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A new take on après for the 2008-09 season

So, in case you haven’t looked at the mountains lately, apparently there’s enough snow up top that eager riders and skiers are able to don their gear and head to the hills.

So, in case you haven’t looked at the mountains lately, apparently there’s enough snow up top that eager riders and skiers are able to don their gear and head to the hills. With that first day of riding under your belt, the next obvious thought is tipping back a beer and grabbing that hard-earned snack.

But rather than heading to same patio hotspot that you called home every weekend last winter, why not try a new approach to après?

The Four Seasons’ Fifty Two 80 Bistro & Bar has decided to up the ante, offering a brand-new gastro pub menu that is sure to appeal to hungry powder hounds eager to soothe their aching muscles. I must admit that, at first, I questioned whether it would be wise to tromp through their lovely dining room in my semi-soggy snow gear, but I’ve been assured that they welcome fresh-off-the-hill customers, as well as the dry variety. And sure, it may be a bit pricier than the average pint, but doesn’t the first session of the season deserve to be commemorated in a special way?

Executive Chef Scott Thomas Dolbee has taken some traditional pub favourites and put a spin on them, delivering a high-end product that isn’t pretentious, but is definitely impressive.

A friend is visiting from home, and before she even had a chance to ski down the slopes of Whistler or Blackcomb, I dragged her out to show her what après is all about.

The baked Yukon potato skins ($17) certainly aren’t a simple spud. Smoked bacon, lobster, rich fondue and shaved truffle have replaced the traditional cheddar, bacon and green onion. The end result is a delicious twist on a favourite pub snack.

Another potato-based dish is the hand-cut Pemberton fries poutine ($16). Yes, that’s right — poutine, on china and eaten with silverware. Is this a parallel universe? I hope so. This was unlike any version of poutine I’ve tried before — thick fingers of potato carefully arranged, topped with rich foie gras and Little Qualicum cheese, and drizzled with a savoury veal demi-jus, rather than the typical thick gravy.

My personal favourite were the half dozen baked oysters ($14), a selection of the sensational shelled delicacies, smothered in creamy spinach and smoked bacon with Worcestershire, respectively. I can’t say I’ve ever craved oysters after a long, hard day on the hill, but I may find my mind drifting that way, longingly, in the future.

Last but not least, the black cod fish tacos ($16) were a simple, yet innovative, dish. The lightly seasoned, flavourful fish was arranged on a corn tortilla, and served with shaved cabbage, spicy salsa, fresh lime, and a rich crème fraiche.

The masterminds at the bar have also had their creative juices flowing. The day we went in to sample the new menu, the bar staff had been busy creating brand-new drinks. We happily offered ourselves up as guinea pigs, of course.

First up, we opted to sample their new Peak to Peak martini ($16), a concoction of chili tequila, Cointreau, raspberry puree, vanilla gomme and lime. Initially, you taste the sweetness of the raspberries, but the chili soon starts to tingle your lips — this drink is delicious, but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.

Next up was the smoke-infused bourbon and Coke. Initially, I balked at the suggestion of bourbon and coke — it’s a bit too strong for my taste, usually — but as soon as we heard that they had actually put the soda in Chef’s smoker, we had to see what kind of aftertaste the beverage would take on. Sure enough, it felt like we were sipping our drinks around a campfire, stogies firmly clamped between our teeth — an odd feeling for two young women.

A new, experimental drink was a strawberry basil gin martini, garnished with a blue cheese stuffed strawberry. Not usually a huge fan of blue cheese, I was silently apprehensive about the garnish, but it worked with the sweetness of the strawberries, and the savoury, unusual addition of basil.

But our favourite drink of the night had to be the mountain berry mojito, made from muddled berries, rum, mint, and loads of ice. It was light, sweet, and the perfect refreshing way to cap off a day on the mountain.