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New locally driven restaurant set to open at Fort Berens Estate Winery

Ponderosa Kitchen, opening June 20, brings in Red Seal chef Dylan Foss



Fort Berens Estate has already set the bar pretty high when it comes to its award-winning selection of wine, but, later this month, the Lillooet vineyard will aim to live up to its exalted standards with the launch of a new restaurant.

Ponderosa Kitchen is a patio restaurant set to open at the winery in two weeks with executive chef Dylan Foss at the helm.

"Dylan brings a broad range of expertise to Fort Berens with a commitment to sustainability and creating high-quality dishes featuring locally sourced ingredients," said the winery's co-founder Rolf de Bruin, in a release. "His views are very consistent with our goals at the winery and Dylan is already proving to be a fantastic addition to our team."

Like Fort Berens' exceptional wines, which highlight the unique terroir of one of Canada's emerging wine regions, the aim for Ponderosa is to uncover the bounty of delicious local ingredients that are available. (Here's hoping Foss takes full advantage of Lillooet's beautiful orchard produce — particularly the apricot, for which the town is well-known.)

While the seasonal menu is still in development, it's sure to complement beautifully with Fort Berens' wine list, and will feature a daily lunch special and the odd special dinner.

It also offers a chance to shine a light on the farmers and suppliers of the region.

"We have been working with a number of local and regional suppliers to source our ingredients and our intention is to bring attention to the people responsible for providing these ingredients," Foss said in the release. "We will feature quality food, meat that is hormone-free and ethically raised."

A Red Seal-certified chef, Foss has a long history of working behind the lines in some of Canada's top kitchens, including time spent at the Bearfoot Bistro and Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, as well as a two-year culinary tour of Europe.

"My goal is to feature simple ingredients and simple techniques in creating classic, healthy Mediterranean-style dishes," he said. "I've had some amazing mentors throughout my career and I've learned so much about the importance of where our food comes from and the importance of making sustainable food choices. As food prices continue to rise, choosing locally, sustainably produced and grown food is important for all of us going forward."

The launch of a new eatery caps a big year for Fort Berens, one marked by continued growth and increasing customer demand. In July, Fort Berens opened the doors to its new $3.5-million, state-of-the-art winery facility and tasting room — the same month its 2012 Riesling was honoured as one of B.C.'s best wines with a Lieutenant Governor's Award.

In February, the winery expanded its six-person ownership team with the addition of Vancouverites Dan Barnholden and Patrick Downey — all intent on building the Lillooet area into one of the most revered and unique winemaking regions of the country.

Ponderosa Kitchen opens for the season on June 20, and will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. until September 20.

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