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.