Where There's Smoke
IMAGES BY JOERN ROHDE
Cooking with smoke is a red-hot trend that reminds us of crackling fireplaces and toasting our frosty toes. Beyond traditional barbecue (which we love and have lots of in Whistler), smoke flavours penetrate a bevy of fine restaurant dishes, from steak medallions and potato tartiflette to carrots and carbonara.
ARAXI RESTAURANT & OYSTER BAR
Smoked Carrot Ragu with Seared Sablefish
Quang Dang loves the deep, rich, primal essences imparted by smoke. “Cooking over an open flame has a caveman quality,” says the new executive chef of Araxi, an acclaimed fine-dining, farm-to-table restaurant. “Umami flavours become more concentrated from the evaporation of water, but smoke also brings warmth and is very comforting as well.”
Rather than smoking the sablefish (a local black cod that is extremely moist and can easily become too intensely flavoured), he has applied smoke’s alchemic vapours to the carrots, transforming the humble root vegetable into an unctuous ragu that almost tastes like vegan bacon. Slowly smoked over alder wood for three hours, the carrots are brunoised into a meaty vinaigrette with capers, charred onions, excellent olive oil and parsley.
Any root vegetable out of Pemberton tastes better than anywhere else because there are so many nutrients in the soil,” Dang explains. “It’s that minerality in the carrots that make them so hearty and combines well with the smoke.”
604-932-4540 | araxi.com
Smoked Cavatelli with Braised Wild Boar
At Bearfoot Bistro, Executive Chef Melissa Craig seeks to defy expectations with sophisticated elements of surprise in each dish. Her smoked cavatelli is a modern twist on spaghetti carbonara — with the smoke coming from the pasta rather than the pork (in this case, fork-tender braised wild boar).
The handmade pasta is briefly blanched before being cold-smoked over apple wood chips, so the subtle flavour isn’t later lost to a pot of boiling water. Nutty brown-butter rutabaga purée adds luscious creaminess while standing in for carbonara’s rich egg-yolk sauce. Black Tuscan kale, charred onions, chanterelles and puffed quinoa complete the entrée.
The smoked pasta adds depth and plays with people’s minds a bit,” says Craig, who has also experimented with smoking, brined beets that fold like thinly shaved slices of pastrami. “I like that you could leave the boar out and it would still make a very satisfying vegetarian dish.”
604-932-3433 | bearfootbistro.com
Smoked Potato Tartiflette
Tartiflette is an ooey-gooey potato gratin from the French Alps. While potatoes are a staple in the Savoy region (going all the way back to its early alliance with the Holy Roman Empire), this seemingly timeless comfort dish is actually a new tradition, invented in the 1980s as a marketing ploy by the producers of Reblochon cheese and popularized in ski resorts.
This strange-but-true story makes this hearty winter side all the more ripe for James Paré’s local adaptation with hay-smoked potatoes from nearby Pemberton, the seed-potato capital of North America.
Using a combination of buttery German potatoes and a sweet purple variety, he gives them a quick blanch in salted water infused with rosemary and thyme, before blasting them with the soft, earthy aroma of burning hay. Add onions, thickly streaked Tyrolean bacon, a generous layer of mild Brie and Saint-Paulin cheese and a splash of apple-cider vinegar — and voilà, a new bubbling, broiled, rib-sticking mountain classic in the making.
604-938-1879 | carambarestaurant.com
PORTOBELLO at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Pulled Pork Poutine
When the locally beloved Portobello Deli (best doughnuts in town) reopens in mid-December after undergoing extensive renovations, its popular made-to-order sandwich bar will be expanded to include a fancy open-flame rotisserie and smoker. While we have always loved Portobello’s succulent brisket and charred pork ribs, after an early sneak preview, the to-die-for pulled pork now ranks as our new favourite.
Meltingly tender and fabulously juicy, the slippery smoked shreds are tinged with a crispy blackened crust that has hints of zesty orange peel, spicy paprika and something sweetly anise-y. Whatever they put in that awesome rub, we want the recipe.
“I could tell you, but then my secret would be out,” Executive Chef Isabel Chung teases.
The luscious pork comes in numerous dishes: tossed into breakfast bowls, sandwiched between buttermilk biscuits and stuffed into baked potatoes. But the standout rendition is a barbecue poutine folded with crushed potatoes, cheese curds, double-smoked bacon and smoky IPA sauce. It’s too good to keep secret.
604-938-2040 | fairmont.com/whistler/dining
RED DOOR BISTRO
Smoked Beef Tenderloin Medallions
For Executive Chef RD Stewart, the greatest joy of running a small bistro in a large resort is that he can cook to his own beat. “Everyone offers a rack of lamb, salmon, steak,” he explains. “When you come here, you can still have the staples, but we try to do them a little differently.”
His smoked beef tenderloin is a case in point. Sure, it’s a steak. But it’s an uncommon cut, which he serves in two small medallions as an appetizer. Although exceptionally tender, the rear muscle doesn’t necessarily have a lot of flavour. He helps it along by basting the pre-cut medallions with mesquite hardwood smoke in the outdoor Bradley smoker, gives them a quick pan-flash in butter and olive oil, pops some grilled king oysters on the plate and drizzles it all with grainy mustard vinaigrette.
“I have not seen anyone else do this in town; and for me, that’s the beauty.”
604-962-6262 | reddoorbistro.ca