Editor’s Note: This post was originally written for FoodNetwork.ca.
Once upon a time – in the late ‘60s when Whistler was just a gleam in developers’ eyes – chili, poutine and other ski bum staples defined the culinary scene. Fast-forward a few decades and the resort town, firmly ensconced as North America’s premier ski destination and still flush with Olympic afterglow, is a certified foodie mecca, known nearly as well for its fine dining as its world class slopes.
I checked out Whistler’s summer dining scene over the weekend, on a whirlwind, belly-busting tour that embraced everything from burgers to pork cheek ravioli. A few big trends are evident across the board. First, the hundred-mile diet is alive and well in Whistler. Every bistro, snack shack and restaurant I tried emphasized local ingredients, specifically, fresh produce and meats from nearby Pemberton and from the Fraser Valley. Second, snooty is out; casual and casually elegant is in. Even fine dining spots have revisioned their looks, aiming for an informal, welcoming atmosphere that appeals to locals and well-heeled out-of-towners alike.
Here’s a quick run-down of my culinary adventure in Whistler:
Araxi: Now a household name thanks to Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen, Araxi is a superlative restaurant hitting on all cylinders and clearly at the top of its game. Ambiance and service are impeccable – a real model for other restaurants to emulate. Chef James Walt’s menu – while rooted in West Coast standards like wild BC salmon and Qualicum Bay scallops – also wholeheartedly embraces locally grown produce and locally raised pork and lamb. The encyclopedic wine list – 42 pages, with its own table of contents – is a bit overwhelming but sure to please the most discriminating of winos.
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