Editor’s Note: This post was originally written in 2020, but updated on May 13, 2022 with the addition of the new Spring Culinary Series by Cornucopia.
Our Sea to Sky region is a locavore’s paradise, with each season yielding rich and flavourful ingredients to savour. A rainbow of fresh fruits and veggies, foraged wild mushrooms and flavourful greens are just some of the delights found within a 30-minute radius of Whistler.
Local author, Jane Reid, penned Freshly Picked, a locavore’s guide to the bounty of British Columbia. The book takes readers on a journey through BC’s heartland, showcasing what’s in season, while sharing intriguing facts and delicious recipes along the way.
“We hit the jackpot here in Whistler because we have the Pemberton Valley 30 minutes away,” says the author. “Pemberton is incredibly fertile because of the mix of the soil, its climate and the fact that it’s flat.”
Reid, who can tell a Pemberton carrot just by looking at it, took great pleasure in going on a culinary treasure hunt to write her book. From the royal pedigree of asparagus to the ancient roots of squash, there are many nuggets of knowledge and cultural references to glean from its pages.
BC’s harvest season kicks off in spring as rhubarb, apples, asparagus, peas and greens begin to flourish. Summer heralds the arrival of a vibrant array of produce including berries, peaches, beans, zucchini, turnips, peppers and corn. The highly anticipated fall harvest brings a cornucopia of squash, cranberries, apples, kale, corn and pears. Winter offers onions, tubers, root vegetables and Brussels sprouts, as well as a host of year-round greenhouse goodies, including cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes.
So, how can you experience this incredible bounty here in Whistler?
New Spring Culinary Series by Cornucopia
Although Whistler’s celebration of all things food and drink, Cornucopia Whistler, is still held in the fall, the new culinary series has found its place in the spring. It’s all about the freshness of a season that embodies rebirth and regeneration, with fresh menus, fresh cocktails and fresh perspectives, brought to you by local foodies. Happening June 3 to 19, the Cornucopia events team has carefully chosen local venues and people who are passionate about farm-to-table dining and a wellness-based approach to eating.
There’s a decadent five-course meal happening at Nita Lake Lodge which has been paired with Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, a Pemberton Farm & Tasting Tour with local food and wellness guru Astrid Kent, a four-course spring harvest menu at the Bearfoot Bistro developed by Executive Chef Melissa Craig, a guided horticulture and nature walk with AWARE, Whistler’s environmental charity, which includes a gourmet, alfresco lunch by Picnic Whistler, and an Indigenous Tea Offering, with a guided walk through the Salish Forest, and Spo7ez Wellness Feast at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.
Spring is an exciting time in the mountains and delving into Whistler’s culinary scene adds yet another layer to the things you can do here. You can find all of the details on the Spring Culinary Series by Cornucopia on our events page.
INSIDER TIP: Spaces are limited at these events, so if there’s something that catches your eye then act fast as tickets will go quickly. Also, if you stay 3+ nights in June you receive a free $100 wellness voucher.
Whistler Farmers’ Market
The iconic Whistler Farmers’ Market is a great place to pick up items for a home-cooked meal, picnic lunch or unique Whistler gift.
- Market hours are 11 AM to 4 PM every Sunday starting May 22 until the final market on Sunday, October 9 (Canadian Thanksgiving).
- There is no cost to enter, it’s free!
- The market is located along the Upper Village Stroll at the base of Blackcomb Mountain.
- Parking is available in the Day Lots, a short walk from the Upper Village via the Valley Trail. You can also ride your bike and park it securely at the complimentary Bike Valet at Olympic Plaza and walk from there.
- Rotating vendors including farms, artisan foods, cold drinks, liquor and a range of artistic creators
- There are additional Saturday Markets on Long Weekends: July 2 and 30, September 3 and October 8, 2022.
- For families, the Blackcomb Base Adventure Zone is right next door for even more family fun and entertainment (starts June 18, 2022). Kids can play mini-golf, climb, ride the luge and expend energy on the bouncy castles.
Local Produce on the Menu: Alta Bistro
Many Whistler eateries and restaurants feature regional ingredients on their menus — including the famous Pemberton potatoes. Alta Bistro, which has won several awards for its locavore focus, takes farm-fresh to a whole new level.
Chef Nick Cassetari leads the charge at Alta Bistro. The Australian native spent years travelling the world, cooking at some of the globe’s top restaurants. It wasn’t until he moved to Whistler and began cheffing at Nita Lake Lodge that he developed a deep connection to the food he was preparing. He became involved with their rooftop garden program and developed a passion for sustainable cuisine.
“Growing vegetables and being able to use the whole plant, from the stems to the seeds to the leaf, really inspired me. I’d worked at Michelin-starred restaurants and had never seen the connection from farm to plate,” he explains. “It’s easy to open up a box or a packet of something and disassociate where it originated from. It just showed up and you’d turn it into something awesome.”
When he had the opportunity to take the position of Head Chef at Alta Bistro, he jumped at the chance. Over the last ten years in this position, he has continued to push the boundaries of what is possible with fresh, seasonal cuisine.
“The number one priority is that the ingredient is local, seasonal and delicious — absolutely utterly delicious,” Chef Cassetari says. “It has taken this long to get to a point where I’m really in tune with, and proud, of the relationships I have with the farms we’re connected with.”
The Alta Bistro team forages for edible mushrooms, spruce tips and nettles, and works closely with a variety of niche farmers who specialize in producing single items like leeks, gooseberries and microgreens.
“I believe people deserve to taste ingredients when they’re at their freshest,” he says, explaining that seasonal menus are constantly reinvented based on when items will be at their finest. Alta Bistro also uses preserving and other innovative preparation techniques to repurpose ingredients so that nothing goes to waste.”
Chef Cassetari has been working on a fresh concept, which sees his love for local food paired with fine art. The Alta + Audain: Fine Dining Art Experience, combines an intimate guided tour of the museum followed by an open-air dinner beneath the rectilinear lines of the museum’s award-winning postmodern design. A new menu will be offered each Friday evening and served from a vintage Airstream trailer, retrofitted with a complete kitchen.
Numbers are limited, so make sure you reserve your spot in advance. Read about this experience from the eyes of a MasterChef in Alta + Audain: Fine Dining Art Experience.