Reaching the peak of dining

I love summer in Whistler. In fact, as much as every diehard ski bum will probably object to this statement, I'd hazard to say that a sunny, hot summer season can easily surpass a solid snowy one. With the weather we've been having lately, I just had to take full advantage of the heat and head to the hills to enjoy the view, and grab a burger in the sunshine last weekend. As it turns out, I might be spending a considerable amount of time up there this summer, not just basking in the sunlight, but also dining.

Whistler Blackcomb (WB) has offered a Saturday evening BBQ at the Roundhouse for a few years now, but this year they are definitely expanding their offerings by adding two extra weekly BBQ evenings, opening Christine's on the Blackcomb side and even hosting regular wine tastings.

Randy Jones is the food dude for Whistler Blackcomb, or, more specifically, the food and beverage general manager. He's responsible for all of the venues in the Whistler alpine, but he also has a culinary background so he takes on the task of product development on top of the operational side of things.

"Ski resort dining is notorious for being that cafeteria-style - pizza, French fries, chili, and whatnot," Jones said with a wave of his hand and a shrug, "That will always be there. We're challenging ourselves to do that at the best level we can."

But during the winter season, WB made their true debut to the fine wine and foodies from far and wide then they test-drove a winemaker après series, which featured wineries from the Okanagan paired with specially prepared courses.

The very first session drew about 35 attendees, and by the fifth and final event they had sold out at 100 people with many more on the waiting list. The series was such a hit that Jones and the rest of the F&B team have decided to bring the vineyards of B.C. back to the mountaintop during the summer months, launching the High Alpine Wine Tasting, which will showcase wines by See Ya Later Ranch, Sumac Ridge, Nk-Mip, Jackson Triggs, Inniskillin, and Osoyoos Larose at the Roundhouse Lodge.

A quick trip on the Peak 2 Peak gondola will transport you over to Blackcomb, where you can enjoy a full-service mountaintop dining experience at Christine's in the Rendezvous Lodge.

"This is the first time in many years that Christine's has been open in the summertime," Jones said, adding that the different hiking terrain on the Blackcomb side, coupled with the new Peak 2 Peak gondola, should draw many visitors over for a meal.

"Our summer product is obviously a little bit different, so our guest is different - they're out there sightseeing," Jones explained.

They'll also be offering a daily brunch menu and limited regular menu of "casual, up-scale gourmet food," showcasing fresh, local ingredients, while on the Steep's side, the menu will be more wine-specific, featuring an educational component as well.

Starting Saturday June 27 hikers, sightseers and plain 'ol hungry people can chow down on a barbecued feast at the top of Whistler mountain for $31, plus the cost of a lift ticket.

The traditional Saturday spread includes beef brisket, barbeque chicken and all the fixin's for the family, plus entertainment by Spy vs. Spy. But on Friday nights, things get really interesting, with the launch of Whole Hog Fridays, featuring slow roasted pork and barbequed chicken served up alongside live acoustic rock - a combination designed to please a younger crowd. And on Sunday, a West Coast salmon BBQ with barbecued chicken and live jazz by artists like Pemberton's Papa Josh caps off what promises to be an evening of incredible food and fun at 6,000 feet.

An extra scoop

It's summertime again, which means on top of all the lake-lounging and bike riding on offer throughout the Sea to Sky region, there will be loads of fresh foods on offer at each of the communities' farmer's markets.

The Pemberton Valley Farmers Market is back, and this time it promises to be better than ever with a brand new time and convenient new location, with many returning and new farmers selling their wares alongside local food vendors and artisans.

Starting on Wednesday, June 24, the market runs until late in the fall - October 7 - each Wednesday from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. in the parking lot between the Legion and the Pemberton Valley Supermarket. Operated by the Pemberton Farmers Institute, the market is financially supported by the Village of Pemberton and the Pemberton Valley Supermarket. For more information on Pemberton agriculture, visit www.pembertonfarmers.com.

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