Cornucopia: A Weekend in Whistler
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Whistler, British Columbia, might be known for its snowy slopes and great outdoor activities, but this little ski-village 70 miles outside of Vancouver should also be known for something else: food. The Resort Municipality of Whistler is home to slightly less than 10,000 permanent residents, with the average age of just 32.4 years. The young population combined with the flow of tourists through the area has led to a thriving culinary scene, with a wide selection of eateries offering everything from bar-style après-ski to modern fine dining. The central area of Whistler alone is home to more than 150 restaurants, bars, and cafeterias. To highlight the culinary side of Whistler and surrounding areas of British Columbia, Cornucopia — a festival of food, wine, spirits, and wellness — is arranged here yearly, in mid-November.
Click here to see the Cornucopia: A Weekend in Whistler (Slideshow)
This year, the festival, expanded by popular demand, spanned over 10 days, and incorporated a new angle: "nourish," highlighting the wellness and health side of our food culture. "Nourish" events included everything from yoga and meditation sessions to seminars and cooking demonstrations on topics such as the Paleo diet, raw food, and foods good for your skin.
While visiting Whistler for the last weekend of Cornucopia, I got the opportunity to attend several great events. It was an intense two days, and I was lucky to squeeze in some "nourish" events to balance the constant indulging. Whistler also offered another surprise for visitors during the weekend of Nov. 16 and 17: the Whistler slopes opened one week earlier than planned, bringing in a crowd of eager skiers and snowboarders ready to be the first on top of the hill (the most daring of them camped outside the gondola starting Friday evening). For me, the option of an afternoon filled of food events easily outweighed a visit to the top of the mountain, though the view of the blue-skied afternoon probably was breathtaking to say the least. But with only a two-day window to enjoy the spectacular food and wellness events, I definitely think I made the right choice in skipping out on the mountain tour (next time!).
Friday consisted of vodka, absinthe, gin, and schnapps tastings at Pemberton Distillery — the only certified organic potato vodka distillery in the world. In the evening, we got a preview dinner of the Westin Resorts new restaurant Grill & Vine, set to open Nov. 18. On the menu was a great spread of Mediterranean-influenced easily sharable dishes, from delicious fried olives stuffed with anchovies to their "simply grilled" wood-fire oven salmon. After dinner, the "House Party: Celebrate Argentina" offered buffet-style Argentinian fare and carving stations of suckling pig, and wine tastings from different Argentinian wineries.
On Saturday, morning yoga, a spa visit, and a raw food seminar "nourished" me enough to feel ready for more indulging. The day continued with a Mexican cooking demonstration by Executive Chef Edgar Navarro of Whistler’s popular Mexican Corner, where three kinds of margaritas and Mexican bites were served. After, a visit to the popular après-ski bar LTC, for a snack of chicken wings and a tofu version of the same dish. Later, the night ended with an absolutely fantastic winery dinner: "Altitude Australia" at Alta Bistro, prepared by chef Nick Cassettari and guest chef Owen Foster. The seven-course, seven-wine dinner at the cozy restaurant with the motto "sustainable, local, ethical," was a perfectly executed and paired an array of Australian dishes and wines.
To get a peek into the last Cornucopia weekend in Whistler this year, click through the slideshow of some of my top moments, from the spirits tasting at Pemberton Distillery to amazing raw food to the seven-course winery dinner at Alta.
Every year in November, foodies and wine lovers alike come together to celebrate all things food and wine in Whistler. In 2020, this year’s event will look a little different. Spanning over the each weekend in November, take part in the culinary stage series, sign up for a drink seminar, or enjoy the winery dinner. There are plenty of options to choose from this year. Check out the whole schedule here.
Click here to check availability for your stay during Cornucopia at the Crystal Lodge or call 1.800.667.3363 to talk to someone on our reservations team.
And of course, don’t forget to buy your tickets!
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Ways to Get to Whistler
There are no shortages in means of transportation. As for me, I’ll handle the quick drive from Vancouver. If you want to save, there are shuttles from Vancouver International Airport, and downtown Vancouver to Whistler starting at $20. If you’re wanting to go all out with a bunch of friends, then flying is the way to go. Heli-chartersare available from Vancouver Airport and can hold five people. The quick 30-minute ride will take your breath away hovering over BC’s best mountains. Another more up-scale option is the rental of a luxury SUV or limo so you can arrive in style.
