The Bounty of The Ocean – Sustainability is Key


The Bounty of The Ocean
Sustainability is Key

Story by Nikki Bayley / Images by Joern Rohde

Overfishing is a huge global issue, and it can sometimes feel like our efforts to dine sustainably are just a “drop in the ocean” to what is needed, but when it comes to seafood, every dish and every fish count. Since its launch in 2005, Ocean Wise has grown to encompass more than 750 partners with thousands of locations across Canada. The Ocean Wise seafood symbol makes it easy for diners and consumers to make sustainable seafood choices; when you see the logo, you know you are making an ocean-friendly choice. These Whistler chefs have been sustainable seafood superstars for years, working to ensure what’s on their menus protects the welfare of the oceans for generations to come. From succulent scallops to fork-tender tuna, your conscience is clear when you dine on these Ocean Wise-labeled gems.

whistler dining alta bistro

West Coast Halibut with Butter-poached Spot Prawns
and Northern Divine Caviar

“It’s an old-school way of thinking,” says Bearfoot Bistro’s Executive Chef Melissa Craig. “Years ago, there wouldn’t even be a conversation about the seasonality of seafood. Just as there are with fruits and vegetables, seafood has seasons too.” When we speak at the end of June, B.C.’s all-too-brief spot prawn season is in full swing, and Craig admits that it’s a delicacy that she looks forward to every year. “We get our spot prawns direct from the boat from our old sous chef, who’s now fishing with his uncle. This year there are far fewer exports, so we’re getting some big, beautiful prawns.”

Along with spot prawns, another B.C. seafood star is halibut. “When they come into season, halibut has to be on the menu; guests really look forward to salmon season too. I like to roll with whatever comes into season,” Craig says. On the menu to celebrate B.C.’s sustainable seafood bounty, the Bistro offers pan-seared juicy halibut with butter-poached, sweet spot prawns, fresh snap peas and pea shoots garnished with pearls of Northern Divine caviar. “I’m a B.C. girl, so I’m proud that Northern Divine comes from the Sunshine Coast,” she says. “It’s a very Sevruga-like caviar — it’s got a good amount of salt but not too much, and the pearls have a good ‘pop.’ It’s spectacular! It’s great that we have sustainable caviar coming out of Canada.”

At the heart of it, making Ocean Wise choices on the menu is all about protecting the future. “The biggest reason for us to showcase what we have and focus on what’s sustainable is so that our grandchildren can eat fish,” says Craig. “We’ve been cooking this way for years, so it’s good to see it become bigger and bigger. Although I will always have local ingredients on the menu, I bring in different products for our guests from all around the world, but no matter what, it’s always going to be sustainable.”

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Signature Cioppino

“It starts by saving everything: crab shells, lobster shells, halibut bones, we save it all and freeze it for a stock,” says James Paré, Caramba chef and co-owner, detailing the many, many steps it takes over three days to make their signature cioppino. The process includes roasting shells to simmering a delicate fumet fish stock to blending aromatics and eventually assembling the dish, using confit potatoes from nearby Pemberton’s North Arm Farm, blanched leeks, prawns, scallops, shaved fresh fennel, made-in-house garlic-rubbed grilled sourdough and Ocean Wise albacore tuna resting on top as the star of the dish. The result is a plate-licker of a dish, with a rich tomato-saffron broth bobbing with juicy seafood, aromatic fresh vegetables and meltingly tender tuna. “Oh, it’s really basic,” Paré says modestly. “But it’s all in the preparation — it’s how we like to build flavours.”

That attention to detail (and glorious Mediterranean flavours) is what’s kept Caramba buzzing with generations of Whistler diners for the past 25 years, and Chef Paré is determined to do his part to keep seafood on the menu for generations to come. “It’s simple: If you want to keep using great seafood products, you can’t overfish them. It’s our duty as chefs to make sure that we give our guests quality ingredients that are sustainable, which tie into the local seasons.”

whistler dining bearfoot bistro

 As diners become more knowledgeable, the demand for higher welfare and sustainable products increases. “When our guests see the Ocean Wise symbol on the menu, they know they’re doing their part. Seafood is as seasonal as asparagus. Things are changing slowly, and it’s great that we can showcase great B.C. products like our beautiful albacore tuna, prawns and scallops, all in one dish!”

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Seared Jumbo Scallops with Lemon and Truffle Mushroom Risotto

One of the keystones of Whistler’s food scene, Quattro, has been delighting diners in the Village for 24 years with their tasty blend of rustic regional Italian classics and contemporary flavours. “I just love our dining room,” says new Chef Nick Surowy. “It’s like going back in time to a classic spot in Sicily.”
When it comes to ingredients, Surowy believes chefs have a responsibility to support local farmers and fishers. “I think it’s important to use Canadian ingredients [as much as possible] to support our economy. It is a full circle; our guests come for dinner, eat local, and we get to serve products that we are proud of. We know our clientele appreciate that, and it goes forward to strengthen our Whistler community.”

That attention to sustainable detail shines in Quattro’s seafood selection. “We use Ocean Wise prawns, halibut, baby scallops and, of course, these beautiful jumbo scallops that I’m using in the dish we’re showcasing here. The scallops are harvested in eastern Canada in the cold, clear waters between Nova Scotia and St. John’s, Nfld. It’s a very sustainable fishery; there are strict limits on how many scallops they can catch so they can keep the numbers up, and they’re never in danger of becoming extinct. That’s what it’s all about!”

whistler dining aura reataurant

Luscious golden-brown seared jumbo scallops swim in a delicious Beurre blanc on a generous bed of mushroom and Meyer lemon risotto. “People are pretty familiar with scallops, and the mushrooms come from our local Whistler mountains. You have the sea represented with the scallops and the land with the mushrooms — it all ties in with the Sea to Sky Corridor. The acidity from the lemon balances the earthiness of the mushrooms; this is such a crowd-pleaser.”

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