“It is really nice here,” says Virginie Hamel as she looks at the high ceilings and natural woods of the Meadow Lakes Golf Club chalet.
“It is super cozy.”
This is exactly why she chose to open her new restaurant here in November, called Wintering Ground.
“Wintering Ground is a place where you go and feel at home during any season, not just winter,” she explains.
“It is a place you feel you can spend time for a little while.”
Indeed, many of her customers linger over the cheese plates and nachos or one of the main courses, like the Thai green curry chicken.
If you have ever enjoyed a meal at the Association franco-yukonnaise, then the chances are that Hamel was in the kitchen. She does a lot of catering from there.
And she knows what she wants from a restaurant when she goes out: “I want something interesting and fun to eat, but I don’t really want French fries or burgers.
“You feel good eating it, but not so much afterwards.
“I am looking for comfort food... but healthy food.”
So, she met her own challenge with such comfort foods as the nachos. But she made it interesting and fun by including pesto, salsa verde and cashew caper cream – along with the prerequisite red peppers and cheddar cheese.
Salads include arugula, kale chips and beets, served with quinoa.
When there is meat included with a salad, it can be smoked trout or blackened chicken.
Pizza? When was the last time you saw elk sausage as a topping?
“We cater to vegetarians and meat lovers at the same time,” says Hamel.
Challenging herself even more, Wintering Ground’s plates of food are each meant to be a work of art.
“I am also an artist,” says Hamel. “Cooking is like a creation, so it is like art that I’m serving people.”
She laughs at the suggestion that an artist would rebel against following a recipe (read: rules).
“You can be creative with the plate you are preparing,” she explains. “You can make it colourful and attractive.
“You eat with the eyes first, that is super important.”
Locating Wintering Ground at the golf course is one of those ideas that make sense: it is not being used during the winter and it has a built-in reputation for being a comfortable, cozy place. When golf season begins, Hamel and the owner of the golf course will decide on how to proceed.
Meanwhile, she is getting customers walking up from the little neighbourhood just below the hill. And people are stopping by from Mary Lake, Sima and Cowley Creek.
“And a lot of people from town, too,” says Hamel. “I was amazed at the amount of support I got from the community; Whitehorse is cool like that.”
When the cooking is done for the night, Hamel will leave the kitchen to visit with her guests: “I am a shy person, but it is really fun.”
Reservations are not necessary, but are recommended since there are only 25 seats. Call 668-4653. The menu is available on Facebook.
Hamel still caters and can use this space for even larger groups.
Wintering Ground is open Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturday from noon to 10 p.m.