Eat, Drink, Play. Whistler’s Culinary Summer
Summer in the mountains is a time when local gardens and farms come to life. In Whistler it’s also the only time of year we can enjoy an outdoor meal without worrying about frozen fingers or toes. As such, summer is huge for Whistler’s culinary masterminds and the fresh ingredients and relaxed days of the sunny season result in a parade of events to answer every foodie’s hopes and dreams. Al fresco dinners, a wandering picnic, mountaintop dining, cycling from farm to farm to sample their fares…the list goes on and on but here are some of the top culinary events slated for summer 2012. Enjoy.
LEFT: Brad Kasselman photo. RIGHT: Melissa Trottier photo.
First up: the Mountain Top BBQ’s and the Winemaker Dinners at Steeps Grill up on Whistler Mountain. This is where alpine vistas mix with locally-sourced ingredients topped off with some of BC’s finest wines. The BBQ series runs each weekend throughout the summer and features pork, beef and seafood menus depending on the day. The Winemaker Dinners occur July 14, 2012 and August 11, 2012 and offer a full-course gourmet dinner with wine pairings from a couple of BC’s top vineyards. There’s also the chance to mingle with executive chef Wolfgang Sterr and the featured winemaker while you enjoy the magic views of twilight in the alpine.
Also taking place on July 14, 2012 Outstanding in the Field, a roving culinary adventure that has events across North America, returns for its fourth year in Whistler. Pull up a chair and re-connect with the origins of your food as the “restaurant” for this event is actually a long, linen-draped table set in the fields of Pemberton’s North Arm Farm. Farm owner/host Jordan Sturdy is bringing in Bearfoot Bistro executive chef Melissa Craig to astound the taste buds while showcasing ingredients from the area – some potentially sourced just centimetres from where you sit.
Whistler is no stranger to competition and that crosses over to the culinary world as well. On July 15, 2012 the Bearfoot Bistro hosts the second annual World Oyster Invitational. Shuckers from around the globe return to Whistler to compete for the titles of “Best Shucker” and “Best Mignonette.” As if that wasn’t enough, the Bearfoot is also hosting the Bearfoot Bistro’s Bloody Caesar Battle at the same time. Bartenders from all corners of Canada add their creative flair to our country’s most beloved cocktail – the Bloody Caesar. Proceeds benefit the BC Children’s Hospital so drink up for a good cause.
The 2011 Araxi Longtable event held in Pemberton.
Next up, more outdoor dining. The past several summers Araxi Resturant + Bar has seen huge success with their al fresco Longtable Dining Series. Previously set in the farming fields of Pemberton, this year the series relocates to lakeside at Whistler’s Rainbow Park for July 21 and August 18, 2012. Over the years Executive Chef James Walt has forged strong relationships with the local farmers and presented dishes built on local, sustainable ingredients. As part of this year’s Longtable Series, James has invited an exclusive Farmers’ Market to be set up on-site so guests are able to discover and taste his favourite ingredients in their freshest form.
Here comes Whistler’s competitive side again. The Bulls-Eye Canadian National BBQ Championships returns to Whistler Creekside from August 3-5, 2012. Grill masters, amateurs, wanna-be’s and world champions gather to marinate, smoke, flip and rotate with the hopes of BBQ’ing their way to the King of the Grill title. The Bulls-Eye Championships is a qualifier event for the American Royal World Championships, the Jack Daniel’s World Championship BBQ and The World Barbecue Championships so expect some of the best BBQ you’ve ever tasted. Word on the street is there will be a mechanical bullriding competition on-site as well. Yeehaw!
BBQ Championships. LEFT: Rich Glass photo. RIght: Mike Crane photo.
There are few competitions as enjoyable (or strange) as the Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival in which competitors roll 11-pound wheels of cheese down the slopes of Blackcomb Mountain. First to cross the finish line keeps the cheese and gets two ski seasons passes. That’s just the race though, the festival also hosts tasting seminars, family activities, games, experts, cheesemakers and more. You gotta see it to believe it and it all happens August 18, 2012 at Blackcomb Base 2.
Sticking with the rolling theme, the feel-good event of the summer has to be Slow Food Cycle Sunday which sees participants pedal bikes along a scenic (and flat!) 50-kilometre ride through Pemberton’s farmland while meeting the local farmers, growers and ranchers. Not much beats sampling food harvested fresh from the land and this is a farm-to-fork event has grown into one of the premier “locavore” food events in the province.
LEFT: Araxi Executive Chef James Walt. MIDDLE: Farmer’s Market Fresh. RIGHT: Slow Food Cycle.
Rounding out Whistler’s summer of foodie fun is an event that’s been described as “Whistler’s roaming picnic”. Feast in the Mountains will be a two-day affair this year, taking place on August 24 & 25, 2012. Catering to everyone from experienced connoisseurs to regular folks just working on expanding their culinary worlds, “The Feast” has it all. Wander over to Rebagliati Park (by the covered pedestrian bridge en route to the base of Blackcomb) to explore the finest offerings from local restaurateurs, chefs, vintners, craft brewers, bakers, farmers and more. Feast in the Mountains raises funds for FarmFolk/CityFolk, a charity working towards cultivating local, sustainable food systems, protecting farmlands and changing the way our culture sees food production. Eat for a cause!
Of course, the Whistler’s Farmers’ Market is held in the Upper Village every Wednesday and Sunday throughout the summer and offers a chance to buy from some of the same farmers Whistler’s award-winning chefs and bakers buy from. Getting to know where and who your food is coming from might be the first step towards becoming a Whistler culinary mastermind yourself.
To whet your appetite here’s a Whistler Blackcomb video of their Mountaintop BBQ.