When seeking adventure, both physical and culinary, one should consider looking north. The Yukon, left largely untapped by domestic tourism, is worth the trek, especially to experience Edible Canada’s Ultimate Canadian Whisky Dinner. The inaugural event, which took place in April, featured a menu curated by chefs Eric Pateman (Edible Canada) and Yukon local Carson Schiffkorn (Inn on the Lake). Served over the course of 16 hours and paired with a selection of fine whiskies, the culinary Canadiana was paired with some of the best outdoor adventures the Yukon has to offer.
Upon arrival, it’s a 35-minute journey out to Marsh Lake, home to the Inn on the Lake—one of the region’s most accessible, well-known resorts. Schiffkorn, who was born and raised in the Yukon, built the Inn with his father in 1996. At this time of year, it’s still light out past 9 p.m., and daylight hours increase by almost five minutes per day. The air is crisp, the sky is clear, and countless stars light up the sky each night. “After having discovered the flavours of the north last summer at the Yukon Culinary Festival, I knew that I had to put on an event that would showcase the best of the region,” says Pateman. “Wild foraged treasures, game meats, and some of the friendliest people on the planet ensure the Yukon has a very unique place in the Canadian culinary landscape.” Schiffkorn echoes these sentiments: “Growing up in the north you realize that food was always around you, whether hunting or foraging. [I believe we are] creating some of the best food in the country.” One of the main directives of Pateman’s program is access to great culinary talent and authentic experiences. Case in point: Schiffkorn hosts a private dinner for 25 people in his own home to kick off the weekend, complete with whisky pairings and, for those with the stamina to stay up to witness it, a much-anticipated appearance by the aurora borealis. Marsh Lake, with its expansive horizon, is a fantastic place for night sky viewing.
No visit to the Yukon would be complete without a dog mushing venture, and here, Sky High Wilderness Ranch reigns supreme. The ranch was founded by Sylvia and Ian McDougall over 30 years ago, and today has a kennel of 150 dogs.
While the outdoor activities certainly enrich the excursion, the food is most memorable. Pateman and Schiffkorn pull out all the stops for their 16-hour feast, which begins at 10:30 in the morning and features dishes such as arctic char tartar and pan-seared char paired with a birch syrup and whisky glaze over an open fire. They also highlight some of the best culinary options in the surrounding area: elk carpaccio and stroganoff paired with a reserve Canadian Club at the Klondike Rib and Salmon restaurant in downtown Whitehorse; caribou smokies and wild morel mushroom soup paired with Wiser’s whiskey at the Swan Haven Interpretive Centre. There’s even a stop at the MacBride Museum of Yukon History for a famous Yukon tradition: the Sour Toe Cocktail. “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe,” the Dawson City chant goes—each drink comes with a human toe preserved in alcohol that you must let touch your lips.
The final meal at the Inn on the Lake is a feast of pine-smoked halibut with foie gras, racks of venison with low bush cranberries, and gluten-free gnocchi, paired with a rare 32-year-old Wiser’s whisky. Dessert is served on the frozen lake at one o’clock in the morning: cake pops from The Claim, a local favourite, along with more whisky and dancing. “I can’t wait to introduce more Canadians to this little known treasure that is so close, but yet worlds away,” echoes Pateman. “I love the Yukon because it provides a sense of ultimate freedom,” says Schiffkorn. “You can create, you can inspire, and you can breathe what is important in life.”
The next Ultimate Canadian Whisky Dinner takes place April 1 to 3 and April 8 to 10, 2016.
Images courtesy of Edible Canada/Fritz Mueller Visuals.