Another warm, sunny day in Whistler. I headed out in the crisp morning to take some photos and ended up following The Valley Trail for an hour. The trail takes you around a golf course and affords lovely views of the mountain, the surrounding forest and chalets.
Today we head to the gondola which will take us to the peak of Whistler and then a second tram will take us to the top of Blackcombe. I am not fond of gondola rides, less so in earthquake country. I am however persuaded by the promise of bears and so steel myself and go. They frolic for your entertainment directly below the chairlift. LIES! It turns out, there are only an estimated 60 bears on the mountain. I believe they spend their days avoiding the approximately 10,000 kids ripping through the interior on mountain bikes.
The views from the top are magnificent as expected. Cold, barren, snow-covered, rocky peaks are framed by deep blue, sunny skies. Olympic rings stand, and Canadian flags wave, in vivid contrast to the rock and snow. The valley below, lush with evergreens and emerald lakes, seems never-ending. A perfect day to be on top of a mountain. After descending to the village now busy with families and tourists enjoying the weather, we grab a late afternoon beverage and snack of humma-ganoush, a fantastic combo of chickpea tahini hummus and charred eggplant baba ganoush which left us wondering how the hell no one had thought of this before.
Whistler has some decent restos. I had feared they would all be geared for tourists, meaning expensive with food appealing to the lowest denominator. I am pleasantly surprised so far. Basalt Wine and Salumeria does not disappoint. They have lost our reservation but can seat us on the patio, which was perfect as the shade was still warm from the lingering sun at 6:30 pm.
For starters, we choose The Around The World cheese and salumi board accompanied by a lovely glass of BC Osoyoos Larose Petales d’Osoyoos 2013, a tad pricey at $17 for a 5oz glass. Salumi included a selection of lomo (dried cured pork loin from Spain similar to bresaola from Italy), finocchiona (fennel seed cured sausage of Italy), nostrano (garlic salami from Italy), beemster (aged, buttery Dutch gouda), Spanish Manchego and a creamy British sage Derby. Classic accoutrements of crostini, seedy mustard, classic fig compote and perfect house-made pickle complete the board.
The mains menu has several compelling options, and the duck leg special with herb and fig jus sounds terrific. In the end, I decide on the duck breast from the regular menu and Rob goes for the cumin and smoked paprika rubbed lamb ribs.
The menu suggests I pair the duck with a glass of Domaine du Beaumière Côtes du Rhône 2014 and so we both choose it. An excellent choice. Mains come out nicely paced (we have requested space between courses, and they are accommodating). My duck breast is juicy and accompanied by excellently roasted jewels of beet, fingerling potatoes and oddly, some shaved radish which adds a nice hot, spicy element. Not something I would have chosen for the duck, but it worked. Under the duck lies a flavourful blackberry jus, but does not deliver a blackberry punch. The pickled rhubarb which intrigued me on the menu I find all but absent. A side of braised chard — bright and not overcooked and well done — goes mostly untouched. I’m just not a huge fan. For me, chard has the bad stewed garbage taste bok choy can sometimes have and a light bitterness on top of that. I have a lot of complaints about what was a very delicious dish.
Rob’s meaty, exotically spiced lamb ribs look delicious. One bite confirms they are. A puddle of refreshing cucumber raita, grilled pickled red onion, simple, fresh greens with tomatoes at their delightful peak of freshness and sugar content, are excellent foils for the very rich meat.
Portions are nice at Basalt, leaving us room for the dessert menu. I have seen the strawberry shortcake whizz by and must have it. It begins with good buttermilk shortcake (but not my Mom’s good. She adds orange zest to the biscuit, elevating it to the Best Strawberry Shortcake Ever). Whip cream and fresh strawberries topping the cake are nice, but the strawberry ice cream is why I chose it. As far from the sweet, creamy, pink goo of the store brand ice cream of my childhood as one can get, this single scoop tastes of cold sweetness, jam-packed with small pieces of icy fresh berries.
We usually split dessert, but I wanted this to myself. Rob opted for a tiny (3-inch) coconut banana cream tart with torched meringue and coconut crumble. Despite the newfangled trappings, the pie delivers on old-fashioned coconut cream flavour. Aaaaahhhhhh. Another lovely meal to end the day.