Who knew a dinner experience consisting of mini salt and pepper sachets, and potato salad in a plastic lined basket could be so good?
Even my dinner mate, whose kitchen-speak only consists of terms I need to look up in the Food Lover’s Companion book, indulged in second helpings.
I don’t know whether it was the award-winning barbecue, mountain vista views or live music, but a night out with the Mountain Top BBQ creates one of those special summer memories you don’t need a photograph to remember.
So for those of you, whose wardrobe doesn’t include a sweatshirt with Whistler splayed across the front or a camera bag whereby a credit-card-thick digital camera can be pulled from the hip at any given moment, this should be a new addition to your summer to-do list.
Every Saturday night until Sept. 1, Whistler-Blackcomb shuttles red-checked-table-cloth seekers up Whistler Mountain via the gondola to the Roundhouse Restaurant boasting a barbecue buffet and 360-degree mountain views.
I don’t know how many times I’ve visited the Roundhouse over my four years of living in Whistler, but I could probably navigate the mountain-top restaurant even with pea-soup-fogged goggles on, and clock exactly how many certain minutes are left at various points on the gondola ride up before reaching the top.
No matter how many times I surveyed runs for powder on my gondola perch, a summer cable cruise is an awesome r-rated run — “r” as in revelling in our naked mountains without snow.
Don’t let the cafeteria set up or herd of tourists with cameras glued to their faces sway you. There is a genuine experience here; you just need to look past the buffet set up and crowds of people to taste what really matters.
A slight drizzle clearing the outside patio, looking over panoramic views of mountains, lakes and Whistler Village far away down below, helped as a friend and I settled into the outdoor seating with our fleeces and heaping plates of food.
We stacked a spread any picnic basket would envy; only I left the mixed vegetables warming in the tray. There was only so much square footage on my plate.
I don’t know what was bigger: the mountains or the small glacier of potato salad rising above a valley of barbecue chicken, smoked pork brisket, brown beans, coleslaw, corn on the cob and country biscuits on my plate — yes biscuits as in plural. They were that good.
What I love about a barbecue like this is that it gives you permission to eat foods you would never indulge in otherwise. I would never buy coleslaw at the grocery store or drink lemonade at home, but the sun shoving its way past grey clouds and a feast of summer memories gives your diet latitude if not longitude at 6,000 feet.
Local strummer Gordo added to the mountainside picnic fun with breezy Jack Johnson favourites on guitar and harmonica.
The easy-loving music became the soundtrack to our picnic affair that shone with simplicity and a one-step ante. Dried cranberries kicked up the coleslaw, brisket slow cooked for 14 hours packed a potent smoky punch, maple dressed beans beyond cowboy fair and the thick potato salad would have been the first thing on any ant’s hit list.
The view was ridden with ski stories, excitement for the coming winter and how much the small town below had had such a big impact on our life. Eating in the open air always brings out the nostalgic and romantic in me. There must be something in that home-cooked, sunshine-disposition fare that does it.
It wasn’t late enough in the season for alpenglow, although I suspect as the days get shorter, late August visits will have mountains blushing as onlookers gape.
We moved inside with views still surrounding us for dessert. I didn’t have room for the pecan and apple pie, although miraculously I managed a few slices of watermelon and chilly almost-like ice cream, cream puffs. I only took a second trip because I underestimated the dessert plate surface area.
The Mountain Top BBQ can be easily underestimated as an occasion just for tourists and a buffet sought merely to fill rather than inspire. But it’s the kind of dining where tucking your napkin into your collar doesn’t get a second glance and a second helping of brisket has the carver cheering you on. The Mountain Top BBQ is all about summer fun.