Many BC wineries and vineyards use sustainable practices to help preserve the beauty and health of the land and our environment for future generations. One of the sustainable practices involve introducing honey beehives to the vineyard. Although grapes are self-pollinating, bees help with the promotion of wildflowers, beneficial plants such as crimson clover and mustard, and other beneficial insects which contribute to biodiversity and sustainability in the vineyard. The beehives also provide sweet, natural honey which can be used by winery restaurants to create delicious and sustainable dishes. The diversity of BC’s wine regions provides a culinary playground for chefs to create fresh, exciting dishes that pair perfectly with BC wines – grown and produced right here in our own backyard. We caught up with Executive Chef Neil Taylor of CedarCreek Estate Winery’s Home Block Restaurant to find out what inspired him to create his Estate Honey and Balsamic Glazed Duck Breast showcasing natural estate honey from the winery’s very own beehives, which local ingredients are his favourite and which BC wine varietals would pair best with this delightful dish.
What inspired you to make this dish?
From a food perspective, duck and honey are a great combination, sweet always works with rich, slightly gamey meats like duck and the sweetness and floral notes of our honey really help the bitter notes that the wild mustard greens bring to the dish.
Like I try to bring to all the cooking at Home Block, this dish is about balance and harmony. Having a little sweetness that honey brings can really help us achieve that goal.
The honey vs. the balsamic vinegar also works amazingly well together to create what the Italians call “agro dolce” (a term we use on the menu at Home Block quite a bit) which translates to “bitter sweet” or “sweet and sour” more commonly. Duck works really well with sweet and sour flavours. We used balsamic vinegar to give the sour flavour, which works really well against the fattiness of the duck.
From a wider perspective, the bees that we have in our hives at CedarCreek are so incredibly important to the health of our vineyards that surround Home Block Restuarant. They promote a healthy ecosystem by pollenating our cover crops that we plant in the vineyards, any wildflowers that grow naturally in around the vines which in turn promotes a wide diversity of insects that help to keep the vines and grapes healthy. Overall, they help create a balanced ecosystem within the vineyards which is so important to the way in which we farm at CedarCreek.
Why did you choose the ingredients you did to create this dish?
They all make sense and really sum up how I like to cook and create dishes at Home Block. Big, bold, punchy flavours using local and wild ingredients of the Okanagan Valley along with traditional flavours and techniques of my cooking background.
What are some of your favourite local ingredients?
At this time of the year, we are just starting to see stinging nettles, wild onions, wild garlic, asparagus, rhubarb, lamb’s quarter and miner’s lettuce, the first signs of spring in the Okanagan Valley. Come summertime obviously the Okanagan Valley is famous for it’s orchard fruits like peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums and apricots which we love to use at Home Block both in sweet and savory dishes. Probably my most favoured local food is Heirloom tomatoes which we get for only 6-8 weeks of the year from an amazing farm called Stoney Paradise which is located about 12km away from CedarCreek and Home Block. Super local and the very best tomatoes around in my opinion.
What BC wine varietals would pair best with this dish?
I chose to pair the dish with CedarCreek’s 2019 Estate Pinot Noir which I think would work great with this dish, I would even recommend chilling it slightly. If you want to go a bit lighter with the wine then CedarCreek’s 2020 Estate Rosé would be a great option too, not an obvious choice, but it worked great when we tried it together as our Rosé is Pinot Noir based. Lots of freshness and acidity to work with the fattiness of the duck but with lots of fruit to work with the honey and the char of the onions. Both wines are available online, the Estate Pinot Noir is available at BC liquor stores and our Estate Rosé is available at Wines of British Columbia Save-On-Foods’ wine departments.
What BC wine varietals would pair best with honey?
CedarCreek’s Riesling Icewine would be a great option as would our Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling and Pinot Gris.
Aside from this dish, what are some of your other favourite dishes that use honey?
We use our honey make vinaigrettes (great with mustard) drizzled on fresh ricotta bruschetta with lots of black pepper. We also use it for glazing meats like pork or hams, added to cheese and charcuterie platters or my favourite; baked figs wrapped in pancetta and baked with blue cheese and honey. We also make honey panna cottas and honey ice cream for desserts at Home Block.
Try Chef Neil’s Estate Honey and Balsamic Glazed Duck Breast recipe today and pair it with your favourite BC wine. RECIPE HERE
To discover all of the exciting local BC wines and winery experiences throughout the province and to get personalized BC wine recommendations and winery route lists, including the We Have Bees list, download the Wines of BC Explorer app.