A bite (and sip) of Whistler
Holly Fraughton January 7, 2009 link to article
Whistler’s pretty well known in foodie circles; after all, we boast an impressive range of dining options — Araxi, Bearfoot, and the Rim Rock just to name a few. But a lot of people don’t get a chance to check out each and every establishment. I mean, let’s face it; most of us living here year-round are on a budget, and the majority of people who are visiting simply don’t have the time during their trip to get a full and varied taste of what Whistler’s chefs and sommeliers have to offer.
Enter Skai Dalziel and Joe Facciolo. They’re two young entrepreneurs who have brought an entirely new dining concept to town, launching Whistler Tasting Tours in early December.
The business model is so simple it’s brilliant, really; they’ve teamed up with a solid roster of restaurants in the village to offer food and wine pairings to the people who sign up for tours. The hope is that the tour will give people a chance to check out the type and quality of food, service, and ambience of the participating restaurants, and have a great time while they’re at it. For $149, you’re escorted to five different venues, sampling fare and pairings from a range of reputable establishments. Tips are included, so you don’t have to worry about bringing extra cash for each stop. They’ve also developed a client referral service with the participating restaurants, which means if you decide to return to any of the locations, you’ll receive a discount.
Dalziel and Facciolo will run the tour with as few as two participants or as many as 15, and fortunately for me, the evening I went to check out the Après-disiac tour, it was a full house (the more the merrier, right?). With two ladies visiting from Japan, a couple from Spain, and some local hotel proprietors along for the ride, and a schedule that included the Mallard Lounge, Bearfoot Bistro, Hy’s Steakhouse, Kypriaki Norte, and FireRock Lounge, this was immediately shaping up to be an eventful evening.
Starting at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s Mallard Lounge, the group met over the sound of tickled ivories and glasses clinking for a healthy après crowd. We soon had a drink in hand (a choice of Whistler Lager or a pear martini), and after a few minutes of getting to know one another, were escorted into a reserved room where a spread of dim sum, dips and other delicacies lay waiting.
One of the challenges of executing this concept is certainly timing — the tour is only supposed to be about three hours in length, and with five restaurants to hit in that time, Dalziel and Facciolo have their hands full keeping the crowd on-track. But they’ve employed a trick that I like to use with small children and dogs — turning the task into a game! Every time the crowd needs to start getting ready to pack up and move on, they distribute a playing card, which is promptly put into an envelope, and at the end of the tour, the player with the best poker hand wins a prize. See? People are easily distracted.
Next stop was Bearfoot Bistro, where we were immediately ushered down to the impressive wine cellar. The sommelier, who was quick to declare himself a “wine geek” and distinguish himself from the traditional “wine snob,” immediately put the crowd at ease with his knowledgeable banter. He also taught us how to sabre champagne, which is a very impressive party trick, if you happen to have a bottle of bubbly and a sword lying around at your next soiree. After the excitement of letting the cork fly had worn off, the crowd was presented with a glass of champagne and an array of appetizers, which included a raw oyster, butternut squash soup, and a crab cake.
At Hy’s, rather than the obvious beef choice, we were presented with plates of tender and spicy Ahi tuna, coated in Cajun spice and served blue rare with soy and pickled ginger, complemented by a choice of Inniskillin Chardonnay or Nk-Mip Pinot Noir.
Now, I absolutely love Greek food — the rich flavour of olives and feta, and all of the fresh vegetables — so I was very excited to see that Kypriaki Norte had been included on the tour, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed by the succulent roast lamb, served with red cabbage, roasted potatoes and vegetables, and paired with Peller Estates Merlot. I’ll be back for more.
To properly wrap up this crash-course to Whistler’s dining scene, we made our way to the FireRock Lounge for a glass of Prospect “Lost Bars” Vidal Icewine and a selection of cheese, crackers and chocolate-dipped strawberries.