THE SALTED VINE KITCHEN + BAR

Whistler Traveller Magazine - - TASTE OF WHISTLER - STORY BY ALEXANDRA GILL IM­AGES BY JOERN ROHDE

The wind­ing drive from Van­cou­ver to Whistler along the Sea to Sky High­way is one of the most scenic routes in the world. But un­til re­cently, this nar­row stretch be­tween rugged moun­tains and sparkling ocean fjord was more or less a culi­nary desert, with fast-food chains per­haps the most no­tice­able, and a few road­side pubs. The ar­rival of The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar in Squamish has changed all that, ir­ri­gat­ing the pre­vi­ously parched land­scape with craft cock­tails, fine wines, raw oys­ters, farm-fresh char­cu­terie, clas­sic steaks and souf­flés, all served in an up­scale coun­try-meets-city set­ting. The mod­ern din­ing re­vival comes cour­tesy of co-own­ers Pat Al­lan and Jeff Park, two dec­o­rated in­dus­try vet­er­ans who spent nearly 25 years be­tween them at Araxi, one of Whistler’s finest restau­rants. (Al­lan was a man­ager; Park was the chef de cui­sine.) Like many of the moun­tain re­sort’s long-time em­ploy­ees, they had both mi­grated with their fam­i­lies to Squamish, a his­toric log­ging town and grow­ing bed­room com­mu­nity half­way be­tween Van­cou­ver and Whistler. They ad­mit that they’re some­what of an odd cou­ple, with a thriv­ing new busi­ness that grew from their shared de­sire for a bet­ter life­style rather than burn­ing am­bi­tion. “I’m not like most chefs,” Park says. “It was never my dream to open my own restau­rant. But it was my de­sire to have a sec­ond baby. I had to be able to see my wife to ac­tu­ally do that,” he jokes. “Now, I’m so close that when I call my wife on my way home, I’m there be­fore I even hang up.” Al­lan, on the other hand, has dreamt of own­ing his own restau­rant since he was fresh out of high school, work­ing in Al­berta’s Banff and Lake Louise while pur­su­ing an ed­u­ca­tion in wine and busi­ness ac­count­ing. “I re­ally en­joy host­ing peo­ple and mak­ing sure that they en­joy them­selves,” he says, not­ing that he is also one of those rare peo­ple in the in­dus­try who ac­tu­ally loves the late nights and long hours. “It gives me the op­por­tu­nity to do things dur­ing the day. I can go fish­ing when the lake isn’t crowded or ski and not have to wait in the lift lines.” Serendip­ity, and many years of hard work, landed them at the his­toric Squamish Ho­tel, the town’s old­est build­ing, erected in 1910. Now ren­o­vated from top to bot­tom, The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar is a cozy din­ing room with an open kitchen and a mod­ern farm­house vibe, dec­o­rated in clean, white sub­way tile and re­claimed wooden barn doors. Al­lan points out that much of the restau­rant’s ren­o­va­tion work was done by neigh­bours and old friends. The wooden serv­ing plat­ters, ce­ram­ics plates and bright wall paint­ings were all made by lo­cal

artists. “We’re re­ally proud to be part of the com­mu­nity and to bring some­thing to Squamish that wasn’t here be­fore,” Al­lan says. Given the lo­ca­tion, and their highly re­spected rep­u­ta­tions, Al­lan and Park were able to as­sem­ble a dream team of em­ploy­ees who also live in Squamish and wanted to work a lit­tle closer to home. The friendly servers all have top-drawer ex­pe­ri­ence at such places as the Four Sea­sons and Fair­mont Chateau Whistler. Bar­tender Dave War­ren is an Araxi alum­nus, as are all the cooks in Park’s kitchen. “I didn’t mean to piss James off,” says Park, re­fer­ring to his former boss at Araxi, Ex­ec­u­tive Chef James Walt. He’s kid­ding. Both Park and Al­lan left Araxi on good terms. And although Salted Vine is much more ca­sual than the Whistler restau­rant, its in­flu­ence can be felt in sev­eral ways. The fam­ily-style shar­ing plates, a con­cept that is def­i­nitely new for Squamish, were in­spired by Araxi’s longtable din­ners. “Shared plates are the way we love to eat,” Park says. “Whether it’s a hus­band and wife on a date night or a girls’ night out, the ex­pe­ri­ence is more in­ti­mate when shar­ing and the con­ver­sa­tion tends to flow a lit­tle freer.” For Park, the op­por­tu­nity to work on a smaller scale with com­mu­nity farms has been a lux­ury that most city chefs would die for. He gets his pork from a pig-shar­ing pro­gram at Root­down Or­ganic Farms in Pemberton and most of his pro­duce from Nu­tri­ent Dense Farm in nearby Brack­endale. “I can ac­tu­ally get green toma­toes from them,” Park en­thuses, re­fer­ring to the lat­ter. “It’s so hard to get green toma­toes. They have beau­ti­ful pro­duce, but they’re too small to sup­ply a big­ger restau­rant like Araxi. They’re also too small to have much of a mar­ket­ing bud­get. Work­ing with us puts them in the spot­light. It’s a give and take.” At The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar, Park is also able to plumb his Korean her­itage, adding a few Asian flour­ishes to the menu, in­clud­ing a house-made, hot-pep­per gochu­jang sauce on seared neon squid and Korean-braised Pemberton Mead­ows beef cheek. “This is new for Squamish and we have to roll it out slowly,” he says, ex­plain­ing how some­one re­cently pro­nounced dashi broth as “douchey.” For now, they’re stick­ing close to the clas­sics. But there is no doubt: Th­ese are el­e­vated clas­sics. The menu in­cludes an in­cred­i­bly ten­der wagyu beef grilled flat-iron sprin­kled with crunchy crys­tals of smoked sea salt and a creamy herbal chimichurri sauce, a sump­tu­ous twice-baked cheese souf­flé, gen­er­ous char­cu­terie boards piled high with lo­cal meats, house-smoked duck breast, lus­cious pork pâté, house-made pick­les, and spe­cialty cheeses served with chewy house­baked sour­dough bread. And so far, it has been a hit with vis­i­tors and lo­cals alike. In Novem­ber, only a few months af­ter launch­ing, The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar was voted “Best Ro­man­tic Din­ner Spot” in the lo­cal news­pa­per’s reader awards. “We haven’t been open very long, but we’ve al­ready been very warmly ac­cepted,” Al­lan says. “Whether it’s a birth­day or 40th an­niver­sary, we’ve be­come the place to go for spe­cial oc­ca­sions. That has been ex­tremely re­ward­ing.” The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar 37991 2nd Ave., Squamish, B.C., 604-390-1910, salt­ed­vine.ca

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