This past Saturday was the Columbia StEAT Food Truck Festival in New Westminster. I was invited down to a special VIP opening of the Maille Flavour Studio where headmaster mustard sommelier, Harry Lalousis, taught us about how we can incorporate mustard into various dishes, including desserts and cocktails! Did you know Maille has been around for over 300 years,…
Thanks to Johnsonville Canada, I had the opportunity to attend the #HowDoYouJohnsonville media event this week at the newly opened David Hawksworth restaurant, Nightingale. The event was to promote the partnership between Canadian celebrity Chef Mark McEwan and Johnsonville. Mark McEwan has several of his recipes featured on the Johnsonville website and is a spokesperson for Johnsonville sausages. For this particular…
Cornucopia a celebration of fine food and wine
According to Richard Samaniego, Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s executive sous chef, Cornucopia is the best time of the year to be a chef. Heartier dishes are made and served with more complex red wines.
Photo by Mike Crane/courtesy Tourism Whistler
WHISTLER, B.C. – This year marks an extended culinary indulgence for Cornucopia. After 17 years, the all things food and drink festival is revamped and longer spanning two weekends.
The festival, presented by BlueShore Financial as a new sponsor this year, takes over Whistler Village with 6,500 people attending, running from Nov. 7 to 17. The sponsors’ investment has allowed for an expanded program, keeping the festival current with new trends in the food and beverage world. Thinking beyond just wine, the fest now includes breweries, spirits, learning seminars and more.
Expect some of the usual events, like Crush Gala Grand Tasting, the flagship dual-night tasting bash, the return of Night Market, plus those infamous after-parties.
Crush takes place in the ballroom of the Whistler Conference Centre, which is designed as a mountain lodge for the event, and gathers together 65 wineries offering tastings.
Night Market also takes place at the Conference Centre, in the Grand Foyer. The setup resembles an outdoor market with a series of booths offering samples of Asian cuisine, sake, beer - all included with your admission ticket. The market also includes artist wares and products for sale.
Photo by Anastasia Chomlack/courtesy Tourism Whistler
The after-parties of Cornucopia are legendary because local restaurants, lounges and hotels showcase their finest – from champagne to oysters and caviar. Expect Cirque-inspired performances and Vegas-style casino nights plus showgirls and world-class DJ’s.
But it’s the new events that are most exciting. (Remember, you must register and pay for tickets to any of these events in advance.)
For instance, on Nov. 8, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler partners with Harry McWatters, former founder of B.C.’s Sumac Ridge and See Ya Later Ranch wineries. Sample wines from his personal collection and new Okanagan winery TIME. Expect wine, hors d’oeuvres, and an elegant five-course dinner.
“Cornucopia is the best time of the year to be a chef. Summer is over and the bounty of the fall harvest abounds. It is time to start cooking heartier dishes that also pair with big more complex red wines. Big food. Big wines. Big fires,” says Richard Samaniego, Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s executive sous chef.
Starting from $99 per person per night,
book your CRUSH Gala Grand Tasting
and accommodation package.
To be sure there can be overindulgence at the festival so this year it’s fitting that a new Nourish Series takes place with seminars on health, wellness, yoga, meditation, and culinary trends.
House Party (International) – Best of Argentina, on Nov. 15 combines live music with local foods and domestic wines.
Spirit-related sessions are being offered Nov. 16, like Gin: The Cocktail Chameleon, Whiskey: An American Tale, Absinthe – Risk or Reward? and Bitter Bastards. But probably the most appreciated for those who perhaps hit the fest a little too enthusiastically, is the Hair of the Dog Cocktails And Why They Work, seminar.
Alta Bistro is offering some fun events as well. On Nov. 8 check out the Joseph Drouhin Dinner. Drouhin is one of the top Burgundy producers around, pairing his wines with six courses by acclaimed Chef Nick Cassettari.
“We spend all year cultivating dishes, ideas, concoctions, cocktails, recipes, tasting notes and menus for this event in the hope to express what our beautiful country has to offer,” says Cassettari.
"Finally Cornucopia arrives and lets us showcase and celebrate this amazing bounty.”
