Lifestyles

Shining a light on holiday hosting

Patrick and Lee Murphy of Vista D
Patrick and Lee Murphy of Vista D'Oro Winery.
— image credit: Rob Newell photo

Who wouldn’t like to turn Murphy’s Law on its head for the holidays? Even Mrs. Claus could use that kind of a hand in the kitchen.

After all, in a world in which “anything that can go well, will go well,” holiday hosting would become a far more entertaining proposition.

Fortunately, Patrick and Lee Murphy of Vista D’oro Farms and Winery, tucked away on 10 acres in South Langley, are eminently able to bring an assist to the table.

Their topsy-turvy take on Murphy’s Law aside, who better to turn to than one of the last houses on Santa’s least known list? This year’s Apple, Scotch and Bacon preserve and Craft Beer Jam were made upon special client request, and Mrs. Claus has doubled her order of Spiced Cranberry and Icewine preserve.

(Little known, but entirely commonsensical, the ever-jolly one actually carries three lists, the third being a shopping list which requires an empty sleigh for the return trip.) Vista D’oro’s flagship fortified walnut wine, along with their Fig and Walnut Wine preserve has been mainstays of the North Pole cheese plate for some time.

Fortunately, as when entertaining, the Murphys have made enough for everyone.

Just 45 minutes south of Vancouver, for over a decade Vista D’oro has been entertaining guests from the world over, all drawn by a culinary agritourism destination as renowned for its good spirit as its pantry and sheer beauty of location.

Aptly named for the twin peaks of the Golden Ears mountains in the near distance, Vista d’Oro’s view from the Campbell Valley changes its graces only with the season. As a sub-region of the Fraser Valley, it gets a bit more sun and a touch less rain. Come the first blanketing of snow, Vista D’oro Farms looks every inch the postcard setting for the perfect Christmas dinner – and it is.

Rule number one for bringing peace on Earth into the kitchen? When it comes to the main event, keep it simple and enjoy your company.

“We do Christmas dinner here every year and everyone wants their traditional favourites. My dad needs his canned cranberry sauce. Christmas isn’t the day to try and push the envelope in the kitchen,” says Lee with a grin.

Her grandmother’s stuffing recipe of butter, onion, celery, wine, bread and poultry seasoning has set the standard for generations. Somewhat less traditional is the fact that two smaller turkeys are taken to table. The dark meat became so popular, the single big bird simply no longer sufficed.

“You certainly don’t have to make everything yourself. My aunt makes her mashed potatoes. My mom and dad do all the vegetables, and I do up some modern brussels sprouts with bacon.”

The fond familiarity of the annual family feast aside, Lee and Patrick Murphy are far better known for their Feast of Fields hosting and preserves than their reserve in matters culinary.

What began with selling jams at market in 2002 and planting five acres of Schoenberger, Foche, Ortega, Pinot Gris and Siegerrebe grapes a few years later has evolved into a well-rounded and thoroughly tasteful destination for food and wine lovers year-round.

With the Farmgate Shop and Market moved and merged with the winery tasting room on the other side of the farm, Lee’s production kitchen now hums away in the main barn with Patrick’s wine works next door and a cooking class kitchen and storage atop. The Vista D'Oro Farmgate Shop & Tasting Room bustles Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The tranquil view belies the fact that Vista D’oro’s mainstays have never been busier – which is not to say Lee and Patrick don’t take time to enjoy the festivities with friends and family alike.

After all, it is a love of good food, drink and people that has propelled them in their endeavours from the start.

Especially during the holidays, though, Lee’s key to entertaining is first and foremost simple – pick a menu you can do, plan ahead and plan to have fun.

“I don’t do dinner parties. I do cocktail parties. I do it because I want to be out there with my company,” says Lee. “Think like a caterer and everybody has a great time – host included. By all means get creative, but get organized too. Even a little attention to 'mise en place' is a big thing.

"You just need to remember that a lot can be done ahead of time and that the guests aren’t coming for the food. They’re coming for you.”

For this issue of Indulge, Lee has created a menu that makes working such wonders easy, drawing upon her personal pantry of preserves and the spirit of playful good taste that fuels everything the Murphys do.

Whether you’re looking for the ultimate epicurean stocking stuffers or to add some inspiration to your pantry, Vista D’oro offers a creative cornucopia year-round – though their preserves change with the season.

That said, Fall’s Caramel Apple with Dark Rum preserve sounds delicious well into the New Year.

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