Island Lake Lodge's Chef Joe Tanti casts a critical eye before allowing any dish to leave his kitchen.
FERNIE, BC — After feasting on a breakfast of eggs benedict, bacon, potatoes, granola, yogurt and assorted fruit, we wondered what beautiful bounty would await us later that night for dinner at Fernie’s Island Lake Catskiing.
“We’ll see. Whatever we feel like,” said Joe Tanti, the Lodge’s head chef.
Such nonchalance wasn’t exactly what I had expected from the head chef of a reputable, gourmet establishment, but in talking with Tanti about his process and how that adds to the experience at the Lodge, I came to understand that his approach wasn’t so much about nonchalance as it was inspiration.
“We don’t really have a set menu. We stock the fridge with whatever’s in season and each day we play it by ear.”
Thus, while the Lodge’s guests are busy shredding powder on the mountain or enjoying a day of Nordic skiing or snowshoeing, Tanti and his staff are busy preparing a meal to serve as the perfect end to a perfect day.
“We try to create a fairly unique experience for our guests. It’s a casual atmosphere with fine dining cuisine, presented with classic Rocky Mountain hospitality. All of our dishes are original, and we tend to cook a lot of game. It’s not at all pretentious; just a nice, rustic dinner.”
Lunch at Island Lake Lodge is a hearty affair. In this case, chick pea and curry soup, served with a bacon/roast beef wrap hits the right note with those who have spent the morning snowshoeing or Nordic skiing.
That night, Chef Tanti delivered on his promise. It began with a wonderful dish of pan-seared scallops and pork, followed by a main dish that consisted of cornbread, asparagus, and squab – a game bird that was unknown to everyone at the table, but became an instant favourite by meal’s end. It was topped off by a delectable dish of chocolate mousse and strawberries.
Every dinner at the Island Lake Lodge is specifically set by the chef himself, so there’s no choice to be had. But there were certainly no complaints. There wasn’t a person in the room who didn’t go to sleep with a full stomach and a smile on his/her face.
Although the staff at the Lodge is famous for its French-inspired cuisine, Tanti sees things a little differently.
“To say that we cook French-inspired cuisine is a little misleading. We’re all trained in the French style of cooking – as far as how things are prepared, how they’re named, etc. – but our food is typically of the Rocky Mountain variety. I like to say that we offer gourmet, French-inspired Rocky Mountain cuisine.”
However you want to qualify it, the food at Island Lake Catskiing's Lodge has been renowned throughout Western Canada for more than 20 years. In fact, the Lodge has recently released the Island Lake Lodge Cookbook – a collection of favourite recipes from all of the Lodge’s head chefs – to rave reviews and impressive sales.
The book was a great opportunity to “continue gaining exposure for the Lodge. It also makes for a great gift for family or friends who couldn’t make the trip to Fernie. What’s really great about it is that most of these dishes aren’t too complicated to prepare," said Chef Tanti.
The wine room at Island Lake Catskiing's Lodge holds 3,000 bottles from around the world, including local wines from the Okanagan Valley.
"They don’t call for unusual appliances or dry ice or anything like that. Some meals require you to take a day or two to lay the groundwork, but for the most part, each meal can be easily prepared at home.”
In addition to the stellar work they do filling up guests with buffet-style breakfasts and three-course dinners, the staff makes sure to prepare a dynamite après meal at the Bear lodge.
“We typically prepare a nice soup and pair it with whatever bread we decided to make that day, something like focaccia, or a baguette, or a French loaf,” said Chef Tanti.
If you’re planning a luxurious winter getaway and searching for an accommodation that upholds its end of the bargain, then make Island Lake Catskiing your next vacation destination. From the cat-skiing, to the lodging, to the service, to the cuisine, Island Lake is the be-all and end-all of cat-skiing adventures.
For more information on Island Lake Catskiing, visit www.islandlakecatskiing.com.
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