For details on all events and weekend packages check out Whistler Cornucopia
Whistler Cornucopia Review: Book Your Ultimate Experience Today
So, there you have it, a local’s guide to surviving one of the best festivals on the Whistler calendar. If our Whistler Cornucopia review sounds like the not to be missed event of the season, get in contact with our expert concierge team. With local knowledge and all the connections, they’ll plan your ultimate Cornucopia experience – hassle free. Cheers.
Gibbons has been celebrating with people since 1979. We operate venues, run festivals, brew beer, talk travel and throw parties.
The Non-skier's Guide to Whistler
Whistler is world-renowned for its skiing &mdashb ut the foodie, shopping, art and spa circuit makes for a fun weekend, even if hitting the slopes isn&rsquot on your agenda. With some of the best restaurants in the country, you&rsquoll find no shortage of non-athletic leisure activities to enjoy in Whistler.
Click through to plan your next getaway to this treasured mountain oasis.
Stay in luxury
Nothing is more quintessentially Whistler than the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. The hotel can&rsquot be beat in terms of location, cozy feel, and some of the best service around. Book in for a weekend stay and enjoy everything this majestic, expansive hotel has to offer. Make sure you leave plenty of time to spend in the outdoor/indoor pools and hot tubs for a post-dinner soak. Try to get up in time for the delicious buffet breakfast, where you can linger over coffee and the most beautiful mountain view, or enjoy a leisurely meal in bed with room service.
Chefs' Choice: Pique cookbook launches at The Picnic during Cornucopia
In these column inches we've interviewed chefs from award-winning, high-end eateries like Chef James Walt at Araxi. We've interviewed trained raw food chefs like Sarah Uy. We've profiled executive chefs from some of Whistler's top hotels alongside cooks from local cafés. All have a unique story to tell about how they fell in love with food.
The stories of "Chef's Choice" are much like the stories of Whistler &mdash fun, eclectic, genuine.
Some of those best interviews and recipes from over the past few years have been re-imagined into a new cookbook called Chefs' Choice Cookbook.
This is Pique's "taste of Whistler" and it will officially launch during Cornucopia, Whistler's 11-day food and drink celebration, in an event called The Picnic on Thursday, Nov. 12.
Amy Huddle, president of the Whistler Food and Beverage Association, sums up Whistler's culinary offerings, and by extension, the "Chef's Choice" space in Pique, which profiles those offerings every week.
"I think that Whistler has some of the most amazing and diverse cuisine you can find in a mountain community. You can get everything from Japanese to Italian to even new Canadian," said Huddle.
Whistler, she added, is home to some of the best chefs in the world, chefs that have had their training under top masters in international kitchens. They bring that rich experience with them to Whistler's dining rooms.
"They love this place as much as everybody else does and that's why they're here and they're happy and they're doing their dream job in a dream location."
Huddle, who also works at Sushi Village as the front-of-house manager, is excited that the restaurant is part of the cookbook, becoming a little piece of food-literary history.
"We're coming up on 30 years of being here in Whistler," she said. "We wanted to be a part of the cookbook because we're part of the fabric of dining out in Whistler. It's a very important part of Whistler and to be a part of that and having it showcased, I think, is incredibly important and we're incredibly proud to be a part of it."
Without giving too much away, the cookbook will feature the Oishi Caesar, a Japanese-inspired cocktail designed by Huddle herself. Oishi translates as "tasty" in Japanese.
That's just one of the sneak peaks in the book.
Caramba Chef James Pare, who came to Whistler by way of the Savoy Hotel in London where he was executive chef, is another. He provided his star anise cured salmon and white asparagus salad for the cookbook. This recipe was shared in the Pique one year ago but remains timeless in its taste.
The Picnic is just one of a solid lineup of events at Whistler's annual food and drink festival. This is Cornucopia's 19th year.
"What's really new and really exciting this year is The Picnic, presented by Cornucopia and Pique," said Kelly Hand, event director with Cornucopia. "That one makes me really happy. Our goal for The Picnic is that it stays for a long time and it becomes the place where Whistler really is celebrated. Cornucopia is a celebration of all of Whistler, but this is an event where the restaurants can all come and it's a local, community event."The Picnic: Chefs' Choice Cookbook Launch Party will take place on Thursday, Nov. 12 at the Whistler Conference Centre from 6 to 9 p.m. A number of featured chefs from the book will be on hand preparing recipes from the book. The chefs will also share some of the tips of the trade. Tickets cost $52 and include a copy of the Chefs' Choice Cookbook. Tickets are at the door or online at whistlercornucopia.com. You must be 19 years or older to attend the cookbook launch party.
