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The best seat in the house



The view from Steeps Grill & Wine Bar is spectacular. At least, it was on Monday, when the Paralympic torch relay was coming off the Peak 2 Peak gondola, making a pit stop at the Roundhouse, then heading up Peak Chair to make the journey down the mountain.

Offering diners the best seat in the house, so to speak, with the glistening peaks of Whistler Mountain in the distance, I suppose Steeps could serve cardboard and tourists would keep coming back. Fortunately, their food is anything but cardboard.

Chef Randy Jones took over the helm of Steeps Grill in the fall and completely revamped the menu, focusing almost solely on marrying B.C. wines and food. They're members of the Eat B.C.! Program and Oceanwide, and seem pretty set on sticking to showcasing regional ingredients to the many international visitors that tromp through their doors in ski boots each season.

"In a lot of restaurants, you'll find that they'll say, 'okay, we've got a B.C. menu, so we've got a really good piece of wild B.C. salmon on top of something that's from California, with something that's from Chile or Mexico,'" Jones said.

For the winter months, the folks at Steeps have worked hard to source enough root vegetable product from the surrounding area, offering Pemberton potatoes, parsnips, carrots and beets on their menu.

The new approach has apparently been pretty popular as, according to Jones, they've been busy all winter. The Olympic crowd came equipped with hearty appetites and a laidback approach to enjoying their meals, lingering and savouring the dishes that Chef Jones and his culinary team prepared. And Monday afternoon was no exception, with a continuous flow of people in and out of the restaurant, including a few huge groups.

They also host pretty amazing Winemakers Après sessions that have been very well attended, partnering with the Great Estates of the Okanagan vineyards - Inniskillin, Nk'Mip, See Ya Later, Osoyoos Larose, Jackson Triggs and Sumac Ridge - to offer wine pairings for a tailored five-course tasting menu. (The last two sessions are being held on March 17 and April 7, but they hope to offer them again during the summer months.)

If you can't get a ticket to the often sold-out après events, Steeps is definitely worth checking out for lunch someday. The next time I have a friend visiting from out of town I know I'll be heading there to enjoy one of their handily-labeled wine flights (red, white or blends) and charcuterie and cheese boards ($14 and $15).

The boards Chef Jones assembled on Monday included a selection of B.C. artisan-crafted cheeses, including Moonstruck blue from Salt Spring Island and a soft Blue Juliette goat cheese, with a side of blueberry and white wine compote, infused with Lillooet honey. Yum!

I've attempted charcuterie plates at home a few times, but mine simply don't compare to this assortment of Black Forest schinkenspeck, black pepper salami and dried cured chorizo, served with white wine-marinated mushrooms and beets from North Arm Farm. Finding that perfect flavour combination is a fun après adventure that's sure to keep you entertained for as long as your wine flight lasts.

Their appetizer menu is reasonably priced and features a range of dishes that's sure to appeal to just about any palate. Considering myself something of a poutine connossieur, we try out their "B.C. inspired" version of poutine ($8), which features organic aged cheddar cheese curds and B.C. potatoes in an incredibly rich, flavourful demi glaze; a sinful burgundy sauce that elevates a traditional hangover dish into a culinary indulgence.

The Togarashi Seared West Coast Albacore Tuna ($9) is a fresher, lighter option. The thin slices of rich tuna are seared with a light Japanese spice, a heat that is quickly cooled with a taste of the accompanying ginger scallion chutney and pea shoots with ponzu sauce.

From the entree menu, we sample the duck leg confit ($19), a rich and juicy portion of meat served with creamy potatoes, tender but still crisp root veggies and a tart chutney, and lamb shank ($22), served with the same sides and topped with a blueberry compote.

At this point, we had had more than our fill of B.C.'s bounty, and despite the advice of our friendly and attentive server, Marie, we simply couldn't bring ourselves to tackle the chocolate mousse tower.

Don't worry - I'll be back for dessert.



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