Resting, recuperating, and indulging in Whistler, B.C.

Whistler - Lost Lake

Whistler | Lost Lake

In late Spring, I took two days off work and head to Whistler to wine, dine, and socialize, with hopes of being culinarily educated. While Whistler will always be known as a snowboarding and skiing destination throughout winter and a mountain biking heaven throughout summer, it is also a great place to rest, recuperate, and party year-round.

An outdoor adventure will always be top-of-mind, but on this trip the mountains had just closed for the winter season and they were prepping for summer; I was forced to relax and indulge. Currently, it’s the opposite and they are counting down the final weeks of biking season and gearing up for snow season. In fact, they’ve already had a fair amount of snow hit the mountain and have closed off the top trails, including Top of the World.

After a quick stint on the Pacific Coach Line from Vancouver ($54/2hrs), I arrived in front of the Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa where I was spending the night, courtesy of the management team. The last time that I was at the Hilton was in Seattle, where the elevator broke and I was left hanging for an hour with strangers as I dripped chlorinated water from my morning swim; I was determined to find experiential redemption with the reputable hotel chain. Fortunately, by the end of my visit I had nothing but good feelings: the staff was lovely, the elevators were functioning, fresh fruit and a card were in my room upon arrival, and the bed was the best thing I had slept in for a long while.

To work up an appetite for the hearty meal that was in store, I swam laps in the outdoor pool praying that I would not be stuck dripping wet in the elevator after this bout. Although their pool isn’t ideal for laps—being quite short—it was empty due to the rain, and it was refreshing to swim in the spring air without the seaweed and the briny skin. The pool is private, with the exception of it being in view of those having a drink in the Cinnamon Bear Bar and the hotel patrons pumping iron. After exerting myself, I strolled up to my room in a robe and slippers, eyeing the complimentary cookies at the registration desk and I remember thinking, “It must be dinner time”.

Our evening began in a lounge in the hotel, where an intimate group of media and restaurant suppliers shared a drink and canapés, while taking care of formalities. To quench our thirst, we drank Sumac Ridge Stellar’s Jay Brut and freshly muddled mojitos with house-grown mint.

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My favourites: Fresh Cheese, Sauce Pistou and Preserved Lemon; Marinated B.C. Octopus, Chick Pea Purée and Quince.

Least favourite: Boudin Blanc with White Onions and Balsamic Vinegar. Boudin describes a number of different types of sausage used in French, Belgian, German, Quebec, Acadian, Creole, Austrian and Cajun cuisine. Boudin Blanc is a white sausage made of pork without the blood — without the blood, the consistency changes from that of a regular sausage and instead offers a softer, slightly mushy texture.

Most unique: Salmon Tataki, Matcha Green Tea and White Chocolate.

After we had our share of canapés, we made our way down to the Cinnamon Bear Grille. 

FIRST COURSE

Northern Divine Caviar, Black Truffle Scrambled Egg, Spot Prawn, Buckwheat Blini
Pairing: Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay

Creamy eggs, a hint of truffle and a generous portion of caviar added to the subtle flavours from the BC spot prawn and buckwheat blini. This was a stand-up dish and a decadent way to whet one’s appetite. The pairing with Mission Hill’s Perpetua Chardonnay surprised me, as caviar, when eaten alone, is often paired with sparkling wine or champagne.

Northern Divine Caviar, Black Truffle Scrambled Egg, Spot Prawn, Buckwheat Blini

Northern Divine Caviar, Black Truffle Scrambled Egg, Spot Prawn, Buckwheat Blini

You’ve probably seen Northern Divine around town, as it’s seemingly every Chef’s favourite luxury ingredient these days. Chefs such as David Hawksworth, Ned Bell and of, course, CBG’s Julian Owen-Mold, have all made the switch. While this caviar is known for its natural flavour and its plump and smooth texture, it’s because of its organic and sustainable nature that it has everyone talking. In fact, in 2011 it was rated among the top five sustainable caviars globally!

Northern Divine’s “caviar-meister”, as they call him, has over 25 years of experience and believes that a gentle touch is necessary when handling the eggs from the wild sturgeon. This care and attention that is instilled in Northern Divine’s staff is evident in their dedication to preserve the species in a low-stress environment. They raise their sturgeon for thirteen years, compared to the average eight, resulting in a softer texture, with that same desirable sultry and smooth “pop”.

How to eat caviar on its own (according to Northern Divine):

1st spoon: prepare palate
2nd spoon: appreciate taste and texture
3rd spoon: savour

SECOND COURSE

Skuna Bay Salmon Chowder, Roast Fillet of Salmon, Savary Island Clams, Dungeness Crab, Smoked Bacon, Sweet Corn
Pairing: Sandhill White Label Pinot Blanc

I’m not generally a fan of chowder because I like the ingredients to keep their own flavour, rather than uncontrollably meshing with the ingredients alongside. I am also sensitive to lactose, so chowing down on a bowl of creamy chowder is not the best for my body. That said, Chef Owen-Mold’s take on salmon chowder was a major hit with me. The salmon was prepared simply, but fantastically, as it wasn’t coated in sauce. This allowed the high quality fish to shine in its own natural flavour. The smoked bacon was an unexpected but a welcomed surprise, adding a nuance of meaty saltiness that only bacon can provide. The clams paled in comparison, but brought back memories of years spent digging for clams on Savary Island.

West Coast Skuna Bay Salmon Chowder

West Coast Skuna Bay Salmon Chowder

We were privileged to have Jonathan Larry from Skuna Bay join us for dinner to educate us on their salmon. With the help of Chef, he hauled out a 10.5 lb salmon for us to “inspect” its freshness by checking how firm it was, and by eyeing and touching its gills, scales, and eyeballs. That same fish was soon after made into salmon tataki for us to enjoy; it doesn’t get much fresher than that!

