Where to dine, what to do and where to stay in the Northwest spring paradise.
You may think of white peaks and White Russians when you ponder a weekend getaway to Whistler, BC, but perhaps the best-kept secret of the wintry wonderland is just how happening it is all year long. When the sun–of which there is plenty–is out and the temperature rises, the mountain town plays host to myriad activities to content both adventurers and lollygaggers alike, and even better, there are deals to be had on all the food, lodging, and fun.
Largely because of the recent Winter Olympics, Whistler now has enough hotel rooms to host half of China, but one property stands above the rest and that is the Nita Lake Lodge. The lodge is tucked along the shore of picturesque Nita Lake, which is just a few kilometers, yet a world away from bustling Whistler Village. At Nita Lake Lodge, the name of the game is relax. The hotel wraps around Nita Lake, with its fly-fishermen and picnickers on the shore for constant scenery. Complementary bikes are available should you wish to tool along the trails up to Whistler Village (10 minutes by bike) or just meander the paths. There is also a free shuttle service if biking is not your thing.
The rooms are spacious with heated tile floors, a wall of windows, and every amenity imaginable, including a bed so comfortable that if you don’t set an alarm, you may miss your weekend. The spa is world class, and two Jacuzzi tubs are perched on the roof, making hot tub star-gazing a MUST. One and two-bedroom suites make travelling with larger parties a decadent breeze.
But the real treat of Nita Lake Lodge lies in all things food and drink at Aura Restaurant. Recently voted one of the top ten new restaurants in the Vancouver area by the Vancouver Sun, it’s time we out one of Canada’s newest, best secrets. Executive chef Michael Guy is communal and egalitarian in his approach to food, which is a trait that comes with talent and experience.
It’s no wonder world-class cuisine is coming out of this little kitchen, as he champions his team of chefs to push their personal boundaries, encouraging them to create dishes around a protein, vegetable, or grain. They don’t disappoint, knowing Chef will be there to taste and critique. Consequently, what ends up on the plate of diners is nothing short of innovative, satisfying, and respectful of terroir in every bite. Guy makes his own black garlic after cracking the code to a process many of us have tried and failed to accomplish. Then he whips it into crème fraiche and serves it in sunchoke soup so delicate, soft and rich you’ll swear you’re eating on Mt. Olympus.
There is a living roof atop Nita Lake Lodge where Guy and his team grow much of the produce for Aura. This time of year it’s rhubarb, herbs and greens, but the sunshine in Whistler and the prime rooftop location mean that they are able to produce a good amount of what the restaurant needs.
As well as a la carte options, Aura has a tasting menu, should you wish to experience smaller portions of multiple courses. The five-course tasting is a great way to spend an evening, and you can even do so outdoors overlooking the lake and stars, with a heat lamp to ensure your comfort. Sommelier Sonja Lyttek has a masterful sense of what wine matches which entrée; opting for the wine pairings is absolutely the way to go to experience the tasting menu at its best.
Before or after dinner, be sure to have a craft cocktail in Aura’s companion lounge, Cure. They are doing innovative things with Rye the likes of which the States has never seen, and yet their Sazerac is a solid and comforting as any classic drink should be. Cure often features live music, so if you’re looking to make a night of it, be sure to pack your dancing shoes.
The top-notch food, service, and ambience at Nita Lake Lodge should be enough to gas up your car and go north (Memorial Day Weekend is a perfect excuse to hightail it to Canada), but if you need a bigger teaser, tune in next week for tips on what to do outside the hotel.
Please visit the Nita Lake Lodge website for reservation information.