Whistler Day 2 Peaks and Salumi

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, 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. Basically, they frolic for your entertainment directly below the chairlift.  LIES! 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 colourful 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, an amazing 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 are able to 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 from 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 really good house made pickle complete the board.

The mains menu has several compelling options and the duck leg special with herb and fig jus sounds amazing. 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 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 actually a very delicious dish lol.

Rob’s meaty, exotic 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 delicious 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 new fangled trappings, the pie delivers on old fashioned coconut cream flavour. Aaaaahhhhhh. Another lovely meal to end the day.



Whistler Weekend!

Hello, Happymouth! It has been awhile since my last confess… I mean road trip. Old habits die hard. I have not written (Rob has) for two years. I have been busy transporting an adult life across a continent. Only just this month have I felt planted and home, ready to get back on the road.

After an early morning hike with Josie, AKA The Red Menace (ask a bunny), we hit the road north on this gorgeous, sunny but comfortable Thursday. I have not been beyond Squamish BC. and am looking forward to the scenic Sea to Sky Highway.  I knew it would be pretty but it really is majestic.

The highway cuts through bold rock face of slate and ochre offering tremendous views of towering evergreens, crystal waterfalls, open blue sky, emerald lakes, and lush, summer alpine mountains effortlessly reaching into mashed potato clouds. Also of note and just for fun are warnings about not stopping due to Rockfell areas, Debris Torrent Hazard, and….BEARS! Bears for 50 km!. Lies. Not a one.

We have decided to stop near Squamish at a little bus turned roadside stand where we have eaten once before later in the season.

Mountain wo-Man, an ocean-side, open air place with a patio, seems barely more than a chip wagon. It offers fish and chips, hot dogs, fried prawns and…poutine. Yeah, poutine. Scary. But I decide to run with it. Not bad.

Decent, skin on fries, salty, crappy (in a good way) dark brown gravy and real cheese curds. Cheese curds are known as squeakers here and hard to find, so I was not overly hopeful. It was good poutine…for BC, but not Ottawa chip wagon good. A side of prawns and tartar sauce was also well made, not greasy.

We arrive at Crystal Lodge in Whistler Village before check in so we walk about the village briefly before settling on the patio of Brasserie des Artistes. The colourful view of bedding plants, tourists, bikes, dogs, awnings and brellas, bustles and makes for great people and dog watching with a beer in the sun. I cannot see the massive mountains from my seat and could swear I’m in Mont Tremblant.

I order a Whistler Grapefruit Ale with a tart pink grapefruit finish. Not sweet like a radler.

Very nice. Rob had the Driftwood White Bark Witbier. Heavy on the clove and coriander flavours with secondary citrus notes. Very refreshing.

 We stick around for cocktails, still killing time. I opt for a very average Moscow Mule, not objectionable but probably saved by the atmosphere and Rob had a really good elderflower and lime cider. The lime was real and pulpy tasting, not artificial or cloyingly sweet. He won the round.

Dinner tonight will be at the well regarded Araxi Restaurant and Oyster Bar. 6:45 reservations inside. Evenings get quite chill here when the sun goes down. The diners consist of an eclectic mix of tourists in shorts and pajamas to the well dressed. We get comfortably seated and check out the menu. Our waitress, a sweet native of France’s Loire Valley with a charming accent and bubbly personality, delivers Cadillac Margarita cocktails. Cadillac involves the addition of orange juice and a smoky, salted rim. The smoke adds a pleasant note as you sip. A very well made marg but I do think I prefer the classic lime.

They have a small but decent raw bar with so many things I want…lobster cocktail, salmon tartare, oysters 5 ways and caviar. Hard to pass up excellent caviar. They have Northern Divine on offer. Yes please.! Northern Divine, a farmed, sustainable BC Sturgeon caviar melts and pops lightly salty on the tongue.

It comes with classic accoutrements…finely diced chive, egg white, egg yolk and creme fraiche.  Paired with a cold glass of Tattinger,  this caviar makes for a special treat albeit a very expensive one. 30 oz., fully prepped, goes for $169 tonight.

Our waitress has paced our courses as we had requested. Mains arrive leisurely after we linger on the caviar. I’m having the fresh BC halibut in season now for a few weeks. The fish comes with a braised leek and cabbage veg but more notably, with a delicate bed of barley lightly scented with anise and a smoky, buttery, charred side of rapini. The char removes the bitterness typical of rapini.

Rob had local pork two ways, with a hammy, smoked pork tenderloin and then pork belly on a bed of asparagus and whipped parsnip. The tenderloin had a cured snap to it that was unique, and the pork belly was slow-roasted, tender and juicy.

Dessert. Yup still had room to share a small dessert. Rob picks the lemon tart. The delicate, lemony, jiggly filling on a shortbread crust dissolves wonderfully on the tongue. Topped with shreds of sweetened lemon zest and accompanied by a creamy Tahitian vanilla ice cream that tastes faintly of goat’s milk, raspberry coulis and fresh blueberries,  served with excellent cappuccinos makes for a perfect dessert and the end of a lovely first evening in Whistler.