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At Skuna Bay they believe that the “best fish come from the best water…and the best water needs to be pristine.” This explains why Nootka Sound is the ocean source of choice. They do everything in small batches with six people who are qualified to grade fish quality. “Our fish farmers live on the farms eight days on and six days off and they do everything by hand; it truly is a labour of love,” explained Jonathan. The Skuna Bay team takes pride in treating the wild salmon with the upmost care in an environmentally and socially responsible manner — to preserve their integrity, as well as the quality of their product. It is important to reduce stress on the fish because with stress comes the release of lactic acid that affects their composure, making them soft and of lesser quality. According to them, “the perfect Skuna Bay salmon has silver scales, red gills, a thick muscular belly, no blemishes and a firm and thick texture.”

“We wouldn’t be in the business if we didn’t love wild salmon. We fly roughly 100 chefs over to see the night harvest each year so they can get a better feel for the process and get a true sea-to-plate experience.  “

THIRD COURSE

Rossdown Farms Poached Chicken and Duck Roulade, Caramelized Onion, Lemon Parmesan Risotto, Baby Kale
Pairing: Kim Crawford Marlborogh Pinot Gris

The chicken was slightly overcooked in this dish, which could be masked (but not forgotten) by combining it with the moister side dishes: sweet caramelized onions, creamy lemon risotto and…a dollop of ice cream. The combination of sweet and savoury married wonderfully. The kale not only provided a healthy component to the meal, but it also provided some colour to the otherwise bland looking dish.

Rossdown Farms Chicken with Lemon Parmesan Risotto

Rossdown Farms Chicken with Lemon Parmesan Risotto

Patrick Wiebe, Business Development Manager at Rossdown Farms,  also joined us for dinner and took us on a journey from Rossdown’s inception to where it is today: late 1960s single farm with couple of chickens; 1980s added farms and turkeys; 1990s added breeding stock, hatchery, and abattoir. They currently offer a variety of free-run chicken including Taiwanese chicken, silky chicken, French breed, sasso, and certified organic.

Farm-to-plate isn’t a new term to most consumers, and it certainly isn’t a new term to the team at Rossdown. They are a farm and a processing plant all-in-one and, as such, they produce the eggs, hatch the chicks, feed and grow the poultry, handle processing and ship to retailers and restaurants.

“Often people want to see (and know about) everything but the slaughter.”

Rossdown Farms is located in Abbotsford, but their products can be found fresh at: Thrifty’s, Choices, Nesters, Stong’s Market, Clancy’s, Whole Foods, Honest Butcher, Pete’s Meat’s and most local butcher shops.

DESSERT

Lemon Panna-Cotta, Strawberry Black Pepper, Bitter Chocolate ( Pastry Chef Karine Dubreuil)
Pairing: Ravenswood Zinfandel

I loved all three of the desserts, but my favourite was the strawberry black pepper. The black pepper was subtle, but the overall flavour of the dish was certainly not. The plump strawberries and creamy custard were prominent, while the dusting of icing sugar added a touch of sweetness to the pastry. The lemon panna-cotta was a close second.

I’m keen on trying the unique Dark Chocolate Brownie on their current fall menu because it comes with candied bacon ice cream and cherry espresso compote. The combination of flavours seems as though it won’t work, which makes it even more enticing.

Lemon Panna-Cotta, Strawberry Black Pepper, Bitter Chocolate

Lemon Panna-Cotta, Strawberry Black Pepper, Bitter Chocolate

TO FINISH

As if we hadn’t already overindulged, we finished our meal with a cheese board complete with Black Mission fig chutney, apricots, nuts, fruit and pecan crisps. Cheese was sourced from Moonstruck Organic Cheese Inc. and Salt Spring Island Cheese. If you haven’t tried either of them, get on it! Moonstruck makes a delicious Ash-Ripenend Camembert and Salt Spring makes an addictive White Truffle Chèvre.

Pairing: Sumac Ridge‘s “Pipe” Port

Foodie Forum Cheese Board

To make it in the culinary world, I believe that you need to have top-notch kitchen prowess in addition to personality and charm. Chef Julian Owen-Mold seems to encompass all three of those traits, while remaining a humble man who is dedicated to providing the best food that he can, unafraid of criticism and feedback. His constant and warm grin reinforces his statement that he loves what he’s doing.

“We feel privileged to have the culinary team that we have,” exclaimed Tara Colpitts, Director of Sales & Marketing for Hilton Whistler.

Check out Cinnamon Bear Bar & Grille’s Dinner Menu here. Also note that you can satisfy your comfort food craving by order french fries or mac & cheese with your steak….

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Upcoming events in Whistler: 

October 11 -12: iF3: International Freeski Film Festival {Ski/Film}

October 12: Chasse Au Tresor {Mountain Biking}

October 18 – 20: Whistler Readers & Writers Festival {Literary}

October 18 – 20: Nita Lake Luna Festival {Yoga/Art}

November 7 – 17: Cornucopia 2013 {Food/Wine}

December 4 – 8: Whistler Film Festival {Film}

January 26 – February 22: Whistler Pride {LGBT/Community}

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2 thoughts on “Resting, recuperating, and indulging in Whistler, B.C.

  1. Julian Owen-Mold Simply the best had many great food experiences when Julian was head chef working in London West end restaurants.

  2. A great success, all the dishes looks excellent the ingredients look wonderful and accompanied by great wines, we wished could have been their to enjoy my brother Julian’s achievements he is a great chef and a lovely person.
    Charis, Allan and Yasmin Tennant

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