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Whistler: Cornucopia

16-Nov-2005
 
 
 This last weekend R and I were in Whistler for the Cornucopia event and it was absolutely magical!  It snowed nearly the entire time (look closely at the photo and you’ll see large flakes falling) even in the Village, although it was only sticking up on the mountains.  The condo we stay in was warm and cozy and the perfect base for our weekend activities.  Although we had actually come up from Seattle for Cornucopia (this was our third year) I got in a few hours of skiing on Friday morning, too!  That was so much fun.  I thought about going up the next few days but there was still quite a bit of rock and rough terrain so I decided to hold off – especially since we had other activities planned for the weekend. 
 
This was Cornucopia’s tenth year and, although I had been trying to get up for several years, it was only three years ago that I finally made it.  R has joined me all three years and the last two we had other accomplices with us but this year it was just the two of us.  Each year we’ve gotten better at how we approach the event.  The first year we really overdid it – partied a little too hearty – and the Sunday drive home was not a lot of fun….  Last year, we were much better in our planning and activities and this year we tweaked that just a bit more and had a really perfect weekend – fun, interesting, educational, relaxing. 
 
Cornucopia is primarily a wine event, although food plays a strategic secondary role.  Although there are a few events on Wednesday and Thursday – many just for the trade – the opening event is considered to be Crush! the Friday night wine tasting featuring around 75 wineries.  One of the things I like about Crush is that they organize the wineries alphabetically so if you are looking for one in particular it’s easy to find.  We decided to skip Crush! this year, as the food is only okay and we really wanted to attend one of the "after" parties and, while not impossible, it’s a little challenging to do both as there is only so much food and wine one can actually enjoy in an evening…
 

 

The first year we attended Cornucopia there was only one after party and it was at the Bearfoot Bistro, a high-end restaurant known for it’s amazing wine cellar.  I don’t have the exact description of that party but it sounded perfect!  It mentioned champagne, oysters, maybe caviar, the opportunity to mix and mingle with the winemakers.  Between the description and knowing the restaurant it seemed like the perfect intimate gathering.  Boy were we surprised!  For the night of the party the Bearfoot Bistro expands it’s walls to include the entire first floor of the hotel that houses it.  2000 people later we realized this really wasn’t the event that we’d pictured. 

Last year another after party was added to the line-up.  This one at Araxi, one of my favorite Whistler restaurants.  (The same people own Blue Water and CinCin in Vancouver, B.C..)  We decided to give it another shot and we were so glad we did!  This was the party we had been expecting!  The number of attendees was limited to about 200 and the food and champagne were exceptional.  This year we returned to Araxi and, although they had scaled back a bit, it was another wonderful party. 

As you enter you’re handed a champagne glass to use at the many champagne stations throughout the restaurant.  Directly in front of you is the sushi bar, where various rolls, oysters on the half shell and other Japanese treats are waiting for you.  To your left, in the bar, is a glorious spread of desserts and, in addition to the champagne, you may order any drink of your choice from the friendly bartenders.  To your right, in the main dining room, a jazz band plays and there’s a small area for dancing.  Tables line each side of the room holding either bottles of champagne, the most beautiful small bites imaginable or more oysters, sweet shrimp and other seafood delicacies.  

While there were many yummy choices, one of our very favorites this year was a half quail egg, topped with tobiko and placed on a small piece of toasted bread.  There was a little dab of something between the egg and the bread but I’m not sure what.  Simple, beautiful and a wonderful combination of tastes, textures and the pop! of the tobiko.   

 

 

 

 We had hoped to hit one of the lunches planned for Saturday but since we don’t buy package tickets, by the time the individual tickets went on sale the lunches were already sold out.  There are tons of seminars on Saturday though, so instead of lunch we chose a wine tasting:  A Tale of Pinot.  This class led us through the different Pinot Noir regions of the world, starting with France and ending here in the Northwest with both an Oregon Pinot and one from B.C.  In this tasting most people’s favorite was the Domaine Drouhin from Oregon, a winery I visited back in April

I find these seminars to be a lot of fun.  You learn a lot and the instructors they choose are always highly entertaining and funny, too. 

 

 

 

Our final event for the weekend was the Sunday brunch at the Wildflower Restaurant in the Fairmont Château Whistler.  This is event has morphed over the three years we’ve attended.  The first year was a bit of a free-for-all.  Last year they took reservations for specific times but not everyone got the message.  This year the folks at the Wildflower were proactive and actually called all ticket holders to ensure reservations were made. 

The offerings were also a bit scaled back this year, mainly in the seafood categories, but it was still a wonderful spread of all manner of breakfast and lunch items. 

In between our Corncupia activities we enjoyed the comforts of our condo, strolling around the village and the snow.  If you live in Washington or British Columbia I encourage you to think about attending next year.  The road improvements between Vancouver and Whistler (for the 2010 Winter Olympics) are well under way and have already made a difference in the ease of the drive.  (I’m not really sure this is a good thing – now it will be too easy for people to get up there!)  For those of you outside those areas, you have the option to fly into Vancouver and then take a bus or limo or rental car the final leg. 

Official Site of Cornucopia

A few more photos of this year’s activities

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