After a long winter, bears are finally stirring from their dens, and Whistler locals are emerging from their homes, squinting into the spring sunlight. Both are looking for the same thing — good food.
As we enter the slower months of spring, Tourism Whistler has again partnered with restaurants throughout town to offer Dine & Unwind specials that promise to fill you up without emptying your wallet.
This is a great opportunity for people to get out and enjoy some of the finer dining options Whistler has to offer, with exceptional three-course menus for $25 and under, $40 and under, and $50 and under.
The Wine Room at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler is just one of 18 restaurants participating in the annual promotion. While their Dine & Unwind menu varies from month to month, May’s offerings include a great selection of appetizers, main courses and desserts specially prepared by chef Michael Pagnacco, using local, organic produce and sustainable, ocean-friendly seafood.
Their three-course menu is $45, and for another $40, each course is served with a perfectly paired wine. According to Jay Whiteley, sommelier for The Wine Room, they pride themselves on stocking a wide selection of new and old world wines, as well as a variety of B.C. labels, which are on display in temperature-controlled cabinets throughout the dining room.
The service team is knowledgeable and friendly, and the atmosphere is elegant but comfortable, with cherry wood finishing and an impressive stone fireplace, which are illuminated by the warm glow of candlelight.
We started our meal with an assortment of fresh breads, accompanied by unsalted butter and a mild, sweet baba ganoush. (FYI: my dining companion, Lindsey, informed me that baba ganoush actually translates into “sugar daddy” in Arabic. She is a font of random, wonderful information).
I decided to try the house-cured duck prosciutto, accompanied by marinated artichokes and a smooth, creamy chickpea puree, while Lindsey opted for the Pacific Dungeness crab tortellini and seared scallop, served in a rich lemongrass bisque. Neither of us was disappointed with our choice. Both dishes are beautifully presented and chock-full of flavour, featuring in-house preserves and fresh ingredients.
We also had a chance to try out the cherry-plum glazed pork belly, served with a dash of polenta and crushed peas, which is a variation of a dish Chef Pagnacco prepared for Whistler Film Festival Society’s new Spring Fling event, held at the end of April. Apparently, the cashew-encrusted appetizer was such a hit at the event, the chef decided to tweak it a bit and offer it on The Wine Room’s May menu. After taking just one bite, it was easy to see why this succulent dish went over so well with the crowd.
We polished off our appetizers, and our plates were quickly whisked away and replaced with our main courses.
The basil-orange chicken ballotine, which Lindsey fondly referred to as her “chicken spirals,” is made from organic chicken wrapped in Parma ham, roasted until tender and flavourful. While we both loved the ballotine, the Pacific halibut stole the show. It was moist and flaky, had a slight peppery taste, and was served on a bed of fresh herb papardelle pasta and spring vegetables. And while we went for the lighter options of chicken and seafood for our main course, red-meat lovers shouldn’t despair — they also offer a herb-roasted lamb loin and beef rib-eye.
Finally, it was time for dessert. We were both tempted by the artisan cheese board, which features a selection of three local cheeses, house-made preserves and buckwheat honey, but in the end, our love of sweets won out, and the lure of chocolate and raspberries proved to be irresistible. Lindsey seemed slightly surprised when her raspberry almond bar was brought to the table, and it turns out that, based on the name, she had expected something along the lines of a granola bar. Well, much to her delight, this was no Nature Valley bar — rather, this dessert is an amalgam of organic raspberries, creamy almond custard, and a rich, buttery shortbread.
My own pick of the black forest cake also threw me for a bit of a loop — as our server, Cindy, so succinctly put it, this isn’t your average cake from the bakery at Save on Foods. The rich and fluffy chocolate dessert is studded with sweet, tangy Birkenhead black cherries, and comes with a small pitcher of warm chocolate sauce to drizzle at your own discretion. Sheer, sugary perfection.
To check out the full list of restaurants participating in this year’s Dine & Unwind promotion, visit www.whistler.com/dine/