Tammy Kwan

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - By Photo by Darby Mag­ill

One mis­con­cep­tion about the world-renowned hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion that we call Whistler is the no­tion that it has a lull pe­riod, which is iden­ti­fied as the hand­ful of weeks that sit be­tween the end of Septem­ber and the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber. The fall sea­son at the lit­tle re­sort town in the south­ern Pa­cific Ranges of­ten plays a mi­nor role com­pared to its sum­mer and win­ter coun­ter­parts, when lo­cals and in­ter­na­tional tourists flock to the vil­lage for world-class moun­tain bik­ing, ski­ing, and snow­board­ing.

But those pop­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties shouldn’t cast a shadow over what Whistler has to of­fer dur­ing the au­tumn: auburn leaves cov­er­ing the side­walks, crisp fall morn­ings, and ar­guably the re­gion’s most pop­u­lar culi­nary event of the year: Cor­nu­copia, an an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of food and drink.

Now in its 22nd year, the fes­ti­val (No­vem­ber 8 to 18) will in­clude dozens of gourmet events. The gas­tro­nomic fete at­tracts guests from near and far with its lineup of of­fer­ings, which range from largescale wine­tast­ings to chef’s lun­cheons, and from drink sem­i­nars to wine­maker’s din­ners.

There are more than 100 hap­pen­ings tak­ing place through­out the 11-day ex­trav­a­ganza. If you’re a first-timer, check out the Crush Grand Tast­ing—it’s con­sid­ered the fes­ti­val’s flag­ship event, where dozens of winer­ies and Whistler res­tau­rants will be of­fer­ing wine sam­ples and small bites.

But wines are not the only fo­cus at Cor­nu­copia, be­cause the culi­nary cre­ations are just as much in the spot­light. Some of Whistler’s best res­tau­rants will be host­ing spe­cial wine­maker’s din­ners, and a num­ber of no­table names from Van­cou­ver and other B.C. re­gions will be at the helm of the chef’s-ta­ble lun­cheons.

Some may say that Fair­mont Chateau Whistler’s ex­ec­u­tive chef, Is­abel Chung, is at the fore­front of epi­curean feasts dur­ing the an­nual foodand-drink cel­e­bra­tion. This year, the ho­tel has 10 din­ners sched­uled for Cor­nu­copia, and Chung played a large role in con­nect­ing with the winer­ies that she will be work­ing with.

There is one par­tic­u­lar event that the sea­soned chef is most ex­cited about: the sold-out Bella Wines col­lab­o­ra­tion din­ner on No­vem­ber 17. She’ll be join­ing forces with Eva Chin from Van­cou­ver’s Royal Dinette, cre­at­ing a mul­ti­course meal that will marry their unique cook­ing tech­niques and styles with the best B.C. in­gre­di­ents.

Asked if she thinks it’s the food or the wine that is more im­por­tant at these types of culi­nary events, Chung picked the for­mer with­out he­si­ta­tion. “For me, it’s al­ways go­ing to be the food. I can’t help it,” she said. “But if they are in great pair­ing and if they play off each other, I think that ac­tu­ally im­proves the food. Con­versely, wine­mak­ers will say that if the food com­ple­ments the wine, the wine will taste bet­ter.”

Ex­ec­u­tive chef James Ol­berg at Nita Lake Lodge’s Aura Restau­rant also be­lieves that food is the star of the show in a wine­maker’s din­ner. “The only rea­son why I say the food [is] be­cause it is the un­known,” Ol­berg told the Straight by phone. “I think the food is the most im­por­tant be­cause maybe it’s the most vul­ner­a­ble in any func­tion. It has to be pretty well thought out and ex­e­cuted prop­erly.”

Aura Restau­rant will be host­ing the Sip & Savour Wine­maker Din­ner on No­vem­ber 10, serv­ing up a six-course meal paired with wines from 50th Par­al­lel Es­tate Win­ery. The menu will fea­ture dishes like braised short ribs, pan-seared sea scal­lops, and a crowd-pleas­ing dark-choco­late dome.

dA NUN IN full re­galia vig­or­ously skis across Hoth-like tun­dra mid­way through this splen­did doc­u­men­tary. It’s an in­her­ently funny image, whether or not film­maker Grant Bald­win chooses to ac­knowl­edge it that way. It also suc­cinctly cap­tures what all the moun­tain lif­ers we meet over a snow­packed 80 min­utes are striv­ing to ex­press. As one rev­er­ent climber puts it: “A lot of peo­ple re­fer to their moun­taineer­ing as go­ing to church.”

Pro­duced by the Knowl­edge Net­work, Bald­win’s film be­gins with the re­minder that 75 per­cent of Bri­tish Columbia is com­posed of moun­tain ter­rain that al­most no­body will ever see. Mother and daugh­ter team Ta­nia and Martina Ha­lik are de­ter­mined to change that ra­tio by just a lit­tle, and their 2,300-kilo­me­tre trek along the Coast moun­tain range, from Squamish to Alaska, forms the back­bone of the film.

It would take a much longer movie to re­ally con­vey the scope of their achieve­ment, but Bald­win teases out a neat sub­text con­cern­ing 60-yearold Ta­nia. Chal­leng­ing death for six months in the sub­zero B.C. wilder­ness mir­rors her rugged es­cape from Com­mu­nist Cze­choslo­vakia as a preg­nant youth (an event so trau­ma­tiz­ing that it com­pels her, for rea­sons best ex­plained by the movie, to strip down to her un­der­wear when cross­ing some freez­ing rapids).

Else­where, we hear the truly ter­ri­fy­ing ac­count of pho­tog­ra­pher-pilot Todd We­se­lake’s ren­dezvous with an avalanche, which left him cryo­geni­cally sus­pended be­tween life and death for 20 min­utes un­der four me­tres of snow. The afore­men­tioned Sis­ter Claire lives, Black Nar­cis­sus–style, in a si­lent monastery perched high above Squamish. Snow­shoe artist Si­mon Beck opens the movie with one of its most ar­rest­ing shots—which is say­ing some­thing. It ends with artist Bern­hard Thor and his wife, Mary, liv­ing off the grid for 50 years and count­ing in a mar­vel­lous fairy-tale house just be­yond An­der­son Lake.

They’re just a lit­tle fur­ther along than the oth­ers in their yearn­ing for a re­turn to the gar­den, an im­pulse that you could even trace back to Bald­win’s last film, 2014’s Just Eat It, with its im­plicit aver­sion to the com­plex and doomed sys­tems of ur­ban­iza­tion. Of course, the ta­lented cin­e­matog­ra­pher uses Gopros, drones, and the almighty mi­crochip to de­liver this as­tound­ing hymn to the nat­u­ral world, but as Ta­nia Ha­lik would tell you, some­times the only way around some­thing is through it.


There will be more than 100 food and drink events tak­ing place at the 22nd an­nual Cor­nu­copia fes­ti­val in Whistler.

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