Best International Food & Wine Experience of 2013 – Cornucopia

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We had the opportunity to travel to a few international cities last year (2013) and our favorite goes to Whistler B.C.!  We attended the annual food and drink festival called Cornucopia, 11 days of enjoying the best eats and wines in and around Whistler. Locals and travelers get an opportunity to inhale the fresh air from the mountain tops, learn from famous chef’s and sommeliers in a number of seminars, prefix lunches, dinners and parties celebrating wine, cocktails, spirits and beer. This topped our list for 2013 being the BEST food and wine experience for the year. Below is a breakdown of some of the amazing events we experienced during out stay in Whistler, and feel free to ask us for recommendations in the comments.

Photo credit: Charles Koh

Hotel: Four Seasons Resort

We highly recommend staying at the Four Seasons Resort if you’re planning a trip to Whistler, the property is situated on the Blackcomb side of Whistler’s twin giants providing convenient access to all the destination’s amenities from outdoor activities, fine dining, shopping and nightlife. The resort offers complimentary shuttle rides for guests which comes in handy. Walk into the main lobby and you’ll instantly be enlightened with a luxury lodge setting with a touch of modern European elegance. The resort was recently awarded the #2 spot among the Top 20 Resorts in Canada and rated among the Top 100 Hotels & Resorts in the World by Conde Nast Traveler’s 2012 Readers’ Choice Awards.
 

Here are a few shots of the suites at the Four Seasons Whistler. The suite had a beautiful living room with a fireplace and a balcony, 2 washrooms, a separate bedroom, a walk-in closet, a soak tub, a shower and double sinks.


After we checked in, we decided to take a short walk to the Village and go exploring. We went up in October so the mountain wasn’t quite ready yet for skiing. Below you’ll see some pictures of one of many Whistler Bike Parks that are around. There are trails to suit a wide variety of tastes and abilities.



Big Guns Winemaker Dinner at 
Araxi Restaurant + Bar

This is the one dinner you MUST experience during Cornucopia, and yes this sells out rather quickly so make a reservation as soon as Araxi announces “tickets are now on sale.” The Big Guns dinner includes a spectacular selection of highly rated, rare and collectible wines selected by 2013 Sommelier of the Year Samantha Rahn. Each dish will be paired with seven stellar wineries from the world’s top wine regions will join together at Araxi for an exclusive one-off dinner event. Each critically acclaimed wine has been thoughtfully hand-selected by Samantha and her team in order to deliver an unforgettable evening. Araxi Executive Chef James Walt will create a bespoke seven-course menu to carefully pair with the wines.



Reception
After you check-in, you’ll be greeted by a well suited staff and be guided to the beautiful cocktail bar where you’ll get a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose, Champagne, France. And if you’re wondering, you’re not limited to one glass. The signature of Nicolas Feuillatte is a pleasure on your palate; intense, vivid aromas and flavors of raspberry, strawberry and red currants. Blended from 90% red grapes with a dollop of Chardonnay, this wine explodes in the glass. There is simply no other rosé Champagne like this cuvée from Nicolas Feuillatte.

Critical Acclaim: “Firm, with a lively bead and a minerally base note mixing with flavors of grilled plum, white raspberry, biscuit and candied orange zest. Ground ginger and white pepper accents linger on the finish.”90 Points Wine Spectator

The Kusshi Oysters is ultra clean and mildly sweet in flavor, the combination of the salt from the Northern Divine Caviar and the sweetness of the frozen creme fraiche adds the right mix of flavor without over powering the buttery oyster that gracefully melts in your mouth.


Served on a soup spoon, you’ll find the Tofino Dungeness Crab with Watercress and Yuzu Gel. The fresh crab wrapped in a crispy tempura pairs nicely with the sweet citrus fruit flavor of the yuzu giving it a gentle contrast between the two.

*Tofinois a district of about 1,876 residents on the west coast of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia.

Bio

Executive Chef James Walt is recognized by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper as “one of the top seven chefs in the country shaping the nation,” Executive Chef James Walt continues to inspire both his contemporaries and his guests, creating compelling regional cuisine based on local, sustainable ingredients. Chef Walt was the first and only chef in Whistler to receive an invitation to cook at the celebrated James Beard House in New York City – not once, but three times. Under his leadership, Araxi was recently awarded ‘Best Whistler Restaurant, Gold’ by Vancouver Magazine in 2013. Both the restaurant and chef have also received high-profile exposure in recent years on Gordon Ramsay’s hit reality show ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ – and the cookbook was recently honoured with a nomination for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Book Award.

You’ll be served a Trio of small plates that includes: Snake River Pork Cheek Terrine with Compressed Apples, BC Albacore Tuna Battera with Avocado and Citrus Glaze, and Vancouver Island Octopus and Spot Prawn Ceviche served on a crispy house made cracker.

