Like a lot of chefs, Eric Gilchrist is a bit of a nomad. He's spent time working in some of the most idyllic locales the world has to offer — the Caymans, Florida and Jamaica, to name a few — but it's one gastronomic mecca in particular that he's channelling for his next endeavour, the Basalt Wine and Salumeria, which is set to open this summer in the village.
"I lived in New York prior to coming back to Whistler," says Gilchrist, who also helps oversee Table 19 at Nicklaus North and The Beacon Pub. I was there for a couple of years, and had the chance on my days off to go to a salumeria in Queens where somebody would be very proud to slice you off a piece salami or cured meat you've never tried before."
The concept for this new restaurant, going into the former location of The Mix by Ric's, centres on the idea of an old-school salumeria — except with a touch of the contemporary thrown in.
Traditionally, the neighbourhood salumeria is where the discerning carnivore would head for all the meat products they couldn't get from the butcher. In more recent times, salumerias often sell a variety of other delectable eats as well, including sausages, artisan cheeses and antipasti.
It's that down-to-earth, back-to-basics approach that Gilchrist envisions at Basalt, where diners will get to enjoy their own selection of the finest cured meats and cheeses, along with a full lunch and dinner menu offering gourmet hamburgers, fresh-off-the-line fish and seafood, and more.
"It's more than just a wine bar," he says. "I don't envision doing all small plates and tapas, it's more embracing this salumeria concept, which, in older times meant cured and smoked meats sold from a deli counter."
That respect for the culinary traditions of the Old World will manifest itself in one particular piece of equipment Gilchrist is bringing in that would be at home behind any self-respecting Manhattan deli counter.
"One of the unique things we will be doing is bringing in an old-school, hand-cranked, flywheel slicer," says Gilchrist. "There's no electricity, you don't plug it in. That's the focal point of the restaurant.
"The idea is that the new bar will have an open cold kitchen side to it, which will have the hand-cranked slicer and the salami and cured meat plates will be coming from there. You can actually sit at the bar and watch your platter or plate being put together."
Basalt will also cater to a town that loves to entertain, allowing customers to take away their own customized charcuterie plates and cheese boards to enjoy at home.
"My vision for that is you're staying in the village or you've been here for a little while, and maybe you don't want to go out tonight. But you can come and pick one of these up or call ahead... and we can have it ready," Gilchrist says. "I want to bring the ploughman's lunch back to the table. They'll probably arm-wrestle over whether that's English or Irish (in origin), but it's that idea of sitting in a field and tearing up bread with some beautiful olive oil, cheese and cured meats. Everybody has a glass of wine and you relax, and that's what our vision is: rustic yet refined."
Gilchrist is also committed to using only top-quality ingredients, whether sourced locally, regionally or from farther abroad.
"I want to have those three layers with the food. It's great we can get local produce and things like that, but I still want to be able to get some cured meats and things from the old country — bündnerfleisch from Switzerland, soppressatta from Italy — so you can try one or two of the same meats done in two or three different places," he explains. In the post-Food Network era, the rise of so-called foodie culture means that your average diner is more knowledgeable and more demanding than ever before. With that trend has come the rediscovery of old culinary traditions, and a growing focus on simple flavours and exceptional dining experiences that will be at the heart of what Basalt does.
"For us, we want it to be like you're retrying things for the first time," Gilcrist says.
"Maybe it evokes a memory of a trip to Europe or a winery in the Interior. People have moved away from sitting and having five, six, seven courses.
"Now it's more about sharing, the experience. It's not always just the food, although that's very important, along with the wine, but it's the atmosphere and the memory you take away from it."
Basalt Wine and Salumeria is expected to open in mid-June.House-made pickled vegetables
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 2 tbsp pickling spice
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil and then cool down.
Slice vegetables, such as small cucumbers, carrots, or onions .
Once the vegetables are sliced, sprinkle liberally with kosher salt, allow to sit in the fridge overnight, drain off excess liquid and rinse. Pour the cool pickling liquid over the vegetables and refrigerate. The pickled vegetables are best after at least a week in the liquid.