I was only in the Yukon Territory for three days, and a lot of that time was spent on the road, but I certainly did my best to get a taste of what the territory has to offer in the way of dining experiences. The difficulties in food production here are obvious but, as I mentioned in a previous post, that hasn’t stopped the locals from making the most of what they’ve got, and the chefs and cooks at the service end of their local food scene are doing the Yukon proud too. Here’s a look at just a few I was able to check out.
I arrived bleary-eyed and dead beat after a mammoth trip to get to this far-flung corner of the world. By five in the afternoon, after having risen at four the previous morning, bed – any bed – was looking very tempting, but so was the idea of dinner. Fortunately, my accommodation in Whitehorse was just around the corner from a legend in that town – Klondike Rib & Salmon.
Housed in the two oldest buildings still in use in Whitehorse, one of which started life as a tent frame bakery at the turn of the last century, Klondike Rib & Salmon specialises in fresh Northern Ocean seafood, game, house-smoked meats and home-made breads and desserts. I lusted after quite a few dishes on the menu, desperate to try the Reindeer Stew, the Bison Steak or the Elk Carpaccio, but the danger of ending up gently snoring in my dish was a real one so I opted simply for their ‘World Famous Alaskan Halibut and Chips”. The delicious, ultra-fresh, moist fish was coated in a light, crisp batter and served with crunchy fries and coleslaw – a perfect introduction to the wonderful seafood of the region.
Nine in the morning on the very next day saw me on the road, but not before stopping at the modest front of chocolate-central in Whitehorse, The Chocolate Claim (now rebadged as The Claim). One of the most popular spots in town, The claim is a cafe, caterer, take-away food store and patisserie which produces a range of hand-made cakes, sweets and chocolates using Belgian chocolate. We grabbed some heart-starting coffees to go and a selection of wraps, salads and cake for a picnic later in the day – all of which was simply delicious. So delicious, in fact, that in my jet-lagged state and haste to devour it I neglected to take a shot of our dessert. Bad food blogger.
Lunch the next day at a roadside stop called Frosty Freeze in Haines Junction was a little less healthy, but certainly no less tasty. I love a burger or hot dog as much as the next person, but you just know that in the Yukon ordinary beef is not on the menu. Frosty Freeze serve great burgers, deep fried pickles and ice cream and I was pretty happy sitting in the autumn sunshine on their deck chowing down on the Caribou hot dog, Buffalo burger and their famous pickles – familiar food with a definite local twist.
There is no reason for lovers of fine coffee to feel neglected in Whitehorse, as I discovered on a visit to local coffee roasters Bean North. This cafe and boutique roast-house is truly committed to providing locals with an excellent and ethical cup of java. They are one of 23 members of a North American roast-your-own coffee co-operative which sources organic and ethically produced coffee beans direct from the growing communities in every coffee growing region in the world.
Aside from coffee, their cafe serves a range of snacks and cakes, much of the produce for which is actually grown by them on site in the summer months. The cafe sells a range of their coffee, which is also available online and through multiple other distributors. They also conduct coffee/food pairing classes, cupping classes and actively support the communities they source their coffee from by visiting them and occasionally hosting visits from the growers. I chatted with owner Michael King and was inspired by his commitment and passion to providing an exceptional and guilt-free product for locals whose choices otherwise would be fairly limited. Oh – and they make a decent cup of tea, too.
For those who want a special night out in Whitehorse I can heartily recommend the Wheelhouse Restaurant, on the banks of the Yukon River. It’s a busy spot and it’s easy to see why. The restaurant defines itself as a ‘casual elegant’ venue and the food represents some of the best cuisine of the region. The chef is inspired by the locavore movement and this is reflected in the menu, with dishes such as Bison Shepherd Pie and Grilled Arctic Charr complimented by seasonal vegetables. As a rule I’m not a big fish eater, but when in Canada I find it on my plate more often than not – due entirely to the freshness and quality of the seafood available there.
As a result, my last meal in the territory was the same as my first – fish. I simply couldn’t go past the Grilled Arctic Charr, which was more utterly delicious than this sad, light-challenged image can possibly convey.