At Eagle’s Eye, it’s all about TLC and science when it comes to food
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Golden, B.C. – As you walk through the produce section of your favourite grocery store, plopping lettuce and spinach into your basket, think about what it takes to get those tender leaves to Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at the top of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, just outside Golden B.C. It’s 7,700 feet above sea level and it’s not that easy says the chef in charge if it all.
Tender loving care for the fragile foods
“We have to be very careful with fragile ingredients like some fruit and vegetables. It’s a big journey to get here,” says Nassim Meddane, head chef for the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant. “Take for instance arugula. Twice a week, a truck delivers to the base of the resort and it is loaded into the fridge in the day-lodge. Each day before the gondola is open to the public, food is loaded into shipping crates to be dragged over to the gondola. Once it gets to the top, it has to be pulled into the building.”
Chef Nassim Meddane in the kitchen at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant – Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
Meddane says that journey can sometimes be 1.5 hours – especially if there is lots of new snow. If its 15 below or a balmy +30C, the fragile foods will suffer. Many times, when it is cold or very hot, those foods are delivered by hand and only what they will use in the day, is brought to the top. At the end of the day, garbage takes the same route in reverse – in its own containers.
How slow can water boil?
At 7,700 feet above sea level, the air pressure can play havoc with the cooking process too.
“We use propane to heat the stoves,” says Meddane. “The outside temperature and elevation really affect the pressure on the gas and how it heats up. Every 1,000 feet above sea level is a huge change in characteristics. Up here, it takes a pan three times as long to heat up and twice as long to boil water compared to sea level. So, we adapt timing for cooking everything. Pacing is part of the game.”
Speaking of the propane, that and water are other commodities they are careful with.
Propane is brought to the top of the mountain twice a year when the delivery truck can use “It’s a Ten” cat track. The two tanks at the side of the building should be good for the winter. As soon as the road is clear in the spring, the summer supply is brought in. If they run dry in the winter, they have to bring smaller tanks up on sleds. A concept Maddene doesn’t want to consider.
Fresh water is pumped from a well in Crystal Bowl into tanks in the basement of the building. A water treatment plant outside the building treats the used water and it is released into canyon once it meets the standard.
The only bar where sunglasses are almost mandatory on a clear day.
Baking is a science – especially at this elevation
It’s not just the propane that gets messed up with the altitude, yeast is affected too. But, as Chef Meddane points out with the slight wave of a hand, anyone who knows how to bake, knows it’s not about following the recipe. Its about understanding the chemistry.
“As long as you start with the right proportions of sugar, yeast and water, you can adjust the rest of the ingredients to create the right consistency and viscosity to bake a loaf of bread. Baking is the most alive thing you can do. Yeast won’t react the same on a humid day as a dry day, summer or winter, or at different elevations. So, following a recipe won’t work. You have to follow the methodology,” says the chef.
Menus are picked for fast and slow experiences
Picking the menu is a bit of an art that a head chef should be master of. Meddane has worked at four other winter ski resorts and was the Banquet Sous-chef at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel before coming to Eagle’s Eye in 2016. So, he is used to working in a small kitchen with limited storage for food.
The menu is written to consider the equipment, the space, the available ingredients and the time it takes to cook. Lunch needs to be delicious, but quick to create so guests can get back to the slopes. Dinner is an entirely different menu with rich flavours and sauces prepared in-house.
“Dinner up here is an experience as well as a meal,” said Chef Meddane.
Eagle’s Eye not only has a fantastic restaurant, it has a killer bar with a backdrop like no other. It’s the only bar I know of that you need to wear your sunglasses for sun protection. If you forgot yours, they have spares on hand. The patio in the spring is spectacular. Stop in for the signature Caesar. It’s like a meal in a mug.
Check here for the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant. If you want to stop in for dinner, reservations are strongly advised.