Fans of Vancouver’s españa tapas and wine bar will be thrilled to notice some familiar flavours in the Okanagan.
Founding chef Neil Taylor has since made B.C.’s wine country his home, and Home Block Restaurant at CedarCreek Estate Winery his kitchen.
With a focus on terroir-to-table fare and views of vineyards and Lake Okanagan, Home Block features a seasonally changing menu with items like steelhead trout a la plancha, Basque fish soup, blistered shishito peppers, and burrata and proscuitto.
Originally from England, Taylor has developed a penchant and a knack for simple but richly satisfying Mediterranean dishes, his career spanning time in England and Australia as well as at Vancouver’s Cibo Trattoria and Uva Wine Bar.
At Home Block, Taylor cooks over a Grillworks Inferno wood-fired grill that burns logs from nearby orchards and discarded staves from the winery’s seasoned barrels, giving his food a smoky depth. The contemporary building itself is made of fieldstone and 100-year-old reclaimed barn wood.
Not long after it opened, Home Block appeared on enRoute Canada’s Best New Restaurants list for 2019.
Launched by former Canadian senator Ross Fitzpatrick, CedarCreek is now part of billionaire Officer of the Order of Canada Anthony von Mandl’s Iconic Wineries of British Columbia group. It also includes Mission Hill Family Estates, Checkmate Artisanal Winery, Road 13 Vineyards, and Martin’s Lane Winery.
While Home Block has a high pedigree, its approach is far from pretentious. “If you want to have a glass of Chardonnay with your steak, go for it,” says CedarCreek’s general manager Graham Nordin. “We’re about rustic, approachable food and, first and foremost, we want people to be comfortable, to feel at home here.”
CedarCreek, which is in the process of converting 100 percent of its vineyards to organic farming, was recently named Canadian Winery of the Year at the 2019 InterVin International Wine Awards for the third time, topping more than 1,100 wines from 15 countries.
Home Block is open year-round. Here, Taylor shares his recipe for rigatoni with sausage-and-red-wine ragu. It would probably go nicely with a CedarCreek Meritage, but if you feel like rosé or sparkling, no one’s going to argue.
Home Block Restaurant is open daily except Tuesdays year round. More info is here.
Home Block executive chef Neil Taylor's rigatoni with sausage-and-red-wine ragu
12 mild Italian sausages, uncased & roughly broken up into pieces
¼ bottle of red wine (your choice!)
14 oz San Marzano tomatoes, crushed with a good pinch of salt and black pepper
500 mL chicken stock
1 package dried rigatoni or your favourite pasta
4 Tbsp sour cream
4 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Pecorino Romano or parmesan to serve
Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees F.
In a heavy Dutch oven over a medium-high heat, fry the sausage meat until golden brown and nicely caramelized, making sure to break any larger pieces up using a wooded spoon (some larger pieces are okay but not too large).
Pour the wine into the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to lift-up all the caramelized sausage meat and reduce the wine by half.
Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
Add the chicken stock and bring back to a simmer.
Season with salt and pepper if needed and then cover with a tight-fitting lid and put into the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, checking and stirring halfway. For the last 15 minutes of cooking, remove the lid and let the top of the ragu start to caramelize slightly. It’s ready when the liquids have reduced by about three-quarters and the ragu looks thick and nicely reduced.
Meanwhile, put a large pot of water onto boil with some salt ready to cook the pasta. Cook as per the package’s instruction.
To serve bring the ragu up to the boil and add the sour cream, chopped parsley, and red wine vinegar. Taste and season if needed. The ragu should now look glossy, thick and slightly creamy. Add the pasta to the ragu, gently bringing the two together in the pan and serve onto warmed plates.
Grate over some pecorino or parmesan and tuck in.