Golf, Rodeo and Yorkshire Pudding: Armstrong’s Fairways Bistro

Saturday night.

I’ve just finished up my week at Kelowna Art Gallery on Water Street, downtown Kelowna, and my daughter has requested I chauffeur her out to see a friend in Vernon. It’s been a stressful week because my transmission has died on my car, and the vehicle is sitting in a lot awaiting the arrival of parts. It’s been a fun week, because I’ve had to rent a car for work, and so I am driving a 2019 Hyundai Elantra which has heated seats, Apple Play and amazing gas mileage.

By the time I get Sheena to Vernon, it is 6:30, and my stomach is saying, feed me! I realize that with Sheena elsewhere,  I don’t have to cook. Neither do I immediately need to go home. Darren Bezanson and Fairways Bistro comes to mind.

Some years back, I worked, very briefly, for Darren. My life was overcrowded at the time, and so this ended, but I hadn’t forgotten how delicious his food tasted. His bistro is located at Fairways Golf Course in Armstrong, BC, twenty minutes north of Vernon. I’m already halfway there, and I have the dream-team of gas tanks at my disposal. After two weeks of renting cars, my budget for the month is shot, anyway, how much worse can one dinner out make it? I flip open google on my phone, notice that, yes, I have time to get there before closing. No time like the present, I figure, and crank the wheel north.

It is raining and grey when I pull into Fairways, but this doesn’t stop me from snapping a few pictures of the gorgeous log and stone entrance to the clubhouse. Trees drip around me, and there are puffy white mist clouds snagged on the hills across the street, silhouetted by the storm clouds behind them. Parked on either side of my itsy-bitsy silver Hyundai are serious looking trucks with four doors and King cabs and extended boxes. It’s official — I am now in cowboy country.

Knotted pine vaulted ceilings, thick warm cedar beams, rock work, chalet feel, groomed golf course grounds, high and bright windows with natural lighting. These are just some of the words I jot down as descriptions of the place. In summary — gorgeous.

I am sitting in a dining room that is one hour away from closing, and there are only a handful of patrons still here. Dress code leans towards denim and ball caps, t-shirts and work boots. Brett Kissel’s You’re My Anthem gives way to Jordan Davis’ Singles You Up to Chris Stapleton’s Broken Halos. I may look out of place in my art gallery duds and with my lap top slung over my shoulder, but actually, I am feeling right at home as I look up at the twinkle lights caught in sheer tule netting suspended from the cedar beams of the ceiling.

My stomach rumbles in appreciation of the savoury smells drifting towards me from the realm of the kitchen, and I am scoping out the food on other patrons plates as I contemplate my menu choices. In the middle section of the restaurant sits a table of seniors on what appears to be a double date, their plates heaped high with down-home cooking. Behind me, an attractive man my own age who smiles as I walk by — ‘cuz I still got it, baby — sits with an older man with a handlebar mustache who I suspect is his father. I overhear snatches of their conversation about race horses, and when Shawnee, the waitress, brings their food, both plates are full of meat, gravy and Yorkshire pudding. 

Decision made. I follow their lead and order the roast beef. It arrives mounded on the plate, heaps of meat and a gigantic Yorkshire pudding piled high atop a bed of julienned carrots, green beans and slivered zucchini slices which have been sauteed in butter. This huge meal is smothered in thick brown gravy and topped with crystallyzed onions. The food is piping hot — I can actually feel the heat coming at me without even picking up my fork. Next time, I decide, I will try the salmon. For now, the hearty smells are making me salivate. Come to Momma!

There is so much food here and it is piled so high that it is hard to know how best to attack the meal. Darren has been cooking professionally for 29 years, and has worked in a kitchen since he was 14 years old. Trust me, he knows how to do this right. The al dente veggies, which I try first, positively melt in my mouth. They are tender but firm, not the least bit mushy, and taste absolutely amazing. Next, I take a bite of the cheesy twice baked potatoes, and although they, too, are so so good, they are to my surprise, my least favorite part of the meal. That’s not because there’s a problem with the potatoes. No, they are scrumptious, and with the peel in, I know they are packed with nutrients. It’s just that everything about this meal is so overwhelmingly perfect. By the time I get to the meat and the gigantic Yorshire, my taste buds think they have died and gone to heaven.

Chef and owner, Darren Bezanson, tells me his slogan is Food Made Simple. A carrot, he tells me, should be a carrot — not deconstructed and then told it is a carrot. Well, he has nailed it. I dig into the beef, and it is roasted well done and is so tender it melts off my fork and disintegrates inside my mouth. The Yorkshire is huge and perfect and would have done my British Granny proud. It was fluffy and light, smooth with just the hint of egg in the batter. I devour the entire thing.

Darren tells me that on Prime Rib night, everyone is in awe of the size of the Yorkshire Puddings. This is a personal favourite for the chef. He tells me he creates the menu by getting to know the neighbourhood his restaurant is serving then, with a bit of trial and error, he works up a list of comfort food that isn’t complicated, and that people feel good about trying. Fairways Bistro has been open for five years, and although they are currently a seasonal business, the goal is to operate year round. They want to be more restaurant than clubhouse in the future.

For my visit, I decide to be a wanna-be food critic, and in order to do so, I get a take out box, then order dessert without eating my full meal. For dessert, I select the Brownie Cheesecake, and when it comes out looking like a layer of brownie topped by a layer of cheesecake, topped by a scoop of homemade ice cream drizzled with caramel topping, everything inside me wants to stand up and cheer. Since it won’t make the trip home, I eat all the ice cream, and honestly, it is so fantastic that a scoop of ice cream alone would have been a completely satisfying end to the meal. But, as a dutiful food critic, I force myself (This is a lie. I attack it like I might never get a chance to eat ever again.) to sample the brownie cheesecake before packing it up in a second to go box.

I tell myself I will eat the contents of both boxes for lunch the next day. Of course, none of the food will make it through the night. It did make for one amazing midnight snack, though. I decide then and there that in the interest of not weighing three hundred pounds, I am giving up my food critic aspirations.

Check out Fairways Bistro.  You can find more information including menu and driving directions at their website https://www.fairwaysbistroandcatering.com. Every Friday night is Prime Rib Night, and Father’s Day Brunch is happening June 16th from 9:30 am – 1:30 pm. The location is great, and the food is well worth the trip.

Thanks, Darren, and Fairways. I will see you again soon!

 

 

 

 

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