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.
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.