Whistler’s Cornucopia Weekend

Top to bottom: Araxi hot smoked salmon & wild shellfish soup, Araxi roasted saddle of rabbit, housemade bacon, pomme puree, Alba truffles, Fairmont Grill Room spice-crusted venison loin, Swiss chard, celeriac mousse. Photos by Anya Levykh


Earlier this month, the 16th annual Cornucopia Food and Wine Festival took place in Whistler. More than just a chance to party hard and long, Cornucopia is a collection of food and wine enthusiasts from around B.C. and the rest of the Pacific Northwest region, as well as wineries, producers and chefs from further afield. For me, it was a weekend of eating—and some drinking—my way through a series of dinners and tastings that reminded me that Whistler is about more than just the after-party.


Araxi’s Big Guns winery dinner was one of the highlights this year. Executive chef James Walt paired an incredible, locally-sourced menu with iconic and rare wines from around the world, like the house hot smoked salmon with salmon caviar, fennel pollen, lemon thyme and Root Down Farm veggies, all nestled in a wild shellfish bisque that gave off fabulous lobster and prawn notes. Paired with the Gaja “Gaia & Rey” 2009 Chardonnay from Langhe, Italy, it was one of the best courses of the night.


Another course of roasted saddle of rabbit wrapped in housemade bacon and seated over lightly whipped potatoes was made even better by the liberal amounts of shaved white and black Alba truffle sprinkled over the dish. It was paired with a fantastic Burgundy, the Louis Jadot “Corton-Pougets” 1999 Grand Cru.


Chardonnays and big reds also made an appearance at the Painted Rock Estate Winery Dinner at Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s The Grill Room. Executive Chef Vincent Stufano paired a delicate Dungeness crab cake and North Arm Farm beet salad with Painted Rock’s 2011 Chardonnay, a very vibrant bottle that matched the shellfish and sweet beet notes perfectly. The big 2009 Icon, a Bordeaux-style blend, went perfectly with the spice-crusted loin of Sydney Island venison, which sat next to some Swiss chard in red wine syrup and celeriac mousse.


Alba truffles made another appearance at Quattro Restaurant, where the white Alba floated freely onto plates from the many shavings made during the meal. Fresh from Piedmont, there is nothing quite as sublime as some thick shavings over a poached egg. Simplicity can be mesmerizing.


Next year’s festival will be a record 10 days in length, so gird your loins—and appetites—and make sure to go hungry.

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Anya Levykh was born on the shores of the Black Sea, in what was formerly the USSR. The cold, Communist winters were too much for her family, and, before she was four feet tall, they had left for warmer climes in the south of ...

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