by Mattie John Bamman | Photo © Waterfront Restaurant
Farm to Table has come a long way since originating in the 1960s, and today, many of us, especially in the Northwest, expect to find farm-fresh ingredients in a fine-dining setting. Mark Filatow, chef and sommelier at Waterfront Restaurant & Wine Bar, in Kelowna, B.C., certainly has access to advanced cooking techniques and international flavors, but he’s chosen to take farm to table to an entirely new level: back to the basics.
Have you ever had a perfect strawberry? That pure sweet, silky flesh playing symphonies across your tongue? Imagine an entire dish that worships just that: the strawberries are transformed, whether dehydrated and crumbled into a dust or pickled to create a cutting tang, and accentuated with choice ingredients, so that perfect strawberry flavor is stretched, twisted and revitalized. Waterfront offers entire dishes focused on the multifarious flavors of one or two perfect ingredients—even in winter.
“The winter menu is like a warm hug,” says Filatow. “We tend to start slow cooking a lot of things. We’re fully stocked with local garlic, carrots, beets, rutabagas and parsnips—all those beautiful, delicious, sugary root vegetables.” Filatow’s love of fresh produce translates into Local Bar M Ranch Lamb, a dish of grilled lamb tenderloin and Moroccan-braised shoulder served with crispy potato “doughnuts” and carrot yogurt. His Elk with Juniper and Garlic comes with a rich farro “risotto” coated with whey-infused butter, the ideal accompaniment for hearty British Columbia elk.
“The winter menu is like a warm hug,”
Located in the Okanagan Valley, Waterfront Restaurant is surrounded by farmland, and Filatow has developed intimate and sustainable working relationships with local farmers, including “the bicycle farmer” and “Big Guy.” When complimented on his dishes, he sidesteps the praise, crediting the agricultural community. Knowing how to get top-quality local ingredients year-round has set Filatow apart: for the past five years, Waterfront Restaurant has received “Best Okanagan Restaurant” at the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards.
Thanks to its success, Waterfront was completely renovated in 2013. Decorated in true Cascadian style, the dining room has wooden walls, local artworks, tree-trunk-slice tables and a tree-root chandelier. Mark calls out orders at the large, open-air kitchen’s expediting counter and finishes plates with expertly chosen garnishes. His approach shows how, through reverence for local ingredients, fresh produce can become even fresher, or, as Mark says, “When you get a fresh asparagus spear out of the ground and you eat it within 24 hours, it’s simply a different beast.”