– by Vince Hempsall.
Wielding a medieval sword at a meadery named for a mythical metal in J.R.R. Tolkien lore wasn’t what I expected when I ventured out on a fall road trip to Arrow Lakes region in B.C. (more on that in a bit). But then, part of the region’s charm is its surprisingly creative, abundant and diverse food scene, drawing on fresh regionally grown produce and fruit for inspiration. These flavours come to life in the fall, when the harvest is in and the central Kootenays radiate with a soft, golden glow, inviting travelers to soak in the last of the season’s warmth.
One of the most fertile valleys in the province, the Arrow Lakes region has a long history of farming and food production. In the early 1900s, steamboats plied the river filled with vegetables and fruits headed for market further south. Today a new generation of producers and artisans are reaping the riches of the valley, and driving culinary renewal in the area. Here are some of my tasty new discoveries.
Frog Peak Cafe, Crescent Valley
Our day began with double shots of espresso, hearty plates of eggs benedict and breakfast paninis at locally iconic Frog Peak Cafe in the Slocan Valley. Part art installation, part eatery, Frog Peak is located in a 100-year-old building that was so run down when owners Laurel Giasson and her husband purchased it 17 years ago, the local fire hall was using it for practice drills. After extensive renovations, it opened in 2005. Located adjacent to the Slocan Valley Rail Trail, today it boasts a colourful indoor seating area, covered patios, gardens, playgrounds, an eclectic artwork collection and delicious homemade food.
Camp Cafe, Silverton
From there, we drove 70 kilometres up the beautiful Slocan Valley, weaving alongside rivers and lakes, past farms and forests, to Silverton. This is a lakeside historic village dotted with mining-era architecture, including the building that houses Camp Cafe. Owner Julie Sekulich says she and her husband Chad used to vacation in the area from their home in Edmonton. They became so smitten, they moved a few years ago and purchased the business. A long time baker and culinary arts enthusiast, Julie brings her passion for creation to the unique offering found in the café serving up some of the best sandwiches and carrot cake in the BC interior.
Mithril Meadery, Nakusp
After an afternoon drive alongside the Valhalla Range, spotting peaks with names such as Gimli and Asgard, we arrived at Mithril Meadery, where we get a hearty welcome from owner Dan Abraham. He’s a big fan of all things Medieval, including mead, an alcoholic beverage made with fermented honey that’s been through bouts of popularity since 400 A.D. Given the upswell in craft brewing the past few years, the drink is seeing a steady increase in interest again. There are now 11 BC companies brewing it, including Mithril. Wielding the sword Abraham hands me, and sipping mead, I find I’m able to appreciate the merits of the medieval period more keenly.
Valley of the Springs Winery, Nakusp
Jody Scott and his wife Brenda, who grew up in the region, planted grapes on their property back in 2007 as a hobby for their retirement. Instead, the vineyard became a full-time business with a cellar door that opened in 2020 and an expected yield of 700 cases this year. Here, we tucked into a charcuterie board and a bottle of Trailhead Red by the outdoor fireplace, listening to Jody share stories from his 30 years in the logging industry.
Burton City Cider, Burton
While in the area, another must-visit is Burton City Cider, perched on Arrow Lake across from Mt. Ingersoll. The Cidery was established by Barbara and Alan Ross in 2018 as a retirement plan from their jobs in real estate and law in Calgary.
“Now I work harder than I ever have before,” says Barbara, laughing. The couple manage their 30-acre farm that has sheep, chickens, a llama, and of course, an orchard. The taproom features six different ciders, including seasonal rotations. Our favourite was the Raspberry Apple paired with calzones made on site.
Halcyon Hot Springs, Nakusp
At the end of the long day we relaxed at Halcyon Hot Springs, 35 kilometres north of Nakusp. Established in 1894, the lakeside resort has a long history of enchanting visitors. Its panoramic views on the edge of Upper Arrow Lake and the lithia-rich mineral springs that flow from the mountains behind the resort have meant people have been called to Halcyon as a place of relaxation and healing since its inception.
Today chalets and cottages range the hillside, coupling with the two hot pools, a cold plunge, a summer swimming pool, on-location spa, and the renowned Kingfisher restaurant to create an all-encompassing guest experience.
Soaking in the outdoor pools with sunset reflecting on the lake, our day ended in pure bliss. With the bounty of the harvest and the beauty of the Kootenays all around, fall is the perfect time of year for a visit to the region.