If there was a dish from heaven, this would be it. It’s a BC Oyster Veloute + House Smoked BC Salmon with local sea urchin and shaved North Arm radishes nasturtium leaves and olive oil paired with a M. Chapourtier ‘Chante Alouette’, Hermitage Blanc 2011, Rhone, France. The Oyster Velouté (chowder like) is creamy, delicate and seductive as it’s subtle in texture and goes unbelievably well with the sous-vide smoked salmon and the buttery sea urchin.

Executive Chef James Walt prepares the Yarrow Meadow Duck Breast perfectly through his sous-vide style of cooking giving the duck the color of a morning sunrise and the tenderness of a marshmallow. This paired with the Paradise Valley sunchoke puree and chips with sauce diable grilled Pemberton baby onion and carrots makes this a dish worth raving about.

Shaved Alba Truffles + Buffalo Ricotta Ravioli: White and black truffles over spinach and ricotta pasta soft free run hen egg. As you cut into the perfectly cooked al dente ravioli, the medium yolk oozes out onto your fork complimenting the rich buffalo ricotta cheese.


Pepper Crusted Rangeland Elk Tenderloin with slow cooked ox cheek and braised green kale across the Creek potato and cheddar crisp.

M. Chapoutier ‘Chante Alouette’, Hermitage Blanc 2011, Rhone, France
Pewsey ‘The Contours, Museum Reserve’ Riesling 2006, Eden Valley, Australia

Eroica (Chateau Ste Michelle + Dr Loosen) Riesling Ice Wine 2008, Washington.

Okanagan Pear Mousse + Apricot Sorbet vanilla and pear puree with Lillooet honey tuile.

Culinary Stage Series: Cibo Trattoria

At Cornucopia, you can attend seminars and learn how to cook from Vancouver’s top chef’s themselves. We had the opportunity to sit front stage and learn how to cook handmade gnocchi with mushrooms from Cibo’s Executive Chef Faizal Kassam.

Here is Cibo’s Executive Chef Faizal Kassam.

Bio
Born and raised in North Vancouver, Faizal’s early passions revolved around competitive sports where he excelled at badminton and golf. However, the alluring tastes and aromas from the kitchen of his mother and grandmother inspired him to pursue a career in cooking (but he still plays a wicked game of badminton and is basically a scratch golfer). A known force in esteemed kitchens around Vancouver, Faizal’s eleven-plus years of experience include stints at Bin 941, La Brasserie, Bacchus at the Wedgewood Hotel, and most recently, Hawksworth Restaurant at Hotel Georgia. Prior to Hawksworth, Faizal was sous chef at Cibo Trattoria and returns to us as Executive Chef.



Ingredients: (serves 4) 

Milk (1 quart)
Nutmeg (1/8 teaspoon)
Semolina flour (2 cups)
Eggs (3 large)
Unsalted butter (5 tablespoons, cut into pieces)

Salt (3/4 teaspoon)
Parmesan (1½ cups finely grated)
Porchini mushrooms (3 cups)
Get all the ingredients ready and clean the mushrooms.

Put the pan on medium heat and drizzle in some Tuscan olive oil + butter, then add the mushrooms. Add salt, cracked peppers, parsley, lemon juice, cracked pepper, add butter.

Step 1) In a large pot over medium-high heat, pour the milk in and bring to a simmer while stirring. Reduce heat to low; slowly whisk in semolina. Cook, whisking, until it slowly thickens for about 10 minutes. Whisk in ½ cup Parmesan, 4 tbsp. butter, and yolks; season with salt. Remove from heat.

Step 2) Wet a rimmed baking sheet with a soaked paper towel. Pour semolina mixture onto baking sheet; smooth surface with spatula to ½” thickness. Let cool until firm, about 30-40 minutes.

Step 3) Heat oven to 450˚. Using a knife, cut gnocchi dough in 2″ squares; transfer half of the squares to a buttered baking pan. Sprinkle gnocchi with ¼ cup Parmesan and dot with 2 tbsp. butter. Layer remaining gnocchi on top and sprinkle with ¼ cup cheese and remaining butter. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Serve with remaining cheese.


The BIG finisher, truffles.

Cornucopia Night Market – A Taste of Asia

The Cornucopia Night Market brings various Asian cuisines into one room from the streets of Shanghai and Shinjuku. The second annual Night Market brought a tremendous amount of people lining up to get their hands on Asian-style night noodles, sushi rolls, spring rolls, and other gastronomic bites for the discerning palate. Entry will cover ALL the food, wine, sake and beer samples, but be warned the lines can get mighty long!









