It's a lazy, late-September Monday afternoon, and Creekbread kitchen manager Cameron Taylor is stoking the fire on another shift.
"It's slow season now, but we're just getting ready to get fired up for the busy winter season," Taylor says as he adds a pair of logs to the slowly building fire in Creekbread's authentic stone pizza oven.
"That's when we're at our peak."
On the busiest of those peak winter nights — say, around Christmas time — Taylor says the fire can hardly keep up.
"We'll do like 350 to 400 pizzas in a night," he says. "The place is packed — upstairs and downstairs filled. Everyone is enjoying local beers, it's a great environment."
While we talk, a single lonely pizza cooks in the oven — Creekbread's crowd-pleasing Pemberton Potato Pie.
"This has been on the menu since day one... It's one of our most popular pizzas," Taylor says.
"It starts off with an organic, rosemary cream base, which is made here in house, and then it gets oven-roasted organic garlic, organic baby spinach, whole milk mozzarella, potatoes from our good friend Bruce out in Pemberton at Across the Creek (organic farm), and then nitrate-free applewood smoked bacon and then Asiago and fontina cheese."
When our pizza is done — a fully stoked fire can cook a pizza in three to four minutes, Taylor says — I'm treated to my first taste of the local favourite, and it's easy to see why Whistler has become so attached to Creekbread.
Taylor also recommends the Mopsy's Kalua Pork pizza — hardwood smoked free-range pork shoulder, house made organic mango BBQ sauce, organic red onions, fresh pineapple, Happy Days Farm goat cheese, premium whole milk mozzarella, Asiago cheese and a blend of organic herbs.
While Creekbread's wood-fired, clay oven pizzas are certainly their trademark, Taylor recommends the No Boundaries salad as well.
"It's organic red leaf and green leaf lettuce, tossed with our house made raspberry vinaigrette," he said. "We've got hot potatoes, warmed up in the oven, and then we've got red pepper mushrooms, sundried tomato, pineapple, red pepper, carrots and seaweed, sprinkled with sesame seed. It's absolutely phenomenal."
In the summer, some of the restaurant's vegetables are sourced from its own garden out back.
Other ingredients are also sourced locally from places like Across the Creek, North Arm Farm and Shaw Creek.
"We try to do as local as possible," Taylor says.
"The summer is the best time because everything is at its peak. It's really awesome to be so close to a lot of farmland, because a lot of great produce comes out of it."
While the food is certainly an appealing draw, Taylor says there's also something about the atmosphere of the place that keeps people coming back.
"I think it's because everyone who works here, we're like a big family. Super relaxed, chill vibe, easy going," Taylor says.
Creekbread has also become a favourite for community fundraisers — the day after our talk, the restaurant hosted a benefit for those who lost their things or were displaced in the Aug. 28 fire at Tamarisk Estates on Alta Lake Road.
"We do everything from helping people with cancer, helping charities, whatever it may be," Taylor says. "We're constantly trying to do our best to help the community out."
The Creekbread mantra is displayed proudly on the kitchen wall, Taylor says, gesturing to a wall hanging behind the pizza preparation station that says simply: Food is Love.
"That's a big part of what we do," he says, pointing out the other hand-painted artworks decorating the walls, or the building's general chalet vibe.
"It's a lot of fun, especially in the winter when the mountain is open. You can come in off the mountain, have a pizza, warm up by the fire, have a beer or a cocktail or whatever it may be and just hang out, have fun. This is not a place to be intimidated."
Pemberton potato pie with bacon
- 1 cup organic rosemary cream sauce (see recipe below)
- Organic baby spinach — a handful
- Oven-roasted organic garlic — a pinch
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk mozzarella, grated
- Pemberton potatoes — a handful, sliced
- 1/2 cup Danish fontina cheese, grated
- 1 cup nitrate-free applewood smoked bacon, cooked and chopped into small slices
- Asiago cheese and your favourite herb mix – a pinch of each
Rosemary cream sauce
- 3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup shallots, minced
- 8 Tbsp garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3 tsp rosemary, minced
- 5 cups heavy cream
- 6 Tbsp Asiago cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil over medium heat then add shallots, garlic and rosemary. Stir frequently. Add the wine and bring to a boil until it is reduced by half. Add the cream and simmer until it thickens. It will take about 15 minutes. Strain the sauce and add cheese. Let cool before using.
To make the pizza
Start with a 16-ounce piece of dough and stretch it out to roughly 40 to 42 centimetres.
Add a drizzle of garlic oil to the base, then spread one full cup of rosemary cream sauce around the entire base of your pizza dough. Add a pinch of oven-roasted garlic, a handful of organic baby spinach, the grated mozzarella, a handful of sliced cooked Pemberton potatoes, the Danish fontina cheese, the apple wood smoked bacon and a pinch of Asiago cheese and herb mixture.
Cook your pizza for roughly five to 10 minutes, or until there is a nice golden crisp on the crust and base. Enjoy!