Chef's Choice: Melissa Craig, Bearfoot Bistro and Dîner en Blanc 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOERN RODLES / COURTESY OF THE BEARFOOT BISTRO - Perfect picnic Melissa Craig, executive chef of the Bearfoot Bistro, has prepare four different baskets for Diner en Blanc.
  • Photo by Joern Rodles / courtesy of the bearfoot bistro
  • Perfect picnic Melissa Craig, executive chef of the Bearfoot Bistro, has prepare four different baskets for Diner en Blanc.

Annual outdoor dinner Dîner en Blanc is back and etiquette (and good food) is on the menu.

Sophistication is a must — gentlemen sit on one side of the table while ladies sit on the other — and grass stains are banned because everyone is clad in white.

Dîner en Blanc is a worldwide event that draws around 150,000 people in 50 cities — and is hosted in Whistler by the Bearfoot Bistro on Friday, August 21. Around 1,200 are expected to take part.

Fresh from arranging meals for artists, Super VIPs, and VIPs at the Pemberton Music Festival, the Bearfoot's executive chef, Melissa Craig, said she loves the opportunity to take the restaurant out-of-doors to such events, though she adds it is a lot of work.

Asked if it appeals to her sense of ambition as a chef, Craig says "Yes."

"For me it's a challenge and a challenge is always good. Once you do it, you see it's a positive," she said.

Craig said the Bearfoot ramped up its involvement in satellite events away from the restaurant in 2010 — thanks to their experience in catering opportunities during the Winter Olympics.

The Bearfoot Bistro likes to support foodie community events.

Along with Dîner en Blanc, it also hosts Whistler's annual oyster shucking competition and hosted the Sky High Dinner on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola in 2014, alongside the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation. The Sky High Dinner is due to return in 2016, Bearfoot marketing magner Marc Des Rosiers confirmed.

They make new fans from those who have never visited their village premises and they are greeted by delighted long-time admirers, Craig said.

"The best responses have been from clients that we've had before. People who have been to the restaurant are now enjoying something away from it. They say, 'You've brought the Bearfoot to us!'" she laughed.

Craig said there were 250 orders for her picnic baskets for Dîner en Blanc last year.

This year, she has created four different Bearfoot basket-catering options, at $50, $80 and $100, and which supplies enough food for two. There is also a vegetarian option, at $50.

"It's all cold, because you can't serve hot. We do all the different options. Everyone gets a tabouli quinoa salad and antipasti platter — for each option there are different things. For the high end we do a foie gras parfait, beef bresola, lobster, and we work back from that," Craig says.

The $80 option includes smoked wild salmon and crème fraiche and country-style pork terrine.

The $50 non-vegetarian option includes smoked chicken breast, and a leek and ricotta tart with sundried tomatoes.

It is important to note that attendees at Dîner en Blanc can also bring their own food, though they must order any wine in advance when registering.

Craig said she does not picnic often so she had to ask others what they like to take.

"If I were to go on it, I would definitely be catered to," she said.

The dinner takes place at a secret location in Whistler that will be revealed to Dîners when they arrive.

Craig said a variation on the Dîner en Blanc baskets can be ordered anytime from the restaurant.

As well, she said, there is a takeaway barbecue package available to purchase, take home and cook. Pork chops, beef skewers and chicken dinners are available, starting at $38 per person.

"Everything is raw, marinated. That is something that can be picked up," Craig said.

"I think it is exciting and very good for Whistler. A family can come and get marinated chicken and corn, take it home and put it on the barbecue. Then it's done."

Des Rosiers, said: "We looked around the resort and we're very proud of where the event is going to be."

He wouldn't give a hint of the location, but added it is an event that connects well with the restaurant.

"We definitely feel that Bearfoot Bistro is the right fit (for Dîner en Blanc). We were asked to be responsible for the catering and it allows Melissa to be creative," Des Rosiers said.

"That's what we like about it. It's approachable, open to everyone, but there is a certain class that we feel is interesting."

He wanted to emphasize that Dîners create their own experience.

"It's very rare that you can go to an event hosted by the Bearfoot Bistro where you can bring your own food. It is true to the philosophy of Dîner en Blanc; it's more of a social event, a gathering in a nice environment," Des Rosiers says.

To see the Bearfoot Bistro's picnic menus and to register visit: whistler.dinerenblanc.info.

Summer Tomato Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a quick and tasty chilled soup that is great served on a warm sunny day. This is also nice garnished with ceviche or cold grilled shellfish.

Yield: 2 L

Special Equipment

  • high powered blender
  • coarse strainer

ingredients

  • 4 cups vine ripened tomatoes
  • 2 cups long english cucumber
  • 1 cup roasted red bell pepper
  • ¼ cupshallots, peeled
  • 2 cups watermelon, peeled
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil

  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 3 stems fresh basil, stems
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cloves roasted garlic
  • 12 pieces heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • fresh basil leaves, to garnish

method

Coarsely chop the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, shallots and watermelon, combine with the vinegar, oil and fresh basil. Cover and let marinate in your fridge for 12 to 24 hours. Blend the mixture until smooth and pass through a coarse strainer. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and additional sherry vinegar. Chill thoroughly before serving.

Serve in a bowl and garnish with heirloom tomato halves, picked fresh basil leaves, a nice finishing extra virgin olive oil and sourdough croutons.

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