Spring sunshine in Whistler may bring the flowers and the bears back, but for culinary fans there is also another option to rejoicing in the season — the many spring specials that start around now at restaurants around the resort.
And with the World Ski and Snowboard Festival also opening, the restaurants are ready.
At the Westin Resort, executive chef Bradley Cumming has already rolled out the spring specials at The Grill & Vine.
"It's fantastic for us being in Whistler coming out of the winter season and things are starting to come out, we have the opportunities to get into our lighter vegetables," Cumming says.
The special — a four-course dinner for $34 — runs through April and May.
"Halibut season is here again and it's always my favourite time of year," Cumming says. "The halibut is a sign of spring. It comes out early and is such a fantastic fish. We take it off the menu in winter because it doesn't freeze well."
And it's a pure, West Coast experience, he adds.
Cumming says that the aim is to create a feel-good menu, getting ready for the barbecue and the summer.
"It's interesting in Whistler because you still have your people who are on vacation, but I think (the specials are) more directed towards the locals," he says.
"It's an opportunity to partake in these great specials. It's pretty competitive in Whistler, and Vancouver is so strong now, so when all these specials come out it's the guests at all the restaurants who see the benefits. Everyone really wants to showcase their items and put out a premium product."
At the end of the day, he says, it's about putting your best foot forward.
Executive chef James Walt of Araxi says they started their spring special on April 6.
"We're celebrating. This is the second part of the 33rd anniversary (of Araxi) so we are having five courses for $33," Walt says.
"We change the courses every week."
Everyone gets a soup course as soon as they sit down — this week it is a smoked roma tomato soup, followed by a choice of four appetizers, a set middle course, a choice of four entrées and a choice of desserts.
"This will be our eighth time doing this," says Walt. "Spring will be seven or eight weeks.
"It's a bridging time between winter and summer seasons. We started doing it, originally, for the locals... It's a kind of 'give back.' We don't make any money doing it at the pricing."
On their first night, they had over 250 guests.
"We find that it is something that is good for everybody," he says. "It has become really busy and it has turned out better than we could have hoped for."
This isn't only because of the kitchen-to-table experience.
"I'm able to keep everybody busy. We're all working the same hours we were working before," Walt says. "Same with the front of house, keeping fresh and active."
The challenge, if anything, is that each meal involves five plates, with more trips to the table, more food-to-plate, more dishes to clean.
"It's a challenge that I personally really enjoy," he says.
"I try to put a lot into it. We're not looking to serve cheap cuts or anything like that... we're not dumbing down anything. It's a true reflection of the restaurant."
Over at Hy's Steakhouse, general manager Michael Kyle says they are doing a $49 four-course dinner that will not scrimp on the traditional.
"It involves a couple of different steak options... we will be offering full portions, as opposed to trimmed-down portions," Kyle says.
And just like their regular menu there are three sides to choose from.
"You build your menu as you go," he says.
"Plus we're not going to go with one fixed menu. We're going to change it up. If we get fresh fish, or something else in we can focus on that for a week. It's going to be a very flowing menu."
The menu has had a soft launch this week, being served from Sundays to Thursdays in the short term and running until June.
The visibility of Hy's has improved thanks to alterations to the exterior of the building by the Delta Hotel.
"In that they were able to remove some trees that had blocked out the hotel and... we have new signage. It used to be that we were the best-kept secret in town, but now people know we're here," Kyle said.
"One nice thing about Hy's is that our service has been about Canadian prime steaks and tableside service... and this is the time of year for Caesar salad made at the table. That's what we are all about."Grapefruit Fluid Gel from the Grill & Vine at the Westin
200 ml fresh grapefruit juice
100 ml simple syrup (1-to-1 sugar and water)
1.5 tsp. agar agar
Bring all fluid ingredients to a boil and dissolve agar agar. Let set fully in the fridge three hours. Place in a blender at high speed till fluid is smooth. You are ready to garnish your carpaccio or other dish.
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