Cornucopia: A Weekend in Whistler
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.
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.