Best of?... Worst of? 

Food flip sides in a parallel universe

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Like a perpetual gift for Whistler buffs at home and afar, here comes Pique's Best of Whistler review this issue, giving the insiders' nod where nods are due and making all kinds of choices — especially those all-important dining and imbibing ones — way easier and more informed to make. It sure beats Yelp! or asking your buddies or some guy on the street where to grab the best bite if you've just landed from elsewhere.

After all, we know how subjective preferences can be. Plus I don't know about you, but it seems whenever I, in the singular, rave about this or that, especially a resto or meal, it's inevitable that whenever I'm taken up on it, a parallel universe unfolds: The usual chef is sick or on holiday or the kitchen gets flooded and everything's a cock-up.

Looking over this year's choices voted on by the far-ranging Pique cognoscenti, I'd be hard-pressed to "out-cognisize" any of them.

But the Best Of's are triggering more than a few associations that have arisen over the past year and could also be seen as the best of, or the worst of, or at least an extension in some dimension — the flip side, if you will, all depending on your point of view.

If, on the other hand, it's true that we might be living in a computer simulation run by our descendents — which physicists at the University of Washington suggest could be tested now or in the near future by supercomputers performing lattice quantum chromodynamics — we may even be multi-minded enough to hold both views simultaneously, however the time-space continuum unfolds or the ultimate web master directs.

So, in parallel pop-up universes, here goes a couple of food flip sides to entertain you for the festive week, which always feels like it's a little off in a parallel dimension itself.

Sheesh, it's shmeat

If French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds — otherwise known as poutine — is the best quintessential Whistler dish (two years running now), I look forward, or is that backward?, to the day when alongside it we all might be chomping down the new quintessential Whistler dish — shmeat.

Maybe the story of bioengineering a thin sheet of meat — otherwise known as shmeat, test-tube meat, Fraken-burger, in vitro meat or even hydroponic meat — had such legs in mainstream media this year because the first In Vitro Meat Symposium was held in Norway and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) offered a US$1 million prize for a commercially viable in vitro chicken product.

Don't get too excited — it's a long way off.

But for nearly two decades now bioartists like Stelarc and Patricia Piccinini have been questioning the idea of corporeal body — human or otherwise — by growing animal tissue on themselves, other mammals and small organic lattices or scaffolds.

The latter are also used as supports for culturing bioengineered meat as the embryonic stem cells grow into a glob which is later placed in a sealed biochemical reactor, where the conditions mimic the inside of an animal's body and the "meat" grows.

The quote trotted out most often in support of all this stem cell meat is one attributed to Sir Winston Churchill in 1932: "Fifty years hence, we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium." It's only Churchill's timing that's off.

"There is a point that the Earth is not big enough to have all the animals and the fields to feed all the animals," University of Utrecht molecular biologist and shmeat grower, Bernard Roelen, was quoted as saying in a 2009 issue of Scientific American.

"You have to think ahead."

The Dutch government is on board, having already committed more than two million euros for in vitro meat research.

Boosters say that shmeat is just the ticket for a planet that's soon going to have to support 40 per cent more people and do so sustainably.

According to Scientific American , about 12,000 gallons (45,500 litres) of water are needed to produce every pound of beef, as opposed to only 60 gallons or 225 litres for a pound of potatoes. Beef needs 27 times more energy to produce than plant protein; the methane "burps" of 56 billion farm animals worldwide (as estimated by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization) are a big contributor to climate change, plus their nutrient-rich manure pollutes waterways.

Because it's raised under sterile conditions, shmeat could also reduce food-borne illnesses such as E.coli and salmonella.

Enough good reasons to make animal rights activists, some vegetarians and possibly even regular folks happy — and one day see shmeat served alongside that poutine.

The outer limits

Year after year, Rimrock Café pops up as the No. 1 favourite in just about every major "Best Of" restaurant category and this year — you guessed it — is no exception. Best Dessert, Best When Someone Else Pays, Best Atmosphere, Best Service and, the biggie of biggies — Best Restaurant Overall.

The food, the service, the vibe ("elegantly rustic"): it all adds up to acclamation. As does — albeit in a much different way — the food, the service, the vibe at what may well be Rimrock's equivalent to antimatter: the Heart Attack Grill.

With staff dressed in titillating little nurses outfits serving outrageously fatty burgers, shakes made with pure cream, filterless cigarettes and "Flatliner" fries cooked in lard, the Heart Attack Grill is appropriately located in Las Vegas, which may be the antimatter to Whistler. Unapologetically dubbed the "mecca for unhealthy lifestyles" and featured on the TV show Extreme Pig-Outs, it offers free meals for anyone weighing more than 350 pounds.

Earlier this year the place earned all sorts of publicity. On April 13 it was officially awarded the Guinness World Record for the world's most calorific burger. The three-pound, four-patty Quadruple Bypass Burger packs in 9,982 calories, or about five times the recommended daily caloric intake for an adult.

Ten days later, Heart Attack was in the news again as a woman collapsed while chowing down a Double Bypass along with a margarita as she puffed on cigarettes.

In February, a man in his 40s suffered a heart attack after making his way through the 6,000-calorie Triple Bypass Burger.

And last year the Heart Attack's 600-pound spokesperson died at age 29.

That's got to add up the "Best Of" something, however you look at it.

Have a Best Holiday Season!

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who looks for the best in life.

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