- with files from Brandon Barrett
Star anise cured salmon and white asparagus salad
1.5 lbs Fresh Atlantic Salmon (half fillet)
1.5 cups Anise curing mix
Star anis 1 cup
Caraway 2 tbsp
Thyme 1.5 tbsp
Fennel seeds 1.5 tbsp
Bay leaf 1.5 tbsp
Black pepper corns 1.5 tbsp
Sugar 3/4 cup
Sea salt 1 cup
Start by blending all the herbs and spices in a food processer, then add your spice mixture to your salt and sugar mixture in a separate bowl and fold ingredients together. Ensure you do not blend the salt and sugar as this will break down the salt and ruin your curing mixture. In a large casserole dish with high sides of around 10cm, cover the bottom of this dish with half of your anise curing mixture, then place the cleaned fillet of salmon onto it and cover with the remaining curing mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and place a baking tray on top and some weight to press the fish overnight in your refrigerator. Next rotate your salmon to the other side and press for another night. On the third day rinse under cold water for 20-30 minutes then pat dry. Slice into 1/2cm slices and reserve in your fridge until assembly.
Star anis 1 cup
Caraway 2 tbsp
Thyme 1.5 tbsp
Fennel seeds 1.5 tbsp
Bay leaf 1.5 tbsp
Black pepper corns 1.5 tbsp
Sugar 3/4 cup
Sea salt 1 cup
Start by peeling the white asparagus from the bottom of the tip to the end of the stock. Place 3L of water in to a large boiling pot and place over medium heat add sugar and salt to taste and butter. Gently place the white asparagus in the warm water and gently poach until the asparagus is tender &mdash you can check with the tip of your knife. If it slides in and out easily it's ready, if the asparagus breaks then it's overdone. Be careful to cool the asparagus down by placing it into the fridge in the liquid.
When chilled take the asparagus out of the stock and drain well. Use a tablespoon of the pouching liquid and some olive oil with a squeeze of lemon and season with salt and pepper.
Sweet mustard dressing recipe
Dijon mustard 1/2 cup
English mustard 6 tbsp
White wine vinegar 1/2 cup
Caster sugar 1 cup
Sunflower oil 1 cup
Place the mustard, vinegar and sugar in a bowl and whisk lightly, slowly pour in the oil, whisking at all times.
Pick and take the best leafs of the wild watercress and set aside. Lay your salmon in natural folds around three per plate. Cut the asparagus into quarters and place your asparagus in between the salmon around 8 pieces total per plate. Spread a little sweet mustard dressing around the plate with the tip of a small spoon. Repeat this for the next 3 dishes and garnish with dressed watercress leafs.
Tag Archives: Alta Bistro Whistler cocktails
I spent last weekend in Whistler at Cornucopia, a 10-day festival that celebrates all-things-food-and-drink in the mountain town known for its bacchanalian vibe come ski season. I had heard stories of great Cornucopia parties involving vodka shots in an ice room and seminars featuring 10 whiskey samples, and was eager to see if the festival lived up to the hype. I wasn’t disappointed.
I’ll be sharing some snapshots of Cornucopia in a couple of publications in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, here’s a rundown of how Party Night No. 1 played out…
1. Cocktails and dinner at Alta Bistro. Yes, please! I tried the cocktail special, a Strega Sour. Strega is an Italian liqueur with 70 herbal ingredients including saffron, fennel and mint (as I’ve come to learn, the Italians can make booze out of pretty much anything). Alta mixed the Strega with gin, lemon, honey syrup and an egg white to make a light and well-balanced sour with just a hint of liquorice (from the fennel). Everyone loved it.
I loved this Strega Sour from Alta Bistro in Whistler.
- 1-1/2 oz Boomsa gin
- 1/2 oz Strega
- 3/4 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey-to-water ratio)
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz egg white
- Nasturtium leaf garnish
Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and dry shake. Add ice and shake again. Fine strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a nasturtium leaf (if in season).
