Yukon wilderness offers quite a menu

Posted Aug. 01, 2009, at 1:14 a.m.
Wilderness living and gourmet dining go hand in hand in the Yukon with creations like this salad of fresh greens and seared halibut compliments of Chef Carl Pearce of Great River Journey. (Julia Bayly photos)
Wilderness living and gourmet dining go hand in hand in the Yukon with creations like this salad of fresh greens and seared halibut compliments of Chef Carl Pearce of Great River Journey. (Julia Bayly photos)
Wilderness living and gourmet dining go hand in hand in the Yukon with creations like this salad of fresh greens and seared halibut compliments of Chef Carl Pearce of Great River Journey. (Julia Bayly photos)
Wilderness living and gourmet dining go hand in hand in the Yukon with creations like this salad of fresh greens and seared halibut compliments of Chef Carl Pearce of Great River Journey. (Julia Bayly photos)

YUKON TERRITORY, Canada — OK, I admit it, I headed to the Yukon with some preconceived notions on what I would find there.

Many of them held true. I expected to – and did – see vast tracts of true wilderness, stunning blue glacier-fed lakes and the quiet, stark beauty of the Yukon River.

One thing I was not expecting at all in the territory’s 483,450 square miles was an abundance of gourmet chefs and restaurants.

All that glitters in and around the gold fields of the Klondike is definitely not gold. Some of the Yukon’s real treasures are chefs like Victor Bongo at the Raven Hotel and Restaurant in Haines Junction (www.ravenhotelyukon.ca).

Bongo who is from – and I’m not making this up – the Congo – incorporates flavors from a variety of backgrounds into dishes that have earned him the title “Best Chef in the Yukon.”

After a day of bicycling and hiking, what a treat to sit down to a menu featuring Bongo’s smoked duck breast Vietnamese-style spring roll with truffle-peanut sauce; smoked artic char tartare with caviar, guacamole, crème fraiche and tomato-caper salsa; grilled bison tenderloin wrapped with applewood bacon; or sweet potato wrapped halibut with spicy wasabi sauce.

I opted for a venison steak that Bongo cooked – or in my case didn’t cook as I like my steaks beyond rare – to perfection accompanied by an amazing potato pave with layered Yukon gold and sweet potatoes.

The Raven Hotel is a small establishment with only 12 rooms run by Bruce Tomlin and Gwen Watson who routinely welcome guests who have driven 1,000-miles to spend a single night there dine in the restaurant.

In Whitehorse the culinary options ranged from Mexican at Sanchez Cantina featuring selections including ceviche, tacos and mole pablano to the eclectic slow food fare at Antoinette’s Food Cache where chef Antoinette Oliphant features original dishes like pumpkin, proscuito and goat cheese pizza, leak and potato soup, king crab chowder, spicy prawns, and curry chicken roti.

It honestly seemed every meal was designed to outdo the previous.

The Yukon is true wilderness and there is no doubt a visitor can spend days or weeks roughing it in the bush and small communities.

There’s simply no reason to go hungry in the process.

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