BEARFOOT BISTRO

A Whistler trip is not complete without a visit to the Bearfoot Bistro. What makes this place so magical? You can experience a fine meal created by award-winning Executive Chef Melissa Craig, try your hand at sabering a bottle of Champagne in the 20,000-bottle wine cellar, or visit the Belvedere Ice Room, the coldest vodka tasting room in the world.

Bearfoot Bistro founder André Saint-Jacques believes beautiful food and great wine shared with friends and family is always a celebration. From our dedicated oyster-shucker, to our sommeliers, our bar team to our live music program, we are here to create your perfect experience, whether for après, dinner or late night cocktails.









Culinary Stage: Holiday Cooking Made Easy!

If you’re looking to learn how to cook from the best, the “Culinary Stages” are some of the best classes you can take during Cornucopia that will teach you how to cook and give you an opportunity to taste the recipe. The Holiday Cooking Made Easy was a class hosted by Chef Chris of the Mineshaft tough us how to make “Duck confit with slow roasted tomatoes,” “Apple Stuffing w/pork belly,” “Poached paired tart,” and a Cherry chocolate almond bar.” Because you’re a valued reader, we’re going to share the recipes with you and best of all, you only need 6 or less ingredients for all these dishes.

Duck confit with slow roasted tomatoes:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 large duck legs and thighs (attached), about 3 pounds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon juniper berries
  • 15 sprigs fresh thyme
  • About 4 cups rendered duck fat or lard

Preparation:

Duck confit
Place the salt in a bowl and blend with the sugar. Rub a generous amount of the salt-sugar mixture all over the leg, into the skin and flesh. Repeat with the remaining legs. In the bowl or another container, pack the salted legs on top of each other, layering them with the peppercorns, juniper berries, and thyme. Sprinkle with any remaining salt mixture. Pack it in a plastic bag or bowl and refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.

The next day, unpack the duck legs and rub off any salt and spices with paper towels. Pat dry. Melt the fat or lard in a wide heavy-bottomed pot just big enough to hold the legs. Add the duck to the fat; it should be submerged. Simmer the duck very slowly for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat browns, shrinks off the bone, and is very tender when pricked with the point of a knife. The fat should never go much above 220ºF during the cooking time. Remove the pot from the heat and let the duck cool in the fat to room temperature. You can either eat the duck as it or transfer it to a storage container, cover with the strained fat, and chill until ready to use.

To serve the duck, pull a leg piece out of the fat, being careful not to pull out the bone and leave the meat behind. If you can’t get the piece out, you can let the fat come to room temperature, heat it in a microwave, or warm it in a water bath in a large pot on the stove. Scrape any excess fat off the meat. Heat a dry frying pan, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat and place the leg in the pan, skin side down, to crisp up and heat through before serving, about 6 minutes.

Cook at a very slow simmer – just an occasional bubble – until the duck is tender and can be easily pulled from the bone, 2 to 3 hours. If the oil bubbles more, adjust the oven temperature. Remove the pan from the oven.
Fact: you can preserve duck confit in duck far for a month.


Apple Stuffing w/pork belly
Pork belly is very simple, leave in oven and forget about it.Ingredients:

  • 2 pound of stuffing should be good enough for 20 pound bird, “full is 10 pounds of bacon” (cut smaller squares) thyme (bunch) on the bottom becomes “roasting grill”, pork fat side up, lemon zest, real maple syrup (no coloring), white Chardonnay wine (1 cup), foil the top, throw in oven. 2 hours, 350 degrees.

Tip: knife through meat (no bounce/no resistance), should go right through.

Put another pan on top (press it with cans on top over sheet).

Save the stock: Keep juice and strain it and put it in the fridge. All the ingredients immersed in the sauce.

Stuffing


Ingredients:
  • Loaf and a half of bread, 2 onions, 6 apples (ambrosia, firm apples), “don’t use Macintosh will turn into apple sauce), parsley, thyme, Chardonnay, 2 pounds of pork, apple juice.
  • Sautéed onions first with Olive oil, Diced onions in pan, once done put apple juice, thyme, wine. Cook longer until thickened.
  • Fry pork first (cut small bruschetta size the chop into small bits) “angry bacon” when it hits the oil, “caramelization brings out bacon “candy like”, add maple syrup to the pork belly, add to chopped bread crumbs, add apple onion mixture “don’t kill it with the sugar” with the turkey stock.
  • Add the cooked stocks into the breading mixture.
  • Take stuffing and put it with the pork belly pan.
  • Put in oven 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Turkey stock: pork belly stock.

