working so incredibly hard.  Many chefs make meals, but only a few manage to make meals we’ll always remember.  Thanks for being the latter. 


-Dana’s homemade bread with organic Canadian wheat.


-Spanish-style roasted olives with fennel and citrus
A tasting of Cameron’s housemade charcuterie
Baby vegetables
Pork rillet with apple butter
-Paired with God's Mountain Wild Goose Riesling


-Minestrone verde with asparagus, freshly-shelled English peas, basil, watercress, lemon zest


-Charcoal grilled leg of lamb rubbed with roasted garlic and herbs
Braised beet greens with cream, Dijon, and quince paste
Tapenade aioli
-Paired with Pentage "Hiatus"


-Panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) with roasted red peppers, parsley, basil, anchovy, and capers (my favourite dish of the night)


-Roasted broccoli with espellete peppers and lemon


-Nicoise-style salad with beans, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes


-A salad from their musician/farmer friend, Jordan


 -Black Forest cake with sour cherries from God’s Mountain and locally-made Kirsch; Lemon pot de crème; locally roasted coffee and fresh chocolate mint tea



Joy Road (Part 1/2): The Homestead

How many meals do we eat in our lives?  Thousands.  And how many of those meals do we remember?  I mean truly remember, from the menu and the wine, to details like the single, ripe strawberry placed under your cup.  Very few, I think, very few.  


If you have the opportunity to eat a dinner by Joy Road Catering, that dinner will be one of those rare, remember-it-for-life kind of meals, I promise.


 Joy Road began eight years ago, when chefs Dana Ewart and Cameron Smith drove across the country from Montreal (you can see their serious street creds here). 


They moved to the Okanagan, land of infinite possibilities when it comes to food and wine, and bought a house on Joy Road, for which they named their business. 


It began as a modestly-staffed operation and still is; they have just twelve employees during the summer, eight of them full-time.  This fiercely hard-working team may be small, but it has built an enormous reputation.  

They first made a name for themselves at the Penticton Farmers' Market, started catering, and eventually began taking on the wine-makers dinners for which they’re now famous.  Each week, they feed over a thousand people through various markets, dinners, and catered events, all the while canning local fruits and vegetables for sale and maintaining their small homestead. 


It’s a staggering amount of work, and their exceptionally high standards are maintained through it all.  

From May to September, they operate seven days a week, rising early in the morning and working late into the night.  Over the years, Dana and Cam have transformed the bottom floor of their house into ground zero – the once-unfinished basement is now a huge kitchen with storage, walk-in fridges, industrial ovens, endless racks and equipment, as well as an area for Cam’s charcuterie prep. 


They raise pigs (large blacks) to produce their own salumi, and their chickens lay enough eggs to meet the needs of all their baking. 

Joy Road is all about “Cuisine du Terroir,” meaning cuisine particular to the area in which it is grown and is eaten.  The seasonal food of the Okanagan is the basis of their culinary philosophy; they don’t cook what they’re comfortable or familiar with, they cook what’s available to them, and source high-quality ingredients from local producers with whom they have personal relationships.  Dana and Cam spend a lot of money on the food they serve, and because they respect it, they’re incredibly particular about how it’s prepared and served.  


Their dishes include as many local and organic ingredients as possible, and all the scraps leftover from food prep are composted or fed to the chickens and pigs. 


Dana described their large blacks as the “best-fed pigs in the world,” just one of the reasons why Cam’s charcuterie is so amazing. 


Not only do those pigs finish off organically grown vegetable scraps, they also feast on spent grains from a local brewery and leftover whey from Upper Bench.  Here are some more photos of Dana and Cam’s impressive little homestead - please check back tomorrow for a write-up about one of their Alfresco dinners at God’s Mountain we attended!