Eat Yourself Happy at These Whistler Restaurants
Story by Nikki Bayley / Images by Joern Rohde
If there ever was a time to eat your feelings, it’s Covid times! Comfort food has been the carb-packed indulgent accompaniment to the past year’s trials and tribulations for us all. Nourishing soups that feel like a hug in a bowl or glistening, butter-kissed plates of pasta bring an instant rush of glowing happiness. Carbs! Carbs! Carbs!
Whistler chefs know how to bring comfort to your plate with decadent dining options guaranteed to provide you culinary joy. So, grab your comfiest pants and start planning your next meal.
THE MEXICAN CORNER
Chicken and Chorizo Parrillada
“I’m falling in love with Whistler,” says Chef Mariana Gabilondo, who recently relocated to the mountains from Vancouver after four and a half years of wowing diners at La Mezcaleria. “This was a big move for me, but it’s stunningly beautiful, wonderfully maintained and gorgeous; people are just happy to be here. I’m excited about my first winter, and maybe I’ll try cross-country skiing. I’m not ready to throw myself down the mountain yet!”
When Gabilondo was growing up in Mexico City, her father was a firm believer in fun food. If you couldn’t grab it with your fingers and then go back to your toys, it wasn’t child-appropriate. Comfort often lies in the food of our childhood, and for Gabilondo, that means tortillas. “Right now, comfort food gives us a place where we feel safe without worrying about the world. Anything that’s too formal just isn’t comfortable right now. My favourite comfort food is a big platter with tortillas so you can make each bite exactly as you want. Do you just want chicken? No problem; leave the veggies on the side. Want to leave the chorizo till the last? You can! It’s all about building the tacos as you want and adding salsa, guacamole, salt and lime to make that perfect taco,” says Gabilondo.
Build your own happiness with the Mexican Corner’s chicken and chorizo parrillada; a “make your own tacos platter” with marinated chicken breast, chorizo, roasted vegetables, and dried chile and pumpkin seed salsa. “Sit down, and don’t worry about getting your fingers dirty,” Gabilondo urges. “Enjoy the textures, fillings, great flavours and all the happiness you get from when you first see a dish right through to when you’re licking that last piece of sauce from your fingers.”
604.962.4450 | themexicancorner.ca
French Onion Soup
“Throughout Covid, comfort food for me has been anything I can get my hands on,” jokes Chef James Paré. “I have been cooking a lot at home, though, just relaxing things that I don’t have to give a ton of thought (to). I made chicken piccata one night, and I just taught my wife to make schnitzel. We’ve been eating pasta, soup with really good bread — all of that is comforting for me.”
Chef Paré and I talk about the role that nostalgia and memory play when it comes to serving up a piled-high plate of comfort in the kitchen. “It always needs to remind you of something that you had in the past,” says Paré. “It’s all about flavour, texture and consistency.”
For this story, Paré reached back into his past at the Savoy Hotel in London, where he was executive chef at Kaspar’s at The Savoy. There was a traditional French onion soup on the menu, and it’s this recipe that he’s been making for the past 15 years that’s back by popular demand on Caramba’s winter menu. Like all good soups, this takes time… the stock (a meaty blend of beef and chicken) bubbles away for 24 hours. Red and white onions are sautéed slowly in grapeseed oil, star anise added to boost the aromatics and meaty flavour, a bouquet garni of thyme; white wine and sherry deglaze the pan and stock is added a little at a time before it slowly simmers for a few hours and it’s then given an extra kiss of sherry. The final touch? Paré leaves the soup to chill for 48 hours in the fridge for the flavours to develop.
Even the bread-and-cheese topping gets an upgrade in this superior soup. With slices of Brie and nutty Comté adding creaminess and richness, “it turns it from a soup to a meal,” Paré says. “Crusty on the outside, warm and comforting on the inside, it’s a no-brainer!” .
604.938.1879 | carambarestaurant.com
Red Wine Braised Brant Lake Wagyu Shortribs
Whisper it… despite living in one of the world’s finest winter sports resorts, Bearfoot Bistro’s Executive Chef Melissa Craig doesn’t ski! Laughing, she tells me that if she ever has a day off from her busy schedule at the restaurant throughout the colder months, you’ll find her at the spa, not on the mountain. “I definitely appreciate being in the kitchen for its warmth over the winter,” she says. “For me, wintertime is braising time.”
We talk childhood comforts; for Craig, one of her favourites, along with the classic grilled cheese sandwich, was a beef stroganoff with egg noodles that her mum used to make. “It was just ground beef, and I think Campbell’s mushroom soup, but it was so good! There was also the Saturday morning tradition of making potato pancakes, where all three of us kids would be in the kitchen — one peeling, one grating and one cooking (me). These are still one of my favourite things to make when I’m craving comfort. And you can’t beat an old-school taco with all the fixings, but fresh serrano peppers are a must."
A new favourite is a carbonara that her partner, Bearfoot Bistro founder André Saint-Jacques, whips up at home. “He made it last night, and I couldn’t stop eating it. It was the best I’ve ever had. The linguine was perfectly al dente, and it was so comforting and delicious.”
While the Bearfoot’s winter menu might not include Saint-Jacques’s perfect pasta, you’ll find plenty to comfort you after a day on the slopes — or at the spa. Dive into a plate of Chef Craig’s Red Wine Braised Brant Lake Wagyu Shortribs glazed with a rich jus. Served with a Yukon Gold potato purée, confited lobster mushrooms harvested by the kitchen team, and a picked Brussels sprout salad — “just peel the outer leaves, then take the hearts and toast them for a couple of textures!” This hearty dish is guaranteed to bring all the good feelings you’re craving.
604.932.3433 | bearfootbistro.com
RED DOOR BISTRO
Hot Chocolate Fondant Cake
Warm, rich, hot: for Chef RD Stewart, comfort needs to be simple. As an adult, trying to recreate a beloved childhood dish of chicken pot pie with “straight-up Southern-style biscuits” showed him that you can’t mess with the taste of nostalgia. “I just don’t make it as good as my mum and grandma made it,” he says with a laugh. “I think I overcomplicate it, adding cayenne and other ingredients, even making the biscuits from scratch. I should just cheat and use Bisquick, I think that’s what they did, and it was always great!”
Winter at the Red Door Bistro allows Stewart to indulge in his love of simple French-inspired menus, using lesser-known tasty cuts and long, slow cooking techniques. “Right now, it’s good to braise,” he says. Home comforts for this busy chef include roasted chicken or simple lamb shanks. “I just want uncomplicated food when I have a day off in the winter; food that helps beat the cold,” he says.
Nothing will warm the cockles of your heart, though, like Stewart’s decadent Hot Chocolate Fondant Cake, a tribute to a classic recipe using high-quality chocolate to bring an extra level of deliciousness to this bistro favourite. “I know a lot of people don’t think about dessert when they think about comfort,” explains Stewart, “but this is so good! We use Cacao Barry Fleur de Cao 70 per cent chocolate. It’s super dense, a little on the bitter side with a roasted note, and it smells wonderfully floral.” The cake is baked in a soufflé dish and then gently flipped to unmold into a bowl on a bed of glossy raspberry coulis, garnished with fresh blueberries, powdered sugar and a sprig of mint. And the final, decadent touch: a scoop of vanilla bean gelato made by a local company, Lucia Gelato. “Sure, it’s an older recipe,” says Stewart, “but with chocolate this good, it’s a hit.”
604.962.6262 | reddoorbistro.ca