Poached paired tart 
  • Pair (bask, best for poaching)
  • Cut sides off “avoid core”
  • Cut in slices
  • Put in pot
  • Dump Pinot grie (cover)
  • Honey (cup)
  • Vanilla
  • Add starians (liqorish)
  • Don’t overcook the pairs “mooshify”
  • Pour into mixing bowl and put it on ice.
  • Tip: cooling, spread them out and out it in the fridge.

Pie dough (sweet pastry)
2 cups of flour to 1 cup of butter
(Butter, flour, water (couple tablespoons, punch of salt)

  • cream, egg yolk, ice cold butter (cut into small cubes)
  • icing sugar “don’t want to crunch into it regular sugar at the end”
  • 10 one-second pulses to blend butter
  • machine running, pour (2-tablespoons of whipping cream/egg yolk/vanilla)
  • use saran wrap into a ball “solidify it”
  • put it in fridge.
  • use shallow pan (roll 2 inches larger than pan, quarter inch thick)

Filling

  • 3 Egg yolks make it creamier
  • Cup of whip cream
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Honey
  • Teaspoon of vanilla
  • Whole goat cheese
  • Put pairs (2 deep) then the filling in right over it. Barely cover the pairs.
  • 350 degree oven 15-20 minutes.

Cherry chocolate almond bar 

  • Double boiler the chocolate
  • Pan the cherries then cut into chunks
  • coat parchment paper
  • add toasted nuts and cherries in

Experience B.C.’s Perfect Pairing 
at Sidecut Restaurant

The “B.C’s Perfect Pairing at Sidecut Restaurant” Cornucopia was truly EPIC. A dinner that was designed and crafted for the giants. A colossal menu made up of over 15 hand-selected wines from BC paired with dishes made from the top Chef’s in Whistler, Vancouver and neighboring areas. What made this experience even more spectacular and memorable was being able to meet people from all walks of life and travelers from all over.
Guest Chefs Include:
• Tory Martindale, Executive Chef, Four Seasons Resort, Whistler
• Matthew Bately, Executive Winery Chef, Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, West Kelowna
• Trevor Bird, Chef/Owner, Fable Restaurant, Vancouver
• Daniel Hudson, Chef/Owner, Hudson’s on First, Duncan
• Chris Whittaker, Executive Chef, Forage, Vancouver







IN-ROOM DINING

In-room dining is the ultimate “bed and breakfast” type experience as a professional chef from the Four Seasons Resort Whistler comes to your room and cooks an amazing meal for you. You can enjoy fresh locally inspired culinary creations or a comforting homestyle favorite for the weary traveller. Satisfying late-night munchies or après-ski snacks are perfect for the active guest at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler. Another great reason to stay at the beautiful lodge. Outside of the amazing in-room dining service, you can expect to find beautiful decor, plush beds and an outstanding location in walking distance to the market and restaurants.

We had the opportunity to sit together with a few locals and Vancouverites for a wonderful breakfast that was filled with bloody mary’s, mimosa’s and fresh dishes prepared in person.




SCANDINAVE SPA 

We heard amazing things about the Scandinave Spa in Whistler so we were super excited to check this place out.  If you stay at the Four Seasons in Whistler, you can take a quick shuttle (about 15 minutes) to the spa. Once we got checked in at the front desk, they gave us a key for the locker and the option to rent a robe and towels, but we made sure we brought our own to save some money. After we got changed into our bathing suits, we walked out to paradise!  A scenic view that opens up to the outdoor spa, spread over three acres of natural land and overlooking Whistler’s incredible landscape.

Facts:

  • Open year-round.
  • The Scandinavian baths activity cleanses the body and skin improving blood circulation and physical conditioning. It produces the effect of increased wellness and intense relaxation.

How Scandinavian Spa process works:
Occurring in three stages, just a few hours are required to fully enjoy the benefits of hydrotherapy.

  1. In sequence, first heat the body in the Eucalyptus steam bath, hot baths or wood burning Finish sauna.
  2. Then, cool the body quickly in the Nordic waterfalls, cold baths or shower.
  3. Finally, relax in the solariums, hammocks, on a terrace or by the outdoor fireplace. And for the ultimate relaxation, enjoy a Swedish, Deep tissue, Sports or hot stone massage. Experience this true relaxation activity, only minutes away from Whistler Village, and feel restored, rejuvenated and refreshed!
We will definitely be coming back to this place.






PHOTO CREDIT TO http://www.scandinave.com/


Hope you enjoyed our adventure! If you have any questions or need tips, just ask away in the comments section or send a tweet to @charleskoh.

Written by Charles

Charles Koh founded EatSeattle, and has continued to use his expertise as editor-in-chief to guide the website’s growth over the last five years. Koh’s experience focuses on digital marketing and social media, and has been a part of several companies, some of which he created, specializing in both areas over the course of his career. Koh was previously with Google and Zagat where he helped expand and grow communities worldwide.

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