Menus from an Orchard Table: Celebrating the Food and Wine of the Okanagan.


320 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 978-1-55285-852-3
DDC 641.59711'5






Photos by Chris Mason Stearns
Reviewed by John R. Abbott

John Abbott is a professor of history at Laurentian University’s Algoma University College. He is the co-author of The Border at Sault Ste Marie and The History of Fort St. Joseph.


Menus is a unique contribution to the Canadian shelf of books on food. The realization that the Okanagan basin had the potential to become a distinctive entity in the culinary culture of the Pacific Northwest occurred to Heidi Noble and her husband, Michael Dinn, on their first visit to the Penticton farmer’s market in June of 2000. Within two years the vision had sharpened and gelled into a mission with an operational plan. They bought a house with five acres of apples and pears and a garage, which they proposed to turn into a cooking school, emphasizing the use of valley-grown food and matching that with valley wines. The school would function as a catalyst to draw producers, the members of the hospitality industry, and consumers into a distinctive culinary community. When a conservative bureaucracy using antiquated bylaws blocked that route, the couple (while retaining their jobs five hours away in Vancouver) used weekends to renovate the house into an upscale weekend retreat for guests, christened Joie, with a program of market and winery visits, and an al fresco experience of food preparation and fine dining.


The book is a fulsome account of that experience. The introduction tells Joie’s story, places the Okanagan in “Cascadia” rather than the Pacific Northwest, and expresses the couple’s concept of food in culture. Menus from 2003 to 2005 fill some seventy pages. They are printed in full and are accompanied by the author’s reflections on the food, its provenance, their guests, guest chefs, and the ambiance of the moment. This is followed by an effusive tribute to their local producers, and that by almost 200 pages of recipes for cold and hot soups, first courses and composed salads, mains, sides, desserts, and petits fours. For all their art, none of the recipes are “precious”: any reasonably competent cook can find the ingredients and will enjoy preparing the dish. The author introduces every recipe and offers useful advice. Some of the text is edgy, reveals attitude and urban arrogance, and occasionally verges on the self-righteous. Sinclair Philip’s unfortunate Foreword is another tiresome, brooding, puritanical, and ineffectual jeremiad on the evils of our food-ways: a misplaced, glowering introduction to a work centred on Joie.


Noble, Heidi., “Menus from an Orchard Table: Celebrating the Food and Wine of the Okanagan.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,