You could do far worse than sit on the lakeside patio at Aura in the Nita Lake Lodge.
Executive chef Dean Hossack and his team have worked to ensure the food matches the view from the boutique hotel, which in the summer sunshine is beautiful but easygoing.
"We're taking away the stigma of fine dining. We're going more casual, honest, with good local food as much as we can in the season. For example, our vegetables are coming from Pemberton (Rootdown Organic and GoodFields Farms) for our main dishes right now," he says.
"Whatever they have fresh, that is what goes on the menu this week."
A new menu is the result, with a tight, well-made list that includes steelhead salmon and warm nicoise salad; cider-brined pork chop with pan roasted apples and apple mustard (a recipe Hossack brought with him from Kelowna. He even uses the same cider that was on tap at his previous establishment as a marinade); and roasted chicken breast with confit garlic cream and oven-dried tomato.
The chef shares his recipe for confit garlic cream and oven-dried tomato on the following page.
The fresh food ideal is also applied to seafood, Hossack added, mentioning a plan to look at salmon that is currently in season.
From the garden comes spring asparagus with bacon butter, carrots, a cauliflower gratin, and spring kale — all currently on offer.
"We have also added a sharing component to not only Aura but also to the Cure Lounge," he said.
"All the main courses now come separate from the sides. It's more affordable this way, too. You can mix and match, have all vegetables if you want. Or have a couple of starters. It can be shared around the table, too. You can order one main dish and a couple of sides, because a side is enough for at least two people."
He adds that the relaunched menu also includes a new look in terms of presentation.
"We have new plate styles, which also change the feel, too," he says.
"The dining is fine, but it isn't scary."
Hossack lived in the Okanagan for 25 years, went to culinary school in Calgary, and moved back to the Kelowna for the smaller city and nicer lifestyle.
"I worked a lot of the big hotels and resorts and golf courses in the Okanagan," he said."And I've been overseas competing, too, since 2002. I went to Luxembourg, to the Culinary Olympics in Germany a few times, and to Basel, Switzerland, for one of their competitions. It's a lot of fun."
Access to other chefs from around the world was especially appealing, Hossack said.
"Go to the opening ceremonies and see 2,000 toques coming into the auditorium is quite something," he said.
He moved to Whistler and Nita Lake Lodge in November 2014, following years at the Okanagan Golf Course and the Kelowna Yacht Club.
"It was a very busy Christmas here," he says. "We were waiting for the snow to come and when it fell, everybody showed up. It was an awesome Christmas and New Year's and the rest of the winter was great, too."
Hossack is clearly happy with his move."It's amazing here. I was in Kelowna this past weekend for a fundraiser and you drive in and there's traffic. Whistler there's not so much and Pemberton, (where he and his wife live) none at all," he said.
He good-naturedly chides one of the facts of life about Whistler's work environment.
"The fun part about Whistler is that half of the staff have working visas, so you get to know them really well and then they leave. It's a first for me, because Kelowna is filled with locals who stay. But the staff who are here are exceptional, because they are professionals and are travelling for fun but know how to work, too," he laughs.
He also likes the way the tourism turnover works here.
"On a busy day, when you are walking through the Village Stroll, you can really see it. Seahawks Sunday there is tons of American visitors in their jerseys. And then they're gone," Hossack said.
The Nita Lake Lodge is holding an open house on Sunday, July 12, from 3 to 5 p.m. There will be food samples from Aura and the Cure Lounge. Hossack said the bar would also have cocktails on special.Oven Dried Tomatoes
10 Roma tomatoes, quartered, seeds removed
1 shallot, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
Flaked kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
Place tomato, shallot and garlic into a small bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with several pinches of salt and a few turns of the pepper mill. Toss to coat the tomatoes. Lay the tomato mixture on a baking pan.
Place into a 325F oven (toaster ovens are perfect for this) for up to an hour. Allow to cool.Confit Garlic Cream
¼ cup cream cheese
1 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup confit garlic (recipe below)
To taste salt & pepper
In a food processer, puree all ingredients until smooth. Pass through a fine meshed sieve.Confit Garlic
1 garlic bulb, peeled, cloves whole
Flaked kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
Place whole garlic into a small, shallow baking dish. Cover with olive oil. Season with several pinches of salt and pepper.
Cover with foil and place into a 275F oven (toaster ovens are perfect for this) for 45 minutes. Allow to cool.
Use the Confit Garlic Cream and the oven dried tomatoes to dress up grilled or baked chicken. Delicious!
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