— Recipe courtesy Alta Bistro, Whistler
2. Belvedere Ice Room at Bearfoot Bistro. This is just what you need after cocktails and wine at dinner. In the corner of the bar is a Belvedere-sponsored freezer room with walls of ice into which are carved niches that house over 40 bottles of different brands of premium vodka. To go inside the freezing space (it’s kept chilled at -25C) for a private vodka tasting you don a Canada Goose jacket (they’re rated for something like -100C, so you’re actually kind of hot), and send up a prayer that you don’t pass out after four vodka shots in five minutes (and get left inside the freezer overnight). The theory behind the room is that the cold tamps down the alcohol’s heat so you can actually taste the vodka flavours. Like kids in a dangerous candy shop, we tried regular, cherry, grape and salted caramel.
If you like vodka, this is the room for you.
3. And then there was the bobsled. Bearfoot Bistro’s owner, Andre Saint-Jacques, keeps a bobsled suspended from the ceiling in the restaurant’s wine cellar. Naturally, we found ourselves wandering about down there after four shots of vodka. We asked Andre if we could get into the bobsled and the next thing we knew, he was lowering it down using some kind of hydraulic system. We piled in for a very strange photo op.
The Bearfoot Bistro bobsled. That’s owner Andre Saint-Jacques at the back left.
Ah Whistler, the party carries on no matter the season! And, if you love skiing, you’re in luck — Whistler Blackcomb opens for the 2014-15 ski season November 22.
Cornucopia attendance spikes
Whistler is accustomed to weekend traffic jams during busy seasons, but a long line of cars creeping up Highway 99 on a Friday afternoon in mid-November? That’s a little more rare.
Those stuck in last weekend’s traffic can thank Cornucopia, Whistler’s annual food and drink festival.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say Cornucopia has had a huge impact on November,” said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “Before Cornucopia, you could shoot a cannon off in the Village and nobody would notice.”
And, according to Sue Eckersley, president of Watermark Communications, the company behind Cornucopia, this impact is only continuing to grow.
“Every year we set records as we go forward, and this year is no exception,” she said.
Having just celebrated its 20th anniversary as well as its fourth year running in an expanded two-weekend format, this year’s event grew by an estimated 15 per cent from last year’s, which was already up 20 per cent from 2014’s, Eckersley added.
Cornucopia had already sold 9,000 tickets and was on track to hit the 10,0000 ticket mark, she said in an interview last Thursday (Nov. 17). Moreover, she estimates about 80 per cent of Cornucopia attendees are coming from beyond the Sea to Sky corridor — a statistic that benefits the resort’s entire economy.
“It’s definitely meeting its mandate to drive traffic in what is usually a slower period of time,” said Eckersley.
Wilhelm-Morden agreed. “The whole point is to ensure that occupancy levels are maintained so that we don’t have shoulder seasons, so that businesses can remain viable and people can keep their jobs,” she said.
The hotel industry in particular has benefitted from Cornucopia, according to Whistler Hotel Association president, Saad Hasan.
“It was busier than usual this November with transient guests, which is at least partially due to the (Cornucopia) events,” he wrote in an email.
The first weekend of Cornucopia, he added, saw many hotels sell out despite the fact that the resort typically runs at 70 per cent occupancy during the first weekend of the festival.
“We’ve gone to a few (hotels) to ask them for preferred rates and they just don’t have enough rooms to give us anymore,” added Eckersley. “One hundred per cent, the hotels are reaping benefits from this… I think that Cornucopia is multi-fold in terms of helping boost the Whistler economy.”
But more than filling up the resort during an otherwise quiet period, Cornucopia plays an important role in promoting Whistler’s increasingly renowned culinary scene for the season ahead.
“I think we take it for granted, when we live in Whistler, what type of options we have in the restaurant world and the plethora of world-class chefs that exist here, and this is an opportunity where we sort of get to shout it to the world,” said Eckersley. “We’re making a mark right now visitor numbers and the hotel numbers and the number of tickets sold to people outside of Whistler are clear indicators of that. But what people sometimes forget about is simply all the good news stories around culinary tourism that come out of Cornucopia and remind people that Whistler is not just here to ski, but that it’s perfectly reasonable to come up here and enjoy some other activities and enjoy the culinary scene that exists.”